Saturday, May 28, 2011



Rally to protest the indefinite detention of accused WikiLeaks whistle-blower Bradley Manning

Saturday, June 4 ~ Leavenworth, Kansas

11:30 am - Gather at Bob Dougherty Memorial Park, N 2nd St. and Kickapoo St. (map). Unrestricted street parking is available around the park. Toilets will be available as well.

Noon - Rally

1:00 pm - March to the intersection of Metropolitan Ave. and N 7th St. (map), six blocks north-west of the rally.

2:00 pm - Vigil (until 3:00 pm) along Metropolitan Ave, primarily at N 4th St. and N 7th St. (N 7th St. is the main entrance to Fort Leavenworth. The military stockade, where Bradley is held, is deep inside the base. The federal prison, which is visible from Metropolitan Ave., is a few blocks west at N 13th St.)

3:30 pm - Organizers meeting back at Bob Dougherty Memorial Park (subject to change). Hosted by Bradley Manning Support Network, Courage to Resist, and Veterans for Peace organizers, a discussion regarding future regional and national efforts in support of Bradley Manning.

Please do not bring any weapons, alcohol, or illegal drugs, to our gathering.

For more information, see below, check this page, or call Courage to Resist at 510-488-3559

One year after Bradley's detainment, we need your support more than ever.

Dear Friends,

One year ago today, on May 26, 2010, the U.S. government quietly arrested a humble young American intelligence analyst in Iraq and imprisoned him in a military camp in Kuwait. Over the coming weeks, the facts of the arrest and charges against this shy soldier would come to light. And across the world, people like you and I would step forward to help defend him.

Bradley Manning, now 23 years old, has never been to court but has already served a year in prison- including 10 months in conditions of confinement that were clear violation of the international conventions against torture. Bradley has been informally charged with releasing to the world documents that have revealed corruption by world leaders, widespread civilian deaths at the hands of U.S. forces, the true face of Guantanamo, an unvarnished view of the U.S.'s imperialistic foreign negotiations, and the murder of two employees of Reuters News Agency by American soldiers. These documents released by WikiLeaks have spurred democratic revolutions across the Arab world and have changed the face of journalism forever.

For his act of courage, Bradley Manning now faces life in prison-or even death.

But you can help save him-and we've already seen our collective power. Working together with concerned citizens around the world, the Bradley Manning Support Network has helped raise worldwide awareness about Manning's torturous confinement conditions. Through the collective actions of well over a half million people and scores of organizations, we successfully pressured the U.S. government to end the tortuous conditions of pre-trial confinement that Bradley was subjected to at the Marine Base at Quantico, Virginia. Today, Bradley is being treated humanely at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. T hanks to your support, Bradley is given leeway to interact with other pre-trial prisoners, read books, write letters, and even has a window in his cell.

Of course we didn't mount this campaign to just improve Bradley's conditions in jail. Our goal is to ensure that he can receive a fair and open trial. Our goal is to win Bradley's freedom so that he can be reunited with his family and fulfill his dream of going to college. Today, to commemorate Bradley's one year anniversary in prison, will you join me in making a donation to help support Bradley's defense?

We'll be facing incredible challenges in the coming months, and your tax-deductible donation today will help pay for Bradley's civilian legal counsel and the growing international grassroots campaign on his behalf. The U.S. government has already spent a year building its case against Bradley, and is now calling its witnesses to Virginia to testify before a grand jury.

What happens to Bradley may ripple through history - he is already considered by many to be the single most important person of his generation. Please show your commitment to Bradley and your support for whistle-blowers and the truth by making a donation today.

With your help, I hope we will come to remember May 26th as a day to commemorate all those who risk their lives and freedom to promote informed democracy - and as the birth of a movement that successfully defended one courageous whistle-blower against the full fury of the U.S. government.

Donate now:

In solidarity,

Jeff Paterson and Loraine Reitman,
On behalf of the Bradley Manning Support Network Steering Committee

P.S. After you have donated, please help us by forwarding this email to your closest friends. Ask them to stand with you to support Bradley Manning, and the rights of all whistleblowers.

Help us rent a billboard for Bradley Manning in Washington DC!
Sign the "I am Bradley Manning" photo petition at

Bradley will soon have his own billboard in the Washington DC metro area, if we step up. We're launching this campaign to rent the high-profile ad space to coincide with the soon-expected start of his pre-trial court martial in the DC area.

View the billboards, donate, and help choose the design:

View the new 90 second "I am Bradley Manning" video:

I am Bradley Manning

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


Bay Area United Against War Newsletter
Table of Contents:





Johannes Mehserle received two years for the murder of Oscar Grant.

On June 1st, he will go before Judge Perry and COULD WALK OUT FREE.

We don't know the exact date, but we do know that in June, Murderer Mehserle will be back on the streets.

We need to be ready to show them that Oakland has NOT forgotton that justice was NOT served.

On the DAY OF HIS RELEASE: The Coalition for Justice for Oscar Grant will hold events at TWO PLACES:

3:00 PM: Gather at Oscar Grant Station (Fruitvale BART)
5:30 PM: Gather on 14th & Broadway

Stay tuned for more details!!!

Click here to view Facebook Event: Mehserle the Murderer is Being Released Soon:

Or call us at (510) 575-9005

The ANSWER Coalition is a member of the Coalition for Justice for Oscar Grant.

A.N.S.W.E.R. Coalition
2969 Mission St.


Why We Come (Por Que Venimos)
SCHOOL OF THE AMERICAS WATCH - San Francisco Presentation:
An evening about local campaigns for Immigration Rights.
Thursday, June 2, 2011 at 7:00 pm
First Unitarian Universalist Society of San Francisco
Martin Luther King Room

Why We Come is a short documentary film providing an intimate look at the lives of migrants in San Rafaelâ€(tm)s Canal Area. The film was produced by the Marin Immigrant Rights Coalition Film Group. The first-person stories reveal the risks the migrants took to come to the United States to provide a better life for their families.

Following the film, Hannah Pallmeyer, staff member at La Raza Centro Legal, will provide an overview of local, state, and national campaigns for immigrant rights. She will include how immigration issues are connected to militarization and US foreign policy.

For more information, contact: Dolores Perez Priem at or



Next UNAC general meeting is Sunday, June 12, 2:00 PM at Redstone Bldg., 16th Street and Capp. (Capp Street is one block or so below Mission Street.) Third Floor Conference Room, San Francisco. MARK YOUR CALENDAR NOW!


Save the Date!

Kent State University
Kent, Ohio
June 24-26, 2011

Working people across the country -- from Wisconsin and Ohio to New York, Oregon, and California -- are facing unprecedented attacks by corporations and the rich with the help of the federal, state and local politicians that they fund.

The corporate agenda is clear: It is to bust unions and cut workers' pay and benefits -- both in the private and public sectors. It is to erode and privatize Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. It is to dismantle the public sector and social services by denying funds for job creation, education, health care, environmental protection, and rebuilding the infrastructure. It is to ensure that taxes on the wealthy are constantly lowered while the bite on workers and the poor is constantly increased. It is to perpetuate U.S. wars and occupations whenever it serves the interests of the multinationals. It is to divide the working class by race, gender, national origin, religion, and sexual orientation. It is also to limit and restrict constitutionally guaranteed civil liberties. The list goes on.

In state capitals, communities and workplaces across the country, workers are fighting back. But if we're going to be successful in pushing back the attacks on collective bargaining, stopping the budget cuts and concessions, creating jobs, and defending social services and education, we need to build unity within our movement, including forging stronger ties with labor's allies: communities of color, students and youth, single-payer advocates, environmentalists, antiwar activists, immigrant rights supporters, and other progressive forces.

Relying on politicians to defend us -- the so-called "friends of labor" -- has proven to be disastrous. During the past three decades, working people have suffered a dramatic decline in their standard of living while the rich have amassed an unprecedented amount of wealth at the top, regardless of which of the major parties was running the government. We have had every combination imaginable: Republicans occupying the White House with a majority in Congress, Democrats occupying the White House with a majority in Congress, or some kind of "divided government." But in each case the result for working people has been the same: conditions got worse for workers while the corporations prospered even more. Why should we continue this vicious cycle?

The working class has the power to put an end to this situation. And as the debate over the debt and the deficit intensifies, the need has never been greater for an organized campaign to demand "No Cuts, No Concessions!" whether in regard to social programs or workers' wages and benefits. We say place the burden for solving the financial crises squarely where it belongs: on the rich. They caused the crisis, let them pay for it!

The Emergency Labor Network (ELN) was initiated earlier this year at a historic meeting of 100 union leaders and activists from around the country. Join us June 24-26, 2011 at Kent State University in Ohio for a national labor-community conference to spur the campaign to build a more militant fight-back movement and to launch a national campaign for an alternative agenda for working people. Together we can move forward on both fronts.

This conference is open to all who agree with its purpose, as explained in this Call. To register for the conference, please go to our website at If you prefer to register offline, write or call 216-736-4715 for a registration form.

For more information, e-mail or call 216-736-4715.


Cultures of Resistance
Thursday June 30 -- 7pm, Berkeley City College, 2050 Center Street, 1/2 block from downtown Berkeley
The Middle East Children's Alliance & the Arab Film Festival present the Berkeley premiere of bay area filmmaker & activist Iara Lee's new feature film Cultures of Resistance.

The film won Best Documentary at the Tiburon International Film Festival and is showing around the globe, from Portugal to China to Ethiopia. Journeying through five continents, it captures creative change-makers using art and activism to turn our upside-down world right-side-up, for peace with justice. Their personal stories and strategies, told in many tongues, broaden our understanding of the geopolitical fault-lines behind modern day conflicts -- inspiring audiences to further engagement and action. Filmmaker Iara Lee will introduce the film and answer questions afterwards.

Tickets $10 general, $8 students. Benefit for clean water for children in Gaza. No one turned away for lack of funds. Wheelchair accessible.

For info: 510-548-0542,,
Cosponsored by: Global Studies Department/Berkeley City College and more!


Protest, March & Die-In on 10th Anniversary of Afghanistan War
Friday, Oct. 7, 2011, 4:30-6:30pm
New Federal Building, 7th & Mission Sts, SF

End All the Wars & Occupations-Afghanistan, Iraq, Palestine, Libya, Haiti . . .
Money for Jobs, Healthcare & Schools-Not for the Pentagon

Friday, October 7, 2011 will be the exact 10th anniversary of the U.S./NATO war on the people of Afghanistan. Hundreds of thousands of Afghani people have been killed, wounded and displaced, and thousands of U.S. and NATO forces killed and wounded. The war costs more than $126 billion per year at a time when social programs are being slashed.

The true and brutal character of the U.S. strategy to "win hearts and minds" of the Afghani population was described by a Marine officer, quoted in a recent ANSWER Coalition statement:

"You can't just convince them [Afghani people] through projects and goodwill," another Marine officer said. "You have to show up at their door with two companies of Marines and start killing people. That's how you start convincing them." (To read the entire ANSWER statement, click here)

Mark your calendar now and help organize for the October 7 march and die-in in downtown San Francisco. There are several things you can do:

1. Reply to this email to endorse the protest and die-in.
2. Spread the word and help organize in your community, union, workplace and campus.
3. Make a donation to help with organizing expenses.

Only the people can stop the war!

A.N.S.W.E.R. Coalition
2969 Mission St.


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


Gil Scott-Heron, Poet And Musician, Has Died
by Daoud Tyler-Ameen

Gil Scott-Heron died Friday afternoon in New York, his book publisher reported. He was 62. The influential poet and musician is often credited with being one of the progenitors of hip-hop, and is best known for the spoken-word piece "The Revolution Will Not Be Televised."

Scott-Heron was born in Chicago in 1949. He spent his early years in Jackson, Tenn., attended high school in The Bronx, and spent time at Pennsylvania's Lincoln University before settling in Manhattan. His recording career began in 1970 with the album Small Talk at 125th and Lenox, which featured the first version of "The Revolution Will Not Be Televised." The track has since been referenced and parodied extensively in pop culture.

Scott-Heron continued to record through the 1970s and early '80s, before taking a lengthy hiatus. He briefly returned to the studio for 1994's Spirits. That album featured the track "Message to the Messengers," in which Scott-Heron cautions the hip-hop generation that arose in his absence to use its newfound power responsibly. He has been cited as a key influence by many in the hip-hop community — such as rapper-producer Kanye West, who closed his platinum-selling 2010 album My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy with a track built around a sample of Scott-Heron's voice.

Scott-Heron struggled publicly with substance abuse in the 2000s, and spent the early part of the decade in and out of jail on drug possession charges. He began performing again after his release in 2007, and in 2010 released a new album, I'm New Here, to widespread critical acclaim.

You will not be able to stay home, brother.
You will not be able to plug in, turn on and cop out.
You will not be able to lose yourself on skag and skip,
Skip out for beer during commercials,
Because the revolution will not be televised.

The revolution will not be televised.
The revolution will not be brought to you by Xerox
In 4 parts without commercial interruptions.
The revolution will not show you pictures of Nixon
blowing a bugle and leading a charge by John
Mitchell, General Abrams and Spiro Agnew to eat
hog maws confiscated from a Harlem sanctuary.
The revolution will not be televised.

The revolution will not be brought to you by the
Schaefer Award Theatre and will not star Natalie
Woods and Steve McQueen or Bullwinkle and Julia.
The revolution will not give your mouth sex appeal.
The revolution will not get rid of the nubs.
The revolution will not make you look five pounds
thinner, because the revolution will not be televised, Brother.

There will be no pictures of you and Willie May
pushing that shopping cart down the block on the dead run,
or trying to slide that color television into a stolen ambulance.
NBC will not be able predict the winner at 8:32
or report from 29 districts.
The revolution will not be televised.

There will be no pictures of pigs shooting down
brothers in the instant replay.
There will be no pictures of pigs shooting down
brothers in the instant replay.
There will be no pictures of Whitney Young being
run out of Harlem on a rail with a brand new process.
There will be no slow motion or still life of Roy
Wilkens strolling through Watts in a Red, Black and
Green liberation jumpsuit that he had been saving
For just the proper occasion.

Green Acres, The Beverly Hillbillies, and Hooterville
Junction will no longer be so damned relevant, and
women will not care if Dick finally gets down with
Jane on Search for Tomorrow because Black people
will be in the street looking for a brighter day.
The revolution will not be televised.

There will be no highlights on the eleven o'clock
news and no pictures of hairy armed women
liberationists and Jackie Onassis blowing her nose.
The theme song will not be written by Jim Webb,
Francis Scott Key, nor sung by Glen Campbell, Tom
Jones, Johnny Cash, Englebert Humperdink, or the Rare Earth.
The revolution will not be televised.

The revolution will not be right back after a message
bbout a white tornado, white lightning, or white people.
You will not have to worry about a dove in your
bedroom, a tiger in your tank, or the giant in your toilet bowl.
The revolution will not go better with Coke.
The revolution will not fight the germs that may cause bad breath.
The revolution will put you in the driver's seat.

The revolution will not be televised, will not be televised,
will not be televised, will not be televised.
The revolution will be no re-run brothers;
The revolution will be live.


Gundersen Gives Testimony to NRC ACRS from Fairewinds Associates on Vimeo.

Gundersen Gives Testimony to NRC ACRS

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) Advisory Committee on Reactor Safeguards (ACRS) held a special ACRS meeting Thursday May 26, 2011 on the current status of Fukushima. Arnie Gundersen was invited to speak for 5 minutes concerning the lessons learned from the Fukushima accident as it pertains to the 23 Mark 1 Boiling Water Reactors (BWR's) in the US and containment integrity. Mr. Gundersen was the first engineer to brief the NRC on the implication of Main Steam Isolation Valve (MSIV) Leakage in 1974, and he has been studying containment integrity since 1972. The NRC has constantly maintained in all of its calculations and reviews that there is zero probability of a containment leaking. For more than six years, in testimony and in correspondence with the NRC, Mr. Gundersen has disputed the NRC's stand that containment systems simply do not and cannot leak. The events at Fukushima have proven that Gundersen was correct. The explosions at Fukushima show that Mark 1 containments will lose their integrity and release huge amounts of radiation, as Mr. Gundersen has been telling the NRC for many years.


Guy on wheelchair taken down by officers


The Last Mountain': Appalachia vs. Big Coal
Janet Donovan

Actor Woody Harrelson was a surprise guest at D.C. premiere of "The Last Mountain" at E Street Cinema, also attended by Sens. Dennis Kucinich and Barbara Boxer, Director Bill Haney, and Bobby Kennedy Jr. who speaks out on West Virginia's struggle.


Labor Beat: Save City Colleges Refused Meeting Space at Malcolm X

Part of the "reinvention" plan for Chicago City Colleges is to remove the name of Malcolm X from one of the campuses, and paint over the mural image of Huey P. Newton, founder of the Black Panther Party in the 1960s, there. But these are just symbolic representations of much deeper attacks against public eduction in Chicago at the college level. The Save City Colleges coalition, made up of student groups, faculty members, union locals, and community leaders, arrived at Malcolm X on May 26 expecting to have a hearing with Chairman of the Board of Trustees Martin Cabrera and officials from City Hall, as was previously agreed to. But they found out that it was cancelled. And to add to the insult, Malcolm X security (the irony of it all!) kicked the coalition out of the building. The coalition has stated: "The grassroots organizers point to the dangerously reduced transparency of decision-making for the largest consolidated body of higher education in the state and claim that all of the above decisions had been made by administrators lacking in education experience and credentials and without good-faith consultations with employees, students or grassroots community representatives." Length - 3 min. Produced by Labor Beat. Labor Beat is a CAN TV Community Partner. Labor Beat is a non-profit 501(c)(3) member of IBEW 1220. Views are those of the producer Labor Beat. For info:, 312-226-3330. For other Labor Beat videos, visit Google Video or YouTube and search "Labor Beat". Labor Beat is a regular cable-tv series in Chicago, Evanston, Rockford, Urbana, IL; St. Louis, MO; Philadelphia, PA; Princeton, NJ; and Rochester, NY. For more detailed information, send us a request at


Dear readers,

This episode of Frontline titled, "WikiSecrets" seems to be a comprehensive report based upon the case the government is trying to build against Bradley Manning and Julian Assange. It cleverly plays down the conviction that exposing a crime is not a crime! It also implys that supporters of Bradley Manning, Julian Assange and WikiLeaks are naieve, at best and co-conspirators, at worst. The case against Manning and the one they are trying to establish against Julian Assange as presented here seems to be based on heresay, innuendo and guilt by association. Yet Bradley Manning still faces the death penalty and they're trying their best to make a case against Julian Assange.

They blame Wikileaks for Tunisia and Egypt! As if it was wrong for the people of those countries to oust their crooked dictators! They portray Julian Assange as a criminal for leaking evidence of the stinking corruption to the masses who are struggling and demanding bread, jobs and justice.

No government has the right to murder people and keep it a secret! Unfortunately, however, this has become the common practice of the U.S. bi-partisan government of, by and for the wealthy.


--Bonnie Weinstein

The inside story of Bradley Manning, Julian Assange and the largest intelligence breach in U.S. history.

Watch the full episode. See more FRONTLINE.


"Uncle Genpachi and Tama 001 to 005";

We'd very much appreciate it if you could send us a solidarity message to our decisive rally on June 5th.


RSA Animate - Crises of Capitalism


Labor Beat: May Day Weekend


Paradise Gray Speaks At Jordan Miles Emergency Rally 05/06/2011

Police Reassigned While CAPA Student's Beatdown Investigated

Pittsburgh Student Claims Police Brutality; Shows Hospital Photos

Justice For Jordan Miles
By jasiri x

Monday, May 9, 2011 at 3:22 pm

Even though Pittsburgh Police beat Jordan Miles until he looked like this: (Photo at website)

And even though Jordan Miles, an honor student who plays the viola, broke no laws and committed no crimes, the Federal Government decided not to prosecute the 3 undercover Pittsburgh Police officers who savagely beat him.

To add insult to injury, Pittsburgh's Mayor and Police Chief immediately reinstated the 3 officers without so much as a apology. An outraged Pittsburgh community called for an emergency protest to pressure the local District Attorney to prosecute these officers to the fullest extent of the law.

Below is my good friend, and fellow One Hood founding member Paradise Gray (also a founding member of the Blackwatch Movement and the legendary rap group X-Clan) passionately demanding Justice for Jordan Miles and speaking on the futility of a war of terror overseas while black men are terrorized in their own neighborhoods.

For more information on how you can help get Justice For Jordan Miles go to


Nation Behind Bars Mass Incarceration And Political Prisoners In the U.S. - Efia Nwangaza, Malcolm X Center for Self-Determination
Black is Back Conference on the Other Wars, March 26, 2011


Tier Systems Cripple Middle Class Dreams for Young Workers


Cindy Sheehan has turned her grief into an anti-war crusade, even questioning the death of Osama bin Laden. From HLN's Dr. DREW Show Thurs. 5/5/11:


Epidemiologist, Dr. Steven Wing, Discusses Global Radiation Exposures and Consequences with Gundersen
Epidemiologist, Dr. Steven Wing and nuclear engineer, Arnie Gundersen, discuss the consequences of the Fukushima radioactive fallout on Japan, the USA, and the world. What are the long-term health effects? What should the government(s) do to protect citizens?

Epidemiologist, Dr. Steven Wing, Discusses Global Radiation Exposures and Consequences with Gundersen from Fairewinds Associates on Vimeo.


New Video - Lupe Fiasco ft. Skylar Grey - 'Words I Never Said'
Thu, Apr 28 2011

Lupe Fiasco addresses some heavy issues in the latest video for his new single, 'Words I Never Said,' featuring Skylar Grey. In the 5 minute and 45 second dose of reality, Lupe tackles issues such as the war on terrorism, devastation, conspiracy theories, 9/11 and genocide. From the opening lyrics of "I really think the war on terror is a bunch of bullsh*t", Lupe doesn't hold back as he voices his socio-political concerns.

"If you turn on TV all you see's a bunch of what the f-ks'
Dude is dating so and so blabbering bout such and such
And that ain't Jersey Shore, homie that's the news
And these the same people that supposed to be telling us the truth
Limbaugh is a racist, Glenn Beck is a racist
Gaza strip was getting bombed, Obama didn't say s-t
That's why I ain't vote for him, next one either
I'm a part of the problem, my problem is I'm peaceful."

Skylar Grey (who also lends her vocals to Dirty money's 'Coming Home' and Eminem's 'I Need A Doctor') does an excellent job of complementing the Alex Da Kid produced track.


BREAKING ALERT: Mass Arrests, Tear Gas, Sound Weapons used Against WIU Students


Union Town by Tom Morello: The Nightwatchman


MAY DAY 1886-International Workers Day


Labor Beat: We Are One - Illinois



"He broke the law!" says Obama about Bradley Manning who has yet to even be charged, let alone, gone to trial and found guilty. How horrendous is it for the President to declare someone guilty before going to trial or being charged with a crime! Justice in the U.S.A.!

Obama on FREE BRADLEY MANNING protest... San Francisco, CA. April 21, 2011-Presidential remarks on interrupt/interaction/performance art happening at fundraiser. Logan Price queries Barack after org. FRESH JUICE PARTY political action.


More troops join anti-government protests in Yemen
More soldiers have been joining anti-government protests on the streets of the capital Sana'a.

