Friday, December 24, 2010



Bay Area United Against War Newsletter
Table of Contents:




EVENT: JANUARY 4th, 7:00 pm

Where: AFSC, Quaker Meeting House, 65 9th St., San Francisco (Near Civic Center BART)


Everything you ever wanted to know about drone warfare but were afraid to ask.
As the Pentagon and CIA continue to wage endless war, the use of unmanned planes for
reconnaissance and missile attacks are increasingly the vehicle of choice. Since these drone attacks and targeted assassinations result in no American casualties, in the short term they lesson public outcry to our failed foreign policies. In the long run, because of high civilian casualties, they create more enemies and ultimately a more insecure world, as drone technology is being propogated around the world without serious oversight into the ethical ramifications.

- Find out about the current status of ACLU lawsuits on U.S. drone warfare,
- Learn the latest about drone technology and why we need to halt it in it's tracks.
- Discover all the many ways drone technology is an attack on our very freedoms.
- Hear report back from recent CodePink trips to Creech and Beale Airforce Bases and the Creech 14 Trial.
- Find out about the growing collaborative drone resistance and anti-militarism campaign and be inspired to join us soon at a military base near you! Monthly Beale vigils/protest already in progress: Dec. 29, Jan. 18.

(Sponsors include: Bay Area CodePink, Grandmothers Against War, AFSC SF, Peace Center of Nevada County and Sacramento VFP)

Informative videos, slideshows

Singer/songwriter Betsy Rose will lead us with inspirational singing throughout the evening. Learn the latest drone resistance songs and sing some of our old time favorites.

Speakers to include:

Michael Thurman, IVAW member and ex-military who was stationed at Beale AFB, the northern California control center for the main intelligence gathering drone, the Global Hawk. Michael will give us a perspective from an insider's experience.

Cindy Sheehan, Peace activist and mother of Casey Sheehan, who was killed in the Iraq War. Cindy has been outspoken and active in the citizen resistance to drone warfare. Cindy will discuss the need for collaboration in the peace movement to
build organized, ongoing, sustained protests at military bases to encourage war resistance and to halt drone warfare.

Other speakers still being confirmed.

Refreshments included, please bring something to share. Donations welcome.

For more info/questions:
Toby Blome, 510-215-5974
Martha Hubert, 415-647-1119

Dec. 29th: Beale AFB, 2nd monthly action, Theme: Free Bradley Manning Now:
Flyers will be offered to the military as they enter and exit the base, educating them about Bradley Manning's illegal detention and inhumane treatment.

Jan. 18th: Beale AFB, 3rd monthly action, Contact us for details.

Jan. 23-27th: CodePink Caravan to Creech AFB: Support Creech 14 Trial and daily am and pm Creech AFB actions to Ground the Drones Now. Creech AFB is a main drone control center that controls the Predator and Reaper, the attack drones that fire the Hellfire missle that leads to high civilian deaths. (One hour north of Las Vegas)


Rally and Picket @ Hilton Hotel Union Square
O'Farrell St, between Mason and Taylor
January 7, 2011, Friday, 11:30am-3pm



TWO PLAYS: Wallace Shawn's, "The Fever" and Howard Zinn's, "Marx in Soho."

We are pleased to present both, Wallace Shawn's, "The Fever" and Howard Zinn's, "Marx in Soho." The two plays are complementary. "The Fever" is a raw portrayal of a person who is coming to social consciousness. "Marx in Soho" humanizes the man whose ideas describe these fundamental realities of our societies' social structure.

Two benefit performances by veteran actor and sociologist, Jerry Levy. LevyArts' mission is to utilize theater and social theory to entertain, enlighten and stimulate a constructive and reflective dialogue about society.

FRIDAY, JANUARY 7, 7:00 P.M. "THE FEVER," a one-man play by Wallace Shawn

Wallace Shawn's play, "The Fever" explores what a sensitive, well educated, arts loving and consumption-driven man or woman of any age discovers when his/her life-affirming existence is related to the often brutal suffering of others. In the bathroom of a hotel our "anti-hero" feverishly defends and relentlessly attacks his own way of life. Inner voices and imagined characters fuel his fever as he narrates and often attempts to enact his story.

Actor Jerry Levy rehearses "The Fever," a one-man play which was be presented Dec. 4 and 10-12 at the Hooker-Dunham Theater in Brattleboro. (Jon Potter/Reformer)

SATURDAY, JANUARY 8, 1:30 P.M. "MARX IN SOHO," a one-man play by Howard Zinn

Howard Zinn's play, "Marx in Soho" portrays the return of Karl Marx. Embedded in some secular afterlife where intellectuals, artists, and radicals are sent, Marx is given permission by the administrative committee to return to Soho London to have his say. But through a bureaucratic mix-up, he winds up in SOHO in New York. From there the audience is given a rare glimpse of a Marx seldom talked about; Marx the man. The play offers an entertaining and thorough introduction to a person who knows little about Marx's life, while also offering valuable insight to students of his ideas.

Centro del Pueblo
474 Valencia Street
(Between 16th and 15th Streets, San Francisco. Wheelchair accessible.)

Reserved ticket discounts for each play: $10.00
Tickets at the door: $20.00
No one turned away for lack of funds.

To reserve your discount tickets, email:
(Your name will be placed on a the discount ticket list at the door.)

To benefit: Barrios Unidos and Bay Area United Against War Newsletter,

"The Fever" presented by special arrangement with Dramatists Play Services Inc.
Marx in Soho by Howard Zinn (c) Howard Zinn Revocable Trust





A tale of two demos - demonstrate in London OR Manchester, 29 January!
By Ed
December 20, 2010

There has been some confusion in the student movement recently about the date 29 January. NCAFC is backing and helping to organise two mass student demonstrations againt fees and cuts, one in London and one in Manchester. Here we explain why and advise activists on what to do on the day.

We are organising a demonstration in London for obvious reasons - because London is not only the biggest city and easily accessible, but the seat of political power. The Facebook event for this demo, which has already attracted 2,700 attendees and seen nearly 20,000 more invited so far, is here. This demo has also won support from many trade unionists including the leaders of Unite and the GMB (see here).

We are also mobilising students for Manchester, because that day the Young Members Network of the civil service union PCS, UCU and others are holding a young workers' march to the TUC's youth rally. (This is not an official Facebook group, but it's the only we can find so far. We'll update asap.)

More details of both, plus promotional materials, very soon.

Why it's right to demonstrate in London as well as Manchester

We are mobilising students for Manchester to make it clear we don't want to clash with the PCS Young Members march - indeed we want to protest alongside and in solidarity with it. However, we reject the idea, put forward for instance by the leadership of NUS (see Aaron Porter's letter to student unions and motion for the January 10 NUS executive meeting below) that it is wrong to protest in London on 29 January.

The Manchester event was not widely known about in the student movement until now; and to be bluntly honest, it was never going to be the case that thousands of students from London and the South attended it. Nor was there any sign of NUS seriously trying to mobilise for Manchester! Meanwhile, the student struggle against fees and cuts goes on, and another mass demonstration in London is urgently needed. Aaron Porter and the leadership of NUS are using the Manchester march as an excuse, covering for the fact that they wanted 10 November to be the end of the campaign and wish students were not pushing for more action. We call on NUS to drop this ridiculous, opportunistic stance and officially support the London protest.

We want fraternal links between the two demonstrations, in London and Manchester; they should exchange speakers (we invite PCS Young Members to send a speaker to London) and, if possible, link up by video. Local student activist groups will have to decide which demo, Manchester or London, they want to take part in; we urge those nearer Manchester, to go to Manchester.

National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts


Letter from Aaron Porter to student unions

Dear all,

Last week I promised to write to you before Christmas setting out my thoughts on our next steps in the Education Funding campaign after what has been the most high profile campaign run by NUS in many decades. The defeat on the fee cap last week was painful- but I am immensely proud of the fight we put up, the attention we drew to the issue, the way in which we mobilised record numbers of students, the extent to which we shaped the debate and the way in which it has affected the coalition. Right now we all need a short break to recuperate - but in January we'll need to pick ourselves up, dust ourselves down and get on with doing the very best we can for our members, as the campaign still goes on!

There is much to fight for in the new year. A white paper is being developed that will set out a new framework for regulation and accountability in Higher Education- and we must ensure that we are at the heart of that by winning new rights for students and their unions. The Government will set out the basis on which universities can charge over the basic £6k fee- and we'll be pushing to test the Government's assertion that charging over £6k will be "exceptional". The new HE scholarship scheme is being developed, the EMA continues to be hotly debated, AimHigher needs saving, local authorities are about to slash young people's travel subsidies and there are still huge cuts coming to provision in both FE and HE that need to be resisted. Many of these challenges involve decisions that will be made locally and I know you will expect maximum targeted support on a local scale as well as continued national action.

This is why in the motion to an NEC meeting I have called for January, I have set out clear and proactive steps for NUS to continue to seize the initiative in what is an ongoing campaign across HE and FE:

Joint action with Trade Unions and UCU on the 29th January, high level support for SUs in FE and HE facing local course cuts and closures, prioritisation of the campaign to save EMA and the AimHigher programme, a full inquiry into policing tactics on the recent student protests, full-scale mobilisation for the TUC National Demonstration on the 26th March and a long term strategy to reverse the damaging marketisation and reduction of public investment in our education system.

The TUC have asked NUS and UCU to support a mass protest and rally in Manchester (29th January) to highlight youth issues, including access to education, the scrapping of EMA and youth unemployment. Manchester of course has both the largest FE College and HE institution in the country and sits in a region with the highest rate of youth unemployment in the country. As a national organisation I believe it is the right decision for us to ensure that not all our activity is based in London, therefore a national action in a region with such high levels of youth unemployment, jointly alongside the TUC and UCU is another reason for us to support this tactic, at this time. The event has had the longstanding date of 29 January, and I have agreed to join Trade Union leaders to speak on behalf of NUS.

It is therefore unhelpful that the "National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts", alongside the "Education Activists Network", have suggested a further National Demonstration on January 29th in London, when an event with the TUC and UCU has been longstanding. As I make clear below, a mass demonstration on Fees, EMAs and Cuts on the 10th November in conjunction with UCU was the right tactic at the right time. A further national demonstration on Fees, EMAs and Cuts on the 29th January in London when the TUC have organised an event in Manchester on the same day, would be the wrong tactic at the wrong time - especially when we need maximum unity with the Trade Union Movement, and moves to divide the student movement when we need maximum unity is not a direction of travel I support.

More importantly, the student movement must not respond to the defeat on Fees by coming to the lazy conclusion that a series of hastily organised National Demos will secure wins for students. This kind of tactical obsession is the wrong response to the challenges we face. I believe that our mobilisation for a mass protest and rally in Manchester on the 29th January, and then mobilisation again for the TUC National Demonstration on the 26th March is the right tactic, alongside engaging with ongoing policy issues with regard to access, EMA, cuts and so much more as the debate continues on.

To ensure we respond to these challenges with speed, early in the new year I have called a meeting of our National Executive Council of NUS, which will rightly have the opportunity to debate the next steps for the campaign. I will be asking the NEC to support the motion below, which I believe sets out the right campaign tactics for the months ahead.

For maximum openness, I have published below the main motion that I will submit to the NEC. I believe it sets out a clear programme of action and activity for the new year which deploys the right tactics, at the right time, in partnership with UCU and the Trade Union Movement.

I will of course be in touch early in the new year with the results of that meeting.

I want to finish off by saying a heartfelt thank you for everything this year. Whilst the result of the vote was incredibly disappointing, we have still run the most high-profile NUS campaign in decades. There is still so much more to campaign for, and that's what we need to focus on in 2011.

Wishing you a peaceful and happy Christmas, and a prosperous 2011,


Main Motion to Emergency NEC
Monday 10th January 2011

NEC Believes

1. Both houses of parliament have now approved a £9,000 limit on Higher Education Undergraduate Tuition Fees.
2. This happened despite an unprecedented mass campaign from NUS that has united students, lecturers and the general public and the largest student demonstration in a generation.
3. The student movement should be proud that the NUS/UCU National Demonstration on 10 November sparked an unprecedented wave of student activism.
4. The policing of both the NUS/UCU Demonstration and subsequent demonstrations has been widely questioned.
5. It has been widely reported that some on those demonstrations were bent on violence.
6. The changes to fees levels have to be seen in the wider context of savage cuts to education and public services.
7. The TUC have asked NUS and UCU to help build for a wider Rally on youth opportunities in Manchester on the 29th January.
8. The NCAFC/EAN have suggested that NUS hold a National Demonstration in London on 29th January
9. Cuts programmes inside HEIs continue and will only get worse in the new year.
10. A significant number of new student activists have emerged out of the campaign.
11. The removal of the EMA will devastate retention and achievement in FE and destroy access to universities by the poorest.
12. Aim Higher has been mooted to close.
13. A white paper on fees is due out in the new year.

NEC Further Believes

1. Our principal duty is to work to secure our members' interests.
2. Our struggle on cuts to education and public services must now be bound up firmly with the wider trade union and social movement.
3. The prospect of £9,000 fees heightens and makes more urgent the need to radically improve student rights on campus and the regulation of HEIs.
4. Students' unions need real, substantial help now on understanding and fighting cuts in their institution.
5. A mass demonstration on Fees, EMAs and Cuts on the 10th November was the right tactic at the right time. A further national demonstration in London on Fees, EMAs and Cuts on the 29th January would be the wrong tactic at the wrong time.
6. The TUC protest and rally on 29th Jan will be held in Manchester- home to the largest FE College and HE institution in the country and sits in a region with the highest rate of youth unemployment in the country.
7. Some of the actions of some on demonstrations and in occupations have harmed, not progressed, our cause. Violent demonstrators have lost us considerable public support.
8. Some of the policing tactics in use at student demos in November and December exacerbated tension and violence and prevented peaceful students from demonstrating.
9. At a time when there is still so much to campaign for, there has never been a more important time for maximum unity, and not doing so is unhelpful and damaging to students.
10. Students in FE face a double whammy- 16-18 transport subsidies are to be cut in local authorities and learner support funds don't support travel costs.

NEC Resolves

1. To support the TUC protest and rally for youth opportunities on January 29th in Manchester.
2. Continuing to work with UCU and other trade unions through the TUC is vital to ensure we are part of a wider campaign.
3. To reject calls from the NCAFC/EAN to hold a London based National Demo on January 29th.
4. To prioritise mobilisation amongst students for the 26th March TUC national demonstration in the first term.
5. To launch a local mobilisation and partnership strategy with trade unions and social groups aimed at developing activism over cuts in local constituencies.
6. To mandate the VP Higher Education to launch an anti cuts strategy with a detailed toolkit and advice available from NUS staff and officers.
7. To support the VP Furhter Education in continued prioritisation of the campaign to save EMA, cuts to FE and the fight for local travel subsidies for young people.
8. To call for a detailed enquiry must be held into Policing tactics used on demonstrations in November/December.
9. To continue to publically condemn inappropriate police tactics like kettling (containment) and horse charging.
10. To lobby for increased student rights and protections in the White Paper.
11. To push the Government to ensure that there is a more comprehensive system of student support, effective outreach given the new fee regime.
12. To continue to fight to save the EMA and to lobby to ensure that colleges are able to assist students with transport costs in the future.
13. To launch a major campaign aimed at protecting Aim Higher and ensuring that efforts to improve WP measure universities' success at retention and acceptances rather than just applications.
14. To develop a detailed long term strategy aimed at reversing the damaging marketisation and loss of public funding about to be inflicted on HE.



The first organizing meeting for the SF March 19 march and rally will be on Sunday, Jan. 16 at 2pm at the Local 2 union hall, 209 Golden Gate Ave.
[See call for March 19 immediately]
A.N.S.W.E.R. Coalition
National Office in Washington DC: 202-265-1948
Boston: 857-334-5084 | New York City: 212-694-8720 | Chicago: 773-463-0311
San Francisco: 415-821-6545| Los Angeles: 213-251-1025 | Albuquerque: 505-268-2488


Saturday, March 19, 2011:
Day of Action to Resist the War Machine!
8th anniversary of the invasion of Iraq
Scores of organizations coming together for worldwide protests

In San Francisco, the theme of the March 19 march and rally will be "No to War & Colonial Occupation - Fund Jobs, Healthcare & Education - Solidarity with SF Hotel Workers!" 12,000 SF hotel workers, members of UNITE-HERE Local 2, have been fighting for a new contract that protects their healthcare, wages and working conditions. The SF action will include a march to boycotted hotels in solidarity with the Lo. 2 workers. The first organizing meeting for the SF March 19 march and rally will be on Sunday, Jan. 16 at 2pm at the Local 2 union hall, 209 Golden Gate Ave.

In Los Angeles, the March 19 rally and march will gather at 12 noon at Hollywood and Vine.

March 19 is the 8th anniversary of the invasion and occupation of Iraq. Iraq today remains occupied by 50,000 U.S. soldiers and tens of thousands of foreign mercenaries.

The war in Afghanistan is raging. The U.S. is invading and bombing Pakistan. The U.S. is financing endless atrocities against the people of Palestine, relentlessly threatening Iran and bringing Korea to the brink of a new war.

While the United States will spend $1 trillion for war, occupation and weapons in 2011, 30 million people in the United States remain unemployed or severely underemployed, and cuts in education, housing and healthcare are imposing a huge toll on the people.

Actions of civil resistance are spreading.

On Dec. 16, 2010, a veterans-led civil resistance at the White House played an important role in bringing the anti-war movement from protest to resistance. Enduring hours of heavy snow, 131 veterans and other anti-war activists lined the White House fence and were arrested. Some of those arrested will be going to trial, which will be scheduled soon in Washington, D.C.

Saturday, March 19, 2011, the anniversary of the invasion of Iraq, will be an international day of action against the war machine.

Protest and resistance actions will take place in cities and towns across the United States. Scores of organizations are coming together. Demonstrations are scheduled for San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago, Washington, D.C., and more.

Click this link to endorse the March 19, 2011, Call to Action:

A.N.S.W.E.R. Coalition
National Office in Washington DC: 202-265-1948
Boston: 857-334-5084 | New York City: 212-694-8720 | Chicago: 773-463-0311
San Francisco: 415-821-6545| Los Angeles: 213-251-1025 | Albuquerque: 505-268-2488


Back to the Streets!
April 9th: Demonstrate Against the Wars at Home and Abroad

Call to Action
And Request for Endorsement
April 9, 2011
New York & San Francisco
from the
United National Antiwar Committee
To endorse the call, click here


THEY are the government, corporate, and financial powers that wage war, ravage the environment and the economy and trample on our democratic rights and liberties.


WE are the vast majority of humanity who want peace, a healthy planet and a society that prioritizes human needs, democracy and civil liberties for all.

The Warmakers spend trillions of dollars yearly on endless wars in pursuit of global domination and profit while murdering millions of innocent people, installing corrupt and hated governments and funding occupations that displace millions from their homelands - trampling on the right of oppressed people to self-determination.

THEY send our youth - victims of the economic draft - to fight over the very fossil fuels whose unrestrained use threatens the future of the planet while corrupt and virtually unregulated oil giants dump billions of gallons of death into our rivers and oceans.

THEY wage a fake "war on terrorism" at home - the new McCarthyism - that promotes racism and Islamophobia aimed at destroying civil liberties and democratic rights.

THEY grant repeated and untold trillions in bailouts to banks, corporations and financial institutions while breaking unions, robbing pensions, destroying jobs, foreclosing homes, de-funding education and vital social services and are once again threatening Social Security and Medicare.

THEY offer no solutions to the current crises other than more of the same.

THE PEACEMAKERS DEMAND a better world. Only a massive, united, inclusive and independent movement has the power to bring it into being.

WE DEMAND Bring U.S. Troops, Mercenaries and War Contractors Home Now: Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan! End the sanctions and stop the threats of war against the people of Iran, North Korea and Yemen. No to war and plunder of the people of Latin America and Africa! End U.S. Aid to Israel! End U.S. Support to the Israeli Occupation of Palestine and the Siege of Gaza!

WE DEMAND trillions for jobs, education, social services, an end to all foreclosures, quality single-payer healthcare for all, a massive conversion to sustainable and planet-saving energy systems and public transportation and reparations to the victims of U.S. terror at home and abroad.

WE DEMAND an end to FBI raids on antiwar, social justice, and international solidarity activists, an end to the racist persecution and prosecutions that ravage Muslim communities, an end to police terror in Black and Latino communities, full rights and legality for immigrants and an end to all efforts to repress and punish Wikileaks and its contributors and founders.

WE DEMAND the immediate end to torture, rendition, secret trials, drone bombings and death squads.


