Saturday, July 23, 2005


Its been a while since I've commented on the use of terrorism as a tactic or more so as a strategy. Way, back on Sept. 24th, 2001 I tried to sum up some of my thoughts about where we, on the left, ought to be after the Sept. 11th attacks in New York. Now following, years of bombings in Iraq, the London bombing, and last night those in Egypt, I think I'll just reprint what I wrote then. Not all of you agreed with my thoughts at that time and not all of you will agree with them now. Some of those thoughts sound like some of Bush's rhetoric. However, for him its nothing but rhetoric while for me it is actually what I believe. The big difference is that I stand for Social Justice and he stands for quite the opposite. Anyway, feel free to comment. (For those of you who are subscribers to the Oread Daily, you can go to the Blog and directly comment there - or you can send me your comments at the OD's address)

Here goes:

Sept. 24, 2001 Volume 2001.75



Here are some thoughts I would like to share with my friends on the
left, progressive and anti-war activists. I won't be spending much
time here running down the litany of bad stuff our enemies carry out,
believe, propagate. That is not my aim just now. So please keep
that in mind, before you answer, yeah, but what about...

· Mistreatment of people because of race, gender, ethnicity,
nationality, class, religion, sexual orientation, etc. is wrong
wherever it occurs and we should be outspoken about that.

· We cannot allow ourselves to appear to be in bed with the Taliban,
Al-Quida, Bin Ladin , etc. It has been entirely too easy to tar the
progressive forces as erstwhile allies of some of the most despicable
personages around of late. This is to no small measure our own
fault. It is time for us to lay out our beliefs and make it clear we
support those who hold something akin to them, and oppose those who
don't. This means we can't have "our" bad guys be exempt just
because they and the US are currently at loggerheads or because the
US views them as enemies. This means we should fight against the
sanctions on Iraq, but we should at the same time make it clear we
would like to see Saddam Hussein out. It is easy for us to point out
how the US had ties to the creation of the Taliban, but couldn't
someone just as easily ask why "we" have not been more vocal in our
opposition to this repressive regime? After all, outside of a few
woman's groups I haven't heard much about leftist demonstrations,
rallies etc. ever targeting the Taliban. How is it that we rightfully
condemn Israel's oppressive treatment of the Palestinians, while
keeping pretty much to ourselves about Saddam's treatment of Kurds,
Syria's use of chemical weapons on its own populace, Sudan's policies
toward its non Muslim population, etc. etc.? All I'm saying here is
we shouldn't be picking and choosing. If its wrong its wrong and we
have to be up front in our condemnation of all injustice.

· It is not the 60s. This "war" is not Vietnam. The Taliban are not
the NLF. Osama Bin Ladin is not Che.

· The US cannot be allowed to do whatever it wants to whomever it
wants (This includes, in addition to the obvious, "our" refusal to
participate in things like the biological/chemical weapons protocols,
our abandonment of treaties that don't suit us, or disregard for
international law when it applies to us).

· Targeting and/or killing civilians is not okay. This includes the
use of commercial jets to bring down towers, suicide bombers to blow
up people eating pizza, B-52s to reign destruction on helpless
civilians, embargoes which kill thousands of innocents).

· A nation has an obligation to defend its people from being killed
without provocation. Either people who have carried out a horrendous
crime (such as that which occurred on September 11) are put in a
position where they can do no further harm, by being handed over and
put into custody, or the principle of self-defense applies with all
its consequences. This may mean action which leads to the deaths of
those responsible for such acts. However, this response should be
proportionate and innocent people should not be harmed.

· Clearly it is not the right of the leaders of the US to decide how
others should live (which is usually based on self interest). Our
leaders weren't outraged by the Taliban on September 10th.

· We should support forces fighting for things we believe in and
working to overthrow oppressive regimes wherever they may be and
whoever they may be. Reactionary Mullahs are no better then
reactionary generals, preachers, and Presidents around the world.
Oppression in Iran is not somehow better than oppression in
Guatemala. Both need our attention.

· We need to understand that there does in fact exist an independent
radical, fundamentalist, Islamic ideology and global outlook. It is
a reactionary international movement with aspirations to destroy
democracy. Its ideology is medieval, opposed to progress in every
sense. Its policy is the brutal repression of women, labor, peasants
and any dissenting social force. The type of society envisioned and
enforced by the Taliban in Afghanistan is a good example of what
these forces are fighting for (and it is very similar to the society
that Jerry Falwell envisions - as long as you replace Islam with
Christianity). Al-Quida would not go quietly away if the Israeli's
suddenly began to treat the Palestinians justly. They have a world
outlook. They are against what WE are for. That should be clear.
How all that relates to the US government's outlook doesn't really
matter. We are for freedom of religion, for women's equality, for
the right of speech, etc. The al-Quida ideology is not. Marx, for
example, would and did, in fact, describe bourgeois democracy (even
capitalism) as a step forward from religious obscurantism and
feudalism. We need to make clear we do, too. We need to do this at
the same time that we condemn the US bombing of civilians in
Afghanistan, or US support for repressive regimes, at the same time
that we point out that the US was with Bin Laden when he opposed the
Soviets. Why hasn't the left been up in arms about the threats
against women in Kashmir by guerrilla's aligned with the Taliban,
with Bin Laden, with the radical, fundamentalist, Islamic philosophy?

· We need to make it immanently clear that the radical fundamentalist
brand of Islam described above is not representative of the vast,
vast majority who practice that faith. Neither does Pat Roberston
represent most Christians, or ultra-Orthodox proponents of a Jewish
theocracy and worse represent most Jews.

· The left has to accept there really are people capable and willing
to use weapons of mass destruction at any time and against anyone who
they see as standing in their way. Is it our position to just sit
around and watch? I hope not. So what is our position? If we know
their is a rapist living down the block, do we say, we'll lets just
wait until he rapes somebody else, then we'll condemn rape? This
could be applied to al-Quida or the American reactionaries I've heard
lately on television saying the US should be ready to use nukes.

· In the days ahead, we will have to make distinctions between the
warriors and the war, between the generals and the "foot soldiers,"
between the heads of state and the people of the state (including our

· And as hard as it seems for us to accept, everything about the
United States is not awful, all her people are not awful. Our "way of
life" is not all bad.

All the forces on the right will now use this "War Against Terrorism"
as a pretext to try and gain everything they have dreamed of, at
home, and around the world. They will use this opportunity well to
attack us and all progressive forces wherever they may be. Civil
liberties will be in danger. Racism may explode. They will use the
whipped up "patriotism" to their advantage and it will not be easy to
counteract. But we are obligated to do it just the same. We can
defeat them, if only we dare.

But we have to be clear, we have to be able to understand and explain
what is most complex. We have to be consistent. We have to put on
the table the type of society we are fighting to create. We have to
learn to cast aside worn out dogmas and understand the world we live
in. We can't continue on "reacting." We can't make our decisions
based on what our enemies decide. We have to present the people (as
the OD says, "whoever they might be") a clear picture of what we
believe, a clear picture of how those beliefs are played out in the
world, a clear choice for a just future. We're not doing that very
well at the moment.

Fundamentally we have to say who we are, what we are, and what we
believe, and we have to apply it across the board, no matter the

These will be difficult times, but also times of opportunity.