More at The Real News


W.E. A.L.L. B.E.: Miss. Medical Examiner Dr. Adel Shaker On Frederick Carter Hanging (4/19/2011)


Egyptian Soldiers Join Protest Demanding End to Military Dictatorship
Adam Hanieh: Class struggle in Egypt enters a new stage

More at The Real News


Row over Wikileaks leaker Bradley Manning treatment (12Apr11)


AP writer--State Department on Human Rights Abuse of Bradley Manning


Max Romeo - Socialism Is Love


Cuba: The Accidental Eden

[This is a stunningly beautiful portrait of the Cuban natural environment as it is today. However, several times throughout, the narrator tends to imply that if it werent for the U.S. embargo against Cuba, Cuba's natural environmet would be destroyed by the influx of tourism, ergo, the embargo is saving nature. But the Cuban scientists and naturalists tell a slightly different story. But I don't want to spoil the delightfully surprising ending. It's a beautiful film of a beautiful country full of beautiful, articulate and well-educated]

Watch the full episode. See more Nature.


VIDEO: SWAT Team Evicts Grandmother

Take Back the Land- Rochester Eviction Defense March 28, 2011


B. D. S. [Boycott, Divest, Sanction against Israel]
(Jackson 5) Chicago Flashmob


Afghans for Peace


The Kill Team
How U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan murdered innocent civilians and mutilated their corpses - and how their officers failed to stop them. Plus: An exclusive look at the war crime photos censored by the Pentagon
Rolling Stone
March 27, 3011

Afghans respond to "Kill Team"




The Kill Team Photos More war crime images the Pentagon doesn't want you to see

'Death Zone' How U.S. soldiers turned a night-time airstrike into a chilling 'music video'

'Motorcycle Kill' Footage of an Army patrol gunning down two men in Afghanistan






Frederick Alexander Meade on The Prison Industrial Complex


BP Oil Spill Scientist Bob Naman: Seafood Still Not Safe


Exclusive: Flow Rate Scientist : How Much Oil Is Really Out There?


Iraq Veterans Against the War in Occupied Capitol, Madison, WI


Stop LAPD Stealing of Immigrant's Cars

On Februrary 19, 2011 Members of the Southern California Immigration Coalition (SCIC) organized and engaged in direct action to defend the people of Los Angeles, CA from the racist LAPD "Sobriety" Checkpoints that are a poorly disguised trap to legally steal the cars from working class people in general and undocumented people in particular. Please disseminate this link widely.




WikiLeaks Mirrors

Wikileaks is currently under heavy attack.

In order to make it impossible to ever fully remove Wikileaks from the Internet, you will find below a list of mirrors of Wikileaks website and CableGate pages.

Go to


Labor Beat: Labor Stands with Subpoenaed Activists Against FBI Raids and Grand Jury Investigation of antiwar and social justice activists.
"If trouble is not at your door. It's on it's way, or it just left."
"Investigate the Billionaires...Full investigation into Wall Street..." Jesse Sharkey, Vice President, Chicago Teachers Union


Oil Spill Commission Final Report: Catfish Responds


Free Bradley Manning


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


Julian Assange: Why the world needs WikiLeaks


Coal Ash: One Valley's Tale


Flashmob: Cape Town Opera say NO


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




Drop the Charges Against Carlos Montes, Stop the FBI Attack on the Chicano and Immigrant Rights Movement, and Stop FBI Repression of Anti-War Activists NOW!Call Off the Expanding Grand Jury Witchhunt and FBI Repression of Anti-War Activists NOW!

Cancel the Subpoenas! Cancel the Grand Juries!
Condemn the FBI Raids and Harassment of Chicano, Immigrant Rights, Anti-War and International Solidarity Activists!

Tell US Attorney Fitzgerald, President Obama, Attorney General Holder, DOJ Inspector General Fine, the Senate and House Judiciary Committees, Congressional Leaders, U.N. Secy Gen Ban, and members of the media to STOP THE FBI CAMPAIGN OF REPRESSION AGAINST CHICANO, IMMIGRANT RIGHTS, ANTI-WAR AND INTERNATIONAL SOLIDARITY ACTIVISTS NOW!
Initiated by the Committee to Stop FBI Repression

Petition Text:

To: U.S. Attorney Patrick J. Fitzgerald, President Barack Obama, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder,

cc: Vice President Biden, DOJ Inspector General Fine, the Senate and House Judiciary Committees, Congressional Leaders, the Congressional Black Caucus, U.N. Secy Gen Ban, and members of the media

** Drop All Charges against Carlos Montes, and immediately return all of his property!

** Stop the attack on the Chicano and Immigrant Rights Movements!

** Call Off the Chicago Grand Jury and Stop the Expanding Witchhunt against Anti-war and International Solidarity Activists!

** Hands Off Palestine Solidarity Activists!

** Throw Out the reactiviated subpoenas against Tracy Molm, Ann Pham and Sarah Martin in Minneapolis, and ALL of the 14 subpoenas from the September 24 FBI raids of homes of anti-war and international solidarity activists.

**Immediately return all confiscated materials: computers, cell phones, papers, documents, etc.

**End the grand jury proceedings against anti-war activists.

I am writing to oppose the continuation and expansion of the FBI campaign of harassment of immigrant rights, anti-war and Palestine and other International Solidarity Activists, including the raid on the home of Carlos Montes and his arrest and the confiscation of his property, the 9 added subpoenas in the Chicago area, and reactivation of 3 of the original 14 subpoenas from the September 24 FBI raids of anti-war and international solidarity activists' homes.

These activists are guilty of no crime but opposition to U.S. foreign policy. On Friday, September 24, 2010 the FBI raided seven houses and an office in Chicago and Minneapolis. The FBI served subpoenas to testify before a federal grand jury to 13 activists in Illinois, Minnesota, and Michigan. The FBI also attempted to intimidate activists in California, Wisconsin and North Carolina. This is not the action of a lone prosecutor. The raids were coordinated nationally, spanned several cities, and many other activists have been visited and personally threatened by the FBI.

The FBI confiscated computers, email and mailing lists, cell phones , cameras, videos, books, and passports. This is a dangerous attack on the constitutional rights of free speech of every social justice, antiwar and human rights activist and organization in the U.S. today. The right to speak, meet and write opinions is guaranteed under the constitution.

This suppression of civil rights is aimed at those who dedicate their time and energy to supporting the struggles of the Palestinian and Colombian peoples against U.S. funded occupation and war. Grand Jury subpoenas investigating material support of terrorism are being used to silence highly respected and well known human rights activists. This is a dangerous national effort to shut down growing opposition to U.S. wars. It cannot be allowed.

The FBI and the Grand Jury are threatening courageous individuals who have written and spoken publicly to broaden understanding of social justice issues of war and occupation. The activists are involved with many groups, including: the Twin Cities Anti-War Committee, the Palestine Solidarity Group, the Colombia Action Network, Students for a Democratic Society, and Freedom Road Socialist Organization. These activists came together with many others to organize the 2008 anti-war marches on the Republican National Convention in St. Paul.

The FBI and the U.S. government must end this campaign of intimidation against anti-war and international solidarity activists. I am outraged at this disrespect of democratic rights. I ask that you intervene immediately to:

**Stop the Grand Jury Witchhunt!

**Stop the expanded repression against anti-war and international solidarity activists.

**Immediately return all confiscated materials: computers, cell phones, papers, documents, etc.

**End the grand jury proceedings against anti-war activists.

(Your signature will be appended here based on the contact information you enter in the form above)

You can also call the U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder at 202-353-1555 and U.S. Attorney Patrick J. Fitzgerald at 312-353-5300 or write an email to: demanding an end to the FBI raids, return of all confiscated materials and an end to the Grand Jury witchhunt. Fitzgerald is in charge of the Northern District of Illinois and responsible for the FBI raids and Grand Jury investigation.

Contact the Committee to Stop FBI Repression


Mumia Wins Decision Against Re-Imposition Of Death Sentence, But...
The Battle Is Still On To
The Labor Action Committee To Free Mumia Abu-Jamal
PO Box 16222 • Oakland CA 94610



Carlos* was only 14 years when he was locked up in a California youth prison. Growing up in a rough neighborhood in Northern CA, there were few resources for him or his younger brothers. Carlos was swept up by gangs and ended up serving a 10 year sentence in Division of Juvenile Justice (DJJ), leaving his siblings and childhood behind.

For 10 long years, our state spent millions of dollars to lock him up in a cell. Meanwhile, the state spent a tiny fraction of that amount providing an inadequate education to his younger brothers.

When Carlos was finally released earlier this year, he returned to a neighborhood that hasn't changed. Resources for youth are still scarce. He worries about his little brothers growing up in a society that would rather lock them up than invest in their educations and future.

Carlos' experience is only one example of why California ranks near the bottom in education spending and performance, but we're #1 in prison spending. DJJ drains much-needed resources from California's schools and the vital community programs that would help our State thrive. It's time to close the expensive, abusive DJJ and redirect those resources into our schools.

Join Books Not Bars in calling on Governor Brown to protect our schools by closing the Division of Juvenile Justice.

On May 10, join Books Not Bars, teachers, students, and other concerned Californians at the Capitol to save our schools. For more information or if you plan on attending, please contact Jennifer Kim at, or (510) 285-8234.

If you can't join us in person, take action now, then sign up for join our online rally next Tuesday by sending Gov. Brown an email now.

Justice for families.

Sumayyah Waheed
Ella Baker Center for Human Rights

*Carlos' name has been changed to protect his privacy.

Ella Baker Center for Human Rights | 510.428.3939
1970 Broadway, Suite 450 | Oakland, CA | 94612


U.S. Attorney Escalates Attacks on Civil Liberties of Anti-War,
Palestinian Human Rights Activists

Call U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald first thing Monday morning! (contact info at bottom of this email)

On Friday, May 6, the U.S. government froze the bank accounts of Hatem Abudayyeh and his wife, Naima. This unwarranted attack on a leading member of the Palestinian community in Chicago is the latest escalation of the repression of anti-war and Palestinian community organizers by the FBI, U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald, and U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder. Hatem Abudayyeh is one of 23 activists from Minnesota, Michigan, and Illinois subpoenaed to a federal grand jury in Chicago, and his home was raided by the FBI in September of last year. Neither Hatem Abudayyeh nor Naima Abudayyeh have been charged with any crime.

One of the bank accounts frozen was exclusively in Naima Abudayyeh's name. Leaders of the national Committee to Stop FBI Repression, as well as Chicago's Coalition to Protect People's Rights are appalled at the government's attempt to restrict the family's access to its finances, especially so soon before Mothers' Day. Not only does the government's action seriously disrupt the lives of the Abudayyehs and their five-year-old daughter, but it represents an attack on Chicago's Arab community and activist community and the fundamental rights of Americans to freedom of speech.

The persecution of the Abudayyeh family is another example of the criminalization of Palestinians, their supporters, and their movement for justice and liberation. There has been widespread criticism of the FBI and local law enforcement for their racial profiling and scapegoating of Arab and Muslim Americans. These repressive tactics include infiltration of community centers and mosques, entrapment of young men, and the prominent case of 11 students from the University of California campuses at Irvine and Riverside who have been subpoenaed to a grand jury and persecuted for disrupting a speech by Michael Oren, Israeli Ambassador to the US. The government's attempt to conflate the anti-war and human rights movements with terrorism is a cynical attempt to capitalize on the current political climate in order to silence Palestinians and other people of conscience who exercise their First Amendment rights in a manner which does not conform to the administration's foreign policy agenda in the Middle East.

The issuance of subpoenas against the 23 activists has been met with widespread opposition and criticism across the country. Six members of the U.S. Congress, including five in the past month, have sent letters to either Holder or President Obama, expressing grave concern for the violations of the civil liberties and rights of the 23 activists whose freedom is on the line. Three additional U.S. representatives have also promised letters, as thousands of constituents and other people of conscience across the U.S. have demanded an end to this assault on legitimate political activism and dissent. Over 60 Minnesota state legislators also issued a resolution condemning the subpoenas.

The Midwest activists have been expecting indictments for some time. The freezing of the Abudayyeh family's bank accounts suggests that the danger of indictments is imminent.

Take action:

Call U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald at 312-353-5300.
Then dial 0 (zero) for the operator and ask to leave a message with the Duty Clerk.
Demand Fitzgerald
-- Unfreeze the bank accounts of the Abudayyeh family and
-- Stop repression against Palestinian, anti-war and international solidarity activists.

In solidarity,
The Committee to Stop FBI Repression and
The Coalition to Protect People's Rights

For more info go to

follow on Twitter | friend on Facebook | forward to a friend

Copyright (c) 2011 Committee to Stop FBI Repression, All rights reserved.
Thanks for your ongoing interest in the fight against FBI repression of anti-war and international solidarity activists!
Our mailing address is:

Committee to Stop FBI Repression

PO Box 14183

Minneapolis, MN 55415


Abolish the Death Penalty Blog

Abolish the Death Penalty is a blog dedicated to...well, you know. The purpose of Abolish is to tell the personal stories of crime victims and their loved ones, people on death row and their loved ones and those activists who are working toward abolition. You may, from time to time, see news articles or press releases here, but that is not the primary mission of Abolish the Death Penalty. Our mission is to put a human face on the debate over capital punishment.
You can also follow death penalty news by reading our News page and by following us on Facebook and Twitter.

1 Million Tweets for Troy! April 12, 2011

Take Action! Tweet for Troy!

The state of Georgia is seeking to change the drugs they use to carry out executions so they can resume scheduling execution dates, including that of Troy Davis, a man with a strong claim of innocence. Doubts in the case persist, including the fact that no physical evidence links him to the murder, most of the witnesses have recanted or contradicted their testimony and newer testimony implicates a different person (including an eyewitness account).

The Davis case has already generated hundreds of thousands of emails, calls, and letters in support of clemency, including from leaders such as the Pope, Jimmy Carter and former FBI chief Bill Sessions. We need to continue to amass petitions in support of clemency, demonstrating the widespread concern about this case and what it represents.

Please help us send a message to Georgia officials that they can do the right thing - they can intervene as the final failsafe by commuting Davis' sentence. Please help us generate 1 million tweets for Troy Davis!

Share this tweet alert with your friends and family that care about justice and life as soon as you can.

More information about the case is available at

Here are some sample tweets:

When in doubt, don't execute!! Sign the petition for #TroyDavis!

Too much doubt! Stop the execution! #TroyDavis needs us!

No room for doubt! Stop the execution of #TroyDavis . Retweet, sign petition

Case not "ironclad", yet Georgiacould execute #TroyDavis ! Not on our watch! Petition:

No murder weapon. No physical evidence. Stop the execution! #TroyDavis petition:

7 out of 9 eyewitnesses recanted. No physical evidence. Stop the execution of Troy Davis #TroyDavis


Exonerated Death Row Survivors Urge Georgia to:
Stop the Execution of Troy Davis
Chairman James E. Donald
Georgia State Board of Pardons & Paroles
2 Martin Luther King, Jr. Drive, SE
Suite 458, Balcony Level, East Tower
Atlanta, GA 30334
May 1, 2011

Dear Chairperson Donald and Members of the Board:

We, the undersigned, are alive today because some individual or small group of individuals decided that our insistent and persistent proclamations of innocence warranted one more look before we were sent to our death by execution. We are among the 138 individuals who have been legally exonerated and released from death rows in the United States since 1973. We are alive because a few thoughtful persons-attorneys, journalists, judges, jurists, etc.-had lingering doubts about our cases that caused them to say "stop" at a critical moment and halt the march to the execution chamber. When our innocence was ultimately revealed, when our lives were saved, and when our freedom was won, we thanked God and those individuals of conscience who took actions that allowed the truth to eventually come to light.

We are America's exonerated death row survivors. We are living proof that a system operated by human beings is capable of making an irreversible mistake. And while we have had our wrongful convictions overturned and have been freed from death row, we know that we are extremely fortunate to have been able to establish our innocence. We also know that many innocent people who have been executed or who face execution have not been so fortunate. Not all those with innocence claims have had access to the kinds of physical evidence, like DNA, that our courts accept as most reliable. However, we strongly believe that the examples of our cases are reason enough for those with power over life and death to choose life. We also believe that those in authority have a unique moral consideration when encountering individuals with cases where doubt still lingers about innocence or guilt.

One such case is the case of Troy Anthony Davis, whose 1991 conviction for killing Savannah police officer Mark MacPhail rested almost solely on witness testimony. We know that today, 20 years later, witness evidence is considered much less reliable than it was then. This has meant that, even though most of the witnesses who testified against him have now recanted, Troy Davis has been unable to convince the courts to overturn his conviction, or even his death sentence.

Troy Davis has been able to raise serious doubts about his guilt, however. Several witnesses testified at the evidentiary hearing last summer that they had been coerced by police into making false statements against Troy Davis. This courtroom testimony reinforced previous statements in sworn affidavits. Also at this hearing, one witness testified for the first time that he saw an alternative suspect, and not Troy Davis, commit the crime. We don't know if Troy Davis is in fact innocent, but, as people who were wrongfully sentenced to death (and in some cases scheduled for execution), we believe it is vitally important that no execution go forward when there are doubts about guilt. It is absolutely essential to ensuring that the innocent are not executed.

When you issued a temporary stay for Troy Davis in 2007, you stated that the Board "will not allow an execution to proceed in this State unless and until its members are convinced that there is no doubt as to the guilt of the accused." This standard is a welcome development, and we urge you to apply it again now. Doubts persist in the case of Troy Davis, and commuting his sentence will reassure the people of Georgia that you will never permit an innocent person to be put to death in their name.

Freddie Lee Pitts, an exonerated death row survivor who faced execution by the state of Florida for a crime he didn't commit, once said, "You can release an innocent man from prison, but you can't release him from the grave."

Thank you for considering our request.

Kirk Bloodsworth, Exonerated and freed from death row Maryland; Clarence Brandley, Exonerated and freed from death row in Texas; Dan Bright, Exonerated and freed from death row in Louisiana; Albert Burrell, Exonerated and freed from death row in Louisiana; Perry Cobb, Exonerated and freed from death row in Illinois; Gary Drinkard, Exonerated and freed from death row in Alabama; Nathson Fields, Exonerated and freed from death row in Illinois; Gary Gauger, Exonerated and freed from death row in Illinois; Michael Graham, Exonerated and freed from death row in Louisiana; Shujaa Graham, Exonerated and freed from death row in California; Paul House, Exonerated and freed from death row in Tennessee; Derrick Jamison, Exonerated and freed from death row in Ohio; Dale Johnston, Exonerated and freed from death row in Ohio; Ron Keine, Exonerated and freed from death row in New Mexico; Ron Kitchen, Exonerated and freed from death row in Illinois; Ray Krone, Exonerated and freed from death row in Arizona; Herman Lindsey, Exonerated and freed from death row in Florida; Juan Melendez, Exonerated and freed from death row in Florida; Randal Padgett, Exonerated and freed from death row in Alabama; Freddie Lee Pitts, Exonerated and freed from death row in Florida; Randy Steidl, Exonerated and freed from death row in Illinois; John Thompson, Exonerated and freed from death row in Louisiana; Delbert Tibbs, Exonerated and freed from death row in Florida; David Keaton, Exonerated and freed from death row in Florida; Greg Wilhoit, Exonerated and freed from death row in Oklahoma; Harold Wilson, Exonerated and freed from death row in Pennsylvania.
-Witness to Innocence, May 11, 2011


In a recent New York Daily News Poll the question was asked:

Should Army pfc Bradley Manning face charges for allegedly stealing classified documents and providing them for WikiLeaks?
New York Daily News Poll Results:
Yes, he's a traitor for selling out his country! ...... 28%
No, he's a hero for standing up for what's right! ..... 62%
We need to see more evidence before passing judgment.. 10%

Sign the Petition:

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

Stand with Bradley!

A 23-year-old Army intelligence analyst, Pfc. Manning faces decades in prison for allegedly leaking a video of a US helicopter attack that killed at least eleven Iraqi civilians to the website Wikileaks. Among the dead were two working Reuters reporters. Two children were also severely wounded in the attack.

In addition to this "Collateral Murder" video, Pfc. Manning is suspected of leaking the "Afghan War Diaries" - tens of thousands of battlefield reports that explicitly describe civilian deaths and cover-ups, corrupt officials, collusion with warlords, and a failing US/NATO war effort.

"We only know these crimes took place because insiders blew the whistle at great personal risk ... Government whistleblowers are part of a healthy democracy and must be protected from reprisal," noted Barack Obama while on the campaign trail in 2008. While the President was referring to the Bush Administration's use of phone companies to illegally spy on Americans, Pfc. Manning's alleged actions are just as noteworthy. If the military charges against him are accurate, they show that he had a reasonable belief that war crimes were being covered up, and that he took action based on a crisis of conscience.

After nearly a decade of war and occupation waged in our name, it is odd that it apparently fell on a young Army private to provide critical answers to the questions, "What have we purchased with well over a trillion tax dollars and the deaths of hundreds of thousands in Iraq and Afghanistan?" However, history is replete with unlikely heroes.

If Bradley Manning is indeed the source of these materials, the nation owes him our gratitude. We ask Secretary of the Army, the Honorable John M. McHugh, and Chief of Staff of the U.S. Army, General George W. Casey, Jr., to release Pfc. Manning from pre-trial confinement and drop the charges against him.

Bulletin from the cause: Bradley Manning Support Network
Go to Cause
Posted By: Tom Baxter
To: Members in Bradley Manning Support Network
A Good Address for Bradley!!!

We have a good address for Bradley,

"A Fort Leavenworth mailing address has been released for Bradley Manning:

Bradley Manning 89289
830 Sabalu Road
Fort Leavenworth, KS 66027

The receptionist at the military barracks confirmed that if someone sends Bradley Manning a letter to that address, it will be delivered to him."

This is also a Facebook event!/event.php?eid=207100509321891


The Arab Revolutions:
Guiding Principles for Peace and Justice Organizations in the US
Please email endorsement to

We, the undersigned, support the guiding principles and demands listed in this statement. We call on groups who want to express solidarity with the Arab revolutions to join our growing movement by signing this statement or keeping with the demands put forward herewith.


The long-awaited Arab revolution has come. Like a geologic event with the reverberations of an earthquake, the timing and circumstances were unpredictable. In one Arab country after another, people are taking to the street demanding the fall of monarchies established during European colonial times. They are also calling to bring down dictatorships supported and manifested by neo-colonial policies. Although some of these autocratic regimes rose to power with popular support, the subsequent division and subjugation of the Arab World led to a uniform repressive political order across the region. The Arab masses in different Arab countries are therefore raising a uniform demand: "The People Want to Topple the Regimes!"

For the past two decades, the Arab people witnessed the invasion and occupation of Iraq with millions killed under blockade and occupation, Palestinians massacred with the aim to crush the anti-Zionist resistance, and Lebanon repeatedly invaded with the purposeful targeting of civilians. These actions all served to crush resistance movements longing for freedom, development, and self-determination. Meanwhile, despotic dictatorships, some going back 50 years, entrenched themselves by building police states, or fighting wars on behalf of imperialist interests.

Most Arab regimes systematically destroyed the social fabric of civil society, stifled social development, repressed all forms of political dissent and democratic expression, mortgaged their countries' wealth to foreign interests and enriched themselves and their cronies at the expense of impoverishing their populations. After pushing the Arab people to the brink, populations erupted.

The spark began in Tunisia where a police officer slapped and spat on Mohammad Bou Azizi, flipping over his produce cart for not delivering a bribe on time. . Unable to have his complaint heard, he self-immolated in protest, igniting the conscience of the Tunisian people and that of 300 million Arabs. In less than a month, the dictator, Zine El Abedine Ben Ali, was forced into exile by a Tunisian revolution. On its way out, the regime sealed its legacy by shooting at unarmed protestors and burning detention centers filled with political prisoners. Ben Ali was supported by the US and Europe in the fight against Islamic forces and organized labor.

Hosni Mubarak's brutal dictatorship fell less than a month after Tunisia's. The revolution erupted at a time when one half of the Egyptian population was living on less than $2/day while Mubarak's family amassed billions of dollars. The largest population recorded in Egyptian history was living in graveyards and raising their children among the dead while transportation and residential infrastructure was crumbling. Natural gas was supplied to Israel at 15% of the market price while the Rafah border was closed with an underground steel wall to complete the suffocation of the Palestinians in Gaza. Those who were deemed a threat swiftly met the fate of Khalid Said. 350 martyrs fell and 2,000 people were injured.