All Out April 9, 2011

To add your group's name to the endorser list,
local, state or national, click here

Initial List of Endorsers (List in formation)
* = For Identification only

UNAC -United National Antiwar Committee
Center for Constitutional Rights
Muslim Peace Coalition, USA
Voices for Creative Nonviolence
Veterans for Peace
International Action Center
Women's International League for Peace and Freedom
Fellowship of Reconciliation
Black Agenda Report
National Assembly to End U.S. Wars and Occupations
World Can't Wait
Campaign for Peace and Democracy
Project Salam
Canadian Peace Alliance
Lynne Stewart Defense Committee
Office of the Americas
Tariq Ali
Dr. Margaret Flowers PNHP *
Ramsey Clark
Ahmed Shawk, editor, International Socialist Review
American Iranian Friendship Committee
Ana Edwards, Chair, Sacred Ground Historical Reclamation Project - Richmond, Va.
Andy Griggs, Co-chair, California Teachers Association, Peace and Justice Caucus/UTLA-retired*
Bail Out the People Movement
Barrio Unido, San Francisco
Bashir Abu-Manneh
Baltimore Job Is a Right Campaign
Battered Mother's Custody Conference
Bethlehem Neighbors for Peace
Bob Hernandez, Chapter President, SEIU Local 1021*
Bonnie Weinstein - Bay Area United Against Wars Newsletter
Boston UNAC
Café Intifada - Los Angeles
Camilo E. Mejia, Iraq war veteran and resister
Campaign for a Mass Party of Labor
Carole Seligman - Labor Action Committee to Free Mumia Abu-Jamal *
Central Jersey Coalition Against Endless War
Coalition for Justice - Blacksburg, Va.
Colombian Front for Socialism (FECOPES)
Columbus Campaign for Arms Control
Committee for Justice to Defend the Los Angeles 8
Dave Welsh, Delegate, San Francisco Labor Council
David Keil - Metro West Peace Action (MWPA) *
Defenders for Freedom, Justice & Equality - Virginia
Derrick O'Keefe, Co-chair (Vancouver) and
Detroit Committee to Stop FBI/Grand Jury Repression.
Doug Bullock, Albany County Legislator
Dr. Andy Coats PNHP *
DRUM (Desis Rising Up and Moving) - New York
Elaine Brower - national steering committee of WCW and anti-war military mom
Fight Imperialism Stand Together (FIST)
Freedom Road Socialist Organization
Freedom Socialist Party
Gilbert Achcar - Lebanese academic and writer
Guilderland Neighbors for Peace
Haiti Action Committee
Hands off Venezuela
International Socialist Organization
Iraq Peace Action Coalition - Minneapolis
Jersey City Peace Movement
Journal Square Homeless Coalition
Kim Nguyen, Metrowest Peace Action (MWPA)*
Lillie "Ms. K" Branch-Kennedy - Director, Resource Information Help for the Disadvantaged (R.I.H.D.), Virginia
Lisa Savage, CODEPINK Maine, Bring Our War $$ Home Coaltion *
Los Angeles - Palestine Labor Solidarity Committee
Maggie Zhou - ClimateSOS *
Maine Veterans for Peace
Maria Cristina Gutierrez, Exec. Director, Companeros del Barrio
Mark Roman, Waterville Area Bridges for Peace & Justice
Marlena Santoyo, Germantown Friends Meeting, Philadelphia, PA
Masjid As-Salam Mosque, Albany, NY
Michigan Emergency Committee Against Wars and Injustice
Middle East Children's Alliance
Middle East Crisis Committee
Mobilization Against War and Occupation - Vancouver, Canada
Mobilization to Free Mumia
Moratorium NOW Coalition to Stop Foreclosures, Evictions and Utility Shut-offs
Muslim Solidarity Committee
Nancy Murray, Boston Coalition for Palestinian Rights*
New Abolitionist Movement
New England United
New Socialist Project
New York Labor Against the War
No More Victims
Nodutdol for Korean Community Development
Northeast Peace and Justice Action Coalition
Northwest Greens
Nuestro Norte Es El Sur ((NUNO-SUR) Our North is the South
Pakistan USA Freedom Forum
Pakistani Trade Union Defense Campaign
Peace and Freedom Party
Peninsula Peace & Justice, Blue Hill, Maine
Peninsula Peace and Justice Center - Palo Alto, Ca.
Peoples Video Network
Phil Wilayto, Editor, The Virginia Defender
Philadelphia Against War
Progressive Peace Coalition, Columbus Ohio
Queen Zakia Shabazz - Director, United Parents Against Lead National, Inc.
Ralph Poynter, Lynne Stewart Defense Committee
Revolutionary Workers Group
Rhode Island Mobilization Committee
Rochester Against War
Ron Jacobs, writer
Saladin Muhammad - Founding Member, Black Workers for Justice
Sarah Roche-Mahdi, Code Pink Boston*
Saratoga Peace Alliance
Sherry Wolf - International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network, Author Sexuality and Socialism
Siege Busters Working Group
Socialist Action
Socialist Organizer
Socialist Viewpoint
Solidarity Committee of the Capital District
Stop the Wars Coalition, Boston
The Campaign Against Sanctions & Military Intervention in Iran
The Thomas Merton Center
Twin Cities Peace Campaign
Upper Hudson Peace Action
Virginia Defender
West Hartford Citizens for Peace and Justice
WESTPAC Foundation
Women against Military Madness
Workers International League
Workers World Party
Youth for International Socialism


[Some of these videos are embeded on the BAUAW website: or]


These videos refer to what happened at the G-20 Summit in Toronto June 26-27 of this year. The importance of this is that police were caught on tape and later confirmed that they sent police into the demonstration dressed as "rioting" protesters. One cop was caught with a large rock in his hand. Clearly, this is proof of police acting as agent provocatours. And we should expect this to continue and escalate. That's why everyone should be aware of these

police accused of attempting to incite violence at G20 summ
Protestors at Montebello are accusing police of trying to incite violence. Video on YouTube shows union officials confronting three men that were police officers dressing up as demonstrators. The union is demanding to know if the Prime Minister's Office was involved in trying to discredit the demonstrators.

quebec police admit going undercover at montebello protests


From: Daniel Vila
Subject: Puerto Rico Videos/Photos: Vicious Police Riot In University
Date: Tue, 21 Dec 2010 09:41:29 +0000


Videos and photos follow.

The vicious police attack in the photos and videos took place Monday at the University of Puerto Rico, campus of Rio Piedras in San Juan.

Many of the students arrested were driven around in police vans for hours as they were severely beaten.

Some are still missing.

Various students have head and body fractures.

Students are on stike against an $800 increase in tuition.

Hundreds of heavily armed cops occupy the grounds of various campuses.
Rio Piedras is in the second week of a student strike supported by professors and staff.

There are strikes and other actions at most other campuses of the nation-wide public university.

The real battle however, is over the corporate puppet Governor Luis Fortuño's objective of privatizing the 60,000 student university.

Police, the government, insist on no demos in or out of the university grounds.
But students have organized mass protests everyday.


The Wars in "Vietnamistan!" (The name Daniel Ellsberg gave to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan as quoted from the
Veterans for Peace White House Civil Disobedience to End War


John Pilger: Global Support for WikiLeaks is "Rebellion" Against U.S. Militarism, Secrecy
December 15, 2010


An Irishman abroad tells it like it is !! :-)



WikiLeaks founder concern for Manning


Newsnight: Bailed Julian Assange live interview (16Dec10)


Julian Assange: 'ongoing attempts to extradite me'


Published on Thursday, December 16, 2010 by Countdown With Keith Olbermann
Quantico, the New Gitmo



Posted: December 12, 2010 by Davey D in 2010 Daily News, Political articles

On Thursday morning, December 9, 2010, thousands of Georgia prisoners refused to work, stopped all other activities and locked down in their cells in a peaceful protest for their human rights. The December 9 Strike became the biggest prisoner protest in the history of the United States. Thousands of men, from Augusta, Baldwin, Hancock, Hays, Macon, Smith and Telfair State Prisons, among others, initiated this strike to press the Georgia Department of Corrections ("DOC") to stop treating them like animals and slaves and institute programs that address their basic human rights. They set forth the following demands:


Despite that the prisoners' protest remained non-violent, the DOC violently attempted to force the men back to work-claiming it was "lawful" to order prisoners to work without pay, in defiance of the 13th Amendment's abolition of slavery. In Augusta State Prison, six or seven inmates were brutally ripped from their cells by CERT Team guards and beaten, resulting in broken ribs for several men, one man beaten beyond recognition. This brutality continues there. At Telfair, the Tactical Squad trashed all the property in inmate cells. At Macon State, the Tactical Squad has menaced the men for two days, removing some to the "hole," and the warden ordered the heat and hot water turned off. Still, today, men at Macon, Smith, Augusta, Hays and Telfair State Prisons say they are committed to continuing the strike. Inmate leaders, representing blacks, Hispanics, whites, Muslims, Rastafarians, Christians, have stated the men will stay down until their demands are addressed, one issuing this statement:

"...Brothers, we have accomplished a major step in our struggle...We must continue what we have started...The only way to achieve our goals is to continue with our peaceful sit-down...I ask each and every one of my Brothers in this struggle to continue the fight. ON MONDAY MORNING, WHEN THE DOORS OPEN, CLOSE THEM. DO NOT GO TO WORK. They cannot do anything to us that they haven't already done at one time or another. Brothers, DON'T GIVE UP NOW. Make them come to the table. Be strong. DO NOT MAKE MONEY FOR THE STATE THAT THEY IN TURN USE TO KEEP US AS SLAVES...."

When the strike began, prisoner leaders issued the following call: "No more slavery. Injustice in one place is injustice to all. Inform your family to support our cause. Lock down for liberty!"

Here's the link to our recent Hard Knock Radio interview w/ Elaine Brown on this historic strike

READ Black Agenda Report Article at:


Domestic Espionage Alert - Houston PD to use surveillance drone in America!


15 year old Tells Establishment to Stick-it.

Andy Cousins




Oscar Grant family not convinced of Johannes Mehserle's tears


Julian Assange: Why the world needs WikiLeaks




You need to watch this video. It made us furious, and it made us cry.

It's a powerful reminder of the real faces behind unemployment statistics. It's about three minutes and it's worth every second so I hope you'll turn up your speakers and watch the whole thing.

The same senators who are fighting to charge $700 billion in tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires to our national credit card say extending unemployment is "too expensive" and "must be paid for." Meanwhile, more than one person a second is losing his or her lifeline.

If this video doesn't fuel your outrage and give you a sense of the human cost of delay on emergency unemployment, nothing will.

Please watch and send a strong message to your members of Congress. Tell them to restore unemployment insurance benefits for jobless workers who are being cut off right now at the rate of more than one a second.

Then, share this video with your friends and ask them to take action, too.

Let's fix this outrage.


Manny Herrmann
Online Mobilization Coordinator, AFL-CIO

P.S. The online day of solidarity with jobless workers is coming Tuesday. Get ready to change your Facebook status and photo and to Tweet the word out. Thanks.


A little holiday levity:

Check this out. It's for Willie Nelson (he's actually in it). It's a video from the Colbert Report and make sure to watch the very end:

I have no money in my coffer,
No gold or silver do I bring,
Nor have I precious jewels to offer,
To celebrate the newborn king.
Yet do not spurn my gift completely,
O ye three wise men please demur,
Behold a plant that smokes more sweetly,
Than neither frankincense or myrrh.
And like a child born in this manger,
This herb is mild yet it is strong,
And it brings peace to friend and stranger,
Goodwill to men lies in this bong.
And now my wonder weed is flaring, - "Are you high?"
Lit like that special star above, - "Can it be?"
Pass it around in endless sharing, - "On christmas day"
And let not mankind bogart love. - "You'd smoke my tree!"
And the wise men started toking,
And yea, the bud was kind,
It was salvation they were smoking,
And his forgiveness blew their mind.
And still that wonder weed is flaring, - "Are you high?"
Lit like that special star above, - "You're so high!"
Pass it around in endless sharing, - "Dude, man, dude"
And let not mankind bogart love. - "You're really high, I'm gonna tell your savior"
And let not mankind bogart love.


Don't Touch My Junk (the TSA Hustle) song + video by Michael Adams


Coal Ash: One Valley's Tale


Flashmob: Cape Town Opera say NO


Video of massive French protest -- inspiring!


"Don't F*** With Our Activists" - Mobilizing Against FBI Raid




Email received from Lynne Stewart:
12/19/10; 12:03pm

Dear Folks:
Some nuts and bolts and trivia,

1. New Address
Lynne Stewart
Federal Medical Center, Carswell
53504 - 054
Unit 2N
P.O. Box 27137
Fort Worth, TEXAS 76127

2. Visiting is very liberal but first I have to get people on my visiting list Wait til I or the lawyers let you know. The visits are FRI, SAT, SUN AND MON for 4 hours and on weekends 8 to 3. Bring clear plastic change purse with lots of change to buy from the machines. Brief Kiss upon arrival and departure, no touching or holding during visit (!!) On visiting forms it may be required that you knew me before I came to prison. Not a problem for most of you.

3. One hour time difference

4. Commissary Money is always welcome It is how I pay for the phone and for email. Also need it for a lot that prison doesn't supply in terms of food and "sundries" (pens!) A very big list that includes Raisins, Salad Dressing , ankle sox, mozzarella (definitely not from Antonys--more like a white cheddar, Sanitas Corn Chips but no Salsa etc. To add money, you do this by using Western Union and a credit card by phone or you can send a USPO money order or Business or Govt Check. The negotiable instruments (PAPER!) need to be sent to Federal Bureau of Prisons , 53504-054, Lynne Stewart, PO Box 474701, Des Moines Iowa 50947-001 (Payable to Lynne Stewart, 53504-054) They hold the mo or checks for 15 days. Western Union costs $10 but is within 2 hours. If you mail, your return address must be on the envelope. Unnecessarily complicated ? Of course, it's the BOP !)

5. Food is vastly improved. Just had Sunday Brunch real scrambled eggs, PORK sausage, Baked or home fried potatoes, Butter(sweet whipped M'God !!) Grapefruit juice Toast , orange. I will probably regain the weight I lost at MCC! Weighing against that is the fact that to eat we need to walk to another building (about at far as from my house to the F Train) Also included is 3 flights of stairs up and down. May try to get an elevator pass and try NOT to use it.

6. In a room with 4 bunks(small) about two tiers of rooms with same with "atrium" in middle with tv sets and tables and chairs. Estimate about 500 on Unit 2N and there are 4 units. Population Black, Mexicano and other spanish speaking (all of whom iron their underwear, Marta), White, Native Americans (few), no orientals or foreign speaking caucasians--lots are doing long bits, victims of drugs (meth etc) and boyfriends. We wear army style (khaki) pants with pockets tee shirts and dress shirts long sleeved and short sleeved. When one of the women heard that I hadn't ironed in 40 years, they offered to do the shirts for me. (This is typical of the help I get--escorted to meals and every other protection, explanations, supplies, etc. Mostly from white women.) One drawback is not having a bathroom in the room---have to go about 75 yards at all hours of the day and night --clean though.

7. Final Note--the sunsets and sunrises are gorgeous, the place is very open and outdoors there are pecan trees and birds galore (I need books for trees and birds (west) The full moon last night gladdened my heart as I realized it was shining on all of you I hold dear.

Love Struggle


Help end the inhumane treatment of Bradley Manning!

Bradley Manning Support Network. December 22, 2010

The Marine Brig at Quantico, Virginia is using "injury prevention" as a vehicle to inflict extreme pre-trial punishment on accused Wikileaks whistleblower Army PFC Bradley Manning (photo right). These "maximum conditions" are not unheard-of during an inmate's first week at a military confinement facility, but when applied continuously for months and with no end in sight they amount to a form of torture. Bradley, who just turned 23-years-old last week, has been held in solitary confinement since his arrest in late May. We're now turning to Bradley's supporters worldwide to directly protest, and help bring a halt to, the extremely punitive conditions of Bradley's pre-trial detention.

We need your help in pressing the following demands:

End the inhumane, degrading conditions of pre-trial confinement and respect Bradley's human rights. Specifically, lift the "Prevention of Injury (POI) watch order". This would allow Bradley meaningful physical exercise, uninterrupted sleep during the night, and a release from isolation. We are not asking for "special treatment". In fact, we are demanding an immediate end to the special treatment.

Quantico Base Commander
Colonel Daniel Choike
3250 Catlin Ave, Quantico VA 22134
+1-703-784-2707 (phone)

Quantico Brig Commanding Officer
CWO4 James Averhart
3247 Elrod Ave, Quantico VA 22134
+1-703-784-4242 (fax)


In the wake of an investigative report last week by Glenn Greenwald of giving evidence that Bradley Manning was subject to "detention conditions likely to create long-term psychological injuries", Bradley's attorney, David Coombs, published an article at his website on Saturday entitled "A Typical Day for PFC Bradley Manning". Mr. Coombs details the maximum custody conditions that Bradley is subject to at the Quantico Confinement Facility and highlights an additional set of restrictions imposed upon him under a Prevention of Injury (POI) watch order.

Usually enforced only through a detainee's first week at a confinement facility, or in cases of violent and/or suicidal inmates, the standing POI order has severely limited Manning's access to exercise, daylight and human contact for the past five months. The military's own psychologists assigned to Quantico have recommended that the POI order and the extra restrictions imposed on Bradley be lifted.

Despite not having been convicted of any crime or even yet formally indicted, the confinement regime Bradley lives under includes pronounced social isolation and a complete lack of opportunities for meaningful exercise. Additionally, Bradley's sleep is regularly interrupted. Coombs writes: "The guards are required to check on Manning every five minutes [...] At night, if the guards cannot see PFC Manning clearly, because he has a blanket over his head or is curled up towards the wall, they will wake him in order to ensure he is okay."

Denver Nicks writes in The Daily Beast that "[Bradley Manning's] attorney [...] says the extended isolation - now more than seven months of solitary confinement - is weighing on his client's psyche. [...] Both Coombs and Manning's psychologist, Coombs says, are sure Manning is mentally healthy, that there is no evidence he's a threat to himself, and shouldn't be held in such severe conditions under the artifice of his own protection."

In an article to be published at later today, David House, a friend of Bradley's who visits him regularly at Quantico, says that Bradley "has not been outside or into the brig yard for either recreation or exercise in four full weeks. He related that visits to the outdoors have been infrequent and sporadic for the past several months."

In an average military court martial situation, a defense attorney would be able to bring these issues of pre-trial punishment to the military judge assigned to the case (known as an Article 13 hearing). However, the military is unlikely to assign a judge to Bradley's case until the pre-trial Article 32 hearing is held (similar to an arraignment in civilian court), and that is not expected until February, March, or later-followed by the actual court martial trial months after that. In short, you are Bradley's best and most immediate hope.

What can you do?

Contact the Marine Corps officers above and respectfully, but firmly, ask that they lift the extreme pre-trial confinement conditions against Army PFC Bradley Manning.
Forward this urgent appeal for action widely.
Sign the "Stand with Brad" public petition and letter campaign at - Sign online, and we'll mail out two letters on your behalf to Army officials.

Donate to Bradley's defense fund at

"The inhumane conditions of Bradley Manning's detention", by Glenn Greenwald for, 15 December 2010

"A Typical Day for PFC Bradley Manning", by attorney David E. Coombs, 18 December 2010

"Bradley Manning's Life Behind Bars", by Denver Nicks for the Daily Beast, 17 December 2010

Bradley Manning Support Network

Courage To Resist
484 Lake Park Ave. #41
Oakland, CA 94610


KOREA: Emergency Response Actions Needed

The United National Antiwar Committee urges the antiwar movement to begin to plan now for Emergency 5pm Day-of or Day-after demonstrations, should fighting break out on the Korean Peninsula or its surrounding waters.

As in past war crisis and U.S. attacks we propose:
NYC -- Times Square, Washington, D.C. -- the White House
In Many Cities - Federal Buildings

Many tens of thousands of U.S., Japanese and South Korean troops are mobilized on land and on hundreds of warships and aircraft carriers. The danger of a general war in Asia is acute.

China and Russia have made it clear that the scheduled military maneuvers and live-fire war "exercises" from an island right off the coast of north Korea (the Democratic People's Republic of Korea) by South Korea are very dangerous. The DPRK has made it clear that they consider these live-fire war exercises to be an act of war and they will again respond if they are again fired on.

The U.S. deployment of thousands of troops, ships, and aircraft in the area while South Korea is firing thousands of rounds of live ammunition and missiles is an enormously dangerous provocation, not only to the DPRK but to China. The Yellow Sea also borders China. The island and the waters where the war maneuvers are taking place are north of the Korean Demilitarized Zone and only eight miles from the coast of the DPRK.

On Sunday, December 19 in a day-long emergency session, the U.S. blocked in the UN Security Council any actions to resolve the crisis.

UNAC action program passed in Albany at the United National Antiwar Conference, July 2010 of over 800 antiwar, social justice and community organizations included the following Resolution on Korea:

15. In solidarity with the antiwar movements of Japan and Korea, each calling for U.S. Troops to Get Out Now, and given the great increase in U.S. military preparations against the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, National Peace Conference participants will organize immediate protests following any attack by the U.S. on Korea. U.S. war preparations include stockpiling hundreds of bunker-busters and conducting major war games near the territorial waters of China and Korea. In keeping with our stand for the right of self-determination and our demand of Out Now, the National Peace Conference calls for Bringing All U.S. Troops Home Now!

UNAC urges the whole antiwar movement to begin to circulate messages alerts now in preparation. Together let's join together and demand: Bring all U.S. Troops Home Now! Stop the Wars and the Threats of War.

The United National Antiwar Committee,



Greetings Family

It is official. Our worst nightmares have become a reality. Lynne is in one of the worst prisons in America, the place where they send our freedom fighters to die- Carlswell Prison, Texas.

It will require a form from Lynne, as soon as they allow it, to complete a request to visit her in Carlswell. In the meantime, please write, write , write.

Ralph Poynter,
Lynne Stewart Defense Committee

Lynne Stewart
#53504-054 Unit 2N
FMC Carswell
Federal Medical Center
P.O. Box 27137
Fort Worth, TX 76127

The address of her Defense Committee is:

Lynne Stewart Defense Committee
1070 Dean Street
Brooklyn, New York 11216
For further information:
718-789-0558 or 917-853-9759

Please write to Lynne and make a generous contribution to her defense committee. She is now far away from home isolated from her family and friends. Indeed, cruel and unusual punishment for a 71-year-old woman and her family!


In earnest support of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange:

We here undersigned express our support for the work and integrity of Julian Assange. We express concern that the charges against the WikiLeaks founder appear too convenient both in terms of timing and the novelty of their nature.

We call for this modern media innovator, and fighter for human rights extraordinaire, to be afforded the same rights to defend himself before Swedish justice that all others similarly charged might expect, and that his liberty not be compromised as a courtesy to those governments whose truths he has revealed have embarrassed.

GAP Inc: End Your Relationship with Supplier that Allows Workers to be Burned Alive



A handful of East Bay organizations have put together an open letter to the strikers. If your organization would like to become a signatory, you can email me to put you on it you and can do so here.

A Letter to the Prisoners on Strike in Georgia,

We, as members of activist and community organizations in the Bay Area of California, send our support for your strike against the terrible conditions you face in Georgia's prisons. We salute you for making history as your strike has become the largest prison strike in the history of this nation. As steadfast defenders of human and civil rights, we recognize the potential that your action has to improve the lives of millions subject to inhumane treatment in correctional facilities across this country.

Every single day, prisoners face the same deplorable and unnecessarily punitive conditions that you have courageously decided to stand up against. For too long, this nation has chosen silence in the face of the gross injustices that our brothers and sisters in prison are subjected to. Your fight against these injustices is a necessary and righteous struggle that must be carried out to victory.

We have heard about the brutal acts that Georgia Department of Corrections officers have been resorting to as a means of breaking your protest and we denounce them. In order to put a stop to the violence to which you have been subjected, we are in the process of contacting personnel at the different prison facilities and circulating petitions addressed to the governor and the Georgia DOC. We will continue to expose the DOC's shameless physical attacks on you and use our influence to call for an immediate end to the violence.

Here, in the Bay Area, we are all too familiar with the violence that this system is known to unleash upon our people. Recently, our community erupted in protest over the killing of an unarmed innocent black man named Oscar Grant by transit police in Oakland. We forced the authorities to arrest and convict the police officer responsible for Grant's murder by building up a mass movement. We intend to win justice with you and stop the violent repression of your peaceful protest in the same way-by appealing to the power and influence of the masses.

We fully support all of your demands. We strongly identify with your demand for expanded educational opportunities. In recent years, our state government has been initiating a series of massive cuts to our system of public education that continue to endanger our right to a quality, affordable education; in response, students all across our state have stood up and fought back just as you are doing now. In fact, students and workers across the globe have begun to organize and fight back against austerity measures and the corresponding violence of the state. Just in the past few weeks in Greece, Ireland, Spain, England, Italy, Haiti, Puerto Rico - tens and hundreds of thousands of students and workers have taken to the streets. We, as a movement, are gaining momentum and we do so even more as our struggles are unified and seen as interdependent. At times we are discouraged; it may seem insurmountable, but in the words of Malcolm X, "Power in defense of freedom is greater than power on behalf of tyranny and oppression."