We will have differences but we should have a pretty good framework
with which we can all agree. In some strange way, John Lennon,
actually laid out a pretty fair description of this when he wrote:

Imagine there's no heaven
It's easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us only sky
Imagine all the people
Living for today...
Imagine there's no countries
It isn't hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people
Living life in peace...
Imagine no possessions
I wonder if you can
No need for greed or hunger
A brotherhood of man (and a sisterhood of women) Imagine all the
Sharing all the world...
You may say I'm a dreamer
But I'm not the only one
I hope someday you'll join us
And the world will live as one

Friday, July 22, 2005

Misplaced Outrage

While the media remains in a huff over the roughing up of some reporters and some of Sec. of State Rice’s staff, forty prisoners from Darfur have started a hunger strike at the Kober prison in northern Kartoum and no one notices. The prisoners have been locked up for over two years without any formal charges or even accusations. They’ve never seen a judge in all that time. Their situation is a reflection of that in the region from which they come - Darfur.

Their attorney, Mohammed Abdallah Adoumah, says they have begun the hunger strike now because even as the state of emergency has been removed and Sudanese president Omar el-Beshir announced the liberation of political detainees, for them nothing has changed. The genoccide in Darfur and eastern Sudan where the prisoners are from also remains unchanged and is not covered by the measure.

As far as the prisoners themselves go, Adoumah said the defense council would submit appeals to Beshir, the justice minister and the government-controlled advisory council for human rights for the release of the detainees.

Meanwhile, talk from the US goes on about Darfour, but action remains another matter entirely. Marie Clarke Brill, Director of Public Education & Mobilization at Africa Action, said, "People from across the U.S. have been outraged by the failure of their Members of Congress to follow last July's genocide declaration with the determined action necessary to help end this crisis and provide protection to people in Darfor. Recognizing the unwillingness of Congress to push President Bush, concerned Americans are taking action in growing numbers to pressure the Administration directly to support an urgent humanitarian intervention to stop genocide in Darfur."

A statement from Afica Action concerning the extensive coverate of the Rice related incident read:

Africa Action today expressed outrage at the misplaced priorities of U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice during her first visit to Sudan. This morning’s fracas between Sudanese security officers and Rice’s entourage has generated greater attention and indignation from U.S. officials and international media than has the ongoing genocide in that country that has claimed more than 400,000 lives in the past two years. According to Africa Action, Dr. Rice’s visit to Sudan should be assessed in the context of three competing U.S. foreign policy priorities - (1) support for the newly formed government of national unity as part of the North-South peace process, (2) ending the genocide in Darfur, and (3) collaboration and intelligence-sharing with the Sudanese government as part of the so-called 'War on Terror'.

Salih Booker, Executive Director of Africa Action, said, "Dr. Rice’s juggling of these three U.S. interests reveals that, for Washington, stopping genocide is the least important issue, promoting the North-South peace process ranks higher, while the most important, but least discussed, U.S. priority in Sudan is collaboration with the genocidal regime for larger geo-strategic purposes."

Nearly one year ago, the Bush Administration first declared that the international crime of genocide was occurring in Darfur and that the Sudanese government was responsible. Since that time, the U.S. has sponsored weak resolutions at the United Nations, criticizing Khartoum while imposing no sanctions, and has provided humanitarian aid and limited logistical support for an African observer mission.

Ann-Louise Colgan, Director of Policy Analysis and Communications at Africa Action said today, "The U.S. persists in passing the buck to the African Union (AU) in Darfur, even as Dr. Rice expresses frustration at the slow pace of the AU’s expansion of its mission. Instead of dodging its own responsibility to help stop the genocide, the U.S. should prioritize the urgent needs of the people of Darfur. The U.S. must take immediate action to form a multinational intervention force to expand upon the limited AU effort and with a mandate for civilian protection."

Marie Clarke Brill, Director of Public Education and Mobilization at Africa Action, said today, "Dr. Rice is the most senior U.S. official to travel to Darfur since her predecessor Colin Powell visited Darfur last summer. Like Powell, Dr. Rice exhibits the same dangerous naivete in relying upon the authors of genocide to protect their own victims. Her visit will make no difference on the ground. As Dr. Rice calls for ‘action not words’ from the Sudanese government on Darfur, the U.S. is failing to match its own words with urgent action to stop the genocide in western Sudan."

As Secretary Rice concludes her first official trip to Africa, which included a hurried stop in Senegal, Africa Action’s Booker said, "The Secretary of State visited every region of the world in her first months in office, and Africa came last. Not only that, Dr. Rice is cutting short her first trip to the continent as America’s foreign policy chief to travel onward to Israel and the West Bank. This sends a clear signal that the Middle East is more important in her eyes, and Africa -the land of her own ancestors - is at the very bottom of the U.S. foreign policy agenda." Sources: MISNA, Africa Action, Sudan Tribune, AFP

EMERGENCY ACTION ALERT Pastors Cuba Caravan Barred at US-Mexico Border

EMERGENCY ACTION ALERT Pastors Cuba Caravan Barred at US-Mexico Border

July 21, 2005



As of 1:30 pm EDT, July 21, 2005, The Pastors for Peace Friendshipment Caravan to Cuba is being held up at the US-Mexico border by US Commerce Department officials. They are threatening to search every vehicle and every item of humanitarian aid. They are telling us that "only licensable goods will be allowed to cross into Mexico."

Pastors for Peace does not accept or apply for a license to deliver humanitarian aid to Cuba.

There are 130 US citizens traveling with the caravan. They and the humanitarian aid are traveling in eight busses, a box truck and two small cars. It will take days to inspect the 140 tons of aid. We are prepared to do whatever we need to do to deliver our humanitarian aid to Cuba. Stay posted... PLEASE TAKE ACTION NOW!

1) Call Scott Kamen, Congressional Aide of Affairs at the Department of Commerce, at 202-482-0097 and demand that the Caravan be allowed to cross the border with all of its humanitarian cargo.

2) Call your Congressperson and ask them to call Secretary of Commerce Carlos Gutierrez at 202-482-2000, or Scott Kamen at 202-482-0097. If you don't know how to reach your Congressperson, go to and enter your zip code. That will take you to the Congresspersons home web page where you can find phone and email information.


From: Latin America Working Group Sent: Thursday, July 21, 2005 12:10 PM Subject: Cuba Update: Aid Caravan halted at the border

We want to make you aware of a developing situation regarding a humanitarian aid shipment to Cuba by Pastors for Peace. Many of you know Pastors for Peace and their humanitarian efforts to deliver needed material aid to Cuba, in spite of the restrictions that the U.S. government imposes on U.S. citizens who wish to engage in a positive manner with Cuba. We just received the following statement from Pastors for Peace from the border at McAllen, Texas, where the U.S. Department of Commerce has halted the progress of the aid caravan.

This could develop into a serious situation, as the caravan is without sufficient food for the 130 U.S. citizens accompanying it to last for the days that it would take for the Commerce Department to inspect all the vehicles and boxes of aid being transported by the caravan. A policy that denies the unrestricted delivery of humanitarian aid to a neighbor country in urgent need in the wake of a devastating hurricane is a policy that needs to be changed. In solidarity, Mavis Anderson Philip Schmidt Latin America Working Group

Statement Received by Telephone from Pastors for Peace from McAllen, TX Thursday, July 21, 2005; 1:45 p.m. ET Pastors for Peace Caravan held at the Border Commerce Department officials say they will search every vehicle and every box of humanitarian aid. Only licensable goods will be allowed to cross into Mexico. Pastors for Peace does not accept licenses for humanitarian aid. There are 130 U.S. citizens traveling with the Caravan and eight buses, a box truck, and two small cars. It will take days to inspect the 140 tons of aid, and we are prepared to do whatever we need to do to get our aid across the border.