After Egypt and Tunisia, Yemen, Bahrain, Oman, Iraq, Lebanon and Jordan exploded in protest. Some governments quickly reshuffled faces and ranks without any tangible change. Some, like Bahrain and Yemen, sent out their security forces to massacre civilians. Oman and Yemen represent strategic assets for the US as they are situated on the straits of Hormuz and Aden, respectively. Bahrain is an oil country that hosts a US military base, situated in the Persian Gulf. A new round of US funded blood-letting of Arab civilians has begun!

Libyan dictator Qaddafi did not prove to be an exception. He historically took anti-imperialist positions for a united Arab World and worked for an African Union. He later transformed his regime to a subservient state and opened Libya to British Petroleum and Italian interests, working diligently on privatization and political repression. He amassed more wealth than that of Mubarak. In the face of the Libyan revolution, Qaddafi exceeded the brutality of Ben Ali and Mubarak blind-folding and executing opponents, surrounding cities with tanks, and bombing his own country. Death toll is expected to be in the thousands.

Qaddafi's history makes Libya an easy target for imperialist interests. The Obama administration followed the Iraq cookbook by freezing Libyan assets amounting to 30% of the annual GDP. The White House, with the help of European governments, rapidly implemented sanctions and called for no-fly zones. These positions were precipitated shortly after the US vetoed a resolution condemning the illegal Israeli colonization of the West Bank. Special operations personnel from the UK were captured by the revolutionary commanders in Ben Ghazi and sent back. The Libyan revolutionary leadership, the National Council clearly stated: "We are completely against foreign intervention. The rest of Libya will be liberated by the people ... and Gaddafi's security forces will be eliminated by the people of Libya."

Demands of the Solidarity Movement with Arab Revolutions

1. We demand a stop to US support, financing and trade with Arab dictatorships. We oppose US policy that has favored Israeli expansionism, war, US oil interest and strategic shipping routes at the expense of Arab people's freedom and dignified living.

2. We support the people of Tunisia and Egypt as well as soon-to-be liberated nations to rid themselves of lingering remnants of the deposed dictatorships.

3. We support the Arab people's right to sovereignty and self-determination. We demand that the US government stop its interference in the internal affairs of all Arab countries and end subsidies to wars and occupation.

4. We support the Arab people's demands for political, civil and economic rights. The Arab people's movement is calling for:

a. Deposing the unelected regimes and all of its institutional remnants
b. Constitutional reform guaranteeing freedom of organizing, speech and press
c. Free and fair elections
d. Independent judiciary
e. National self-determination.

5. We oppose all forms of US and European military intervention with or without the legitimacy of the UN. Standing in solidarity with the revolution against Qaddafi, or any other dictator, does not equate to supporting direct or indirect colonization of an Arab country, its oil or its people. We therefore call for:

a. Absolute rejection of military blockades, no-fly zones and interventions.
b. Lifting all economic sanctions placed against Libya and allowing for the formation of an independent judiciary to prosecute Qaddafi and deposed dictators for their crimes.
c. Immediately withdrawing the US and NATO troops from the Arab region.

6. We support Iraq's right to sovereignty and self determination and call on the US to immediately withdraw all occupation personnel from Iraq.

7. We recognize that the borders separating Arab nations were imposed on the Arab people by the colonial agreements of Sykes-Picot and the Berlin Conference on Africa. As such, we support the anti-Zionist nature of this revolution in its call for:

a. Ending the siege and starvation of the Palestinian people in Gaza
b. Supporting the right of the Palestinian people to choose their own representation, independent of Israeli and US dictates
c. Supporting the right of the Lebanese people to defend their country from Israeli violations and their call to end vestiges of the colonial constitution constructed on the basis of sectarian representation
d. Supporting the right of the Jordanian people to rid themselves of their repressive monarchy
e. Ending all US aid to Israel.


Committee to Stop FBI Repression
to Fitzgerald, Holder and Obama

The Grand Jury is still on its witch hunt and the FBI is still
harassing activists. This must stop.
Please make these calls:
1. Call U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald at 312-353-5300 . Then dial 0
(zero) for operator and ask to leave a message with the Duty Clerk.
2. Call U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder 202-353-1555
3. Call President Obama at 202-456-1111

Suggested text: "My name is __________, I am from _______(city), in
______(state). I am calling _____ to demand he call off the Grand Jury
and stop FBI repression against the anti-war and Palestine solidarity
movements. I oppose U.S. government political repression and support
the right to free speech and the right to assembly of the 23 activists
subpoenaed. We will not be criminalized. Tell him to stop this
McCarthy-type witch hunt against international solidarity activists!"

If your call doesn't go through, try again later.

Update: 800 anti-war and international solidarity activists
participated in four regional conferences, in Chicago, IL; Oakland,
CA; Chapel Hill, NC and New York City to stop U.S. Attorney Patrick
Fitzgerald's Grand Jury repression.

Still, in the last few weeks, the FBI has continued to call and harass
anti-war organizers, repressing free speech and the right to organize.
However, all of their intimidation tactics are bringing a movement
closer together to stop war and demand peace.

We demand:
-- Call Off the Grand Jury Witch-hunt Against International Solidarity
-- Support Free Speech!
-- Support the Right to Organize!
-- Stop FBI Repression!
-- International Solidarity Is Not a Crime!
-- Stop the Criminalization of Arab and Muslim Communities!

Background: Fitzgerald ordered FBI raids on anti-war and solidarity
activists' homes and subpoenaed fourteen activists in Chicago,
Minneapolis, and Michigan on September 24, 2010. All 14 refused to
speak before the Grand Jury in October. Then, 9 more Palestine
solidarity activists, most Arab-Americans, were subpoenaed to appear
at the Grand Jury on January 25, 2011, launching renewed protests.
There are now 23 who assert their right to not participate in
Fitzgerald's witch-hunt.

The Grand Jury is a secret and closed inquisition, with no judge, and
no press. The U.S. Attorney controls the entire proceedings and hand
picks the jurors, and the solidarity activists are not allowed a
lawyer. Even the date when the Grand Jury ends is a secret.

So please make these calls to those in charge of the repression aimed
against anti-war leaders and the growing Palestine solidarity
Email us to let us know your results. Send to

**Please sign and circulate our 2011 petition at

In Struggle,
Tom Burke,
for the Committee to Stop FBI Repression

FFI: Visit or email or call
612-379-3585 .
Copyright (c) 2011 Committee to Stop FBI Repression, All rights

Our mailing address is:
Committee to Stop FBI Repression
PO Box 14183
Minneapolis, MN 55415


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



Write to Lynne Stewart at:

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

Visiting Lynne:

Visiting is very liberal but first she has to get people on her visiting list; wait til she 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.

Commissary Money:

Commissary Money is always welcome It is how Lynne pay for the phone and for email. Also 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 !)

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.

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


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.



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


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!


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


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) Switzerland Decides on Nuclear Phase-Out
May 25, 2011

2) Risk From Spent Nuclear Reactor Fuel Is Greater in U.S. Than in Japan, Study Says
"'The largest concentrations of radioactivity on the planet will remain in storage at U.S. reactor sites for the indefinite future,' the report's author, Robert Alvarez, a senior scholar at the institute, wrote. 'In protecting America from nuclear catastrophe, safely securing the spent fuel by eliminating highly radioactive, crowded pools should be a public safety priority of the highest degree.'"
May 24, 2011

3) In a California Prison, Bunk Beds Replace Pickup Games
May 24, 2011

4) High Unemployment 'Most Pressing Legacy' of Financial Crisis, Report Says
May 25, 2011

5) Wringing Reactors for More
With no new nuclear plants built in the past 15 years, the industry tries to do more with existing equipment, raising safety concerns.
Los Angeles Times
May 5, 2011 - 8:12 PM

6) Half-Baked Idea?: Legalizing Marijuana Will Help the Environment
Among other advantages, legalizing pot would would eliminate the strain on public lands resulting from its clandestine cultivation as well as meet higher standards for the use and disposal of toxic substances
May 20, 2011

7) NATO: A Feast of Blood
CYNTHIA McKINNEY in Libya under NATO attack

8) Justices Uphold Law Penalizing Hiring of Illegal Immigrants
May 26, 2011

9) Two New York City Police Officers Acquitted of Rape
May 26, 2011

10) Judge Strikes Down Wisconsin Law Curbing Unions
May 26, 2011

11) Angry Parents in Japan Confront Government Over Radiation Levels
May 25, 2011

12) Under an Arizona Plan, Smokers and Obese Would Pay Fee for Medicaid
[Stands to reason they should make the cigarette and junk-food companies pay not their victims!]
May 26, 2011

13) Yale to Restore Navy R.O.T.C. Program
May 26, 2011

14) BP Asks Judge to Dismiss Many Spill Claims
May 26, 2011

15) Michelle Alexander on California's 'Cruel and Unusual' Prisons
By Liliana Segura
The Nation
May 26, 2011

16) Japan Moves to Ease Parental Fury Over Radiation Limits
May 27, 2011

17) What Proof Does a Woman Have to Have?
May 26, 2011

18) Former GM unit Delphi files for $100 million IPO
"...91 percent of its hourly labor force now works in low-cost countries, and 30 percent are temporary employees. The company no longer employs any workers who belong to the United Auto Workers union."
Bloomberg Businessweek
May 26, 2011

19) 140th anniversary of the Paris Commune
Written by Greg Oxley Friday
May 27, 2011

20) After Blockade, Gazans Enter Egypt With New Hopes
"'The people are taking their rights, and when the Egyptians rise it helps the Palestinians,' said Faris Awad, 48, returning to visit family in Cairo for the first time since the start of the blockade, just in time for a wedding."
May 28, 2011

21) A New Flood, Some Old Truths
New York Times Editorial
May 27, 2011

22) Shale Boom in Texas Could Increase U.S. Oil Output
May 27, 2011

23) Aid Pledge by Group of 8 Seeks to Bolster Arab Democracy
"That challenge has grown acute in Egypt since the fall of President Hosni Mubarak. Revenues from tourism, a mainstay of the economy, have plummeted by 40 percent, the new military government says. Foreign investment has dried up. Factories are paralyzed by strikes. Meanwhile, prices for food and energy have surged, leaving people feeling deeply insecure ahead of crucial parliamentary and presidential elections in the fall."
May 27, 2011

24) At a Protest In Cairo, One Group Is Missing
May 27, 2011

25) Officials in Germany Support Closing 7 Nuclear Plants
May 27, 2011

26) U.S. Declines to Protect the Overfished Bluefin Tuna
May 27, 2011

27) Reacting to Police Rape Case With Anger, but Little Surprise
"Amid the anger, many expressed little surprise that in a trial without physical evidence, the jury believed the officers over the woman accusing them, who testified that she was too drunk to remember much of what happened. ...'New York City cops can get away with anything,' Ms. White said, sitting in front of her home on 117th Street in Harlem. 'This is the only place I know where there are certain rules for police officers and certain rules for civilians. Acquitting those two today is totally out of line. They should put those cops in jail where they belong.'"
May 27, 2011

28) High School Student Stands Up Against Prayer at Public School and Is Ostracized, Demeaned and Threatened
By Greta Christina, AlterNet
Posted on May 25, 2011, Printed on May 28, 2011

29) Michigan Superintendent's Sarcastic Plan to Save Schools from Gov's Ax: Make Them Prisons
By Meteor Blades, Daily Kos
Posted on May 28, 2011, Printed on May 28, 2011


1) Switzerland Decides on Nuclear Phase-Out
May 25, 2011

BRUSSELS - The Swiss government decided Wednesday to abandon plans to build new nuclear reactors, while European Union regulators agreed on a framework for stress-testing theirs, as repercussions from the disaster in Japan continue to ripple across Europe.

The Swiss Energy Minister Doris Leuthard had suspended the approvals process for three new reactors, pending a safety review, after the accident that struck the reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi plant in Japan after the earthquake and tsunami of March 11.

On Wednesday - days after an anti-nuclear rally in Switzerland drew a large crowd of 20,000 people - the Cabinet said it had decided to make the ban permanent.

The country's five existing reactors - which supply about 40 percent of the country's power - would be allowed to continue operating, but would not be replaced at the end of their life span, it said. The last would go offline in 2034.

In a statement, the Cabinet said it was responding to the desires of the Swiss people to reduce risks "in the face of the severe damage that the earthquake and tsunami in Fukushima caused."

However, it said that there was no need to shut down plants ahead of schedule, insisting that their safe operation was assured.

The lengthy phase-out will also allow time for Switzerland to develop new energy sources and improve energy efficiency, it said, adding that long-term, nuclear energy was expected to lose its competitive advantage over renewable sources of energy because the costs associated with nuclear power, such as for new safety standards and equipment, are expected to climb.

The nuclear fuel meltdowns in Japan have prompted different reactions in other parts of Europe. France, which relies on nuclear power for about 80 percent of its electricity and is a major exporter of nuclear technology, has reaffirmed its commitment to the technology. Just across the border, however, the German government reversed a previous decision to extend the life of its nuclear plants and is working on a plan to accelerate the phase out there.

Meanwhile, national regulators from across the 27-nation European Union are planning new safety tests for the 143 operating nuclear reactors in their territories.

On Wednesday, they agreed that the tests would include some man-made disasters as well as natural ones. But the European Commission said that there would be a separate process to check whether nuclear operators could adequately thwart acts of terrorism, because of sharp differences among governments about encroaching on sensitive areas of defense and security.

The E.U. energy commissioner, Günther Oettinger, said at a news conference in Brussels that the tests would be robust.

"The quality and the depth of this stress test is such as to fulfill the requirements of the European citizen to live in a safe environment," Mr. Oettinger said. "All of this will be done in as transparent way as possible."

Greenpeace, an environmental group that opposes nuclear power, strongly disagreed.

The tests "won't be independent, won't cover plans for emergencies and won't always tell us whether some of Europe's most obvious terrorist targets are protected or not," said Jan Haverkamp, a nuclear policy adviser at Greenpeace.

Britain, France and the Czech Republic were among countries that had fought hardest to water down the tests, Mr. Haverkamp said.

Britain generates only around 18 percent of its electricity from nuclear power but faces the prospect of a worsening energy shortfall if it is required to shut its reactors. The Czech Republic still mines uranium for sale to nuclear power generators.

Still, atomic power remains a hugely sensitive matter after the Ukrainian nuclear disaster in Chernobyl in 1986 spread fallout across the Continent.

Although the tests remain voluntary, the European Commission recommended that the 14 member states with reactors producing electricity begin testing for so-called man-made events by June 1.

Those tests would in some cases be more rigorous than routine safety checks. For example, power plants built to withstand earthquakes of a magnitude of 6.0 on the Richter scale would be tested for earthquakes of a higher magnitude, although it would be up to the authorities in each country to define how much tougher to make the criteria.

The tests also would include peer-review teams composed of seven people, drawing from regulators from all 27 E.U. countries and the European Commission. Those teams would have leeway to conduct inspections inside nuclear plants.

According to the commission, the key goal of the tests is to prevent the kind of accident in Europe that struck the reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi plant.

The commission said nuclear operators would need to describe what would happen if their reactors lost power for "several days" and what measures were in place if primary backup systems powered by batteries also failed.

The tests would include a review of containment systems to ensure they could withstand an air crash or the explosion of a nearby oil tanker, whether as a result of an accident or a terror attack. The tests would also seek to ascertain whether there were adequate systems to put out any resulting fire from explosions occurring near nuclear power plants.

The E.U. authorities still need to set a schedule for checking whether reactors could withstand a wider range of terror attacks, possibly including cyber attacks. Those tests are far more sensitive because governments want to avoid revealing any vulnerabilities of their reactors.

The commission, the executive arm of the European Union, said that reactors failing the tests should be shut down and decommissioned if safety upgrades were too difficult or too expensive. But it acknowledged that it had no authority to order such shutdowns.

The European Commission said national operators and regulators had agreed to make their findings public, despite initial concerns in Paris and London that publishing certain information might encourage attacks. Governments would present a final report on the tests at the end of year.

Paul Geitner contributed reporting from Paris.


2) Risk From Spent Nuclear Reactor Fuel Is Greater in U.S. Than in Japan, Study Says
"'The largest concentrations of radioactivity on the planet will remain in storage at U.S. reactor sites for the indefinite future,' the report's author, Robert Alvarez, a senior scholar at the institute, wrote. 'In protecting America from nuclear catastrophe, safely securing the spent fuel by eliminating highly radioactive, crowded pools should be a public safety priority of the highest degree.'"
May 24, 2011

WASHINGTON - The threat of a catastrophic release of radioactive materials from a spent fuel pool at Japan's Fukushima Daiichi plant is dwarfed by the risk posed by such pools in the United States, which are typically filled with far more radioactive material, according to a study released on Tuesday by a nonprofit institute.

The report, from the Institute for Policy Studies, recommends that the United States transfer most of the nation's spent nuclear fuel from pools filled with cooling water to dry sealed steel casks to limit the risk of an accident resulting from an earthquake, terrorism or other event.

"The largest concentrations of radioactivity on the planet will remain in storage at U.S. reactor sites for the indefinite future," the report's author, Robert Alvarez, a senior scholar at the institute, wrote. "In protecting America from nuclear catastrophe, safely securing the spent fuel by eliminating highly radioactive, crowded pools should be a public safety priority of the highest degree."

At one plant that is a near twin of the Fukushima units, Vermont Yankee on the border of Massachusetts and Vermont, the spent fuel in a pool at the solitary reactor exceeds the inventory in all four of the damaged Fukushima reactors combined, the report notes.

After a March 11 earthquake and tsunami hit the Japanese plant, United States officials urged Americans to stay at least 50 miles away, citing the possibility of a major release of radioactive materials from the pool at Unit 4. The warning has reinvigorated debate about the safety of the far more crowded fuel pools at American nuclear plants.

Adding to concern, President Obama canceled a plan for a repository at Yucca Mountain in the Nevada desert last year, making it likely that the spent fuel will accumulate at the nation's reactors for years to come.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission maintains that both pool and cask storage are safe, although it plans to re-examine the pool issue in light of events at Fukushima.

Nearly all American reactors, especially the older ones, have far more spent fuel on hand than was anticipated when they were designed, Mr. Alvarez, a former senior adviser at the Department of Energy, wrote.

In general, the plants with the largest inventories are the older ones with multiple reactors. By Mr. Alvarez's calculation, the largest amount of spent fuel is at the Millstone Point plant in Waterford, Conn., where two reactors are still operating and one is retired. The second-biggest is at the Palo Verde complex in Wintersburg, Ariz., the largest nuclear power plant in the United States, with three reactors.

Companies that run reactors are generally reluctant to say how much spent fuel they have on hand, citing security concerns. But Mr. Alvarez, drawing from the environmental impact statement for the proposed repository at Yucca Mountain, estimated the amount of radioactive material at all of the nation's reactors.

In the 1960s, when most of the 104 reactors operating today were conceived, reactor manufacturers assumed that the fuel would be trucked away to factories for reprocessing to recover uranium. But reprocessing proved a commercial flop and was banned in the United States in the 1970s out of concerns that the plutonium could find its way into weapons worldwide.

Today roughly 75 percent of the nation's spent nuclear fuel is stored in pools, the report said, citing data from the Nuclear Energy Institute. About 25 percent is stored in dry casks, or sealed steel containers within a concrete enclosure. The fuel is cooled by the natural flow of air around the steel container.

But spent fuel is transferred to dry casks only when reactor pools are nearly completely full. The report recommends instead that all spent nuclear fuel older than five years be stored in the casks. It estimated that the effort would take 10 years and cost $3.5 billion to $7 billion.

"With a price tag of as much as $7 billion, the cost of fixing America's nuclear vulnerabilities may sound high, specially given the heated budget debate occurring in Washington," Mr. Alvarez wrote. "But the price of doing too little is incalculable."

The casks are not viewed as a replacement for a permanent disposal site, but as an interim solution that would last for decades.

The security of spent fuel pools also drew new attention after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, partly because one of the planes hijacked by terrorists flew down the Hudson River, over the Indian Point nuclear complex in Westchester County, before crashing into the World Trade Center in Manhattan.

Indian Point has pressurized water reactors with containment domes, but its spent fuel pools are outside the domes. The pools themselves are designed to withstand earthquakes and other challenges, but the surrounding buildings are not nearly as strong as those that house the reactors.

In a 2005 study ordered by Congress, the National Academy of Sciences also concluded that the pools were a credible target for terrorist attack and that consideration should be given to moving some fuel to dry casks.


3) In a California Prison, Bunk Beds Replace Pickup Games
May 24, 2011

CHINO, Calif. - The basketball hoops jimmied up to the ceiling prove that this dingy space was a gym once upon a time. But for years now, the windowless space has served as a de facto cell for dozens of prisoners at the California Institution for Men.

The rows of bunk beds, just a few inches apart, covered almost every empty space on the floor Tuesday afternoon. The gap between most beds allowed only the thinnest of inmates to stand comfortably. A few prisoners wandered around, but most simply rested on their thin mattresses, reading or dozing. As a rule, they go out to the yard just two or three times a week.

Ominous messages stenciled on the walls signaled the tension: "Caution: No warning shots will be fired." Two guards mind the 200 prisoners, while another, known as a gunner, watches from up high, ready to intervene at any moment.

It would be hard to call the cavernous cell anything but crowded. Still, there are fewer people in it than there were just a few months ago, when triple bunk beds lined the wall. Now, those have been converted to hold just two inmates.

"That helped," said Michael Collins, a 49-year-old inmate who sits a few feet from a dank corner converted into a group of metal toilets and open shower stalls. "We have less people using the bathroom now. If you just mind your business and stay in your bed, it's O.K."

But according to a Supreme Court ruling issued Monday, California - which has the highest overcrowding rate of any prison system in the country - must eliminate rooms like this at its facilities across the state, shedding some 30,000 prisoners over the next two years.

The problem is not new. For decades, the prison population has steadily risen, largely because of tougher mandatory sentencing laws. The overcrowding has led to riots, suicides and killings of inmates and guards over the last several years.

Matthew Cate, the secretary of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, said conditions had actually improved since the filing of the lawsuit in 2006 that ended with Monday's court decision. There are now roughly 143,000 inmates in the state's prisons, down from 162,000 in 2006, in part because the state has sent some 10,000 inmates to out-of-state facilities.

While there were once nearly 20,000 inmates in spaces not meant for housing, commonly referred to as "bad beds," that number has dropped to 6,600.

"It's not perfect, but we haven't been at those kinds of levels since the early 1990s," Mr. Cate said. "The standard that I use personally is: are the prisons clean, are the staff positions filled and are prisoners complaining about care? I think that conditions are good on a day-to-day basis on the basics."

But critics say that it is impossible for the state to deal with such a glutted system. The lack of space can make it impossible, for example, to move inmates from one prison to another for their own safety.

Mr. Cate said that the state was "the birthplace for every major prison gang in the country," but that the overcrowding paralyzes wardens from switching prisoners to defuse racial and gang tensions.

"It's an unacceptable working environment for everyone," said Jeanne Woodford, a former director of the state prisons and a former warden at San Quentin prison. "Every little space is filled with inmates and they are housed where they shouldn't be housed, and every bed is full. It leads to greater violence, more staff overtime and a total inability to deal with health care and mental illness issues."

One major impact of the overcrowding, and a centerpiece of the Supreme Court's ruling, is the lack of adequate health care for prisoners with mental illness or other chronic medical conditions.

In 2005, a federal official began overseeing California's prison health care system after a judge ruled that the state was giving substandard medical care for prisoners. Now, Mr. Cate said, roughly 90 percent of all clinical positions are filled, although that rate varies among the prisons.