You have inspired us. News of your strike, from day one, has served to inspire and invigorate hundreds of students and community organizers here in Berkeley and Oakland alone. We are especially inspired by your ability to organize across color lines and are interested in hearing an account from the inside of how this process developed and was accomplished. You have also encouraged us to take more direct actions toward radical prison reform in our own communities, namely Santa Rita County Jail and San Quentin Prison. We are now beginning the process of developing a similar set of demands regarding expediting processing (can take 20-30 hours to get a bed, they call it "bullpen therapy"), nutrition, visiting and phone calls, educational services, legal support, compensation for labor and humane treatment in general. We will also seek to unify the education and prison justice movements by collaborating with existing organizations that have been engaging in this work.

We echo your call: No more Slavery! Injustice to one is injustice to all!

In us, students, activists, the community members and people of the Bay Area, you have an ally. We will continue to spread the news about your cause all over the Bay Area and California, the country and world. We pledge to do everything in our power to make sure your demands are met.

In solidarity,
UC-Berkeley Student Worker Action Team (SWAT) _ Community Action Project (CAP) _ La Voz de los Trabajadores _ Laney College Student Unity & Power (SUP) _ Laney College Black Student Union (BSU)


In Solidarity
By Kevin Cooper

On Thursday, December 9, 2010, the inmates in the state of Georgia sat down in unity and peace in order to stand up for their human rights.

African American, White, and Latino inmates put aside their differences, if they had any, and came together as a 'People' fighting for their humanity in a system that dehumanizes all of them.

For this they have my utmost respect and appreciation and support. I am in true solidarity with them all!

For further information about Kevin Cooper:

Reasonable doubts about executing Kevin Cooper
Chronicle Editorial
Monday, December 13, 2010


Death penalty -- Kevin Cooper is Innocent! Help save his life from San Quentin's death row!
- From Amnesty International USA
17 December 2010
Click here to take action online:

To learn about recent Urgent Action successes and updates, go to

For a print-friendly version of this Urgent Action (PDF):

Kevin Cooper, who has been on death row in California for 25 years, is asking the outgoing state governor to commute his death sentence before leaving office on 2 January 2011. Kevin Cooper has consistently maintained his innocence of the four murders for which he was sentenced to death. Since 2004, a dozen federal appellate judges have indicated their doubts about his guilt.

On the night of 4 June 1983, Douglas and Peggy Ryen were hacked and stabbed to death in their home in Chino Hills, California, along with their 10-year-old daughter Jessica and 11-year-old houseguest Christopher Hughes. The couple's eight-year-old son, Joshua Ryen, was seriously wounded, but survived. He told investigators that the attackers were three or four white men. In hospital, he saw a picture of Kevin Cooper on television and said that Cooper, who is black, was not the attacker. However, the boy's later testimony - that he only saw one attacker - was introduced at the 1985 trial. The case has many other troubling aspects which call into question the reliability of the state's case and its conduct in obtaining this conviction (see

Kevin Cooper was less than eight hours from execution in 2004 when the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit granted a stay and sent the case back to the District Court for testing on blood and hair evidence, including to establish if the police had planted evidence. The District Court ruled in 2005 that the testing had not proved Kevin Cooper's innocence - his lawyers (and five Ninth Circuit judges) maintain that it did not do the testing as ordered. Nevertheless, in 2007, a three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit upheld the District Court's ruling. One of the judges described the result as "wholly discomforting" because of evidence tampering and destruction, but noted that she was constrained by US law, which places substantial obstacles in the way of successful appeals.

In 2009, the Ninth Circuit refused to have the whole court rehear the case. Eleven of its judges dissented. One of the dissenting opinions, running to more than 80 pages and signed by five judges, warned that "the State of California may be about to execute an innocent man". On the question of the evidence testing, they said: "There is no way to say this politely. The district court failed to provide Cooper a fair hearing and...imposed unreasonable conditions on the testing" ordered by the Ninth Circuit. They pointed to a test result that, if valid, indicated that evidence had been planted, and they asserted that the district court had blocked further scrutiny of this issue.

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger had already denied clemency in 2004 when the Ninth Circuit issued its stay. At the time, he had said that the "courts have reviewed this case for more than eighteen years. Evidence establishing his guilt is overwhelming". Clearly, a notable number of federal judges disagree. The five judges in the Ninth Circuit's lengthy dissent in 2009 stated that the evidence of Kevin Cooper's guilt at his trial was "quite weak" and concluded that he "is probably innocent of the crimes for which the State of California is about to execute him".

On 2 June 1983, two days before the Chino Hills murders, Kevin Cooper had escaped from a minimum security prison, where he was serving a four-year term for burglary, and had hidden in an empty house near the Ryen home for two nights. After his arrest, he became the focus of public hatred. Outside the venue of his preliminary hearing, for example, people hung an effigy of a monkey in a noose with a sign reading "Hang the Nigger!!" At the time of the trial, jurors were confronted by graffiti declaring "Die Kevin Cooper" and "Kevin Cooper Must Be Hanged". Kevin Cooper pleaded not guilty - the jury deliberated for seven days before convicting him - and he has maintained his innocence since then. Since Governor Schwarzenegger denied clemency in 2004, more evidence supporting Kevin Cooper's claim of innocence has emerged, including for example, testimony from three witnesses who say they saw three white men near the crime scene on the night of the murders with blood on them.

In 2007, Judge Margaret McKeown was the member of the Ninth Circuit's three-judge panel who indicated that she was upholding the District Court's 2005 ruling despite her serious concerns. She wrote: "Significant evidence bearing on Cooper's guilt has been lost, destroyed or left unpursued, including, for example, blood-covered coveralls belonging to a potential suspect who was a convicted murderer, and a bloody t-shirt, discovered alongside the road near the crime scene. The managing criminologist in charge of the evidence used to establish Cooper's guilt at trial was, as it turns out, a heroin addict, and was fired for stealing drugs seized by the police. Countless other alleged problems with the handling and disclosure of evidence and the integrity of the forensic testing and investigation undermine confidence in the evidence". She continued that "despite the presence of serious questions as to the integrity of the investigation and evidence supporting the conviction, we are constrained by the requirements of the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (AEDPA)". Judge McKeown wrote that "the habeas process does not account for lingering doubt or new evidence that cannot leap the clear and convincing hurdle of AEDPA. Instead, we are left with a situation in which confidence in the blood sample is murky at best, and lost, destroyed or tampered evidence cannot be factored into the final analysis of doubt. The result is wholly discomforting, but one that the law demands".

Even if it is correct that the AEDPA demands this result, the power of executive clemency is not so confined. Last September, for example, the governor of Ohio commuted Kevin Keith's death sentence because of doubts about his guilt even though his death sentence had been upheld on appeal (see Governor Ted Strickland said that despite circumstantial evidence linking the condemned man to the crime, "many legitimate questions have been raised regarding the evidence in support of the conviction and the investigation which led to it. In particular, Mr Keith's conviction relied upon the linking of certain eyewitness testimony with certain forensic evidence about which important questions have been raised. I also find the absence of a full investigation of other credible suspects troubling." The same could be said in the case of Kevin Cooper, whose lawyer is asking Governor Schwarzenegger to commute the death sentence before he leaves office on 2 January 2011. While Kevin Cooper does not yet have an execution date, it is likely that one will be set, perhaps early in 2011.

More than 130 people have been released from death rows on grounds of innocence in the USA since 1976. At the original trial in each case, the defendant had been found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. It is clear beyond any dispute that the USA's criminal justice system is capable of making mistakes. International safeguards require that the death penalty not be imposed if guilt is not "based upon clear and convincing evidence leaving no room for an alternative explanation of the facts". Amnesty International opposes all executions regardless of the seriousness of the crime or the guilt or innocence of the condemned.

California has the largest death row in the USA, with more than 700 prisoners under sentence of death out of a national total of some 3,200. California accounts for 13 of the 1,234 executions in the USA since judicial killing resumed there in 1977. There have been 46 executions in the USA this year. The last execution in California was in January 2006.

RECOMMENDED ACTION: Please send appeals to arrive as quickly as possible:
- Acknowledging the seriousness of the crime for which Kevin Cooper was sentenced to death;
- Urging Governor Schwarzenegger to take account of the continuing doubts about Kevin Cooper's guilt, including as expressed by more than 10 federal judges since 2004, when executive clemency was last requested;
- Urging the Governor to commute Kevin Cooper's death sentence.


Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger
State Capitol Building, Sacramento, CA 95814, USA
Fax: 1 916-558-3160
Email: or via
Salutation : Dear Governor

Check with the AIUSA Urgent Action office if sending appeals after 2 January 2011.

Tip of the Month:
Write as soon as you can. Try to write as close as possible to the date a case is issued.

Within the United States:
$0.28 - Postcards
$0.44 - Letters and Cards (up to 1 oz.)
To Canada:
$0.75 - Postcards
$0.75 - Airmail Letters and Cards (up to 1 oz.)
To Mexico:
$0.79 - Postcards
$0.79 - Airmail Letters and Cards (up to 1 oz.)
To all other destination countries:
$0.98 - Postcards
$0.98 - Airmail Letters and Cards (up to 1 oz.)

Amnesty International is a worldwide grassroots movement that promotes and defends human rights.

This Urgent Action may be reposted if kept intact, including contact information and stop action date (if applicable). Thank you for your help with this appeal.

Urgent Action Network
Amnesty International USA
600 Pennsylvania Ave SE 5th fl
Washington DC 20003
Phone: 202.509.8193
Fax: 202.675.8566


Free the Children of Palestine!
Sign Petition:

Published by Al-Awda, Palestine Right to Return Coalition on Dec 16, 2010
Category: Children's Rights
Region: GLOBAL
Target: President Obama
Web site:

Background (Preamble):

According to Israeli police, 1200 Palestinian children have been arrested, interrogated and imprisoned in the occupied city of Jerusalem alone this year. The youngest of these children was seven-years old.

Children and teen-agers were often dragged out of their beds in the middle of the night, taken in handcuffs for questioning, threatened, humiliated and many were subjected to physical violence while under arrest as part of an ongoing campaign against the children of Palestine. Since the year 2000, more than 8000 have been arrested by Israel, and reports of mistreatment are commonplace.

Further, based on sworn affidavits collected in 2009 from 100 of these children, lawyers working in the occupied West Bank with Defense Children International, a Geneva-based non governmental organization, found that 69% were beaten and kicked, 49% were threatened, 14% were held in solitary confinement, 12% were threatened with sexual assault, including rape, and 32% were forced to sign confessions written in Hebrew, a language they do not understand.

Minors were often asked to give names and incriminate friends and relatives as a condition of their release. Such institutionalized and systematic mistreatment of Palestinian children by the state of Israel is a violation international law and specifically contravenes the Convention on the Rights of the Child to which Israel is supposedly a signatory.


We, the undersigned call on US President Obama to direct Israel to

1. Stop all the night raids and arrests of Palestinian Children forthwith.

2. Immediately release all Palestinian children detained in its prisons and detention centers.

3. End all forms of systematic and institutionalized abuse against all Palestinian children.

4. Implement the full restoration of Palestinian children's rights in accordance with international law including, but not limited to, their right to return to their homes of origin, to education, to medical and psychological care, and to freedom of movement and expression.

The US government, which supports Israel to the tune of billions of taxpayer dollars a year while most ordinary Americans are suffering in a very bad economy, is bound by its laws and international conventions to cut off all aid to Israel until it ends all of its violations of human rights and basic freedoms in a verifiable manner.


"Secret diplomacy is a necessary tool for a propertied minority, which is compelled to deceive the majority in order to subject it to its interests."..."Publishing State Secrets" By Leon Trotsky
Documents on Soviet Policy, Trotsky, iii, 2 p. 64
November 22, 1917


To understand how much a trillion dollars is, consider looking at it in terms of time:

A million seconds would be about eleven-and-one-half days; a billion seconds would be 31 years; and a trillion seconds would be 31,000 years!

From the novel "A Dark Tide," by Andrew Gross

Now think of it in terms of U.S. war dollars and bankster bailouts!


Your Year-End Gift for the Children
Double your impact with this matching gift opportunity!

Dear Friend of the Children,

You may have recently received a letter from me via regular mail with a review of the important things you helped MECA accomplish for the children in 2010, along with a special Maia Project decal.

My letter to you also included an announcement of MECA's first ever matching gift offer. One of our most generous supporters will match all gifts received by December 31. 2010 to a total of $35,000.

So, whether you are a long time supporter, or giving for the first-time... Whether you can give $10 or $1,000... This is a unique opportunity to double the impact of your year-end gift!
Your contribution will be matched dollar for dollar, making it go twice as far so that MECA can:

* Install twenty more permanent drinking water units in Gaza schools though our Maia Project
* Continue our work with Playgrounds for Palestine to complete a community park in the besieged East Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan, where violent Israeli settlers attack children and adults, Israeli police arrest the victims, and the city conducts "administrative demolitions" of Palestinian homes.
* Send a large medical aid shipment to Gaza.
* Renew support for "Let the Children Play and Heal," a program in Gaza to help children cope with trauma and grief through arts programs, referrals to therapists, educational materials for families and training for mothers.

Your support for the Middle East Children's Alliance's delivers real, often life-saving, help. And it does more than that. It sends a message of hope and solidarity to Palestine-showing the people that we are standing beside them as they struggle to bring about a better life for their children.

With warm regards,
Barbara Lubin
Founder and Director

P.S. Please give as much as you possible can, and please make your contribution now, so it will be doubled. Thank you so much.

P.S.S. If you didn't receive a MAIA Project decal in the mail or if you would like another one, please send an email message to with "MAIA Project decal" in the subject line when you make your contribution.

To make a gift by mail send to:
MECA, 1101 8th Street, Berkley, CA 94710

To make a gift by phone, please call MECA's off at: 510-548-0542

To "GO PAPERLESS" and receive all your MECA communications by email, send a message to with "Paperless" in the subject line.


For Immediate Release
Antiwar movement supports Wikileaks and calls for and independent, international investigation of the crimes that have been exposed. We call for the release of Bradley Manning and the end to the harassment of Julian Assange.
For more information: Joe Lombardo, 518-281-1968,,

Antiwar movement supports Wikileaks and calls for and independent, international investigation of the crimes that have been exposed. We call for the release of Bradley Manning and the end to the harassment of Julian Assange.

The United National Antiwar Committee (UNAC) calls for the release of Bradley Manning who is awaiting trial accused of leaking the material to Wikileaks that has been released over the past several months. We also call for an end to the harassment of Julian Assange, the founder of Wikileaks and we call for an independent, international investigation of the illegal activity exposed through the material released by Wikileaks.

Before sending the material to Wikileaks, Bradley Manning tried to get his superiors in the military to do something about what he understood to be clear violations of international law. His superiors told him to keep quiet so Manning did the right thing; he exposed the illegal activity to the world.

The Afghan material leaked earlier shows military higher-ups telling soldiers to kill enemy combatants who were trying to surrender. The Iraq Wikileaks video from 2007 shows the US military killing civilians and news reporters from a helicopter while laughing about it. The widespread corruption among U.S. allies has been exposed by the most recent leaks of diplomatic cables. Yet, instead of calling for change in these policies, we hear only a call to suppress further leaks.

At the national antiwar conference held in Albany in July, 2010, at which UNAC was founded, we heard from Ethan McCord, one of the soldiers on the ground during the helicopter attack on the civilians in Iraq exposed by Wikileaks (see: ). He talked about removing wounded children from a civilian vehicle that the US military had shot up. It affected him so powerfully that he and another soldier who witnessed the massacre wrote a letter of apology to the families of the civilians who were killed.

We ask why this material was classified in the first place. There were no state secrets in the material, only evidence of illegal and immoral activity by the US military, the US government and its allies. To try to cover this up by classifying the material is a violation of our right to know the truth about these wars. In this respect, Bradley Manning and Julian Assange should be held up as heroes, not hounded for exposing the truth.

UNAC calls for an end to the illegal and immoral policies exposed by Wikileaks and an immediate end to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and an end to threats against Iran and North Korea.




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

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

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

Please donate today:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Add your name! We stand with Bradley Manning.

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

Dear All,

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

Read the complete public letter and add your name at:

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


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

Dear Friend,

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you for your generosity! Tom Burke


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

With best wishes,

Robert R. Bryan
Lead counsel for Mumia Abu-Jamal


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

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

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

Thank you for your generosity!


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


Support the troops who refuse to fight!




1) Journalists Are All Julian Assange
By Robert Parry
December 16, 2010

2) Why I Am Donating $50,000 to WikiLeaks
By Larry Flynt, Reader Supported News
19 December 10

3) Weighing Costs, Companies Favor Temporary Help
"This year, companies have hired temporary workers in significant numbers. In November, they accounted for 80 percent of the 50,000 jobs added by private sector employers, according to the Labor Department. Since the beginning of the year, employers have added a net 307,000 temporary workers, more than a quarter of the 1.17 million private sector jobs added in total."
December 19, 2010

4) Many Children Lack Doctors, Study Finds
December 19, 2010

5) This Bonus Season on Wall Street, Many See Zeros
[But don't shed those tears] "At Goldman, for instance, the base salary for managing directors rose to $500,000 from $300,000, while at Morgan Stanley and Credit Suisse it jumped to $400,000 from $200,000...One executive, whose firm prohibited discussing the topic with the news media, said the bump in base salaries had confused people, even though their overall compensation was the same. 'People expect a big bonus,' this person said. 'It is as if they don't even see their base doubled last year.' ... This year, Wall Street's five biggest firms have put aside nearly $90 billion for bonuses."
December 19, 2010

6) Monitoring America
"In Virginia, the state's fusion center published a terrorism threat assessment in 2009 naming historically black colleges as potential hubs for terrorism.
From 2005 to 2007, the Maryland State Police went even further, infiltrating and labeling as terrorists local groups devoted to human rights, antiwar causes and bike lanes."
By Dana Priest and William M. Arikin
Monday, December 20, 2010; 1:40 AM

Queers can be fodder, too, now!
[Tommi will be on Your Call, Rose Aquilar's show on KALW tomorrow morning at 11am talking about the]
By Tommi Avicolli Mecca, December 19, 2010

8) $2tn debt crisis threatens to bring down 100 US cities
Overdrawn American cities could face financial collapse in 2011, defaulting on hundreds of billions of dollars of borrowings and derailing the US economic recovery. Nor are European cities safe - Florence, Barcelona, Madrid, Venice: all are in trouble
By Elena Moya
Monday 20 December 2010 17.58 GMT

9) Blackstone: The Grinch Stealing the Recovery from Working Families
Rally and Picket @ Hilton Hotel Union Square
O'Farrell St, between Mason and Taylor
January 7, 2011, Friday, 11:30am-3pm

10) Workers Dig In as Hotels Increase Profits & Escalate Threats
By Carl Finamore
In These Times, December 20, 2010

11) House Passes Food Safety Bill, Raising Powers of F.D.A.
December 21, 2010

12) Why Apple Removed a WikiLeaks App From Its Store
[What kind of democracy is it if corporate America can dictate what websites we can go to?]
December 21, 2010, 12:29 pm

13) U.S. Military Seeks to Expand Raids in Pakistan
December 20, 2010

14) U.S. Proposes Rules on Raising Insurance Premiums
[This is a gift to the insurance industry giving them permission to rais premiums by 9.99 percent next year. Yes, insurance companies, there is a Santa]
December 21, 2010

15) City Will Require Police to Report on School Arrests
December 20, 2010

16) Suit Claims Use of Credit History in Hiring Hurt Black Applicants
December 21, 2010

17) FBI delivers subpoenas to four more anti-war, solidarity activists as U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald Expands Witch Hunt
Committee to Stop FBI Repression

18) Italian Students Protest University Reforms
December 22, 2010

19) Afghanistan: Civilian Deaths Examined
December 22, 2010

20) Colleges Rethink R.O.T.C. After 'Don't Ask' Repeal
December 21, 2010

21) Times Sues City Police, Saying Information Has Been Illegally Withheld
December 21, 2010

22) Agent Provocateurs at demos
Tue Dec 21, 2010 9:34 am (PST)
VIA Email

23) The Professional Left Versus The Left of Us
By Jared A. Ball
Black Agenda Report, December 21, 2010

24) Under 'High-Tech House Arrest,' WikiLeaks Founder Takes the Offensive
December 22, 2010

25) Alabama Town's Failed Pension Is a Warning
December 22, 2010

26) Judge Criticizes Stop-and-Frisk Police Tactics in Housing Projects
December 22, 2010

27) Sentence Commuted in Racially Charged Killing
December 23, 2010


1) Journalists Are All Julian Assange
By Robert Parry
December 16, 2010

Whatever the unusual aspects of the case, the Obama administration's reported plan to indict WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange for conspiring with Army Pvt. Bradley Manning to obtain U.S. secrets strikes at the heart of investigative journalism on national security scandals.

That's because the process for reporters obtaining classified information about crimes of state most often involves a journalist persuading some government official to break the law either by turning over classified documents or at least by talking about the secret information. There is almost always some level of "conspiracy" between reporter and source.

Contrary to what some outsiders might believe, it's actually quite uncommon for sensitive material to simply arrive "over the transom" unsolicited. Indeed, during three decades of reporting on these kinds of stories, I can only recall a few secret documents arriving that way to me.

In most cases, I played some role - either large or small - in locating the classified information or convincing some government official to divulge some secrets. More often than not, I was the instigator of these "conspiracies."

My "co-conspirators" typically were well-meaning government officials who were aware of some wrongdoing committed under the cloak of national security, but they were never eager to put their careers at risk by talking about these offenses. I usually had to persuade them, whether by appealing to their consciences or by constructing some reasonable justification for them to help.

Other times, I was sneaky in liberating some newsworthy classified information from government control. Indeed, in 1995, was started as a way to publish secret and top-secret information that I had discovered in the files of a closed congressional inquiry during the chaotic period between the Republicans winning the 1994 elections and their actual takeover of Congress in early 1995.

In December 1994, I asked for and was granted access to supposedly unclassified records left behind by a task force that had looked into allegations that Ronald Reagan's campaign had sabotaged President Jimmy Carter's hostage negotiations with Iran in 1980.

To my surprise, I discovered that the investigators, apparently in their haste to wrap up their work, had failed to purge the files of all classified material. So, while my "minder" wasn't paying attention to me, I ran some of the classified material through a copier and left with it in a folder. I later wrote articles about these documents and posted some on the Internet.

Such behavior - whether cajoling a nervous government official to expose a secret or exploiting some unauthorized access to classified material - is part of what an investigative journalist does in covering national security abuses. The traditional rule of thumb has been that it's the government's job to hide the secrets and a reporter's job to uncover them.

In the aftermath of significant leaks, the government often tries to convince news executives to spike or water down the stories "for the good of the country." But it is the news organization's ultimate decision whether to comply or to publish.

Historically, most of these leaks have caused the government some short-term embarrassment (although usually accompanied by exaggerated howls of protests). In the long run, however, the public has been served by knowing about some government abuse. Reforms often follow as they did during the Iran-Contra scandal that I was involved in exposing in the 1980s.

A Nixon Precedent

Yet, in the WikiLeaks case - instead of simply complaining and moving on - the Obama administration appears to be heading in a direction not seen since the Nixon administration sought to block the publication of the Pentagon Papers secret history of the Vietnam War in 1971.

