Friday, July 29, 2005

First The Desert Came For the Poor, Then It Came For Me

Say adios to Spain…and lots of other places, too.

According to a recently released report from the United Nations, the deserts of Africa are poised to jump the Mediterranean and up to a third of Spain could soon become desert. Global warming, as well as overgrazing, bad irrigation practices and unchecked building development along the coasts are being blamed.

More than 90% of land bordering the Mediterranean from Almeria in the south to Tarragona in the north is considered to be at high risk. But that figure climbs to almost 100% in Alicante and Murcia.

Age is reporting, “After the poorest winter rain in 60 years, the capacity of Spanish rivers has fallen by 41 per cent. In Almanzora, in the south-east, long considered the "garden of Europe" for its prolific olive groves and vegetable crops, the reservoirs are dry. It has not rained in 15 years.”

A recent editorial in the conservative ABC newspaper put the implications in simple terms. "If things continue like this, we won't need to go to Africa to enjoy the tranquility of the desert. We can just go to the Canary Islands, Valencia or Murcia."

And while the country dries up, in Madrid alone, the capital's 28 golf courses use as much water in a day as a city of 100,000.

And on the other side of the globe, a remote sensing survey has shown that the desert area of the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, also called the roof of the world, has dramatically increased over the past three decades. The desert areas looked at are mainly in the northern Tibet Plateau, basins in southern Tibet including the upper and middle reaches of Yarlung Zangbo River and its major branches including the lower reaches of Nyangqu River, Lhasa River and Nyang River, and the Qaidam Basin, Gonghe Basin and Qinghai Lake areas.

Salinized soil covers 79,373 sq km, about three percent of the region's total area, and approximately 20,069 sq km or 20.2 percent less than in the 1970s. The disappeared salinized land was believed to have turned into desert, according to experts.

Grassland on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau has also decreased. Grassland shrank to 43,742 sq km in 2002 from 57,814 sq km in the 1970s, down about 14,072 sq km or 24.3 percent from the 1970s. Experts ascribed the grassland reduction to desert expansion. Who’d of thunk it?

Those same experts have concluded global warming has caused less rainfall in Qinghai-Tibet Plateau which has degraded the environment in the area. Increased human activities are also blamed for the environmental changes.

Xinhua reports due to its special geological structure, the "roof of the world" is vulnerable to environmental changes and each environmental index change in the area will inevitably be followed by world climate and environmental changes.

But why stop there.

Research presented recently in the journal Science says that global warming could be spreading desert like conditions out from Africa’s southern sand dune systems destroying the livelihoods of hundreds of thousands of people.

Large parts of interior southern Africa stretching from northern South Africa to Angola, Zambia and beyond are made up of stabilized sand dunes. They are at least partially covered in vegetation and support a growing population of herders and farmers.

But the new research predicts widespread reactivation of these dunes as average rainfall declines, droughts increase and wind strengths pick up in the coming decades — something last seen 14 000-16 000 years ago.

The study conducted by British-based researchers David Thomas, Giles Wiggs and Melanie Knight considered a number of different climate and emissions scenarios. "By the time you get to 2070, regardless of the model used, you get a landscape that is more desert-like than today," Thomas said in a telephone interview reported in the Mail and Guardian. "Life will potentially be very difficult."

The movement of dunes is driven by two key environmental factors: wind strength and the dunes' susceptibility to erosion, which in turn is influenced by the level of rain fall and vegetation cover.

Based on observed dune activity over 20 years of fieldwork in the Kalahari region, the team was able to simulate how three dune fields would respond to different climate scenarios and a range of possible emission levels, Thomas said.

There are widespread predictions that the coming decades will see increased drought and wind in this region, accompanied by an overall decline in rainfall, though punctuated with incidents of extreme rainfall in some areas.

But even if moisture levels increase, it will be balanced by heightened evaporation as temperatures get warmer, and the dune fields will progressively become exposed and start moving, Thomas argued.

The researchers predict this would happen first — possibly as soon as 2039 — in the southern, driest areas and spread progressively northward, reaching into northern Botswana, eastern Namibia and western Zimbabwe and western Zambia by 2069.

"This is a very important [the above study] that shows how currently semi-arid area may respond to global warming," said Nicholas Lancaster, a research professor at the Division of Earth and Ecosystem Sciences at the Desert Research Institute, based in Reno, Nevada. "The implications for southern Africa are huge—especially for cattle herders, wildlife, and tourism," Lancaster added.

I guess.

The problem of world wide desertification threatens to send millions of people fleeing for “greener pastures.

The UN says one-third of the Earth's surface is at risk.

"It's a creeping catastrophe," said Michel Smitall, a spokesman for the U.N. secretariat that oversees the 1994 accord (Convention to Combat Desertification). "Entire parts of the world might become uninhabitable."

"Desertification has emerged as a global problem affecting everyone," said Zafar Adeel, assistant director of the UN University's water academy. Two billion people live in drylands vulnerable to desertification, ranging from northern Africa to swathes of central Asia, he said.

And desertification means increasing health problems linked to dust, reduced farm production and poverty according to an extensive UN study.

Infant mortality in drylands in developing nations averaged 54 children per 1000 live births in 2000, double the rate in other poor regions and 10 times the rate in industrial nations.

"An increase in desertification-related dust storms is widely considered to be a cause of ill-health - fever, coughing, sore eyes - during the dry season," it said.