Donald Specter, the director of the Prison Law Office who argued against the state before the Supreme Court, said that medical care was still wanting.

"There are not enough beds for the mentally ill, you have prisons all over the state who are flunking by every measure in taking care of chronic conditions like H.I.V. and diabetes and high blood pressure," Mr. Specter said, citing several recent reports by the state's inspector general.

Mr. Cate concedes that the state is doing little to rehabilitate prisoners and has almost no space to run programs that would keep them from landing back here again.

"There's far too much idleness, and that's the thing that concerns me the most," he said. "When you have lockdown as often as we have to, it's not setting anyone up for anything good."

Many of the prisoners here are serving sentences of less than a year for parole violations. According to California law, any parolee caught violating the terms of release could be sent back to state prison, creating a situation that many call the "revolving door." Under a plan Gov. Jerry Brown has proposed, those inmates would instead be sent to county jails.

Robert Caldera, 52, has spent much of his life floating in and out of the prison system, most recently arriving at Chino after he did not report to his parole officer. Mr. Caldera was convicted of second-degree robbery several years ago, he said. Now, he spends his days reading the Bible with a group of inmates. He, too, said the conditions had improved, but like nearly everyone else here, he said the real problem is the bathroom.

"It's nasty pretty much all the time," he said. "There are holes in the walls that have feces in them. It's damp constantly so you don't ever feel clean."

Even from several feet away, it is possible to smell the scent of an overused locker room. There is something that looks like mold on each of the walls and one guard said they are constantly battling broken pipes and leaks.

The conditions at other California prisons have led to outbreaks of viruses, causing officials to quarantine hundreds of prisoners at a time.

Correction officers in Chino say that while the crowding has eased, guarding as many as 70 prisoners at a time is unspeakably stressful. Several said they looked forward to the day when they would have a more manageable number of inmates. But it can be hard for them to muster sympathy for their charges.

"It's worse than this in the Navy and you don't hear those guys complaining," said Robert Spejcher, an officer who oversees a room converted to hold 42 inmates. "We never really know what we're dealing with and we never know how long they are going to stay."


4) High Unemployment 'Most Pressing Legacy' of Financial Crisis, Report Says
May 25, 2011

PARIS - The world economy is moving into a self-sustaining recovery, but high unemployment remains a threat three years after the financial crisis, a prominent economic research organization said Wednesday.

"The global recovery is getting stronger, more broad-based, more self-sustained," Pier Carlo Padoan, the chief economist at the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, said.

"The private sector is driving growth," he added, "especially through a pick-up in trade," while at the same time, support through government spending programs "is being withdrawn slowly."

The O.E.C.D. represents 34 leading developed economies, including the United States and the other members of the Group of 7 industrialized nations. The Paris-based organization is marking its 50th anniversary this week, with the celebration timed to overlap with a Group of 8 summit meeting taking place in Deauville, France, on Thursday and Friday.

In its Economic Outlook report, the O.E.C.D. said global gross domestic product will likely grow by a healthy 4.2 percent this year and by 4.6 percent in 2012. But that figure reflects strong growth in emerging economies; O.E.C.D. members' G.D.P. is expected to rise by a more modest 2.3 percent in 2011 and by 2.8 percent next year.

The organization forecast U.S. growth of 2.6 percent this year and 3.1 percent in 2012. It said it expected the euro-zone economy to expand by 2 percent in both 2011 and 2012. Japan's economy, hurt by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, will likely shrink by 0.9 percent this year before rebounding to 2.2 percent growth in 2012, the O.E.C.D. said.

Still, it noted, "high unemployment remains among the most pressing legacies of the crisis," and that "should prompt countries to improve labor market policies that boost job creation and prevent today's high joblessness from becoming permanent."

Unemployment, which affects more than 50 million people in the O.E.C.D. area, is an important political consideration, as evidenced by recent demonstrations in Spain, which, with more than 20 percent of the population out of work, has the highest jobless rate in the European Union.

The O.E.C.D. called on governments to provide appropriate employment services and training programs and to encourage temporary work, while considering employment tax cuts and workshare arrangements.

Angel Gurria, the O.E.C.D.'s secretary general, called in a statement for governments to work toward fiscal consolidation, noting that government debt is expected to rise to an average of 96 percent of G.D.P. in the euro zone this year, and to just over 100 percent of G.D.P. in the overall O.E.C.D.

Mr. Padoan, the chief economist, warned that there remained a number of downside risks for the global economy, including high energy and commodity prices, a slowdown in China caused by the government's efforts to fight high inflation, and the crisis among the euro states.

"There is a concern that these downside risks could accumulate and possibly prompt some stagflationary risks in some advanced economies," he added.


5) Wringing Reactors for More
With no new nuclear plants built in the past 15 years, the industry tries to do more with existing equipment, raising safety concerns.
Los Angeles Times
May 5, 2011 - 8:12 PM

LOS ANGELES - The U.S. nuclear industry is turning up the power on old reactors, spurring quiet debate over the safety of pushing aging equipment beyond its original specifications.

The little-publicized practice, known as uprating, has expanded the country's nuclear capacity without the financial risks, public anxiety and political obstacles that have halted the construction of new plants for the last 15 years.

The power boosts come from more potent fuel rods in the reactor core and, sometimes, more highly enriched uranium. As a result, the nuclear reactions generate more heat, which boils more water into steam to drive the turbines that make electricity.

Tiny uprates have long been common. But nuclear watchdogs and the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission's own safety advisory panel have expressed concern over larger boosts -- some by up to 20 percent -- that the NRC began approving in 1998. Twenty of the nation's 104 reactors have undergone these "extended power uprates."

The safety discussions have largely escaped public attention, but they could become more prominent as the Japanese nuclear crisis focuses more scrutiny on U.S. reactors.

In an uprated reactor, more neutrons bombard the core, increasing stress on its steel shell. Core temperatures are higher, lengthening the time needed to cool it during a shutdown. Water and steam flow at higher pressures, increasing corrosion of pipes, valves and other parts.

"This trend is, in principle, detrimental to the stability characteristics of the reactor, inasmuch as it increases the probability of instability events and increases the severity of such events, if they were to occur," the Advisory Committee on Reactor Safeguards, which is mandated by Congress to advise the NRC, has warned.

Still, the committee has endorsed uprates, based on assurances that any increased risk falls within federal safety standards and is countered by additional safety measures such as plant modifications and more frequent inspections.

"You can always make a plant safer," said William Shack, a materials engineer and member of the safety committee. "The question is, when do I say I've made it safe enough?"

Computer models used to analyze risk suggest that a properly uprated reactor is no more vulnerable than one operating at original capacity.

But critics of uprates point out that such analyses may fail to account for unforeseen accident scenarios.

"It's beyond the wit of mankind to identify all challenges to a nuclear plant," said John Large, a former researcher for the British atomic energy agency who runs a consulting company in London specializing in nuclear safety.

A case in point involved three uprated reactors in Illinois.

In 2002, both reactors at the Quad Cities Nuclear Plant were restarted after having their capacity boosted by 17.8 percent. Pipes began to shake, and cracks formed in a steam separator, which removes moisture from the steam before it enters the turbines. In one case, a 9-by-6-inch metal chunk broke off and disappeared.

Similar problems were discovered at the Dresden Nuclear Power Plant, about 60 miles southwest of Chicago, which had undergone a 17 percent uprate.

Broken parts were replaced, but the problem continued. Exelon Corp., which owns the plants, and the NRC were mystified.

"The greatest concern is loose parts that you can't find," John Sieber, a nuclear engineer on the NRC advisory committee, said during a 2004 meeting. "Are they in the bottom of the reactor vessel? ... Is it floating around where it can damage internal parts of the core?"

Eventually the problem was uncovered: acoustic waves caused by the geometry of the steam pipes. The pipes were acting like a musical instrument. Their geometry was modified to "detune" them.

Plans to boost the power by 14.3 percent at three reactors in Athens, Ala., and 12.9 percent at a plant in Monticello, Minn., have been held up, in part, by NRC concerns over the steam separators.

Nuclear industry officials and regulators say that safety calculations are conservative and that even the biggest uprates fall far short of the power loads the reactors could actually handle.

Craig Nesbit, an Exelon spokesman, said that uprates "do not cut into the safety margins of these plants."

He and other industry officials note that uprates often require replacing turbines, transformers and other major equipment to accommodate higher water and steam flows.


6) Half-Baked Idea?: Legalizing Marijuana Will Help the Environment
Among other advantages, legalizing pot would would eliminate the strain on public lands resulting from its clandestine cultivation as well as meet higher standards for the use and disposal of toxic substances
May 20, 2011

Dear EarthTalk: I heard someone say that legalizing pot-as Californians considered doing last year-would benefit the environment. How would that be?-William T., Portland, Ore.

It is well known that legalizing pot could have great economic benefits in California and elsewhere by allowing the government to tax it (like it now does on liquor and cigarettes), by ending expensive and ongoing operations to eradicate it, and by keeping millions of otherwise innocent and non-violent marijuana offenders out of already overburdened federal and state prisons. But what you might not know is that legalizing pot could also pay environmental dividends as well.

Nikki Gloudeman, a senior fellow at Mother Jones magazine, reports on the website that the current system of growing pot-surreptitious growers illegally colonizing remote forest lands and moving pesticides, waste and irrigation tubes into otherwise pristine ecosystems-is nothing short of a toxic scourge. Legalizing pot, she says, would clean things up substantially, as the growing would both eliminate the strain on public lands and meet higher standards for the use and disposal of toxic substances.

Legalization would also reduce the environmental impacts of smuggling across the U.S./Mexico border, says Gloudeman: "Cartels routinely use generators, diesel storage tanks and animal poison to preserve their cache, when the border area is surrounded by more than 4 million acres of sensitive federal wilderness."

Also, legalizing pot would move its production out into the open, literally, meaning that growers would no longer need to rack up huge energy costs to keep their illegal indoor growing operations lit up by artificial light. This means that the energy consumption and carbon footprint of marijuana growers would go way down, as the light the plants need for photosynthesis could be provided more naturally by the sun.

Yet another green benefit of legalizing marijuana would be an end to the destructive eradication efforts employed by law enforcement at bust sites, where the crop and the land they are rooted in are sometimes subjected to harsh chemical herbicides for expedited removal.

The legalization of pot in the U.S. would also likely open the door to the legal production of hemp, a variety of the same Cannabis plant that contains much lower amounts of the psychoactive drug, THC. Proponents say hemp could meet an increasingly larger percentage of our domestic fiber and fuel needs. Cannabis, the plant from which marijuana and hemp is derived, grows quickly without the need for excessive amounts of fertilizer or pesticide (it's a "weed" after all) and absorbs carbon dioxide like any plant engaged in photosynthesis. The fiber and fuel derived from hemp would be carbon neutral and as such wouldn't contribute to global warming-and in fact could help mitigate rising temperatures by replacing chemical-intensive crops like cotton and imported fossil fuels like oil and gas.

Of course, one might argue that the best thing for the environment would be to stop growing cannabis altogether. "But let's be real: That's never going to happen," says Gloudeman. "In light of that, the next best bet is to make it legal."

CONTACTS:,; Drug Policy Alliance,

EarthTalk(r) is written and edited by Roddy Scheer and Doug Moss and is a registered trademark of E - The Environmental Magazine ( Send questions to: Subscribe:; Request a Free Trial Issue:


7) NATO: A Feast of Blood
CYNTHIA McKINNEY in Libya under NATO attack

While serving on the House International Relations Committee from 1993 to 2003, it became clear to me that the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) was an anachronism. Founded in 1945 at the end of World War II, NATO was founded by the United States in response to the Soviet Union's survival as a Communist state. NATO was the U.S. insurance policy that capitalist ownership and domination of European, Asian, and African economies would continue. This also would ensure the survival of the then-extant global apartheid.

NATO is a collective security pact wherein member states pledge that an attack upon one is an attack against all. Therefore, should the Soviet Union have attacked any European Member State, the United States military shield would be activated. The Soviet Response was the Warsaw Pact that maintained a "cordon sanitaire" around the Russian Heartland should NATO ever attack. Thus, the world was broken into blocs which gave rise to the "Cold War."

Avowed "Cold Warriors" of today still view the world in these terms and, unfortunately, cannot move past Communist China and an amputated Soviet Empire as enemy states of the U.S. whose moves any where on the planet are to be contested. The collapse of the Soviet Union provided an accelerated opportunity to exert U.S. hegemony in an area of previous Russian influence. Africa and the Eurasian landmass containing former Soviet satellite states and Afghanistan and Pakistan along with the many other "stans" of the region, have always factored prominently in the theories of "containment" or "rollback" guiding U.S. policy up to today.

With that as background, last night's NATO rocket attack on Tripoli is inexplicable. A civilian metropolitan area of around 2 million people, Tripoli sustained 22 to 25 bombings last night, rattling and breaking windows and glass and shaking the foundation of my hotel.

I left my room at the Rexis Al Nasr Hotel and walked outside the hotel and I could smell the exploded bombs. There were local people everywhere milling with foreign journalists from around the world. As we stood there more bombs struck around the city. The sky flashed red with explosions and more rockets from NATO jets cut through low cloud before exploding.

I could taste the thick dust stirred up by the exploded bombs. I immediately thought about the depleted uranium munitions reportedly being used here--along with white phosphorus. If depleted uranium weapons were being used what affect on the local civilians?

Women carrying young children ran out of the hotel. Others ran to wash the dust from their eyes. With sirens blaring, emergency vehicles made their way to the scene of the attack. Car alarms, set off by the repeated blasts, could be heard underneath the defiant chants of the people.

Sporadic gunfire broke out and it seemed everywhere around me. Euronews showed video of nurses and doctors chanting even at the hospitals as they treated those injured from NATO's latest installation of shock and awe. Suddenly, the streets around my hotel became full of chanting people, car horns blowing, I could not tell how many were walking, how many were driving. Inside the hotel, one Libyan woman carrying a baby came to me and asked me why are they doing this to us?

Whatever the military objectives of the attack (and I and many others question the military value of these attacks) the fact remains the air attack was launched a major city packed with hundreds of thousands of civilians.

I did wonder too if the any of the politicians who had authorized this air attack had themselves ever been on the receiving end of laser guided depleted uranium munitions. Had they ever seen the awful damage that these weapons do a city and its population? Perhaps if they actually been in the city of air attack and felt the concussion from these bombs and saw the mayhem caused they just might not be so inclined to authorize an attack on a civilian population.

I am confident that NATO would not have been so reckless with human life if they had called on to attack a major western city. Indeed, I am confident that would not be called upon ever to attack a western city. NATO only attacks (as does the US and its allies) the poor and underprivileged of the 3rd world.

Only the day before, at a women's event in Tripoli, one woman came up to me with tears in her eyes: her mother is in Benghazi and she can't get back to see if her mother is OK or not. People from the east and west of the country lived with each other, loved each other, intermarried, and now, because of NATO's "humanitarian intervention," artificial divisions are becoming hardened. NATO's recruitment of allies in eastern Libya smacks of the same strain of cold warriorism that sought to assassinate Fidel Castro and overthrow the Cuban Revolution with "homegrown" Cubans willing to commit acts of terror against their former home country. More recently, Democratic Republic of Congo has been amputated de facto after Laurent Kabila refused a request from the Clinton Administration to formally shave off the eastern part of his country. Laurent Kabila personally recounted the meeting at which this request and refusal were delivered. This plan to balkanize and amputate an African country (as has been done in Sudan) did not work because Kabila said "no" while Congolese around the world organized to protect the "territorial integrity" of their country.

I was horrified to learn that NATO allies (the Rebels) in Libya have reportedly lynched, butchered and then their darker-skinned compatriots after U.S. press reports labeled Black Libyans as "Black mercenaries." Now, tell me this, pray tell. How are you going to take Blacks out of Africa? Press reports have suggested that Americans were "surprised" to see dark-skinned people in Africa. Now, what does that tell us about them?

The sad fact, however, is that it is the Libyans themselves, who have been insulted, terrorized, lynched, and murdered as a result of the press reports that hyper-sensationalized this base ignorance. Who will be held accountable for the lives lost in the bloodletting frenzy unleashed as a result of these lies?

Which brings me back to the lady's question: why is this happening? Honestly, I could not give her the educated reasoned response that she was looking for. In my view the international public is struggling to answer "Why?".

What we do know, and what is quite clear, is this: what I experienced last night is no "humanitarian intervention."

Many suspect it is about all the oil under Libya. Call me skeptical but I have to wonder why the combined armed sea, land and air forces of NATO and the US costing billions of dollars are being arraigned against a relatively small North African country and we're expected to believe its in the defense of democracy.

What I have seen in long lines to get fuel is not "humanitarian intervention." Refusal to allow purchases of medicine for the hospitals is not "humanitarian intervention." What is most sad is that I cannot give a cogent explanation of why to people now terrified by NATO's bombs, but it is transparently clear now that NATO has exceeded its mandate, lied about its intentions, is guilty of extra-judicial killings--all in the name of "humanitarian intervention." Where is the Congress as the President exceeds his war-making authority? Where is the "Conscience of the Congress?"

For those of who disagree with Dick Cheney's warning to us to prepare for war for the next generation, please support any one who will stop this madness. Please organize and then vote for peace. People around the world need us to stand up and speak out for ourselves and them because Iran and Venezuela are also in the cross-hairs. Libyans don't need NATO helicopter gunships, smart bombs, cruise missiles, and depleted uranium to settle their differences. NATO's "humanitarian intervention" needs to be exposed for what it is with the bright, shining light of the truth.

As dusk descends on Tripoli, let me prepare myself with the local civilian population for some more NATO humanitarianism.

Stop bombing Africa and the poor of the world!


8) Justices Uphold Law Penalizing Hiring of Illegal Immigrants
May 26, 2011

WASHINGTON - The Supreme Court on Thursday upheld an Arizona law that imposes harsh penalties on businesses that hire illegal immigrants.

The 5-to-3 decision amounted to a green light for vigorous state efforts to combat the employment of illegal workers. The majority opinion, written by Chief Justice John G. Roberts on behalf of the court's five more conservative members, noted that Colorado, Mississippi, Missouri, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia had recently enacted laws similar to the one at issue in the case.

The decision did not directly address a second, more recent Arizona law that in some circumstances requires police there to question people they stop about their immigration status. The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit blocked enforcement of that law in April, and the case may reach the Supreme Court soon.

The challenge to the older Arizona law that was the subject of Thursday's decision was brought by a coalition of business and civil liberties groups, with support from the Obama administration. They said the law, the Legal Arizona Workers Act, conflicted with federal immigration policy.

The decision turned mostly on the meaning of a provision of a 1986 federal law, the Immigration Reform and Control Act, which said that it overrode "any state or local law imposing civil or criminal sanctions (other than through licensing and similar laws) upon those who employ" unauthorized aliens.

The question was whether Arizona was entitled to supplement the penalties in the 1986 federal law with much tougher ones of its own. The state argued that the phrase in parentheses - "other than through licensing and similar laws" - allowed it to suspend or revoke the business licenses of repeat offenders. Critics called that provision of the state law a "business death penalty."

Chief Justice Roberts wrote that the word "licensing" should be read broadly to allow states to supplement federal efforts to prevent the hiring of illegal workers. His decision was joined by Justices Antonin Scalia, Anthony M. Kennedy, Samuel A. Alito Jr. and, for the most part, Clarence Thomas.

Justice Stephen G. Breyer, in a dissent joined by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, said the word "licensing" in the federal law should be read to mean "employment-related licensing systems" and not all licenses. "Why not an auto licensing law?" he asked of the majority's interpretation. "Why not a dog licensing law?"

Chief Justice Roberts responded that Congress could easily have limited the phrase had it wanted to. "If we are asking questions," he added, "a more telling one may be why, if Congress had intended such limited exceptions to its prohibition on state sanctions, it did not simply say so, instead of excepting 'licensing and similar laws' generally?"

Chief Justice Roberts wrote the Arizona law was a measured response to a real problems and that "licensing sanctions are imposed only when an employer's conduct fully justifies them."

He added that there was no reason to fear that the state law would lead to discrimination against Hispanics lawfully in the United States.

"The most rational path for employers," the chief justice wrote, "is to obey the law - both the law barring the employment of unauthorized aliens and the law prohibiting discrimination - and there is no reason to suppose that Arizona employers will choose not to do so."

But Justice Breyer said the state law disrupted a carefully calculated balance between competing Congressional goals, one that "seriously threatens the federal act's antidiscrimination objectives." The state law increased penalties for hiring illegal workers, he said, but it left "the other side of the punishment balance - the antidiscrimination side - unchanged."

The decision, Chamber of Commerce v. Whiting, No. 09-115, also upheld a second aspect of the Arizona law, this one making mandatory an otherwise voluntary federal program, E-Verify, that allows employers to verify whether potential employees are authorized to work.

In his dissent, Justice Breyer said it was a mistake to require use of a "pilot program" that was "prone to error."

Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote a separate dissent. Justice Elena Kagan was recused from the case because she had worked on it as United States solicitor general.

"I cannot believe," Justice Sotomayor wrote, "that Congress intended for the 50 states and countless localities to implement their own distinct enforcement and adjudication procedures for deciding whether employers have employed unauthorized aliens."


9) Two New York City Police Officers Acquitted of Rape
May 26, 2011

Two New York City police officers were found not guilty on Thursday of raping a drunken woman who had been helped into her apartment by the officers while on patrol.

The verdict provides some measure of vindication for the officers, Kenneth Moreno and Franklin Mata, and brings to an end a criminal case that drew outrage across the city when the officers were indicted in 2009.

Still, the jury convicted both officers of three counts of official misconduct for entering the woman's apartment, but found them not guilty of all other charges, including burglary and falsifying business records. The officers had both admitted to violating their duties on the night in question; Officer Moreno testified that he cuddled with the drunken woman in her bed while she wore nothing but a bra.

Both officers face up to a year in jail on each count when they are sentenced June 28 before Justice Gregory Carro of State Supreme Court in Manhattan.

The officers, who are suspended with pay, also face administrative charges from the Police Department, though Officer Moreno's lawyer, Joseph Tacopina, said that their careers as officers was likely over.

Appearing tense and tight-faced in front of the courthouse, Officer Moreno said he was not angry.

"I'm glad it's over," he said. "It's a lesson and a win."

When a reporter asked Officer Moreno what he meant by lesson, Mr. Tacopina interjected, saying, "Well, we'll just leave it at that."

The case presented a formidable challenge for prosecutors: there was no DNA evidence suggesting that either officer had committed a sexual act, and the victim was admittedly drunk and had only a foggy recollection of the night in question.

As the verdict was read, Officer Mata looked straight ahead, while Officer Moreno cast his eyes downward, placing his fingertips on his lips.

After the verdict was delivered, Officer Moreno's mother, Aida Moreno-Ruiz, called a relative from her cellphone. "Hey, Freddy," she said. "It's over. It's over. Not guilty."

She said in an interview that she knew that her son was "not capable of doing something so ugly."

"Thank God it's over and the truth came out," she said.

Prosecutors had accused Officer Mata, 29, of standing guard while Officer Moreno had sex with the woman.

After initially helping the woman into her apartment, the officers were captured by surveillance cameras re-entering the woman's East Village building three times.

Officer Moreno, 43, testified during the nearly two-month-long trial that he was a recovering alcoholic and had developed a rapport with the woman that night, when she confided in him that her friends were mad at her because she drank too much. They flirted, he sang Bon Jovi's "Livin' on a Prayer" to her and she actually came onto him, wearing nothing but a bra, he said. He testified that he kissed the woman on the forehead and snuggled with her in her bed, but insisted that they did not have sex.