Here's what you can do:

Protest this gross interference in the transfer of humanitarian aid and express your concern about the health risks to the caravanistas who are being kept in buses without air conditioning that are parked in the sun by calling:

The U.S. Commerce Department

The U.S. Treasury Department

The White House comment line

Senator Barbara Boxer

Senator Diane Feinstein

U.S. government repression of the progressive movement must end. Add your voice!


You’ve probably heard something about it. The Pentagon’s new toy dubbed the Active Denial Technology (ADT) which according to the Sandia National Laboratory provides, “an effective non lethal active-response mechanism to disperse, disturb, distract, and establish the intent of intruders.”

The weapon, something like a weaponized microwave would be fitted to “military” vehicles and is destined for crowd control. The beam would instantly heat water beneath a target’s skin to 130 degrees Fahrenheit. It does this by emitting a 95 GHz non-ionizing electromagnetic beam of energy that penetrates approximately 1/64 of an inch into human skin tissue, where nerve receptors are concentrated. Within seconds, the beam will heat the exposed skin tissue to a level where intolerable pain is experienced and natural defense mechanisms take over.

The military and Sandia say it is safe and would have no long lasting effects.

Of course, there are those who beg to differ.

The ADS weapon's beam causes pain within 2 to 3 seconds and it becomes intolerable after less than 5 seconds. People's reflex responses to the pain is expected to force them to move out of the beam before their skin can be burnt. A report from the Columbia School of Journalism said that when the weapon was tested recently at Kirtland Air Force Research Laboratory in Albuquerque, N.M test subjects who were hit said it felt like having your entire body wrapped around a light bulb.

John Pike of think tank fears that the beam power needed to scare people may be too close to the level that would injure them. Air Force scientists helped set the present skin safety threshold of 10 milliwatts per square centimeter in the early 1990s, when little data was available, says Louis Slesin, editor of Microwave News.

That limit covers exposure to steady fields for several minutes to an hour - but heating a layer of skin 0.3 mm thick to 50 °C in just one second requires much higher power and may pose risks to the cornea, which is more sensitive than skin. A study published last year in the journal Health Physics showed that exposure to 2 watts per square centimeter for three seconds could damage the corneas of rhesus monkeys.

Details of the ADS tests only became somewhat availabe after after Edward Hammond, director of the US Sunshine Project - an organisation campaigning against the use of biological and non-lethal weapons - requested them under the Freedom of Information Act.

In fact, volunteers who took part in the tests were, according to New Scientist, banned from wearing glasses or contact lenses during those tests due to “safety fears.” The magazine says, “The precautions raise concerns about how safe the Active Denial System (ADS) weapon would be if used in real crowd-control situations.”

In addition to the ban on eye wear, in the third of a series of tests, subjects were required to remove, “…any metallic objects such as coins and keys to stop hot spots being created on the skin. They also checked the volunteers' clothes for certain seams, buttons and zips which might also cause hot spots.”

During the experiments, people playing rioters put up their hands when hit and were given a 15-second cooling-down period before being targeted again. One person suffered a burn in a previous test when the beam was accidentally used on the wrong power setting.

Neil Davison, co-ordinator of the non-lethal weapons research project at the University of Bradford in the UK, says in New Scientist controlling the amount of radiation received may not be all that simple. "How do you ensure that the dose doesn't cross the threshold for permanent damage?" he asks. "What happens if someone in a crowd is unable, for whatever reason, to move away from the beam?"

Ouch! Sources:, New Scientist, Sandia National Laboratory, Columbia School of Journalism

Thursday, July 21, 2005

U.S. Out of Guantanamo

A crowd in Saskatoon, Canada, yesterday heard Cuban peace activist Maria Elena Cabezas denounce human rights violations at the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay. Cabezas was in Saskatoon as part of a cross-Canada tour.

"At this moment, this military base for the U.S. government is a centre of torture, a prison for hundreds of people from all over . . . illegally, without any clear reason," Cabezas, of the Cuban Movement for Peace and Sovereignty of the Peoples, said. "The reality is that the people who are there are in the most humiliating situations and the most cruel situations."

Cabezas pointed out, "It's not that we suppose that this is happening there. There are TV videos, photos and declarations from many people."

The Star Phoenix reports that Cabezas is asking the public to send declarations, letters to the United Nations and other organizations as part of an individual effort to stop the abuses. "With the pressure of public opinion, (finally) this situation (can be) solved (and) stopped," she said.

Cabezas announced that he Cuban Movement for Peace and Sovereignty of the People, in collaboration with other non-governmental organizations from Cuba and other countries are planning to hold an international conference in November in Havana, Cuba. The conference will discuss foreign military bases as a violation of rights and liberties in places where they are located.

In that spirit, a statement signed yesterday by Nobel Peace Laureates Nadine Gordimer, Rigoberta Manchu and Adolfo Perez Esquivel, as well by renowned intellectuals Noam Chomsky and Salim Lamrani demands that the U.S. remove its base and get out of Guantanamo. The statement also denounced the activities of the U.S. at the prison camp there.

The statement recalled the history of the Guantanamo base.

In 1897, when Cuba was nearing victory in the Second War of Independence from Spain, Theodore Roosevelt urged the USA President McKinley to intervene.

In 1898, the USA declared war against Spain to prevent Cuba from gaining its independence.

In 1901, among other forced measures to codify control of Cuba, including that "the U.S. may intervene militarily at any time", was the equally outrageous edict that Cuba must sell or lease to a foreign state, the U.S., "lands necessary for coaling or naval stations at certain specific points". Outrageous because these turned out to be or were always intended to be the invasion and annexation of a country's territory by a foreign state.

Guantanamo was a "specific point". And A U.S. naval base was built.

The signers of the communique declare, “What use this virtual theft of a sovereign territory has been put to eventually is the shame and disgrace of the United States and also of the contemporary world, which, intimidated by U.S. power, turns a blind eye to the prison that has been blatantly established in somebody else's country. The horrifyingly inhuman conditions of isolation, deprivation and torture in this medieval prison, condemned by Amnesty International and an increasing number of human rights organizations, continue to be perpetrated by the foreign power, the U.S.A., which has no right to be there.” Sources: Star Phoenix (Saskatoon), Prensa Latina AIN (Cuba), Political Affairs

A Call for Women's Rights in Iraq"


MADRE, an international women's human rights organization, opposes renewed attempts to impose Islamic law on the people of Iraq. As reported in today's New York Times, a current draft of Iraq's new constitution subordinates guarantees of women's human rights and international law to religious Sharia law and replaces one of the Middle East's most progressive personal status laws with arbitrary interpretations of religious law.

In 2004, MADRE helped launch an international campaign for the repeal of Resolution 137 of the US-appointed Iraqi Governing Council, which was the first attempt to legislate sweeping violations of women's human rights. As a result of the campaign, the resolution was defeated.

However, if this draft is agreed upon, it could give self-appointed religious clerics the authority to inflict grave human rights violations on Iraqi women, including denial of the rights to freedom of movement and travel, property inheritance, and custody of their children. In the worst instance, forced early marriage, polygamy, compulsory religious dress, wife beating, execution by stoning as punishment for female adultery, and public flogging of women for disobeying religious rules could all be sanctioned if the language in this draft is upheld.

In particular, Article 14 of the draft constitution would replace Iraq's 1959 personal status laws with religious law. These laws are the culmination of 50 years of struggle by the Iraqi women's movement and other progressives, and are not a product of Saddam Hussein's regime. While the 1959 laws apply to all Iraqi women, the new constitution could allow un-elected clerics and religious politicians to determine a woman's legal recourse based on her religious affiliation. Due to varying interpretations of religious law, tensions between Islamic groups with differing rules about personal status issues would be exacerbated. The resulting civil strife will further endanger Iraqis, undermine prospects for democracy, and foment a dangerous sectarianism in an already destabalized society.

