Friday, January 14, 2011




Bay Area United Against War Newsletter
Table of Contents:




SF Bay Area Action Alert

Defend WikiLeaks, Support Bradley Manning!

Saturday, January 15 · 4:00pm - 6:30pm
Clay St and Montgomery St (map)
(across from the TransAmerica Pyramid, and the NY Times office)
San Francisco, CA

Since its release of about 2000 diplomatic cables (as of January 7th, 2011), Wikileaks has been subject to extraordinary pressures, seemingly at the behest of the US government. Amazon and EveryDNS have denied Wikileaks internet service and Visa, Mastercard, Paypal, and Bank of America have been prevented supporters from donating money to Wikileaks. This is despite the fact that Wikileaks has not even been charged with a crime. Unfortunately, the situation has gotten even worse. The press has been spreading lies about Wikileaks. Mainstream media outlets do not appear to be doing even the most rudimentary fact-checking.

Join Courage to Resist in rallying to also support accused Wikileaks whistle-blower Army PFC Bradley Manning.

Volunteers needed (Oakland, CA)

Courage to Resist has undertaken a massive project in the "Stand with Brad" public petition / statement. For each of the 6,000 signers so far, we're generating two letters to Army officials calling for the release of accused WikiLeaks whistle-blower Bradley Manning.

If you're free any weekday afternoon, we could really, really use your help. Our work space is located near Piedmont and MacArthur, a little over a mile from MacArthur BART. Please send us an email or give us a call to schedule your volunteer hours--either a single day, or an ongoing commitment, to this important campaign! Please contact us at, or 510-488-3559.

484 Lake Park Ave. #42
Oakland, CA 94610



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


(Post and Stockton Streets, by Union Square)
January 18, 2011, Tuesday, 11am-6pm

Local 2's Health and Welfare Fund Union Trustees moved 2 cents per hour (paid by the hotels in the current contract) out of the Child and Elder Care Fund into the Legal Fund. This allowed Local 2's Legal Fund to remain fully funded and keep providing critical legal services to members: evictions and foreclosures stopped, etc.

Most of the time, our Union's Legal Fund is used by our members to make legal immigration happen: citizenship, work permits, family reunification, green cards. With the assistance of Legal Fund lawyers, Local 2 members are able to reunite their families through legal sponsored immigration. For many years, this has been the heart of the Union's Legal Fund work, helping hundreds of immigrant Local 2 members and their families.


Hyatt is the only San Francisco hotel corporation which has objected to moving 2 cents per hour into the Legal Fund. Hyatt has sued Local 2, trying to cripple the Union's Legal Fund. Hyatt fully understands that the Legal Fund is used overwhelmingly by our immigrant members to pursue the dream of re-uniting their families. Hyatt is trying to punish their immigrant workers and their families. SHAME ON HYATT!


Check out our new blog!

For more information, please contact Rev. Israel Alvaran at
415-863-1142 or by email at


WEDNESDAY, JAN. 19 @ 6:30 pm
522 Valencia St. @ 16th Street)
Mission District, San Francisco

Thanks to those who came out to help plan the Jan. 25th action and movement to organize against the FBI's targeting of peace activists and ever-expanding web of political repression, Tuesday night. We had a very productive meeting and now we need your help: the planned action will take place at the Federal Building in San Francisco, in less than two weeks!

Calling all students, religious leaders and community groups and all those committed to peace, justice and equality: if your community group or organization would like to sponsor the growing local committee, please email: asap, and let us know.
Also, join us next Wed. Jan. 19th @6:30pm, to hear from local activists who are working directly with the national organizers who put out the call, and growing committee of groups fighting to defend your rights!

The meeting will take place at:
522 Valencia, Auditorium
Between 16th and 17th streets
Ring buzzer for 3rd Floor Auditorium to be let in
Space is not wheelchair accessible --
For more information see:


Join the National Day of Action:
January 25, 2011 -- from 4:30 to 6 p.m.

Protest FBI and Grand Jury Repression!

US Federal Building
90 - 7th Street
San Francisco

On September 24, the FBI raided seven Chicago and Minneapolis homes of anti-war and international solidarity activists, and 14 activists were subpoenaed to appear before the Grand Jury. All 14 refused to participate.

In December, nine more Palestine solidarity and anti-war activists were subpoenaed to appear before the Grand Jury on January 25, 2011.

Fight U.S. Government Criminalization of Anti-War Activism!

JOIN organizations and individuals around the country to Protest in San Francisco on January 25.

Bay Area Committee to Stop Political Repression

Endorsers (partial):

Asian Law Caucus, Arab Resource & Organizing Center, National Lawyers Guild SF, Council on American-Islamic Relations SFBA, Arab American Union Members Council, USPCN, American Friends Service Committee, Malcolm X Grassroots Movement, Palestine Youth Network, ANSWER Coalition, San Francisco Labor Council, Bay Area Labor Committee for Peace and Justice, American Jewish Anti-Zionist Network, International Solidarity Movement, United National Anti-War Committee, Arab American Cultural Center of Silicon Valley

Thank you for your support. Together we can overcome these unjust policies targeting our communities and join the global movement rising for justice. All for one, one for all.


Next meeting of UNAC Sunday, January 30, 1:00 P.M.
U.C. Berkeley Campus
Room to be announced


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


Are you joining us on April 8 at the Pentagon in a climate chaos protest codenamed "Operation Disarmageddon?" It has been decided that affinity groups will engage in nonviolent autonomous actions. Do you have an affinity group? Do you have an idea for an action?

So far these are some of the suggested actions:

Send a letter to Sec. of War Robert Gates demanding a meeting to disclose the Pentagon's role in destroying the planet. He will ignore the letter, so a delegation would then go to the Metro Entrance to demand a meeting.

Use crime tape around some area of the Pentagon. The idea of crime/danger taping off the building could be done just outside the main Pentagon reservation entrance (intersection of Army/Navy) making the Alexandria PD the arresting authority (if needed) and where there is no ban on photography. Hazmat suits, a 'converted' truck (or other vehicle) could be part of the street theater. The area where I am thinking is also almost directly below I-95 and there is a bridge over the intersection - making a banner drop possible. Perhaps with the hazmat/street closure at ground level with a banner from above. If possible a coordinated action could be done at other Pentagon entrances and / or other war making institutions.

A procession onto the Pentagon reservation, without reservations, and set up a camp on one of the lawns surrounding The Pentagon. This contingent would reclaim the space in the name of peace and Mother Earth. This contingent would plan to stay there until The Pentagon is turned into a 100% green building using sustainable energy employing people who work for peace and the abolishment of war and life-affirming endeavors.

Bring a potted tree to be placed on the Pentagon's property to symbolize the need to radically reduce its environmental destructiveness.

Since the Pentagon is failing to return to the taxpayers the money it has misappropriated, "Foreclose on the Pentagon."

Banner hanging from a bridge.

Hand out copies of David Swanson's book WAR IS A LIE. Try to deliver a copy to Secretary of War Robert Gates.

Have short speeches in park between Pentagon and river; nice photo with Pentagon in background.

Die-in and chalk or paint outlines of victim's bodies everywhere that remain after the arrest to point to where real crimes are really being committed.

Establish command center, Peacecom? Paxcom? Put several people in white shirts and ties plus a few generals directing their armies for "Operation Disarmageddon."

Make the linkage between the tax dollars going to the Pentagon and war tax resistance. Use the WRL pie chart and carry banners "foreclose on war" and "money for green jobs not war jobs."

Hold a rally with representative speakers before going to the Pentagon Reservation. This would be an opportunity to speak out against warmongering and the Pentagon's role in destroying the environment.

As part of "Operation Disarmageddon," we will take a tree and plant it on the reservation. Our sign reads, "Plant trees not landmines."

Use crime tape on Army/Navy Drive to declare the Pentagon a crime scene. Do street theater there as well. Other affinity groups could go to selected entrances.

Establish a Peace Command Center at the Pentagon. Hold solidarity actions at federal buildings and corporate offices.

What groups have you contacted to suggest joining us at the Pentagon? See below for those who plan to be at the Pentagon on April 8 and for what groups have been contacted.



April 8, 2011 participants

Beth Adams
Ellen Barfield
Tim Chadwick
Joy First
Jeffrey Halperin
Malachy Kilbride
Max Obuszewski
David Swanson

April 8 Outreach

Beth Adams -- Earth First, Puppet Underground, Emma's Revolution, Joe Gerson-AFSC Cambridge, Code Pink(national via Lisa Savage in Maine), Vets for Peace, FOR, UCC Justice & Witness Ministries, Traprock, Nipponzan Myohoji Buddhist Order, (National-INt'l) Vets for Peace and WILPF, Pace e Bene, Christian Peace Witness & UCC Justice & Witness (Cleveland).

Tim Chadwick -- Brandywine, Lepoco, Witness against Torture, Vets for Peace (Thomas Paine Chapter Lehigh Valley PA), and Witness for Peace DC.

Jeffrey Halperin -- peace groups in Saratoga Spring, NY

Jack Lombardo - UNAC will add April 8 2011 to the Future Actions page on our blog, and make note in upcoming E-bulletins, but would appreciate a bit of descriptive text from the organizers and contact point to include when we do - so please advise ASAP! Also, we'll want to have such an announcement for our next print newsletter, which will be coming out in mid-December.

Max Obuszewski - Jonah House & Pledge of Resistance-Baltimore

Bonnie Urfer notified 351 individuals and groups on the Nukewatch list


Endorse the call to action from the United National Antiwar Committee (UNAC)

Bring the Troops Home Now!

March and Rally

April 9th, 2011

New York City (Union Sq. at noon)and San Francisco (Time and place to be announced)

--Bring U.S. Troops 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, the Caribbean and Africa! End U.S. Aid to Israel! End U.S. Support to the Israeli Occupation of Palestine and the Siege of Gaza!

--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.

--End 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.
--Immediate end to torture, rendition, secret trials, drone bombings and death squads

To add your group's name to the endorser list, local, state or national, please contact:

United National Antiwar Committee
P.O. Box 123 Delmar, New York 12054

email you endorsement to: and cc:

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

United National Antiwar Committee (UNAC)
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
Code Pink
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
Committee to Stop FBI Repression
Middle East Children's Alliance
Tariq Ali
Dr. Margaret Flowers PNHP *
Ramsey Clark
Ambassador Syed Ahsani, Former Ambassador from Pakistan
Ahmed Shawki, editor, International Socialist Review
Ali Abunimah, Palestinian American Journalist
Alice Sturn Sutter, Washington Heights Women in Black *
Al-Awda NY: the Palestine Right to Return Coalition
American Iranian Friendship Committee
American Muslim Task Force, Dallas/Ft. Worth
Ana Edwards, Chair, Sacred Ground Historical Reclamation Project - Richmond, Va.
Anthony Arnove, Author, "Iraq: The logic of Withdrawal"
Andy Griggs, Co-chair, California Teachers Association, Peace and Justice Caucus/UTLA-retired*
B. Ross Ashley, NDP Socialist Caucus, Canada *
Bail Out the People Movement
Bay Area United Against War Newsletter
Barrio Unido, San Francisco
Bashir Abu-Manneh
Baltimore Job Is a Right Campaign
Baltimore-Washington Area Peace Council, US Peace Council Chapter
Battered Mother's Custody Conference
Bethlehem Neighbors for Peace
Blanca Misse, Student Worker Action Team/UC Berkeley, Academic Workers for Democratic Union - UAW 2865 *
Blauvelt Dominican sisters Social Justice Ministry
Bob Hernandez, Chapter President, SEIU Local 1021*
Bonnie Weinstein - Bay Area United Against Wars Newsletter
Boston Coalition for Palestinian Rights
Boston UNAC
Boston University Anti-War Coalition
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
Chesapeake Citizens
Howard Terry Adcock, Colombia Support Network, Austin (TX) , Center for Peace and Justice *
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 Swanson,
David Keil - Metro West Peace Action (MWPA) *
Defenders for Freedom, Justice & Equality - Virginia
Derrick O'Keefe, Co-chair (Vancouver)
Detroit Committee to Stop FBI/Grand Jury Repression.
Doug Bullock, Albany County Legislator
Dr. Andy Coates PNHP *
DRUM (Desis Rising Up and Moving) - New York
Elaine Brower - national steering committee of World Can't Wait 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
Haiti Liberte
Hands off Venezuela
Howie Hawkins, Co-Chair, Green Party of New York State *
IIan Pappe, Director Exeter University, European Centre for Palestine Studies
International Concerned Family and Friends of Mumia Abu-Jamal
International Socialist Organization
International support Haiti Network (ISHN)
Iraq Peace Action Coalition - Minneapolis
Italo-American Progressive Fraternal Society
Janata Dal (United), India
Jersey City Peace Movement
Jimmy Massey, Founding member of IVAW
John Pilger, Journalist and Documentary film maker
Journal Square Homeless Coalition
Justice for Fallujah Project
Karen Schieve, United Educators of San Francisco *
Kim Nguyen, Metrowest Peace Action (MWPA)*
Kwame Binta, The November Coalition
Larry Pinkvey, Black Activist Writers Guild
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 Coalition *
Los Angeles - Palestine Labor Solidarity Committee
Maggie Zhou - ClimateSOS *
Maine Veterans for Peace
Malu Aina, Hawaii
Maria Cristina Gutierrez, Exec. Director, Companeros del Barrio
Mark Roman, Waterville Area Bridges for Peace & Justice
Marlena Santoyo, Germantown Friends Meeting, Philadelphia, PA
Mary Flanagan, United Teachers of Richmond *
Masjid As-Salam Mosque, Albany, NY
Mazin Qumsiyeh
Michigan Emergency Committee Against Wars and Injustice
Mike Alewitz, Central Ct. State University *
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*
Nancy Parten, Witness For Peace *
Nellie Bailey, Harlem Tenants Council *
New Abolitionist Movement
New England United
New Jersey Labor Against War
New Socialist Project
New York City Labor Against the War
New York Collective of Radical Educators
No More Victims
Nodutdol for Korean Community Development
Northeast Peace and Justice Action Coalition
Northern California Committees of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism
Northwest Greens
Nuestro Norte Es El Sur ((NUNO-SUR) Our North is the South
Omar Barghouti, Human rights activist (Palestine)
Pakistan USA Freedom Forum
Pakistani Trade Union Defense Campaign
Palestinian Center for Rapprochement Between People
Peace Action Maine
Peace Action Montgomery
Peacemakers of Schoharie County, New York
Peace and Freedom Party
People of Faith, Connecticut
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.
Radio Free Maine
Ralph Poynter, Lynne Stewart Defense Committee
Revolutionary Workers Group
Rhode Island Mobilization Committee
Roland Sheppard, Retired Business Agent Painters Local #4, San Francisco *
Rochester Against War
Ron Jacobs, writer
Saladin Muhammad - Founding Member, Black Workers for Justice
Sarah Roche-Mahdi, Code Pink Boston*
Saratoga Peace Alliance
Senior Action Network
Seth Farber, PhD., Institute of Mind and Behavior *
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
Staten Island Council for Peace & Justice
Steve Scher, Breen Party of NYC 26 AD *
Stewart Robinson, Stop Targeting Ohio Poor *
Stop the Wars Coalition, Boston
Tarak Kauff, Veterans for Peace
The Campaign Against Sanctions & Military Intervention in Iran
The Thomas Merton Center Antiwar Committee
Twin Cities Peace Campaign
Upper Hudson Peace Action
Virginia Defender
West Hartford Citizens for Peace and Justice
WESPAC Foundation
Women against Military Madness
Women in Black, Westchester
Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, Pittsburgh
Workers International League
Workers World Party
Youth for International Socialism

To add yourself to the UNAC listserv, please send an email to:


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


Cathie Black Meets With Downtown Parents

Solution to Crowded Schools? How About Birth Control?
January 14, 2011, 4:55 pm


Wall Street Fat-Cats Flip Public Service Workers the Bird


Song for Bradley Manning


Supermax Prison Cell Extraction - Maine

Warning, this is an extremely brutal video. What do you think? Is this torture?


Rachel Maddow- New GOP scapegoat- public workers


Did You Know?


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


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


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.




Julian Assange: Why the world needs WikiLeaks




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




Hunger strike of the Lucasville Uprising prisoners - starting Monday, Jan. 3
Posted on December 25, 2010 by denverabc

Dear family members, friends and supporters of the Lucasville uprising prisoners,

Siddique Abdullah Hasan, Bomani Shakur (Keith LaMar), Jason Robb and Namir Mateen (James Were) will start a hunger strike on Monday Jan. 3 to protest their 23-hour a day lock down for nearly 18 years. These four death-sentenced prisoners have been single-celled (in solitary) in conditions of confinement significantly more severe than the conditions experienced by the approximately 125 other death-sentenced prisoners at the supermax prison, Ohio State Penitentiary in Youngstown. They are completely isolated from any direct human contact, even during "recreation". They are restricted from certain kinds of good ordering including gold weather items for the almost unbearably cold condtions in the cells. They are denied access to computer databases they need in order to prepare their appeals. It has been made clear to them that the outcome of their annual "security level reviews" is pretermined, as one reads, "...regardless of your behavior while confined at OSP."
Prisoners whose death sentences were for heinous crimes are able to win privileges based on good behavior, but not the death-sentenced Lucasville uprising prisoners.

Meanwhile out in the world, the U.S. Supreme Court has granted additional due process rights to some of the Gauantanamo prisoners, some death-sentenced prisoners have been exonerated or had their sentences commuted, an evidentiary hearing was ordered for Troy Anthony Davis, and prisoners in Georgia are engaging in a non-violent strike for improvements in a wide range of conditions. So the four death-sentenced Lucasville uprising prinsoners have decided that being punished by the worst conditions allowable under the law has gone far enough, especially since their convictions were based on perjured testimony. They are innocent! They were wrongfully convicted! They are political prisoners. This farce has gone on far too long and their executions loom in the not too distant future. These brave men are ready to take another stand. We ask that you get ready to support them.

The hunger strike will proceed in an organized manner, with one prisoner, probably Bomani Shakur starting on Jan.3. The hunger strike becomes official after he has refused 9 meals. Therefore the plan is that 3 days later, Siddiquie Abdullah Hasan will start his hunger strike and 3 days later, Jason Robb will follow. Namir Mateen has a great willingness to participate and plans to take part to the extent that his diabetes will allow.

On the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Saturday, Jan. 15, we will be holding a press conference about the hunger strike and other issues pertaining to Ohio State Penitentiary. Details of time and location are being worked out. There will very likely be a brief rally near the gates of OSP, as we have in previous years to honor Dr. King, to protest the death penalty and to protest the farce of the Lucasville uprising convictions. There will probably be one or more vans and/or a car caravan to OSP for the event. Stay tuned for more information.

Please forward this email to other people you think would be interested, here in Ohio, around the country and around the world.

the Lucasville Uprising Freedom Network


Call for EMERGENCY RESPONSE Action if Assange Indicted,

Dear Friends:

We write in haste, trying to reach as many of you as possible although the holiday break has begun.......This plan for an urgent "The Day After" demonstration is one we hope you and many, many more organizations will take up as your own, and mobilize for. World Can't Wait asks you to do all you can to spread it through list serves, Facebook, twitter, holiday gatherings.

Our proposal is very very simple, and you can use the following announcement to mobilize - or write your own....


An emergency public demonstration THE DAY AFTER any U.S. criminal indictment is announced against Wikileaks founder Julian Assange. Spread the word and call people to come out, across the whole range of movements and groups: anti-war, human rights, freedom of information/freedom of the press, peace, anti-torture, environmental, students and youth, radicals and revolutionaries, religious, civil liberties, teachers and educators, journalists, anti-imperialists, anti-censorship, anti-police state......

At the Federal Building in San Francisco, we'll form ourselves into a human chain "surrounding" the government that meets the Wikileaked truth with repression and wants to imprison and silence leakers, whistleblowers and truthtellers - when, in fact, these people are heroes. We'll say:


New Federal Building, 7th and Mission, San Francisco (nearest BART: Civic Center)
4:00-6:00 PM on The Day FOLLOWING U.S. indictment of Assange

Bring all your friends - signs and banners - bullhorns.

Those who dare at great risk to themselves to put the truth in the hands of the people - and others who might at this moment be thinking about doing more of this themselves -- need to see how much they are supported, and that despite harsh repression from the government and total spin by the mainstream media, the people do want the truth told.

Brad Manning's Christmas Eve statement was just released by his lawyer: "Pvt. Bradley Manning, the lone soldier who stands accused of stealing millions of pages secret US government documents and handing them over to secrets outlet WikiLeaks, wants his supporters to know that they've meant a lot to him. 'I greatly appreciate everyone's support and well wishes during this time,' he said in a Christmas Eve statement released by his lawyer...." Read more here:

Demonstrations defending Wikileaks and Assange, and Brad Manning, have already been flowering around the world. Make it happen here too.
Especially here . . .

To join into this action plan, or with questions, contact World Can't Wait or whichever organization or listserve you received this message from.

World Can't Wait, SF Bay


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

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 make a generous contribution to her defense.


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,


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


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!


Support the troops who refuse to fight!


D. ARTICLES IN FULL (Unless otherwise noted)


1) Illinois Legislators Approve 66% Tax Increase
January 12, 2011

2) Army Called In as Tunisian Protests Hit Capital
January 12, 2011

3) Winds of Change
By Bonnie Weinstein
January 13, 2011

4) DANGER: 'Food Safety' Is Coming To a Farm Near You!
By Chris Kinder
January 13, 2011

5) Tunisian Rioters Overwhelm Police Near Capital
January 13, 2011

6) The Tragic State of the Gulf of Mexico: Sampling Reveals Oil and Dispersants on Mississippi Coast
Dahr Jamail and Erika Blumenfeld
[Note: This is a link only in order to accommodate the very important and informative photographs by Erika]
Wednesday 12 January 2011

7) Agency Revokes Permit for Major Coal Mining Project
January 13, 2011

8) Cuban Exile Lied to U.S., Prosecutor Tells Texas Jury
January 12, 2011

9)Secret government informer "Karen Sullivan" infiltrated Minnesota activist groups
By Nick Pinto
Protest News
Wed., Jan. 12 2011 @ 12:59PM

10) Cuban website accuses Google of censoring its YouTube channel
Jan 13, 2011, 20:33 GMT

11) Aggressive FBI Interrogation of US Teen in Kuwait Raises Concerns
By Daphne Eviatar, Senior Associate, Law and Security

12) Accused Soldier in Brig as WikiLeaks Link Is Sought
January 13, 2011

13) A Tale of Two Moralities
[Question: How can a government coined "the greatest purveyor of violence in the world," by Martin Luther King, Jr.,"...declare that both violence and any language hinting at the acceptability of violence are out of bounds..." within the U.S.? Violence, torture, war, preemptive war, drone attacks, rendition, police violence, mass incarceration, FBI raids on social justice and peace groups is the modus operandi of the U.S. government. How can they claim to be on the side of "peaceful solutions?"]
January 13, 2011

14) Haiti: Quake's Toll Rises to 316,000
January 13, 2011

15) JPMorgan's Quarterly Profit Rises 47% to $4.8 Billion
"The bank earned $4.8 billion in the final three months of 2010... In mortgage banking quarterly profit rose 117 percent to $577 million."
January 14, 2011, 7:16 am

16) Broad Racial Disparities Seen in Americans' Ills
January 13, 2011

17) Naomi Klein: Hunting the Ocean for BP's Missing Millions of Barrels of Oil
By Naomi Klein, The Nation
Posted on January 13, 2011, Printed on January 15, 2011

18) Twitter Is Hero as Feds Attempt to Trample WikiLeaks' Free Speech
By Ida Hartmann, AlterNet
Posted on January 15, 2011, Printed on January 15, 2011

19) Philly police beating stirs storm of protest
The movement to demand justice for Askia Sabur is holding its third protest on Friday, Sept. 17, 5 p.m., at 55th and Lansdowne in Philadelphia; march to 19th District police headquarters at 61st and Thompson to demand the removal of all officers involved!
by Boyce Watkins, PhD
Posted By admin On September 14, 2010 @ 6:37 pm In California and the U.S. | 32 Comments

20) John Pilger's Investigation Into the War on WikiLeaks and His Interview With Julian Assange
By John Pilger
Friday 14 January 2011

21) U.S. Bills States $1.3 Billion in Interest Amid Tight Budgets
January 14, 2011

22) Restrictions on Travel to Cuba Are Eased
January 14, 2011

23) Homeland Security Cancels ‘Virtual Fence’ After $1 Billion Is Spent
January 14, 2011

24) Sheriff Charged in Texas Whistle-Blowing Case
January 14, 2011

25) Groups Demand Withdrawal of Medicaid Fraud Lawsuit
January 14, 2011

26) Acquittal After Reporting Black Doll Head on Police Car
January 14, 2011

27) Solution to Crowded Schools? How About Birth Control?
Tribeca Trib via Youtube [See end of this article to watch]
January 14, 2011, 4:55 pm

28) Germany Bans 934 More Farms in Dioxin Scare
January 15, 2011

27) Solution to Crowded Schools? How About Birth Control?
January 14, 2011, 4:55 pm
[See end of this article to watch video. Also, for those who may not know, Cathie Black, media executive and head of Hearst Magazines (Cosmopolitan, Esquire, Harper’s Bazaar, Popular Mechanics, and O, The Oprah Magazine) has been appointed New York City Schools Chancellor by Mayor Michael Bloomberg. "...she is respectfully known among those who have worked with her as unsentimental, cutthroat and unafraid of confrontation."*]
And for your further information:
*Who is Cathie Black
By Jon Schuppe
DNAinfo Reporter/Producer
November 9, 2010

28) Bradley Manning Support Network Supporters Newsletter
Exposing War Crimes Is Not A Crime!
January 15, 2010
Issue: 2.2
The Bradley Manning Support Network is an ad hoc, international grassroots effort to help accused whistle blower Pfc. Bradley Manning.
VIA Email

30) Reaching Out to the Cuban People
The White House
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release
January 14, 2011
Reaching Out to the Cuban People


1) Illinois Legislators Approve 66% Tax Increase
January 12, 2011

CHICAGO - With only hours left before new state lawmakers were to take over, Illinois's State Legislature narrowly approved early on Wednesday an increase of about 66 percent in the state's income tax rate.