But the woman, now 29 and living in California, told a much different story. She said she did not have a drinking problem and would never have said something like that to the officer.

The woman, who was drinking heavily at a Brooklyn bar while celebrating a job promotion, conceded that she had blacked out on many details of the evening. Still, she testified to vivid memories of hearing police radios crackling and Velcro tearing open, of feeling her tights being rolled down, and then of being penetrated as she lay dazed, face down on her bed.

After the verdict, Officer Moreno said the woman was "mistaken and confused."

He added that, "my intention was from the beginning just to help her."

When the officers were indicted in 2009, Raymond W. Kelly, the police commissioner, who typically does not speak about pending cases against his officers, broke protocol to make a statement.

"It is outrageous that officers summoned to assist a woman would end up allegedly taking advantage of her," Mr. Kelly said at the time. "The public needs to know that the police will be there to protect them, and they can know that."

On Thursday, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg released a statement saying, "There were very serious charges raised during this trial, and now that it's over they can be addressed by the Police Department's strict review."

When she testified last month, the woman, who has a $57 million lawsuit pending against the city and the officers, broke down several times while on the witness stand when recalling what she said happened to her.

"I couldn't believe that two police officers who had been called there to help me had instead raped me and left me face down in a pool of vomit in my bed to die," she said during her testimony.

Although more than 35 witnesses testified, the trial was highlighted by combative, dramatic cross-examination between Coleen Balbert, an assistant district attorney, and the officers. Ms. Balbert attempted to portray the officers as offering up self-serving stories to conceal what they did to the woman.

One crucial piece of prosecution evidence was a secretly recorded conversation days later between the woman and Officer Moreno. In the recorded conversation, Officer Moreno told the woman that he had worn a condom, but only after he had denied numerous times that he had sex with her. His lawyers argued that he lied to her about wearing a condom because she had threatened to make a scene in his precinct station house.

Officer Moreno also made other statements during the conversation that suggested he had had sex with the woman.

Although the defense never conceded that the two had sex, a central point of argument in the case was whether the woman was too drunk to consent to sex. Under the prosecutors' theory of rape, they had to prove that the woman was physically unable to consent to sex, meaning that she was either unconscious or unable to speak when she was penetrated.

Defense lawyers pointed to surveillance footage of the woman walking on her own as she entered the building in front of the officers as evidence that she was conscious and able to communicate. They also contrasted what the woman told some friends shortly after the alleged rape - that she thought she was raped - with the certainty that she was expressing on the witness stand. Her spotty recollection of that night, the defense said, was enough to raise reasonable doubt over whether she was raped.


10) Judge Strikes Down Wisconsin Law Curbing Unions
May 26, 2011

Ruling that Republicans in the State Senate had violated the state's open meetings law, a judge in Wisconsin dealt a blow to them and to Gov. Scott Walker on Thursday by granting a permanent injunction striking down a new law curbing collective bargaining rights for many state and local employees.

Judge Maryann Sumi of Dane County Circuit Court said the Senate vote on March 9, coming after 13 Democratic state senators had fled the state, failed to comply with an open meetings law requiring at least two hours notice to the public.

The Wisconsin Supreme Court is scheduled to hear arguments in the case on June 6 , and Republican lawmakers are hoping that the court overturns Judge Sumi's ruling and reinstates the law.

The State Senate could choose simply to pass the bill again while assuring proper notice. But some political experts say there might be some obstacles to re-enacting the vote because some Democrats could conceivably flee the state again, and some Republican Senators are frightened about pending recall elections.

The law, which generated huge protests in Madison, the state capital, bars public-sector unions, except for police officers and firefighters, from bargaining over health benefits and pensions. The law allows bargaining over wages alone, but does not allow raises higher than the inflation rate unless they are approved in a public referendum.

The Senate's 19 Republicans approved the measure, 18 to 1, in less than half an hour, without any debate on the floor or a single Democrat in the room.

Scott Fitzgerald, a Republican who is the Senate majority leader, attacked Judge Sumi's decision.

"There's still a much larger separation-of-powers issue: whether one Madison judge can stand in the way of the other two democratically elected branches of government," he said in a statement. "The Supreme Court is going to have the ultimate ruling."

Mary Bell, president of the Wisconsin Education Association Council, the state's largest teachers union, applauded the judge's decision, saying the law was always intended to "bust unions."

"In the wake of this ruling, state lawmakers should back down and not take another run at this divisive legislation," she said in a statement. "It is not in the best interest of students, schools or Wisconsin's future to take the voices of educators out of our classrooms."

Republican senators asserted that they had enacted the collective bargaining law under emergency conditions, obviating the need to comply with the open meetings law. But Judge Sumi said she found no official evidence of emergency conditions or notice.

"This case is the example of values protected by the open meetings law: transparency in government, the right of citizens to participate in their government and respect for the rule of law," Judge Sumi wrote in her conclusion.

She said the evidence demonstrated a failure to obey even the two-hour notice allowed for good cause if a 24-hour notice was impossible or impractical.

A Republican spokesman said party leaders were studying Judge Sumi's ruling and were not yet ready to issue a statement. Cullen Werwie, a spokesman for Mr. Walker, declined comment, saying the Senate vote did not directly involve the governor.

Judge Sumi rejected the Republicans' claims that the open meetings law did not allow bills passed by the State Legislature to be struck down, asserting that only laws by lesser bodies can be overturned under that law. She also rejected the idea that the law was so important that it should stand despite the open meetings violation.

Quoting a Wisconsin Supreme Court decision from last year, Judge Sumi wrote, "The right of the people to monitor the people's business is one of the core principles of democracy."


11) Angry Parents in Japan Confront Government Over Radiation Levels
May 25, 2011

FUKUSHIMA CITY, Japan - The accusations flew on Wednesday at the local school board meeting, packed with parents worried and angry about radiation levels in this city at the heart of Japan's nuclear crisis.

"Do you really care about our children's health?" one parent shouted. "Why have you acted so late?" said another. Among other concerns: isn't radiation still raining down on Fukushima? Shouldn't the entire school building be decontaminated? The entire city? Can we trust you?

"We are doing all we can," pleaded Tomio Watanabe, a senior official of Fukushima's education board.

A huge outcry is erupting in Fukushima over what parents say is a blatant government failure to protect their children from dangerous levels of radiation. The issue has prompted unusually direct confrontations in this conflict-averse society, and has quickly become a focal point for anger over Japan's handling of the accident at the nearby Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, ravaged in the March 11 earthquake and tsunami.

At issue are updated government guidelines that allow schoolchildren to be exposed to radiation doses that are more than 20 times the previously permissible levels. That dose is equal to the international standard for adult nuclear power plant workers.

Adding to the anxiety, there is little scientific knowledge of the sorts of radiation dangers that Japan may now be facing. Scientists say readings in most areas are too low to cause immediate illness - even among children, who are more vulnerable - but they have a limited understanding of how low radiation doses over a long period of time can affect health.

"People in Japan want a simple answer: Is it safe or is it dangerous?" said Kuniko Tanioka, a member of Parliament's upper house, on a recent visit to Washington. But given the state of radiation science, "there is no such thing" as a simple answer, Ms. Tanioka said.

For two months, the children at the Soramame Children's House, a day care center about 37 miles from the stricken plant, spent their days indoors, windows sealed shut to keep out radiation, their favorite buckets and spades contaminated and strictly off limits.

But when the local authorities made no effort to decontaminate the area, caregivers took matters into their own hands. On the advice of local environmental groups - they said local officials had none to give - a group of parents and teachers donned makeshift protective suits and masks, took up spades and disposed of the playground's topsoil.

After the topsoil removal, radioactive materials, which tend to be deposited in the soil, fell from about 30 times the levels naturally found in the environment to twice those levels.

"It breaks my heart that they did nothing for the children," said Sadako Monma, herself a mother of two, who has run the Soramame center for 15 years. "Our answer was to stop waiting for someone to help us."

On Monday, a group of angry parents from Fukushima staged a rowdy protest outside Japan's Education Ministry in Tokyo, bearing signs reading "Save our children" and demanding to speak with the minister. They were rebuffed.

Yoshiaki Takaki, the education minister, later stressed that the government would allow children to remain exposed to the updated levels of radiation.

"We will endeavor to bring radiation levels down," Mr. Takaki told reporters on Tuesday.

Slow action by the government has set off a revolt among the usually orderly ranks of Japanese bureaucrats.

Some smaller towns and cities in Fukushima Prefecture have spurned orders from Tokyo, declaring their schools unsafe and sending in bulldozers to remove contaminated soil from the school grounds. A handful of individual children's facilities, like Soramame, have done the same. In April, an adviser to Prime Minister Naoto Kan resigned over the new radiation guidelines, saying he would not let his own children be exposed to those levels.

"I don't believe the government," said Kanako Nishikata, 33, a mother of two elementary school children here. "The air here is dirty. The soil is dirty. They are leaving Fukushima to suffer and perish."

The new radiation guidelines are one of many decisions the Japanese government will have to make about which areas around the stricken Fukushima nuclear plant remain habitable, experts said.

That decision is complicated because the radioactive materials from the plant have not emanated in neat circles. Instead, there are radiation hot spots outside the government-imposed 12-mile evacuation zone around the plant, straddling several towns and villages and parts of Fukushima City, home to nearly 300,000 people.

Although some of those towns and villages have started evacuations, Fukushima City, which includes parts with similarly high radiation readings, has routinely been excluded from evacuation plans. That has made some residents suspicious.

"They know it's impossible to evacuate such a big city," said Seiichi Nakate, a social worker who rallied local parents to found the Fukushima Network for Saving Children from Radiation. "But at least they should help evacuate the children, or do more to bring down the radiation."

For now, life in Fukushima City seems suspended in competing, parallel realities. Many people roam the streets without the protective facial masks that others don religiously. Parents talk of not letting their children drink milk or tap water, or eat locally grown vegetables, while businessmen warn that such hysteria helps taint Fukushima's reputation. The chatter at supermarkets is peppered with discussions of radiation levels. School fields and playgrounds across the city are eerily quiet.

At the meeting on Wednesday, parents pressed officials of the Fukushima education board for more action.

Of about 70 elementary and secondary schools in the city, officials have said workers will replace the soil at 26 schools with the highest radiation levels. The contaminated soil will be buried at least 20 inches deep within the school grounds. At some schools, work will not be done until mid-June.

Schoolchildren will still spend the bulk of the sweltering Fukushima summer indoors, with windows shut and no air-conditioning. (Japanese schools are rarely fitted with that luxury.) The city has promised at least four electric fans per classroom.

At the Soramame child care center, radiation levels remain low two weeks after its big soil transplant. The contaminated soil has been buried 20 inches below the surface. There is a new set of swings, but buckets and spades still lie in a heap, waiting to be thrown away.

Only 9 of the 23 children enrolled there before the disaster remain.

Some have fled Fukushima with their families.

"It will be a long road back to normal," said Mrs. Monma, who runs the center. "And even then, we will need to warn future generations that we have buried something dangerous, just below the surface."

Matthew L. Wald contributed reporting from Washington.


12) Under an Arizona Plan, Smokers and Obese Would Pay Fee for Medicaid
[Stands to reason they should make the cigarette and junk-food companies pay not their victims!]
May 26, 2011

Arizona, like many others states, says it is no longer able to adequately finance its Medicaid program. As part of a plan to cut costs, the state has proposed imposing a $50 fee on childless adults on Medicaid who are either obese or who smoke. In Arizona, almost half of all Medicaid recipients smoke; while the number of obese people is unclear, about one-in-four Arizonans is overweight, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The state's plan must ultimately be approved by the federal government. Monica Coury, spokeswoman for Arizona's Medicaid program, discusses.

Q. What is the current status of the state's Medicaid program?

A. "In Arizona, there has been an increase of 30 percent in the number of people on Medicaid and a 34 percent decrease in general fund revenue since 2007. We are one of just a few states that cover childless adults in Medicaid. We want to change the nature of eligibility for that program from an open-ended entitlement program to one that the state manages based on available funding, which means we can freeze the program and then open the program back up for enrollment should we come into additional funds. But that is just one of the things we are seeking to do. We also want to reform the payment system for Medicaid. Currently, Medicaid is structured such that we are a purchaser of 'widgets,' if you will. So, providers are incentivized to do more - since they get paid for quantity. There is no financial incentive for a provider to reduce the number of hospital admissions, for instance, because that drives down the bottom line. We want Medicaid to move away from that concept to one that supports and financially rewards health plans and providers for supporting quality."

Q. Why is it a good idea to charge people a fee for being overweight or for smoking?

A. "The issue is this: we can't keep complaining about the rising cost of health care and not drill down to what that means on the individual level. Maricopa County (where Phoenix is located) has started a program among its employees where smokers have to pay $450 more for health insurance than non-smokers. They take a swab to detect nicotine. The bottom line is that there's plenty of evidence and studies that show there is an undeniable link between smoking and obesity and health care costs."

Q. What has been the response from critics?

A. "Some people have suggested it is discriminating against obese people. To me, it is a matter of fairness. We have an obligation to provide health care coverage to 1.35 million people. And we've got a budget crisis, so if there's something you can do to help out - we're just asking you to put a little more back into the system. What we want to test is whether making people pay is going to affect behavior. We think it will."

Q. How would disabled people be affected?

A. "We're not talking about the disabled, the elderly, pregnant women, or children, and certainly there would be exceptions for certain conditions, like cancer. We are talking only about able-bodied people who have the capacity to manage their weights."

Q. How did you arrive at the amount of $50? Would that be sufficient to offset the fund's costs?

A. "We've talked about $50 once a year. We haven't done the math, but it's not about how much we would collect. It is totally about testing the efficacy of this strategy. Obesity is costing us billions in health care costs, so our thought is 'let's test some of these strategies.' "


13) Yale to Restore Navy R.O.T.C. Program
May 26, 2011

After decades without a formal military presence on its New Haven campus, Yale University planned to sign an agreement on Thursday to re-establish the United States Navy's R.O.T.C. program starting in the fall of 2012.

The return of the Reserve Officer Training Corps to Yale follows the recent repeal of the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy on homosexuality, which had raised the ire of students on many elite campuses.

Harvard University signed a similar agreement with the Navy in March. And Lee C. Bollinger, president of Columbia University, which in April announced its plan to bring back R.O.T.C., signed a formal agreement on Thursday morning with the secretary of the Navy, Ray Mabus, aboard the U.S.S. Iwo Jima, which was docked in New York for the Navy's annual Fleet Week.

While opposition to the military's ban on openly gay servicemen and women had kept R.O.T.C. off some campuses in recent years, it was protests against the Vietnam War that led colleges to bar the program decades ago.

Mr. Mabus was also scheduled to attend a signing ceremony with Yale's president, Richard C. Levin, in New Haven.

"The new Navy R.O.T.C. unit at Yale continues the university's proud tradition of educating students who serve our country's armed forces," Mr. Levin said in a statement. "From Lexington to Afghanistan, our students and graduates have contributed to the nation's defense, and the return of N.R.O.T.C. will make it easier for the most talented young men and women who aspire to leadership in our military to gain a Yale education."

At Columbia, the Navy R.O.T.C. program will have an office on campus where active-duty Navy and Marine Corps officers will meet regularly with Columbia midshipmen. But those students will take classes at another R.O.T.C. unit at the State University of New York Maritime College in Throgs Neck, N.Y.

At Yale, however, undergraduates will receive military instruction and participate in training on campus. Yale's Navy R.O.T.C. unit will even enroll students from other public and private universities in Connecticut.

Votes by Yale faculty members in early May opened the door to the return of R.O.T.C. on campus, and a survey conducted by the Yale College Council last fall found that a majority of students supported the renewal of the relationship.


14) BP Asks Judge to Dismiss Many Spill Claims
May 26, 2011

NEW ORLEANS (AP) - BP PLC is asking a federal judge to dismiss most of the court claims filed against the oil giant by businesses and individuals who say they suffered economic damage from last year's massive Gulf oil spill.

U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier didn't immediately rule Thursday after hearing motions to dismiss claims against BP and other companies that have been sued over the spill spawned by the explosion on the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig.

BP argues Barbier must dismiss thousands of maritime and state law claims for economic losses by commercial fishermen, property owners and others because they are pre-empted by the Oil Pollution Act of 1990.

Plaintiffs' attorneys dispute that the 1990 law is the only vehicle for resolving these claims.


15) Michelle Alexander on California's 'Cruel and Unusual' Prisons
By Liliana Segura
The Nation
May 26, 2011

On May 23, the U.S. Supreme Court handed down a 5-4 decision ordering California to release tens-of-thousands of inmates from its overcrowded prisons on the grounds that their living conditions-including lethally inadequate healthcare-were so intolerable as to be "cruel and unusual punishment." For years, California has stored its prisoners like so many cans of soup; stacked in cells or bunk beds in squalid conditions that breed violence and disease. A 2008 NPR report on massive overcrowding at San Quentin State Prison found 360 men caged in what was once a gymnasium: "Most of these men spend twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week in the gym," NPR reported, describing it as "a giant game of survivor." The day before the Supreme Court ruling, four prisoners were seriously injured at San Quentin when a riot broke out in a dining hall.

Prison numbers have dipped in recent years, but with nearly 2.4 million Americans behind bars, mass incarceration remains a national crisis. In California, home of a notorious "three strikes" law, parole violations represent more than half of all new prison admissions, and three of four prisoners are non-white. It's an extreme example of what has happened across the country.

Michelle Alexander, a former ACLU lawyer in the Bay Area and author of The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, has pointed out that the rush to incarcerate has gotten so out of control that "if our nation were to return to the rates of incarceration we had in the 1970s, we would have to release four out of five people behind bars." Arriving in California for a series of events just after the decision came down, Alexander spoke to me over the phone about the ruling and what it means.

Liliana Segura: What has the response been in California to this ruling?

Michelle Alexander: I have seen in the media here a fair amount of fear-mongering. At least one law enforcement official [Mark Pazin, the Merced County sheriff and chairman of the state's sheriffs' association] was saying that he was worried that there would be a "tsunami" of crime that would wash over communities in California. "We're bracing for the worst and hoping for the best," he says, projecting to the public that they ought to be very worried that all of these criminals busting loose from prison may well wreak havoc on their communities.

What is most disturbing to me about this rhetoric is that it fails to acknowledge that all of these people were coming home anyway. It creates the impression that people who are returning home to these communities wouldn't have been but for the Supreme Court ruling. And if there's any reason to be concerned about potential crime when they return, it's largely due to the legal barriers that exist to effective reentry into communities. People return home from prison and face legal discrimination in virtually all areas of social and economic and political life. They are legally discriminated against employment, barred from public housing and denied other public benefits.

Liliana Segura: Governor Jerry Brown has planned to address California's budget issues by transferring a bunch of state prisoners to county jails, and the head of the California corrections system says that "our goal is not to release inmates at all." Part of what is interesting about this decision is that Justice Anthony Kennedy mentioned the "lack of political will in favor of reform." Is it always going to be politics that stalls even incremental changes?

Michelle Alexander: I think this opinion illustrates how broken our politics have become. Here we are in California, a state that has been careening toward bankruptcy, and yet there is enormous resistance to releasing nonviolent, relatively minor offenders, people who, I think it's important to emphasize, might not have been doing time at all if they had been arrested thirty years ago. We now sentence people to prison for years for types of offenses that once received just probation or days in jail. So these people who we're so afraid of returning to our communities, they might well not have been serving time at all had they been arrested a few decades ago, before the War on Drugs and Get Tough movement really kicked off.

Liliana Segura: Activists often say that real change is not going to come from the courts. On the other hand, some have described this decision as quite momentous. Jonathan Simon, a law professor at Berkeley, wrote, "This is the first decision to move beyond evaluating prison conditions to place mass incarceration itself on trial." How significant is this decision and what are the implications beyond California?

Michelle Alexander: I think it is a very significant decision, although, as a number of commentators have observed, there's not likely to be a lot of copycat legislation because the conditions in California were so extreme. You had documented cases of people dying on a weekly or monthly basis simply because of inadequate access to healthcare. But that isn't to minimize the significance of the decision. It does signal that mass incarceration has become unmanageable for states that are facing severe economic crises.

I think it's important to note, though, that Justice Kennedy said, "Look, if California just built more prisons, then the Eighth Amendment would not be violated here. But because it can't afford to do so, it must begin releasing some people. But once states can afford again to lock people up en masse, there's nothing in this decision that precludes mass incarceration. What it precludes is such severe overcrowding that it literally threatens the lives of the inmates that are housed there. And the amount of reduction that is called for in the opinion isn't that dramatic. Which is why some officials are arguing, Oh, well, maybe we can absorb those who are ordered released from prison in other ways. If they find a way to do that, then the practical impact of the decision will be minimal."

The Supreme Court has stood quietly by in the era of mass incarceration. And in fact, to the extent that they've raised their voices at all, it has only been to facilitate the War on Drugs. The U.S. Supreme Court has eviscerated Fourth Amendment protections against unreasonable searches and seizures, giving the police license to sweep communities, to conduct "stop and frisk" operations. The Supreme Court has made it nearly impossible to prove race discrimination in the criminal justice system. Only now that states are faced with such severe economic crises that they are unable to build enough prisons to house inmates without risking their lives does the Supreme Court step in and say, Well, if you can't afford to build more prisons, then you're going have to start releasing some people.

I think what's clear here is that it's going to take a grassroots movement to force politicians to respond rationally to problems related to crime and mass incarceration. This economic crisis does create an important window for advocacy-and advocates should seize this moment of opportunity-but they must do so in a way that builds a grassroots movement for the end of a system as a whole.

Liliana Segura: The thought of creating that movement becomes very daunting when you to consider the average American's perception of prisoners. How do we convince people that prisoners deserve basic rights and that this should be an issue we should organize around?

Michelle Alexander: I think one of the biggest barriers to movement building today is that there's so much myth about crime and the reasons for the explosion of our prison population. There must be major education to dispel the myths that sustain the system; the myth that explosion has been driven by crime rates. It's not true. The myth that the War on Drugs has been aimed at rooting out violent offenders and drug kingpins. Not true. The myth that poor folks of color are more likely to use and sell illegal drugs than white folks. Not true. There really has to be an effort in schools and churches and mosques and community centers to engage in the kind of consciousness-raising that will open up a political space in which movement-building work can be possible.

The other front of the work that has to be developed is how to move beyond this piecemeal policy reform work that has been done over the last thirty years to work that is more transformative, so that we're not just tinkering with the system but instead are galvanizing a grassroots movement, one that is contagious and can be replicated in cities and communities nationwide. I believe it's possible. The same way that many people said, Oh Jim Crow is never going to die, it's too deeply entrenched. I believe it is possible to bring an end to mass incarceration and birth a new moral consensus about how we ought to be responding to poor folks of color and a consensus in support of basic human rights for all. But it is going to take some work.


16) Japan Moves to Ease Parental Fury Over Radiation Limits
May 27, 2011

TOKYO - Responding to fury among parents in Fukushima, Japan's education minister said Friday that the country would set a lower radiation exposure limit for schoolchildren in areas around a stricken nuclear plant and pay for schools to remove contaminated topsoil from school fields and playgrounds.

In recent days, worried parents have spoken out over what they say is a blatant government failure to protect their children from dangerous levels of radiation at local schools. The issue has quickly become a focal point for anger over Japan's handling of the accident at Tokyo Electric Power's Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, ravaged in the March 11 earthquake and tsunami.

There has been particular anger over new government guidelines that allowed schoolchildren to be exposed to radiation doses that are more than 20 times the previously permissible levels. That dose is equal to the international standard for adult nuclear power plant workers.

The education minister, Yoshiaki Takaki, said Friday that the government would, for the time being, revert to the original limit of 1 millisievert a year. Mr. Takaki said the government would pay for local schools with radiation levels above that limit to remove contaminated topsoil from their grounds.