The constitution's drafting committee may also repeal a measure now in the interim constitution that requires one-quarter of parlimentary seats to be held by women. In general, gender-based quotas, like elections themselves, are procedural: an aspect of democratization, but no guarantee of democracy. Yet a move to repeal the guarantee signifies the hostility of the current Iraqi leadership towards women's human rights. Women's political participation is key to securing human rights and a democratic future for Iraq. In withdrawing its commitment to women's representation in government, and simultaneously privileging Islamic law over international human rights standards, the 71-member drafting committee—of which less than 14 percent are women—ensures further erosion of women's human rights and ongoing insecurity throughout the country.

Iraq, which was overwhelmingly secular until its social fabric was destroyed by the US-led economic siege of the 1990s, is being catapulted towards theocratic rule. The US bears direct responsibility for the ensuing human rights crisis. The US appointed reactionary clerics to the Iraqi Governing Council, and has continued to support their role in the recently elected National Assembly. Such a policy has virtually guaranteed this current attack on Iraqi women and the threat to democratic secularism.

MADRE Associate Director Yifat Susskind commented, "An Iraqi constitution which gives precedence to Islamic law effectively abolishes women's legal rights in 'liberated' Iraq. If the National Assembly approves such a constitution, it will privilege sectarianism over inclusiveness and violate core principles of democratic governance. Iraqi women's groups are organizing in opposition to this draft, and MADRE supports their call for women's human rights and democratic secularism."

Turkish Occupation in Cyprus Must End

In London yesterday Greek Cypriots living in Britain held a demonstration outside the Turkish embassy against the Turkish occupation of their homeland on the 31st anniversary of the Turkish invasion of Cyprus. The Cyprus News Agency reports that hundreds of people attended the demonstration. The demonstrators waved banners and chanted slogans calling for a free and unified Cyprus and demanding the removal of Turkish troops.

The President of the Coordinating Committee - Justice for Cyprus (PSEKA) Philip Christopher told those gathered at the rally that the Cyprus problem can be solved only when the people of Cyprus are really reunited in a free a Cyprus free of occupation. He said that for 31 years the people of Cyprus have, ''…waged a war against ethnic cleansing, against unspeakable human rights violations, against the affluent Turkish lobby, against propaganda, lies and misconceptions''.

A statement for the group Lobby for Cyprus explained why they were demonstrating. It read:

• In 1974 Turkey invaded Cyprus, illegally dividing the island and committing war crimes and mass human rights abuses.

• Hundreds of thousands of Greek Cypriots were ethnically cleansed by the Turkish army.

• We are protesting because Turkey still maintains its illegal occupation, violating international law and United Nations resolutions that demand the withdrawal of the Turkish army and the return of Greek Cypriot refugees.

• Is it right that Turkey, which aspires to join the European Union still maintains a military occupation of one third of the Republic of Cyprus, a country which is a full member of the EU?

• The Greek Cypriots are the legal owners of 92 percent of land in the occupied north and we want to return. Turkey denies us this, but we will never give up our properties to those who seek to profit from their theft and illegal purchase.

• The human rights of the Cypriots must be restored, so that we may live in a truly reunited Cyprus with the full rights enjoyed by all other EU citizens.

The Lobby noted what are known as the 3Rs which are cited by groups calling for a united Cyprus. They are:

1. Removal of all Turkish troops from Cyprus

2. Repatriation of all colonists

3. Return of all refugees to their homes without preconditions, restrictions or discrimination

Last Sunday Ambassador of Cyprus to Greece George Georgis stated, according to Kathimerini, the Turkish invasion of Cyprus in 1974 was the biggest crime perpetrated in Europe in the second half of the 20th century. He added that with the pretext of protecting the Turkish minority, which constitutes 18 percent of the population, Turkey occupied 37 percent of the territory of Cyprus and carried out the greatest national cleansing campaign, in relation to the size of the population, in modern European history.

The Lobby for Cyprus points out that the results of theTurkish invasion and occupation include:

6,000 Greek Cypriots were massacred, many of them tortured to death.

1,000 women aged 12 to 78 were raped.

More than 1,500 missing Greek Cypriots are still unaccounted for. Many were recorded by the Red Cross and filmed by the BBC as prisoners of the Turkish army. They have never been seen again.

200,000 Greek Cypriots were expelled from their homes at gunpoint from the occupied north of Cyprus. To this day they are prevented from returning to and reclaiming their homes by 35,000 Turkish troops which are enforcing apartheid in Europe.

since 1974 Turkey has colonized the occupied north of Cyprus with 120,000 Turkish citizens in order to alter the demographic composition of the island.

Hundreds of Greek Orthodox churches have been destroyed in order to eradicate the culture and history of the Greek Cypriots who are indigenous to the island for thousands of years. Sources: Lobby for Cyprus, Kathimerini (Athens), Cyprus News Agency

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

People of Okinawa Say "Shut It Down"

More than 10,000 people protested on Okinawa against US Army exercises using live ammunition in the town of Kin. Protesters included Okinawa Governor Keiichi Inamine. Marching up to the front gate of Camp Hansen, the demonstrators called on the US Army to stop the exercises and remove the facility, claiming that people living in the vicinity risk the danger of being hit by stray bullets.

According to Stars and Stripes Gov. Keiichi Inamine told the banner-carrying protestors gathered in a park near the Marine Corps base, that he’s indignant about the military beginning the training on Range 4. The new training complex there is too close to a residential area and the Okinawa Expressway, the governor said. “The training began by ignoring voices of Igei residents and people of Okinawa,” Inamine said, voicing concerns about stray bullets. “I will make every effort to stop the training at the urban warfare training facility.”

Also on hand was the Mayor of Kin, Tsuyoshi Gibu, who said the turnout proved the strong unity felt by the people of Okinawa toward stopping the training facility. “How on earth can they guarantee us safety,” he asked, “while the training site is so close to our community?”

At the end of the rally, the protesters unanimously agreed to demand the training facility be immediately closed and that all portions of Camp Hansen within Igei community limits be closed.

After the rally, protesters marched to Camp Hansen’s main gate. “We want the training facility be removed and if possible, the military base itself closed,” said Akemi Toyama of Igei, who joined in the rally with her children, ages 6 and 1. “When the military began the training, we could hear the noise from our home. It is very scary thinking that bullets might go astray any moment.”

Last Friday Japan's Okinawa prefectural assembly adopted a resolution opposing planned U.S. military exercises, including ones using live ammunition, at the new combat exercise facility. The resolution states that the planned drill at the facility, being close to residential areas, would expose nearby residents to the danger of being hit by stray bullets. It also states that using the facility for military exercises, even on a temporary basis, is not acceptable because doing so would ignore the fear and anxiety of local residents.

Stars and Stripes quotes Col. Victor Warzinski, U.S. Forces Japan spokesman who seems oblivious to the feelings of the people of Okinawa, “U.S. forces in Japan will continue to conduct mission-essential training to meet Japan-U.S. Security Treaty obligations in a safe, effective and efficient manner. The Army Training Range facility is essential to assuring that our forces receive the necessary training to meet our obligations to assist in the defense of Japan and to help provide stability in the region.” Sources: Stars and Stripes, Army Times, People’s Daily (China), CRI

Tear Down That Wall

Soldiers arrested a number of residents and international peace activists in the village of Bil'en near Ramallah yesterday as they protested the continued construction of the Wall of Separation. In addition, six persons were injured.