The vast size of the increase, the rarity of such increases here - the last one came two decades ago - and the hour of the vote (in the wee hours of Wednesday) all reflected the urgency and depth of this state's fiscal crisis.

Even grudging supporters of the tax increase, which won no Republican support in a state capital controlled by Democrats, voiced a desperate sense of regret over the circumstances in which Illinois finds itself. State Representative Elaine Nekritz, a Democrat who voted for the increase, described her decision as an alternative "between bad and worse." Another Democrat cautioned his colleagues: "We don't have a better choice today."

Many states are struggling with anemic revenues and the prospect of an end to additional federal funds, but Illinois faces a budget deficit of as much as $15 billion, owes some $8 billion in unpaid bills to social service agencies, doctors, dentists and others, and is receiving mounting signs of worry from bond investors.

Under the legislation, the income tax rate would, at least temporarily, rise to 5 percent from its current rate of 3 percent. Lawmakers had talked about an even steeper increase, but set that aside as the hours went by and the debate grew increasingly emotional. The rate for corporate taxes would rise to 7 percent from its current rate of 4.8 percent. As part of the deal, the state's spending growth would be limited from one year to the next over the next four years.

Gov. Patrick J. Quinn, a Democrat whose signature would be needed to make any rate increase final, has indicated in the past he believes a tax increase is necessary.

The tax hike irked Republicans in Springfield, the state capital, and business owners around the state. Again and again, Republicans argued that the state needed to make significant spending cuts to solve its deficit before it even began considering a tax increase.

On the Statehouse floor on Tuesday night, Roger L. Eddy, a Republican representative, said that lawmakers were essentially "making up for our mistakes" on the backs of taxpayers, while one state senator called it a "train wreck." Representative David Reis, another Republican, warned of the "sucking sound" he imagined would now be heard of businesses leaving the Illinois.

The fallout of the vote remains to be seen: Will Illinois businesses really now flock to neighbors Wisconsin and Indiana as opponents have suggested? Will the increase impress investors and quickly improve the state's sunken bond rating? And, perhaps most of all, will the change be enough to turn around the financial woes of a state where the deficit has grown to the size of half of the annual general fund?

Democrats, who control the state's House of Representatives and Senate, had been racing to push through the tax increase before noon on Wednesday, when legislators elected in November arrive in Springfield and a new legislative session begins.

In the new session, Democrats will continue to control both chambers, but their margins will shrink. Some leading Democrats viewed this as the only time when such a politically difficult vote might be possible: a moment when departing legislators need not fret over how voters might react.

In the House, where until noon on Wednesday Democrats hold 70 seats, the bill passed 60 to 57. In the Senate, which had shown earlier willingness to raise taxes, the measure passed 30 to 29 in a vote that was tallied after 1 a.m. Central time.


2) Army Called In as Tunisian Protests Hit Capital
January 12, 2011

TUNIS - Clouds of tear gas floated up this city's cafe-lined main boulevard on Wednesday as troops swarmed onto downtown streets to tamp down the first major protests to hit the capital since rioting and demonstrations began three weeks ago.

The government fired the country's interior minister over the violent clashes, which have shaken the government and left 21 dead. The government has also said it would release some of those arrested during the recent riots, but it was not clear whether any had been freed.

Riots over poverty and unemployment stemming from the country's dire economic situation were unleashed last month after a young unemployed man set himself on fire. The government is scrambling to try to contain the mounting unrest, with some of the worst protests the country has witnessed in decades.

The Tunisian army filled the streets around the National Party headquarters and television broadcasting facilities here in the capital on Wednesday, and security forces used tear gas to break up demonstrations near the French Embassy. Anger against the country's leaders ran high.

"They say the people are terrorists, but they are the real terrorists," said Ala Djebali, an 18-year-old student who had taken refuge in a train station near the embassy.

Armed police violently confronted demonstrators who gathered in three separate neighborhoods around the capital , sweeping up suspected protesters as businesses shut their doors and pedestrians fled. Witness said snipers fired on the crowds and that several had been hit.

"How can you fire on your own people?" said a 30-year-old business owner who was protesting downtown and declined to provide his name for fear of reprisals. "If you do that, then there is no return. Now you are a killer."

In previous protests, riot police had used live ammunition to disperse the crowds, resulting in deaths.

Demonstrators railed against government corruption, a lack of jobs and the perceived self-enrichment of the president and his family. In Sfax, the nation's second largest city, workers called a general strike.

In a region full of police states, Tunisia is considered by far the most repressive. Tunisian rights activists said the police have been arresting opposition figures in their homes. Radhia Nasraoui, head of a group that opposes torture, said the police had arrested her husband, Hamma Hammémi, chief of the Communist Party, who in recent days has given several interviews to French news media about the demonstrations.

"He explained that the regime has lost all legitimacy so we were expecting this," Ms. Nasraoui said Wednesday after her husband's arrest. She showed a reporter the broken down door of their apartment. "It is kidnapping."

Social media sites are also believed to have played a roll in helping protesters to organize, and the government reportedly directed Internet service providers to provide information on the accounts of individual users.

The State Department expressed concern about intrusions into the privacy of Tunisian customers of American companies like Facebook, Yahoo and Google. The United Nations secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, urged restraint and respect for freedom of expression.

On Monday, the government ordered the closing of all schools and universities until further notice in an attempt to quell the unrest.

Mona El-Naggar contributed reporting from Cairo, and J. David Goodman from New York.


3) Winds of Change
By Bonnie Weinstein
January 13, 2011

In spite of the fact that working people are taking huge economic hits while corporate profits are soaring, there is a fightback beginning. Workers, students and even prisoners are taking action indicating that a deep radicalization is taking place.

Corporate profits soar

In a November 23, New York Times article by Catherine Rampell titled, "Corporate Profits Were the Highest on Record Last Quarter":

"...the tax benefits will flow most heavily to the highest earners, just as the original cuts did when they were passed in 2001 and 2003. At least a quarter of the tax savings will go to the wealthiest 1 percent of the population...

"The wealthiest Americans will also reap tax savings from the proposal's plan to keep the cap on dividend and capital gains taxes at 15 percent, well below the highest rates on ordinary income...

"In fact, the only groups likely to face a tax increase are those near the bottom of the income scale-individuals who make less than $20,000 and families with earnings below $40,000."

And, the new tax package will continue to guarantee the transfer of wealth from the poor to the wealthy elite. In a December 7, 2010 New York Times article by David Kocieniewski, titled, "Tax Package Will Aid Nearly All, Especially Highest Earners":

"...the tax benefits will flow most heavily to the highest earners, just as the original cuts did when they were passed in 2001 and 2003. At least a quarter of the tax savings will go to the wealthiest one percent of the population."

Decertifying state employee unions

If this were not bad enough, signs of worse things to come were outlined in an article that appeared December 12, 2010 in the Leader-Telegram Eau Claire Now, a small newspaper from Chippewa Valley, Wisconsin, titled, "State Labor Unions now Facing Reality of Benefit Costs," by Tom Giffey.

"After angering rail advocates by rejecting $810 million in federal funds for a high-speed line from Milwaukee to Madison, Gov.-elect Scott Walker seems intent on picking a fight with state employees. Last week, the incoming Republican even suggested moving to decertify state employee unions in an effort to cut workers' benefits and save the state money."

The article goes on:

"In an era of chronic budget shortfalls and double-digit health cost increases, overly generous public employee benefits are no longer reasonable or sustainable. Walker is on the right track when he suggests state workers should pay 12 percent of their health costs and make five percent pension contributions-moves that would save the state $154 million in only six months."

And what of a labor fightback? The article continues:

"Beginning in 2009, state workers have taken what amounts to a three percent pay cut because of mandatory furlough days. And Friday, the Wisconsin State Employees Union voted for a no-pay-increase contract that included eight furlough days annually as well as increased payments toward healthcare and retirement."

While the economic news is dismal and on the surface there doesn't seem to be much fight left in U.S. workers, the signs point in another direction; to a growing consciousness among workers, especially, students-even prisoners buried in the U.S. prison industrial complex-that their struggles are the same and they face the same enemy.

Georgia prisoners show the way

Beginning on December 9, 2010 according to an article titled, "Thousands of Georgia Prisoners go on Strike," by "Anonymous," published December 10, 2010, that appeared on Infoshop News1, in an unprecedented action organized through contraband cell-phones between prisons, prison inmates across Georgia united and refused to work. These are their demands.

"No more slavery: Injustice in one place is injustice to all. Inform your family to support our cause. Lock down for liberty!

"A living wage for work: In violation of the 13th Amendment to the Constitution prohibiting slavery and involuntary servitude, the Department Of Corrections (DOC) demands prisoners work for free.

"Educational opportunities: For the great majority of prisoners, the DOC denies all opportunities for education beyond the GED, despite the benefit to both prisoners and society.

"Decent healthcare: In violation of the 8th Amendment prohibition against cruel and unusual punishments, the DOC denies adequate medical care to prisoners, charges excessive fees for the most minimal care and is responsible for extraordinary pain and suffering.

"An end to cruel and unusual punishments: In further violation of the 8th Amendment, the DOC is responsible for cruel prisoner punishments for minor infractions of rules.

"Decent living conditions: Georgia prisoners are confined in over-crowded, substandard conditions, with little heat in winter and oppressive heat in summer.

"Nutritional meals: Vegetables and fruit are in short supply in DOC facilities while starches and fatty foods are plentiful.

"Vocational and self-improvement opportunities: The DOC has stripped its facilities of all opportunities for skills training, self-improvement and proper exercise.

"Access to families: The DOC has disconnected thousands of prisoners from their families by imposing excessive telephone charges and innumerable barriers to visitation.

"Just parole decisions: The Parole Board capriciously and regularly denies parole to the majority of prisoners despite evidence of eligibility."

Originally scheduled as a one-day strike, it spread to more than seven prisons in Georgia and while some prisoners have returned to work, the strike is continuing.

The most powerful and encouraging aspect of this largest prison strike in U.S. history is that the inmates, in spite of previous deep divisions between them, have unified and are acting in solidarity with each other. Black, Latino and white inmates have put aside their differences to demand humane treatment for all.

In addition, their actions have been carried out peacefully. This is no prison riot, but a conscious, clearly thought-out plan of democratically decided mass-action, albeit within the prison walls of one of the most repressive states in the country. They simply refused to leave their cells or to report to work, exercising the most powerful tool working people have-the right to withhold their labor.

Of course, the prison's response has been to place the prison population in "lock-down" in spite of the fact that the prisoners already, in essence, "locked themselves down." There have also been widespread reports of beatings by prison officials of those thought to be the leaders of these united actions.

Nothing to lose but their chains

It's hard to fathom what could make these prisoners-already incarcerated, tortured, deprived and seemingly helpless-to be so bold as to plan and carry out such a massive and effective action. Why are they able to organize such a fightback under the worst conditions of incarceration; locked behind bars without any weapons of self-defense against their well-armed jailers; many with no hope of ever getting out of prison; many who are undoubtedly innocent of the crimes they have been jailed for; how is it they can take such action when workers on the outside appear to cave in to the bosses-their economic jailers?

There is an explanation. The prisoners have nothing to lose and a chance of something to gain while the prisoners on the outside, the majority of the U.S. working class, still have much to lose, although they are now losing those things at breakneck speed.

There is also a great divide in consciousness between those workers who still have jobs, credit cards, etc. and those who have already had to forfeit those things to unemployment and foreclosure; or those poorer workers-youth especially-who have never had any job security, let alone credit cards2.

As Gov.-elect Scott Walker's suggestion of decertifying state employee unions in Wisconsin shows, the economy promises to get much worse for the working class. But there are strong signs that a major change is in the air. The Georgia prison strike is one of these signs.

Students on the rise

Students are also beginning to take matters into their own hands. In fact, students in the San Francisco Bay Area recently issued a solidarity letter to Georgia inmates that expresses the basic human instinct that workers' solidarity is power:

"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.'"

Students and workers unite

In the massive student strikes in England recently, similar sentiments were expressed by the striking students in support of striking transit workers. At a Coalition of Resistance National Conference Youth, Students and Education Workshop that took place November 27, 2010 in Camden, London, a 15-year-old student said:

"We are no longer that post-ideological generation; we are no longer that generation that doesn't care. We are no longer that generation that's prepared to sit back and take whatever they give us. We are now the generation at the heart of the fightback. We are now the generation that will stand with everyone who's fighting back. The most inspiring thing, I think, was that just after Wednesday hundreds of people joined the Facebook group-school students-joined the Facebook group in solidarity with RMT (Rail Maritime and Transport) members on strike. Those are people that previously thought tube strikes were something annoying because they stopped you getting into school, now they think they've got to link arms and fight back with everyone. So we want to show solidarity with everyone who's fighting back. We hope you'll show solidarity with us and send a strong message to this government that they can't throw their cuts at us. We're going to stand up and we're going to fightback!"3

And, according to a December 20, 2010 Guardian article by Peter Walker titled, "Students Win Trade Union Support for Tuition Fees Protest" the sentiment expressed by the students has been reciprocated:

"Students protesting against increased tuition fees and cuts to education spending have won pledges of trade union support ahead of their next demonstration in London on January 294, [2011].

"The fourth national protest, organized by the National Campaign Against Cuts and Fees and the Education Activist Network, will be the first since the chaotic scenes in the center of the capital on December 9, the day MPs voted in favor of the bill allowing tuition fees of up to £9,000 a year.

"...The two organizing groups asked unions to assist in 'a united struggle to defend education.'

"Paul Kenny, the general secretary of the GMB union, replied: 'Can I express complete support for the call for opposition to the disgraceful and immoral attacks on access to education which these latest fee rates represent? It was bad enough having tuition fees to start with, but these attacks-dressed up as being required because of the banking crisis-really are immoral.'

"Len McCluskey, the new leader of Unite, said unions had been 'put on the spot' by the student demonstrations. 'Their mass protests against the tuition fees increase have refreshed the political parts a hundred debates, conferences and resolutions could not reach,' he said."5

Freedom's just another word for nothing else to lose

Clearly, workers, including prison inmates at the bottom rung of the economic ladder, and students, in the U.S. and across the globe, are quickly realizing that they are running out of things to lose!


4) DANGER: 'Food Safety' Is Coming To a Farm Near You!
By Chris Kinder
January 13, 2011

Agribusiness is the real disease

So, the U.S. government says it wants to radically improve the safety of food in the U.S., so that the eats here will be "the safest in the world." And if you believe that, I've got a ... well, you know the one about that bridge in Brooklyn.

Of course improving food safety sounds good to everyone, which is one reason the new bill on that subject is scurrying through Congress as we speak. (By the time you read this, it will probably have zipped across Obama's desk and be signed into law.) And it's not as though there is no cause for alarm on the question of safe food. Several huge recalls in recent years have been necessary due to E coli and Salmonella contaminations of foods such as peanut butter, ground beef, produce, and most recently four billion eggs (the largest egg recall ever).

It's a corporate "Food Safety"

But the bill-The Food Safety Modernization Act-only puts a band-aid on the gaping wound that is big agribusiness. It is in fact counterproductive, because its real purpose is to prop up the huge corporate monopolies, which are a central component of U.S. capitalism and imperialism, and whose mega mono-cropping operations, are the source of all the major food contaminations (as well as the source of other non-food disease vectors, such as the "swine flu" virus). The bill will add unnecessary burdens on the expanding small organic farm operations and small slaughterhouses, which operate more sustainably, produce healthier as well as safer food, and are more productive (in terms of overall output) than big mono-cropping.

Generally what the bill does is require registration of food producing operations and more paper work and reporting on the part of operators; and it jacks up the power of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to inspect and track foods. Operators of "food facilities" will be required to evaluate hazards, implement appropriate controls, monitor the performance of the controls, and "maintain records of such monitoring."1 Superficially, this sounds good, but it's a one size fits all "solution" that could drive small operators out of business. Small Farm lobbyists and advocates have been arguing for an exemption for small producers, and finally an amendment-the Tester Amendment-was added to the bill. This would exclude farmers who sell less than $500,000 worth of food per-year from the more onerous paperwork and compliance burdens found in the bill. But this amount refers to gross sales, not profits, and it is not indexed to inflation, which could easily skyrocket soon. "In fact," says Mike Adams, editor of Natural News and a virulent opponent of the bill, "a single family farm with just four people could easily sell $500,000 worth of fresh produce a year right now."2

Big agribusiness interests supported this bill-and paid for it with heavy contributions to both Democrats and Republicans-despite the Tester amendment (not without some grumbling of course), knowing all the while that it will help cripple organic farms. This is an echo from the early Twentieth Century, when the 1906 publication of Upton Sinclair's, The Jungle, put a spotlight on monstrous scandals in the Chicago-based meat packing industry, and prompted reform bills in Congress. The big capitalists opposed the reforms, until they were convinced that the proposed bill would help them eliminate their smaller competitors.

Measures already being taken are scarier than the bill

But so far, we are just scratching the surface of the current food safety debate. The point here is not to support the small capitalist producer or farm operation over the large necessarily, but to examine the agricultural practices that can and should be applied to solve the world's food safety as well as food security problems. For starters, what is much scarier than the Food Safety bill itself are the measures, which big producers are taking now-many of which are forced on them by distribution and marketing companies for whom they are the suppliers-in order to prevent contamination. This gets to the heart of the difference between the organic farm and large mono-cropping operations: natural conditions and biological controls versus a fruitless and environmentally destructive quest for perfect sterility.

A stark example: one farmer "planted hedges of fennel and flowering cilantro around his organic fields in the Pajaro Valley near Watsonville to harbor beneficial insects, an alternative to pesticides. He has since ripped out such plants because his big customers demand sterile buffers."3 The "Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement," written by a small group of the largest growers, suggests that farmers maintain a 30-foot buffer zone of bare ground between grazing land and row crops. Bagged lettuce distributor Fresh Express has a much stricter set of demands. It requires its suppliers to maintain a several hundred-foot barrier around grazing lands, and 150 feet of bare ground around waterways, which means tearing up and destroying all living things in riparian environments!

Ironically, some government agencies, as in Salinas Valley in California for instance, have been encouraging farmers for years to use more sustainable land management practices, such as planting hedgerows, creating storm water ponds, using off-season cover crops, and constructing wetlands to both protect the environment and help prevent salt-water contamination of the aquifer. But now a 2007 survey in Monterey County found that 40 percent of farmers on the California Central Coast have removed wildlife from their fields, and 30 percent have eliminated non-crop vegetation from their farms. Others are bulldozing ponds and waterways to meet the new sterility requirements. Farmers have lost the ability to market crops because of deer tracks being found in the field, or because frogs and tadpoles were discovered in a nearby creek (despite the fact that these animals are not found to carry virulent E coli strains)4.

The real cause of disease

The Food Safety bill completely ignores the real causes of disease in the food production system: the huge concentrations of animals who are filled with antibiotics and growth hormones, and spend their whole lives crushed together and standing in their own feces; as well as large single-crop operations that depend on chemical fertilizers and increasingly ineffective pesticides. These huge, concentrated operations are much more likely to cause massive outbreaks of disease, since the contamination of just one plant or animal can so easily spread to all the others, thus infecting whole product lines nationally or internationally in just one incident.

Although productive in terms of cranking out huge amounts of one product, these operations are extremely damaging to the soil and the environment. Mono-cropping depletes the top soil, and huge slaughterhouses, instead or treating animal waste and waste animal parts for use as fertilizers, simply deposit fecal and other waste matter in huge holding ponds or dumps which are loaded with toxic chemicals and crawling with a zoo full of dangerous microbes.

According to one observer of the California Central Valley,

"... huge confined animal feeding operations (CAFOs) run by agribusiness [are] destroying family farmers, polluting the water supply and air, and creating health problems. The family farmers... cannot understand why no government agencies or politicians take any actions to enforce water, air and health laws and regulations. Little do they know that agribusiness (corporation agriculture) is one of the most powerful entities in the U.S. I have driven past a huge cattle feed lot in the Central Valley of California on Interstate Highway 5 and could smell the stench of animal feces five miles away."5

Hog farms: pollution and "Superbugs"

These operations can pollute whole communities. A hog farm concentration in the State of Vera Cruz in Mexico-principally a Smithfield plant (Smithfield is the largest hog producer in the world)-is widely and justifiably blamed as the source of the H1N1 "swine flu" virus. Residents of the town of La Gloria complained for years of the smelly pig breeding farms that attracted hordes of flies and made people sick. Many developed flu-like symptoms. Finally, government workers arrived to test for disease, and eventually found swine flu virus.6

Hog farms like these, as well as cattle operations and "dark house" chicken breeding are connected to the spread of "superbugs," antibiotic resistant strains which evolve in industrial agricultural concentrations in which animals are regularly injected with antibiotics, as a preventative measure, whether they're sick or not. In a few years, microbes evolve a resistance, become more virulent, and require more and stronger antibiotics to combat them. Seventy percent of all antibiotics in the U.S. are used to "treat" healthy livestock, according to a study by the Union of Concerned Scientists. More antibiotics are fed to livestock in North Carolina alone than to humans in the entire U.S. "Routine use of antibiotics to raise livestock is widely seen as a major reason for the rise of superbugs."7 Antibiotic resistant microbes such as these have caused a drastic decline in the effectiveness of antibiotics in general-a growing human health threat.

The big picture

The observant reader may have noticed that we have strayed somewhat from the strict confines of the FDA "Food Safety" bill by talking about meat production, which is regulated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (not the FDA) and inspected by the USDA's Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS). But it's all part of the same big picture, as shown by the USDA's proposed "National Animal Identification System" (NAIS), which would require-again-registration of all operators, and the ID tagging of all animals.

The implementation of NAIS threatens the small producers of organic foods, including fruits and vegetables as well as meat sources, because the tagging requirements could drive them out of business by adding expensive processes, while large operators get away with tagging herds of animals rather than individual animals. And again, the point here is not to support small capitalists against large, but to show how the system as a whole is dominated by monopolists who use unsustainable methods which are rapidly destroying agriculture itself, when the organic methods developed by many small farmers here and abroad are what is needed for the future of human food production as well as the environment.

If we accept that the big picture of food safety is really about how the whole system works, and not just about a few new rules and regulations that the FDA may or may not enforce properly, then we can proceed to a list of problems in the food production system that illustrate what some of the real dangers for the environment as well as food safety and security really are. None of these issues are addressed by the FDA, USDA, or the "Food Safety" bill:

• Fertilizer: Plants require nitrogen in the soil to grow. But mono-cropping raids the soil of nitrogen, and requires artificial inputs, in the form of chemicals. Much of the nitrogen from these chemicals does not get used by the plants however; it gets flushed into waterways as run-off. It floats down the river systems to the ocean, where it creates "dead zones." The flood of nitrogen fuels the algae, which grows explosively, sucking up oxygen in the process. This creates huge areas in which nothing else can live, thus helping to destroy the ocean food supply. Such "dead zones" exist around the deltas of all major river systems, totaling perhaps 400 worldwide.