"We will provide financial support to schools for measures to deal with soil in schoolyards as a way to lower radiation levels for children," Mr. Takaki said at a news conference.

The reversal came as angry parents confronted local education board officials in Fukushima on Wednesday, demanding quicker action to decontaminate schools. Also this week, a group of parents from Fukushima staged a rowdy protest outside Japan's Education Ministry in Tokyo.

Some towns and cities in Fukushima Prefecture have already sent in bulldozers to remove contaminated soil from school grounds. Parents in Fukushima are also demanding a more extensive, regionwide decontamination effort, as well as health checkups for all local children.

In April, an adviser to Prime Minister Naoto Kan resigned over the new radiation guidelines, saying he would not let his own children be exposed to those levels.

Seiichi Nakate, a social worker who rallied local parents to found the Fukushima Network for Saving Children from Radiation, said he was relieved that the government was finally taking action.

"But children in Fukushima are exposed to radiation outside of the schools, too. So there needs to be a wider cleanup effort, as well as assistance to families who decide to leave the area," Mr. Nakate said.

"The government must go beyond stopgap measures designed to placate the parents," he said. "This is just the start of many steps the government must take to ensure the health and safety of our children."


17) What Proof Does a Woman Have to Have?
May 26, 2011

Just over Heather Millstone's shoulder, next to the cash register at her bar, a black-and-white TV monitor showed the flow of life along a few square yards of 13th Street between Avenues A and B in the East Village.

More than two years ago, the same video system recorded two police officers as they arrived at the apartment building above the bar four times in four hours - once on official business, then sneaking back three more times in secret, after creating ruses.

At noon on Thursday, Ms. Millstone stood near the monitor, quaking, lips pursed. Not long before, she had learned that the two officers on the video had been found not guilty of raping a drunken woman in an apartment four flights up from Ms. Millstone's bar, Heather's.

"Only one comment," Ms. Millstone said, finally. "Heartbroken." She tried out some other words - rage, betrayal, sadness, fury - before settling again on heartbreak. "Heartbroken," she said, "and in disbelief."

Thanks to the circumstance of having a camera that watched the street in front of 506 East 13th Street, Ms. Millstone could provide investigators with a video that pierced a fog of evasions and fictions created by the two officers about the hours after midnight on Dec. 7, 2008. The recordings documented that they had gone into the woman's building at times when they had claimed to be elsewhere.

Without the tape, prosecutors said, the case would have been virtually impossible.

It showed that around 1 a.m., a woman was escorted into the building by two police officers, Kenneth Moreno and Franklin Mata. They had been called there by a cabdriver who sought help getting the woman out of his taxi.

The next morning, the woman, 29, testified, she woke up naked except for a bra, in a puddle of vomit, and believing that she had been raped the night before by a police officer. She testified that she took a shower and then went to the apartment of friends in the building. They took her to the hospital.

That morning, two other friends went to Heather's, and asked Ms. Millstone if her doorman had seen anything unusual the night before. Ms. Millstone told them about the surveillance camera. They began to log the events on the tape.

The police officers escorted the woman into the building at 1:10 a.m., and left seven minutes later. They returned at 1:52 a.m. and left in 17 minutes. Their next visit was around 3 a.m. and lasted 33 minutes. They last were seen entering at 4:27 a.m., and leaving at 5:07 a.m. In all, they spent about 97 minutes in the woman's building.

Afraid to go to the police, the woman and her friends testified, they spent much of Monday seeking out acquaintances with connections in the Manhattan district attorney's office. The woman filed a complaint on Tuesday.

The Police Department had only a single documented record of a visit to the woman's building by Officers Moreno and Mata: after the first call from the taxi driver, at 1:10 a.m..

Over the next several hours, the officers placed a false call to 911 about a homeless man in the vestibule of a building near the woman's, to have an excuse to be back on the block. The bar surveillance camera showed them going into the woman's building. Later, the officers reported they were going on a meal break. Instead, they went back to the apartment.

What happened during these visits was not the subject of any videotape, but of a swearing contest between the woman and the two police officers. Saying she had gaps in her memories of the night, the woman testified that one of the officers had peeled down her tights and raped her as she lay face down on the bed. She did not, she said, realize the officers had left and returned several times. In the morning, she testified, she found that blinds that were usually open had been drawn.

Mr. Moreno said that he was a recovering alcoholic, and that he was concerned about the woman's drinking; he said he resisted advances from the woman, even when she took off all her clothes except her bra. Instead, he said, he spooned with her on the bed, and kissed her on the shoulder.

Investigators did not find any DNA evidence of a rape.

On Thursday afternoon, the TV monitor behind Ms. Millstone's bar still showed the passers-by on 13th Street. What kind of proof, Ms. Millstone mused, does a woman need?

"It makes me extremely, extremely sad," she said.


18) Former GM unit Delphi files for $100 million IPO
"...91 percent of its hourly labor force now works in low-cost countries, and 30 percent are temporary employees. The company no longer employs any workers who belong to the United Auto Workers union."
Bloomberg Businessweek
May 26, 2011

Auto parts supplier Delphi Automotive PLC filed for a $100 million initial public offering, following former owner General Motors Co. back to public ownership.

It's the latest auto-industry company to seek out an IPO as auto sales recover from their plunge during the recession. GM's IPO last November raised $23 billion. Chrysler LLC could go public at the end of this year, its CEO has said. Electric car maker Tesla Motors Inc. went public in 2010.

GM's former finance arm, Ally Financial Inc., has also signaled it wants to go public.

Delphi was spun off from GM in 1999. Weighed down by high labor costs, production cuts at GM and increasing foreign competition, the auto supplier went into bankruptcy protection in 2005, at that time the largest bankruptcy protection filing for the auto industry ever.

The Troy, Mich., company exited bankruptcy when it was acquired by a group of private investors in 2009.

The new version of Delphi is smaller, leaner and has billions less in debt. It is increasingly looking overseas for growth, particularly in China, the world's largest auto market.

During its four years in bankruptcy, Delphi cut thousands of jobs, slashed costs and sold off a number of plants and businesses. It says 91 percent of its hourly labor force now works in low-cost countries, and 30 percent are temporary employees. The company no longer employs any workers who belong to the United Auto Workers union.

Delphi also terminated its pension plans, transferring pension obligations for 70,000 Delphi workers and retirees to the federal government's Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp. The PBGC took responsibility for $6.1 billion in pension payments. The company no longer offers health care benefits for retired employees or employer-paid life insurance benefits.

Delphi has been cleaning up its balance sheet as it aims for an IPO. The company bought back stakes owned by GM and the PBGC in March for $4.4 billion.

It posted net income of $291 million in the first three months of the year, up 35 percent from a year ago, on $4 billion in revenue, which rose 17 percent.

In 2010, Delphi earned net income of $631 million on revenue of $13.8 billion.

The company makes powertrain systems, heating and air conditioning systems, safety components and electronics systems. GM remains a major customer, with its North America, international and China divisions making up 25 percent of Delphi's revenue last year.

Delphi didn't say when it planned to go public, how many shares it would sell or for what price. The $100 million it says it hopes to raise is likely to change as investment banks market the company and gauge demand from investors. It expects to trade under the ticker symbol DLPH.

Shareholders include the investment firms that acquired the company out of bankruptcy, Elliott Management and Silver Point Capital, and well-known hedge fund manager John Paulson's Paulson & Co.

Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan are managing the IPO.


19) 140th anniversary of the Paris Commune
Written by Greg Oxley Friday
May 27, 2011

The Paris Commune of 1871 was one of the greatest and most inspiring episodes in the history of the working class. In a tremendous revolutionary movement, the working people of Paris replaced the capitalist state with their own organs of government and held political power until their downfall in the last week of May. The Parisian workers strove, in extremely difficult circumstances, to put an end to exploitation and oppression, and to reorganise society on an entirely new foundation. The lessons of these events are of fundamental importance for socialists today. We publish this article ahead of the 140th anniversary of the Commune's suppression, tomorrow, 28 May.

Twenty years before the advent of the Commune, following the defeat of the workers uprising in June 1848, the military coup of 2nd December 1851 brought Emperor Napoleon III to power. Initially, the new bonapartist regime seemed unshakeable. The workers were defeated, their organisations outlawed. By the late 1860's, however, the revival of the labour movement combined with exhaustion of the economic upswing, had seriously weakened the regime. Napoleon drew the conclusion that only a new - and rapidly successful - war would allow him to maintain power. The war, he thought, would bring territorial gains, weaken France's rivals, and put an end to the crisis in finance and industry. In August 1870, the imperial army marched against Bismarck.

It often happens that war leads to revolution. This is not accidental. A war wrenches the working people out their daily routine. The actions of the state, of generals, of politicians, of the press, come under the scrutiny of the mass of the population to an infinitely higher degree than is normally the case in times of peace. This is particularly the case in the event of defeat, and, as events turned out, the attempted invasion of Germany came to a rapid and inglorious end. On 2nd September, near Sedan on France's eastern border, the Emperor was captured by Bismarck's army together with 100,000 troops. When the news of the defeat reached Paris, mass demonstrations poured through the streets of the city, demanding the overthrow of the Empire and a its replacement democratic republic.

The so-called republican opposition was terrified by this revolutionary movement, but was nonetheless forced to inaugurate the republic on the 4th September. A new "Government of National Defence" was installed, in which the key figure was general Trochu. Jules Favre, also in the government and a typical representative of capitalist republicanism, proclaimed that "not one inch of territory, nor one stone of our fortresses" would be ceded to the Prussians. Bismarck directed his armies towards Paris, and the city was rapidly encircled under siege.

The people initially supported the new government in the name of "national unity" against the foreign enemy. But this unity would very soon break down. In spite of its public declarations, the Government of National Defence did not believe it was possible to defend Paris. Besides the regular army, the National Guard was ready to defend Paris. But the revolutionary mood of the workers within Paris were a far greater threat to class interests of the French capitalists than the foreign army at its gates. The government decided it would be best to capitulate to Bismarck as soon as possible, but it could not state this openly because of the opposition of masses. Trochu had to gain time. The people were hungry. The blockade meant that no food could be brought into the city. The poorest ate dogs and rats to survive. Trochu counted on the social and economic effects of the siege to dampen the resistance of the Parisian workers, and engaged in secret negotiations with Bismarck.

As the weeks went by, suspicion and hostility towards the government grew. Rumours about negotiations with Bismarck were rife. On 8th October, the fall of Metz sparked off a new mass demonstration. On the 31st, several contingents of National Guards from the Belleville area, under the command of Flourens, attacked and temporarily occupied the Hôtel de Ville. At this stage, however, the mass of the workers was not yet ready for decisive action against the government. The insurrection was isolated. Blanqui fled into hiding and Flourens was imprisoned.

In Paris the famine and poverty brought on by the siege was having disastrous consequences, and the need to break the siege was felt all the more acutely. The sortie aimed at taking the village of Buzenval on 19th January ended in yet another defeat. Trochu resigned. He was replaced by Vinoy, who, in his first proclamation, wrote that Parisians should be "under no illusions" as to the possibility of defeating the Prussians. It was now clear that the government intended to capitulate. The political clubs and the Vigilance Committees called on the National Guards to arm themselves and march on the Hôtel de Ville. Other detachments went to the prisons to free Flourens. Under growing pressure from below, the middle class democrats of the Alliance Républicaine demanded a "popular government" to organise effective resistance against the Prussians. But when the National Guards arrived at the Hôtel de Ville, Chaudry, representing the government, shouted furiously at the delegates from the Alliance. This was enough to make the republicans agree to disperse immediately. Breton guards on the side of the government shot down national Guards and demonstrators who tried to oppose this betrayal. The National Guards returned fire, but were eventually forced to retreat.

After this first armed clash with the government, the revolutionary movement temporarily subsided. But at the same time, it meant the collapse of any remaining illusions in the Alliance Républicaine. On the 27th January, the Government of National Defence finally went ahead with the capitulation it had planned since the beginning of the siege.

Rural France was in favour of peace, and the votes of the peasantry in the elections to the National Assembly in February gave a massive majority to the monarchist and conservative candidates. The Assembly nominated a hardened reactionary, Adolphe Thiers, as head of government. A clash between revolutionary Paris, and the reactionary "rural" majority in the Assembly was inevitable. Open counter-revolution had raised its head, and was now to act as a spur to the revolution. Prussian soldiers would soon enter the capital in triumph. The lull in the movement now gave way to a new and more powerful upsurge of protest. Armed demonstrations of the National Guard took place, massively supported by the workers and the poorer sections of the population. Thiers and the monarchists were denounced as traitors. The masses were for "a fight to the death" - la guerre à outrance - in defence of their liberty. The events of 31st October and of 22nd January were but mild foretastes of the new revolutionary upsurge that was now underway.

The National Assembly constantly provoked the Parisians, referring to them as cut-throats and criminals. It waged a campaign of propaganda to arouse the peasantry against Paris. It cancelled the already very low pay of the National Guards unless they could prove that they were "incapable of work". The siege had made many workers unemployed, and their allowance for service in the National Guard was all that stood between them and starvation. Arrears in rents and all debts were declared to be payable within 48 hours. This threatened small businessmen with immediate bankruptcy. Paris was deprived of its status as capital city of France, which was transferred to Versailles. These measures, and many others, hit the poorest sections of society particularly hard, but also led to a radicalisation of middle class Parisians, whose only real hope of salvation was now in the revolutionary overthrow of Thiers and the National Assembly. The Parisian working class was now building up towards a new insurrection against the threat of Prussian domination, and also against Thiers and the National Assembly.

The surrender to the Prussians and the threat of monarchist restoration led to a transformation in the National Guard. A "Central Committee of the Federation of National Guards" was elected, representing 215 battalions, equipped with 2000 canons and 450,000 firearms. New statutes were adopted, stipulating "the absolute right of the National Guards to elect their leaders and to revoke them as soon as they loose the confidence of their electors." Essentially, the Central Committee and the corresponding structures at battalion level were an historical anticipation of the soviets of workers and soldier's deputies which arose in the course of the revolutions of 1905 and 1917 in Russia.

The new leadership of the National Guard was to rapidly test its authority. When the Prussian army was to enter Paris, tens of thousands of armed Parisians gathered with the intention of attacking the invader. The Central Committee intervened to prevent an unequal struggle for which it was not yet prepared. The success of the Central Committee firmly established its authority as the recognised leadership of the mass of the people. Clément Thomas, the commander nominated by the government, had no alternative but to resign. The Prussian forces occupied part of the city for two days, and then withdrew.

Thiers had promised the Rurals in the Assembly to restore the monarchy. His immediate task was had to put an end to the situation of "dual power" in Paris. The canons under the command of the National Guard - and particularly those on the heights of Montmartre overlooking the city - symbolised the threat the capitalist "law and order". At 3 o' clock in the morning, on March 18th, several thousand regular soldiers were sent to seize these canons, under the command of general Lecomte. The canons were seized without difficulty. However, the expedition had set off without thinking of the need for harnesses to haul the canons away. At 7 o'clock, still no harnesses had arrived. The troops now found themselves surrounded by a thickening crowd of workers, including women and children. National Guards now arrived on the scene. The unarmed crowd, the National Guards and Lecomte's men were pressed against one another in the dense gathering. Some of the soldiers openly fraternised with the guards. Seeing that the situation was getting out of control, Lecomte ordered his men to fire on the crowd. Nobody fired. The soldiers and the National Guards threw up a cheer and embraced each other. Apart from a brief exchange of fire at Place Pigalle, the army collapsed without offering any resistance to the Guards. Lecomte and with Clément Thomas, the former commander of the National Guard who had fired on workers back in 1848, were arrested. Angry soldiers executed them shortly afterwards.

Thiers had not foreseen the mass defection of his troops. Panic-stricken, he fled from Paris. He ordered the army and the civil services to completely evacuate the city and the surrounding forts. Thiers wanted to save what he could of the army by taking them away from "contagion" by revolutionary Paris. The remnants of his forces, many of them openly insubordinate, chanting revolutionary songs and slogans, were marched off to Versailles.

With the old state apparatus out of the way, the National Guard took over all the strategic points in the city without meeting any significant resistance. The Central Committee had not played any role in the events of the day. And yet, on the evening of the 18th, it discovered that it was now at the head of a new revolutionary regime based on the armed power of the working people!

The first task that the Central Committee set itself was to relinquish the power that was in its hands. They had no "legal mandate" to govern! After much discussion, it was agreed to stay in the Hôtel de Ville for "a few days" during which municipal (communal) elections could be organised. With the cry of "Vive la Commune!", the members of the Central Committee were greatly relieved that they would not have to exercise power for any length of time! The problem immediately before them was that of Thiers and the army on its way to Versailles. Eudes and Duval proposed that the National Guard pursue them in order to shatter what remained of the forces in Thiers' hands. Their appeals fell on deaf ears. The Central Committee was composed for the most part of very moderate men, completely unprepared in temperament and in ideas for the tasks which history had placed upon them.

The Central Committee began negotiations with the former Mayors and with various "conciliators" over the date of the elections. This absorbed its attention until the election finally took place on 26th March. Thiers put this valuable time to great use, and, with the help of Bismarck, the numbers, the arms and the morale of the soldiers were strengthened in readiness for an attack against Paris.

On the eve of the election of the Commune, the Central Committee of the National Guard published a remarkable declaration which sums up the personal integrity and the healthy democratic and revolutionary attitude towards "politics" of the leadership:

"Our mission is complete. At the Hôtel de Ville, we will make way for your newly elected representatives. [...] Do not lose sight of the fact that those who will serve you best are those that you will choose among yourselves, who live as you do, and suffer from the same ills. Beware of the ambitious and place-seekers [...], beware of talkers who are incapable of action."

The newly elected Commune replaced the leadership of the National Guard as the official government of revolutionary Paris. It was mainly composed of people associated with the revolutionary movement in one way or another. The majority might be described as "left republicans", steeped in idealised nostalgia for the Jacobin regime at the time of the French Revolution. Out of its 90 members, 25 were workers, and 13 were members of the Central Committee of the National Guard, and 15 or so were members of the International Workingmens' Association. Between them the Blanquists - energetic men always ready for dramatic and extreme measures but with only the vaguest political ideas - and the Internationalists made up about one quarter of the Commune. Blanqui himself was in a provincial prison. The few right-wing members who were elected resigned their positions on various pretexts. Others were arrested on the discovery of their names in police files identifying them as former spies for the imperial regime.

Under the Commune, all privileges for state functionaries were abolished. It was decreed that no representative of the people should be paid more that the average wage of the workers. The Commune was the only really honest government France has ever had. Moreau, one of the members of the Central Committee, declared that in his view, it was "immoral to expect any kind of payment in the service of the people. We have lived until now on thirty pence, and they will suffice from now on." Rents were frozen, abandoned workshops were placed under the control of the workers, measures were taken to limit night-work, to guarantee subsistence to the poor and the sick. The Commune declared its aim as "ending the anarchic and ruinous competition between workers for the profit of the capitalists", and the "dissemination of socialist ideals".

The National Guard was open to all able-bodied men, and organised, as we have seen, along strictly democratic lines. Standing armies "separate and apart form the people" were declared illegal. The Church was separated from the state. Religion was declared "a private matter". Homes and public buildings were requisitioned for the homeless. Public education was opened to all, as were the theatres and places of culture and learning. Foreign workers were considered as brothers and sisters, as soldiers for the "universal republic of international labour". Meetings took place day and night, were thousands of ordinary men and women debated how various aspects of social life should be organised in the interests of the "common good".

The social and political character of the society that was gradually taking shape under the aegis of the National Guard and the Commune was unmistakably socialist. The lack of any historical precedent, the absence of a clear program, combined with the social and economic dislocation of a besieged city, necessarily meant that the workers were obliged to improvise in dealing with the concrete requirements of organising society in their own interests. A great deal has been written about the confusion, the half-measures, the wasted time and mistaken priorities of the Parisian people during their ten weeks of power within the walls of a beleaguered city. It must be said that the communards made many mistakes. Marx and Engels were particularly critical of their failure to take control of the Bank of France, which continued to pay millions of francs to Thiers with which he was preparing an army to march against Paris. However, all the most important initiatives taken by the workers pointed in the direction of complete social and economic emancipation of the wage-working population as a class. The tragedy of the Commune was that it lacked time. The process in the direction of socialism was cut short by the return of the Versailles army and the terrible bloodbath that ensued.

The threat from Versailles was clearly underestimated by the Commune, which not only did not attempt to attack them, but did not even seriously prepare to defend itself. From March 27th onwards, occasional exchanges of fire between the forward positions of the Versailles army and the ramparts around Paris had occurred. On April 2nd, a communard detachment moving in the direction of Courbevoie, was attacked and pushed back. The prisoners taken by Thiers' forces were summarily shot. The following day, under pressure from the National Guard, the Commune finally launched a three-pronged offensive against Versailles. However, in spite of the enthusiasm of the communard battalions, the lack of serious political and military preparation (clearly it was thought that, as on March 18th, the Versailles army would come over to the Commune at the sight of the National Guard) condemned this belated sortie to failure. This defeat cost not only the dead and wounded, who included Flourens and Duval, both slaughtered upon their capture by the Versailles army, but also the fainter-hearted elements within Paris. The fatalistic optimism of the first weeks gave way to a sense of the imminent danger of defeat, accentuating the divisions and rivalry at all levels of the military command.

Finally, the Versailles army entered Paris on 21st May 1871. At the Hôtel de Ville, having failed to organise any serious military strategy, now, at the decisive hour, the Commune simply ceased to exist, abdicating all responsibility to a completely ineffective "Committee of Public Safety". The National Guards were left to fight "in their localities". The lack of centralised command prevented any serious concentration of communard forces to check the advance of the Versailles troops. The communards fought with tremendous courage, but were gradually pushed towards the east of the city and finally defeated on the 28th May. Thiers forces conducted a terrible slaughter of anything up to 30,000 men, women and children, with perhaps another 20,000 killed in the following weeks. Firing squads were at work well into the month of June, killing anyone suspected of having cooperated in any way with the Commune.

Marx and Engels followed the Commune closely and drew many lessons from this first attempt at the construction of a workers' state. Their conclusions are contained in the writings published under the title The Civil War in France, with a particularly remarkable introduction by Engels. They enthusiastically supported the struggle of the workers from the outset, although they were conscious of the extremely precarious situation in which they would find themselves if they took power. Before the 18th March, they had declared that, given the unfavourable circumstances, seizing power would be "a desperate folly". The events of March 18th placed the power in the hands of the workers, and Marx and Engels supported them in their struggle to maintain it and defeat the reaction.

The workers of Paris struggled not only for immediate aims. They fought under the red flag of internationalism. They struggled, as they termed it, for a "universal social republic", free of exploitation, of class divisions, of reactionary militarism and national antagonisms. Their cause is our cause. In modern France, as in all the industrialised countries in the world, the material conditions for the achievement of these great aims are incomparably more favourable now than they were in 1871. We must now establish on a firm foundation the society for which the men and women of the Commune fought and died.

This article was published in a previous version in 2001.


20) After Blockade, Gazans Enter Egypt With New Hopes
"'The people are taking their rights, and when the Egyptians rise it helps the Palestinians,' said Faris Awad, 48, returning to visit family in Cairo for the first time since the start of the blockade, just in time for a wedding."
May 28, 2011

RAFAH BORDER CROSSING, Egypt - Hundreds of Palestinian residents of the Gaza Strip arrived here by the busload on Saturday to pass through the reopened border into Egypt, taking a tangible step out of a four-year Israeli blockade.

"I feel this is the start of freedom," said Hasna el Ryes, 45, a Gaza resident waiting to cross into Egypt so she could travel to visit sons studying in Great Britain. "You can't imagine how much we have suffered."