The International Solidarity Movement said that some of the protesters had closed a road in the area by tying themselves to iron boxes thus blocking the way for a number of bulldozers. A local source in the village reported to the International Middle East Media Center that dozens of residents and Israeli and international peace activists took part in the protest.

"Our massage is to tell the world about the Israeli violations that caused by the construction of the Wall on the Palestinian lands", one activist told WAFA.

Speaking with the Palestine News Network (PNN), Bil’en activist and member of the Popular Committee Against the Wall in Bil’en, Mohammad Khateeb explained the focus of the demonstrations. “We, of course, for the last 3 months, we’ve been going along with the same program of protesting the Wall. We are having nonviolent marches and demonstrations against the Wall and in each one there is a message for the international community and for the Israelis. The last idea in the march Tuesday was a wall built on the shoulders of the people. This idea is just to show how the Wall destroys the Palestinian people’s lives. Our plan to demonstrate will continue on Friday. Thousands are supposed to participate in this demonstration, with Knesset members and Israeli and foreign leftists, and also PLC members. In this demonstration we will only hold Palestinian flags to show Palestinian unity.”

Khateeb said the protest was also aimed to send a message to Palestinian residents: “Liberate their country first, then argue who liberated it.” Khateeb said he was referring to the recent clashes between Hamas and Fatah.

Activists in Bil’en have held nonviolent demonstrations against Israeli Wall construction and land confiscation regularly for the past three months.

Just last Friday, Switzerland, in its capacity as guardian of the Geneva Conventions, urged Israel to promise to dismantle its West Bank separation wall in the future. The Swiss report was requested by the General Assembly last year after the International Court in The Hague issued an advisory opinion on July 9, 2004, declaring Israel's construction of the wall to be illegal. On July 20, 2004, the Genera Assembly adopted The Hague’s ruling. Sources: Palestine News Network, Xinhua, International Middle East Media Center, WAFA (Palestine)

Religious Zealots Ready To March On Gaza

Lord knows I’ve tried to avoid even commenting on the right wing religious nuts trying to stop any pull out from the Gaza, but oh well.

Debka is reporting that the orders for tens of thousands of these folks to start marching from Kfar Maimon to Gush Katif is about to be given. Col. (Res.) Moshe Leshem, head of combined staff of the operation to halt the evacuation of Gaza Strip communities, promised the marchers will reach Gush Katif Wednesday night, July 20, on the third day of their protest. He pledged their demonstration would remain non-violent. ." A message issued by protest organizer Tzviki Bar-Hai and Ze'ev Hever, the head of the Emuna movement, announced, "We call upon the tens of thousands gathered at Kfar Maimon to be prepared to move out within an hour's notice."

These statements of defiance were in contradiction to one made by Bentzi Lieberman, a leading member of the settlers' Yesha Council, who said most of the protesters would leave so they could be home for the start of the Jewish sabbath tomorrow. Only a few hundred demonstrators would stay as a "forward base" for "various operational activities", he said.

The word in Kfar Maimon is that at approximately 7 PM (Israel time or about one hour ago or 12PM Central Standard Time), the signal will be given to head out of Kfar Maimon and towards Gush Katif. Rabbi Avraham Shapira is set to arrive for a 6 PM prayer service, to be followed by a mass gathering, and then the march will begin. Rabbi Shapira is a former Chief Rabbi and recently called on Israeli soldiers to refuse orders to remove settlers from the Gaza.

Rabbi Menachem Listman of the Machon Meir Institute in Jerusalem said that this morning, there was a "public town hall meeting" of leading rabbis and Yesha Council officials. "Amidst the speeches, it was clear to all of us that the rabbis are constantly guiding the decisions being made here. There are rabbis with different opinions who are sitting together - Rabbi Chaim Druckman, Rabbi David Dudkevitz, and Rabbi Reuven Netanel of Atzmonah - and are all guided by [former Chief] Rabbi Avraham Shapira in Jerusalem."

A Border Police commander told Israel Army Radio they’d put a halt to the march by encircling the settler encampment which is what they’ve been doing for the past few days. The police announced yesterday (Tuesday) that despite their "forbearance" until now, they would under no circumstances allow the protestors to continue towards Gush Katif.

We’ll see. Sources: Haaretz, Arutz 7, DEBKA, The Age (Australia)


As the OD goes the press DEBKA is reporting:

"Despite the high drama of an imminent confrontation, DEBKAfile’s sources in the protest movement report that there are no plans to break through the Kfar Maimon exits Wednesday night, July 20, or risk a clash with the police and the military that could touch off a stampede among the tens of thousands of men, women and children in the encampment."

"Tens of thousands of anti-evacuation demonstrators are standing eyeball to eyeball at the gates of Kfar Maimon facing 20,000 police and troops in a solid phalanx. The demonstration’s leaders insist they will march on Gush Katif and the police is equally determined to stop the unauthorized protest."

"The suspense built up for three days of an imminent collision between the orange mass and the men in blue and khaki is part of a war of attrition the anti-evacuation movement is waging against government forces. New crises will be manufactured every day to wear the troops down in the less than a month remaining until 21 communities are withdrawn from the Gaza Strip."

"Although so far the demonstration has obeyed the rules of non-violence, the suspense among the caged mass of people in burning heat is such that an unforeseen spark or an impulsive move on either side could torpedo this plan."

And from Haaretz:

"An anti-pullout march to the Gaza settlement bloc of Gush Katif appeared to have turned into a mass sit-in Wednesday night, as protesters and security forces faced off on opposites sides of a fence surrounding a protest encampment in the Negev town of Kfar Maimon."

"Police Southern District commander Uri Bar Lev refused rabbis' requests to let them march to Gush Katif, saying "we can't allow" it and asking them not to make the situation more difficult for the security forces - whom he called "the brothers and sons of all of us."

And from the Jerusalem Post there is this:

"Southern District police chief Cmdr. Uri Bar-Lev rejected the latest pleas from settler leaders Wednesday night to open the gates of Kfar Maimon and allow the right-wing activists, who have been there since Monday, to march towards Gush Katif."

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Serena Southerlyn for Supreme Court

Don't forget to tune out tonight at 9PM Eastern, when President George "I know how hard it is for you to put food on your family" Bush tells us just what right wing gas bag he is putting on the Supreme Court.

If you're looking for something judicial, may I suggest instead watching a re-run of “Law and Order” whose ADA Serena Southerlyn is my candidate for the the vacant Justice position.

The bio:

ADA Serena Southerlyn became an Assistant District Attorney, under Executive Assistant District Attorney Jack McCoy following the departure of ADA Abbie Carmichael.

In contrast to the often bracingly conservative Carmichael, Southerlyn was an idealistic liberal much in the vein of Claire Kincaid and Jamie Ross. She often disagreed and fought with McCoy over their trial strategies in cases where she saw the defendant's crime as a byproduct of social circumstances, such as homelessness or racism. She had an especially antagonistic relationship with DA Arthur Branch.

Southerlyn was brought before the Bar association's Disciplinary Committee in 2003 after promising a murder suspect who had taken hostages legal help to get him to release them. McCoy, who had once been brought before the Committee himself, represented her. She was reprimanded, but kept her law license.

Doctors Attacked For Their Troubles in Iraq and Israel

In Baghdad dozens of doctors have walked out of one of that city’s busiest hospitals to protest abuse by Iraqi soldiers. According to Reuters the physicians say the troubles stated “when soldiers barged into a woman's wing at Yarmouk Hospital, opened curtains and conducted searches as patients lay in their beds on Monday.”