• Pesticides, and the example of the bees: Chemical pesticides are in widespread use throughout capitalist agriculture, to the great detriment of the agricultural workers, food safety and consumers. But there couldn't be a better example of this devastation than the plight of honeybees.

Honeybee "Colony Collapse Disorder" has been trumpeted in the press as a great mystery, and a great problem for agriculture. Problem it is, but mystery it ain't. Honeybees are grown in colonies and are essential for pollination of many crops, including large monoculture crops, which require pollination for a few weeks in the growing season. But the scorched earth methods of agribusiness leave no other plants for honeybees to live on during the rest of the year. That's where migratory bee keeping comes in, as truckloads of stacked beehives crisscross the country.

The only natural foods for honeybees comes from the nectars and pollens they collect, but today's beekeepers commonly feed their honey bees artificial syrups and patties made out of high fructose corn syrup, which are much less nutritious. And today's beekeepers use fungicides, pesticides and herbicides in and around the hives. They say they have no choice, because bees are increasingly infected with diseases and parasites. But bees are weakened by a number of factors, including the stress of traveling, in which they have trouble with temperature control of the hive, as well as few or no natural food sources at their destinations.

The honeybee's problems are many

But the bees' problems don't stop there. The natural process of bee reproduction involves a queen bee, who is inseminated by several drone bees in the air, following which she returns to the hive and produces offspring by laying eggs for several years. However, today's beekeepers have a different plan. Every year or two they crush the reigning queen and introduce a queen they have purchased. The new queen has been shipped across the country and inseminated from decapitated drones, in an effort to build certain desirable traits. After this treatment, are we supposed to wonder why the offspring can't find the way back to their hives?

As the honeybee colonies have grown weaker, the beekeepers fight back with chemicals, including organophosphates banned in other countries. The herbicides, fungicides and insecticides used around colonies are tested on adult bees, but the effects on newly hatched bee larvae, through chemical residues in the beeswax, honey and pollen, is only beginning to be studied.8 With all of these assaults on their colonies and lives, bee survival is amazing if it happens at all. Yet bees are critical to the pollination of so many plants that their functional extinction would be a major devastation to agriculture, which in turn could easily collapse world food supplies.

• GMOs: Genetic modification of crops (and animal treatments) is likely the single greatest threat to food safety and security on the planet today. Rather than being concerned, the government has promoted it. Use of GMOs was conceived as a way for big U.S. corporations, principally Monsanto, to take over world food markets. Working with the George W. Bush administration, and in conjunction with the corrupt accounting firm Arthur Anderson (which was later brought down in the Enron scandal), Monsanto conceived a world in which 100 percent of all seeds would be genetically modified and patented, thus allowing them to seize power over farmers everywhere as well as replacing nature itself. This strategy was promoted and given de-regulatory support through a Council on Competitiveness, headed by Dan Quayle. Later, the Clinton administration was also supportive in efforts to use this new technology to boost U.S. exports and monopolize food markets.

The FDA, which now (allegedly) is so concerned about food safety, also helped considerably, by ruling in 1992 that GM crops are "generally recognized as safe" (GRAS). But in order to be GRAS, a substance must be approved by an overwhelming consensus among the scientific community. Not only was this not done, but individual FDA scientists were objecting vociferously. Subsequently revealed internal FDA memos show that the overwhelming consensus among the agency scientists was that GM crops can have unpredictable, hard-to-detect side effects, including allergies, toxins, nutritional effects, and new diseases.9

Government of, by and for the big corporations

But this is a government of, by and for big corporations like Monsanto, so the FDA changed its own criteria to a totally unregulated "consultation" process in which the company assures the FDA that its products are safe, and the FDA simply repeats those assurances in an official letter! We can be assured, however, that nothing has changed today: the FDA will enforce the new "food safety" bill with the same deference to big agribusiness as it shows to Monsanto, while directing most its fire at smaller producers with no clout in Washington.

Actual food safety issues due to GM crops and animal treatments are mounting, though the full potential effects are still mostly unknown. Known effects range from sheep and buffalo in India that grazed on Bt [Bacillus thuringiensis toxins used on crops as a pesticide] cotton plants and died by the thousands, animals who died or suffered infertility or weakened immune systems or other drastic effects after being fed GM products, and pregnant rats, whose babies died. As for crops, the biggest issue facing farmers all over the world is the contamination of their crops by GM seeds that blow in on the wind or otherwise cross-pollinate. Due to Monsanto's legendary control at the top of the U.S. political system, a legal ruling now makes a farmer's product the property of Monsanto, even though the claim is only based on such "accidental" contamination! The U.S./Monsanto plan to take over the world's food supply with GMOs failed generally, but Monsanto's dirty tactics through bribery, lawsuits against critics, buying up local seed companies, and contracts that require farmers who use their products to buy all their seeds and chemicals from them continue to plague the world's food supply.

A bigger plague

But a bigger plague than this may yet be in store for humans. The Bt toxin developed by Monsanto, when inserted into a plant's genetic structure, creates a plant that manufactures a poison, which kills insects that attack the plant. Monsanto claims this is safe, since the natural bacteria this toxin is based on is found in soil, and is used by organic farmers as an insecticide spray. But the toxin in Monsanto's Bt crops is thousands of times more concentrated. Now consider the following:

"The only published human feeding study revealed that even after we stop eating GMOs, harmful GM proteins may be produced continuously inside of us: genes inserted into Monsanto's GM soy transfer into bacteria inside our intestines and continue to function. If Bt genes also transfer, eating corn chips might transform our intestinal bacteria [i.e., good bacteria] into living pesticide factories." -Jeffrey M. Smith (see note 9)

Every living thing has DNA, we are all interconnected, and contaminations such as this are not only inevitable now that GMOs have been let out of the bottle, but they're permanent. The self-propagating genetic pollution released into the environment by Monsanto's crops could outlast both climate change and the degeneration of nuclear waste.

A revolutionary alternative

One of the worst crimes of big agribusiness is the attack on bio-diversity. By selecting certain "perfect" crops, whether through genetic engineering or more primitive methods, and by destroying non-crop vegetation and enforcing sterile boundaries around crops, agribusiness is rapidly obliterating both the environment and our future as a healthy species. Chemicals can't make up for the fact that the soil is being killed, and the natural predators of plant pests have been destroyed; which is not to mention that the same chemicals are killing the rest of the environment.

Bio-diversity, and the understanding that all living things are connected to each other and the planet itself through evolution, is central to a materialist understanding of the world, and as such, to Marxism. It was in fact a Soviet scientist, Vladimir Vernadsky, who first postulated the concept of the "biosphere," thus anticipating Lovelock's much weaker "Gaia" hypothesis by several decades. Following on Vernadsky, and with Lenin's insistence, the early Bolshevik regime promoted conservation of the environment even in the midst of a brutal civil war in which reactionaries sought to overthrow the world's first workers state. Conservation organizations and journals promoted rational agricultural techniques, and published articles for biological pest controls and against monocultures.10 (Later, this was all destroyed under the Stalinist counter-revolution, which ushered in a bureaucratically deformed regime that, among many other betrayals, ignored conservation.)

Today, although not necessarily revolutionary politically, organic farmers in the U.S. and elsewhere do point the way toward an agriculture that can feed the world both environmentally-sustainably and safely. This is done chiefly through crop rotation, in which both different crops, and livestock, alternatively use the same fields. This is not a new idea: if you're like me, you remember a school history text that reported that crop rotation was a major innovation in the Middle Ages in Europe. Crop rotation, together with preservation of surrounding ecosystems such as hedgerows and riparian vegetation, reduces or eliminates the need for pesticides, since most pests survive on one target crop, and are greatly reduced by plant variety. Plus mixing in crops that fix nitrogen in the soil, such as legumes, is another improvement. Pesticides and chemical fertilizers, as well as mono-cropping itself, kills the soil, but natural processes can maintain it. The soil is the immediate root of all life, and must maintain its plethora of living things, from microbes to worms.11

Capitalism: grow and expand, or die

Capitalist agriculture, based on chemical saturation and monocultures, as well as attempts to dominate global food markets, is destroying the world food supply, killing us, and threatening the planet. But this form of agriculture is embedded deeply in the system. In the wake of the financial crash, financial capital is flooding into the world land market big time, both to capture future food supplies and open up investments in biofuels, all at the expense of formerly colonialized peoples who need their lands for their own food. Big financial capital is just doing what its capitalist DNA tells it to... expand into the most profitable investments, or die. Big agribusiness is a key component of a system, which will rape, plunder and destroy the world's working people and nature itself before it dies... unless it gets killed first.

Let's look at this from a slightly different perspective: what should we do assuming we want to save the planet, clean up the environment, revolutionize the agricultural system to provide safe, healthy food for everyone, and put working people-the ones who actually produce the things that we need-in charge rather than finance capital?

What we really want

In broad outline, that, in my opinion, would be:

1. Expropriate the land-removing all the big owners without compensation-and put it in the hands of the organized working people;
3. Attend to the small organic farms first, supporting their efforts, and developing leaders and educators who can tackle the big job;
5. Transform the big mono-cultural estates into sustainable, fully organic operations, whether through applying new methods on a large scale, or breaking them up into small coordinated units;
7. Control and coordinate all this through cooperatives and collectives of agriculture workers who meet regularly and work in coordination with a democratically decided upon national plan;
9. Put unemployed or partially employed agricultural workers to work in this vital project.
Such a program would be easier to implement than trying to work within the existing system, but then "easy" is not exactly on the radar screen of a planet hurtling toward eco-suicide. But can it be done? Can big agribusiness be dumped and agriculture transformed into a sustainable, use-value system controlled by the people who work it?

Cuba provides a positive example here. Based on a mono-cultural, export-oriented agribusiness around sugar during the long years under U.S. domination, Cuba was slow to change its practice after the 1959 revolution. But under relentless U.S. imperialist pressure culminating in the "Bay of Pigs" invasion, the Castro regime moved to the total expropriation of big capital in a few years. Gradually, with the resistance of private owners removed, the study and application of sustainable agricultural practices began to make headway.

The challenge of Cuba's "Special Period"

Then, following the collapse of Eastern European and Soviet Russian states in 1989-91, a "special period" ensued. The cheap oil and other supports from the USSR were gone, and Cuba dropped into a nightmare of deprivation and disorganization. Undeterred by this adversity, the Cuban people began to reorganize. Food supplies were boosted through urban agriculture, which developed unused city land and today provides most of Havana's food supply. And farming was transformed from agro-chem dependent monocultures (the chemicals were no longer available) to virtually all-organic farming. With no capitalist class, and no private market in land, there was no resistance to this working-class response to the crisis. Government programs fostering sustainable agriculture were expanded, and the government facilitated land reorganizations when necessary.12

Such a plan would be what real people actually need, and it would represent a program to organize production for human need, not the profit of a few. But this would involve overthrowing the government, and expropriating the expropriators: forcibly taking the power from the big imperialist finance capitalists. Unfortunately, most of the left is still entranced by the siren song of reformism: maybe there's hope if we just push Obama to the left, or if we get something passed in Congress that can improve things, or if we support the "lesser evil" at the polls. The idea of overthrowing the system entirely and starting fresh now seems like a distant (maybe forgotten) memory of struggles of the past. But look to the past, because the financial bubbles, bailouts of the rich, and gigantic transfers of wealth upward from the working and poor masses to the very rich are still happening. We still need a mass working class movement and party, which though it may have been betrayed by bad leadership in the past, points the way forward to the overthrow of capitalism, and to the regime of working people, with safe food for all and production for use not profit.

Chris Kinder is an Oakland resident, revolutionary socialist, and coordinator of the Labor Action Committee To Free Mumia Abu-Jamal


5) Tunisian Rioters Overwhelm Police Near Capital
January 13, 2011

HAMMAMET, Tunisia - The police on Thursday all but abandoned this exclusive Mediterranean beach town - haven to the capital's rich and powerful - as rioters calling for the ouster of Tunisia's authoritarian president swarmed the streets, torched bank offices and ransacked a mansion belonging to one of his relatives.

In the fourth week of protests sweeping Tunisia, violence escalated in the capital, Tunis, as well, where late in the afternoon crowds defied tanks and machine guns deployed around the central boulevards. Witnesses said several were killed, adding to a death toll already in the dozens. There were reports that a general strike had been called for Friday.

In a possible sign of divisions in the government, the Tunisian military withdrew from the capital later Thursday and interior security forces took their place in the streets. Tunisian news organizations reported that the president, Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, would deliver a televised address on Thursday evening.

The protesters - many from the ranks of Tunisia's legions of unemployed college graduates, demanding more jobs and denouncing perceived corruption by the president's family - relied on social networking media to advertise and coordinate their actions.

The riots in Hammamet, a town roughly equivalent to Tunisia's East Hampton, were announced this morning on an Arabic Facebook page called "The People of Tunisia are setting themselves on fire, Mr. President." The name is a reference to the Dec. 17 event that sparked the protests, the self-immolation of an college graduate who sold vegetables on the street of a small town in the provinces. And on Thursday morning the page called on patriotic Tunisians to prepare to shed their blood in protest in the town of Hammamet.

By midday, hundreds of rioters were rampaging through the streets here. Several banks were aflame and police officers huddled defensively shields and clubs raised around their station. A few hours later, they had given up the pretense. Most relaxed, smoking, while one officer at the center of talked with angry residents about the problem of government corruption and the need to stay calm.

Protesters in the crowd explained that the few officers left were locals, born in Hammamet. "They are poor like us," one said.

As the rioters lost interest in taunting the police, they shifted attention to the beachfront mansion of a presidential relative. Several said it belonged to the family of the president's second wife, the former Leila Trabelsi, but a neighbor said it belonged to the president's uncle, Sofiane Ben Ali.

After breaking down the gate to the empty house, rioters pulled out two all terrain vehicles and set them aflame on the streets. A horse kept by the family ran free in the mansion's yard, and young men on motorcycles did wheelies around rows of towering palm trees on the well-manicured lawn. (Two said the yard had previously been a public soccer field.) A Tunisian coast guard boat watched from the sea.

Two of the rioters said that fearful police had directed them away from attacking the station and toward the mansion. "They said, please you go to the Trabelsi's, and it is logical," said Cheadi Mahamed, a 32-year-old protester with a job at the airport.

Like others in the crowd, he said he was feeling emboldened to speak publicly without fear of reprisals. "Now we can say we what we want-it has started to change," he said.

Asked why the riots broke out here on Thursday, one protester said the police had killed two people here on Wednesday and a third in a neighboring town.

But the focus on the mansion was also vivid evidence of the deep resentment at the great wealth and lavish life of the president's family. Some presidential relatives appear to have fled to other homes abroad.

"They have gone and taken all the money," one protester said. "And we don't have any jobs."

As evening approached, trucks of police reinforcements arrived. But they proceeded to stand idle as rioters began looting a shoe store, a toy store, and a hotel.

Overnight, at least three civilians were killed by Tunisian security forces in the south and west of the country, according to news reports on Thursday. The victims included a 38-year-old French professor of information technology, Hattem Bettahar, who was vacationing with his family and was shot dead in the city of Douz, around 330 miles south of Tunis. Tunisia, a former French colony, has a large French community, many with dual nationality.

David D. Kirkpatrick reported from Hammemet, Tunisia, and J. David Goodman from New York. Mona El-Naggar contributed reporting from Cairo, and Katrin Bennhold from Paris.


6) The Tragic State of the Gulf of Mexico: Sampling Reveals Oil and Dispersants on Mississippi Coast
Dahr Jamail and Erika Blumenfeld
[Note: This is a link only in order to accommodate the very important and informative photographs by Erika]
Wednesday 12 January 2011


7) Agency Revokes Permit for Major Coal Mining Project
January 13, 2011

WASHINGTON - The Environmental Protection Agency revoked the permit for one of the nation's largest mountaintop-removal coal mining projects on Thursday, saying the mine would have done unacceptable damage to rivers, wildlife and communities in West Virginia.

Arch Coal's proposed Spruce No. 1 Mine in Logan County has been the subject of controversy since the Bush administration approved its construction in 2007, issuing a permit required under the Clean Water Act. Environmentalists and local residents strongly opposed the sprawling project, and the Obama administration moved last year to rescind the permit, prompting lawsuits by West Virginia and the coal company.

The agency's action on Thursday is certain to provoke an outcry from West Virginia politicians, the coal industry and other businesses that have raised objections to what they consider economically damaging regulatory overreach by the E.P.A.

The coal mining project would have involved dynamiting the tops off mountains over an area of 2,278 acres to get at the rich coal deposits beneath. The resulting rubble, known as spoil, would be dumped into nearby valleys and streams, killing fish, salamanders and other wildlife. The agency said that disposal of the mining material would also pollute the streams and endanger human health and the environment downstream.

The agency said it was using its authority under the Clean Water Act to revoke the permit, an action it has taken only 12 times in the past 40 years. The agency said in a release that it reserved this authority only for "unacceptable cases."

"The proposed Spruce No. 1 Mine would use destructive and unsustainable mining practices that jeopardize the health of Appalachian communities and clean water on which they depend," said Peter S. Silva, the agency's assistant administrator for water. "Coal and coal mining are part of our nation's energy future, and E.P.A. has worked with companies to design mining operations that adequately protect our nation's waters. We have a responsibility under the law to protect water quality and safeguard the people who rely on clean water."

An official of Arch Coal, based in St. Louis, said the company would continue to challenge the federal action in court.

"We remain shocked and dismayed at E.P.A.'s continued onslaught with respect to this validly issued permit," said Kim Link, the company's spokeswoman. "Absent court intervention, E.P.A.'s final determination to veto the Spruce permit blocks an additional $250 million investment and 250 well-paying American jobs."

"Furthermore, we believe this decision will have a chilling effect on future U.S. investment," she added, "because every business possessing or requiring a permit under Section 404 of the Clean Water Act will fear similar overreaching by the E.P.A. It's a risk many businesses cannot afford to take."

She was referring to the provision of federal law under which the permit was originally issued and then revoked.

Anticipating the agency's decision, a group of regulated industries wrote to the White House this week asking that the mine be allowed to proceed, and seeking clarification on when the administration intended to use its Clean Water Act authority to block industrial and agricultural projects.

Groups including the National Realtors Association, the American Road and Transportation Builders Association and the National Cattlemen's Beef Association wrote to Nancy Sutley, the chairwoman of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, asking that the Spruce Mine permit be approved.

The groups said in their letter that if the agency revoked the coal mining permit, "every similarly valid permit held by any entity - businesses, public works agencies and individual citizens - will be in increased regulatory limbo and potentially subject to the same unilateral, after-the-fact revocation."

"The implications could be staggering," they added, "reaching all areas of the U.S. economy including but not limited to the agriculture, home building, mining, transportation and energy sectors."

An agency official said that though the current design for the Spruce No. 1 project had been rejected, the company was free to submit a new proposal, as long as it addressed the potential environmental harm.

Senator Joe Manchin, Democrat of West Virginia, who until recently was the state's governor, issued a blistering statement opposing the agency's determination to kill the mining project.

"Today's E.P.A. decision is not just fundamentally wrong, it is an unprecedented act by the federal government that will cost our state and our nation even more jobs during the worst recession in this country's history," Mr. Manchin said. "While the E.P.A. decision hurts West Virginia today, it has negative ramifications for every state in our nation, and I strongly urge every senator and every member Congress to voice their opposition."

He added, "It goes without saying, such an irresponsible regulatory step is not only a shocking display of overreach, it will have a chilling effect on investments and our economic recovery. I plan to do everything in my power to fight this decision."

Environmentalists, on the other hand, praised the revocation of the permit. "We breathe a huge sigh of relief today," said Janet Keating, president of the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition, in a statement, adding that the move "halts the destruction of Pigeon Roost Hollow," a wooded valley where much of the mining debris was to be dumped.

Ms. Keating said the decision was a milestone in the debate over mountaintop-removal coal mining. "Spruce No. 1 is the only individual permit to have undergone a full environmental impact statement," she said. "The science completely validates what we have been saying for more than a decade: These types of mining operations are destroying our streams and forests and nearby residents' health, and even driving entire communities to extinction."

Tom Zeller Jr. contributed reporting.


8) Cuban Exile Lied to U.S., Prosecutor Tells Texas Jury
January 12, 2011

EL PASO - A prosecutor told jurors Wednesday than an elderly Cuban exile lied repeatedly under oath about how he entered the United States and about his role in terrorist attacks in Havana.

The exile, Luis Posada Carriles, 82, is a veteran of the cold war struggles against Fidel Castro who once worked for the C.I.A. and is a suspect in several bombings. He is charged with perjury, obstruction of federal proceedings and making false statements during a naturalization hearing.

Cuba and Venezuela have charged that Mr. Posada was the mastermind behind the downing of a Cuban airliner in 1976 in which 73 people were killed. Both governments also claim that he orchestrated a series of bombings in Havana in 1997, killing a tourist.

Timothy J. Reardon, the lead prosecutor, told the jury in his opening argument that Mr. Posada was not on trial for his opposition to the Cuban government. But he said he would show that Mr. Posada lied during a deportation hearing in 2005 when he said he had not recruited the bombers who carried out the attacks in Cuba.

A key piece of evidence, he said, will be tapes of a lengthy interview Mr. Posada gave to The New York Times in 1998, in which he freely admitted organizing the campaign of explosions at hotels and a restaurant to scare off tourists.

The prosecutor also said the government had evidence that Mr. Posada entered the country on a converted shrimp boat that docked in Miami in March 2005, even though he later claimed under oath that he had crossed through Mexico and had sneaked into Texas near Brownsville.

"This is a case, at bottom, in its essence, about lying, about lying to gain a benefit, a benefit with which all are very sensitive to, and that's the benefit of naturalization, of the great privilege of being a U.S. citizen," Mr. Reardon said. "No matter who you are, no matter what you have done, you must play by the rules and tell the truth to become a citizen."

But Mr. Posada's lawyer, Arturo V. Hernandez, said the prosecution's case rested on unreliable witnesses. He also raised questions about the reliability of the tapes of the Times interview, saying there were at least 16 places where the tape had been erased.

His voice rising in passion, Mr. Hernandez claimed Mr. Posada had told the truth when he said that he had come into the country in Texas. He said the paid government informer who told the F.B.I. that the exile had arrived on a shrimp boat was lying and had a history of mental illness and fraud. He also accused the informer, Gilberto Abascal, another Cuban exile, of spying for the Castro government.

Mr. Hernandez also said Mr. Posada did not take responsibility for the bombings in Cuba in his interview with The Times. He said that a close reading of the interview showed that Mr. Posada said several times that the bombings "were a product of internal dissent."

"He makes it abundantly clear that the bombings were an inside operation," Mr. Hernandez told the jurors, a number of them Hispanic. "He never admitted to being involved. That was not his role. What we will prove is that his role was to bring publicity to the acts of sabotage."

A federal judge in New Jersey ordered The Times to turn over tapes of the interview as part of a 2007 investigation into accusations that Mr. Posada raised money from Cuban exiles there for terrorist attacks; that investigation did not lead to an indictment. The Times objected to the subpoena but the judge ruled against it; the paper then complied.

Mr. Posada, gray-haired and stooped, faces a maximum sentence of five years in prison on 10 counts in the indictment, and 10 years on the last count. He worked for the C.I.A. from 1965 to 1967, spying on exile groups in Miami, then became a high-ranking official in the Venezuelan intelligence service, which he left in 1974.

Declassified F.B.I. documents place him at two meetings during which the bombing of a Cubana airliner was planned in 1976. He was held in a Venezuelan prison for nine years as a suspect in that case, but never convicted. In 2000, he was convicted in Panama in connection with a plot to kill Castro at a summit meeting.


9) Secret government informer "Karen Sullivan" infiltrated Minnesota activist groups
By Nick Pinto
Protest News
Wed., Jan. 12 2011 @ 12:59PM

The Twin Cities activists who had their homes raided by the FBI last September are starting to learn more about why they're being investigated by a Chicago grand jury in relation to material support of terrorism.

Lawyers for the activists have learned from prosecutors that the feds sent an undercover law enforcement agent to infiltrate the Twin Cities Anti-War Committee in April 2008, just as the group was planning its licensed protests at the Republican National Convention.