While a gradual loosening of the border controls over the last year had already allowed some Gaza residents to cross - including registered students or those seeking medical treatment - many of those making the trip on Saturday said they felt a new stirring of hope at Egypt's decision to stop enforcing Israel's blockade of the Palestinian territory. They cheered the decision as a humanitarian gesture to Gaza residents but also as an important concession to make possible the reconciliation deal Egypt brokered between the militant group Hamas, which rules in Gaza, and the moderate Fatah faction, which governs the West Bank. And they saluted the Egyptian revolution that brought about a new spirit of independence.

"The people are taking their rights, and when the Egyptians rise it helps the Palestinians," said Faris Awad, 48, returning to visit family in Cairo for the first time since the start of the blockade, just in time for a wedding.

For years the Rafah border crossing has been a kind of geographic emblem of Egypt's complicated relationship with Israel.

Under President Hosni Mubarak, Egypt's determination to secure the border came to represent to the Arab world Egypt's decision to put its partnership with Israel and the United States ahead of solidarity with its fellow Muslims languishing in squalor inside of Gaza. Inside Egypt, the closed border was a projection of Mr. Mubarak's self-image as a bulwark against militant groups like Hamas. And for Palestinians it represented a betrayal.

For Israel, Rafah was a reminder of the superficial quality of its partnership with Mr. Mubarak, because while his security forces closed the surface crossing, Hamas and its Egyptian sympathizers continued to carry in weapons and goods through a not-so-secret network of tunnels underneath. Less acknowledged was the Rafah border's function as a kind of safety valve, helping to relieve enough of the humanitarian needs within Gaza to avoid a crisis that might shock the world - for example, by letting sick Gazans through for urgent medical care.

But the opening on Saturday was a reminder of how things are changing between Egypt and Israel after Mr. Mubarak's ouster. Both Israel's government and the military council that rules Egypt now are quite aware that the vast majority of Egyptians loathe their country's support of Israel and are demanding a greater voice in foreign policy.

Egypt's interim foreign minister, Nabil el-Araby, a driving force behind the Hamas-Fatah agreement and the border opening who is about to leave his post to become director of the Arab League, has continued his efforts to tilt Egypt away from Israel and toward the Palestinians. In a statement on Thursday after attending a meeting of in the so-called non-aligned movement, he urged its member countries to support the request for United Nations recognition of a Palestinian state to put pressure on Israel, and he condemned Israel's settlements as "attempts to alter the character of the city of Jerusalem."

Israel issued no statements on Saturday in response to the border opening, but its officials have already made clear that they consider the looser controls a major security risk. It began its blockade of Gaza four years ago to keep the militant group Hamas, which had consolidated control in the territory after winning elections, from resupplying with rockets and other weapons to use against Israelis.

Musbah Mohamed Halawin, 59, waiting in a wheelchair to travel to Cairo for the first time in 30 years called the Egyptians "brothers." "Egypt is the only thing we have after God," he said.

Samah Ahmad, 30, did a little dance as she raced down a hall holding out her freshly stamped Palestinian passport. She said she had tried to cross twice in the last 10 days - rejected once by the Palestinian authorities and once by the Egyptians.

Now she was planning to travel to Turkey for a meeting of activists to discuss ways to build on the reconciliation agreement between Hamas and Fatah. "Now we are starting our own revolution, not to tear down the Palestinian government but to rebuild it," she said. "We are still under occupation, and we need to be like one hand to overcome it."

Many noted that Saturday's opening was in a sense an extension of a gradual loosening, first by Israel last year in the aftermath of its forces killing of nine participants in a Turkish aid flotilla attempting to enter Gaza. In the second half of last year, about 19,000 people a month crossed the Rafah border both ways, slightly less than half the rate before the blockade. Then after the revolution, Egypt began loosening its border restrictions as well. By the beginning of May, the border station was already open several days a week, and patients needing medical treatment, registered students, and some others were allowed to cross.

And the formal, seven-days-a-week opening on Saturday did not remove all restrictions. It left in place a blockade on the shipment into Gaza of goods, including concrete badly needed to repair buildings damaged in clashes with Israel. "This is good, but we are looking for Egypt to break the siege, to allow the shipment of cement and trade," said Gamal el-Din, a Palestinian engineer entering Egypt.

Egyptian officials have said they hope to open the border to at least some goods soon. There are still restrictions on passengers as well. Although women, children and older Palestinians can now enter Egypt without a visa, men from 18 to 40 are required to obtain one, for security reasons.

Fala el-Helow, 35, had taken her 16-year-old son out of school before exams to bring him through the historic reopening, to visit a sick brother studying in Cairo, after she had been turned away at the border just a week before. But she said she could still not bring her husband, 39.

After years caught between the conflicting and sometimes capricious bureaucracies of Israel, Egypt and the Palestinian Authority, she said she was tempering her expectations. "The Egyptians are moody," she said, as an Egyptian customs officer standing on a stool behind a counter called out names and tossed stamped passports into a crowd of Palestinians. "You never know what they will do."

While the terminal holding Egyptians entering Gaza remained almost empty for most of the day, a steady stream of Gazans kept flowing the other way. Aish el-Meleit, a 55-year-old farmer, said he had come for a chance to visit an ailing aunt in Egypt; he had missed the death and funerals of both his parents because of the blockade.

By early afternoon, six buses, each carrying about 50 travelers, had dropped their passengers on the Palestinian side, the police said. Only two travelers had been returned from the Egyptian side, compared with nearly 40 on a typical day last week.

Some arrived with inflated expectations. Abu Mohamed, 70, a Palestinian who has lived for the last 60 years in the Egyptian town of el-Arish near the border, arrived before 9 a.m. hoping for the first chance in 30 years to see his family in Gaza. He had been unable to obtain a passport from the Palestinian Authority, which issues them in cooperation with Israel, and he hoped to enter using a letter he had obtained from Egyptian officials.

But after a few hours of rejection by the border guards, he stormed off, cursing. "After 60 years, why could they not let us in? Disgusting," he said.

Still, Hosni Hamid, 63, who operates the snack bar inside the Palestinian waiting area, said he believed that the traffic had doubled or tripled from the usual day, and business was booming. "Palestinians should visit Egypt, Egyptians should visit Palestinians. It is good for everyone," he said. "Why not?"

Fares Akram and Omniya Al Desoukie contributed reporting from Rafah.


21) A New Flood, Some Old Truths
New York Times Editorial
May 27, 2011

The thousands of people forced to abandon their homes in recent weeks to floodwaters are victims not just of nature but of human error as well. Years of mismanagement of the vast Mississippi River ecosystem - the relentless and often inadvisable construction of levees and navigation channels, the paving over of wetlands, the commercial development of flood plains - have made the damage worse than it might otherwise have been.

The Obama administration is now completing an overhaul of the guidelines governing dams, levees and other water-related projects built with federal money. In 2007, Congress ordered the guidelines, unchanged since 1983, rewritten to require federal agencies to take environmental as well as economic concerns into account.

Historically, projects had been shaped by two main factors: the Army Corps of Engineers' conviction that nature can be subdued by levees and dams, and its reflexive green-lighting of any flood control project that encouraged commercial or agricultural development. The new rules, Congress said, should require the Corps and other federal agencies to give equal weight to less easily measurable benefits like wildlife habitat and to "nonstructural" solutions to flood control like preserving wetlands, flood plains and other "natural systems."

To give the Corps its due, it has performed nobly in the present emergency. Its main-stem levees have held. Its decision to blow holes in levees guarding the New Madrid floodway in Missouri clearly saved Cairo, Ill., and other places downstream; similar maneuvers in Louisiana helped protect New Orleans. These tactics had long been part of Corps emergency plans, and they worked.

The question the environmental community and many in Congress are asking is whether this would have been necessary if the river had been better managed. In populated areas, levees were a necessary response to the cataclysmic floods of the 1920s. But some were built solely to attract more development, while others closed off flood plains that could have acted as a natural safety valve.

Meanwhile, over the years, the upper Mississippi watershed has lost millions of acres of wetlands that could have served as a natural sponge for floodwaters. Some experts also believe that dikes, jetties and other structures designed to channel the river and speed navigation have also helped raise water levels to dangerous levels.

So-called 100-year floods seemed to be hitting the Mississippi with scary regularity - a $16 billion flood in 1993, a bad one in 2001, another in 2008, and now this one. Climate change, which some suspect of causing torrential downpours, may be part of the problem, though the connection is unclear. What is clear is that we should learn from our mistakes, let nature help out where it can, and not build or farm in places where it makes no sense to do so. As the saying goes: Nobody ever beats the river.


22) Shale Boom in Texas Could Increase U.S. Oil Output
May 27, 2011

CATARINA, Tex. - Until last year, the 17-mile stretch of road between this forsaken South Texas village and the county seat of Carrizo Springs was a patchwork of derelict gasoline stations and rusting warehouses.

Now the region is in the hottest new oil play in the country, with giant oil terminals and sprawling RV parks replacing fields of mesquite. More than a dozen companies plan to drill up to 3,000 wells around here in the next 12 months.

The Texas field, known as the Eagle Ford, is just one of about 20 new onshore oil fields that advocates say could collectively increase the nation's oil output by 25 percent within a decade - without the dangers of drilling in the deep waters of the Gulf of Mexico or the delicate coastal areas off Alaska.

There is only one catch: the oil from the Eagle Ford and similar fields of tightly packed rock can be extracted only by using hydraulic fracturing, a method that uses a high-pressure mix of water, sand and hazardous chemicals to blast through the rocks to release the oil inside.

The technique, also called fracking, has been widely used in the last decade to unlock vast new fields of natural gas, but drillers only recently figured out how to release large quantities of oil, which flows less easily through rock than gas. As evidence mounts that fracking poses risks to water supplies, the federal government and regulators in various states are considering tighter regulations on it.

The oil industry says any environmental concerns are far outweighed by the economic benefits of pumping previously inaccessible oil from fields that could collectively hold two or three times as much oil as Prudhoe Bay, the Alaskan field that was the last great onshore discovery. The companies estimate that the boom will create more than two million new jobs, directly or indirectly, and bring tens of billions of dollars to the states where the fields are located, which include traditional oil sites like Texas and Oklahoma, industrial stalwarts like Ohio and Michigan and even farm states like Kansas.

"It's the one thing we have seen in our adult lives that could take us away from imported oil," said Aubrey McClendon, chief executive of Chesapeake Energy, one of the most aggressive drillers. "What if we have found three of the world's biggest oil fields in the last three years right here in the U.S.? How transformative could that be for the U.S. economy?"

The oil rush is already transforming this impoverished area of Texas near the Mexican border, doubling real estate values in the last year and filling restaurants and hotels.

"That's oil money," said Bert Bell, a truck company manager, pointing to the new pickup truck he bought for his wife after making $525,000 leasing mineral rights around his family's mobile home. "Oil money just makes life easier."

Based on the industry's plans, shale and other "tight rock" fields that now produce about half a million barrels of oil a day will produce up to three million barrels daily by 2020, according to IHS CERA, an energy research firm. Oil companies are investing an estimated $25 billion this year to drill 5,000 new oil wells in tight rock fields, according to Raoul LeBlanc, a senior director at PFC Energy, a consulting firm.

"This is very big and it's coming on very fast," said Daniel Yergin, the chairman of IHS CERA. "This is like adding another Venezuela or Kuwait by 2020, except these tight oil fields are in the United States."

In the most developed shale field, the Bakken field in North Dakota, production has leaped to 400,000 barrels a day today from a trickle four years ago. Experts say it could produce as much as a million barrels a day by the end of the decade.

The Eagle Ford, where the first well was drilled only three years ago, is already producing more than 100,000 barrels a day and could reach 420,000 by 2015, almost as much as Ecuador, according to Bentek Energy, a consultancy.

The shale oil boom comes as production from Prudhoe Bay is declining and drilling in the Gulf of Mexico is being more closely scrutinized after last year's Deepwater Horizon disaster.

What makes the new fields more remarkable is that they were thought to be virtually valueless only five years ago. "Everyone said the oil molecules are too large to flow in commercial quantities through these low-quality rocks," said Mark G. Papa, chief executive of EOG Resources.

EOG began quietly buying the rights to thousands of acres in the Bakken and Eagle Ford after an EOG engineer concluded that the techniques used to extract natural gas from shale - fracking, combined with drilling horizontally through layers of rocks - could be used for oil. Chesapeake and a few other independents quickly followed. Now the biggest multinational oil companies, as well as Chinese and Norwegian firms, are investing billions of dollars in the fields.

The new drilling makes economic sense as long as oil prices remain above $60 a barrel, according to oil companies. At current oil prices of about $100 a barrel, shale wells can typically turn a profit within eight months - three times faster than many traditional wells.

But water remains a key issue. In addition to possible contamination of surface and underground water from fracking fluids, the sheer volume of water required poses challenges, especially in South Texas, which faces a severe drought and rapidly diminishing water levels in the local aquifer.

At the rate wells are being drilled, "there's definitely going to be a problem," said Bay Laxson, a local water official.

Dave Thompson, regional production superintendent for the oil company SM Energy said the industry knew that water issues were "an Achilles heel." He said his company was building a system to reuse water in the field.

But unlike Pennsylvania and New York, where fracking for natural gas has produced organized opposition, the oil industry has been mostly welcomed in western and southern states.

Thanks to the drilling boom, the recession bypassed North Dakota entirely. Here in Dimmit County, Tex., the unemployment rate has fallen in half, and sales tax receipts are up 70 percent so far this year, allowing the county to hire more police officers and buy sanitation and road repair equipment.

"In my lifetime, this is the biggest thing I've ever seen," said Jose Gonzalez, 78, a retired teacher and son of migrant farm workers, who leased mineral rights to Chesapeake for $27,000 and sold another plot for $100,000 to a company building an RV park for oil workers. "You can see I'm happy."


23) Aid Pledge by Group of 8 Seeks to Bolster Arab Democracy
"That challenge has grown acute in Egypt since the fall of President Hosni Mubarak. Revenues from tourism, a mainstay of the economy, have plummeted by 40 percent, the new military government says. Foreign investment has dried up. Factories are paralyzed by strikes. Meanwhile, prices for food and energy have surged, leaving people feeling deeply insecure ahead of crucial parliamentary and presidential elections in the fall."
May 27, 2011

DEAUVILLE, France - Leaders of the Group of 8 wealthiest industrialized nations pledged on Friday to send billions of dollars in aid to Egypt and Tunisia, hoping to reduce the threat that economic stagnation could undermine the transition to democracy.

At a series of working sessions that lasted until the early morning hours Friday, representatives of the Group of 8 expressed concern that the democracy movement in the Arab world could be "hijacked" by Islamic radicals if the West did not help stabilize the economies of the two countries that touched off the Arab Spring, according to two European diplomats who were present during the discussions.

Comparing the uprisings that are sweeping the region to the fall of the Berlin Wall, which eventually paved the way for a historic shift to democracy in Central and Eastern Europe, the group said in a communiqué that its aim was "to ensure that instability does not undermine the process of political reform."

How much aid the Western powers would ultimately provide, and how effective any aid would be during volatile political transitions in the two countries, remained uncertain. The group's official communiqué promised $20 billion, which would be a major infusion of funds.

President Nicolas Sarkozy of France, the meeting's host, said the total could be double that. But he and other officials did not specify how much each country and international development agency would provide, and the Group of 8 countries have in the past made commitments that they did not ultimately fulfill.

Even so, the incomplete transition in the Middle East was a dominant worry at the meeting. Democracy, the leaders said, could be rooted only in economic reforms that created open markets, equal opportunities and jobs to lower staggeringly high unemployment rates, especially among restless youths.

"We're seeing growth slow, budget deficits rise, in the case of Egypt, some foreign exchange reserves being lost," said David Lipton, a senior director for international economic affairs at the National Security Council. "We and the countries both see the very high priority of keeping the countries stable so that the backdrop of democratization is one of economic stability rather than instability and chaos."

That challenge has grown acute in Egypt since the fall of President Hosni Mubarak. Revenues from tourism, a mainstay of the economy, have plummeted by 40 percent, the new military government says.

Foreign investment has dried up. Factories are paralyzed by strikes. Meanwhile, prices for food and energy have surged, leaving people feeling deeply insecure ahead of crucial parliamentary and presidential elections in the fall.

"We members of the G-8 strongly support the aspirations of the Arab Spring, as well as those of the Iranian people," the leaders, who discussed the situation with the prime ministers of Egypt and Tunisia here, said in the communiqué.

Officials said the aid would come from the member states of the Group of 8, which includes the United States, Japan, Canada, Britain, France, Germany, Italy and Russia, and from international organizations, including the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the European Investment Bank.

Officials cautioned that the projected $20 billion in aid from international financial institutions would come in phases and be contingent on democratic and economic reforms. The pledge, an aide to President Obama said, was "not a blank check" but "an envelope that could be achieved in the context of suitable reform efforts."

There is a fear, shared by both the American administration and democracy activists, that plunking down large dollar pledges upfront would risk funneling money into the hands of institutions, including the Egyptian military, which could misuse or simply siphon it off.

Even such a large infusion is dwarfed by the scale of the two economies - $500 billion in Egypt and $100 billion in Tunisia. Mr. Sarkozy said that he hoped the total aid package would eventually reach $40 billion, including $10 billion from Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Kuwait.

Qatar is also urging its Persian Gulf partners to consider creating a Middle East development bank to help Arab states making a transition to democracy.

The economies of the Middle East and North Africa have been weak for years, and per capita growth over the past three decades was only half a percent, a fraction of the average for emerging economies, according to the International Monetary Fund.

Weak growth and poor job opportunities are among the major factors that prompted the outpouring of unrest among young people in Egypt and Tunisia.

But political change has, if anything, brought more economic pain. In Egypt, many people are again complaining of soaring food prices, just as they did last fall before the revolution. Many are now also wrestling with exaggerated expectations about how much the revolution will lift their personal fortunes.

Labor unrest has swept the country as workers everywhere demand more pay. Newspapers report rumors of vast illicit fortunes to be recovered from Mr. Mubarak and his associates that many mistakenly believe will change the Egyptian economy.

Old leftist political parties are re-emerging as though they have been frozen in time for the 30 years of the Mubarak police state to demand that the government again expand its role in the economy to help the poor, even at the price of discouraging foreign investors.

In Tunisia, the revolution that ousted former President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali began in the country's impoverished interior as a revolt against dismal economic conditions; it only later took on demands for political democracy and freedom as it reached the more affluent, educated and Westernized coast.

Now many inlanders are complaining that the resulting upheaval has not brought development or opportunity.

Resentment of the coastal elite runs high, and some say they feel so disappointed they have soured on participating in the democratic process.

In Tunisia, too, old leftist parties are trying to come back, and parts of the country's strong labor movement are stepping up their demands or returning to radical roots.

In both countries, unrest has led to security problems that have scared away tourists, an important source of revenue. Tourist demand has fallen so much that many airlines have canceled or scaled back flights.

The Group of 8 leaders want their aid to help address those issues by broadening economic opportunity and breaking down trade barriers; Egypt, seeking to protect state industries, has some of the highest in the world.

The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development developed expertise in overhauling centrally planned economies in Eastern and Central Europe, which is why officials said its role would be central in the Arab world.

Masood Ahmed, the Middle East director of the International Monetary Fund, said that to ensure stability Egypt needed to generate up to 10 million jobs over the next decade and Tunisia about 1 million.

Turning to Libya, the Group of 8 leaders reiterated calls for its leader, Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi, to step aside, saying he and his government "have failed to fulfill their responsibility to protect the Libyan population and have lost all legitimacy. He has no future in a free, democratic Libya. He must go."

The leaders also backed Mr. Obama's call for an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal, but conspicuously left out a mention of his call for negotiations to be based on the 1967 borders. The group generally operates by consensus, and Canada opposed a reference to the borders.

If the statement was going to mention the 1967 border, said Stephen Harper, Canada's conservative prime minister, it should also cite other elements of Mr. Obama's speech, including that Israel be recognized as a Jewish state and that the Palestinian state be demilitarized.

"I would support any statement on finding peace in the Middle East that was balanced," he told reporters. "I would not support any statement that was not balanced."

David D. Kirkpatrick contributed reporting from Cairo, Mark Landler from Warsaw and Ian Austen from Ottawa, Canada.


24) At a Protest In Cairo, One Group Is Missing
May 27, 2011

CAIRO - Tens of thousands of mostly liberal protesters again filled Tahrir Square on Friday to press for an assortment of demands in a demonstration billed as "The Revolution Part II, " but perhaps most notable for the absence of the Muslim Brotherhood.

The protesters called on the military council now ruling Egypt to end the practice of sending civilians to military trials, to expedite legal action against former President Hosni Mubarak and his associates, and to start governing with some civilian presidential council.

But the rally may have been most significant as a display of the liberal factions' strength in Egyptian politics. It was the first time since the Jan. 25 day of protests that kicked off the revolution that the Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt's largest and best-organized political force, did not support a major street protest.

In the emerging battle lines of post-revolutionary Egyptian politics, many liberal activists and observers abroad say they fear that the Brotherhood's organizational strength will give it an edge in the elections for Parliament this fall, which could, in turn, enable Islamists to put their stamp on Egypt's Constitution when the new Parliament sets out a process for revising it. "Constitution First," declared a banner at the center of the square on Friday, expressing the liberal demand for the establishment of rules protecting individual freedoms and minority rights before elections begin.

The Brotherhood, aware of its organizational edge, campaigned hard for a referendum setting the election for this fall. The group, outlawed under Mr. Mubarak, has just moved from small and dingy offices to imposing, gleaming headquarters befitting a modern political party, and its satisfaction with the election timetable may have been a reason it did not support Friday's protest.

"Where is the Brotherhood? Tahrir is here," went one chant, referring to the square at the center of the revolution, whose name means "liberation" in Arabic.

"People liked the Brotherhood more under Mubarak because we knew the government attacked them for no reason," Hossam Eddin Mohamed, 21, said. "But now, after the revolution, people know 'O.K., there is the Brotherhood, but now there are a lot of other parties too.' "

There were also signs that the Brotherhood's new prominence was bringing its own internal divisions to the fore. The youth wing of the Brotherhood, which is close to many of the young liberal activists, defied their elders to join the demonstration. The Brotherhood youth had also played a key role in the coalition of young activists who began the protests days before their Islamist elders fell in behind them.

Some liberal activists, however, worried that the impact of the demonstration itself might have been dulled by the internal divisions evident in the profusion of miscellaneous demands. Many speakers and signs called for goals that included economic measures like an increase in the minimum wage, and long-term political reforms like ensuring the independence of the judiciary.

In a statement on Thursday, Egypt's military affirmed the right to peaceful protest and said its forces would stay away from the square, suggesting that some groups might be seeking to prompt a confrontation.

Liam Stack contributed reporting.


25) Officials in Germany Support Closing 7 Nuclear Plants
May 27, 2011

FRANKFURT - Seven nuclear power plants in Germany that were shut down after the Fukushima disaster in Japan are likely to be closed permanently after a decision Friday by state environment ministers.

A government agency warned, however, that without the seven plants Germany could have trouble coping with a failure in some part of the national power grid.

The shutdown "brings networks to the limit of capacity," the Federal Network Agency, which regulates utilities, said in a report published Friday.

Meeting in Wernigerode, in eastern Germany, the state environment ministers recommended that the seven plants be closed. The decision rests with Chancellor Angela Merkel and her cabinet, which will consider the issue on June 6.

Mrs. Merkel is under heavy political pressure to speed Germany's exit from nuclear power after public alarm about the nuclear disaster in Japan cost her party votes in recent elections. In late March, a few weeks after the tsunami and earthquake hit Japan and led to the crisis at Fukushima, the Green Party, representing environmentalists, drove Mrs. Merkel's Christian Democrats from power in Baden-Württemberg, a state the conservatives had dominated for decades.