One physician said, a soldier began intimidating and abusing him. "Before he left he said, 'Why are you looking in disapproval?' Then he came and punched me lightly on my arm before sticking his rifle into my stomach and cocking it. I stayed quiet but relatives of the patients told him to calm down before pulling him out of the room. Just then, four more soldiers came in and pointed a rifle at my head. At that point I became scared and begged them to leave me alone."

Another physician Asaad Hindi commented, “We know the citizens may be a little upset but we have our rights too and we can't operate and provide a service to people if we feel under threat.”

And relatives of many patients were upset with the entire situation.

Khalid al-Girtani said he was angry because his 57-year-old father Mahmoud had been ignored all day.

"My father has a stroke and no doctor is here to see him, just look at him! This is ridiculous," he said as his father lay in bed with breathing tubes in his nostrils.

Some patients sympathized with the doctors, despite their medical needs.

"I'm ill and I haven't seen the doctor all day. All I need is a signature from him so I can get an X-ray that I need to see what's wrong with my neck. I think they have every right to strike though, our doctors shouldn't be abused," said Salman Thahir, a frail old man sitting on his bed.

Ministry of Defense officials were not available for comment on the incident despite repeated requests.

Iraq’s hospitals, needless to say, have been overwhelmed by victims of suicide bombings and shootings. Yarmouk, a run-down, sparsely equipped building, has treated many of Baghdad's worst cases. Overcrowded with patients and staff, it's emergency room hosts a frenzy of activity every day. It doesn’t need soldiers harassing its staff and patients.

While I’m on the subject of doctors lets move the conversation a little to the west. On June 6, Dr. Ahmad Maslamani, Director of the Health Work Committees, was arrested by Israeli security forces in his home in Jerusalem. The Israeli special forces involved in Dr. Maslamani’s arrest seized a number of private possessions from his home, such as family pictures, a camera and a video tape.

Dr. Maslamani was arrested before by the Israeli occupation authority and was imprisoned for 16 months. He was released in March 2003.

Dr. Maslamani is well-known for his involvement in providing medical services to Palestinian children and women in the remote and under siege areas.

The last report I could find on Dr. Maslamani came from the Health Work Committees. It read:

“We want to thank you for your solidarity letters with Dr. Ahmad Maslamani, the general director of the Health Work Committees, who has been arrested by the Israeli Authorities on the 6.6.2005. Dr. Maslamani is since then in prison waiting for trial. Dr. Maslamani was brought in front of several judges on different days but they all postponed the verdict till coming Sunday, the 10.7.2005.

”The charges brought against Dr. Maslamani by the Israeli authorities are of an insignificant value so that the first court was willing to send him home, except for the interference of the secret police, who believe that they are standing higher than the judicial system. (In fact they are!)

”We believe that Dr. Maslamani is being punished because he is a very active member of the civil society, and because of his activism regarding the rights of the people to health and freedom of movement and for his activity against the Apartheid wall. And finally because he is from Jerusalem.

”It is a shame that the Israeli Authorities are keeping Dr. Maslamani in prison since over a month away from his family, home and work. It is to be feared that the Israeli courts are going to keep on postponing the court sessions in order to punish Dr. Maslamani, as they have no substantial material to indict him.

”We are asking you again to stand in solidarity with Dr. Maslamani and to write petitions and protest letters to the Israeli Government and government representatives.

”We demand the release of Dr. Maslamani immediately.”
Sources: Reuters, Dirty Tricks, International Bureau for Humanitarian NGOs, Gush Shalom, Palestinian NGO Network, Health Now, My Way News

Where Is Ryami?

An Omani playwright and human rights activist has not been seen since he presented himself last week to the police for interrogation. Abdullah Ryami's family says they have not heard from him and have been unable to get any information on his whereabouts from the police since July 12. The police have also denied the family the opportunity to hire a lawyer for him. An Omani official told AFP that Ryami was called in “in to explain certain issues which he considers important in the field of human rights." The same official stated, "Ryami comes up with statements and commits acts that are in breach of law and regulations. Such statements are also incorrect and contradict the position of Omani citizens.”

The forty year old poet first emerged as a human rights activist after he became active in the defense of 31 Islamists who were convicted of plotting to overthrow the government. Those men were later pardoned by Oman's Sultan Qaboos.

The demand for Ryami to report to the authorities came just before a court verdict was due on former parliamentarian and journalist, Tayba Ma'wali, who was charged by the government with insulting public officials via telephone and Internet. AKI reports that Ma'wali was sentenced to a year and a half in prison on July 13 for charges which include violating article 61 of Oman's press law, which stipulates that any person "who sends a message via a means of communication that is contrary to the governing system and public morals or that is knowingly untrue...shall be punished by a prison sentence of not more than one year and a fine of not more than 1,000 (Omani) Riyals." Omani had helped to publicize the case.

Human Rights Watch said today that the incommunicado detention of Ryami exposes Oman’s weak legal protections and due process provisions. The Omani penal code allows broadly and vaguely defined charges against national security to be prosecuted before the State Security Court, where defendants enjoy fewer due process rights, such as sufficient time to review the evidence against them, and whose proceedings are frequently closed to the public.

"The Omani authorities should immediately inform `Abdullah Ryami's family of his whereabouts," said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. "They must release him or charge him with a crime, and must respect his rights to an attorney and for his family members to visit him."

“Taybah Ma`wali and `Abdullah Ryami are on the frontlines of defending the freedom of assembly and expression as well as the right to a fair trial in Oman,” said Whitson. “It is a bitter irony that the Omani authorities should seek to silence them by using the same outmoded laws, unlawful detentions and closed trials that Ma`wali and Ryami have tried to expose.”

Omani government officials already had informally barred Ryami and Mohamed Harthi, a columnist and poet, from writing for newspapers or producing plays for television following their critique of the Omani democratic reform process during an interview in July 2004 with the Iranian TV station, al-`Alam. In the interview, they criticized Oman’s outmoded press law, among other things.

The International Press Institute has written that while Oman may have some reformist tendencies it is reluctant to create an open and free media environment. "The government maintains a firm grip on the state media and journalists are often uncomfortable with expressing views that may be contrary to those holding the reins of power. Journalists and writers who do express themselves freely on everyday matters of political and social life have found themselves ostracized and blacklisted. Such actions are often carried out by word of mouth allowing the government to claim that it is not interfering with the media.” Sources: International Press Association, Human Rights Watch, AKI, AFP, Reuters Alert

Something is Rotten on the South Side of Buffalo, New York

The International Action Center (AIC) led a car caravan through a south Buffalo neigborhood last night protesting a racially motivated attack which took place there over the weekend. The cars carried signs which read "Stop Racist Attacks" and "No Tolerance For the KKK" as they drove through the Seneca-Babcock neighborhood where the assault took place.

Art Robinson, a local block club president, says he feels racism is being perpetrated in the area by outsiders, like drug dealers. He told WGRZ, "I want people to know we are all one neighborhood, we should work together." Robinson added, “I don't care if you're black, white, yellow, green, red, it don't matter. We all live here; we should all have a quality of life to live together.”

Not all of Robinson’s neighbors seemed as concerned.

A local resident identified only as Mike told WKBW, “To them, we're the enemy. The signs are wrong. There's no racism here. I'm not KKK, no one here is KKK. I'm an Irish-Catholic. They hate me just as much as they do blacks."

Another local resident, Tristen, said, “Well they are attacking us with this crap that they got on their signs. What kind of crap is that? They say that we're racism (sic) and they're not attacking us? That hurts my feelings when I hear I'm a racist.”