Going by the name "Karen Sullivan," the agent blended in with the many new faces the Committee was seeing at meetings in the lead-up to the RNC. But she stayed active afterward, attending virtually every meeting.

"She presented herself as a lesbian with a teenage daughter, and said she had a difficult relationship with her daughter's father, which is one of the reasons she gave us for not being more transparent about her story," says Jess Sundin, a member of the Anti-War Committee and one of the activists who has received a subpoena from the Chicago grand jury. "It was a sympathetic story for a lot of us."

Sullivan told the group she was originally from Boston but that she had had a rough childhood and was estranged from her family. She said she had spent some time in Northern Ireland working with Republican solidarity groups.

Sullivan at first said that she didn't have any permanent address in the area, but she eventually got an apartment in the Seward neighborhood. She claimed to be employed by a friend's small business, checking out foreclosed properties that he might buy. The cover story of a flexible job schedule let her attend all the meetings she wanted to, and to have individual lunches with other activists.

"She really took an interest," Sundin said. "It raised some suspicions among other members at first, but after the other undercover agents from the RNC Welcoming Committee came out, and no in our organization did, we figured we didn't have any. Besides, we didn't think we had anything we needed to be secretive about."

Sullivan began to take on more responsibilities with the organization, chairing meetings, handling the group's bookkeeping, and networking with dozens of other organizations.

In the summer of 2009, Sullivan joined two other Twin Cities activists in a trip to visit Palestine. Somehow, when they landed in Tel Aviv, Israeli security forces knew they were coming, and that they were headed to Palestine.

The three women were told they could get on the next plane back home or they could face detention. Sullivan took the flight. The other two women chose detention and were ultimately deported.

Attorneys for the activists have also learned that prosecutors are especially interested in a small donation the women intended to give to their host organization in Palestine, the Union of Palestinian Women's Committees. The group is registered as an NGO with the Palestinian Authority and not listed as a terrorist group by the United States.

Last fall, Sullivan disappeared from the Twin Cities, telling her fellow activists that she had some family business to take care of. She never came back. On September 24, the FBI launched a series of early morning raids on the homes of members of the Anti-War Committee and the Freedom Road Socialist Organization.

The FBI would not confirm or deny Sullivan's identity as a government agent or comment on this story by the time of publication. The U.S. Attorney's office in Chicago has said it will not comment on anything related to the grand jury investigation.

Last fall the Justice Department's Inspector General released a scathing report that criticized the FBI for invoking anti-terrorist laws to justify their investigations and harassment of groups including Greenpeace, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, and the Catholic Worker.

"This is exactly what the Inspector General's report was talking about," Sundin told City Pages this morning. "The FBI doesn't have the right to spy on us. It's an abuse of our democratic rights. We're supposed to have freedom of association, not, 'You can associate but we're going to spy on you.'"


10) Cuban website accuses Google of censoring its YouTube channel
Jan 13, 2011, 20:33 GMT

Havana - A pro-government Cuban website - favoured by
historic leader Fideal Castro for first release of his columns - on
Thursday accused Google of 'censorship' and of attacking freedom of

Google closed down the YouTube channel operated by due to
an alleged violation of copyright laws. Other channels of YouTube are
still available in Cuba.

The video showed radical anti-Castro activist Luis Posada Carriles, whom
Cuba and Venezuela accuse of terrorism, addressing supporters in Miami.

Cubadebate, which calls itself an 'alternative' website, said it
received notification from the US Internet giant on Wednesday that its
YouTube channel had been taken offline after a user complained that the
video violated copyright provisions.

The website said that the Google move also shut down access to more than
400 videos stored on its YouTube channel since it was launched almost
three years ago, with 1.6 million downloads since then.

'We complain with great determination over this attack on freedom of
expression against an alternative site in a blockaded country, whose
Internet access comes via satellite and which does not have the
resources to have its own multimedia servers,' Cubadebate said.

The channel added that it had been terminated
because Google 'received multiple third-party notifications of copyright
infringement from claimants.'

Cubadebate argued that the video had been edited 'from much broader
material which circulated on the web and had been broadcast in various
sites, without an author.'

When asked about it by the German Press Agency dpa, a spokesman for
Google Latin America said he had no concrete information on the case.
Official media in communist Cuba accused Google of censorship in March,
after the blog of reporter Enrique Ubieta, on, was blocked
for three days. The blog generally carries articles that back the Cuban

At the time, Google denied this was a result of censorship, and argued
that the temporary suspension was caused by the fact that the system
identified the blog as a generator of spam.

Posada Carriles, 82, is on trial since Monday in El Paso, Texas, for
migration fraud and perjury. He allegedly lied to US immigration
authorities about his involvement in a series of bombings in Havana in
1997 and 1998, which he had admitted in media interviews.


11) Aggressive FBI Interrogation of US Teen in Kuwait Raises Concerns
By Daphne Eviatar, Senior Associate, Law and Security

Last week I wrote about an American teenager who says he was detained, beaten and sleep-deprived in Kuwait after he was placed on a U.S. no-fly list based on his travels to Yemen. Today, Mark Mazzetti of the New York Times, who first reported the story, provides chapter two. It turns out that the Somali-American 19-year-old, Gulet Mohamed, yesterday was aggressively interrogated by FBI agents at the Kuwaiti prison, according to Mazzetti. The interrogation became so hostile, Mazzetti reports, that Kuwaiti officials felt compelled to intervene to stop the interrogation.

Nick Baumann at Mother Jones heard and reported on the same story yesterday from Mohamed's U.S.-based lawyer, Gadeir Abbas. Abbas says that the FBI agents insisted on continuing the interrogation even though they'd handed Mohamed a sheet of paper listing his Miranda rights and Mohamed said that he did not want to speak without his lawyer.

I observed last week that the Somali-American 19-year-old, Gulet Mohamed, appears to be yet another victim of a US policy of proxy detention abroad in countries infamous for disregarding human rights. Increasingly, it seems that Americans who've traveled to Yemen at some point have been placed on U.S. no-fly lists and then detained abroad, where they're subjected not only to aggressive questioning by U.S. officials but also to brutality by the U.S. allies detaining them. As far as we know, these prisoners are not being sent to third countries for interrogation, as they were during the Bush administration's policy of "extraordinary rendition," which sometimes involved CIA kidnappings. Yet similar forms of torture, indefinite detention and gross violations of human rights appears also to be integral to this new "extraordinary rendition-lite." The case of Sharif Mobley in Yemen is another illustrative example.

Glenn Greenwald last week pointed out that it's implausible that the Kuwaiti government would have detained and tortured an American citizen without the knowledge of the U.S. government, and that it's no coincidence that the questions both Kuwaiti and American interrogators asked focused on his knowledge of Anwar al-Awlaki, the American cleric in Yemen who's also on the Obama administration's hit list.

Despite his U.S. citizenship, Mohamed told Greenwald, neither U.S. embassy officials nor the FBI agents who interrogated Mohamed expressed any interest in his claims of abuse by his Kuwaiti captors.

Mazzetti reports that the U.S. State Department last week confirmed that it was aware of Mohamed's detention but denied that it was at the behest of the United States. "We are ensuring his well-being," said Philip Crowley, a State Department spokesman.

That seems inconsistent with today's report that Kuwaiti prison guards had to intervene to protect the American citizen prisoner from the hostility of FBI agents.


12) Accused Soldier in Brig as WikiLeaks Link Is Sought
January 13, 2011

WASHINGTON - Julian Assange, the flamboyant founder of WikiLeaks, is living on a supporter's 600-acre estate outside London, where he has negotiated $1.7 million in book deals and regularly issues defiant statements about the antisecrecy group's plans.

Meanwhile, the young soldier accused of leaking the secret documents that brought WikiLeaks and Mr. Assange to fame and notoriety is locked in a tiny cell at the Quantico Marine Corps Base in Virginia. The soldier, Pfc. Bradley Manning, who turned 23 last month in the military prison, is accused of the biggest leak of classified documents in American history. He awaits trial on charges that could put him in prison for 52 years, according to the Army.

Even as members of Congress denounce both men's actions as criminal, the Justice Department is still looking for a charge it can press against Mr. Assange, demanding from Twitter the account records, credit card numbers and bank account information of several of his associates. Legal experts say there are many obstacles to a prosecution of the WikiLeaks founder, but one approach under consideration is to link the two men in a conspiracy to disclose classified material.

Accusations from supporters that Private Manning is being mistreated, perhaps to pressure him to testify against Mr. Assange, have rallied many on the political left to his defense. The assertions have even drawn the attention of the United Nations' special rapporteur on torture, Juan E. Mendez, who said he had submitted a formal inquiry about the soldier's treatment to the State Department.

Private Manning's cause has been taken up by the nation's best-known leaker of classified secrets, Daniel Ellsberg, who gave the Pentagon Papers to the press in 1971. He denounces Private Manning's seven months in custody and media coverage that has emphasized the soldier's sexual orientation (he is gay) and personal troubles. Mr. Ellsberg, 79, calls him a courageous patriot.

"I identify with him very much," Mr. Ellsberg said. "He sees the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, I'd say correctly, as I saw Vietnam - as hopeless ventures that are wrong and involve a great deal of atrocities."

The military rejects accusations that Private Manning has been mistreated. "Poppycock," said Col. T. V. Johnson, a Quantico spokesman. He insisted that the conditions of confinement were dictated by brig rules for a pretrial detainee like Private Manning. The soldier has been designated for "maximum custody" - applied because his escape would pose a national security risk - and placed on "prevention-of-injury watch," restrictions imposed so that he does not injure himself.

That status is based on the judgment of military medical experts and the observations of brig guards, Colonel Johnson said. Guards check Private Manning every five minutes but allow him to sleep without interruption from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m., when only dim night lights are on, unless they need to wake him to be certain he is breathing.

Colonel Johnson denied that Private Manning was in solitary confinement, as has been widely claimed, saying that he could talk with guards and with prisoners in nearby cells, though he could not see them. He leaves his 6-by-12-foot cell for a daily hour of exercise, and for showers, phone calls, meetings with his lawyer and weekend visits by friends and relatives, the colonel said.

The prisoner can read and watch television and correspond with people on an approved list. He is not permitted to speak to the media.

"Pfc. Manning is being treated just like every other detainee in the brig," said an internal military review concluded on Dec. 27 and read to a reporter by Colonel Johnson. "His treatment is firm, fair and respectful."

The soldier's lawyer, David E. Coombs, declined to comment for this article, and two people who have visited him at Quantico - Private Manning's aunt, Debra Van Alstyne, and a friend who is a researcher at M.I.T., David M. House - did not respond to queries.

In an interview with MSNBC last month, Mr. House said of his friend that he had "noticed a remarkable decline in his psychological state and his physical well-being." He said that Private Manning appeared "very weak from a lack of exercise" and that "psychologically, he has difficulty keeping up with some conversational topics."

In an account on Mr. Coombs's Web site of his client's "typical day," he detailed the restrictions on the soldier but called the guards' conduct "professional."

"At no time have they tried to bully, harass or embarrass Pfc. Manning," he wrote.

Asked why the case appears to be moving so slowly, an Army spokeswoman, Shaunteh Kelly, said that the defense had requested a delay in July and that a "706 board," or mental health evaluation, was not complete.

She added in an e-mail that "Cases involving computers and classified information are very complex and require methodical investigation," and that all lawyers, members of the 706 board and military investigators needed to get proper clearances.

Mr. Assange, with his provocative statements, his recognizable shock of white hair and the accusations of sexual misconduct he faces in Sweden, has become WikiLeaks's public face. But while he began WikiLeaks in 2006, overseeing a steady trickle of revelations, the site drew broad attention for the first time only when it began to release the material that Private Manning is accused of downloading from his computer in Iraq, where he was a low-level intelligence analyst.

The material includes a video showing two American helicopters shooting at people in Baghdad in 2007, two of them Reuters journalists who were killed; thousands of field reports on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan; and 251,287 cables sent between American embassies and the State Department.

If Private Manning was indeed the source of the documents, as he suggested in online chat logs made public by Wired magazine, it is he who is largely responsible for making WikiLeaks a household name and the target of fury from the Pentagon, the State Department and members of Congress of both parties.

He is the only person charged in the WikiLeaks case so far. And despite his supporters' suspicions that he will be pressured to testify against Mr. Assange, the Army spokeswoman, Ms. Kelly, said that to date, Private Manning had not spoken with civilian investigators or prosecutors.

Mr. Assange has often spoken highly of the soldier. On Thursday, Private Manning's legal defense fund announced a $15,100 contribution from WikiLeaks. In an article in the British magazine New Statesman on Thursday that called Private Manning "the world's pre-eminent prisoner of conscience," Mr. Assange said he believed the Justice Department's goal was to force the soldier to confess "that he somehow conspired with me to harm the security of the United States."

"Cracking Bradley Manning is the first step," Mr. Assange said.


13) A Tale of Two Moralities
[Question: How can a government coined "the greatest purveyor of violence in the world," by Martin Luther King, Jr.,"...declare that both violence and any language hinting at the acceptability of violence are out of bounds..." within the U.S.? Violence, torture, war, preemptive war, drone attacks, rendition, police violence, mass incarceration, FBI raids on social justice and peace groups is the modus operandi of the U.S. government. How can they claim to be on the side of "peaceful solutions?"]
January 13, 2011

On Wednesday, President Obama called on Americans to "expand our moral imaginations, to listen to each other more carefully, to sharpen our instincts for empathy, and remind ourselves of all the ways our hopes and dreams are bound together." Those were beautiful words; they spoke to our desire for reconciliation.

But the truth is that we are a deeply divided nation and are likely to remain one for a long time. By all means, let's listen to each other more carefully; but what we'll discover, I fear, is how far apart we are. For the great divide in our politics isn't really about pragmatic issues, about which policies work best; it's about differences in those very moral imaginations Mr. Obama urges us to expand, about divergent beliefs over what constitutes justice.

And the real challenge we face is not how to resolve our differences - something that won't happen any time soon - but how to keep the expression of those differences within bounds.

What are the differences I'm talking about?

One side of American politics considers the modern welfare state - a private-enterprise economy, but one in which society's winners are taxed to pay for a social safety net - morally superior to the capitalism red in tooth and claw we had before the New Deal. It's only right, this side believes, for the affluent to help the less fortunate.

The other side believes that people have a right to keep what they earn, and that taxing them to support others, no matter how needy, amounts to theft. That's what lies behind the modern right's fondness for violent rhetoric: many activists on the right really do see taxes and regulation as tyrannical impositions on their liberty.

There's no middle ground between these views. One side saw health reform, with its subsidized extension of coverage to the uninsured, as fulfilling a moral imperative: wealthy nations, it believed, have an obligation to provide all their citizens with essential care. The other side saw the same reform as a moral outrage, an assault on the right of Americans to spend their money as they choose.

This deep divide in American political morality - for that's what it amounts to - is a relatively recent development. Commentators who pine for the days of civility and bipartisanship are, whether they realize it or not, pining for the days when the Republican Party accepted the legitimacy of the welfare state, and was even willing to contemplate expanding it. As many analysts have noted, the Obama health reform - whose passage was met with vandalism and death threats against members of Congress - was modeled on Republican plans from the 1990s.

But that was then. Today's G.O.P. sees much of what the modern federal government does as illegitimate; today's Democratic Party does not. When people talk about partisan differences, they often seem to be implying that these differences are petty, matters that could be resolved with a bit of good will. But what we're talking about here is a fundamental disagreement about the proper role of government.

Regular readers know which side of that divide I'm on. In future columns I will no doubt spend a lot of time pointing out the hypocrisy and logical fallacies of the "I earned it and I have the right to keep it" crowd. And I'll also have a lot to say about how far we really are from being a society of equal opportunity, in which success depends solely on one's own efforts.

But the question for now is what we can agree on given this deep national divide.

In a way, politics as a whole now resembles the longstanding politics of abortion - a subject that puts fundamental values at odds, in which each side believes that the other side is morally in the wrong. Almost 38 years have passed since Roe v. Wade, and this dispute is no closer to resolution.

Yet we have, for the most part, managed to agree on certain ground rules in the abortion controversy: it's acceptable to express your opinion and to criticize the other side, but it's not acceptable either to engage in violence or to encourage others to do so.

What we need now is an extension of those ground rules to the wider national debate.

Right now, each side in that debate passionately believes that the other side is wrong. And it's all right for them to say that. What's not acceptable is the kind of violence and eliminationist rhetoric encouraging violence that has become all too common these past two years.

It's not enough to appeal to the better angels of our nature. We need to have leaders of both parties - or Mr. Obama alone if necessary - declare that both violence and any language hinting at the acceptability of violence are out of bounds. We all want reconciliation, but the road to that goal begins with an agreement that our differences will be settled by the rule of law.


14) Haiti: Quake's Toll Rises to 316,000
January 13, 2011

The government has raised the death toll for the January 2010 earthquake to 316,000, a substantial increase from the more than 250,000 deaths previously reported. Officials did not explain the change and did not respond to inquiries about it on Thursday. But Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive, at a news conference on Wednesday marking the first anniversary of the disaster, suggested it had increased at least in part because additional bodies had been pulled from the rubble.


15) JPMorgan's Quarterly Profit Rises 47% to $4.8 Billion
"The bank earned $4.8 billion in the final three months of 2010... In mortgage banking quarterly profit rose 117 percent to $577 million."
January 14, 2011, 7:16 am

JPMorgan Chase kicked off the earnings season on Friday with news that it turned a strong $17.4 billion profit in 2010, up 48 percent from $11.7 billion the year before, as the consumer lending environment improved and commercial banking notched record results.

The rosy report could pave the way for JPMorgan to increase its dividend by as much as a dollar. Wall Street has been anxiously awaiting JPMorgan's earnings, hoping it will signal that 2011 will be the year plump shareholder payouts return.

"We do think dividend increases are in the cards for some," said Jason Goldberg, a senior analyst at Barclays Capital. "JPMorgan will be in that grouping."

The bank earned $4.8 billion in the final three months of 2010, or $1.12 a share, which significantly beat expectations. Analysts' estimates put JPMorgan's earnings at 99 cents a share for the fourth quarter. The bank generated revenue of $26.7 billion for quarter.

These figures far exceed JPMorgan's fourth quarter numbers in 2009, when it earned $3.3 billion, or 74 cents a share, on revenue of $25.2 billion.

The bank recorded annual profit of $3.96 a share, up from $2.26 a share in 2009. But even amid strong profit at the bank, revenue for the year dipped to $104.8 billion, from $108.6 billion in the 2009.

The bank's strong profit, in part, reflect the better consumer lending environment. Retail financial services, which includes everything from mortgages to credit cards to checking accounts, reported income of $708 million, compared with a loss of $399 the prior year.

The bank, this quarter, put aside $2.5 billion to cover credit losses - $1.8 billion less than it allocated in the same period in 2009. Much of that drop is owed to an improving credit card division, the bank said.

In mortgage banking quarterly profit rose 117 percent to $577 million. Originations rose 46 percent from the prior year. Even though charge-offs and delinquencies dropped, the company said credits costs remained a "significant drag" on returns.

The bank also faces litigation stemming from its mortgage business. JPMorgan is among several banks facing state investigations and private lawsuits over questionable foreclosure procedures. Homeowners and state regulators have claimed that banks foreclosed on homes without proving they owned the mortgages. Some banks are accused of using fabricated documentation in foreclosure proceedings.

Some are demanding that big banks, JPMorgan included, buy back troubled loans sold at the height of the mortgage bubble. In JPMorgan's third quarter earnings report, the bank said it set aside $1 billion to deal with repurchase claims by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. The bank reported on Friday that it put aside another $1.5 billion in the fourth quarter to pay for litigation related to repurchases.

Mr. Dimon, in a conference call on Friday, said he does not expect repurchase claims for private-label mortgages, which could take years to resolve, to be a material concern.

Quarterly profit in retail banking fell modestly by 7 percent to $954 million, as deposit-related fees dropped. The credit picture, however, did improve. In the fourth quarter, the provisions for losses were $73 million, down $175 million from the prior year. Charge-offs in the group were $173 million, versus $248 million the previous year.

Commercial banking reported a record profit of $530 million, up $306 million from the prior year. The banner quarter reflect improving credit conditions. Provision for losses was $152 million, compared with $494 million in the prior year. Net charge-offs dropped roughly 40 percent to $286 million, with the bulk of those related to commercial real estate.

Meanwhile, fourth-quarter profit in the investment banking division was down 21 percent from the same period 2009, as equity underwriting and advisory fees dipped.

The bank has come a long way since the depths of the financial crisis, when it earned $0.06 a share in the fourth quarter of 2008.

"Solid performance in the quarter and for the year reflected good results across most of our businesses, which benefited from strong client relationships and continued investments for growth," said JPMorgan's chief executive, Jamie Dimon.

Mr. Dimon was foreshadowing on an impressive report when he took to the airwaves on Tuesday to boast his upcoming plan to pay an annual dividend of 75 cents to a dollar. That would be a significant jump for JPMorgan, which currently pays an annual dividend of 20 cents.

When the financial crisis struck, JPMorgan, Wells Fargo and other industry stalwarts slashed their payouts to investors, aiming to shore up their cushions of capital.

Now, after two years of holding dividends low and steady, banks are eager to satisfy investors, who historically flocked to bank stocks in hopes of a reliable payout.

Most of the banks would love to increase their dividends, said Christopher Kotowski, a banking analyst at Oppenheimer. "And for most of them, there's no reason why you wouldn't, other than the political sensitivity," he said.

Mr. Dimon, in the earnings report, reiterated the bank's financial standing and hinted the firm could soon return more money to shareholders.

"We continued to strengthen our fortress balance sheet," he said. "We are confident that we have the earnings power to generate substantial capital, well beyond what we will need to prudently grow our business."

Of course, JPMorgan and its competitors must first receive the blessing of the Federal Reserve, which is embarking on a second round of so-called bank stress tests. The Fed, which is focusing on whether banks have sufficient capital, is expected to complete its check-up in March.

JPMorgan could raise its dividend as soon as April.

JPMorgan's report is the beginning of a crucial earning season. Citigroup will report its earnings on Tuesday. Bank of America, Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley and Wells Fargo will follow later in the week.

Good news for the banks could translate into higher hopes for the broader economy.

"It's not like issues from the financial crisis are going away, but we think we'll see positive overtones as to how the economic recover is taking hold," said Moshe Orenbuch, an analyst at Credit Suisse.


16) Broad Racial Disparities Seen in Americans' Ills
January 13, 2011

White people in the United States die of drug overdoses more often than other ethnic groups. Black people are hit proportionately harder by AIDS, strokes and heart disease. And American Indians are more likely to die in car crashes.

To shed more light on the ills of America's poor - and occasionally its rich - the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Thursday released its first report detailing racial disparities in a broad array of health problems.

While some are well known, others have had little attention; there were also a few surprises.

The agency did not delve into why suffering is so disproportionate, other than to note the obvious: that the poor, the uninsured and the less educated tend to live shorter, sicker lives. (Some illnesses were also broken down by income level, region, age or sex, but the main focus was on racial differences.)

"Some of the figures, like the suicide rate for young American Indians, are just heartbreaking," said Dr. Thomas R. Frieden, the C.D.C. director, who ordered the report compiled.

He acted, he said, after promising at his agency's African American History Month celebration last February that he would do so.

"We wanted to shine a spotlight on the problem and some potential solutions," he said.

Many of the differences are large and striking:

¶Babies born to black women are up to three times as likely to die in infancy as those born to women of other races.

¶American Indians and Alaska Natives are twice as likely to die in car crashes as any other group.

¶More than 80 percent of all suicides are committed by whites, but young American Indian adults have the highest suicide rates by far - 25 per 100,000 population at age 21, compared with 14 for whites, 10 for blacks and 8 for Asians and Hispanics.

¶Overdoses of prescription drugs now kill more Americans than overdoses of illegal drugs, the opposite of the pattern 20 years ago. Overdose death rates are now higher among whites than blacks; that trend switched in 2002, after doctors began prescribing more powerful painkillers, antidepressants and antipsychotics - more easily obtained by people with health insurance.

¶Blacks die of heart disease much more commonly than whites, and die younger, despite the availability of cheap prevention measures like weight loss, exercise, blood-pressure and cholesterol drugs, and aspirin. The same is true for strokes.

¶High blood pressure is twice as common among blacks as whites, but the group with the least success in controlling it is Mexican-Americans.

¶Compared with whites, blacks have double the rate of "preventable hospitalizations," which cost about $7 billion a year.