The Green Party is pushing for Germany to close all of its plants by 2020 if not sooner. "An exit during this decade is very doable," Franz Untersteller, the environment minister in Baden-Württemberg, said in a statement Friday.

But businesses have expressed concern that the price of electricity could rise because Germany does not yet have enough other sources of energy to compensate.

The Federal Network Agency, in its report Friday, said Germany had transformed from energy exporter to energy importer since the nuclear plants were shut down.

When weather is ideal, Germany can generate almost as much power from wind and solar energy as 28 nuclear reactors, the agency said. The renewable energy fluctuates significantly, however, often requiring German utilities to buy power from other countries and creating problems for neighbors that had depended on German power.

The Federal Network Agency acknowledged that so far there had been no serious power failures since the seven plants were closed.


26) U.S. Declines to Protect the Overfished Bluefin Tuna
May 27, 2011

The Obama administration said on Friday that it had declined to grant Endangered Species Act protections to the Atlantic bluefin tuna, whose numbers have declined precipitously because of overfishing on both sides of the ocean.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said the fish, whose fatty flesh is prized by sushi aficionados, would be classified as a species of concern, however, effectively placing bluefin on a watch list as the agency awaits new data on the impact of a stricter international management regimen.

"The future of this species relies on sound international management," said Larry Robinson, NOAA's assistant secretary for conservation and management. The agency's scientists are also continuing to assess the effect of last year's Deepwater Horizon oil spill on bluefin spawning grounds in the Gulf of Mexico, officials said, and the agency will revisit its decision by early 2013.

Mr. Robinson said the bluefin tuna did not warrant protection under the Endangered Species Act because it was "not likely to become extinct."

The decision drew sharp criticism from the Center for Biological Diversity, an environmental group based in Arizona that filed the petition requesting endangered species protection. "The Obama administration is kowtowing to the fears of the U.S. fishing industry instead of following the science on this," said Kieran Suckling, the center's executive director.

Several other environmental groups have questioned the wisdom of unilaterally listing the bluefin tuna as an endangered species, saying that coordinated international action is preferable.

Last year the United States backed an international effort to have the Atlantic bluefin protected under the United Nations Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, but the move was blocked by aggressive lobbying by Japan, where a single adult fish, weighing more than 300 pounds and measuring more than six feet long, can be sold for thousands of dollars.

Asked to reconcile Friday's decision with the push for a listing by the convention, known as Cites (pronounced SIGH-tees), Eric Schwaab, assistant administrator for NOAA's fisheries service, said that another global body, the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas, or Iccat, had established stricter fishing quotas and more rigorous monitoring over the last year and that his agency planned to study the results.

He added that a listing under the Endangered Species Act required a different standard from a Cites listing; under the American law, there must be compelling evidence of the likelihood of the fish's extinction, he said.

No one disputes that the bluefin population has plummeted in recent decades. The most recent analysis of the decline, prepared last year by Iccat, found that the eastern Atlantic's stocks of fish old enough to reproduce declined by 80 percent between 1970 and 1992 and have since fluctuated between 21 percent and 29 percent of the 1970 level.

In the western Atlantic, bluefin stocks declined more than 70 percent from 1970 through the mid-1990s, after which the "spawning stocks" remained relatively stable.

Lee Crockett, director of federal fisheries policy for the Pew Environment Group, another conservation organization, said that multilateral efforts to protect the bluefin tuna were crucial but that "international tools are not being used effectively." Fishermen in the Mediterranean catch "twice the legal quota illegally," he said.

Nor does the United States do enough, he added. Mr. Crockett said that additional steps were needed to protect the bluefin tuna's spawning areas in the Gulf of Mexico and to end log-line fishing there, which causes the bluefin to be caught accidentally by commercial fishermen in pursuit of other fish.

The American fishing industry welcomed NOAA's decision, while assigning most of the blame for overfishing to fishermen on the other side of the Atlantic. "We're glad that the leadership paid special attention," said Rich Ruais, executive director of the American Bluefin Tuna Association.

Overfishing in the east has affected stocks in the west, Mr. Ruais said, because the fish is wide-ranging and can swim across the Atlantic in less than two months.


27) Reacting to Police Rape Case With Anger, but Little Surprise
"Amid the anger, many expressed little surprise that in a trial without physical evidence, the jury believed the officers over the woman accusing them, who testified that she was too drunk to remember much of what happened. ...'New York City cops can get away with anything,' Ms. White said, sitting in front of her home on 117th Street in Harlem. 'This is the only place I know where there are certain rules for police officers and certain rules for civilians. Acquitting those two today is totally out of line. They should put those cops in jail where they belong.'"
May 27, 2011

It was a trial that bared some anxieties that run just below the city's surface: the weakness of a drunken memory; the vulnerability of ordinary residents to abuse from the powerful, especially in a police uniform. For nearly two months, New Yorkers followed a courtroom drama that held all the fascination of a television crime series, with intimate sexual detail and a haunting void at its center into which they could project their own fears or anger.

Those emotions poured forth with surprising gusto when a variety of New Yorkers, from civil servants to night-life denizens, were asked about the acquittal on Thursday of two police officers accused in the rape of a woman they had been called to help get home to her East Village apartment after she had been spent a night out celebrating a job promotion.

Some people talked eagerly about a topic they seemed to have mulled for weeks; others chose every word, carefully moderating emotions that included outrage, cynicism and resignation at what some called business as usual.

"It's scary because I feel there are less and less people you can trust," said Erin Walsh, 31, an English teacher who lives in Astoria, Queens. "It's hard to wrap my brain around the situation. People in positions of power should do the right thing."

In interviews around the city on Thursday and Friday, reactions to the verdict revealed the simple terror elicited by the case - that the very people sworn to protect you can take advantage of you. Amid the anger, many expressed little surprise that in a trial without physical evidence, the jury believed the officers over the woman accusing them, who testified that she was too drunk to remember much of what happened.

"It's disgusting," said Annie White, a retired home health care aide, who said she had to shut off her television after watching the verdict.

"New York City cops can get away with anything," Ms. White said, sitting in front of her home on 117th Street in Harlem. "This is the only place I know where there are certain rules for police officers and certain rules for civilians. Acquitting those two today is totally out of line. They should put those cops in jail where they belong.

"Right is right, wrong is wrong. To take advantage of a drunk woman? If you're a woman in this city you don't have a chance; you can't even call the police. If they were civilians, they would be in jail."

The trial of the two officers, Kenneth Moreno and Franklin Mata, featured spirited courtroom confrontations and a steady drip of intimate revelations, including the woman's familiarity with various sexual positions and the song that Mr. Moreno testified that he sang to her when he cuddled her in her bed (Bon Jovi's "Livin' on a Prayer").

The officers were found guilty of official misconduct and fired from the force - an inadequate punishment, several people said, for officers who took advantage of a woman at her most vulnerable.

"It isn't the first time police officers get away with doing something they shouldn't be doing, and it's getting to be normal and that's a problem," said Sharlene Lynch, 23, who works in retail. "I'm glad it wasn't me. I'm sad for her. Police are supposed to serve and protect, but they get away with everything."

Responses did not seem to divide along lines of gender, age or ethnicity - or even, in some instances, connection to police officers.

"It's ridiculous," said Lavaba Wilson, 45, whose brother is a police officer. "First of all, she was drunk and unable to consent. In the state of New York, that's rape. But they're officers, and it's the natural inclination to side with law enforcement."

For Ursula Deljanin, 36, a legal assistant who said she had been following the trial closely in two newspapers, the case sounded a warning about the dangers of being a woman in New York. Ms. Deljanin said she went out one or two nights a week and liked to drink, though not to excess. She said she saw many women who drank themselves into very dangerous situations.

"People are just thinking this is Disneyland," she said. "It's still New York. You have to be aware."

Ms. Deljanin said the case had made her more cautious about her own behavior and affirmed her suspicions about the police. "Human beings are human beings, and if they see a moment of weakness, they take advantage of it," she said. "If I was in the same situation with a girlfriend and I saw she was in that condition, I would've called an ambulance before I called the cops."

She emphasized that she was not blaming the woman, but that she herself always used a "buddy system" when she went out. Many women at clubs, she said, seemed to believe that the city's ugly side had disappeared.

"The danger just has a prettier face these days," she said. "It's not the guy in the overcoat hanging in the corner. It could be just a regular-looking guy."

Sarah Lewitinn, 31, also said the case made her more wary of the police, whom she had previously considered "the last person I'd expect this from."

Ms. Lewitinn, who works as a D.J. around town under the name Ultragrrrl, said she had watched intoxicated women get into police cars, trusting that the officers would get them home safely. "I think I've even had a cop take me home," she said. "When I'm walking by myself at 4 a.m. in heels, it's hard to get a cab among the hooligans. Once or twice I've gone to a cop, and said, 'I hate to be a bother, but could you take me home?' "

Ms. Lewitinn said she had followed the trial "like an episode of 'Law & Order.' " The rape accusations, she said, "definitely made me rethink getting into anyone's car that I don't know."

Many found themselves torn - convinced that the officers were guilty of rape, but that the accuser's haziness made it hard for the jury to convict.

"I guess the jury used whatever facts they had to make that decision," said Jon Gustafson, 67, a dog walker who lives in Yonkers. "My gut reaction? Where there's smoke, there's fire.

"It's hard to believe a woman would manufacture a story like this. I'm sure their lives will be different after this and her life will be different."

Reporting was contributed by Juliet Linderman, Jed Lipinski, Ashley Parker and Rebecca White.


28) High School Student Stands Up Against Prayer at Public School and Is Ostracized, Demeaned and Threatened
By Greta Christina, AlterNet
Posted on May 25, 2011, Printed on May 28, 2011

Whatever you think about atheists -- good, bad, mixed, indifferent -- this story should seriously trouble you.

Damon Fowler, an atheist student at Bastrop High School in Louisiana, was about to graduate. His public school was planning to have a prayer as part of the graduation ceremony: as they traditionally did, as so many public schools around the country do every year. But Fowler -- knowing that government-sponsored prayer in the public schools is unconstitutional and legally forbidden -- contacted the school superintendent to let him know that he opposed the prayer, and would be contacting the ACLU if it happened. The school -- at first, anyway -- agreed, and canceled the prayer.

Then Fowler's name, and his role in this incident, was leaked. As a direct result:

1) Fowler has been hounded, pilloried, and ostracized by his community.

2) One of Fowler's teachers has publicly demeaned him.

3) Fowler has been physically threatened. Students have threatened to "jump him" at graduation practice, and he has received multiple threats of bodily harm, and even death threats.

4) Fowler's parents have cut off his financial support, kicked him out of the house, and thrown his belongings onto the front porch.

Oh, and by the way? They went ahead and had the graduation prayer anyway.

Before we get into the details, let's be clear about the facts and the law: Nobody -- not Fowler, not the ACLU, nobody -- is telling anybody at Bastrop High School that they can't pray. People can pray at graduations and other school events all they want. The sole issue here is whether a public school can have a prayer at a graduation or other school event as an official, school-sponsored part of the program. Individual prayer? Hunky dory. Off-campus prayers at churches or private events? Knock yourself out. Government promotion of a religious agenda? Not so much. What with the First Amendment and the "establishment of religion" bit and all.

It's a law and a Constitution that protects everybody, not just atheists. If you wouldn't want to be subjected to a government-sponsored Buddhist prayer, you ought not to be subjecting others to a government-sponsored Christian prayer.

Okay. I hope that's clear.

So here's a little more detail about what exactly happened with Damon Fowler.

1) Fowler has been hounded, pilloried, and ostracized by his community. He's become the center of what he terms a "shitstorm": he has been harassed, vilified, targeted with insults and name-calling and hateful remarks. He's been told t he's the Devil. He's been told, "Go cry to your mommy... oh, wait. You can't." (A reference to him being disowned by his parents.) He's been told that he's only doing this to get attention. A student's public prayer at a pre-graduation "Class Night" event was turned into an opportunity for the school and community to gang up on Fowler and publicly close ranks against him -- teachers as well as students. (Here's video). And people seen defending him have been targeted as well.

As just a taste, here are a few comments on the Bastrop Enterprise news story about the controversy: "I personally see him as a coward." "I hope they [Christians] put enough pressure on this kid to convert him and save his soul from the fire of hell." "The kid was likely a recluse and apathetic about most everything until now." "If he don't want prayer at graduation he can stay at home and not come to graduation." "Afterall, that's what she or he wants isn't it to be singled out! This just makes me ill." "I hope that the little athiest is offended." "What he is really doing is trying to shove his views down people's throats." "Why does this student only now decide to get engaged in what is happening at the school? Is it nothing more than our own self-destructive human nature to break down anything of which we may not approve?" "That student should just have to have his/her one man graduation ceremony all alone." "Satan continues to prowl and is deceiving many in this world."

2) One of Fowler's teachers has publicly demeaned him. From the story in the Bastrop Enterprise:

Mitzi Quinn has been on the staff at BHS for almost 25 years, much of that time as a senior advisor. In the past, Quinn said there have been students who were atheist, agnostic and other non-Christian religions who "had no problems" with the prayer.

"They respected the majority of their classmates and didn't say anything," Quinn said. "We've never had this come up before. Never."

Throughout her time working with the student, Quinn said they never expressed their personal beliefs or that they had any problems with other students' Christian faiths.

"And what's even more sad is this is a student who really hasn't contributed anything to graduation or to their classmates," Quinn said. (emphasis mine)

In other words: Because the majority of students want an unconstitutional prayer at their graduation, therefore they're in the right. Because nobody's ever had the courage to speak up about this before, therefore the law was not being broken, and everything was okay. (After all, it's not like anything bad happened when Fowler spoke up...right?) And because Fowler hasn't "contributed anything" -- other than, you know, a model of risking safety and security to stand up for a principle he believed in -- therefore his basic legal right to not be targeted with religious proselytization by his public school is irrelevant... and he deserves to be publicly derided by one of his teachers.

3) Fowler has been physically threatened. Students have threatened to "jump him" at graduation practice, and he has received multiple threats of bodily harm, and even death threats.

Enough said.

4) Fowler's parents have cut off his financial support, kicked him out of the house, and thrown his belongings onto the porch.

Let's be very, very clear about this one. At a time when their son was being bullied, threatened, publicly pilloried, and ostracized from his school and his community, his parents joined the party. Their initial response was to hold him in their house against his will, take his cell phone and cut off his contact with the outside world, and even cut him off from contact with his older brother, Jerrett. Their more recent response has been to cut off financial support, kick him out of the house, and throw his belongings onto the porch.

Fortunately, Damon isn't entirely alone. His brother Jerrett is bringing Damon into his own home in Texas, and will help put him through college. And Damon is fortunate enough to have the backing of the atheist community, who are providing encouragement, emotional support, practical assistance, and even a scholarship fund.

More on that in a moment.

Since that's a lot of what this story is really about.

There are a lot of hot-button issues in Damon Fowler's story. There's the depressing fact of how common this kind of story is: the fact that, despite the law being unambiguous on the subject, public schools around the country are continuing to sponsor prayers and otherwise promote theocracy, in flagrant violation of the law... apparently in the hopes that nobody will want to make waves and speak out against it. There's the lack of understanding in the United States about fundamental civics: the all-too-common belief that "majority rules" in every situation, and the all-too-common failure to comprehend the principle that the minority has basic civil rights.

There's the ugly reality of anti-atheist bigotry and discrimination across the country -- especially in high schools. According to JT Eberhard, high school specialist for the Secular Student Alliance, "In Alabama, Auburn High School is refusing to allow an SSA affiliate. In Cranston, Rhode Island, a public school is facing an ACLU suit for refusing to take down a sectarian prayer [a banner posted in the school gym]. In Texas we had a student who was told he could have a secular club if he called it a philosophy club and didn't affiliate with the SSA. The list of similar situations is a mile long and these are only the ones I've become aware of in my first four and a half months on the job. The Fowler incident is much closer to being the norm than the exception."

There are rants about religion to be had here as well. There's the level of not only hostility, but panicked hostility, when entrenched religion gets its privileged status threatened. There's the way that religion relies on social consensus to perpetuate itself -- and how, when that consensus is threatened, it commonly reacts by smacking down dissent and expelling dissenters. There's the idea that the unverifiability of religion -- the beliefs in invisible, inaudible, intangible gods promising an afterlife nobody can know anything about -- means that the harm done in its name has the unique capacity to spin off into the stratosphere... since there's no reality check. There's the image of religion as a colossal fortress protecting a house of cards: powerful, massive structures and institutions staunchly buttressed and hotly defended to ensure that nobody ever examines the ideas inside and sees how flimsy they are.

And of course -- duh -- there's separation of church and state. There's the principle that a public school should not be sponsoring prayers at graduations. What with that being a government establishment of religion and all, and thus being -- oh, what's that word? -- unconstitutional.

All of that is important.

But there's something else important going on here.

And that's the way the atheist community has stepped up to the plate.

Damon Fowler has been embraced and welcomed by the atheist community. Atheist writers have been all over this story from the moment it broke: it's been covered on Friendly Atheist, Pharyngula, BlagHag, the Richard Dawkins Foundation, Atheist Revolution, The Thinking Atheist, Atheist Underworld, WWJTD, Rock Beyond Belief... the list goes on. Several atheist organizations are applauding Fowler for his courage.

American Atheists said of Fowler, "This kid deserves mad props for letting his principal know on no uncertain terms that ACLU would be contacted if the prayer wasn't canceled. Good job, Damon, you speak for the freedoms of people who are trapped in the bible-belt!" JT Eberhard, high school specialist for the Secular Student Alliance, said, "Despite the vile threats, bullying, and hatred his community has given him, we recognize Damon for what he is: a brave student speaking up for religious liberty and inclusion." Freedom From Religion Foundation spoke about "his courage in speaking out for his and other students' rights."

And it's not just the atheist thought leaders. It's the on-the-ground community. Fowler has received an outpouring of support from atheists around the country and around the world. The "Support Damon" group on Facebook has over 10,000 members as of this writing. The Reddit post from Damon and his brother Jerrett discussing these events has been loaded with expressions of empathy and outrage. Atheist forums and blog comment threads about Fowler all over the Internet have been extensive and passionate. And many atheists have written letters to the Bastrop High School administration expressing their support for Fowler's position and their opposition to the prayer.

This support isn't only emotional, either. Emotional support is not trivial, of course; it's hugely important, especially when you're being ostracized, targeted with a hateful smear campaign, and driven from your home. But a tremendous amount of practical and financial support is coming from the atheist community as well. Many atheists have offered Fowler transportation, legal advice, meetup groups, places to stay, physical protection, connections with others who could provide additional practical help, and more. The Freedom From Religion Foundation has given Fowler a $1,000 college scholarship.

And perhaps most dramatically, Friendly Atheist blogger Hemant Mehta has established a scholarship fund for Fowler, so he can attend college despite being cut off financially by his parents -- and the response has been overwhelming. As of this writing, the atheist community has donated over $15,000. Essentially filling the role that his parents have abandoned.

Why am I bringing this up?

One of the chunks of mud that's most commonly slung at atheists is that we're selfish. Amoral. That without a belief in God and the afterlife, people would have no moral compass, and would just act to please themselves, without any consideration for others. That without a belief in eternal punishment in the afterlife for bad behavior, eternal reward in the afterlife for good behavior, and a supernatural authority figure refereeing it all, people would have no reason to be good people, and no reason to avoid doing terrible things. That without religion, people would have no compassion, no sense of justice, no empathy, no desire to see society running smoothly... and would just do whatever we wanted to do.

But when Damon Fowler was suffering and in need, the atheist community stepped up. It provided compassion. It demanded justice. It offered emotional support. It offered practical support. It opened its wallets. It made it unassailably clear to Damon Fowler that he was not alone: that although his school, his community, even his parents, had all turned their backs on him, atheists would take care of him, as best they could, until he could take care of himself. It made it clear that, even though he no longer had a home in Bastrop, he had a home in this movement. When Damon Fowler was suffering and in need, the atheist community proved itself to be a real community.

If atheism means we just do whatever we want to do... then apparently, what we want to do is take care of each other. Apparently, what we want to do is help people who have been injured. Apparently, what we want to do is speak out against wrongdoing. Apparently, what we want to do is put a stop to injustice. Apparently, what we want to do is make sacrifices for people in need.

A whole lot more than the Christians in Bastrop, Louisiana.

I'm not saying that atheists are morally superior to religious believers. I don't think that, and I'm not saying it. I'm aware that many religious believers are good, compassionate people with a strong sense of justice. I'm even aware that many religious believers, indeed many Christians, are appalled by what's happening to Damon Fowler, and oppose it with every breath in their bodies. And I'm aware that many atheists are hostile, self-involved schmucks. (Believe me... I'm aware of that.) That's not my point.

My point is this: Human beings don't need God to be good. Human ethics seem to be wired into our brains, through millions of years of evolution as a social species, and every human being who isn't a sociopath has them. Some of us act on them better than others... but we all have them. Christian, Jew, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, Rastafarian, Wiccan -- and atheist.

And my point is this: The next time someone tells you that atheists are selfish and amoral? Remember Damon Fowler. Remember the religious community that bullied him, harassed him, ostracized him, and drove him out.

And remember the atheist community that took him in.

If you want to support Damon Fowler's scholarship fund, you can do so with the ChipIn widget at the Friendly Atheist blog. The widget closes on May 31.

Read more of Greta Christina at her blog.


29) Michigan Superintendent's Sarcastic Plan to Save Schools from Gov's Ax: Make Them Prisons
By Meteor Blades, Daily Kos
Posted on May 28, 2011, Printed on May 28, 2011

Financially pinched states across the nation are making draconian cuts in spending for social services and public education. But there\'s one area that gets gentler treatment under Republican governors and legislators: prisons. In fact, while Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder and the GOP-controlled legislature were whacking $300 per student from the state\'s K-12 school budget, he was simultaneously moving some of the "savings" over to corrections and prisons.

That prompted Nathan Bootz,_superintendent_of public schools in the small town of Ithaca in central Michigan, to pen a letter to the local Gratiot County Herald suggesting a modest proposal:

Consider the life of a Michigan prisoner. They get three square meals a day. Access to free health care. Internet. Cable television. Access to a library. A weight room. Computer lab. They can earn a degree. A roof over their heads. Clothing. Everything we just listed we DO NOT provide to our school children.

This is why I'm proposing to make my school a prison. The State of Michigan spends annually somewhere between $30,000 and $40,000 per prisoner, yet we are struggling to provide schools with $7,000 per student. I guess we need to treat our students like they are prisoners, with equal funding. Please give my students three meals a day. Please give my children access to free health care. Please provide my school district Internet access and computers. Please put books in my library. Please give my students a weight room so we can be big and strong. We provide all of these things to prisoners because they have constitutional rights. What about the rights of youth, our future?!

I don\'t know how strict the English teachers of the 1350 students in the Ithaca schools are about combining question marks and exclamation points, but surely this is one instance when they would not knock a point off Mr. Bootz\'s grade. As the superintendent writes, adequately funding schools would give them "the resources necessary to keep our students OUT of prison."

To be fair, prison spending was also cut in the budget the Michigan legislature approved without a single Democratic vote Thursday. But, proportionately it was half the cut inflicted on public schools.

What\'s particularly galling about Synder\'s caterwauling on the need to hack nearly a billion out of K-12 spending, reduce spending for universities and community colleges and cut already meager welfare payments? He simultaneously got the legislature to lower business taxes by $1.8 billion and raise taxes on pensions for seniors.

Resistance to Snyder is building, and an active recall campaign is under way. If you live in Michigan, you can sign up to volunteer at As Chris Bowers wrote Thursday, Daily Kos is part of this campaign and will be running ads to promote the recall campaign. If you have a spare $6, please contribute here.