Tristen and Mike were part of a group of locals that verbally clashed with the protesters in the car caravan.

Early Saturday morning, Buffalo police say a hate crime was committed in the Seneca-Babcock neighborhood. Police say five men beat, yelled racial slurs and threw bricks at the home of the victim, Brian Hunt whose family has now moved out of the neighborhood.

But still, many in the neighborhood refer to the attack as “self defense.”

The weekend assault, however, was just the latest incident.

The truth of the matter, according to IAC is, “Over and over in recent months, African-American families in the Seneca-Babcock neighborhood of Buffalo have withstood smashed windows, thrown bricks, screaming threats and name-calling, and now brutal beatings---from gangs of white racist youth. KKK graffiti are defacing the neighborhood.”

IAC’s Beverly Hiestand said,“Bricks going through people's windows, racist slurs to black people walking down the street, people being kept out of the store by youth and so forth because they are people of color. Told if they don't get out of the neighborhood they're going to be killed."

The Buffalo News reports today that police have arrested five white men and charged them in the beating. Charged with felony second-degree assault and misdemeanor criminal possession of a weapon were:

• James P. Tracy, 21, of the first block of Imson Street.

• Henry M. Rytel, 20, of the 200 block of Babcock Street.

• Sean M. Braven, 19, of the first block of Marion Street.

• Matthew J. Helmbrecht, 16, of the 100 block of Orlando Street.

• Richard B. Schutt, 22, of the first block of Stephenson Street, West Seneca.

Sources: WKBW (Buffalo), WGRZ (Buffalo), IMC (Buffalo), Buffalo News

Monday, July 18, 2005

Bolivia: The Evo Debate

The following was lifted from BLOG FROM BOLIVIA

The Evo Debate – by Jim Shultz

Maybe it is what happens when Bolivian politics gets looked at through the prism of a US political culture driven by personality. Pick up almost any current analysis of Bolivian politics written abroad and it would seem like the political world here revolves around one person, MAS party leader Evo Morales.

Analysts on the left cast him as a charismatic leader who represents rising indigenous power and new wave Latin American socialism all in one. Critics on the right love to demonize him as a Hugo Chavez stooge who is pushing Bolivian democracy to the brink.

But here’s what you see when you start to get close up and especially if you talk to the other actors in Bolivia’s social movements who are trying to figure out how to deal with him. What Evo Morales really is….is a politician.

Morales first rose to prominence as head of the Chapare-based coca growers unions and then rode a wave of Bolivian anger over imported economic policies to become the close second place finisher in the 2002 Presidential elections. He also got a big political boost when the US Ambassador at the time publicly threatened Bolivia with a cutoff of aid if they voted Evo to power. Morales joked that the Ambassador was his campaign manager.

Who is Evo Morales in Bolivian politics today?

First, despite a lot of foreign claims otherwise, he was not the initiator of the recent national blockades and protests demanding that Bolivia recover its gas and oil reserves. The credit there (regardless of what you think of the protests) goes to the neighborhood organizations in El Alto and the Aymara pueblos in the altiplano. Morales scrambled to get in on the action, at the head of a hastily organized march from Cochabamba and when he arrived in El Alto he was not warmly received. Morales had, long before, abandoned street tactics for Congressional negotiation on the gas issue and had abandoned the calls for “nationalization” in favor of focusing on the demand for a 50% tax on the multinationals. I heard the words “Evo” and “sell-out” used in the same sentence a lot more than once.

Second, I think that Evo has about as much chance of becoming President of Bolivia after next December’s elections as I have of being Bush’s pick for the US Supreme Court. There are three main candidates running. They include former President Tuto Quiroga (who has decided to move back to Bolivia for a while from the US, to run for the top job), Burger King owner Samuel Doria Medina, who finally gets to run on his own after playing second fiddle for a decade to Jaime Paz Zamora in the MIR party (which Medina has now abandoned), and Morales. Former Cochabamba Mayor Manfred Reyes Villa may also run, but he seems almost irrelevant.

To win you need either 51% of the popular vote, which Evo will never get, or you have to put together a coalition deal that gets you to 51% of the Congress to elect you. My prediction is that Tuto will finish first and within 24 hours Medina will find himself in a chair across a desk from the US Ambassador being told how important it is to form a coalition with Quiroga, echoes of the game that put together Goni’s majority in 2002.

Third, the most heated debate over Evo Morales can be found not on Bolivia’s political right but its left. On one side the argument goes: Evo botched whatever leadership opportunity he had on the gas issue the last two years, he isn’t trustworthy, and he is going nowhere politically, having alienated the middle class on the one side (by being seen as too radical) and a chunk of his natural base on the other (by being viewed as a sellout). On the other side the argument goes: Evo is the best chance there is for a consolidated campaign from the left. Instead of complaining that he isn’t politically pure (that holy grail that social movements in any country look for and never find in Presidential candidates), movement leaders should exchange political support for specific promises from MAS and Evo on both policy and the way he would govern. The debate here on the left is whether there should be another candidate besides Evo.

All this reminds me so much of places like South Africa and Brazil (I have spent significant time working in both places) where progressive movements finally won power after many years of waiting. Get close to progressives in South Africa and they’ll tell you that the ANC didn’t need to be shoved into neoliberal economics by the World Bank and the IMF. The party did it themselves. So now you have water privatization and water cutoffs in Johannesburg, all courtesy of the ANC. Get close to progressives in Brazil and they will tell you that Lula seems almost like a Washington Consensus cheerleader.

What is the point?

All this trashing from the right of “Evo the Barbarian” and lauding from the left of “Evo the Indigenous Hero” is really just lazy analysis. It is stuck in August of 2002 and for those who may not have noticed, it isn’t 2002 anymore, not in Bolivia at least. In the odd world of Bolivian politics, so deeply polarized by ideology and sectoral and regional interests, Evo seems more and more like a politician trying to engage in a political balancing act (trying to expand his base in the middle and keep his base on the left) and not doing especially well at either.

Bolivian politics isn’t about personality these days. If it were, then Carlos Mesa would still be President. It is about two issues that are splitting apart the nation – how to develop the country’s gas and oil and how to bring the nation’s poor and indigenous majority out of the political margins. No national election is going to change that and none of the candidates running look to be any better than Mesa was at leading the country toward some resolution.

My guess is that a year from now we’ll look back on election 2005 as an unplanned and unsought national political detour and we’ll be back again to the kinds of conflicts we saw here in June, but this time with a President (Quiroga) who has demonstrated already his easy hand at responding to protest with the bullet.
Jim Shultz is executive director of The Democracy Center in Cochabamba, Bolivia. He is the author, most recently, of The Democracy Owners' Manual (Rutgers).


"Texas Chainsaw Massacre"

The battle continues over the Hobson timber sale in the Siskiyou National Forest.

A log cabin erected by protesters trying to block logging on the timber sale area in southwestern Oregon was removed by loggers and U.S. Forest Service officials. The cabin was erected this past weekend in the middle of the only road leading to the Hobson timber sale in the Siskiyou National Forest. KGW reports that the Forest Service used equipment provided by loggers, including a skidder and a front-end loader, to push the log cabin aside. Laura Sutherlin, a spokesperson for the activist, told KGW that there were about 40 protesters on the site at the time. Oregon Live says that it was unclear if any arrests were made, but the Josephine County Sheriff's Office said no activists had been taken to its jail.

As the cabin was constructed earlier in the weekend, the forest activists declared the area the "Siskiyou Free State."