¶People in Utah, Connecticut and North Dakota report the most "healthy days" per month - about 22. People in West Virginia, Kentucky and Tennessee report the fewest, about 17.

¶Blacks, Hispanics and American Indians, whether gay or straight, all have higher rates of new infection with the AIDS virus than whites, and the situation is getting worse for blacks and Indians. Asians have the lowest rate.

¶Binge drinking - defined as five drinks at a sitting for men and four for women - is increasing. In a switch from the norm for health problems, it is more common among the better-educated and more affluent, including college students. But poor people, and especially American Indians, drink much more heavily when on binges.

¶Teenage pregnancy is holding steady or falling for all ethnic groups, but is still three times as common among Hispanic girls as among white girls, and more than twice as common among black girls as among whites.

Dr. Frieden said the purpose of the report was not to nudge the White House or Congress to take any particular action. But said that two relatively new laws had greatly improved the nation's health and narrowed the racial gaps.

One was the 1994 Vaccines for Children program, which pays for poor children's immunizations. The second was the earned-income tax credit, which motivates poor people to find jobs. It was first passed by Congress in 1975 but was strengthened several times, and some states and cities have created their own.


17) Naomi Klein: Hunting the Ocean for BP's Missing Millions of Barrels of Oil
By Naomi Klein, The Nation
Posted on January 13, 2011, Printed on January 15, 2011

"Dolphins off the bow!"

I race to the front of the WeatherBird II, a research vessel owned by the University of South Florida. There they are, doing their sleek silvery thing, weaving between translucent waves, disappearing under the boat, reappearing in perfect formation on the other side.

After taking my fill of phone video (and very pleased not to have dropped the device into the Gulf of Mexico), I bump into Gregory Ellis, one of the junior scientists aboard.

"Did you see them?" I ask excitedly.

"You mean the charismatic megafauna?" he sneers. "I'll pass."

Ouch. Here I was thinking everyone loves dolphins, especially oceanographers. But it turns out that these particular marine scientists have issues with dolphins. And sea turtles. And pelicans. It's not that they don't like them (a few of the grad students took Flipper pictures of their own). It's just that the charismatic megafauna tend to upstage the decidedly less charismatic creatures under their microscopes. Like the bacteria and phytoplankton that live in the water column, for instance, or 500-year-old coral and the tube worms that burrow next to them, or impossibly small squid the size of a child's fingernail.

Normally these academics would be fine without our fascination. They weren't looking for glory when they decided to study organisms most people either can't see or wish they hadn't. But when the Deepwater Horizon exploded in April 2010, our collective bias toward cute big creatures started to matter a great deal. That's because the instant the spill-cam was switched off and it became clear that there would be no immediate mass die-offs among dolphins and pelicans, at least not on the scale of the Exxon Valdez spill deaths, most of us were pretty much on to the next telegenic disaster. (Chilean miners down a hole—and they've got video diaries? Tell us more!)

It didn't help that the government seemed determined to help move us along. Just three weeks after the wellhead was capped, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) came out with its notorious "oil budget," which prompted White House energy czar Carol Browner to erroneously claim that "the vast majority of the oil is gone." The White House corrected the error (the fate of much of that oil is simply unknown), but the budget nonetheless inspired a flood of stories about how "doom-mongers" had exaggerated the spill's danger and, as the British Daily Mail tabloid indignantly put it, unfairly wronged "one of Britain's greatest companies."

More recently, in mid-December, Unified Area Command, the joint government-BP body formed to oversee the spill response, came out with a fat report that seemed expressly designed to close the book on the disaster. Mike Utsler, BP's Unified Area Commander, summed up its findings like this: "The beaches are safe, the water is safe, and the seafood is safe." Never mind that just four days earlier, more than 8,000 pounds of tar balls were collected on Florida's beaches—and that was an average day. Or that gulf residents and cleanup workers continue to report serious health problems that many scientists believe are linked to dispersant and crude oil exposure.

By the end of the year, investors were celebrating BP's stock rebound, and the company was feeling so emboldened that it revealed plans to challenge the official estimates of how much oil gushed out of its broken wellhead, claiming that the figures are as much as 50 percent too high. If BP succeeds, it could save the company as much as $10.5 billion in damages. The Obama administration, meanwhile, has just given the go-ahead for sixteen deepwater projects to resume in the gulf, well before the Oil Spill Commission's safety recommendations have a hope of being implemented.

For the scientists aboard the WeatherBird II, the recasting of the Deepwater Horizon spill as a good-news story about a disaster averted has not been easy to watch. Over the past seven months, they, along with a small group of similarly focused oceanographers from other universities, have logged dozens of weeks at sea in cramped research vessels, carefully measuring and monitoring the spill's impact on the delicate and little-understood ecology of the deep ocean. And these veteran scientists have seen things that they describe as unprecedented. Among their most striking findings are graveyards of recently deceased coral, oiled crab larvae, evidence of bizarre sickness in the phytoplankton and bacterial communities, and a mysterious brown liquid coating large swaths of the ocean floor, snuffing out life underneath. All are worrying signs that the toxins that invaded these waters are not finished wreaking havoc and could, in the months and years to come, lead to consequences as severe as commercial fishery collapses and even species extinction.

Perhaps not coincidentally, the most outspoken scientists doing this research come from Florida and Georgia, coastal states that have so far managed to avoid offshore drilling. Their universities are far less beholden to Big Oil than, say, Louisiana State University, which has received tens of millions from the oil giants. Again and again these scientists have used their independence to correct the official record about how much oil is actually out there, and what it is doing under the waves.

One of the most prominent scientists on the BP beat is David Hollander, a marine geochemist at the University of South Florida. Hollander's team was among the first to discover the underwater plumes in May and the first to trace the oil definitively to BP's well. In August, amid the claims that the oil had magically disappeared, Hollander and his colleagues came back from a cruise with samples proving that oil was still out there and still toxic to many marine organisms, just invisible to the human eye. This research, combined with his willingness to bluntly contradict federal agencies, has made Hollander something of a media darling. When he is not at sea, there is a good chance he is in front of a TV camera. In early December, he agreed to combine the two, allowing me and filmmaker Jacqueline Soohen to tag along on a research expedition in the northern Gulf of Mexico, east of the wellhead.

"Let's go fishing for oil," Hollander says with a broad smile as we get on the boat. A surfer and competitive bike racer in his youth, he is still something of a scrappy daredevil at 52. On the last cruise Hollander slipped and seriously injured his shoulder, and he has been ordered to take it easy this time. But within seconds of being on deck he is hauling equipment and lashing down gear. This is a particularly important task today because a distinctly un-Floridian cold front has descended and winds are whipping up ten-foot swells in the gulf. Getting to our first research station is supposed to take twenty-four hours, but it takes thirty instead. The entire time, the 115-foot WeatherBird II dips and heaves, and so do a few members of the eleven-person scientific team (and yeah, OK, me too).

Luckily, just as we arrive at our destination, about ninety nautical miles from the wellhead, the clouds part and the sea calms. A frenzy of floating science instantly erupts. First to be lowered overboard is the rosette, a cluster of four-foot-high metal canisters that collect water samples from different depths. When the rosette clangs back on deck, the crew swarms around its nozzles, filling up dozens of sample bottles. It looks like they are milking a metal cow. Carefully labeled bottles in tow, they are off to the makeshift laboratory to run the water through an assembly line of tests. Is it showing signs of hydrocarbons? Does it fluoresce under UV light? Does it carry the chemical signature of petroleum? Is it toxic to bacteria and phytoplankton?

A few hours later it's time for the multi-corer. When the instrument, twelve feet high and hoisted by a powerful winch, hits the ocean floor, eight clear cylinders shoot down into the sediment, filling up with sand and mud. The samples are examined under microscopes and UV lights, or spun with centrifugal force, then tested for signs of oil and dispersant. This routine will be repeated at nine more locations before the cruise is done. Each stop takes an average of ten hours, and the scientists are able to sneak in only a couple of hours of sleep between stations.

The WeatherBird II is returning to the precise coordinates where University of South Florida researchers found toxic water and sediment in May and August. At the second stop, Mary Abercrombie, who is testing the water under UV light in a device called a spectrofluorometer, sees something that looks like hydrocarbons from a sample collected seventy meters down—shallow enough to be worrying. But the other tests don't find much of anything. Hollander speculates that this may be because we are still in relatively shallow water and the recent storms have mixed everything up. "We'll probably see more when we go deeper."

Being out in the open gulf today, I find it is impossible not to be awed by nature's capacity to cleanse and renew itself. At the height of the disaster, I had looked down at these waters from a Coast Guard aircraft. What I saw changed me. I realized that I had always counted on the ocean to be a kind of outer space on earth, too mysterious and vast to be fundamentally altered by human activity, no matter how reckless. Now it was covered to the horizon in gassy puddles like the floor of an auto repair shop. Shouting over the roaring engines, a fresh-faced Coast Guard spokesman assured the journalists on board that within months, all the oil would be gone, broken down by dispersants into bite-size morsels for oil-eating microbes, which would, after their petroleum feast, promptly and efficiently disappear—no negative side effects foreseen.

At the time I couldn't believe he could feed us this line with a straight face. Yet here that body of water is, six months later: velvety smooth and, according to the tests conducted on the WeatherBird II, pretty clean, at least so far. Maybe the ocean really is the world's most powerful washing machine: throw in enough dispersant (the petrochemical industry's version of Tide), churn it around in the waves for long enough, and it can get even the toughest oil spills out.

"I despise that message—it's blindly simplified," says Ian MacDonald, a celebrated oceanographer at Florida State University. "The gulf is not all better now. We don't know what we've done to it."

MacDonald is arguably the scientist most responsible for pressuring the government to dramatically increase its estimates of how much oil was coming out of BP's well. He points to the massive quantity of toxins that gushed into these waters in a span of three months (by current estimates, at least 4.1 million barrels of oil and 1.8 million gallons of dispersants). It takes time for the ocean to break down that amount of poison, and before that could happen, those toxins came into direct contact with all kinds of life-forms. Most of the larger animals—adult fish, dolphins, whales—appear to have survived the encounter relatively unharmed. But there is mounting evidence that many smaller creatures—bacteria, phytoplankton, zooplankton, multiple species of larvae, as well as larger bottom dwellers—were not so lucky. These organisms form the base of the ocean's food chain, providing sustenance for the larger animals, and some grow up to be the commercial fishing stocks of tomorrow. One thing is certain: if there is trouble at the base, it won't stay there for long.

According to experiments performed by scientists at the University of South Florida, there is good reason for alarm. When it was out in the gulf in August, the WeatherBird II collected water samples from multiple locations. Back at the university lab, John Paul, a professor of biological oceanography, introduced healthy bacteria and phytoplankton to those water samples and watched what happened. What he found shocked him. In water from almost half of the locations, the responses of the organisms "were genotoxic or mutagenic"—which means the oil and dispersants were not only toxic to these organisms but caused changes to their genetic makeup. Changes like these could manifest in a number of ways: tumors and cancers, inability to reproduce, a general weakness that would make these organisms more susceptible to prey—or something way weirder.

Before we left on the cruise, I interviewed Paul in his lab; he explained that what was so "scary" about these results is that such genetic damage is "heritable," meaning the mutations can be passed on. "It's something that can stand around for a very long time in the Gulf of Mexico," Paul said. "You may be genetically altering populations of fish, or zooplankton, or shrimp, or commercially important organisms.... Is the turtle population going to have more tumors on them? We really don't know. And it'll take three to five years to actually get a handle on that."

The big fear is a recurrence of what happened in Prince William Sound after the Exxon Valdez spill. Some pink salmon, likely exposed to oil in their larval stage, started showing serious abnormalities, including "rare mutations that caused salmon to grow an extra fin or an enlarged heart sac," according to a report in Nature. And then there were the herring. For three years after the spill, herring stocks were robust. But in the fourth year, populations plummeted by almost two-thirds in Prince William Sound and many were "afflicted by a mysterious sickness, characterised by red lesions and superficial bleeding," as Reuters reported at the time. The next year, there were so few fish, and they were so sick, that the herring fishery in Prince William Sound was closed; stocks have yet to recover fully. Since Alaskan herring live for an average of eight years, many scientists were convinced that the crash of the herring stocks was the result of herring eggs and larvae being exposed to oil and toxins years earlier, with the full effects manifesting themselves only when those generations of herring matured (or failed to mature).

Could a similar time bomb be ticking in the gulf? Ian MacDonald at Florida State is convinced that the disturbances beginning to register at the bottom of the food chain are "almost certain to ripple up through other species."

Here is what we know so far. When researchers from Oregon State University tested the waters off Grand Isle, Louisiana, in June, they found that the presence of carcinogenic polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) had increased fortyfold in just one month. Kim Anderson, the toxicologist leading the study, described the discovery as "the largest PAH change I've seen in over a decade of doing this." June is spawning season in the gulf—the period, beginning in April, when enormous quantities of eggs and larvae drift in nearly invisible clouds in the open waters: shrimp, crabs, grouper, bluefin tuna, snapper, mackerel, swordfish. For western Atlantic bluefin, which finish spawning in June and are fished as far away as Prince Edward Island, these are the primary spawning grounds.

John Lamkin, a fisheries biologist for NOAA, has admitted that "any larvae that came into contact with the oil doesn't have a chance." So, if a cloud of bluefin eggs passed through a cloud of contaminated water, that one silent encounter could well help snuff out a species already on the brink. And tuna is not the only species at risk. In July Harriet Perry, a biologist at the University of Southern Mississippi, found oil droplets in blue crab larvae, saying that "in my forty-two years of studying crabs I've never seen this." Tellingly, this vulnerability of egg and larvae to oil does not appear to have been considered when the Macondo well was approved for drilling. In the initial exploration plan that BP submitted to the government, the company goes on at length about how adult fish and shellfish will be able to survive a spill by swimming away or by "metaboliz[ing] hydrocarbons." The words "eggs" and "larvae" are never mentioned.

Already there is evidence of at least one significant underwater die-off. In November Penn State biologist Charles Fisher led a NOAA-sponsored expedition that found colonies of ancient sea fans and other coral coated in brown sludge, 1,400 meters down. Nearly all the coral in the area was "dead or in the process of dying," Fisher told me. And he echoed something I heard from many other scientists: in a career of studying these creatures, he has never seen anything like this. There were no underwater pools of oil nearby, but the working theory is that subsea oil and dispersants must have passed through the area like some kind of angel of death.

We may never know what other organisms were trapped in a similarly lethal cloud, and that points to a broader problem: now that we are beyond the oil-covered-birds phase, establishing definitive links between the spill and whatever biogenetic or ecological disturbances are in store is only going to get harder. For instance, we know the coral died because of all the bodies: ghostly coral corpses litter the ocean floor near the wellhead, and Fisher is running tests to see if he can find a definitive chemical link to BP's oil. But that sort of forensics simply won't be possible for the much smaller life forms that are even more vulnerable to BP's toxic cocktail. When larval tuna or squid die, even in huge numbers, they leave virtually no trace. Hollander uses the phrase "cryptic mortality" to describe these phantom die-offs.

All this uncertainty will work in BP's favor if the worst-case scenarios eventually do materialize. Indeed, concerns about a future collapse may go some way toward explaining why BP (with the help of Kenneth Feinberg's Gulf Coast Claims Facility) has been in a mad rush to settle out of court with fishermen, offering much-needed cash now in exchange for giving up the right to sue later. If a significant species of fish like bluefin does crash three or even ten years from now (bluefin live for fifteen to twenty years), the people who took these deals will have no legal recourse. Even if a case did end up in court, beating BP would be tricky. As part of the damage assessment efforts, NOAA scientists are conducting studies that monitor the development of eggs and larvae exposed to contaminated water. But as Exxon's lawyers argued in the Valdez case, wild fish stocks are under a lot of pressure these days—without a direct chemical link to BP's oil, who's to say what dealt the fatal blow?

In a way, the lawyers will have a point, if a disingenuous one. As Ian MacDonald explains, it is precisely the multiple stresses on marine life that continue to make the spill so dangerous. "We don't appreciate the extent to which most populations are right on the edge of survival. It's very easy for populations to go extinct." He points to the sperm whales—there are only about 1,600 of them in the northern Gulf of Mexico, a small enough population that the unnatural death of just a few whales (which breed infrequently and later in life) can endanger the community's survival. Acoustic research has found that some sperm whales responded to the spill by leaving the area, a development that oceanographers find extremely worrying.

One of the things I am learning aboard the WeatherBird II, watching these scientists test for the effects of invisible oil on invisible organisms, is not to trust my eyes. For a few months last year, when BP's oil formed patterns on the surface of these waters that looked eerily like blood, industrial society's impact on the ocean was easy for all to see. But when the oil sank, it didn't disappear; it just joined so much else that the waves are hiding, so many other secrets we count on the ocean to keep. Like the 27,000 abandoned oil and gas wells in the Gulf of Mexico, and the network of unmonitored underwater pipelines that routinely corrode and leak. Like the sewage that cruise ships are entirely free to dump, under federal law, so long as they are more than three miles from shore. Like a dead zone the size of New Jersey. Scientists at Dalhousie University in Halifax predict that if we continue our rates of overfishing, every commercial fish stock in the world could crash by midcentury. And a study published in Nature in July found that global populations of phytoplankton have declined about 40 percent since 1950, linked with "increasing sea surface temperatures"; coral is bleaching and dying for the same reason. And on and on. The ocean's capacity to heal itself from our injuries is not limitless. Yet the primary lesson being extracted from the BP disaster seems to be that "mother nature" can take just about anything we throw at her.

As the WeatherBird II speeds off to the third research station, I find myself thinking about something New Orleans civil rights attorney Tracie Washington told me the last time I was on the Gulf Coast. "Stop calling me resilient," she said. "I'm not resilient. Because every time you say, 'Oh, they're resilient,' you can do something else to me." Washington was talking about the serial disasters that have battered New Orleans. But if the poisoned and perforated gulf could talk, I think it might say the same thing.

On day three of the cruise, things start to get interesting. We are now in the DeSoto Canyon, about thirty nautical miles from the wellhead. The ocean floor is 1,000 meters down, our deepest station yet. Another storm is rolling in, and as the team pulls up the multi-corer, waves swamp the deck. It's clear as soon as we see the mud that something is wrong. Rather than the usual gray with subtle gradations, the cylinders are gray and then, just below the top layer, abruptly turn chocolaty brown. The consistency of the top brown layer is sort of fluffy, what the scientists refer to as "flocculent."

A grad student splits one of the cores lengthwise and lays it out on deck. That's when we see it clearly: separating the gray and brown layers—and looking remarkably like chocolate parfait—is a thick line of black gunk. "That's not normal," Hollander declares. He grabs the mud samples and flags Charles Kovach, a senior scientist with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection. They head to the darkest place on the boat—one of the tiny sleeping quarters crammed with bunk beds. In the pitch darkness they hold an ultraviolet light over the sample, and within seconds we are looking at silvery particles twinkling up from the mud. This is a good indication of oil traces. Hollander saw something similar on the August cruise and was able not only to identify hydrocarbons but to trace them to BP's Macondo well.

Sure enough, after the sediment is put through a battery of chemical tests, Hollander has his results. "Without question, it's petroleum hydrocarbons." The thick black layers are, he says, "rich in hydrocarbons," with the remains of plants and bacteria mixed in. The fluffy brown top layer has less oil and more plant particles, but the oil is definitely there. It will be weeks or even months before Hollander can trace the oil to BP's well, but since he has found BP's oil at this location in the DeSoto Canyon before, that confirmation is likely. If we are fishing for oil, as Hollander had joked, this is definitely a big one.

It strikes me that there is a satisfying irony in the fact that Hollander's cruise found oil that BP would have preferred to stay buried, given that the company indirectly financed the expedition. BP has pledged to spend $500 million on research as part of its spill response and made an early payout of $30 million. But in contrast to the company's much publicized attempts to buy off scientists with lucrative consulting contracts, BP agreed to hand this first tranche over to independent institutions in the gulf, like the Florida Institute of Oceanography, which could allocate it through a peer-review process—no strings attached. Hollander was one of the lucky recipients. This is a model for research in the gulf: paid for by the oil giants that profit so much from its oil and gas, but with no way for them to influence outcomes.

At several more research stations near the wellhead, the WeatherBird II finds the ocean floor coated in similar muck. The closer the boat gets to the wellhead, the more black matter there is in the sediment. And Hollander is disturbed. The abnormal layer of sediment is up to five times thicker than it was when he collected samples here in August. The oil's presence on the ocean floor didn't diminish with time; it grew. And, he points out, "the layer is distributed very widely," radiating far out from the wellhead.

But what concerns him even more are the thick black lines. "That black horizon doesn't happen," he says. "It's consistent with a snuff-out." Healthy sea-floor mud is porous and well oxygenated, with little critters constantly burrowing holes from the surface sand to the deeper mud, in the same way that worms are constantly turning over and oxygenating soil in our gardens. But the dark black lines in the sediment seemed to be acting as a sealant, preventing that flow of life. "Something caused an environmental and community change," Hollander explains. It could have been the sheer volume of matter falling to the bottom, triggering a suffocation effect, or perhaps it was "a toxic response" to oil and dispersants.

Whatever it was, Hollander isn't the only one observing the change. While we are at sea, Samantha Joye, an oceanographer at the University of Georgia, is leading a team of scientists on a monthlong cruise. When she gets back she reports seeing a remarkably similar puddinglike layer of sediment. And in trips to the ocean floor in a submersible, she saw dead crustaceans in the sediment and tube worms that had been "decimated." Ian MacDonald was one of the scientists on the trip. "There were miles of dead worms," he told me. "There was a zone of acute impact of at least eighty square miles. I saw dead sea fans, injured sea fans, brittle stars entangled in its branches. A very large area was severely impacted." More warning signs of a bottom-up disaster.

A week after Hollander returned from the cruise, Unified Area Command came out with its good news report on the state of the spill. Of thousands of water samples taken since August, the report stated, less than 1 percent met EPA definitions of toxicity. It also claimed that the deepwater sediment is largely free from BP's oil, except within about two miles of the wellhead. That certainly came as news to Hollander, who at that time was running tests of oiled sediment collected thirty nautical miles from the wellhead, in an area largely overlooked by the government scientists. Also, the government scientists measured only absolute concentrations of oil and dispersants in the water and sediment before declaring them healthy. The kinds of tests John Paul conducted on the toxicity of that water to microorganisms are simply absent.

Coast Guard Rear Adm. Paul Zukunft, whose name is on the cover of the report, told me of the omission, "That really is a limitation under the Clean Water Act and my authorities as the federal on-scene coordinator." When it comes to oil, "it's my job to remove it"—not to assess its impact on the broader ecosystem. He pointed me to the NOAA-led National Resource Damage Assessment (NRDA) process, which is gathering much more sensitive scientific data to help it put a dollar amount on the overall impact of the spill and seek damages from BP and other responsible parties.

Unlike the individual and class-action lawsuits BP is rushing to settle, it will be years before a settlement is reached. That means more time to wait and see how fish stocks are affected by egg and larvae exposure. And according to Robert Haddad, who heads the NRDA process for NOAA, any settlement will have "reopener clauses" that allow the government to reopen the case should new impacts manifest themselves.

Still, it's not at all clear that NRDA is capable of addressing the dangers being exposed by Hollander and the other independent scientists. The federal damage assessment process is built on the concept of "ecosystem services," which measures the value of nature according to how it serves us. How many fish were fishermen unable to catch because of the disaster? And how many tourism dollars were lost when the oil hit the beaches? Yet when it comes to the place where most of the spill damage was done—the deep ocean—we are in no position to answer such questions. The deep ocean is so understudied that we simply don't know what "service" those dead tube worms and corals would have provided to us. All we know, says MacDonald, is that "the ecosystem depends on these kinds of organisms, and if you start wiping them out, you don't know what happens." He also points out, as many ecologists do, that the entire service model is flawed. Even if it turns out that those tube worms and brittle stars do nothing for us, "they have their own intrinsic value—it matters that these organisms are healthy or not healthy." The spill "is an opportunity for us to find a new way to look at ecological health."