In doing so, the Obama administration, which came to power vowing a new era of openness, is contemplating a novel strategy for criminalizing traditional journalistic practices, while trying to assure major U.S. news outlets that they won't be swept up in the Assange-Manning dragnet.

The New York Times reported on Thursday that federal prosecutors were reviewing the possibility of indicting Assange on conspiracy charges for allegedly encouraging or assisting Manning in extracting "classified military and State Department files from a government computer system."

The Times article by Charlie Savage notes that if prosecutors determine that Assange provided some help in the process, "they believe they could charge him as a conspirator in the leak, not just as a passive recipient of the documents who then published them.

"Among materials prosecutors are studying is an online chat log in which Private Manning is said to claim that he had been directly communicating with Mr. Assange using an encrypted Internet conferencing service as the soldier was downloading government files. Private Manning is also said to have claimed that Mr. Assange gave him access to a dedicated server for uploading some of them to WikiLeaks.

"Adrian Lamo, an ex-hacker in whom Private Manning confided and who eventually turned him in, said Private Manning detailed those interactions in instant-message conversations with him. He said the special server's purpose was to allow Private Manning's submissions to 'be bumped to the top of the queue for review.' By Mr. Lamo's account, Private Manning bragged about this 'as evidence of his status as the high-profile source for WikiLeaks.'"

Though some elements of this suspected Assange-Manning collaboration may be technically unique because of the Internet's role - and that may be a relief to more traditional news organizations like the Times which has published some of the WikiLeaks documents - the underlying reality is that what WikiLeaks has done is essentially "the same wine" of investigative journalism in "a new bottle" of the Internet.

By shunning WikiLeaks as some deviant journalistic hybrid, mainstream U.S. news outlets may breathe easier now but may find themselves caught up in a new legal precedent that could be applied to them later.

As for the Obama administration, its sudden aggressiveness in divining new "crimes" in the publication of truthful information is especially stunning when contrasted with its "see no evil" approach toward openly acknowledged crimes committed by President George W. Bush and his subordinates, including major offenses such as torture, kidnapping and aggressive war.

Holder's Move

The possibility of an indictment of Assange no longer seems to me like rampant paranoia. Initially, I didn't believe that the Obama administration was serious in stretching the law to find ways to prosecute Assange and to shut down WikiLeaks.

But then there was the pressure on WikiLeaks' vendors such as and PayPal along with threats from prominent U.S. political figures, spouting rhetoric about Assange as a "terrorist" comparable to Osama bin Laden and a worthy target of assassination.

Normally, when people engage in such talk of violence, they are the ones who attract the attention of police and prosecutors. In this case, however, the Obama administration appears to be bowing to those who talk loosely about murdering a truth-teller.

Attorney General Eric Holder announced last week that he has taken "significant" steps in the investigation, a possible reference to what an Assange lawyer said he had learned from Swedish authorities about a secret grand jury meeting in Northern Virginia.

The Times reported, "Justice Department officials have declined to discuss any grand jury activity. But in interviews, people familiar with the case said the department appeared to be attracted to the possibility of prosecuting Mr. Assange as a co-conspirator to the leaking because it is under intense pressure to make an example of him as a deterrent to further mass leaking of electronic documents over the Internet.

"By bringing a case against Mr. Assange as a conspirator to Private Manning's leak, the government would not have to confront awkward questions about why it is not also prosecuting traditional news organizations or investigative journalists who also disclose information the government says should be kept secret - including The New York Times, which also published some documents originally obtained by WikiLeaks."

In other words, the Obama administration appears to be singling out Assange as an outlier in the journalistic community who is already regarded as something of a pariah. In that way, mainstream media personalities can be invited to join in his persecution without thinking that they might be next.

Though American journalists may understandably want to find some protective cover by pretending that Julian Assange is not like us, the reality is - whether we like it or not - we are all Julian Assange.

[For more on these topics, see Parry's three-book set (Lost History,Secrecy & Privilege, and Neck Deep), now available for the discount price of only $29. For details, click here.]

Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories in the 1980s for the Associated Press and Newsweek. His latest book, Neck Deep: The Disastrous Presidency of George W. Bush, was written with two of his sons, Sam and Nat, and can be ordered at His two previous books, Secrecy & Privilege: The Rise of the Bush Dynasty from Watergate to Iraq and Lost History: Contras, Cocaine, the Press & 'Project Truth' are also available there.


2) Why I Am Donating $50,000 to WikiLeaks
By Larry Flynt, Reader Supported News
19 December 10

Let's get something straight: Julian Assange is a journalist. You can argue that he is not practicing journalism the way you think it should be practiced - releasing classified U.S. State Department documents - but he's a journalist nonetheless. And for many of us he's a hero.

I'm sick and tired of the politicians and political pundits treating this man as if he were a criminal. If WikiLeaks had existed in 2003 when George W. Bush was ginning up the war in Iraq, America might not be in the horrendous situation it is today, with our troops fighting in three countries (counting Pakistan) and the consequent cost in blood and dollars.

Here's what I know about censorship: The free flow of information is ultimately less harmful than the impeded flow of information. A democracy cannot exist without total access to the facts.

What's wrong is that a concerned outsider - an Australian publisher, not our own vaunted mainstream press - exposed the secret documents. For that, Assange has been hit with dubious criminal charges because his condom failed during a sexual encounter. Give me a break.

Julian Assange should not face a prison sentence. We should have a ticker-tape parade for this brave man.


3) Weighing Costs, Companies Favor Temporary Help
"This year, companies have hired temporary workers in significant numbers. In November, they accounted for 80 percent of the 50,000 jobs added by private sector employers, according to the Labor Department. Since the beginning of the year, employers have added a net 307,000 temporary workers, more than a quarter of the 1.17 million private sector jobs added in total."
December 19, 2010

Temporary workers are starting to look, well, not so temporary.

Despite a surge this year in short-term hiring, many American businesses are still skittish about making those jobs permanent, raising concerns among workers and some labor experts that temporary employees will become a larger, more entrenched part of the work force.

This is bad news for the nation's workers, who are already facing one of the bleakest labor markets in recent history. Temporary employees generally receive fewer benefits or none at all, and have virtually no job security. It is harder for them to save. And it is much more difficult for them to develop a career arc while hopping from boss to boss.

"We're in a period where uncertainty seems to be going on forever," said David Autor, an economist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. "So this period of temporary employment seems to be going on forever."

This year, companies have hired temporary workers in significant numbers. In November, they accounted for 80 percent of the 50,000 jobs added by private sector employers, according to the Labor Department. Since the beginning of the year, employers have added a net 307,000 temporary workers, more than a quarter of the 1.17 million private sector jobs added in total.

One worker who has been forced to accept temporary jobs is Jeffrey Rodeo, 43, who was laid off 14 months ago from his job as an accounting manager at a produce company in Sacramento. He has applied for nearly 700 full-time positions since then, but has yet to receive an offer. Meanwhile, to stay afloat and keep his skills fresh, he has worked on short-term stints at four different employers.

Mr. Rodeo figures his peripatetic work life will last at least another year. "Companies are being more careful," he said. "It just may take longer to secure a permanent position."

To the more than 15 million people who are still out of work, those with temporary jobs are lucky. With concerns mounting that the long-term unemployed are becoming increasingly unemployable, those in temporary jobs are at least maintaining ties to the working world.

The competition for them can often be as fierce as for permanent openings, and there are still far too few of them to go around. Indeed, the relative strength in temporary hiring has done little to dent the stubbornly high unemployment rate, which rose to 9.8 percent in November.

"With business confidence, particularly in the small business sector, extremely low," said Ian Shepherdson, chief United States economist at the High Frequency Economics research firm, "it's not surprising that permanent hiring is lagging behind."

The landscape two or three years from now might look quite different, of course. Many economists and executives at temporary agencies say there are signs that more robust permanent hiring is coming in the new year. Business confidence is up, and temporary agencies report that the percentage of interim workers who have been offered full-time jobs is also up from last year.

Nevertheless, there are signs that this time around, the economy could be moving toward a higher reliance on temporary workers over the long term.

This year, 26.2 percent of all jobs added by private sector employers were temporary positions. In the comparable period after the recession of the early 1990s, only 10.9 percent of the private sector jobs added were temporary, and after the downturn earlier this decade, just 7.1 percent were temporary.

Temporary employees still make up a small fraction of total employees, but that segment has been rising steeply over the past year. "It hints at a structural change," said Allen L. Sinai, chief global economist at the consulting firm Decision Economics. Temp workers "are becoming an ever more important part of what is going on," he said.

Several factors could be contributing to the trend. Many businesses now tend to organize around short- to medium-term projects that can be doled out to temporary or contract workers.

Donald Lane, chief executive of Makino, a manufacturer of machine tools near Cincinnati, said his company would increasingly outsource projects to contract firms that pull together temporary teams. When installing a large machine, for example, Mr. Lane said the company could appoint one full-time supervisor to oversee a number of less skilled short-term workers.

Mr. Lane said he hoped to raise Makino's share of temporary employees from 10 to 15 percent now to about 25 percent in the future.

Flexibility is another factor. Corporate executives, stung by the depth of the recent downturn, are looking to make it easier to hire and fire workers. And with the cost of health and retirement benefits running high, many companies are looking to reduce that burden. In some cases, companies wrongly classify regular employees as temporary or contract workers in order to save on benefit costs and taxes.

Certainly, Americans who have never held anything but a full-time job have sought out temporary posts because they were the only jobs available. And even before the recession, workers were learning that lifelong employment was disappearing along with phone booths and Filofax organizers.

But people still tend to prefer jobs with some sense of permanence, and with full health benefits and some form of retirement contribution.

According to a survey by Staffing Industry Analysts, a Mountain View, Calif., research firm, 68 percent of all temporary workers are seeking permanent employment.

But the whole notion of what constitutes a permanent job may simply be changing. Workers "need to expect that their lives and jobs will change much more often than they have in the past," said Jonas Prising, president of the Americas at Manpower.

Some people have discovered they prefer the freelance life. Antonia Musto lost her job as a staff accountant for a newspaper in Wilkes Barre, Pa., more than two years ago. She signed on with oDesk, a company that matches contract workers with employers online.

She has since worked for several different businesses and even turned down a full-time offer last November. "I just think I've gotten very accustomed to working very fast and working with many different people," Ms. Musto, 38, said. She said she had fully replaced the income she was making at the newspaper and buys private health insurance.

Of course, businesses that can now hire talented workers for temporary jobs may find that when demand picks up, they will need to offer full-time positions with perks and benefits. But it could take a long time to reach that point.

That indefinite stretch worries workers who fear that future employers will look askance at a résumé filled with short-term engagements. Others worry that they will lose valuable years of saving for the future.

Mr. Rodeo, the Sacramento accounting manager, said he made anywhere from 10 to 50 percent less while working in temporary jobs than he did at the produce company. He has also been without health insurance all year. None of the interim employers or temporary agencies have contributed to a 401(k) plan, nor has he been able to save much on his own.

"That's the scariest part," said Mr. Rodeo.

He is confident he will eventually land a permanent post, but until then, he knows he is losing ground in planning for retirement. "Of course, for my generation, you can't plan on Social Security," he said. "Most likely, I will have to work longer."

Others are starting to face the prospect that they could move among temporary assignments for the rest of their careers.

Jose Marin, 50, known as J. D., lost his technology job in Miami in February and moved to North Carolina to live with his sister. After months of looking for a permanent job, he signed on with Modis, a unit of Adecco, and in August began a temporary assignment for a financial services company in Cary, a town west of Raleigh.

While grateful for the job, he longs for a permanent position. "I'm still old-fashioned and I still want to work for a company where I make a difference and I'm going to be there to retire," said Mr. Marin. "I know that's wishful thinking."


4) Many Children Lack Doctors, Study Finds
December 19, 2010

CHICAGO (AP) - Though there are enough children's doctors in the United States, they work in the wrong places, a new study has found.

Some wealthy areas are oversaturated with pediatricians and family doctors, while other parts of the nation have few or none.

Nearly 1 million children live in areas with no local doctor. By relocating doctors, the study suggests, nearly every child could have one nearby.

The study's lead author, Dr. Scott Shipman of the Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice, said the focus should be more on evening out the distribution of doctors than on increasing the supply.

Medical schools are graduating more students, Dr. Shipman said, but the result will most likely be more doctors in places where there is already an oversupply.

"I worry that it could get worse," he said.

The growth in the number of pediatricians and family physicians has outpaced the growth in the child population in the United States, Dr. Shipman and his colleagues found. Yet the study's analysis shows that nearly all 50 states have an extremely uneven distribution of primary care doctors for children.

Mississippi had the highest proportion of children, 42 percent, in low-supply regions, which are defined as areas with more than 3,000 children per doctor. Next were Arkansas, Oklahoma, Maine and Idaho.

Areas with an abundance of children's doctors were Washington, D.C., and Delaware, both of which had no children living in low-supply regions. Maryland, Washington State and Wisconsin also had very few children in low-supply areas.

Federal financing has been expanded in recent years for the National Health Service Corps, which offers loan forgiveness for doctors and other health practitioners who work in underserved areas. That may help, Dr. Shipman said.

The study appears Monday in the journal Pediatrics.


5) This Bonus Season on Wall Street, Many See Zeros
[But don't shed those tears] "At Goldman, for instance, the base salary for managing directors rose to $500,000 from $300,000, while at Morgan Stanley and Credit Suisse it jumped to $400,000 from $200,000...One executive, whose firm prohibited discussing the topic with the news media, said the bump in base salaries had confused people, even though their overall compensation was the same. 'People expect a big bonus,' this person said. 'It is as if they don't even see their base doubled last year.' ... This year, Wall Street's five biggest firms have put aside nearly $90 billion for bonuses."
December 19, 2010

Bonus season is fast approaching on Wall Street, but this year the talk does not center just on multimillion-dollar paydays. It's about a new club that no one wants to join: the Zeros.

Drawn from a broad swath of back-office employees and middle-level traders, bankers and brokers, the Zeros, as they have come to be called, are facing a once-unthinkable prospect: an annual bonus of ... nothing.

"It's going to a cause a lot of panic on Wall Street," said Richard Stein of Global Sage, an executive search firm. "Everybody is talking about it, but they're actually concerned about it becoming public. I would not want to be head of compensation at a Wall Street firm right now."

In some ways, a zero bonus should not come as a surprise to many bankers. As a result of the 2008 financial crisis, Wall Street firms like Goldman Sachs and banks like Citigroup raised base pay substantially in 2009 and 2010. They were seeking to placate regulators who had argued that bonuses based on performance encouraged excessive risk.

At Goldman, for instance, the base salary for managing directors rose to $500,000 from $300,000, while at Morgan Stanley and Credit Suisse it jumped to $400,000 from $200,000.

Even though employees will receive roughly the same amount of money, the psychological blow of not getting a bonus is substantial, especially in a Wall Street culture that has long equated success and prestige with bonus size. So there are sure to be plenty of long faces on employees across the financial sector who have come to expect a bonus on top of their base pay. Wall Streeters typically find out what their bonuses will be in January, with the payout coming in February.

One executive, whose firm prohibited discussing the topic with the news media, said the bump in base salaries had confused people, even though their overall compensation was the same. "People expect a big bonus," this person said. "It is as if they don't even see their base doubled last year."

Dealing with the Zeros can be complicated. "It's a real headache," said another senior banker, who asked not to be identified because the topic is so volatile at his company. There has been so much grousing that in some cases, he said, "we'll throw $20,000 or $25,000 at each of the Zeros so they're not discouraged."

"No matter what we pay people, it is never enough and they always find something to complain about," this banker said.

While Zeros are turning up in the ranks of back-office employees and midtier bankers and traders who typically earn $250,000 to $500,000, their bosses way up the compensation ladder are still expected to notch handsome paydays in the millions.

In terms of overall profit, Wall Street is on track for one of its best years ever, although it will trail 2009, which was pumped up by federal bailout money and the rebound from the financial crisis.

In the first three quarters of the year, Wall Street earned $21.4 billion, putting it on track to easily outpace 2006, when the economy was booming, and well ahead of the New York City government's initial estimate of $20.6 billion for profit in all of 2010.

This year, Wall Street's five biggest firms have put aside nearly $90 billion for bonuses.

But bankers and compensation experts say that bonus payouts will vary widely this year, much more than in the past when a rising tide lifted all boats. And just as junior and senior bankers face varying fates, so some departments are expected to fare better than others.

At JPMorgan and Bank of America Merrill Lynch, for example, the leveraged finance group could receive a 10 to 20 percent bump from last year, because of record issuance of junk bonds. Equity traders, on the other hand, are looking at a 10 to 20 percent drop because stock trading tailed off during the second half of the year.

At Morgan Stanley, equity trading was stronger, but bond traders are most likely looking at smaller pay packages.

To be sure, the best performers on the most profitable desks will still receive substantial bonuses. At Bank of America, top directors might earn a $1 million bonus while top vice presidents could net $600,000, according to one banker there.

What's more, echoing trends in the broader economy, Wall Street chief executives are almost certain to escape the fate of the Zeros, with bonuses climbing into the stratosphere as the shock of the financial crisis fades and pay for the top tier climbs back toward historical averages.

Morgan Stanley is perhaps feeling the most pressure. In 2009, it paid out a record 62 percent of its net revenue in compensation and benefits; its chief executive, James P. Gorman, vowed to bring that down to bolster profits. But early this year, the firm's board decided to start hiring in an effort to rebuild businesses in the wake of the financial crisis.

Now, having added 2,000 people in 2010 yet lacking any growth in revenue, the firm has little choice but to scale back on bonuses. Compensation will be lowered across the board, but there will still be plenty of Zeros, said one person familiar with Morgan Stanley's compensation process.

Recently, Mr. Gorman has been telling employees that the selective, short-term pain on compensation will give the firm credibility with shareholders and help Morgan Stanley over the long haul, calling 2010 "the year of differentiation," several employees said.

Even if overall salaries for Wall Streeters remain generous, the new zero-bonus culture is likely to change spending habits, said Robert J. Gordon, a professor of economics at Northwestern. Bonuses are spent differently than more predictable income, he said, citing "impulsive purchases, like jewelry from Tiffany's for a girlfriend."

Zero bonuses are likely to have a bigger impact on New York's economy, which has grown dependent on the largess of Wall Street firms. Whether it's for jewelry, high-end clothing or apartments, bonus spending has long fed a postholiday boom in January and February, especially in Manhattan and expensive suburbs like Greenwich.

"I suspect there will be some pain in the short-term," said Robert D. Yaro, president of the Regional Plan Association, an independent research group in Manhattan.

"We've all heard the stories of someone showing up in Greenwich to buy a $10 million house and paying cash on the spot," he added. "But in the long term, this is probably healthier for Wall Street and the regional economy. Wall Street shouldn't be a casino."


6) Monitoring America
"In Virginia, the state's fusion center published a terrorism threat assessment in 2009 naming historically black colleges as potential hubs for terrorism.
From 2005 to 2007, the Maryland State Police went even further, infiltrating and labeling as terrorists local groups devoted to human rights, antiwar causes and bike lanes."
By Dana Priest and William M. Arikin
Monday, December 20, 2010; 1:40 AM

Nine years after the terrorist attacks of 2001, the United States is assembling a vast domestic intelligence apparatus to collect information about Americans, using the FBI, local police, state homeland security offices and military criminal investigators.

The system, by far the largest and most technologically sophisticated in the nation's history, collects, stores and analyzes information about thousands of U.S. citizens and residents, many of whom have not been accused of any wrongdoing.

The government's goal is to have every state and local law enforcement agency in the country feed information to Washington to buttress the work of the FBI, which is in charge of terrorism investigations in the United States.

Other democracies - Britain and Israel, to name two - are well acquainted with such domestic security measures. But for the United States, the sum of these new activities represents a new level of governmental scrutiny.

This localized intelligence apparatus is part of a larger Top Secret America created since the attacks. In July, The Washington Post described an alternative geography of the United States, one that has grown so large, unwieldy and secretive that no one knows how much money it costs, how many people it employs or how many programs exist within it.

Today's story, along with related material on The Post's Web site, examines how Top Secret America plays out at the local level. It describes a web of 4,058 federal, state and local organizations, each with its own counterterrorism responsibilities and jurisdictions. At least 935 of these organizations have been created since the 2001 attacks or became involved in counterterrorism for the first time after 9/11.

(Search our database for your state to find a detailed profile of counterterrorism efforts in your community.)

The months-long investigation, based on nearly 100 interviews and 1,000 documents, found that:

* Technologies and techniques honed for use on the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan have migrated into the hands of law enforcement agencies in America.

* The FBI is building a database with the names and certain personal information, such as employment history, of thousands of U.S. citizens and residents whom a local police officer or a fellow citizen believed to be acting suspiciously. It is accessible to an increasing number of local law enforcement and military criminal investigators, increasing concerns that it could somehow end up in the public domain.

* Seeking to learn more about Islam and terrorism, some law enforcement agencies have hired as trainers self-described experts whose extremist views on Islam and terrorism are considered inaccurate and counterproductive by the FBI and U.S. intelligence agencies.

* The Department of Homeland Security sends its state and local partners intelligence reports with little meaningful guidance, and state reports have sometimes inappropriately reported on lawful meetings.

The need to identify U.S.-born or naturalized citizens who are planning violent attacks is more urgent than ever, U.S. intelligence officials say. This month's FBI sting operation involving a Baltimore construction worker who allegedly planned to bomb a Maryland military recruiting station is the latest example. It followed a similar arrest of a Somali-born naturalized U.S. citizen allegedly seeking to detonate a bomb near a Christmas tree lighting ceremony in Portland, Ore. There have been nearly two dozen other cases just this year.

"The old view that 'if we fight the terrorists abroad, we won't have to fight them here' is just that - the old view," Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano told police and firefighters recently.

The Obama administration heralds this local approach as a much-needed evolution in the way the country confronts terrorism.

However, just as at the federal level, the effectiveness of these programs, as well as their cost, is difficult to determine. The Department of Homeland Security, for example, does not know how much money it spends each year on what are known as state fusion centers, which bring together and analyze information from various agencies within a state.

The total cost of the localized system is also hard to gauge. The DHS has given $31 billion in grants since 2003 to state and local governments for homeland security and to improve their ability to find and protect against terrorists, including $3.8 billion in 2010. At least four other federal departments also contribute to local efforts. But the bulk of the spending every year comes from state and local budgets that are too disparately recorded to aggregate into an overall total.

The Post findings paint a picture of a country at a crossroads, where long-standing privacy principles are under challenge by these new efforts to keep the nation safe.

The public face of this pivotal effort is Napolitano, the former governor of Arizona, which years ago built one of the strongest state intelligence organizations outside of New York to try to stop illegal immigration and drug importation.

Napolitano has taken her "See Something, Say Something" campaign far beyond the traffic signs that ask drivers coming into the nation's capital for "Terror Tips" and to "Report Suspicious Activity."

She recently enlisted the help of Wal-Mart, Amtrak, major sports leagues, hotel chains and metro riders. In her speeches, she compares the undertaking to the Cold War fight against communists.