The Siskiyou area is the site of the 2002 Biscuit Fire that burned through 500,000 acres of forest.

Cascadia Rising says Bush is using fire hysteria to launch an attack on western forests and reap the profits from corporate logging interests of which Siskiyou National Forest is just one front.

The Oxygen Collective points out that, “The area is home to botanical species found nowhere else in the world; the Siskiyou is considered the last wild place in the continental United States.”

According to the collective, sporadic forest fires are natural and healthy processes, renewing wilderness areas and spurring re-growth.

“Fires have contributed to the diversity of this land for 10,000 years,” said Oxygen Collective member Lesley Adams during the slide show. “Land needs fire like fish need water.”

The Collective says that although a variety of measures were taken to fight the Biscuit Fire, it eventually burned out on its own. The collective said that more fire damage could actually be attributed to fires started intentionally to create a fire line. The areas where dead trees were hauled away have failed to grow back as quickly due to the lack of nutrients from burnt material. Areas that had been logged and replanted were completely wiped out because the trees had been placed too close together.

“When Bush came to announce his healthy forests policy, it was like a dark force spreading over the land,” said Oxygen Collective member Rolf Skar. “And they are coming in a big way.”

Skar said that most people assume the Siskiyou is a protected area. In other regions that have fallen under healthy forest policies, forestry services have claimed they will pluck out small trees and then have proceeded to saw down trees that have stood for hundreds of years. Thinning out small trees proved to be too expensive, and as a result the forestry service removed the most fire-resistant ones, Skar said.

“Logging opens up the canopy to sunlight that dries out the land,” he added. “This makes the area only more vulnerable to fire.”

Logging operations also require the construction of roads, which means more bulldozers and more erosion, he added. Runoff water is often contaminated and washes into larger rivers that provide spawning habitat for salmon.

The goals of the impending Biscuit Fire Recovery Project — termed the Texas Chainsaw Massacre by collective members due to the involvement of the Bush administration — include logging 20,000 acres of old-growth reserves and 12,179 acres of inventoried roadless forest; as well as creating 50,200 acres of artificial flammable tree plantations.

According to Oxygen Collective representatives, the project will violate the Clean Water Act, further endanger dwindling salmon populations and actually increase the risk of fire for surrounding communities.

“No one has ever seen anything like this before,” Skar said. “This is more logging than has ever been proposed in a national forest. Fire is just their smoke screen to log. It flies in the face of science, public opinion and common sense.”

Coming up Wednesday for those in the area the film, Truth and Lies of the Biscuit will be shown for free at the Green Room on the corner of 5th and J in Grants Pass at 7:00 PM. Sources: Cascadia Rising, KGW (Oregon), Oregon Live, Rouge Valley IMC

The Boys Speak

Can’t drive. Can’t learn sports in public schools. No ballet either. Yup, you guessed it were talking about women in Saudi Arabia, close friend and ally of that champion of democracy known as the President of the United States of America.

Now, more than 100 sheikhs, imams, judges, Islamic scholars, university teachers, and several heads of Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice centers in Saudi Arabia have signed a statement warning against the dangers of allowing women to drive in the kingdom. That grand group says that "the enemies of Islam" are trying to destroy the great role women have been given in Islam by corrupting them and therefore also corrupting the Islamic world.

These guys, and to be sure they are guys, are up in arms according to AKI over that proposal the OD reported on earlier by Shuria Council member Muhammad al-Zulfa to lift the ban on women drivers (or non drivers, to be more accurate).

The boys also said in the statement that the ruling in Islam that “closing all doors leads to corruption” was clear and was for the protection of people and society. “Women driving cars is not permissible because the ruling of ‘closing doors that leads to corruption’ applies to it directly.”

You figure that one out, I can't.

The fellows also fear that allowing women to drive would lead to multiple car ownership in families and then the government would also have to open up special female sections in all traffic departments (I presume because women applying for licenses or paying tickets couldn't talk to men).

The menfolk also points to the ruling in Islam which says that if an act derives more misdeeds, then it is not permissible, though there is no explanation of what misdeeds women driving would cause, reports the Arab News .

One of the signatories, Sheikh Muhammad Al-Ghamdi, head of the Commission of the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice in Al-Mikhwah in Al-Baha region, told the Arab News a group of righteous (hmm - my comment not his) people approached him and other sheikhs in the region to include their signature to the statement. “They showed us the statement and we read it and agreed with its contents. That is why we signed it,” he said. “I was told that the statement would be delivered to the leaders of our country. But I had no idea that it was posted on the Internet,” he added.

While all this was going on, the Saudi Education Ministry, not to be outdone, banned the teaching of ballet and sports in public schools for girls to conform to Islamic rules. Education Minister Abdullah bin Saleh Abeed confirmed the report. However, he offered a glimmer of great enlightment and said, "there will be a specialized academy for gifted girls in those fields in the near future." What a deal. Sources: Arab News (Saudi Arabia), Science Daily, AKI

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Act NOW! Canada: A Sodexho hospital job is a passport to poverty

Act NOW!
Canada: A Sodexho hospital job is a passport to poverty

Health care unions are bargaining with the Paris-based multinational Sodexho for a first collective agreement covering 1,100 workers who clean hospitals and feed patients in British Columbia, Canada. In this recently privatized sector of health care, wages have been cut nearly in half. As a result, a Sodexho hospital job is a passport to poverty for a workforce that is predominately female. Sodexho workers want a fair contract and a decent wage. But the message from Sodexho at the bargaining table is clear: Let them eat cake.


• The French corporation Sodexho is under contract to several health authorities and care facilities to provide a range of support services. Sodexho bid on contracts that were tendered after the B.C. Liberal government passed Bill 29 in 2002. That law removed long-standing contracting out provisions from health care collective agreements.

• The Hospital Employees’ Union represents approximately 1,450 members employed by Sodexho and working in health facilities throughout the Lower Mainland, in the Fraser Valley and on the Sunshine Coast and south Vancouver Island.

• As a result of organizing campaigns carried out since 2002, HEU now represents more than 3,400 employees of foreign corporations including Sodexho that have been contracted by health employers to provide health support services.

• The current round of bargaining with Sodexho began on March 11. The two sides are currently using a mediator to help reach a first collective agreement.

• HEU Sodexho members:
o clean operating rooms and special care nurseries and are an integral part of the infection control team in Fraser Health Authority hospitals;
o prepare meals for patients recovering in hospital and to residents living in care homes throughout the Vancouver Coastal Health Authority; and
o provide housekeeping, laundry and dietary services to frail seniors in residential care facilities in Richmond, Vancouver, Coquitlam and Victoria.

• Nearly 90 per cent earn wages of $10.15 an hour. That means that a full-time Sodexho worker supporting two children falls more than $10,000 below the poverty line established by Statistics Canada.

• An April 2005, Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives report – The Pains of Privatization – concludes that “a privatized health support job in BC is virtually synonymous with poverty.” The study also found that:
o many contract workers live paycheque-to-paycheque
o over 40 per cent have at least one other job and most are looking for additional work
o nearly 50 per cent intend to leave their jobs within six months
o exhaustion, illness and injury was widespread – over 60 per cent fell sick or were hurt on the job, and
o with no job security and minimal sick time, more than half came to work unwell.

• Last year, Sodexho’s Paris-based top exec, chief operating officer Michel Landel, pocketed more than $1.4 million (983,541 Euros) in salary and fringe benefits – a 16 per cent increase over the previous year.

• Over the next decade, BC taxpayers will shell out $400 million to Sodexho.

• Surely Sodexho can afford to give workers a fair contract and a decent wage.

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