It is more likely, however, that we will continue to assign value only to those parts of nature from which we directly profit. Anything that slips beyond the reach of those crude calculations, either because it is too mysterious or seemingly too trivial, will be considered of no value, its existence left out of environmental risk assessment reports, its death left out of damage assessment lawsuits. And this is what is most disturbing about the latest rush to declare the gulf healthy: we seem to be once again taking refuge in our ignorance, the same kind of willful blindness that caused the disaster in the first place. First came the fateful decision to drill in parts of the earth we do not understand, taking on risks that are beyond our ability to comprehend. Next, when disaster struck, came the decision to use dispersants to sink the oil rather than let it rise to the surface, saving what we do know (the coasts) by potentially sacrificing what we don't know (the depths). And now here we are, squeezing our eyes shut before the results are in, hoping, once again, that what we don't know can't hurt us.

Only about 5 percent of the deep ocean has been explored. The existence of the deep scattering layer—the huge sector of marine life that dwells in the deep but migrates every night toward the surface—was only confirmed by marine biologists in the 1940s. And the revelations are ongoing. Mysterious and otherworldly new species are being discovered all the time.

On board the WeatherBird II, I was constantly struck by the strange simultaneity of discovery and destruction, watching young scientists experiment on fouled sediment drawn up from places science had barely mapped. It's always distressing to witness a beautiful place destroyed by pollution. But there is something particularly harrowing about the realization that we are contaminating places we have never even seen in their natural state. As drilling pushes farther and farther into deep water, risking more disasters in the name of jobs and growth, marine scientists trained to discover the thrillingly unknown will once again be reduced to coroners of the deep, boldly discovering that which we have just destroyed.

Naomi Klein is an award-winning journalist and syndicated columnist and the author of the international and New York Times bestseller The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism (September 2007); an earlier international best-seller, No Logo: Taking Aim at the Brand Bullies; and the collection Fences and Windows: Dispatches from the Front Lines of the Globalization Debate (2002). Read more at


18) Twitter Is Hero as Feds Attempt to Trample WikiLeaks' Free Speech
By Ida Hartmann, AlterNet
Posted on January 15, 2011, Printed on January 15, 2011

Today is a global day to defend freedom of speech, according to the call for action from Anonymous, an online protest group dedicated to internet freedom. The group feels threatened by government interference and the failure of corporate media to fulfill their vital role in checking the abuse of authority. The outcry is sparked by the intensified government crackdown on WikiLeaks. In an open letter to the Department of Justice, posted to its blog, Anonymous writes:

“We are regretful of your actions to attempt to retrieve information from Twitter about the account belonging to Wikileaks, as by doing so you are attempting to remove the anonymity of the poster and by extension, their right to speech.”

The letter was posted last week as it came to light that the Department of Justice had issued a secret subpoena on Twitter to obtain the accounts and private messages of former WikiLeaks volunteer and member of the Icelandic Parliament, Birgitta Jonsdottir, and Dutch hacker Rop Gongrijp in addition to Julian Assange and Bradley Manning. The subpoena came with a gag order preventing Twitter from notifying the interrogated and was meet by hard criticism. The Icelandic interior minister Ogmundur Jonasson told Icelandic broadcaster RUV that:

"[It is] very serious that a foreign state, the United States, demands such personal information of an Icelandic person, an elected official....This is even more serious when put [in] perspective and concerns freedom of speech and people's freedom in general.”

And the subpoena is indeed very general. It targets not only the investigated individuals, but also requests all records and other information relating to Twitter accounts associated with WikiLeaks "including non-content information associated with the contents of any communication or file stored by or for the account(s).” This includes WikiLeaks followers on Twitter. A recent article on Bloomsberg News cites Assange’s lawyer Mark Stephens as saying:

“The agency’s subpoena of Twitter is “grossly overbroad” and would give prosecutors access to data on a member of Iceland’s parliament and more than 634,000 people who follow WikiLeaks’ so-called tweets on the site.”

Sadly, the request for private information is not unique. According to the New York Times, the subpoena issued on Twitter is noteworthy, not because of its content, but because it has been unsealed. In fact more than 50,000 of these orders, known as national security letters, are sent every year, but they come with a seal of secrecy that prevents the company from revealing its existence to the investigated. By challenging the order legally, Twitter shines as a positive example of a private company that sticks to its ethical policies and stands up for the rights of its users.

It leaves one question lingering in the air: What happens to the remaining unsealed national security letters? Do the recipients simply succumb to government pressure and abide by the requests? WikiLeaks, suspecting the subpoena is a tactic in a larger effort by the Department of Justice to prosecute the organization, speculates that similar subpoenas have been filed to Facebook and Google. Both have refused to comment on the case.

One might ask what legitimizes the national security letters in the first place?

Interviewed by Bloomsberg News, Mark Stephens said that WikiLeaks is nothing but an organization that publishes leaked documents on its Web site and that the subpoena violates the U.S. Constitution’s Fourth Amendment, which prohibits unreasonable government searches. FBI, however, holds that the subpoenas, issued on the basis of a clause in the U.S. Patriot Act, are necessary for "obtaining such records [that] will make the process of identifying computer criminals and tracing their internet communications faster and easier."

Former Senator Russ Feingold has been critical of the law, according to the New York Times, saying it was long past time for Congress “to rein in the use of national security letters,” and that the law was just “about the legislative branch providing an adequate check on the executive branch.” In 2007 criticism was raised from within the FBI, as the inspector general found the agency had abused the guidelines for requiring secret letters by including too many peripheral people in its searches. Adding to the law's questionable legitimacy, a federal court recently ruled the national security letters insufficient to order disclosure of contents of communication. The ruling, however, is binding neither in Virginia, where the subpoena was issued, nor in San Francisco, where Twitter is based along with Facebook and Google. Thus it is in the hands of these companies to challenge the secrecy of the letters.

Nicholas Merrill, founder of the small internet company Calyx Internet Access Corporation, was the first person to file a constitutional challenge against a subpoena issued under the U.S. Patriot Act in 2004. He told the New York Times,"I commend Twitter’s policy of notifying their customers of government requests for their private data and for their challenging and subsequently removing the gag order.”

But Merrill’s lawyer, Jameel Jaffer, does not place much confidence that other companies will show the same spine as Twitter. He argues that the problem of the system is that the privacy rights at stake are not those of the companies holding the information, but of the people whose records are held.

"People used to be the custodians of their own records, their own diaries. Now third parties are custodians of all that,” he said. "Everything you do online is entrusted to someone else — unless you want to go completely off the grid, and I’m not even sure that is possible,” he told the New York Times.

At the biggest hacking conference in Europe, Gonggrijp, now subject to interrogation, raised a similar question: How is it possible to assure confidentiality when private companies vulnerable to political pressure control the infrastructure of the Internet? In his opening speech, he warned about the blind trust many people have in these companies:

“Apple, Google, Facebook...will try to make all of humanity enter their remaining secrets...they’ll further lock us out of our own hardware and they’ll eventually attempt to kill privacy and anonymity altogether. ...We still have to tell most of the people out there, but privacy is not in fact brought about by some magic combination on the intentionally confusing privacy radiobutton page on Facebook.”

The five targeted now feel the consequences of entrusting private companies with personal information. On Jan. 7 Gongrijp and Jonsdottir received emails from Twitter stating that, “Twitter will respond to this request in 10 days from the date of this notice unless we receive notice from you that a motion to quash the legal process has been filed or that this matter has been otherwise resolved."

Even if Twitter challenged the secrecy, the subpoena remains. The investigated have until Monday to stop the information from being handed over. In Iceland the U.S. Ambassador, Luis E. Arreaga, has been called to a meeting and Jonsdottir is currently in contact with U.S.-based lawyers at the Electronic Freedom Foundation. But even if the five win the right to keep their information confidential, many other companies might already have responded to similar requests. Anonymous warns that censorship and journalistic abdication have left us unaware and unable to hold our governments accountable. They call us to join forces Saturday:

“The time has come for the people of the world to take an active part in governing their own lives and freedoms. The world must become aware that its freedoms are in jeopardy. Today, Twitter, tomorrow, what?”

More information about protests can be found here.
AnonOps Communications

We are fighters for internet freedom.

* Wikileaks: The Movie -- At this site

Monday, 10 January 2011
Open letter to the Department of Justice
To Whom It May Concern

We are regretful of your actions to attempt to retrieve information from Twitter about the account belonging to "Wikileaks", as by doing so you are attempting to remove the anonymity of the poster and by extension, their right to speech. We are confused as to why you have brought such a subpoena against Twitter, as there is little information you will gain from these details, leaving comments and observations on the world are to our understanding; not a criminal offence

Is this not the same type of action that you, DOJ, find reprehensible in other countries? How do you justify the same action in the US? No crime has been committed yet you assume that the populace at large will just "roll over" as always and allow this intrusion.

The time has come for the people of the world to take an active part in governing their own lives and freedoms. The world must become aware that its freedoms are in jeopardy. Today, Twitter, tomorrow, what? Recent events have shown that people are becoming tired of being treated this way. Why push an unwinnable confrontation when working for the same goal is always more productive (learn from history).

The US Government expressed concern over the Tunisian Government's actions when they attacked protesters' Facebook accounts. Is there a difference here? They attack and you use the "law" (loosely defined) to in essence do the same thing. What's the possible difference? Your motives are the same.

Yours Faithfully

We do not forgive. We do not forget.

Ida Hartmann is a student of anthropology at the University of Copenhagen and currently a visiting scholar at University of California, Berkeley.


19) Philly police beating stirs storm of protest
The movement to demand justice for Askia Sabur is holding its third protest on Friday, Sept. 17, 5 p.m., at 55th and Lansdowne in Philadelphia; march to 19th District police headquarters at 61st and Thompson to demand the removal of all officers involved!
by Boyce Watkins, PhD
Posted By admin On September 14, 2010 @ 6:37 pm In California and the U.S. | 32 Comments

Askia Sabur had merely been standing outside a take-out restaurant in West Philadelphia waiting for his order when he was attacked by police on Friday, Sept. 10, and viciously beaten Rodney King style. Following the story are three videos, the first taken by an onlooker’s cell phone, the second a TV news story and the third by neighborhood activists. – Video frame: NBC
A video showing Philadelphia police officers beating a man for nearly two minutes has taken the internet by storm. The incident is so shocking that the video has received thousands of views and has also sparked an internal investigation by Philadelphia police.

The incident occurred in West Philadelphia and is two and a half minutes long. The officers are accused of attacking 29-year-old Askia Sabur outside a takeout restaurant in the area on Friday. What is also interesting is that most of the officers appearing in the video are African American, reminding us that the power of the state is not just a white and black thing.

Allegedly, officers asked Sabur and his cousin to clear the corner, but they refused, stating that they were waiting for their food. Lt. Frank Vanore, a police spokesman, claims that Sabur knocked one of the officers down; he alleges that this occurred before the YouTube video was recorded.

“It started with a police officer lying on the bottom of the pile,” Vanore said. “The video doesn’t show everything. Stuff happens before, and stuff happens after. Our Internal Affairs is trying to get the whole picture.”

While the police have their version of the facts, the video above shows almost none of that. Instead, it shows Sabur on the ground with officers beating him. Others are heard in the background telling the officers to stop and that they were going to kill him. That’s when the video shows one of the officers pulling his gun out on the crowd, telling them to back up.

Sabur was charged with two counts of aggravated assault, simple assault, reckless endangerment and resisting arrest. Police also said he would be charged with robbery for trying to take the gun and baton from one of the officers.

“Not every arrest ends with someone saying, ‘Thank you,’” Vanore said. “It’s a shame. This is one case where the male was not compliant.”

Sabur says he felt like the officers were trying to kill him. He also said that he broke his arm during the attack and had to get stitches to close off the back of his head. He also claims that when officers asked him for identification, he reached for his wallet, when they grabbed his arm and started to choke him.

Evan Hughes, the attorney for Sabur, says that the charges are ridiculous:

“If he tried to take an officer’s gun, if he had actually done that, they would have shot him,” Hughes said.

The gash on the back of Askia Sabur’s head was closed with six staples. A crowd of onlookers had pleaded with police to stop beating his head. He is said to have lost a pint of blood from that wound. – Photo courtesy Evan Hughes
“It doesn’t take a genius to figure out the police are backtracking, trying to justify what happened, and it’s not going to work,” Hughes said. “As this develops, the truth will come out.”

One problem for Sabur is that he has been convicted of a crime in the past. In 2002, he pleaded no contest to attempted burglary and was given five years of probation.

In spite of his record, though, some of the eye witnesses are supporting him. Jamil Stroman, who saw the incident, referred to the event as a “modern-day Rodney King.”

One of the most disturbing things about the video is that while he’s being beaten, Askia continuously says, “I didn’t do nothing wrong.”

As others are pleading for him to cooperate with the officers to avoid yet another whip of the billy club, he appears adamant in his unwillingness to be arrested when he hasn’t broken any law. In fact, all of the charges Askia is facing are a result of the police confrontation. It’s not as if he was breaking the law when the officers arrived, he was simply standing on the corner.

Thus, one of the most fundamental problems with our criminal justice system is that those who are more likely to interact with police are the ones most likely to be arrested by them. Given that African Americans are stopped, searched and confronted by officers more than others, situations like this are more likely to emerge. I am not sure why standing on the corner is a crime or why an otherwise law-abiding citizen may now end up in prison when he was simply waiting for his food.

When it comes to the police beating of Askia Sabur, multiple theories are going to emerge. Of course, the police are going to have their story, which is going to be consistent with their loyalty to the blue line. Even if officers were doing something wrong, many of them will protect one another under the presumption that difficult decisions made in the line of duty are justified by their own need for safety. At the same time, not every YouTube video of an officer making an arrest implies that the officer is doing something wrong.

On the other side of the issue, Sabur’s attorneys are going to concoct their own story. I am sure the story will present Sabur as a model citizen who was simply unfortunate enough to have an officer decide to beat him half to death for no reason. While this kind of thing certainly does happen on occasion, the video does show that Sabur is clearly resisting arrest. All the while, one can argue that any man being arrested unjustly has a moral right to demand his immediate freedom. If the officers had no initial reason for approaching Sabur, they had no right to be taking him to jail.

There is a clear point to be made about the depths and limits of police authority and what constitutes an abuse of power. Putting the case of Askia Sabur to the side, one has to question the idea of the officer waving his gun at onlookers to keep them away. Additionally, one has to wonder just how unruly Sabur – or any of us – has to get before an officer feels that it’s OK to use physical force.
While the video does show that Sabur is resisting arrest, one can argue that any man being arrested unjustly has a moral right to demand his immediate freedom.

I have personally seen cases – for example, the police shooting of Bobby Tolan [3] – where any tiny diversion from police instructions, no matter how confusing or unreasonable, can lead to an arrest, shooting, beating, handcuffs or the inconvenience of appearing before a judge. Askia Sabur’s case shouldn’t be the one that gets us talking about the way police do business. We should have been talking about that long ago.

Dr. Boyce Watkins [4] is the founder of the Your Black World Coalition [5] and a Scholarship in Action [6] Resident of the Institute for Black Public Policy. To have Dr. Boyce commentary delivered to your email, please click here [7]. This story first appeared on Black Voices [8].

Posted by StopCorruptCops [9], who wrote:

Philadelphia Police Officers from the 19th District Heinously attacked brother Askia (“Akee”) Sabur for no good reason. These DOMESTIC TERRORISTS have no regard nor respect for Human Life, Human Rights, and Freedom. They continue to harrass, profile, attack, beat, maim, injure, terrorize, brutalized, and violate the Human Rights of young men and women in the community therefore become a TERROR CELL inflicting DOMESTIC TERRORISM upon innocent civilians and Private Citizens of all walks of life. Please help us stop the (C.O.P.S.) C.owards O.ver P.owering S.omeone. They broke his left arm, beat him with “nite sticks” in his head until pints of blood spilled onto the sidewalk resulting in Akee receiving 6 Head-Staples, a neck-brace, multiple back injuries (upper & lower back); and other physical and emotional damage. Dozens of witnesses were on-site; many of whom were there from the on-slaught and whom also have video footage of this Crime Against Humanity.

Article printed from San Francisco Bay View:

URL to article:

URLs in this post:

[1] Image:

[2] Image:

[3] police shooting of Bobby Tolan:

[4] Boyce Watkins:

[5] Your Black World Coalition:

[6] Scholarship in Action:

[7] please click here:

[8] Black Voices:

[9] StopCorruptCops:

[10] Anti-police brutality coalition to convene tribunal, plan for political action:

[11] Mumia’s case a lightning rod for police terrorism:

[12] Why not celebrate Nadra Foster and the Black community on KPFA?:

[13] The largest inmate protest in US history:

[14] Why liberal justice is not justice for Oscar Grant:


20) John Pilger's Investigation Into the War on WikiLeaks and His Interview With Julian Assange
By John Pilger
Friday 14 January 2011

The attacks on WikiLeaks and its founder, Julian Assange, are a response to an information revolution that threatens old power orders in politics and journalism. The incitement to murder trumpeted by public figures in the United States, together with attempts by the Obama administration to corrupt the law and send Assange to a hell-hole prison for the rest of his life, are the reactions of a rapacious system exposed as never before.

In recent weeks, the US Justice Department has established a secret grand jury just across the river from Washington in the eastern district of the state of Virginia. The object is to indict Assange under a discredited espionage act used to arrest peace activists during the First World War, or one of the "war on terror" conspiracy statutes that have degraded American justice. Judicial experts describe the jury as a "deliberate set up," pointing out that this corner of Virginia is home to the employees and families of the Pentagon, CIA, Department of Homeland Security, and other pillars of American power.

"This is not good news," Assange told me when we spoke this past week, his voice dark and concerned. He says he can have "bad days - but I recover." When we met in London last year, I said, "You are making some very serious enemies, not least of all the most powerful government engaged in two wars. How do you deal with that sense of danger?" His reply was characteristically analytical. "It's not that fear is absent. But courage is really the intellectual mastery over fear - by an understanding of what the risks are and how to navigate a path through them."

Regardless of the threats to his freedom and safety, he says the US is not WikiLeaks' main "technological enemy." "China is the worst offender. China has aggressive, sophisticated interception technology that places itself between every reader inside China and every information source outside China. We've been fighting a running battle to make sure we can get information through, and there are now all sorts of ways Chinese readers can get on to our site."

It was in this spirit of "getting information through" that WikiLeaks was founded in 2006, but with a moral dimension. "The goal is justice," wrote Assange on the homepage, "the method is transparency." Contrary to a current media mantra, WikiLeaks material is not "dumped." Less than one percent of the 251,000 US embassy cables have been released. As Assange points out, the task of interpreting material and editing that which might harm innocent individuals demands "standards [befitting] higher levels of information and primary sources." To secretive power, this is journalism at its most dangerous.

On 18 March 2008, a war on WikiLeaks was foretold in a secret Pentagon document prepared by the "Cyber Counterintelligence Assessments Branch." US intelligence, it said, intended to destroy the feeling of "trust," which is WikiLeaks' "center of gravity." It planned to do this with threats to "exposure [and] criminal prosecution." Silencing and criminalizing this rare source of independent journalism was the aim: smear the method. Hell hath no fury like imperial Mafiosi scorned.

Others, also scorned, have lately played a supporting part, intentionally or not, in the hounding of Assange, some for reasons of petty jealousy. Sordid and shabby describe their behavior, which serves only to highlight the injustice against a man who has courageously revealed what we have a right to know.

As the US Justice Department, in its hunt for Assange, subpoenas the Twitter and email accounts, banking and credit card records of people around the world - as if we are all subjects of the United States - much of the "free" media on both sides of the Atlantic direct their indignation at the hunted.

"So, Julian, why won't you go back to Sweden now?" demanded the headline over Catherine Bennett's Observer column on 19 December, which questioned Assange's response to allegations of sexual misconduct with two women in Stockholm last August. "To keep delaying the moment of truth, for this champion of fearless disclosure and total openness," wrote Bennett, "could soon begin to look pretty dishonest, as well as inconsistent." Not a word in Bennett's vitriol considered the looming threats to Assange's basic human rights and his physical safety, as described by Geoffrey Robertson QC, in the extradition hearing in London on 11 January.

In response to Bennett, the editor of the online Nordic News Network in Sweden, Al Burke, wrote to the Observer explaining, "plausible answers to Catherine Bennett's tendentious question" were both critically important and freely available. Assange had remained in Sweden for more than five weeks after the rape allegation was made - and subsequently dismissed by the chief prosecutor in Stockholm - and that repeated attempts by him and his Swedish lawyer to meet a second prosecutor, who reopened the case following the intervention of a government politician, had failed. And yet, as Burke pointed out, this prosecutor had granted him permission to fly to London where "he also offered to be interviewed - a normal practice in such cases." So, it seems odd, at the very least, that the prosecutor then issued a European arrest warrant. The Observer did not publish Burke's letter.

This record straightening is crucial because it describes the perfidious behavior of the Swedish authorities - a bizarre sequence confirmed to me by other journalists in Stockholm and by Assange's Swedish lawyer Bjorn Hurtig. Not only that, Burke cataloged the unforeseen danger Assange faces should he be extradited to Sweden. "Documents released by WikiLeaks since Assange moved to England," he wrote, "clearly indicate that Sweden has consistently submitted to pressure from the United States in matters relating to civil rights. There is ample reason for concern that if Assange were to be taken into custody by Swedish authorities, he could be turned over to the United States without due consideration of his legal rights."

These documents have been virtually ignored in Britain. They show that the Swedish political class has moved far from the perceived neutrality of a generation ago and that the country's military and intelligence apparatus is all but absorbed into Washington's matrix around NATO. In a 2007 cable, the US Embassy in Stockholm lauds the Swedish government dominated by the conservative Moderate Party of Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt as coming "from a new political generation and not bound by [anti-US] traditions [and] in practice a pragmatic and strong partner with NATO, having troops under NATO command in Kosovo and Afghanistan."

The cable reveals how foreign policy is largely controlled by Carl Bildt, the current foreign minister, whose career has been based on a loyalty to the United States that goes back to the Vietnam War when he attacked Swedish public television for broadcasting evidence that the US was bombing civilian targets. Bildt played a leading role in the Committee for the Liberation of Iraq, a lobby group with close ties to the White House of George W. Bush, the CIA and the far right of the Republican Party.

"The significance of all this for the Assange case," notes Burke in a recent study, "is that it will be Carl Bildt and perhaps other members of the Reinfeldt government who will decide - openly or, more likely, furtively behind a façade of legal formality - on whether or not to approve the anticipated US request for extradition. Everything in their past clearly indicates that such a request will be granted."

For example, in December 2001, with the "war on terror" under way, the Swedish government abruptly revoked the political refugee status of two Egyptians, Ahmed Agiza and Mohammed al-Zari. They were handed to a CIA kidnap squad at Stockholm airport and "rendered" to Egypt, where they were tortured. When the Swedish ombudsman for justice investigated and found that their human rights had been "seriously violated," it was too late.

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The implications for the Assange case are clear. Both men were removed without due process of law and before their lawyers could file appeals to the European Human Rights Court and in response to a US threat to impose a trade embargo on Sweden. Last year, Assange applied for residency in Sweden, hoping to base WikiLeaks there. It is widely believed that Washington warned Sweden through mutual intelligence contacts of the potential consequences. In December, prosecutor Marianne Ny, who reactivated the Assange case, discussed the possibility of Assange's extradition to the US on her web site.

Almost six months after the sex allegations were first made public, Assange has been charged with no crime, but his right to a presumption of innocence has been willfully denied. The unfolding events in Sweden have been farcical, at best. The Australian barrister James Catlin, who acted for Assange in October, describes the Swedish justice system as "a laughing stock ... There is no precedent for it. The Swedes are making it up as they go along." He says that Assange, apart from noting contradictions in the case, has not publicly criticized the women who made the allegations against him. It was the police who tipped off the Swedish equivalent of the Sun, Expressen, with defamatory material about them, initiating a trial by media across the world.

In Britain, this trial has welcomed yet more eager prosecutors, with the BBC to the fore. There was no presumption of innocence in Kirsty Wark's "Newsnight" court in December. "Why don't you just apologise to the women?" she demanded of Assange, followed by: "Do we have your word of honour that you won't abscond?" On Radio 4's "Today" program, John Humphrys, the partner of Bennett, told Assange that he was obliged to go back to Sweden "because the law says you must." The hectoring Humphrys, however, had more pressing interests. "Are you a sexual predator?" he asked. Assange replied that the suggestion was ridiculous, to which Humphrys demanded to know how many women he had slept with.

"Would even Fox News have descended to that level?" wondered the American historian William Blum. "I wish Assange had been raised in the streets of Brooklyn, as I was. He then would have known precisely how to reply to such a question: 'You mean including your mother?'"