"This represents a shift for our country," she told New York City police officers and firefighters on the eve of the 9/11 anniversary this fall. "In a sense, this harkens back to when we drew on the tradition of civil defense and preparedness that predated today's concerns."


From Afghanistan to Tennessee

On a recent night in Memphis, a patrol car rolled slowly through a parking lot in a run-down section of town. The military-grade infrared camera on its hood moved robotically from left to right, snapping digital images of one license plate after another and analyzing each almost instantly.

Suddenly, a red light flashed on the car's screen along with the word "warrant."

"Got a live one! Let's do it," an officer called out.

The streets of Memphis are a world away from the streets of Kabul, yet these days, the same types of technologies and techniques are being used in both places to identify and collect information about suspected criminals and terrorists.

The examples go far beyond Memphis.

* Hand-held, wireless fingerprint scanners were carried by U.S. troops during the insurgency in Iraq to register residents of entire neighborhoods. L-1 Identity Solutions is selling the same type of equipment to police departments to check motorists' identities.

* In Arizona, the Maricopa County Sheriff's Facial Recognition Unit, using a type of equipment prevalent in war zones, records 9,000 biometric digital mug shots a month.

* U.S. Customs and Border Protection flies General Atomics' Predator drones along the Mexican and Canadian borders - the same kind of aircraft, equipped with real-time, full-motion video cameras, that has been used in wars in Kosovo, Iraq and Afghanistan to track the enemy.

The special operations units deployed overseas to kill the al-Qaeda leadership drove technological advances that are now expanding in use across the United States. On the front lines, those advances allowed the rapid fusing of biometric identification, captured computer records and cellphone numbers so troops could launch the next surprise raid.

Here at home, it's the DHS that is enamored with collecting photos, video images and other personal information about U.S. residents in the hopes of teasing out terrorists.

The DHS helped Memphis buy surveillance cameras that monitor residents near high-crime housing projects, problematic street corners, and bridges and other critical infrastructure. It helped pay for license plate readers and defrayed some of the cost of setting up Memphis's crime-analysis center. All together it has given Memphis $11 million since 2003 in homeland security grants, most of which the city has used to fight crime.

"We have got things now we didn't have before," said Memphis Police Department Director Larry Godwin, who has produced record numbers of arrests using all this new analysis and technology. "Some of them we can talk about. Some of them we can't."

One of the biggest advocates of Memphis's data revolution is John Harvey, the police department's technology specialist, whose computer systems are the civilian equivalent of the fancier special ops equipment used by the military.

Harvey collects any information he can pry out of government and industry. When officers were wasting time knocking on the wrong doors to serve warrants, he persuaded the local utility company to give him a daily update of the names and addresses of customers.

When he wanted more information about phones captured at crime scenes, he programmed a way to store all emergency 911 calls, which often include names and addresses to associate with phone numbers. He created another program to upload new crime reports every five minutes and mine them for the phone numbers of victims, suspects, witnesses and anyone else listed on them.

Now, instead of having to decide which license plate numbers to type into a computer console in the patrol car, an officer can simply drive around, and the automatic license plate reader on his hood captures the numbers on every vehicle nearby. If the officer pulls over a driver, instead of having to wait 20 minutes for someone back at the office to manually check records, he can use a hand-held device to instantly call up a mug shot, a Social Security number, the status of the driver's license and any outstanding warrants.

The computer in the cruiser can tell an officer even more about who owns the vehicle, the owner's name and address and criminal history, and who else with a criminal history might live at the same address.

Take a recent case of two officers with the hood-mounted camera equipment who stopped a man driving on a suspended license. One handcuffed him, and the other checked his own PDA. Based on the information that came up, the man was ordered downtown to pay a fine and released as the officers drove off to stop another car.

That wasn't the end of it, though.

A record of that stop - and the details of every other arrest made that night, and every summons written - was automatically transferred to the Memphis Real Time Crime Center, a command center with three walls of streaming surveillance video and analysis capabilities that rival those of an Army command center.

There, the information would be geocoded on a map to produce a visual rendering of crime patterns. This information would help the crime intelligence analysts predict trends so the department could figure out what neighborhoods to swarm with officers and surveillance cameras.

But that was still not the end of it, because the fingerprints from the crime records would also go to the FBI's data campus in Clarksburg, W.Va. There, fingerprints from across the United States are stored, along with others collected by American authorities from prisoners in Saudi Arabia and Yemen, Iraq and Afghanistan.

There are 96 million sets of fingerprints in Clarksburg, a volume that government officials view not as daunting but as an opportunity.

This year for the first time, the FBI, the DHS and the Defense Department are able to search each other's fingerprint databases, said Myra Gray, head of the Defense Department's Biometrics Identity Management Agency, speaking to an industry group recently. "Hopefully in the not-too-distant future," she said, "our relationship with these federal agencies - along with state and local agencies - will be completely symbiotic."


The FBI's 'suspicious' files

At the same time that the FBI is expanding its West Virginia database, it is building a vast repository controlled by people who work in a top-secret vault on the fourth floor of the J. Edgar Hoover FBI Building in Washington. This one stores the profiles of tens of thousands of Americans and legal residents who are not accused of any crime. What they have done is appear to be acting suspiciously to a town sheriff, a traffic cop or even a neighbor.

If the new Nationwide Suspicious Activity Reporting Initiative, or SAR, works as intended, the Guardian database may someday hold files forwarded by all police departments across the country in America's continuing search for terrorists within its borders.

The effectiveness of this database depends, in fact, on collecting the identities of people who are not known criminals or terrorists - and on being able to quickly compile in-depth profiles of them.

"If we want to get to the point where we connect the dots, the dots have to be there," said Richard A. McFeely, special agent in charge of the FBI's Baltimore office.

In response to concerns that information in the database could be improperly used or released, FBI officials say anyone with access has been trained in privacy rules and the penalties for breaking them.

But not everyone is convinced. "It opens a door for all kinds of abuses," said Michael German, a former FBI agent who now leads the American Civil Liberties Union's campaign on national security and privacy matters. "How do we know there are enough controls?"

The government defines a suspicious activity as "observed behavior reasonably indicative of pre-operational planning related to terrorism or other criminal activity" related to terrorism.

State intelligence analysts and FBI investigators use the reports to determine whether a person is buying fertilizer to make a bomb or to plant tomatoes; whether she is plotting to poison a city's drinking water or studying for a metallurgy test; whether, as happened on a Sunday morning in late September, the man snapping a picture of a ferry in the Newport Beach harbor in Southern California simply liked the way it looked or was plotting to blow it up.

Suspicious Activity Report N03821 says a local law enforcement officer observed "a suspicious subject . . . taking photographs of the Orange County Sheriff Department Fire Boat and the Balboa Ferry with a cellular phone camera." The confidential report, marked "For Official Use Only," noted that the subject next made a phone call, walked to his car and returned five minutes later to take more pictures. He was then met by another person, both of whom stood and "observed the boat traffic in the harbor." Next another adult with two small children joined them, and then they all boarded the ferry and crossed the channel.

All of this information was forwarded to the Los Angeles fusion center for further investigation after the local officer ran information about the vehicle and its owner through several crime databases and found nothing.

Authorities would not say what happened to it from there, but there are several paths a suspicious activity report can take:

At the fusion center, an officer would decide to either dismiss the suspicious activity as harmless or forward the report to the nearest FBI terrorism unit for further investigation.

At that unit, it would immediately be entered into the Guardian database, at which point one of three things could happen:

The FBI could collect more information, find no connection to terrorism and mark the file closed, though leaving it in the database.

It could find a possible connection and turn it into a full-fledged case.

Or, as most often happens, it could make no specific determination, which would mean that Suspicious Activity Report N03821 would sit in limbo for as long as five years, during which time many other pieces of information about the man photographing a boat on a Sunday morning could be added to his file: employment, financial and residential histories; multiple phone numbers; audio files; video from the dashboard-mounted camera in the police cruiser at the harbor where he took pictures; and anything else in government or commercial databases "that adds value," as the FBI agent in charge of the database described it.

That could soon include biometric data, if it existed; the FBI is working on a way to attach such information to files. Meanwhile, the bureau will also soon have software that allows local agencies to map all suspicious incidents in their jurisdiction.

The Defense Department is also interested in the database. It recently transferred 100 reports of suspicious behavior into the Guardian system, and over time it expects to add thousands more as it connects 8,000 military law enforcement personnel to an FBI portal that will allow them to send and review reports about people suspected of casing U.S. bases or targeting American personnel.

And the DHS has created a separate way for state and local authorities, private citizens, and businesses to submit suspicious activity reports to the FBI and to the department for analysis.

As of December, there were 161,948 suspicious activity files in the classified Guardian database, mostly leads from FBI headquarters and state field offices. Two years ago, the bureau set up an unclassified section of the database so state and local agencies could send in suspicious incident reports and review those submitted by their counterparts in other states. Some 890 state and local agencies have sent in 7,197 reports so far.

Of those, 103 have become full investigations that have resulted in at least five arrests, the FBI said. There have been no convictions yet. An additional 365 reports have added information to ongoing cases.

But most remain in the uncertain middle, which is why within the FBI and other intelligence agencies there is much debate about the effectiveness of the bottom-up SAR approach, as well as concern over the privacy implications of retaining so much information on U.S. citizens and residents who have not been charged with anything.

The vast majority of terrorism leads in the United States originate from confidential FBI sources and from the bureau's collaboration with federal intelligence agencies, which mainly work overseas. Occasionally a stop by a local police officer has sparked an investigation. Evidence comes from targeted FBI surveillance and undercover operations, not from information and analysis generated by state fusion centers about people acting suspiciously.

"It's really resource-inefficient," said Philip Mudd, a 20-year CIA counterterrorism expert and a top FBI national security official until he retired nine months ago. "If I were to have a dialogue with the country about this . . . it would be about not only how we chase the unknowns, but do you want to do suspicious activity reports across the country? . . . Anyone who is not at least suspected of doing something criminal should not be in a database."

Charles Allen, a longtime senior CIA official who then led the DHS's intelligence office until 2009, said some senior people in the intelligence community are skeptical that SARs are an effective way to find terrorists. "It's more likely that other kinds of more focused efforts by local police will gain you the information that you need about extremist activities," he said.

The DHS can point to some successes: Last year the Colorado fusion center turned up information on Najibullah Zazi, an Afghan-born U.S. resident planning to bomb the New York subway system. In 2007, a Florida fusion center provided the vehicle ownership history used to identify and arrest an Egyptian student who later pleaded guilty to providing material support to terrorism, in this case transporting explosives.

"Ninety-nine percent doesn't pan out or lead to anything" said Richard Lambert Jr., the special agent in charge of the FBI's Knoxville office. "But we're happy to wade through these things."


Expert training?

Ramon Montijo has taught classes on terrorism and Islam to law enforcement officers all over the country.

"Alabama, Colorado, Vermont," said Montijo, a former Army Special Forces sergeant and Los Angeles Police Department investigator who is now a private security consultant. "California, Texas and Missouri," he continued.

What he tells them is always the same, he said: Most Muslims in the United States want to impose sharia law here.

"They want to make this world Islamic. The Islamic flag will fly over the White House - not on my watch!" he said. "My job is to wake up the public, and first, the first responders."

With so many local agencies around the country being asked to help catch terrorists, it often falls to sheriffs or state troopers to try to understand the world of terrorism. They aren't FBI agents, who have years of on-the-job and classroom training.

Instead, they are often people like Lacy Craig, who was a police dispatcher before she became an intelligence analyst at Idaho's fusion center, or the detectives in Minnesota, Michigan and Arkansas who can talk at length about the lineage of gangs or the signs of a crystal meth addict.

Now each of them is a go-to person on terrorism as well.

"The CIA used to train analysts forever before they graduated to be a real analyst," said Allen, the former top CIA and DHS official. "Today we take former law enforcement officers and we call them intelligence officers, and that's not right, because they have not received any training on intelligence analysis."

State fusion center officials say their analysts are getting better with time. "There was a time when law enforcement didn't know much about drugs. This is no different," said Steven W. Hewitt, who runs the Tennessee fusion center, considered one of the best in the country. "Are we experts at the level of [the National Counterterrorism Center]? No. Are we developing an expertise? Absolutely."

But how they do that is usually left up to the local police departments themselves. In their desire to learn more about terrorism, many departments are hiring their own trainers. Some are self-described experts whose extremist views are considered inaccurate and harmful by the FBI and others in the intelligence community

Like Montijo, Walid Shoebat, a onetime Muslim who converted to Christianity, also lectures to local police. He too believes that most Muslims seek to impose sharia law in the United States. To prevent this, he said in an interview, he warns officers that "you need to look at the entire pool of Muslims in a community."

When Shoebat spoke to the first annual South Dakota Fusion Center Conference in Sioux Falls this June, he told them to monitor Muslim student groups and local mosques and, if possible, tap their phones. "You can find out a lot of information that way," he said.

A book expanding on what Shoebat and Montijo believe has just been published by the Center for Security Policy, a Washington-based neoconservative think tank. "Shariah: The Threat to America" describes what its authors call a "stealth jihad" that must be thwarted before it's too late.

The book's co-authors include such notables as former CIA director R. James Woolsey and former deputy undersecretary of defense for intelligence Lt. Gen. William G. Boykin, along with the center's director, a longtime activist. They write that most mosques in the United States already have been radicalized, that most Muslim social organizations are fronts for violent jihadists and that Muslims who practice sharia law seek to impose it in this country.

Frank Gaffney Jr., director of the center, said his team has spoken widely, including to many law enforcement forums.

"Members of our team have been involved in training programs for several years now, many of which have been focused on local law enforcement intelligence, homeland security, state police, National Guard units and the like," Gaffney said. "We're seeing a considerable ramping-up of interest in getting this kind of training."

Government terrorism experts call the views expressed in the center's book inaccurate and counterproductive. They say the DHS should increase its training of local police, using teachers who have evidence-based viewpoints.

DHS spokeswoman Amy Kudwa said the department does not maintain a list of terrorism experts but is working on guidelines for local authorities wrestling with the topic.

So far, the department has trained 1,391 local law enforcement officers in analyzing public information and 400 in analytic thinking and writing skills. Kudwa said the department also offers counterterrorism training through the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which this year enrolled 94 people in a course called "Advanced Criminal Intelligence Analysis to Prevent Terrorism."


A lack of useful information

The DHS also provides local agencies a daily flow of information bulletins.

These reports are meant to inform agencies about possible terror threats. But some officials say they deliver a never-ending stream of information that is vague, alarmist and often useless. "It's like a garage in your house you keep throwing junk into until you can't park your car in it," says Michael Downing, deputy chief of counterterrorism and special operations for the Los Angeles Police Department.

A review of nearly 1,000 DHS reports dating back to 2003 and labeled "For Official Use Only" underscores Downing's description. Typical is one from May 24, 2010, titled "Infrastructure Protection Note: Evolving Threats to the Homeland."

It tells officials to operate "under the premise that other operatives are in the country and could advance plotting with little or no warning." Its list of vulnerable facilities seems to include just about everything: "Commercial Facilities, Government Facilities, Banking and Financial and Transportation . . ."

Bart R. Johnson, who heads the DHS's intelligence and analysis office, defended such reports, saying that threat reporting has "grown and matured and become more focused." The bulletins can't be more specific, he said, because they must be written at the unclassified level.

Recently, the International Association of Chiefs of Police agreed that the information they were receiving had become "more timely and relevant" over the past year.

Downing, however, said the reports would be more helpful if they at least assessed threats within a specific state's boundaries.

States have tried to do that on their own, but with mixed, and at times problematic, results.

In 2009, for instance, after the DHS and the FBI sent out several ambiguous reports about threats to mass-transit systems and sports and entertainment venues, the New Jersey Regional Operations Intelligence Center's Threat Analysis Program added its own information. "New Jersey has a large mass-transit infrastructure," its report warned, and "an NFL stadium and NHL/NBA arenas, a soccer stadium, and several concert venues that attract large crowds."

In Virginia, the state's fusion center published a terrorism threat assessment in 2009 naming historically black colleges as potential hubs for terrorism.

From 2005 to 2007, the Maryland State Police went even further, infiltrating and labeling as terrorists local groups devoted to human rights, antiwar causes and bike lanes.

And in Pennsylvania this year, a local contractor hired to write intelligence bulletins filled them with information about lawful meetings as varied as Pennsylvania Tea Party Patriots Coalition gatherings, antiwar protests and an event at which environmental activists dressed up as Santa Claus and handed out coal-filled stockings.


'We have our own terrorists'

Even if the information were better, it might not make a difference for the simplest of reasons: In many cities and towns across the country, there is just not enough terrorism-related work to do.

In Utah on one recent day, one of five intelligence analysts in the state's fusion center was writing a report about the rise in teenage overdoses of an over-the-counter drug. Another was making sure the visiting president of Senegal had a safe trip. Another had just helped a small town track down two people who were selling magazine subscriptions and pocketing the money themselves.

In the Colorado Information Analysis Center, some investigators were following terrorism leads. Others were looking into illegal Craigslist postings and online "World of Warcraft" gamers.

The vast majority of fusion centers across the country have transformed themselves into analytical hubs for all crimes and are using federal grants, handed out in the name of homeland security, to combat everyday offenses.

This is happening because, after 9/11, local law enforcement groups did what every agency and private company did in Top Secret America: They followed the money.

The DHS helped the Memphis Police Department, for example, purchase 90 surveillance cameras, including 13 that monitor bridges and a causeway. It helped buy the fancy screens on the walls of the Real Time Crime Center, as well as radios, robotic surveillance equipment, a mobile command center and three bomb-sniffing dogs. All came in the name of port security and protection to critical infrastructure.

Since there hasn't been a solid terrorism case in Memphis yet, the equipment's greatest value has been to help drive down city crime. Where the mobile surveillance cameras are set up, criminals scatter, said Lt. Mark Rewalt, who, on a recent Saturday night, scanned the city from an altitude of 1,000 feet.

Flying in a police helicopter, Rewalt pointed out some of the cameras the DHS has funded. They are all over the city, in mall parking lots, in housing projects, at popular street hang-outs. "Cameras are what's happening now," he marveled.

Meanwhile, another post-9/11 unit in Tennessee has had even less terrorism-related work to do.

The Tennessee National Guard 45th Weapons of Mass Destruction Civil Support Team, one of at least 50 such units around the country, was created to respond to what officials still believe is the inevitable release of chemical, biological or radiological material by terrorists.

The unit's 22 hazardous-materials personnel have the best emergency equipment in the state. A fleet of navy-blue vehicles - command, response, detection and tactical operations trucks - is kept polished and ready to roll in a garage at the armory in Smyrna.

The unit practices WMD scenarios constantly. But in real life, the crew uses the equipment very little: twice a year at NASCAR races in nearby Bristol to patrol for suspicious packages. Other than that, said Capt. Matt Hayes, several times a year they respond to hoaxes.

The fact that there has not been much terrorism to worry about is not evident on the Tennessee fusion center's Web site. Click on the incident map, and the state appears to be under attack.

Red icons of explosions dot Tennessee, along with blinking exclamation marks and flashing skulls. The map is labeled: "Terrorism Events and Other Suspicious Activity.

But if you roll over the icons, the explanations that pop up have nothing to do with major terrorist plots: "Johnson City police are investigating three 'bottle bombs' found at homes over the past three days," one description read recently. ". . . The explosives were made from plastic bottles with something inside that reacted chemically and caused the bottles to burst."

Another told a similar story: "The Scott County Courthouse is currently under evacuation after a bomb threat was called in Friday morning. Update: Authorities completed their sweep . . . and have called off the evacuation."

Nine years after 9/11, this map is part of the alternative geography that is Top Secret America, where millions of people are assigned to help stop terrorism. Memphis Police Director Godwin is one of them, and he has his own version of what that means in a city where there have been 86 murders so far this year.

"We have our own terrorists, and they are taking lives every day," Godwin said. "No, we don't have suicide bombers - not yet. But you need to remain vigilant and realize how vulnerable you can be if you let up."

Staff researcher Julie Tate contributed to this story.


Queers can be fodder, too, now!
[Tommi will be on Your Call, Rose Aquilar's show on KALW tomorrow morning at 11am talking about the]
By Tommi Avicolli Mecca, December 19, 2010

Don't Ask Don't Tell (DADT) is dead. The U.S. Senate killed it yesterday. It was inevitable.

After 17 years of keeping military personnel shackled in their closets, not to mention living in constant fear of being found out and discharged, DADT is on its way to becoming another of those unfortunate policies that this country will look back on with a sense of moral indignation, as in, "How could that happen here?"

When the partying in the queer community subsides, perhaps some folks will realize that our sweet victory has a bitter side as well: without a plan on how to deal with what has been referred to as the "poverty draft," a lot of poor and working-class queers with no means to go to college will end up in America's two endless wars that only benefit those with all the money.

As the saying goes, "Rich kids end up in college, poor ones in the military." Statistics seem to bear that out, with more than half to two-thirds (depending on which study you believe) of recruits coming from lower middle-class or poor households.

It's no surprise. The military bills itself as a place to get an education, to learn skills, to make oneself ready for good jobs in civilian life. Whether it's true or not is up to debate, but it's certainly the perception that the military's slick PR campaign wants us to buy.

And it seems to work.

After all, what other options do poor and working-class kids have? Times are really tough, unemployment is sky high, and jobs are being sent overseas by greedy corporations eager to increase their already obscene profits (which were at a record high in the last quarter). College students, the ones who can manage to go to school, are up to their ears in debt. It's not going to get any better. Tuitions keep rising.

Military officials have admitted in newspaper articles that the bad economic times have been good for recruitment. Chicago's Breaking News Center website quoted an Army official as saying that: "When unemployment increases, military enrollment -- especially among "high-quality" recruits with a high school diploma who score well on aptitude tests -- increases in kind."

Is this why queer leaders were so anxious to end discrimination against gays in the military? So that poor and working-class queers who might once have considered the military off limits can now rush out to their local recruitment center and sign on the dotted line for duty in Iraq or Afghanistan?

Kids who feel that they have no other choice, an idea that is happily reinforced by pushy recruiters looking to fulfill their quotas. Those who entice young people into the military (which they can sign up for even before they have the right to vote or drink) now have a whole new pool of potential applicants. Imagine them heading to the local high school gay/straight alliance to spread the good news about the repeal.

I understand the historicity of this moment, I really do. I know that discrimination is wrong, no matter where it is practiced.

But it seems to me that if the queer community doesn't work in coalition with other groups to help build economic opportunities for poor and working-class young people so that they don't have to feel the military is their only choice in life, then we are condemning queer kids to the same fate as their straight counterparts.

That's not equality, that's insanity.


8) $2tn debt crisis threatens to bring down 100 US cities
Overdrawn American cities could face financial collapse in 2011, defaulting on hundreds of billions of dollars of borrowings and derailing the US economic recovery. Nor are European cities safe - Florence, Barcelona, Madrid, Venice: all are in trouble
By Elena Moya
Monday 20 December 2010 17.58 GMT

More than 100 American cities could go bust next year as the debt crisis that has taken down banks and countries threatens next to spark a municipal meltdown, a leading analyst has warned.