What is most striking about these "interviews" is not so much their arrogance and lack of intellectual and moral humility; it is their indifference to fundamental issues of justice and freedom and their imposition of narrow, prurient terms of reference. Fixing these boundaries allows the interviewer to diminish the journalistic credibility of Assange and WikiLeaks, whose remarkable achievements stand in vivid contrast to their own. It is like watching the old and stale, guardians of the status quo, struggling to prevent the emergence of the new.

In this media trial, there is a tragic dimension, obviously for Assange, but also for the best of mainstream journalism. Having published a slew of professionally brilliant editions with the WikiLeaks disclosures, feted all over the world, The Guardian recovered its establishment propriety on 17 December by turning on its besieged source. A major article by the paper's senior correspondent Nick Davies claimed that he had been given the "complete" Swedish police file with its "new" and "revealing" salacious morsels.

Assange's Swedish lawyer Hurtig says that crucial evidence is missing from the file given to Davies, including "the fact that the women were re-interviewed and given an opportunity to change their stories" and the tweets and SMS messages between them, which are "critical to bringing justice in this case." Vital exculpatory evidence is also omitted, such as the statement by the original prosecutor, Eva Finne, that "Julian Assange is not suspected of rape."

Having reviewed the Davies article, Assange's former barrister James Catlin wrote to me: "The complete absence of due process is the story and Davies ignores it. Why does due process matter? Because the massive powers of two arms of government are being brought to bear against the individual whose liberty and reputation are at stake." I would add: so is his life.

The Guardian has profited hugely from the WikiLeaks disclosures, in many ways. On the other hand, WikiLeaks, which survives on mostly small donations and can no longer receive funds through many banks and credit companies thanks to the bullying of Washington, has received nothing from the paper. In February, Random House will publish a Guardian book that is sure to be a lucrative best seller, which Amazon is advertising as "The End of Secrecy: the Rise and Fall of WikiLeaks." When I asked David Leigh, the Guardian executive in charge of the book, what was meant by "fall," he replied that Amazon was wrong and that the working title had been "The Rise (and Fall?) of WikiLeaks." "Note parenthesis and query," he wrote, "Not meant for publication anyway." (The book is now described on the Guardian web site as "WikiLeaks: Inside Julian Assange's War on Secrecy.") Still, with all that duly noted, the sense is that "real" journalists are back in the saddle. Too bad about the new boy, who never really belonged.

On 11 January, Assange's first extradition hearing was held at Belmarsh Magistrates Court, an infamous address because it is here that people were, before the advent of control orders, consigned to Britain's own Guantanamo, Belmarsh prison. The change from ordinary Westminster magistrates' court was due to a lack of press facilities, according to the authorities. That they announced this on the day Vice President Joe Biden declared Assange a "high tech terrorist" was no doubt coincidental, though the message was not.

For his part, Assange is just as worried about what will happen to Bradley Manning, the alleged whistleblower, being held in horrific conditions which the US National Commission on Prisons calls "tortuous." At 23, Private Manning is the world's pre-eminent prisoner of conscience, having remained true to the Nuremberg principle that every soldier has the right to "a moral choice." His suffering mocks the notion of the land of the free.

"Government whistleblowers," said Barack Obama, running for president in 2008, "are part of a healthy democracy and must be protected from reprisal." Obama has since pursued and prosecuted more whistleblowers than any other president in American history.

"Cracking Bradley Manning is the first step," Assange told me. "The aim clearly is to break him and force a confession that he somehow conspired with me to harm the national security of the United States. In fact, I'd never heard his name before it was published in the press. WikiLeaks technology was designed from the very beginning to make sure that we never knew the identities or names of people submitting material. We are as untraceable as we are uncensorable. That's the only way to assure sources they are protected."

He adds: "I think what's emerging in the mainstream media is the awareness that if I can be indicted, other journalists can, too. Even the New York Times is worried. This used not to be the case. If a whistleblower was prosecuted, publishers and reporters were protected by the First Amendment that journalists took for granted. That's being lost. The release of the Iraq and Afghanistan war logs, with their evidence of the killing of civilians, hasn't caused this - it's the exposure and embarrassment of the political class: the truth of what governments say in secret, how they lie in public; how wars are started. They don't want the public to know these things and scapegoats must be found."

What about the allusions to the "fall" of WikiLeaks? "There is no fall," he said. "We have never published as much as we are now. WikiLeaks is now mirrored on more than 2,000 websites. I can't keep track of the of the spin-off sites: those who are doing their own WikiLeaks ... If something happens to me or to WikiLeaks, 'insurance' files will be released. They speak more of the same truth to power, including the media. There are 504 US embassy cables on one broadcasting organisation and there are cables on Murdoch and Newscorp."

The latest propaganda about the "damage" caused by WikiLeaks is a warning by the US State Department to "hundreds of human rights activists, foreign government officials and business people identified in leaked diplomatic cables of possible threats to their safety." This was how The New York Times dutifully relayed it on 8 January, and it is bogus. In a letter to Congress, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates has admitted that no sensitive intelligence sources have been compromised. On 28 November, McClatchy Newspapers reported, "US officials conceded they have no evidence to date that the [prior] release of documents led to anyone's death." NATO in Kabul told CNN it could not find a single person who needed protecting.

The great American playwright Arthur Miller wrote: "The thought that the state ... is punishing so many innocent people is intolerable. And so the evidence has to be internally denied." What WikiLeaks has given us is truth, including rare and precious insight into how and why so many innocent people have suffered in reigns of terror disguised as wars and executed in our name; and how the United States has secretly and wantonly intervened in democratic governments from Latin America to its most loyal ally in Britain.

Javier Moreno, the editor of El Pais, which published the WikiLeaks logs in Spain, wrote, "I believe that the global interest sparked by the WikiLeaks papers is mainly due to the simple fact that they conclusively reveal the extent to which politicians in the West have been lying to their citizens."

Crushing individuals like Assange and Manning is not difficult for a great power, however craven. The point is, we should not allow it to happen, which means those of us meant to keep the record straight should not collaborate in any way. Transparency and information, to paraphrase Thomas Jefferson, are the "currency" of democratic freedom. "Every news organisation," a leading American constitutional lawyer told me, "should recognize that Julian Assange is one of them and that his prosecution will have a huge and chilling effect on journalism."

My favorite secret document - leaked by WikiLeaks, of course - is from the Ministry of Defense in London. It describes journalists who serve the public without fear or favor as "subversive" and "threats." Such a badge of honor.


21) U.S. Bills States $1.3 Billion in Interest Amid Tight Budgets
January 14, 2011

As if states did not have enough on their plates getting their shaky finances in order, a new bill is coming due — from the federal government, which will charge them $1.3 billion in interest this fall on the billions they have borrowed from Washington to pay unemployment benefits during the downturn.

The interest cost, which has been looming in plain sight without attracting much attention, represents only a sliver of the huge deficits most states will have to grapple with this year But it comes as states are already cutting services, laying off employees and raising taxes. And it heralds a larger reckoning that many states will have to face before long: what to do about the $41 billion they have borrowed from the federal government to help them pay benefits to millions of unemployed people, a debt that federal officials say could rise to $80 billion.

The states, when they borrowed the money, hoped that the economy would have turned around by the time the first interest payments came due, or that future Congresses might loosen the terms. But the economy did not turn around in time and the new Congress, dominated by Republicans determined to shrink the size of government, shows little appetite for deepening the federal deficit by bailing out the states.

The problem is not only the staggering number of people who have lost their jobs, but the fact that many states entered the downturn with too little money salted away in the trust funds they use to pay unemployment benefits, which they are supposed to build up in good times by taxing employers.

Those anemic trust funds ran dry quickly in many states as millions of newly jobless Americans began collecting benefits. So many states borrowed money from the federal government, helped by the stimulus act, which gave them a break on interest for nearly two years. But that grace period ended Dec. 31, and states will owe the first interest on those loans in September.

Michigan, which owes Washington $3.7 billion, is supposed to pay $117 million in interest by September — just about what it pays each year to run Western Michigan University. California, which owes $362 million in interest on a total debt of $9.7 billion, the highest in the nation, plans to juggle its accounts, borrowing from a trust fund for disabled workers to pay interest to the federal government.

In New York, which owes $115 million in interest on $3.2 billion, the cost will be passed on to employers in the form of a tax surcharge. Texas went to the bond market and borrowed $2 billion to pay back all the money it borrowed from the federal government, judging that the interest on the bonds, which are backed by a tax on employers, would cost less.

Some states are planning to follow the lead of Texas, and borrow the money to repay the federal government. Others are asking for more time.

“During this time of extreme economic stress not only on the citizens of our states, but also on state budgets, state loan interest payments that will come due in September 2011 place further hardship on states’ finances and could slow economic recovery,” a group of 14 governors from both parties wrote to Congressional leaders last month. Their letter added: “Extending the interest-free loans would allow states to avoid increasing payroll taxes, reducing benefits, or both, while the economic recovery continues.”

Many advocates believe that the new Republican majority in Congress, which has said it plans to focus on deficit reduction, may be hesitant to postpone collecting the interest. But they could face pressure from newly elected Republican governors in states like Michigan, Ohio, which owes $2.3 billion, and Florida, which owes $2 billion.

The effects of the problem are already being felt. While states are generally loath to increase taxes on businesses during a recession, for fear that it can discourage much-needed hiring, 35 states were forced to raise their state unemployment taxes on employers in 2010, according to a survey by the National Association of State Workforce Agencies.

If states are unable to repay their outstanding federal loans by November — which will prove difficult for many — nearly half the states could be forced to effectively raise federal taxes on employers by about $21 per worker, under a provision of federal law that automatically reduces the tax credits given to businesses in states that carry loans two years in a row. Businesses in Michigan, Indiana and South Carolina are already paying the higher federal tax.

But even with those effective federal tax increases, which would continue to rise each year the loan is not repaid, it could take years for some states to repay what they have borrowed.

“This is a problem that’s going to persist because of the structural imbalances in the way this system is financed,” said Patrick T. Beaty, a deputy secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry, who explained that Pennsylvania’s unemployment tax base had not kept up with the rising cost of the benefits, leading to a chronic insolvency.

“Unless that’s corrected, these loans are going to go on for years, even if the economy improves,” he said.

Pennsylvania, one of a handful of states that make both workers and employers pay into its unemployment program, is activating a dormant state “interest tax” to pay the $102 million it expects to owe the federal government this year. It owes Washington $3.1 billion, and officials expect the debt to grow to $3.7 billion by the end of the year. Even with the rising federal tax on employers each year, Mr. Beaty said, Pennsylvania could end up owing the federal government $4.3 billion eight years from now.

The state debts are the highest they have been in the 75-year history of the nation’s unemployment program. They are unrelated to the extra weeks of unemployment benefits that Congress agreed to pay for in the stimulus, and then extended late last year as part of the tax cut compromise — those extended weeks are paid for with federal money. The borrowing that many states were forced to do was in order to simply continue paying their basic unemployment benefits, which generally last up to 26 weeks.

The last time state borrowing even approached this level was after the recession of the early 1980s. It took years for many states to repay the debts then, and sparked states to raise taxes on businesses, reduce benefits for the unemployed and borrow money on the bond market — a range of unappealing options for distressed states during a downturn.

Right now, 30 states owe money to the federal government for their unemployment programs. Many of them tried to keep their unemployment taxes low in recent decades as states have competed with one another to lure companies and jobs. Now, although unemployment taxes are low by historic standards, the states face the strong possibility that they will have to take action at the worst possible time, raising taxes on employers at a time of low hiring, and cutting benefits when they are most needed.

States are beginning to try to deal with the short-term problem.

In West Virginia, which has not had to borrow unemployment money from the federal government, Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin, a Democrat, used his state of the state speech last week to call for propping up the state’s unemployment reserves with $20 million from its rainy day fund. And a bill was introduced in Arizona this month that would temporarily raise taxes on employers to repay both the principal and interest of the $258 million the state has had to borrow so far. One of the bill’s sponsors, State Representative Bob Robson, a Republican representing Chandler, said that many businesses understand the need to take action.

“They recognize that this needs to be done,” he said in an interview, “or the cost would be more prohibitive in the future.”


22) Restrictions on Travel to Cuba Are Eased
January 14, 2011

WASHINGTON — The Obama administration on Friday eased restrictions on Americans’ travel to Cuba in an effort to encourage more contact between people in both countries, while leaving intact the decades-old embargo against the island’s Communist government.

White House officials said they were lifting travel restrictions imposed by President George W. Bush and expanding the so-called people-to-people provisions created under President Bill Clinton. The changes provide broad opportunities for travel to Cuba by academic, religious and cultural groups and allow charter flights from more American airports.

The new measures also permit Americans to send money to Cuban citizens — except for members of the Castro government and the Communist Party — and to religious organizations to support “private economic activity.”

The administration had been expected to announce these measures months ago, but Congressional and administration officials said they were delayed because of White House concerns about their possible impact on the 2010 midterm elections.

There were also worries about the effect the move could have on the detention of a contractor for the United States Agency for International Development who was arrested in Cuba more than a year ago after he was discovered distributing satellite communication equipment to religious groups.

State Department officials visited the contractor, Alan Gross, in Havana this week. The Associated Press reported Friday that the State Department was “cautiously optimistic” that Mr. Gross, 60, who has had health problems, would be tried and then allowed to return to the United States.

Still, the fact that the White House announced the new measures late on a Friday afternoon when most Republican members of Congress were away on retreat and Democrats had left their offices for the long holiday weekend, indicated that the administration hoped to enact the changes with as little fanfare — and backlash — as possible.

The White House announcement also comes as the Cuban government is carrying out a sweeping economic overhaul, including layoffs of hundreds of thousands of state workers. Sarah Stephens, executive director of the Center for Democracy in the Americas, said the increased flow of money from American citizens would help Cubans cope with the changes.

Asked whether the administration was concerned that the measure might inadvertently strengthen the Cuban government by providing its economy with a new source of hard currency, a senior administration official said, “What we know is that it will put money into the hands of the Cuban people and allow them to have more independence from the Cuban state.”

Still, a handful of supporters and opponents of the measures took time to make their feelings known.

“Loosening these regulations will not help foster a pro-democracy environment in Cuba,” said Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Republican of Florida, the new chairwoman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. Senator John Kerry, Democrat of Massachusetts and the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, applauded the measures as “an important step,” saying that they “open the way for the good will of citizens of both countries to forge deeper ties that are in our national interest today and in the future.”


23) Homeland Security Cancels ‘Virtual Fence’ After $1 Billion Is Spent
January 14, 2011

The Department of Homeland Security on Friday canceled a project to build a technology-based “virtual fence” across the Southwest border, saying that the effort — on which $1 billion has already been spent — was ineffective and too costly.

Janet Napolitano, the homeland security secretary, said she had decided to end the five-year-old project, known as SBI-Net, because it “does not meet current standards for viability and cost effectiveness.” In a statement, Ms. Napolitano said border agents would instead use less expensive technology that is already part of their surveillance equipment, tailoring it to the specific terrain where they will be scouting for illegal border crossers and drug traffickers.

Ms. Napolitano’s decision brought a long-expected close to a project carried out by the Boeing Corporation under a contract first signed in 2005 under President George W. Bush, which had been plagued by delays and cost overruns. Originally estimated to cost more than $7 billion to cover the 2,000-mile length of the border, it was the subject of more than a dozen scathing reports by the Government Accountability Office.

In a pilot program in Arizona, it cost about $1 billion to build the system across 53 miles of the state’s border. Officials said the new approach, using mobile surveillance systems and unmanned drones already in the Border Patrol’s arsenal, would cost less than $750 million to cover the remaining 323 miles of Arizona’s border.

Ms. Napolitano suspended financing for the project in March and ordered a review, which was just completed.

But officials moved slowly to cancel the project because it had been ensnared in the contentious debate over border security. Many Republican lawmakers have accused the Obama administration of being lax on enforcement, and they have said they would not consider an overhaul of immigration laws that President Obama supports until the border is tighter.

Anticipating criticism, homeland security officials released documents on Friday showing big increases in the Border Patrol — to 20,500 today from 10,000 in 2004 — and other border agents, and a steep decline in the number of immigrants detained at the border, indicating fewer illegal crossings. About 463,000 illegal crossers were detained last year, compared with 724,000 in 2008, according to the figures.

Ms. Napolitano said she had concluded that the original concept of the project, to develop a single technology that could be used across the entire border, was not viable. Boeing had built a complex system of sensors, radars and cameras mounted on towers that was supposed to lead border agents to the exact location of illegal crossers. But the system functioned inconsistently in the rough terrain along much of the border.

“There is no one-size-fits-all solution to meet our border technology needs,” Ms. Napolitano said.

The announcement came in advance of the expiration of the Boeing contract next Tuesday, a homeland security official said.

In a statement, Boeing noted that officials said they would continue to use equipment it had designed. “We appreciate that they recognize the value of the integrated fixed towers Boeing has built, tested and delivered so far,” the company said.

Representative Peter T. King, the New York Republican who is the new chairman of the Homeland Security Committee, criticized the administration for being slow to end the program. “I continue to have very serious concerns about the Obama administration’s lack of urgency to secure the border,” he said.


24) Sheriff Charged in Texas Whistle-Blowing Case
January 14, 2011

A state grand jury in Winkler County, Tex., has indicted the sheriff, the county attorney and a hospital administrator for their roles in orchestrating the prosecution of two whistle-blowing nurses after they had reported allegations of malpractice.

The sheriff, Robert L. Roberts Jr., and county attorney, Scott M. Tidwell, each face six counts, including misuse of official information and retaliation, which are third-degree felonies. Stan Wiley, the administrator of Winkler County Memorial Hospital, in the dusty West Texas town of Kermit, was indicted on two counts of retaliation.

The case was investigated by the state attorney general after a jury last year acquitted one of the nurses of charges that she had misused official information by providing patient case numbers to the Texas Medical Board. In 2009, the nurse, Anne Mitchell, and a colleague, Vickilyn Galle, included the case numbers in an anonymous letter to the board about the practices of Dr. Rolando G. Arafiles Jr., who had recently joined the small hospital in Kermit.

The case against Ms. Galle was dropped before trial. Dr. Arafiles, who was arrested last month, faces four criminal counts, and has been charged civilly by the medical board with a variety of practice violations.

The charges issued by the grand jury on Thursday stem from Dr. Arafiles’s approach to Sheriff Roberts after the doctor learned the medical board was investigating him. The sheriff, who was a patient and friend of the doctor, opened an investigation and, according to the indictment, used deceptive means to obtain the anonymous letter from the medical board.

The letter included details that implicated the nurses. Mr. Wiley fired the two women, who had a combined 47 years at the hospital, and Mr. Tidwell handled their prosecution.

The nurses sued the county and settled last year for a shared $750,000.


25) Groups Demand Withdrawal of Medicaid Fraud Lawsuit
January 14, 2011

The Legal Aid Society and scores of other organizations representing the elderly and disabled banded together on Friday to demand that the United States attorney in Manhattan withdraw a lawsuit charging New York City with Medicaid fraud through its personal care program.

In a strongly worded letter to Preet Bharara, the United States attorney in Manhattan, the advocates said that the lawsuit directly conflicted with federal policy and with a Supreme Court decision requiring states to try to keep those with disabilities in their homes rather than sending them to institutions.

The letter contended that the lawsuit would have a chilling effect on city government’s willingness to authorize personal care in the home to people “who desperately need it.”

“New York City should be commended — not penalized — for its successful efforts to further this federal goal,” said the letter, which had been signed by representatives of more than 200 disability-rights, legal and community organizations.

The letter was a response to a civil fraud complaint filed on Tuesday, in which Mr. Bharara charged that the city’s Human Resources Administration had overbilled the federal Medicaid program tens of millions of dollars by improperly approving 24-hour home care for thousands of patients.

In some cases, the complaint said, patients were receiving too little care and needed to be institutionalized; in other cases, they were receiving too much. The complaint insinuated that city officials made treatment decisions about personal care to shift the costs of caring for elderly people, many with dementia, to the state and federal government.

Ellen Davis, a spokeswoman for the United States attorney’s office for the Southern District in New York, said on Friday, “We are and always have been committed to aggressive enforcement of the Americans with Disabilities Act,” which the letter accused the government of defying.

Also on Friday, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg disputed the lawsuit’s contention that New York City had “unjustly enriched” itself by manipulating the personal care program. “We don’t receive one cent from this practice,” Mr. Bloomberg said on his radio show. “It’s done by service organizations. They’re paid directly by the state.”

The state’s Medicaid spending is the highest in the country, at more than twice the national average for its population.

Javier C. Hernandez contributed reporting.


26) Acquittal After Reporting Black Doll Head on Police Car
January 14, 2011

A record producer who complained that he saw the head of a black baby doll on the antenna of an unmarked police car in Harlem was acquitted on Friday of charges that he had later obstructed the police and resisted arrest.

Before reaching their decision in less than 45 minutes, jurors heard the producer, Clarence Jones, testify that police officers from the 25th Precinct had harassed him more than two years ago, in the days after he complained to State Senator Bill Perkins and others about seeing the doll head. Mr. Jones said that when he confronted the white detectives about the doll’s head, “they just laughed it off.”

Mr. Jones’s complaint stoked already tense race relations between community members and the Police Department. The police did not deny that there was a doll’s head on the car’s rear antenna, but they said that a review found no evidence that officers had placed it there. After he complained, Mr. Jones testified, officers pulled him over frequently and would drive by his building and wave their camera phones at him as if they were trying to photograph or film him.

Mr. Jones, 30, said he believed that the harassment culminated five days later, on July 27, 2008, when officers arrested him on East 116th Street and accused him of driving off while they were trying to issue him a parking ticket and of resisting their efforts to arrest him. Mr. Jones and his supporters said the charges were trumped-up and retaliation for his complaint.

On Friday, an elated Mr. Jones, who bowed his head and cried after the verdict was read, slightly backed away from that assertion.

“I don’t want to blame it on the black doll head,” he said outside the courtroom as he stood beside his lawyer, Roger S. Wareham. “But it was something.”

On the day he was arrested, Mr. Jones testified, he was in a store across the street when he heard the police announce on a loudspeaker that all double-parked cars needed to be moved. He jogged out to his car, he said, and a police car was alongside his, preventing him from moving. He said he knocked on the passenger window of the police car and told the officers that he did not want any trouble and just wanted to move his car. The officers did not say anything, Mr. Jones said, and the police car simply backed up.

Mr. Jones said he got into his car and drove away. But that account differed from the testimony of Josip Sovulj, one of the arresting officers, on Thursday. Officer Sovulj said they had told Mr. Jones that they were giving him a ticket and to stay put.

Mr. Jones testified that he drove up the block after the officers said nothing to him and parallel parked in front of his apartment building on East 116th Street. But Ryan Hayward, an assistant district attorney, said in his closing statement that the officers pulled Mr. Jones over because he had disobeyed their order not to move.

Mr. Jones said that as he began to step out of his car after parking, the police officers immediately grabbed him.

“They put some move on my wrist,” Mr. Jones said, raising one hand and bending it at the wrist and twisting it with the other. “I’m getting kneed and elbowed. What made me start screaming for my mother is they started putting extra pressure on me — knees, elbows.”

The confrontation left him with pain in his shoulder and jaw, and with a cracked tooth that had to be pulled, he said. “I put up no resistance,” he said.

The prosecution contended that Mr. Jones had gotten out of his car and approached the officers after they pulled him over. When they tried to handcuff him, he struggled with them, the prosecution said.

Both of the charges against Mr. Jones were misdemeanors. Before taking the case to trial, the prosecution offered to let Mr. Jones plead guilty in exchange for no jail time. He refused.

“We just went with the truth,” Mr. Jones said outside the courtroom. “That’s why I took it to trial. I didn’t just want to take a deal on something I had nothing to do with.”


27) Solution to Crowded Schools? How About Birth Control?
January 14, 2011, 4:55 pm
[See end of this article to watch video. Also, for those who may not know, Cathie Black, media executive and head of Hearst Magazines (Cosmopolitan, Esquire, Harper’s Bazaar, Popular Mechanics, and O, The Oprah Magazine) has been appointed New York City Schools Chancellor by Mayor Michael Bloomberg. "...she is respectfully known among those who have worked with her as unsentimental, cutthroat and unafraid of confrontation."*]
And for your further information:
*Who is Cathie Black
By Jon Schuppe
DNAinfo Reporter/Producer
November 9, 2010

The solution to school overcrowding? According to New York City Schools Chancellor Cathleen P. Black, it might just be birth control.

During a meeting Thursday evening with Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and his school overcrowding task force, Ms. Black — Aquinas Dominican High School in Chicago, Class of ’62 — suggested just that to the parents, community leaders and school principals who had gathered to share their concerns about the lack of school seats in Lower Manhattan.

The comment came after Eric Greenleaf, who has a child at P.S. 234 on Greenwich Street in TriBeCa, cited demographic projections that predicted a shortage of 1,000 school seats by 2015 in the area, which has seen a baby boom of sorts since the city doled out incentives for people who moved Downtown after the Sept. 11 attacks.

“These are kids who are already born,” Mr. Greenleaf, a New York University professor, told Ms. Black, referring to the number of Downtown children who may not get a seat in their neighborhood school in coming years.

“Couldn’t we just have some birth control for a while?” Ms. Black asked. “It would really help us.”

She laughed, and the audience laughed with her. But not everyone found it funny.

City Council member Julissa Ferreras, chairwoman of the Council’s committee on women’s issues, berated Ms. Black in a statement, saying, “The job of the chancellor is to ensure that our city’s children are being educated and have the tools to learn — not judge the reproductive choices of women in our city.”

In an e-mail, Ms. Black’s spokeswoman, Natalie Ravitz, characterized the comment as an “off-handed joke” and offered an apology: “Chancellor Black takes the issue of overcrowding very seriously, which is why she was engaged in a discussion with Lower Manhattan parents on the subject. She regrets if she left a different impression by making an off-handed joke in the course of that conversation.”

Ms. Black’s comments were first reported inThe Tribeca Trib.

To be fair, Ms. Black did seem to listen to their concerns and, in the end, conceded that “perhaps we haven’t done as good a job” planning for the growth in the community. Though she said that crowded schools are a problem “all over the city,” she added, “It’s clear that your needs are great and we’ll try to deal with them as well as we possibly can.”

The Video:

Cathie Black Meets With Downtown Parents


28) Germany Bans 934 More Farms in Dioxin Scare
January 15, 2011

Filed at 9:12 a.m. EST

BERLIN (AP) — Germany's dioxin-tainted food scandal widened Saturday, as authorities banned another 934 farms from selling eggs, poultry and pork after finding out that one company had hidden its deliveries of contaminated livestock feed.

Prosecutors in Lower Saxony state have opened an investigation after finding out about the tainted feed deliveries to those farms, Agriculture Minister Ilse Aigner said.

"This is a scandal within the scandal," she said.

Lower Saxony's agriculture ministry said products from those farms have likely been sold over the past ten days, "mostly eggs." But it reiterated its assessment that "consumption of these goods does not pose a health risk" given the low contamination level.

The scandal broke last week when investigators found excessive levels of dioxin in eggs and chickens, leading authorities to slaughter hundreds of animals and freeze sales from more than 5,000 farms. Excessive dioxin levels were also found in some pork.

As of Friday, all but 400 farms had been cleared and allowed to resume selling their products, but South Korea and China kept their bans on imports of German pork and poultry.

Aigner, who met with officials in Lower Saxony to discuss the dioxin scandal, appeared outraged by the state authorities' surprise announcement Saturday morning and urged Gov. David McAllister to immediately reprimand those responsible for failing to properly oversee the feed producer.

But a spokesman for the state's agriculture ministry, Gert Hahne, rejected Aigner's comments, saying authorities did their work properly and discovered the feed producer's wrongdoing. The firm itself was not named.

Authorities have traced the infected feed to Harles & Jentzsch GmbH, which is under investigation by prosecutors. The company, which filed for bankruptcy this week, is suspected of using tainted fat to make pellets that were then sold as livestock feed.


28) Bradley Manning Support Network Supporters Newsletter
Exposing War Crimes Is Not A Crime!
January 15, 2010
Issue: 2.2
The Bradley Manning Support Network is an ad hoc, international grassroots effort to help accused whistle blower Pfc. Bradley Manning.
VIA Email

Media: +1 (202) 640-4388 or
Bradley Manning Speaks About His Conditions
Friend and supporter David House recounts a visit to see Bradley at the Quantico brig, where it became clear that the Pentagon's public spin sharply contradicts the reality of Bradley Manning's detainment

Bradley Manning and the Rule of Law
The evidence shows Manning, if guilty of what he is accused, is a patriot and not a traitor. He did not give the documents to a foreign adversary, he is accused of giving them to the media to spur debate and create a more perfect union that did not routinely violate the law and lie to its people.

Psychologists for Social Responsibility open letter to Robert Gates on Manning's confinement
"Psychologists for Social Responsibility calls upon [Secretary of Defense Gates] to rectify the inhumane, harmful, and counterproductive treatment of PFC Bradley Manning immediately."

Confinement Conditions Update
A brief blog post by Bradley Manning's lawyer, David E. Coombs, regarding the ongoing process to improve P.F.C. Manning's conditions.

Assange: Manning "a Political Prisoner"
Julian Assange boldly covers a range of topics, including Bradley Manning, in an interview with Cenk Uygur on MSNBC.

Bradley Manning: One Soldier Who Really Did "Defend Our Freedom"
While wars are fought for the sole benefit of the moneyed elite, Bradley Manning chose to fight for and defend the basic principles of a functioning democracy.

Song for Bradley Manning
David Rovics wrote a catchy tune in support of Bradley Manning!

What Can I Do?
Join the fray! Learn ten simple ways we've come up with for you to help Bradley Manning (plus one more written in the comments section by a very helpful supporter). Together we can!

The Bradley Manning Support Network is an ad hoc, international grassroots effort to help accused whistle blower Pfc. Bradley Manning.

Media: +1 (202) 640-4388 or


29) Why does health care in Cuba cost 96% less than in the US?
By Don Fitz
Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal
January 5, 2011

When Americans spend $100 on health care, is it possible that only $4 goes to keeping them well and $96 goes somewhere else? Single payer health care [government-funded universal health insurance] advocates compare US health care to that in Western Europe or Canada and come up with figures of 20–30% waste in the US.

But there is one country with very low level of economic activity yet with a level of health care equal to the West: Cuba.

Life expectancy of about 78 years of age in Cuba is equivalent to the US. Yet, in 2005, Cuba was spending US$193 per person on health care, only 4% of the $4540 being spent in the US. Where could the other 96% of US health care dollars be going?

1. A fragmented system

Explaining why health care is 16% of the US gross domestic product while it is less than half that in the UK, a 2008 article in Dollars and Sense pointed out that:

… the US has the most bureaucratic health care system in the world, including over 1500 different companies, each offering multiple plans, each with its own marketing program and enrollment procedures, its own paperwork and policies, its CEO salaries, sales commissions, and other non-clinical costs—and, of course, if it is a for-profit company, its profits.

An article widely cited during the debate on single payer health care calculated that administration eats up 31% of health-care costs. Insurance companies that compete in the market have duplicative claims-processing facilities and must keep track of a variety of approval and co-payment requirements.

Several Canadian physicians who peeked at US hospitals found that for-profit ones paid executive bonuses that were up to 20% higher, were more likely to up-code diagnoses in order to receive more reimbursement, and overwhelmingly had more lawsuits against them for performing unnecessary surgeries and billing for services not provided.

2. Over treatment

One of the most readable accounts of profit-motivated over treatment is Stan Cox’s Sick Planet (2008). He describes how the Parker Hughes Cancer Center in Roseville, Minnesota, went bankrupt after the Minneapolis Star Tribune reported that it “had been subjecting cancer patients to excessive testing and treating”.

When doctors install magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) machines in their office, they tend to use them 23% more than if they refer out for a scan. After the purchase price is covered by the first 2000–3000 scans, additional ones generate almost pure profit.

Are these a few bad apples, or do they reflect a broader trend? A study in Australia reported that if “100 patients are each subjected to 10 random diagnostic tests, around 40 of them will be ‘found’ to have a problem that really isn’t there”.

3. Expansion of illness

The pharmaceutical industry has become especially adept at transforming what can be a serious problem into an artificial sickness. It has redefined and expanded “a host of medical conditions—erectile dysfunction, female sexual dysfunction, restless legs, sleeplessness, bipolar disorder, attention deficit disorder, social anxiety disorder, and irritable bowel syndrome”.

Take the osteoporosis hype. It is a genuine medical issue. But the industry pressures women to have bone scans and take anti-osteoporosis drugs even though the scans do a poor job of predicting hip fracture, the major threat of fragile bones.

Between 1987 and 2007, the rate of problems classified as mental illness in the US more than doubled (from 1/184 to 1/76). In the same time period, the use of drugs like Ritalin for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in children (mostly boys) shot up 30 fold.

4. Sickness looping

According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), each year 2 million Americans get infectious diseases in hospitals. The massive over treatment endemic to health care in the United States increases costs in two ways: (1) the cost of the unnecessary treatment itself; and, (2) the cost of treating the sickness which results from the original treatment. We could say that “sickness looping” is when treatment loops back on itself and requires yet more treatment.

This is a major medical expense, responsible for about a third of all medical care. The second best-selling category is heartburn drugs known as proton pump inhibitors (PPI), which accounted for $14 billion in the US in 2008. But 60% of PPI prescriptions for hospitalized patients may be unnecessary. Since the drugs inhibit calcium absorption, those taking high-dose PPIs long-term are 2.65 times more likely to have hip fractures. They are twice as likely to develop pneumonia and almost three times as likely to get a potentially deadly infection. Most disturbing, they may cause heartburn and acid reflux, which they are supposedly treating.

Too much radiation can be very unhealthy. From 1980 to 2010, the average lifetime dose of non-therapeutic diagnostic radiation increased sevenfold, increasing the risk for cancer. As much as 2% of cancers could be due to CT scan radiation.

Did you think that the value of hormone therapy (HT) for menopausal women was thoroughly debunked? After all, it does not improve either memory or cognition. But it is associated with increased dementia, stroke, blood clots and heart attacks. After 50 million women stopped using HT, estrogen positive breast cancer dropped by 15%. So, when Martha Rosenberg saw a 2010 article describing industry’s efforts to began pushing it again, she thought it was like “seeing an article suggesting cigarettes may be good for you after all.”

5. Insurance looping

In addition to the 47 million uninsured Americans, there are over 60 million who are underinsured. We could say that “insurance looping” occurs when failure to provide treatment loops back into medical costs, making them higher rather than lower.

A Health Affairs article confirmed that the uninsured are more likely to be untreated, resulting in illnesses progressing and their treatments being more expensive. According to lead author Dr Andrew Wilper, “they’re not getting care that would prevent strokes, heart attacks, amputations and kidney failure.”

Those without adequate treatment also receive more hurried care when they do get it. They often have no alternative but use the emergency room, making the ER more crowded for everyone.

6. Doctors’ fees

The US has some of the highest paid doctors in the world. Even though there is no difference in patient survival rates for coronary bypass operations in the US and Canada, US heart surgeons bill at least twice as much.

The six- and seven-digit income figures for US physicians often stem from practices that are not particularly helpful to patients. A California study in the 1960s “showed that when physicians owned X-ray facilities, their patients ended up being X-rayed twice as often as patients whose physicians referred them to outside labs”. Illinois brought legal actions “against 20 MRI operators in the Chicago area for allegedly paying kickbacks to doctors who helped keep their machines supplied with patients”.

7. What needs to be researched?

Over half of the world’s spending on medical research is in the US. This has resulted in some amazing new techniques; but the increase in life expectancy gets smaller each decade. Focusing on increasingly rare disorders is likely to benefit the wealthiest half of families who spend 92% of US health care dollars.

The $3 billion Human Genome Project would supposedly revolutionise the treatment of most human diseases. But Stephen Hall writes in Scientific American that it is failing to produce medical miracles, largely because of its emphasis on genetic rather than environmental causes of disease. Many more people would be benefited by research on how to get already-known treatments to those who are not currently receiving them.

8. Costs not counted

Scrutinising dollar figures leaves out the unnecessary irritation, pain, suffering and death from profit-oriented health care. In 2008, reduced access to care resulting from lack of health insurance caused the death of 2200 veterans over the age of 65.

A review of pooled data from studies of 26,000 hospitals with 38,000,000 patients found that private for-profit ownership of hospitals is associated with a higher risk of death for patients. The authors noted that for-profit hospitals have extra costs which leads them to skimp on patient care, often by hiring fewer highly skilled personnel.

One study of health care plans concluded that “if all 23.7 million American women between ages 50 and 69 years were enrolled in investor-owned, rather than not-for-profit plans, an estimated 5925 additional breast cancer deaths would be expected”.

Another source of human suffering is prescription drug overdoses, which are now the second-leading cause of accidental deaths in the US. According to the CDC, they cause more overdose deaths than heroin and codeine combined.

As for-profit health care causes needless suffering, its cost feedback loops flow into each other, creating yet more illness and sending costs spiraling. The growth of the sickness industry reflects little growth in human wellbeing.
Revolutionary medicine in Cuba: health care as a human right

The Cuban approach to health care is so different that it cannot be described using the concepts that are so problematic in the US. It goes beyond taking profit out of medicine. Cuba stands alone in constructing an advanced health-care system with extremely limited resources.

What it has accomplished is remarkable. Life expectancy climbed from 58.8 years at the time of the 1959 revolution to 73.5 years by 1983, and 78 years currently. Cuba has eradicated polio, controlled malaria and dengue fever, and decreased infant, child and maternal mortality to be roughly equal to rates in the US. Cuban medicine is widely recognised by international health groups such as UNICEF as surpassing that of developing countries and being comparable to developed ones.

The foundation for the transformation is a commitment to health care as a human right. There is a strong connection between poverty and sickness. Better care is understood as interwoven with improvements in housing, education and employment.

One of the most revolutionary developments in Cuban medicine was the “idea that physicians are responsible for all those people living in a geographical area rather than just a number of patients”. What is now known as the primary health care (PHC) model in Cuba is based on targeting at-risk groups, including pregnant women, children and the elderly.

The 1989 fall of the Soviet Union and disappearance of most of its oil and markets for Cuban products dealt the economy a severe blow. By 1998-2000, 13% of Cubans were undernourished. Nevertheless, the new medical approach was so effective and had become so much a part of Cuban life that infant mortality continued to decline throughout the “special period” of exceptional hardship.


During a May 2010 visit to Cuba, I spoke with Ivan Angulo Torres, who was then finishing his final, sixth year of medical school. Though the PHC model has gone through several modifications, he outlined the form as it is practiced in Cuba today.

The most basic level of health care is the neighborhood consultorio, which provides coverage for 99% of Cubans. It is often a former home converted into a medical office on the first floor with the doctor and nurse each living on another floor, or nearby. Though the consultorio is often described as serving the surrounding area of about 150 families or 600 people, when I visited Consultorio No. 5 in Havana, Dr Alejandro Fradraga Fernandez explained that their team of three doctors and two nurses provided care to about 500 families or 1800 patients. As typical for a consultorio, it had posters listing docente, or staff of medical students from their first through sixth year who worked there.

Dr Fradraga works at the consultorio from 8 am until 2 pm and then does home visits from 2–4 pm. A healthy person is expected to visit the consultorio three times per year, if there are risk factors, four times per year. Family doctors are required to visit patients in their homes one to four times per year, depending on whether they are healthy, sick, at-risk or have special needs (i.e., an amputee or mentally ill).

While in a patient’s home, the doctor may see five or six people and get information that only a home observation can reveal. Physicians compile information into summary data for the neighborhood. Wall posters in Consultorio No. 5 report the number of residents who smoke, are overweight, have high cholesterol, are alcoholic, take drugs or have a lifestyle of sedentarismo—sedentary lifestyle. Sitting around doing nothing is as important to report as other risk factors.

Though the consultorio deals with health needs of everyone, much of the work is OB/GYN and pediatrics. Women are expected to visit the consultorio 12 times during pregnancy. Breast feeding is the norm in Cuba. Posters in Consultorio No. 5 describe the basics of breast feeding, explain how to overcome common problems and demonstrate how to nurse twins.


Cuba has 492 polyclinics (polyclínicos), with 83 in Havana. Each polyclinic develops programs for 30 to 40 consultorios. They have more specialised treatments than consultorios and are open when family doctors are off work. They are critical in the coordination of teaching, research and community preventive health programs.

For example, polyclinics help control dengue fever, a mosquito-borne illness that frequently breaks out in Cuba. Polyclinics arrange for teams of medical students to go door-to-door to take samples of standing water and tell people to drain them.

This illustrates a critical connection between health care, poverty and housing. Health-care campaigns work in Cuba because health workers can find people at home, neighbourhoods are stable, and people do not show the high mobility patterns of many low income communities in the US.

Polyclinics are thoroughly integrated into Cuban communities, in part, because they blend Western techniques with “natural and traditional medicine” of Caribbean culture. When Teresa Frías took me on a tour of Havana’s Polyclínico Universitario, I saw rooms for admission, observation, autoclaves, laboratory, vaccination, X-ray, optometry, ophthalmology, OB/GYN, family planning, ultrasound, menstrual regulation (largely for teenagers), mouth diseases, podiatry, psychology, social work, bone specialties, speech therapy, physical therapy, adult gym, children’s gym, acupuncture, massage therapy, heat therapy, reflex therapy, electromagnetic therapy and mud therapy. Cuban doctors often try low-tech traditional medicine that patients may be more comfortable with before using a more expensive high-tech option. Of course, the US embargo ensures that many high-tech machines are in short supply.

The Cuban medical system aims to deal with 80% of problems at the level of consultorios and polyclinics and only 20% at the higher levels of hospitals, specialty hospitals and long-term care facilities such as nursing homes. In fact, 74% of all outpatient consultations are with family doctors. According to some estimates, 97% of medical care in Cuba is from family doctors.

The most striking difference about Cuban hospitals is their lack of luxury. Cuban hospitals remind me of the US in the 1950s—they are clean, very plain and are not full of TV sets and electronic gadgets.

Two visions of health care

Cuba shows that a quality health-care system does not have to be based on unending expansion of expensive medical technology. Removing profit from medical care lowers administrative costs, reduces over treatment, tempers the expansion of diagnoses, stops making people sicker by denying them preventive treatment, controls exorbitant incomes of doctors and helps focus research in needed areas.

In Primary Health Care in Cuba (2008), Linda Whitehead and Laurence Branch describe how a Cuban shocked a visiting Canadian doctor by saying that virtually none of his patients with hypertension were on medication. While corporate medicine uses “diet and exercise” as a catchy phrase, in Cuba it is the way that medicine is actually practiced.

The hallmark of Cuban medicine has been designing and putting into effect a system of primary and preventive health care which is little more than sloganeering in other countries. Only 2–3% of US health-care expenditures are for preventive care.

After World War II, the myth arose in the US that better health was associated with more specialists. But Cuba realised that successful health care is closely linked to the prevalence of family doctors. While a majority of Cuban doctors are family physicians, this is the case for only 11% of those in the US. Additionally, Cuba has a higher rate of doctors in the population: one doctor per 180 inhabitants while the ratio is one doctor per 480 inhabitants in the US.

This is one reason why Cuba has virtually no difference in health care indicators among sectors of society. The US, in contrast, has enormous disparities in measures such as infant mortality among ethnic and geographic groups. The lack of commitment to ending inequality in the United States is demonstrated by the parades of empty rhetoric with little to no lasting effect, which are known in the US as “educational campaigns”. In contrast, Cuba has “mobilisation campaigns” that use the enthusiasm of medical students, Committees for the Defence of the Revolution and the general population to combat illiteracy, polio, dengue fever and infant mortality.

When talking with family doctor Alejandro Fragadas, I told him, “Please do not laugh when I ask you this; but when your patients come to see you, how do they get to your office, and, when you make home visits, how do you get to them?”

Looking at me as if I were from another world, he said, “They walk to see me and I walk to see them.” How many Americans walk to their family doctor, if they even have one? The same drive that deprives people of physical activity so necessary to good health simultaneously pours pollutants into the lungs of everyone along the way. This is just one of the infinitely expanding sickness cost loops that spiral into each other in Western culture.

Stark contrasts

It is not possible to create good medicine separately from everything else in society that makes people sick. Revamping the US medical system would be far more valuable than demanding a universal right to bad health care controlled by insurance companies.

The US is one of the worst perpetrators of medical “brain drain”, or wooing doctors, with vastly higher salaries, from India, Africa and Latin America. This leaves some of the most desperate communities on Earth with even fewer doctors. The medical brain drain is so bad in Ghana that the country is left with one doctor for every 45,000 residents.

Cuba, on the other hand, sends a massive number of doctors to other countries. At the same time that the US had 550 medical personnel in Haiti following the 2010 earthquake, there were 1500 from Cuba. Almost a quarter of Cuba’s 70,000 doctors are now working abroad.

In addition, Cuba brings thousands of students from 100 countries to study medicine at the Latin American School of Medicine (ELAM) at no cost. After six years of training at ELAM, graduating doctors bring the model of primary and preventive health care to distressed communities that need it the most. They help turn the “brain drain” into a “brain gain”.

[Don Fitz is editor of Synthesis/Regeneration: A Magazine of Green Social Thought, which is published for members of the Greens/Green Party USA. He continues to listen to stories, contemplate over treatment and peek into hospital rooms to try to find where 96% of US health-care costs are squandered. If you know where he might look, contact him at]


30) Reaching Out to the Cuban People
The White House
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release
January 14, 2011
Reaching Out to the Cuban People

Today, President Obama has directed the Secretaries of State, Treasury, and Homeland Security to take a series of steps to continue efforts to reach out to the Cuban people in support of their desire to freely determine their country’s future.

The President has directed that changes be made to regulations and policies governing: (1) purposeful travel; (2) non-family remittances; and (3) U.S. airports supporting licensed charter flights to and from Cuba. These measures will increase people-to-people contact; support civil society in Cuba; enhance the free flow of information to, from, and among the Cuban people; and help promote their independence from Cuban authorities.

The President believes these actions, combined with the continuation of the embargo, are important steps in reaching the widely shared goal of a Cuba that respects the basic rights of all its citizens. These steps build upon the President’s April 2009 actions to help reunite divided Cuban families; to facilitate greater telecommunications with the Cuban people; and to increase humanitarian flows to Cuba.

The directed changes described below will be enacted through modifications to existing Cuban Assets Control and Customs and Border Protection regulations and policies and will take effect upon publication of modified regulations in the Federal Register within 2 weeks.

Purposeful Travel. To enhance contact with the Cuban people and support civil society through purposeful travel, including religious, cultural, and educational travel, the President has directed that regulations and policies governing purposeful travel be modified to:

· Allow religious organizations to sponsor religious travel to Cuba under a general license.

· Facilitate educational exchanges by: allowing accredited institutions of higher education to sponsor travel to Cuba for course work for academic credit under a general license; allowing students to participate through academic institutions other than their own; and facilitating instructor support to include support from adjunct and part-time staff.

· Restore specific licensing of educational exchanges not involving academic study pursuant to a degree program under the auspices of an organization that sponsors and organizes people-to-people programs.

· Modify requirements for licensing academic exchanges to require that the proposed course of study be accepted for academic credit toward their undergraduate or graduate degree (rather than regulating the length of the academic exchange in Cuba).

· Allow specifically licensed academic institutions to sponsor or cosponsor academic seminars, conferences, and workshops related to Cuba and allow faculty, staff, and students to attend.

· Allow specific licensing to organize or conduct non-academic clinics and workshops in Cuba for the Cuban people.

· Allow specific licensing for a greater scope of journalistic activities.

Remittances. To help expand the economic independence of the Cuban people and to support a more vibrant Cuban civil society, the President has directed the regulations governing non-family remittances be modified to:

· Restore a general license category for any U.S. person to send remittances (up to $500 per quarter) to non-family members in Cuba to support private economic activity, among other purposes, subject to the limitation that they cannot be provided to senior Cuban government officials or senior members of the Cuban Communist Party.

· Create a general license for remittances to religious institutions in Cuba in support of religious activities.

No change will be made to the general license for family remittances.

U.S. Airports. To better serve those who seek to visit family in Cuba and engage in other licensed purposeful travel, the President has directed that regulations governing the eligibility of U.S. airports to serve as points of embarkation and return for licensed flights to Cuba be modified to:

· Allow all U.S. international airports to apply to provide services to licensed charters, provided such airports have adequate customs and immigration capabilities and a licensed travel service provider has expressed an interest in providing service to and from Cuba from that airport.

The modifications will not change the designation of airports in Cuba that are eligible to send or receive licensed charter flights to and from the United States.