Meredith Whitney, the US research analyst who correctly predicted the global credit crunch, described local and state debt as the biggest problem facing the US economy, and one that could derail its recovery.

"Next to housing this is the single most important issue in the US and certainly the biggest threat to the US economy," Whitney told the CBS 60 Minutes programme on Sunday night.

"There's not a doubt on my mind that you will see a spate of municipal bond defaults. You can see fifty to a hundred sizeable defaults - more. This will amount to hundreds of billions of dollars' worth of defaults."

New Jersey governor Chris Christie summarised the problem succinctly: "We spent too much on everything. We spent money we didn't have. We borrowed money just crazily. The credit card's maxed out, and it's over. We now have to get to the business of climbing out of the hole. We've been digging it for a decade or more. We've got to climb now, and a climb is harder."

American cities and states have debts in total of as much as $2tn. In Europe, local and regional government borrowing is expected to reach a historical peak of nearly €1.3tn (£1.1tn) this year.

Cities from Detroit to Madrid are struggling to pay creditors, including providers of basic services such as street cleaning. Last week, Moody's ratings agency warned about a possible downgrade for the cities of Florence and Barcelona and cut the rating of the Basque country in northern Spain. Lisbon was downgraded by rival agency Standard & Poor's earlier this year, while the borrowings of Naples and Budapest are on the brink of junk status. Istanbul's debt has already been downgraded to junk.

Whitney's intervention is likely to raise the profile of the issue of municipal debt. While she was an analyst at Oppenheimer, the New York investment bank, in October 2007 she wrote a damning report on Citigroup, then the world's largest bank, predicting it would cut its dividend. She was criticised for being too pessimistic but was vindicated when the bank was forced to seek government support a year later. She has since set up her own advisory firm and is rated one of the most influential women in American business.

US states have spent nearly half a trillion dollars more than they have collected in taxes, and face a $1tn hole in their pension funds, said the CBS programme, apocalyptically titled The Day of Reckoning.

Detroit is cutting police, lighting, road repairs and cleaning services affecting as much as 20% of the population. The city, which has been on the skids for almost two decades with the decline of the US auto industry, does not generate enough wealth to maintain services for its 900,000 inhabitants.

The nearby state of Illinois has spent twice as much money as it has collected and is about six months behind on creditor payments. The University of Illinois alone is owed $400m, the CBS programme said. The state has a 21% chances of default, more than any other, according to CMA Datavision, a derivatives information provider.

California has raised state university tuition fees by 32%. Arizona has sold its state capitol and supreme court buildings to investors, and leases them back.

Potential defaults could also hit Florida, whose booming real estate industry burst two years ago, said Guy J. Benstead, a partner at Cedar Ridge Partners in San Francisco. "We are not out of the woods by any stretch yet," he said.

"It's all part of the same parcel: public sector indebtedness needs to be cut, it needs a lot of austerity, and it hit the central governments first, and now is hitting local bodies," said Philip Brown, managing director at Citigroup in London.

In Europe, where cities have traditionally relied more on bank loans and state transfers than bonds, financing habits are changing. The Spanish regions of Catalonia and Valencia have issued debt to their own citizens after financial markets shut their doors because of the regions' high deficits. Moody's cut to the rating of the Basque country on Friday left it still within investment grade but noted "the rapid deterioration in the region's budgetary performance in recent years". It said it expected it to continue over the medium term.

In Italy, Moody's and S&P have threatened to downgrade Florence, while Venice has been forced over the past few months to put some of the palazzi on its canals up for sale to fund the deficit.

"Cities are on their own. Governments won't come to their rescue as they have problems of their own," said Andres Rodriguez-Pose, professor of economic geography at the London School of Economics. "Cities will have to pay for their debts, and in some cases they will have to carry out dramatic cuts, such as Detroit's."
California crunch
Vallejo, a former US navy town near San Francisco, is still trying to emerge from the Chapter Nine bankruptcy protection it entered in 2008.

The city, now a symbol of distressed local finances, is still negotiating with the unions, which refused to accept a salary cut plan two years ago. Paul Dyson, an analyst with the Standard & Poor's credit agency, said Vallejo, which is mostly a dormitory town for Oakland or San Francisco employees, did not have enough local industry to sustain its finances and property tax - a major source of local income - plunged with the collapse of the real estate market. The S&P credit-rating agency has a C rating on the town - the lowest level.

With a population of about 120,000, Vallejo has $195m (£125m) of unfunded pension obligations and has to present a bankruptcy-exit plan to a Sacramento court by 18 January. Since 1937, 619 local US government bodies, mostly small utilities or districts, have filed for bankruptcy, Bloomberg News recently reported. US cities tend to default more than European municipalities as they usually rely on bonds issued to investors, which enter into a default if the creditor misses payments. European towns, by contrast, traditionally depend on bank loans and government bailouts.


9) Blackstone: The Grinch Stealing the Recovery from Working Families
Rally and Picket @ Hilton Hotel Union Square
O'Farrell St, between Mason and Taylor
January 7, 2011, Friday, 11:30am-3pm

Rally and Picket @ Hilton Hotel Union Square
O'Farrell St, between Mason and Taylor
January 7, 2011, Friday, 11:30am-3pm

We had our last big action of 2010 at the Hilton, and we will open the new year at the Hilton! Join us in urging the Association of American Law School members to honor the Hilton Union Square worker-called boycott, and remind the hotel's corporate management that the workers' struggle will outlast them. Together, we will win respect and dignity for hotel workers, and a fair contract with affordable quality health care. As we always say, we will win, not at the negotiating table, but in the streets!

Community Briefing and Strategy Meeting @ Local 2's Action Room
209 Golden Gate Avenue corner Leavenworth St.
January 13, Thursday, 5:00-7:30pm

Our union appreciates the tremendous contribution of the community in this struggle for a fair contract. We are still fighting to have workers at the Le Meridien and Hyatt Fisherman's Wharf hotels for a fair process for them to have a union. This has been a long struggle, but with your help as community, union, and religious leaders, we are assured that victory is on the horizon. We request a representative from our key allies in the community and labor to join this briefing. We will also have an opportunity to discuss your ideas, and propose ways for the community to be fully engaged in this worker-led campaign. Light dinner will be served.



Check out our new blog!

Blackstone: The Grinch Stealing the Recovery from Working Families

Last December 16, over 650 hotel workers, clergy leaders and members from other unions like AFT, ILWU, and Teamsters marched in solidarity at the Hilton Union Square. More than 16 months after union hotel contracts expired, Blackstone has yet to propose a contract that San Francisco hotel workers, who earn an average of $30,000 a year, can afford. The Blackstone Group projects their revenues to increase by 50%: from $1.8 billion in 2009 to $2.7 billion this year. The Wall Street Journal expects compensation for Blackstone executives to climb 12% this year [WSJ, 10/11/2010]. According to hospitality industry analyst Mark Woodworth, "Recently released updated forecasts from Colliers PKF Hospitality Research reveal that a base has been established for very strong gains in both revenue and profits in the years to come. Most importantly, expectations for attractive industry growth over the next three to four years remain firm."

Industry analysts and Blackstone itself expect very jolly holiday seasons for years to come. San Francisco hotel workers continue to demand an explanation as to why Blackstone is seeking to lay off workers, freeze pensions, shift the burden of rising health care costs onto hotel workers and lock working families into a permanent recession.

"We are beyond angry," said Ingrid Carp, a 30-year cook at the Hilton Union Square Hotel, "We've been to the negotiating table so many times and Blackstone keeps proposing concessions we simply cannot afford. Why should we give up basic necessities when they're blowing my tax dollars and my retirement on multi-million dollar parties and raises for those Wall Street executives?"

Recently, Blackstone reported to set aside, on average, $3.46 million for each corporate employee [FierceFinance, 11/9/2010]. Hilton Union Square's workers, on the other hand, have proposed a contract that would only cost Blackstone $2.5 to $3 million each year to cover all 850 families. Management has refused to sign this proposal. Therefore, the worker-called boycott continues.


10) Workers Dig In as Hotels Increase Profits & Escalate Threats
By Carl Finamore
In These Times, December 20, 2010

Nationally, hotels experienced a record 5.7 percent rise in the occupancy in 2010, leading prominent analyst R. Mark Woodworth to comment that "the swift pace of recovery in the lodging industry has been remarkable....a base has been established for very strong gains in both revenue and profits in the years to come."

Yet, major hotels like the Hilton and Hyatt are still demanding dramatic cuts in health benefits and pensions along with significant increases in work assignments.

The hotel union UNITE-HERE is responding. On December 16, there were protests in San Francisco and Honolulu against the Hilton and a day-long strike against the Palmer House Hilton in Chicago. Meanwhile, management is reciprocating. In San Francisco, for example, they are stepping up their harassment as the contract dispute with 9,000 workers at 61 hotels enters its 17th month.

"Hotel owners prefer dealing with attorneys and arbitrators in the quiet decorum of the grievance procedure, but we're going way beyond that," declared San Francisco UNITE-HERE Local 2 President Mike Casey, as he walked a picket line with several hundred supporters in front of the Hilton, the city's largest hotel boasting some 1,900 rooms.

He was clearly irritated by the latest firing of a union activist by Hilton management. But he was also very determined and vowed that "this particular issue is going to be settled through good old-fashioned street protests."

Casey was referring to Hilton bartender Johan Tahir, who worked 22 years in the industry, earning several management awards of appreciation during those productive years of service before being summarily discharged in what the union president described "as another example of retaliation against an outspoken union activist."

In fact, it is true, there have been numerous threats and several actual victimizations the last few months. For example, a front desk clerk at the Hotel Frank was fired in September for an extremely petty infraction followed shortly thereafter by the termination of another veteran activist, Marc Norton, for allegedly not knowing how to perform his bellman job despite his twelve years of experience.

The firing of Johan is no less unreasonable, says Local 2 Field Representative Lorraine Powell, who described Johan as:

" employee with a reputation for honesty and fairness. It makes the charges against him very hard to swallow. Even management acknowledged he is a very good bartender. In any case, the allegations against him would never result in a termination under ordinary circumstances but since Johan is always willing to speak out for his fellow employees, we feel management unfairly singled him out."

"I never stop following up on complaints until they are resolved," Johan told me, "and I am happy to say that each and every one of them over the years has been won. That's because they aren't fake; they are real concerns, based on our protected rights in the CBA [collective bargaining agreement]."

I asked Johan if he felt discouraged and I got an answer somewhat different than I expected and it may also surprise some who would find themselves in similar circumstances. "No, I do not feel let down, I feel high spirited," Johan said, "I know my co-workers support me, I know my union representative supports me and," raising his voice a bit, "I know I have my union behind me."

High morale, real or fake?

This confidence should not be dismissed as empty bravado. It is not fake, as Johan might say, it is real. And he is not alone. I often hear the same enthusiasm among Local 2 members.

Marc Norton has it and he is a sober veteran of numerous union and community struggles and "I have fought any number of fights that we didn't win. However, the Hotel Frank campaign won't be one of those."

Upon his firing from the Hotel Frank in September, Marc had this to say about his managers: "They think we get fired, we go away. They think we get fired, workers get demoralized. It's not going to happen. They do not know Local 2, they do not know the workers at their hotel and they definitely do not know me."

Local 2 undoubtedly has one of the better educated and inspired memberships that would make any union proud. Of course, it did not happen automatically. It is something that has been steadily built over the last 25 years as the union devoted more of its resources to education, on-the-job membership training and periodic mobilizations.

But it all begins with a clear explanation of union objectives and goals. This is crucial.

For example, this latest hotel battle began when contracts expired in August 2009. At that time, President Casey roused a membership convention of over 1,000 by reassuring them that the union "will negotiate separately with each hotel if that's the way they want it but we will do it as one union with one union standard. And our negotiators at each hotel will include committee leaders from a mix of other hotels so that our basic proposals remain the same for every hotel. One union, one contract!"

The room exploded in cheers! Workers understood how conditions in one hotel or even one city could not be maintained without the solidarity of thousands of other workers.

This is a winning strategy that speaks to the aspirations of each member regardless of where they work. Furthermore, union representatives consistently organize hotel committees of activists so that individual grievances have additional support among the total workforce.

In fact, much of Local 2's success is owed to the fact that each individual hotel has a union committee.

Becoming a committee member starts with attending two union meetings, participating in two actions and taking responsibility for two assignments a union official explained to me. In other words, someone who consistently defends the union, helps enforce the contract and organizes other workers on the job.

With a strong and committed organization like Local 2 behind you, membership confidence grows. As confidence grows, so does participation and, ultimately, so do the results.

I see this energy expressed by hundreds of members on regularly-scheduled picket lines, by workers on lunch breaks collectively engaging in dramatic hotel lobby protests, by thousands voting 93% for strike authorization in July, by employees from ten different hotels promoting boycotts of their own hotels, by the recent overwhelming vote to fund the boycott campaign by an additional $1 million, by the membership decision to assess themselves an extra 50% monthly dues to supplement the strike fund, and by the union's effective involvement of community, religious, labor and political supporters.

Though perhaps more developed in San Francisco, this membership involvement is spreading.

Over 50,000 UNITE-HERE hotel workers in ten cities are now working without a contract and, as a result, the national union has taken important and dramatic steps to coordinate actions against some of the major multi-national corporate owners such as the Hilton and Hyatt.

The December 16 actions in three cities were such an example. This strategy undoubtedly makes workers in each city feel more connected.

Maybe now we can better understand how Johan, Marc and the other 9,000 Local 2 members under siege by some of the world's most powerful and profitable investment conglomerates can, at the same time, so confidently believe in themselves.


11) House Passes Food Safety Bill, Raising Powers of F.D.A.
December 21, 2010

This time it is for real. After running a tortured and zig-zag course through Congress, a long-awaited food safety bill passed a final, clinching vote on Tuesday in the House of Representatives.

President Obama had backed the legislation and was expected to sign it into law.

Supporters, including Democrats and Republicans, hailed the measure as a landmark modernization of the nation's food safety system, one that gives the Food and Drug Administration greater authority over food products, whether they come from this country or are imported from abroad. The bill passed by a vote of 215 to 144.

The bill is meant to change the mission of the F.D.A., allowing it to focus on preventing food-borne outbreaks rather than reacting after an outbreak occurs.

While it will take months to write rules that will allow the agency to begin enforcing many aspects of the bill, advocates said that some measures, including the authority to order a recall, will take effect immediately.

The agency currently can only request a recall, even when there is evidence that tainted food has made people sick or represents a clear health hazard. Companies rarely refuse an F.D.A. request, but negotiations can cause delays. Under the new law, the F.D.A. will be able to order a recall if a company does not cooperate. (Most recalls, however, are still expected to be voluntary.)

The bill also gives immediate protection to whistle-blowers who alert the authorities about unsafe conditions in food plants.

Companies have 18 months, however, to begin complying with a central measure of the bill - a requirement to examine their processing systems to identify possible ways that food products can become contaminated and to develop detailed plans to keep that from happening.

The F.D.A. will then be able to require companies to show those plans and any related records, like product testing.

"Where problems occur and where recalls are needed F.D.A. will have much better tools to mandate recalls and to inspect the documents that are on site at the plant in order to speed the removal of contaminated food from the marketplace" said Caroline Smith DeWaal, food safety director for the Center for Science in the Public Interest, an advocacy group.

Ultimately, however, the agency's ability to enforce the law will depend on how much money it has to pay inspectors and maintain or increase its staff. Republicans who will gain control of the House next year have vowed to slash spending on many domestic programs and deep cuts could hobble the F.D.A. just as it gains the new authority.

Over time, the law requires the F.D.A. to increase inspection of food processing plants in this country and also plants in other countries where food is prepared for export to the United States.

It also gives the agency the ability to set nationwide standards for growing and harvesting produce, aimed at reducing the chances of contamination in the fields.

Although the bill had bipartisan support, passage was long in coming. The House passed a stronger version of the law last year. The Senate finally passed its version last month, and since there was not time in the lame-duck session to work out a compromise that melded the two versions, lawmakers expected the House to hold another vote approving the Senate bill.

But the Senate had erred in that it had included tax provisions in its bill, which under the Constitution must originate in the House. To keep the legislation alive, the House then inserted the Senate version into a budgetary bill. But when the budget bill failed to advance in the Senate, the food safety law appeared doomed.

Then, to the surprise of most observers, Republican and Democratic leaders in the Senate agreed on Sunday to unanimously pass a revised version of the bill, stripped of the troublesome tax language. That cleared the way for the House to take it up one more time.


12) Why Apple Removed a WikiLeaks App From Its Store
December 21, 2010, 12:29 pm

Apple on Tuesday confirmed that it had removed from its online store an iPhone and iPad app that let users view the content on the WikiLeaks site and follow the WikiLeaks Twitter account.

Trudy Muller, an Apple spokeswoman, said the company had removed the app "because it violated our developer guidelines." Ms. Muller added: "Apps must comply with all local laws and may not put an individual or group in harm's way."

The $1.99 WikiLeaks App was taken down on Monday after being available for just three days. It is not clear how popular it was. Its developer promised to donate $1 for every download to organizations that "promote the future of online democracy. " It had received only three reviews, according to the Huffington Post. Two of those reviews were negative.

Apple is the latest company to cut off services that in some way support WikiLeaks or channel money to the organization. In recent weeks, Amazon stopped hosting WikiLeaks content and PayPal, Visa and Mastercard stopped processing payments to the organization.


13) U.S. Military Seeks to Expand Raids in Pakistan
December 20, 2010

WASHINGTON - Senior American military commanders in Afghanistan are pushing for an expanded campaign of Special Operations ground raids across the border into Pakistan's tribal areas, a risky strategy reflecting the growing frustration with Pakistan's efforts to root out militants there.

The proposal, described by American officials in Washington and Afghanistan, would escalate military activities inside Pakistan, where the movement of American forces has been largely prohibited because of fears of provoking a backlash.

The plan has not yet been approved, but military and political leaders say a renewed sense of urgency has taken hold, as the deadline approaches for the Obama administration to begin withdrawing its forces from Afghanistan. Even with the risks, military commanders say that using American Special Operations troops could bring an intelligence windfall, if militants were captured, brought back across the border into Afghanistan and interrogated.

The Americans are known to have made no more than a handful of forays across the border into Pakistan, in operations that have infuriated Pakistani officials. Now, American military officers appear confident that a shift in policy could allow for more routine incursions.

America's clandestine war in Pakistan has for the most part been carried out by armed drones operated by the C.I.A.

Additionally, in recent years, Afghan militias backed by the C.I.A. have carried out a number of secret missions into Pakistan's tribal areas. These operations in Pakistan by Afghan operatives, known as Counterterrorism Pursuit Teams, have been previously reported as solely intelligence-gathering operations. But interviews in recent weeks revealed that on at least one occasion, the Afghans went on the offensive and destroyed a militant weapons cache.

The decision to expand American military activity in Pakistan, which would almost certainly have to be approved by President Obama himself, would amount to the opening of a new front in the nine-year-old war, which has grown increasingly unpopular among Americans. It would run the risk of angering a Pakistani government that has been an uneasy ally in the war in Afghanistan, particularly if it leads to civilian casualties or highly public confrontations.

Still, one senior American officer said, "We've never been as close as we are now to getting the go-ahead to go across."

The officials who described the proposal and the intelligence operations declined to be identified by name discussing classified information.

Ground operations in Pakistan remain controversial in Washington, and there may be a debate over the proposal. One senior administration official said he was not in favor of cross-border operations - which he said have been generally "counterproductive" - unless they were directed against top leaders of Al Qaeda. He expressed concern that political fallout in Pakistan could negate any tactical gains.

Still, as evidence mounts that Pakistani troops are unlikely to stage a major offensive into the militant stronghold of North Waziristan, where Al Qaeda's top leaders are thought to be taking shelter, United States commanders have renewed their push for approval to send American commando teams into Pakistan.

In announcing the results of a review of the strategy in Afghanistan, Obama administration officials said they were considering expanded American operations to deal with threats inside Pakistan. They offered no specifics.

In interviews in Washington and Kabul, American officials said that officers were drawing up plans to begin ground operations to capture or kill leaders from the Taliban and the Haqqani network. American officers say they are particularly eager to capture, as opposed to kill, militant leaders, who they say can offer intelligence to guide future operations.

Even before finalizing any plans to increase raids across the border, the Obama administration has already stepped up its air assaults in the tribal areas with an unprecedented number of C.I.A. drone strikes this year. Since September, the spy agency has carried out more than 50 drone attacks in North Waziristan and elsewhere - compared with 60 strikes in the preceding eight months.

In interviews, the officials offered a more detailed description of two operations since 2008 in which Afghans working under the direction of the C.I.A. - a militia called the Paktika Defense Force - crossed the border into Pakistan. They also offered a richer account of the activities of these militia groups throughout the country.

According to an Afghan political leader, one of the raids was initiated to capture a Taliban commander working inside Pakistan. When the Afghan troops reached the compound, they did not find the Taliban commander, but the Pakistani militants opened fire on them, the Afghan said.

An American official disputed this account, saying that the C.I.A. militias are not sent over the border to capture militant leaders, but merely to gather intelligence.

In a second raid, the Paktika militia attacked and destroyed a Taliban ammunition depot and returned to base, officials said. Both of the C.I.A.-backed raids were aimed at compounds only a few miles inside Pakistani territory.

The Paktika Defense Force is one of six C.I.A.-trained Afghan militias that serve as a special operations force against insurgents throughout Afghanistan. The other militias operate around the cities of Kandahar, Kabul and Jalalabad as well as in the rural provinces of Khost and Kunar.

One American service member, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said the C.I.A.-backed militia near Khost had recently deployed in the mountains along the Pakistan border, where it would spend the winter trying to intercept Taliban fighters. So far, the C.I.A.-backed force has proven effective, he said.

"The rockets we endured for the past seven months suddenly dried up," the service member said.

In the past, the American military has had only limited success in its few cross-border operations. In October, an American military helicopter accidently killed a group of Pakistani soldiers during a flight over the border in pursuit of militants. The episode infuriated Pakistan's government, which temporarily shut down American military supply routes into Pakistan. Several fuel trucks sitting at the border were destroyed by insurgents, and American officials publicly apologized.

Two years earlier, in September 2008, American commandos carried out a raid in Pakistan's tribal areas and killed several people suspected of being insurgents. The episode led to outrage among Pakistan's leaders - and warnings not to try again.

Mark Mazzetti reported from Washington, and Dexter Filkins from Kabul, Afghanistan. Eric Schmitt contributed reporting from Washington.


14) U.S. Proposes Rules on Raising Insurance Premiums
[This is a gift to the insurance industry giving them permission to rais premiums by 9.99 percent next year. Yes, insurance companies, there is a Santa]
December 21, 2010

WASHINGTON - The Obama administration said on Tuesday that it would require health insurance companies to disclose and justify any increases of 10 percent or more in the premiums they charge next year.

State or federal officials will review the increases to determine if they are unreasonable, the administration said in proposing regulations to enforce the requirement.

Kathleen Sebelius, the secretary of Health and Human Services, said the review of premiums would "help rein in the kind of excessive and unreasonable rate increases that have made insurance unaffordable for so many families."

The new health care law, signed in March by President Obama, calls for the annual review of "unreasonable increases in premiums for health insurance coverage." The law did not define unreasonable.

Under the proposed rules, insurers seeking rate increases of 10 percent or more in the individual or small group market in 2011 must publicly disclose the proposed increases and the justification for them.

"Such increases are not presumed unreasonable, but will be analyzed to determine whether they are unreasonable," the administration said.

Starting in 2012, the federal government will set a separate threshold for each state, reflecting its cost trends, and insurers will have to disclose rate increases above that level.

Under the proposed regulation, the federal government will evaluate each state's procedures for analyzing insurance rates.

If the federal government finds that a state has an "effective rate review system," the state would conduct the annual reviews of premium increases. But, the administration said, "if a state lacks the resources or authority to do thorough actuarial reviews, the Department of Health and Human Services would conduct them."

The federal government will post information about the outcome of all rate reviews on the department's Web site, and insurers must post the information prominently on their Web sites.

Under the new law, insurers that show "a pattern or practice of excessive or unjustified premium increases" can be excluded from the centralized insurance market, or exchange, that is to be set up in each state by 2014.

In February, just one month before Congress completed work on the health care bill, Mr. Obama proposed giving federal officials the power to block excessive rate increases by health insurance companies. Congress did not accept the proposal, choosing instead to leave rate review primarily in the hands of state officials.

An official at the Department of Health and Human Services said Tuesday: "The statute does not give us authority to disapprove rates. We do not have that authority. The regulation leaves state laws intact. It does not interfere with state law. In some states, rates cannot be put into effect unless the state affirmatively approves the rate increase." In other states, insurers must file rates with a state agency before using them, but the state does not approve or disapprove rates.

The federal government has awarded $46 million to states to enhance their review of premium increases - the first installment of $250 million that will be distributed for that purpose until 2014.

Under the new regulation, a federal health official said, "we are not setting an absolute numerical standard for whether a rate is unreasonable." Instead, the proposed rule lays out factors to be considered. It says that a rate increase will be considered unreasonable if it is excessive, unjustified or "unfairly discriminatory."

A rate increase is defined as excessive if it "causes the premium charged for the health insurance coverage to be unreasonably high in relation to the benefits provided."

In addition, under the rules, the assumptions used in calculating a rate increase must be based on "substantial evidence."

Ms. Sebelius said that since 1999, the cost of health insurance for the average working American had risen 128 percent.


15) City Will Require Police to Report on School Arrests
December 20, 2010

The New York City Council voted on Monday to require the Police and Education Departments to produce regular reports on arrests, summonses and suspensions of public school students, a victory for civil liberties advocates who say that the school police have sometimes been too aggressive in trying to keep order.

The measure, which was introduced in August 2008, was approved unanimously after compromises were made to satisfy the police and education officials.

A proposal to require the Civilian Complaint Review Board, which hears complaints about police abuse, to also handle complaints about school safety officers had been removed. Instead, 311 operators will transfer complaints to the Police Department's Internal Affairs Bureau.

Groups like the New York Civil Liberties Union and the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund have complained for years that the school safety officers, who are members of the Police Department, as well as regular police officers tend to overreact, making arrests or writing summonses for infractions as minor as writing on a desk.

Due to federal restrictions on education data, arrests and summonses will be broken down by borough command, but not by school, and will be submitted to the Council quarterly.

Information on suspensions and student discipline will be available by school and will be issued by the Department of Education on a biannual and yearly basis, respectively. All data will be organized according to students' age, grade, race, ethnicity, sex and any special education or English-language program enrollment, and will be available online.

The Council speaker, Christine C. Quinn, praised the legislation for the "unprecedented information" it would provide. "This information will be a valuable new tool to help keep our children and our school employees safe," she said.

The N.Y.C.L.U. hailed the legislation as "the most progressive bill of its kind." The organization's executive director, Donna Lieberman, said it would address the "monumental disconnect" that had surrounded school security since responsibilities were transferred to the police in 1998.

"The Student Safety Act is about shining a light on the impact of school safety practices in the schools, on the children, on education," Ms. Lieberman said.

The Police Department's chief spokesman, Paul J. Browne, said his agency had no objections to the revised bill, which he said had been "carefully negotiated."

And the Department of Education said it was deeply committed to the underlying goal of the legislation. The measure takes effect in 90 days.


16) Suit Claims Use of Credit History in Hiring Hurt Black Applicants
December 21, 2010

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission sued the Kaplan Higher Education Corporation on Tuesday, accusing it of discriminating against black job applicants through the way it uses credit histories in its hiring process.

Since at least January 2008, the commission asserted in the lawsuit, Kaplan has rejected job applicants based on their credit history, with a "significant disparate impact" on blacks.

"This practice has an unlawful discriminatory impact because of race and is neither job-related nor justified by business necessity," the commission said. Kaplan, which is owned by the Washington Post Company, operates a chain of for-profit colleges and training schools.

Kaplan had no immediate comment on the lawsuit.

The lawsuit is seeking a permanent injunction to stop Kaplan's use of credit histories in hiring and employment offers. The agency is also seeking lost wages and benefits for people who were not hired because of Kaplan's use of credit reports to screen applicants.

The commission said the discrimination occurred at Kaplan's offices throughout the country, although the suit was filed in Cleveland in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Ohio.

Under federal employment law, employers can use credit histories in hiring under some circumstances. But it is illegal to use hiring practices that have a discriminatory impact because of race and that are not job-related and justified by business necessity.

"Employers need to be mindful that any hiring practice be job-related and not screen out groups of people, even if it does so unintentionally," said the regional attorney, Debra Lawrence, of the commission's Philadelphia district office, in a statement.

Justine Lisser, a commission spokeswoman, said that that credit histories were often inaccurate.

"Credit histories were not compiled to show responsibility," she said. "They were compiled to show whether or not someone was paying the bills, which is not always the same thing."

Kaplan has been under scrutiny from the federal government because a large number of its graduates have had difficulty finding jobs and repaying their student loans.


17) FBI delivers subpoenas to four more anti-war, solidarity activists as U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald Expands Witch Hunt
Committee to Stop FBI Repression

The FBI came unannounced to knock on doors at two apartments in Chicago this morning. FBI agent Robert Parker, under orders from U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald's office, delivered a subpoena to Maureen Murphy. Murphy, like several other individuals served subpoenas, is an organizer with the Palestine Solidarity Group-Chicago.

This continues the repression unleashed by Fitzgerald on the anti-war movement since September 24th, when fourteen subpoenas were delivered to anti-war, labor, and solidarity activists in coordinated raids involving more than 70 federal agents. Armed FBI agents raided homes, taking computers, phones, passports, documents, notebooks, and even children's artwork. A total of 23 subpoenas have been served to activists around the country.

Maureen Murphy said, "Along with several others, I am being summoned to appear before the Grand Jury on Tuesday, January 25th, in the Dirksen Federal Building in Chicago. We are being targeted for the work we do to end U.S. funding of the Israeli occupation, ending the war in Afghanistan and ending the occupation of Iraq. What is at stake for all of us is our right to dissent and organize to change harmful US foreign policy." Ms. Murphy is also the Managing Editor of the widely-read website, The Electronic Intifada.

In addition, three women in Minneapolis - Tracy Molm, Anh Pham, and Sara Martin - are threatened with reactivated subpoenas by Fitzgerald's office and new Grand Jury dates. Tom Burke of the Committee to Stop FBI Repression explained, "It is likely the three individuals, like all the others so far, will continue to refuse to take part in Fitzgerald's witch hunt. Fitzgerald can then call for putting them in jail as long as he wants."

For more information:

Contact: Tom Burke, Committee to Stop FBI Repression, 773-844-3612


Send Holiday Cards to Bradley Manning

Bradley Manning is the marine accused of providing information to Wikileaks, including the "Collateral Murder" video of a helicopter airstrike on July 12, 2007, in Baghdad. He is currently in solitary confinement in the brig at Quantico, Virginia awaiting court martial in 2011.

Christmas / New Year's cards may be sent to him at:

Bradley Manning
c/o Courage to Resist

Letters will be opened, "contraband" discarded and then mailed weekly to Bradley via someone on his approved correspondence list.


18) Italian Students Protest University Reforms
December 22, 2010

ROME - Tens of thousands of students took to the streets on Wednesday to protest planned changes in the university system but stayed away from the historic center here, much of which had been cordoned off by the police to avoid a repeat of last week's violent demonstrations.

The protest turned out to be peaceful, allaying widespread fears, as thousands marched from the city's main university, La Sapienza, steering clear of the historic center but blocking traffic on a main highway.

Other protests in Palermo and Milan turned violent, with skirmishes between demonstrators and police. In Turin, students occupied a landmark building.

In Rome, some protesters carried fake Christmas presents labeled with politically minded holiday wishes - "Social welfare for students and temporary workers," one read - to oppose what they said were cuts to Italy's famously dysfunctional universities.

In the previous protests, held on same the day Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi narrowly survived a confidence vote, the police used tear gas on demonstrators who smashed shop windows and burned cars in the worst violence in downtown Rome in years. The center-right government blamed the violence on the left and warned of a return of 1970s-style political violence.

While critics said such claims were overblown, there is a palpable and growing sense of frustration among young people in Italy, where youth unemployment averages 25 percent. As they marched in Rome on Wednesday, students shouted, "We don't want to pay for the crisis," referring to the financial crisis that has turned Italy's troubled labor market from bad to worse.

"Where do I see my future? Certainly not in this country," said one protester, Morgana Proietti, 22, expressing a common sentiment.

Education Minister Mariastella Gelmini has said that the planned changes would add more meritocracy to the system by rewarding universities that have better results, and would better train young people for the job market.

"It is essential to restore dignity and greater market value to Italian university degrees," she wrote in an open letter to Corriere della Sera, Italy's leading daily.

The plan would also change the admissions and hiring procedures, merge some smaller universities, decrease the number of course offerings and increase the role of the private sector in Italy's state universities, which lag far behind their European Union peers in research and development.

The plan "is full of good intentions," the Turin daily La Stampa wrote in a front-page editorial on Wednesday, "but it has a fundamental defect: It doesn't give more funding for the education and training of young Italians."

"And without money, no reform can work, whether good or bad," the editorial said.

The Senate originally expected to vote on the measure on Wednesday, but with the center-left opposition raising hundreds of objections, the vote seemed likely to be postponed until Thursday or later.

If it passes, it would be Mr. Berlusconi's only significant legislative achievement since his government was elected in 2008.


19) Afghanistan: Civilian Deaths Examined
December 22, 2010

NATO said Tuesday that it was investigating the deaths of five civilians who were killed when forces of the American-led coalition returned fire against insurgents shooting from a compound in the Sangin district of Helmand Province. The NATO announcement did not say when the battle took place. A United Nations report this month found that there were 2,412 conflict-related civilian casualties in the first 10 months of 2010. Meanwhile, the coalition announced Tuesday that two NATO service members had been killed by bombs in southern Afghanistan.


20) Colleges Rethink R.O.T.C. After 'Don't Ask' Repeal
December 21, 2010

The Senate vote to repeal the 17-year old "don't ask, don't tell" policy against gay men and lesbians serving openly in the armed forces removes a reason that many elite colleges have cited for barring the Reserve Officers Training Corps from recruiting on their campuses.

Already, the presidents of Harvard, Yale and Columbia have issued statements expressing interest in bringing back the R.O.T.C.. But it is not clear whether there will be enough student interest on those campuses to warrant its presence.

The R.O.T.C., which has units on 327 campuses nationwide, was sent packing from several Ivy League and other prominent campuses in the late 1960s and early 1970s, in the firestorm of student protests against the Vietnam War. More recently, though, it has faced opposition because of discrimination against gay men and lesbians in the military.

Eileen M. Lainez, a Defense Department spokeswoman, said Monday that it would be "premature to speculate" on plans for new R.O.T.C. units.

Diane H. Mazur, a law professor at the University of Florida and a former Air Force officer, said she doubted whether the military would reinstate the R.O.T.C. at Ivy League colleges because it is expensive to operate there, particularly for the relatively few number of students the services are likely to recruit.

"I think the military is much more persuaded by output, is much more persuaded by economic efficiency," Ms. Mazur said.

Drew Faust, the president of Harvard, said over the weekend that she was looking forward to "pursuing discussions with military officials and others to achieve Harvard's full and formal recognition of R.O.T.C.."

Last month, in a joint appearance with Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who opposed the "don't ask, don't tell" policy, Dr. Faust said she hoped the policy would end, so that Harvard could embrace "both service and inclusion." A Harvard spokesman said 19 of its students participated in the R.O.T.C. at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

President Lee Bollinger of Columbia said the repeal of "don't ask, don't tell" would allow the university to fulfill its desire to be more open to the military. In a statement, Mr. Bollinger said the repeal "effectively ends what has been a vexing problem for higher education, including at Columbia, given our desire to be open to our military, but not wanting to violate our own core principle against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation."

The Student Affairs Committee of the Columbia University Senate, a policy-making body of students, faculty members, administrators, alumni and others, said Monday that it had formed a Task Force on Military Engagement to consider whether the university should formally participate in the R.O.T.C.

Before making any decision, the committee said, it would conduct an opinion survey and hold hearings on the issue. The committee's chairman, Tao Tan, said the process would be driven by students, rather than faculty members.

Several Columbia students said this week that while they would not object to the return of the R.O.T.C., they did not expect their classmates to show much interest in military careers.

"Most people come here to have a specific career," said Alex Gaspard, 18, who hopes to go to law school. "Investment bankers or lawyers."

Chimezie Ozurumba, a 32-year old graduate student studying finance, added, "Most students here aren't focused on military service."

Columbia has six students currently enrolled in R.O.T.C. programs at nearby institutions, Robert Hornsby, a university spokesman, said.

At New York University, where there is no ban on the R.O.T.C., students who want to participate go to programs at other campuses, said John Beckman, a spokesman.

Yale's president, Richard C. Levin, said Monday that the university was "eager to open discussions about expanding opportunities for students interested in military service, and we will be discussing this matter with the faculty of Yale College in the spring semester." Yale College is the university's undergraduate division.

Dr. Levin acknowledged, however, that while he had asked Yale executives to explore the military's interest in re-establishing a R.O.T.C. unit, it was not a foregone conclusion that the Department of Defense would agree to return.

Four Yale students attend the R.O.T.C. at either the University of Connecticut or the University of New Haven, said Thomas Conroy, a spokesman for Yale.

Brown currently has only one student participating in an R.O.T.C. program, through Providence College, a spokeswoman said. The R.O.T.C. was phased out in the early 1970s based on academic issues, she said, and any academic issues raised by a return of the R.O.T.C. would require a faculty vote.

At Stanford, where about 15 students participate in the R.O.T.C. at nearby campuses, the Faculty Senate's ad hoc committee on the R.O.T.C. has for months been considering whether to expand its relationship with the R.O.T.C., and is scheduled to make a recommendation this spring.

"I'm personally delighted by the repeal, and I do have the feeling it will lighten the task of our committee," said Ewart Thomas, a psychology professor who heads the committee.

But, Dr. Thomas said, there may be continued opposition to the R.O.T.C. on campus, whether from those who believe the military will still discriminate against gay men and lesbians or for academic reasons.

When Stanford's R.O.T.C. was shut down in 1973, he said, the stated reason was not the politics of the Vietnam War, but rather academic standards: the low-quality intellectual content of R.O.T.C. courses, Stanford concluded, did not meet university standards.

"Of course, you have to distinguish between what was said, and the political climate," Dr. Thomas said.

Nate Schweber contributed reporting.


21) Times Sues City Police, Saying Information Has Been Illegally Withheld
December 21, 2010

The New York Times has sued the New York Police Department, saying the department had routinely violated a state law that requires government agencies to provide information to the press and the public.

In a lawsuit filed on Tuesday in State Supreme Court in Manhattan, The Times described four requests made by reporters this year for information that it said the police had delayed or denied. The Times said the department's handling of the requests reflected a pattern and practice by which the police avoided providing material that the State Freedom of Information Law said must be released.

"We've become increasingly concerned over the last two years about a growing lack of transparency at the N.Y.P.D.," said David E. McCraw, a vice president and assistant general counsel of The New York Times Company. "Information that was once released is now withheld. Disclosures that could be made quickly are put on hold for months."

"The police have performed outstanding service to this city," Mr. McCraw added, "but it's important that they also meet their duties under the Freedom of Information Law. People have a right to know what public agencies are doing, and how they are doing it, so that there can be an informed public debate over what policies are pursued and how tax dollars are spent."

In the lawsuit, The Times asked for a judicial order requiring the police to turn over the information and barring the Police Department "from continuing its pattern and practice of violating FOIL," the acronym for the Freedom of Information Law.

Paul J. Browne, the Police Department's chief spokesman, said that based on a preliminary review of The Times's lawsuit, "none of the FOIL requests about which The Times complains, is, in our view, ripe for litigation."

"These requests are being processed by the N.Y.P.D. in accordance with controlling law," Mr. Browne said by e-mail. "We disagree with The Times's interpretation of FOIL as contained in the papers we received."

He said the department would not comment further "since these issues are now in litigation."

The four requests from Times reporters were for the addresses of New York City residents who had been granted gun permits, for the Police Department's database on hate crimes, for its database on crime incident reports and for the tracking log on Freedom of Information requests.

The lawsuit said the police had "no legal basis for withholding the materials sought" by the reporters.

It said the police had released the hate crimes database to The Times once before, in 2005.

The lawsuit also said the police had regularly failed to respond to requests as fast as the law required and had failed to consider appeals quickly when the department denied a request.

In recent years, the department has maintained a tight grip on what the public knows and does not know about its inner workings. Its strict control of information has ranged from data on crime trends to nuggets of information sought by journalists, scholars, lawmakers and others.

One example of the department's reluctance to give out data involved statistics for minor crimes - offenses like misdemeanor thefts and assaults, marijuana possession and sex offenses other than rape. The department acknowledged last month that it had not forwarded the data to the state since 2002. It was one of only two police agencies in the state that had not done so.

Information on the department's practice of stopping and questioning people on the street, and sometimes frisking them, was only sporadically reported from 2003 to 2007, when the department began to comply regularly with a law requiring it to give the information to the City Council.

The Times's lawsuit said the Freedom of Information Law imposed "specific deadlines, which the N.Y.P.D. persistently and as a matter of practice fails to meet." The lawsuit said that the law required the department "to make individualized determinations about extensions to those deadlines, based on specific factors."

But The Times said the Police Department did not appear to decide requests one by one. Sometimes it sends form letters, according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit also said that when an agency like the Police Department turned down a request and the person who made it filed an appeal, the agency was supposed to respond within 10 days. But the lawsuit said "the N.Y.P.D. as a matter of practice does not meet the deadline."

Of the appeals on the four information requests in the lawsuit, one was decided in 19 business days and another in 18. The Times never received a determination on its appeal of a third; a fourth has yet to be decided.


22) Agent Provocateurs at demos
Tue Dec 21, 2010 9:34 am (PST)
VIA Email

Another kind of provocateur is the person who can be pressurised, such as one who commits a smallish crime, and is told that if they do something, it will be 'forgotten'. Common amongst 'crooks', to get themselves of the hook, they inform on another. Check both sides.

Agent Provocateurs at demos
Tue Dec 21, 2010 9:34 am (PST)

Do we know who threw that fire-extinguisher? His boot-size may be important.

Here's a message from Canada on the subject:

This video comes from Canada, but thetechnique is used in the US every day ofthe week. The truly bizarre thing is no one seemsto know about it. [maybe they don't know about it in the US, but it's been used in Toronto at the G20 summit last summer, which, by the way, is proving difficult for the police to defend, that is, the police violence, kettling and arresting of nearly 1000 innocent and keeping them in a special prison for 24 hours.

http://www.thestar. com/videozone/ 902663--arrest- footage com/watch? v=TbLU9tdDwxo& feature=related

and others....Every demonstration should have teams specifically charged with identifying these gun thugs (they're easy to find), pointing them out, and blowing their cover. It's a matter of public safety as these creeps are there specifically to incite violence.

Your tax dollars at work.

Here's how the adults deal with it.
Video: http://www.brassche page/288. html
Police inciting violence
For over ten years now, I've been writing about and documenting police riots at protests.

It's always the same story:

Undercover police dress up as protesters and incite, or even engage in, violence.

Uniformed police then take advantage of this to assault legitimate protesters, sometimes brutally.

It's the oldest trick in the book and the French have a phrase for it: "Agent Provocateur.

Bizarrely, US protesters NEVER seem to get their heads out of their arses and see it coming no matter how many times it gets pulled on them.

In contrast, one labor leader at the Montebello meeting of the so called "Security and Prosperity Summit" in Quebec earned the title LEADER and not only detected this crap as it was talking place, but confronted the government-employed criminals involved and forced them to stand down.

This kind of activity isn't legitimate police work. It's thug-for-hire work on behalf of fascists.

Next time you see one of these hulking morons with a mask on his face holding a rock or stick, rip off his mask and photograph him. Don't expect a shred of help from the gutless news media exposing these vermin. They'll never follow up on the story, but the photographs are a deterrent.

Look for the steroid pumped morons with close-cropped hair, polished shoes, and over the top ass-holic behavior. Those would be your police masquerading as protesters.

By the way, the so called "Security and Prosperity Summit" will be meeting in New Orleans in April. (Update: Meeting came and went.) Brasscheck TV will be there reporting on cop dirty tricks as they happen.

Note: New Orleans police have coincidentally been given a "grant" of assault weapons and riot gear recently. Also, an article recently appeared in New Orleans Magazine praising the local SWAT team for brutalizing local affordable housing protesters. How subtle.

How police staged riots at the Seattle at the WTO meeting:


23) The Professional Left Versus The Left of Us
By Jared A. Ball
Black Agenda Report, December 21, 2010

White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs was partially right when earlier this year he dismissed the "professional left." There is indeed a professional left, those whose entire careers and claims to fame are based on permanent liberal challenges to power and who arrogantly dismiss as immature, and worse dangerous, those who would push leftward beyond those limits. "Don't go too far," they tell us, "vote for us or THEY will get elected and then we're in real trouble!" But that's because liberals aren't in real trouble. They don't really believe that. If they did really believe that corporations were leading the planet to doom or that the fascists they are protecting us from are just outside the gates would they really only respond by a few rallies and a vote for a Democrat? Then maybe they are as "fucking stupid" as Rahm Emanuel said they are.

But to some the fascism warned of in all those faint allusions to totalitarian horrors already exists and the death camp trains have been running for decades with barely a peep from the professional liberals. Should we care about Obama's failure to close Guantanamo when he never felt pressure enough to even lie about wanting to shut down the Corrections Corporation of America? Prisons and the racist legislation, hyper-policing, brutality and fraudulent judicial system that keep them filled are among the nation's biggest businesses.

Joblessness and poverty continue to worsen and even the tens-of-thousands dying from war abroad are more than matched by the deaths in this country resulting from public policies which deny adequate housing, food and healthcare to millions. When rates of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) are found to be as high in Black communities in the United States as they are in war-torn cities overseas and children tell counter military recruitment workers that they might as well risk death fighting in foreign wars when they get shot at here at home since at least that offers the chance of healthcare and education who is really interested in more liberal threats of "it could be worse"?

For Marcus Bellamy of the Arizona-based Black Organizing Network and Arizona Green Party this was the point of a series of events that took place this week in Phoenix. For Bellamy and co-organizers Arizona is the national "ground zero, the laboratory for the state testing out just how far it can go in terms of racial oppression." According to Bellamy all the recent fuss over Senate Bill 1070 itself works to mask that "the migrant community is being used as a mere experiment in methods that can one day be used against the entire population-workplace raids, detention centers, extension of biometric data collection in prisons, the hiring of an armed volunteer force that enforces immigration law, which in any other country would be labeled a paramilitary force), integration of local and national police agencies along with cooperation from the National Guard in the name of "border protection," and so on, may seem like an attack on the stereotypical "Mexican" but will eventually morph into a blanket assault on anyone who defies the status quo.

So sure, the professional left will undoubtedly tell us of all the small victories achieved in this week's reversal of "don't ask, don't tell," and the passage of the Low Power FM Radio Act. And we are soon to hear more from the Black professionals, or "surrogates," called upon by Obama to explain how Black people will benefit from the new tax bill. But who really cares if imperialism is gay or straight or if we are now to get more liberal/non-profit radio or if Black people will get extensions on unemployment benefits instead of proper jobs with proper wages? Black, Brown, Indigenous and working people need to abandon the conventions of the professional left and develop our own politics even if they be dismissed as immature, impractical and simple fantasy. Professional liberalism is no answer for us.

Several years ago Essence Farmer finally won her case in Arizona allowing her to run a natural hair braiding business without a license since cosmetology school does not teach that skill. This week Black Floridian barbers are being raided and jailed by armed and masked agents for precisely that same licensing issue. "Ground zero" strikes again.


24) Under 'High-Tech House Arrest,' WikiLeaks Founder Takes the Offensive
December 22, 2010

BUNGAY, England - When Julian Assange wakes these days, he looks out from a three-story Georgian mansion house overlooking a man-made lake. Under a blanket of snow, the 650-acre Ellingham Hall estate, a mile back from the closest public road, is as tranquil a spot as can be found in eastern England.

But Mr. Assange, the WikiLeaks founder, who is fighting accusations of sexual misconduct in Sweden, strolls through this bucolic idyll with an electronic tag on his ankle and a required daily 20-minute drive to the part-time police station in the neighboring town of Beccles. There he signs a register and chats "pleasantly" with the officers, according to their account, and returns to his curfew at the hall.

It is what Mr. Assange, a 39-year-old Australian, has laconically referred to as "my high-tech house arrest" in interviews since arriving last week from the High Court in London, where he was granted bail of $370,000, much of it provided by wealthy celebrities and friends, including Vaughan Smith, Ellingham Hall's owner.

From his rural redoubt, Mr. Assange has gone on a media offensive, continuing to charge that he is the victim of a smear campaign led by the United States, which is weighing criminal prosecution for the leaks of nearly 750,000 classified documents.

In an interview with The Times of London on Tuesday, he compared himself to the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., saying that when he was jailed at Wandsworth Prison in London, a black guard handed him a card saying, "I only have two heroes in the world, Dr. King and you." Mr. Assange added, "That is representative of 50 percent of people."

In the interview, he also compared the obloquy directed at WikiLeaks by the Obama administration and other critics with the "persecution" endured by American Jews in the 1950s. He added, "I'm not the Jewish people," but suggested that the common thread was that supporters of WikiLeaks and American Jews were "people who believe in freedom of speech and accountability."

Mr. Assange also denied prior contact with Bradley Manning, the Army private jailed on charges that he leaked thousands of classified government documents to WikiLeaks. "I never heard of the name Bradley Manning before it appeared in the media," he said in an interview on MSNBC on Wednesday.

While there have been a number of prosecutions of government employees under the Espionage Act for leaking classified information, there has never been a successful prosecution of a journalist for receiving and publishing such information. But prosecutors have been studying online chats in which Private Manning reportedly talked about contacts with Mr. Assange to see if they suggest that the WikiLeaks leader solicited or encouraged the leaks.

Mr. Assange noted that it was standard journalistic practice to call government officials and ask for information. Criminalizing such conduct would threaten the freedom of the press, he said.

"If they want to push the line that when a newspaperman talks to someone in the government about looking for things relating to potential abuses, that that is a conspiracy to commit espionage, that is going to take out all the good government journalism that takes place in the United States," Mr. Assange said.

In the interview with The Times of London, Mr. Assange also spoke of his "feeling of betrayal" toward the two women in Sweden, who have said he forced sex on them without using a condom, and in one case while the woman, according to her account, was asleep. Over the weekend, The Guardian and The New York Times obtained copies of a 68-page police document detailing the accusations against Mr. Assange, leaks he said were "clearly designed to undermine" his bail arrangements.

"Somebody in authority clearly intended to keep Julian in prison," he said of himself.

Mr. Assange said the accusations had put at risk what WikiLeaks had achieved. "We have changed governance, we have certainly changed many political figures within governments, we have caused new law reform efforts, we have caused police investigations into the abuses we expose, U.N. investigations, investigations here in the U.K., especially in relation to our revelation of the circumstances of the deaths of 109,000 people in Iraq," he said. He added, "We are also changing the perception of the West."

Attempts by The New York Times to interview Mr. Assange in recent days were unsuccessful. For months, he has regularly changed cellphones, and had members of his close-knit entourage answer them for him.

Recently, even those have been switched off, and Ellingham Hall has padlocked its gates against intruders. Telephones there go unanswered, and the hall's Web site for weddings and shooting parties, during which the public is charged $40 to shoot a pheasant, has been taken off-line.

Where the private road leading to Ellingham Hall begins, WikiLeaks supporters who have gathered to support Mr. Assange have taped a hand-lettered placard to an electricity junction box, next to one posted by Mr. Smith advertising "fresh eggs," saying "Free Bradley Manning."

Mr. Assange has given conflicting accounts of the handling of his case in Sweden. Immediately after an initial warrant was issued for his arrest in August, he said he had "no idea" who his accusers were; he has since acknowledged that he slept with both of the women over a four-day period before the warrant was issued. He has said he waited weeks to be interviewed by the police in Sweden; they have said that it was Mr. Assange who delayed meeting with them.

He said in an interview with the BBC on Tuesday that he saw no reason to return to Sweden to answer the allegations. Asked why he would not comply with the legal processes of a country with a respected system of jurisprudence, he described Sweden as "a bit more of a banana republic" than its reputation suggested, and said his WikiLeaks work was too important to answer to "random prosecutors around the world who simply want to have a chat."

"They can come here, or we can have a video linkup, or they can accept a statement of mine," he said. In the BBC interview, Mr. Assange acknowledged obliquely that he had high ambitions for himself, saying, "Everybody would like to be a messianic figure without dying."

At times in the interviews, he seemed conflicted about the impact of the Swedish allegations. Speaking to the BBC, he said he thought they could be "quite helpful to our organization" because "it will expose a tremendous abuse of power." But he also rued the impact on his own reputation, saying that his name was now linked widely on the Internet with the rape allegation.

Using Google, he said, and "searching for my name and the word 'rape,' there are some 30 million Web pages. So this has been a very successful smear."

Scott Shane contributed reporting from Washington.


25) Alabama Town's Failed Pension Is a Warning
December 22, 2010

PRICHARD, Ala. - This struggling small city on the outskirts of Mobile was warned for years that if it did nothing, its pension fund would run out of money by 2009. Right on schedule, its fund ran dry.

Then Prichard did something that pension experts say they have never seen before: it stopped sending monthly pension checks to its 150 retired workers, breaking a state law requiring it to pay its promised retirement benefits in full.

Since then, Nettie Banks, 68, a retired Prichard police and fire dispatcher, has filed for bankruptcy. Alfred Arnold, a 66-year-old retired fire captain, has gone back to work as a shopping mall security guard to try to keep his house. Eddie Ragland, 59, a retired police captain, accepted help from colleagues, bake sales and collection jars after he was shot by a robber, leaving him badly wounded and unable to get to his new job as a police officer at the regional airport.

Far worse was the retired fire marshal who died in June. Like many of the others, he was too young to collect Social Security. "When they found him, he had no electricity and no running water in his house," said David Anders, 58, a retired district fire chief. "He was a proud enough man that he wouldn't accept help."

The situation in Prichard is extremely unusual - the city has sought bankruptcy protection twice - but it proves that the unthinkable can, in fact, sometimes happen. And it stands as a warning to cities like Philadelphia and states like Illinois, whose pension funds are under great strain: if nothing changes, the money eventually does run out, and when that happens, misery and turmoil follow.

It is not just the pensioners who suffer when a pension fund runs dry. If a city tried to follow the law and pay its pensioners with money from its annual operating budget, it would probably have to adopt large tax increases, or make huge service cuts, to come up with the money.

Current city workers could find themselves paying into a pension plan that will not be there for their own retirements. In Prichard, some older workers have delayed retiring, since they cannot afford to give up their paychecks if no pension checks will follow.

So the declining, little-known city of Prichard is now attracting the attention of bankruptcy lawyers, labor leaders, municipal credit analysts and local officials from across the country. They want to see if the situation in Prichard, like the continuing bankruptcy of Vallejo, Calif., ultimately creates a legal precedent on whether distressed cities can legally cut or reduce their pensions, and if so, how.

"Prichard is the future," said Michael Aguirre, the former San Diego city attorney, who has called for San Diego to declare bankruptcy and restructure its own outsize pension obligations. "We're all on the same conveyor belt. Prichard is just a little further down the road."

Many cities and states are struggling to keep their pension plans adequately funded, with varying success. New York City plans to put $8.3 billion into its pension fund next year, twice what it paid five years ago. Maryland is considering a proposal to raise the retirement age to 62 for all public workers with fewer than five years of service.

Illinois keeps borrowing money to invest in its pension funds, gambling that the funds' investments will earn enough to pay back the debt with interest. New Jersey simply decided not to pay the $3.1 billion that was due its pension plan this year.

Colorado, Minnesota and South Dakota have all taken the unusual step of reducing the benefits they pay their current retirees by cutting cost-of-living increases; retirees in all three states are suing.

No state or city wants to wind up like Prichard.

Driving down Wilson Avenue here - a bleak stretch of shuttered storefronts, with pawn shops and beauty parlors that operate behind barred windows and signs warning of guard dogs - it is hard to see vestiges of the Prichard that was a boom town until the 1960s. The city once had thriving department stores, two theaters and even a zoo. "You couldn't find a place to park in that city," recalled Kenneth G. Turner, a retired paramedic whose grandfather pushed for the city's incorporation in 1925.

The city's rapid decline began in the 1970s. The growth of other suburbs, white flight and then middle-class flight all took their tolls, and the city's population shrank by 40 percent to about 27,000 today, from its peak of 45,000. As people left, the city's tax base dwindled.

Prichard's pension plan was established by state law during the good times, in 1956, to supplement Social Security. By the standard of other public pension plans, and the six-figure pensions that draw outrage in places like California and New Jersey, it is not especially rich. Its biggest pension came to about $39,000 a year, for a retired fire chief with many years of service. The average retiree got around $12,000 a year. But the plan allowed workers to retire young, in their 50s. And its benefits were sweetened over time by the state legislature, which did not pay for the added benefits.

For many years, the city - like many other cities and states today - knew that its pension plan was underfunded. As recently as 2004, the city hired an actuary, who reported that "the plan is projected to exhaust the assets around 2009, at which time benefits will need to be paid directly from the city's annual finances."

The city had already taken the unusual step of reducing pension benefits by 8.5 percent for current retirees, after it declared bankruptcy in 1999, yielding to years of dwindling money, mismanagement and corruption. (A previous mayor was removed from office and found guilty of neglect of duty.) The city paid off its last creditors from the bankruptcy in 2007. But its current mayor, Ronald K. Davis, never complied with an order from the bankruptcy court to begin paying $16.5 million into the pension fund to reduce its shortfall.

A lawyer representing the city, R. Scott Williams, said that the city simply did not have the money. "The reality for Prichard is that if you took money to build the pension up, who's going to pay the garbage man?" he asked. "Who's going to pay to run the police department? Who's going to pay the bill for the street lights? There's only so much money to go around."

Workers paid 5.5 percent of their salaries into the pension fund, and the city paid 10.5 percent. But the fund paid out more money than it took in, and by September 2009 there was no longer enough left in the fund to send out the $150,000 worth of monthly checks owed to the retirees. The city stopped paying its pensions. And no one stepped in to enforce the law.

The retirees, who were not unionized, sued. The city tried to block their suit by declaring bankruptcy, but a judge denied the request. The city is appealing. The retirees filed another suit, asking the city to pay at least some of the benefits they are owed. A mediation effort is expected to begin soon. Many retirees say they would accept reduced benefits.

Companies with pension plans are required by federal law to put money behind their promises years in advance, and the government can impose punitive taxes on those that fail to do so, or in some cases even seize their pension funds.

Companies are also required to protect their pension assets. So if a corporate pension fund falls below 60 cents' worth of assets for every dollar of benefits owed, workers can no longer accrue additional benefits. (Prichard was down to just 33 cents on the dollar in 2003.)

And if a company goes bankrupt, the federal government can take over its pension plan and see that its retirees receive their benefits. Although some retirees receive less than they were promised, no retiree from a federally insured plan in the private sector has come away empty-handed since the federal pension law was enacted in 1974. The law does not cover public sector workers.

Last week several dozen retirees - one using a wheelchair, some with canes - attended the weekly City Council meeting, asking for something before Christmas. Mary Berg, 61, a former assistant city clerk whose mother was once the city's zookeeper, read them the names of 11 retirees who had died since the checks stopped coming.

"I hope that on Christmas morning, when you are with your families around your Christmas trees, that you remember that most of the retirees will not be opening presents with their families," she told them.

The budget did not move forward. Mayor Davis was out of town.

"Merry Christmas!" shouted a man from the back row of the folding chairs. The retirees filed out. One woman could not hold back her tears.

After the meeting, Troy Ephriam, a council member who became chairman of the pension fund when it was nearly broke, sat in his office and recalled some of the failed efforts to put more money into the pension fund.

"I think the biggest disappointment I have is that there was not a strong enough effort to put something in there," he said. "And that's the reason that it's hard for me to look these people in the face: because I'm not certain we really gave our all to prevent this."


26) Judge Criticizes Stop-and-Frisk Police Tactics in Housing Projects
December 22, 2010

A Manhattan judge criticized the policing tactics in New York City Housing Authority developments, ruling on Tuesday that officers appeared to be routinely flouting the law by questioning people without legal justification.

The decision by acting Supreme Court Justice Analisa J. Torres barred the admission of 29 plastic bags of cocaine that the police seized last February from Jose Ventura in the lobby of the Baruch Houses on the Lower East Side.

More broadly, the court action renewed a debate about the policing tactics in public housing, including the use of "stop, question and frisk" and vertical patrols. Officers use violations of Housing Authority rules - which forbid people from being in city housing projects unless they live there or are visiting someone - to justify the stops.

In her ruling, Justice Torres cited the testimony by Police Officer Jason Del Toro, who said the police could simply question anyone they encountered inside a public housing building. The judge wrote that officers had to have a legally meaningful reason for the stop, such as the site being drug- prone.

"To the extent that Del Toro's description of vertical patrols is accurate, that in public housing the police routinely engage in random, unjustified questioning - and there is evidence that they do - the practice would amount to a systematic violation" of the court decision that spells out the legal basis for stops and questioning, Justice Torres wrote.

Officer Del Toro approached Mr. Ventura during a vertical patrol simply after spotting him and without establishing a legal reason to question him, the judge wrote. In testimony at a suppression hearing, the officer never mentioned "whether the building or the area is drug-prone," the judge wrote.

After Mr. Ventura was arrested for trespassing, a second officer discovered the cocaine.

But in her ruling, Justice Torres wrote: "No matter the location, luxurious or modest, the police must have 'some objective credible reason,' to request information about a person's residency. Officers conducting vertical patrols are not permitted to select individuals for questioning based on presence alone."

A large volume of all the street stops police officers make in New York are for trespassing, according to an analysis of police data by The New York Times. Officers cited a suspicion of trespassing 369,000 times from 2003 through March 2010, or 12 percent of all stops. But in precincts with large clusters of public housing, up to 30 percent of stops were conducted on suspicion of trespassing.

Critics say the trespassing stops are largely unwarranted. Indeed, the analysis by The Times showed that trespassing stops were far more likely than most stops to result in nothing more than an inconvenient delay. Few moved beyond the questioning stage. Two percent of stops where trespassing was suspected - about 7,000 - yielded drugs or other contraband. A total of 81 trespassing stops yielded a gun.

Fundamentally, when officers stop people to question them, they are supposed to record both a reason for the stop - like the person's having a weaponlike bulge in his pocket - and the crime that the person is suspected of having committed.

But among all trespassing stops from 2003 through March 2010, two-thirds - more than 257,000 - listed only the vague category of "other" or "furtive movements" as the reason for the stop. In a majority of those cases, the officers indicated that the stop took place in a high-crime area, which would satisfy what Justice Torres said the police needed as a minimum threshold to make a trespassing stop.

Paul J. Browne, the Police Department's chief spokesman, said the judge's decision was "not a setback" because it was consistent with new housing vertical patrol, procedures and training curriculum put in place this year.

Before making a trespass arrest, Mr. Browne said, officers are trained to ask a person: Do you live in the building? Are you visiting someone? Do you have business there? Based on the answers, and on follow-up questions, an officer might establish probable cause for an arrest, or might tell the person to leave or become satisfied that he or she can stay.

"Housing officers are trained that they must establish a reason to approach someone before questioning individuals in a housing development - for example, violations of Housing Authority rules and regulations," Mr. Browne said. "Furthermore, the judge said the officer in the Ventura case did not adequately establish reasonable suspicion or properly articulate probable cause for a trespassing arrest."

Mr. Browne said the department's new guidelines and training grew out of meetings with tenants' organizations and the city Housing Authority, and did not suggest that officers' behavior in patrolling public housing prior to the new rules was faulty.

A spokeswoman for Bridget G. Brennan, the special narcotics prosecutor, said the judge's decision was narrow and "we're not concerned that it has any precedential value."

But Steven Banks, attorney-in-chief at the Legal Aid Society, said that what Officer Del Toro "candidly admitted" in his testimony is a "serious daily occurrence." He said it encapsulated what had led his agency, the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund Inc., and a private law firm to file a federal lawsuit against the city.


27) Sentence Commuted in Racially Charged Killing
December 23, 2010

Gov. David A. Paterson announced on Thursday that he had commuted the prison sentence of a black man who fatally shot an unarmed white teenager outside the man's house in August 2006, weighing in on a case where the issue of race on Long Island became as much fodder for debate as the man's innocence or guilt.

The trial of the man, John H. White, had racial overtones, as defense lawyers suggested that the tension associated with the Deep South in the civil rights era was alive in 2006, in a New York suburb with good schools, high property values and privileged children.

Mr. White, 57, was convicted of manslaughter for shooting Daniel Cicciaro, 17, point-blank in the face after Daniel and several friends had left a party and showed up late at night at Mr. White's house in Miller Place, a predominantly white hamlet in Suffolk County.

The white teenagers had arrived to challenge Mr. White's son Aaron, then 19, to a fight. The white teenagers used threats, profanities and racial epithets outside the house. Mr. White, who had been asleep, grabbed a loaded Beretta pistol he kept in his garage.

In a statement, Mr. Paterson, who leaves office next week, said, "My decision today may be an affront to some and a joy to others, but my objective is only to seek to ameliorate the profound suffering that occurred as a result of this tragic event."

Mr. White, reached by phone at his home on Thursday night and asked for his reaction to the commutation, said, "I'm blessed and highly favored, brother."

"I thank the Lord God most of all - he's my savior," he added. "Every day I thank my savior I am alive."

Asked about the governor's decision, he said, "I won't get into all that; I'll just say that Jesus is the reason we celebrate Christmas."

Mr. White, who had served five months at an upstate New York prison for the killing, was convicted of second-degree manslaughter and of criminal possession of a weapon. He had remained free on bail during an appeal, but after the appeal was rejected, a judge gave him a sentence of 20 months to 4 years in prison, a spokeswoman for the State Division of Parole said. The maximum sentence, under legal guidelines, would have been between 4 and 11 years.

In July, Mr. White began serving his sentence at the Mount McGregor Correctional Facility, in Saratoga County. He would have been eligible for parole roughly two months after his first hearing date, next October.

Frederick K. Brewington, a defense lawyer who represented Mr. White during the trial, said a group of advocates for Mr. White made an application to Mr. Paterson for a pardon, "outlining the reasons, what the particulars were and the value to the community." He added that supporters of Mr. White had organized a letter-writing campaign to urge the governor to consider Mr. White's case.

A commutation lessens the severity of the punishment. A pardon excuses or forgives the offense itself.

At the trial, Mr. White testified that his son woke him from a deep sleep the night of the shooting, yelling that "some kids are coming here to kill me." Mr. White said he considered the angry teenagers a "lynch mob."

Mr. White said their racist language recalled the hatred he saw as a child visiting the segregated Deep South and stories of his grandfather's being chased out of Alabama in the 1920s by the Ku Klux Klan. He testified that his grandfather taught him how to shoot and bequeathed him the pistol he used.

But Mr. White said the shooting happened accidentally after he began turning to retreat and Daniel lunged at the gun.

Thomas Spota, the Suffolk County district attorney, said in a statement, "I strongly believe the governor should have had the decency and the compassion to at least contact the victim's family to allow them to be heard before commuting the defendant's sentence."

Reached at his auto body shop in Port Jefferson Station, the teenager's father, Daniel Cicciaro, reacted with annoyance when a reporter identified himself.

"Yeah, what do you need? An oil change?" he said. "We got nothing to say about it."

Mr. Brewington said that Mr. White was released from prison at 8 a.m. on Thursday, and that the White family was happy with the decision.

"They're all very thankful, particularly at this time of year for the blessings bestowed upon them and the thoughtful approach by the governor's office," Mr. Brewington said.

Mr. Paterson has granted nine pardons, three commutations and one clemency, and plans to make more pardons in immigration cases before leaving office on Dec. 31, officials in his office said Thursday.

The governor began a special clemency process in the spring intended to help permanent legal residents who were at risk of deportation because of long-ago or minor convictions. This month, he pardoned six of those immigrants, including a financial administrator at the City University of New York.

In the case of Mr. White, his lawyer, Mr. Brewington, acknowledged that race had played a big role in the trial, but he cautioned against viewing the commutation as racially based, especially because Mr. Paterson is black.

"He reviewed this matter as he reviews any other matter," he said. "People have to be careful not to fan the flames of racism. If the governor happened to be white and he commuted the sentence of a white person, would that be an issue?"

Angela Macropoulos contributed reporting.