And dust from the Gobi Desert in Mongolia could affect people as far away as Japan or Hawaii. Some scientists estimate that a billion tons of dust can be lifted from the Sahara region into the atmosphere every year.

Dust particles can also carry bacteria and fungi. Dust-borne microorganisms from Africa were believed to have damaged coral reefs in the Caribbean.

"Bedouins in Israel are known to be infected by spores of fungi and bacteria transported by dust," he said.

Some dust carries toxins like pesticides from around the Aral Sea.

And dust storms from Africa can damage plants' ability to grow as far away as Florida by muting the sunlight.

And the poorest countries where food is scarcest will find it increasingly difficult to feed themselves as global warming exacerbates desertification and drought.

"Climate change will have a tremendous impact on food security, especially in Africa and also in some parts of Asia and Latin America," said Wulf Killmann who chairs the Inter-Departmental Working Group on Biological Diversity in Food and Agriculture of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.

And, of course, adds Killmann, "Those who are already suffering from hunger will be suffering even more." Sources: Water Conserve, Age (Australia), Xinhua, Guardian, Mail and Guardian (South Africa), National Geographic, Salt Lake Tribune, Australian, Reuters

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Historic IRA Statement Was Read By Séanna Walsh

The historic IRA statement (SCROLL DOWN TO READ FULL TEXT OF IRA STATEMENT) was visually recorded and read by Séanna Walsh at the request of the leadership of Óglaigh na hÉireann.

Séanna served over 21 years as a Republican Prisoner of War in both the Cages and the H-Blocks of Long Kesh. He was among the first republicans 'on the blanket' after his arrest in 1976, the year the British Labour Government began its policy of attempting to criminalise IRA prisoners. Séanna was a friend and cellmate of Bobby Sands, the Officer Commanding in the H-Blocks and the first of the Hunger Strikers who died in 1981.

Since his release Séanna Breatnach has played a key role working with Sinn Féin's negotiating team and advancing the republican peace strategy.

Source: An Phoblach

Ruairi O Bradaigh President of Republican Sinn Fein (dissident group) On IRA Statement

Provisional IRA Should Disband Completely’
Statement By Ruairi O Bradaigh President of Republican Sinn Fein

Today’s (July 28 ) statement from the Provisionals is the logical outcome of the change of direction they made in 1986 when they deserted the revolutionary road and started out on the constitutional path through the partitionist institutions north and south. (FULL IRA STATMENT CAN BE FOUND BELOW - SCROLL DOWN)

It has been clear for many years that the Provisionals have abandoned the armed struggle against British occupation forces. They will now destroy the remainder of their arms, they say.
As an army alleged to be without arms, the Provisional IRA should now disband completely.

But a rump will remain at local level to continue the harassment of faithful Republicans who fundraise for the prisoner’s dependents, distribute Easter lilies, sell the SAOIRSE newspaper or picket for political status for Republican prisoners.

This harassment can be expected to increase into persecution when the Provos finally don the enemy uniform and join the ranks of the British police force in Ireland. This will be a far cry from the heroic strip-strike by the blanket men in the H-Blocks of Long Kesh.

The Provisional slogans of ‘No Unionist Veto’, ‘No Return to Stormont’ and ‘Not a Bullet not an Ounce’, ring very hollowly now. How on earth can British rule in Ireland be ended, as the Provos claim, by accepting and implementing that rule through Stormont and other partitionist institutions?

As Republican Sinn Fein has forecast they are being slowly and steadily absorbed into the English system in Ireland. Today’s statement may improve their chances of taking part in a coalition administration in Leinster House but will hardly help them towards a Stormont Executive.

Dr Paisley’s DUP will demand very humiliating conditions from the Provos before allowing them to participate. Eventually they will be unrecognisable.

The Provisionals should discard the trappings of the Republicanism they once served. Like Cumann na nGaedheal\Fine Gael, Fianna Fail and the Workers Party they have betrayed it. They are no longer Republicans.

32 County Sovereignty Movement On IRA Statement

Press Release: 32 County Sovereignty Movement.
28 July 2005.

PIRA statement ‘neither surprising nor historic’

The 32 County Sovereignty Movement do not view today’s statement by the Provisional Movement as surprising nor do we believe that it is in anyway historic (FULL IRA STATMENT CAN BE FOUND BELOW - SCROLL DOWN). This statement is merely the logical conclusion in a process signed up to by the Provisionals in April 1998. In negotiation that led to the Good Friday Agreement all issues such as Decommissioning and the issue of PIRA’s future were dealt with otherwise an agreement would not have been reached in the first place.

Having accepted that Britain had a right to claim sovereignty in the 6 counties and having accepted that the political views of Unionism had the right to veto political change in Ireland, the Provisional movement are now acting in accordance with what it was they initially signed up to. If Provisional Sinn Fein and the Provisional IRA, who supported them at every turn, truly accepted the terms of the GFA, then today’s statement cannot be viewed by republicans as surrender but rather as the final act of a surrender that started many years ago.

The reality of the situation for the Provisionals is that having been constituted to defend the sovereignty of the Irish nation, they have usurped that sovereignty and in the signing of the GFA and releasing statements such as today’s while Britain still claims sovereignty in Ireland and has thousands of armed troops in support of that claim, they have abdicated the national position. In acting in the manner that they have the Provisionals have admitted that the GFA has the ability to settle the constitutional issue of the north, which quite clearly it has not.

The 32 County Sovereignty Movement believe that Irish sovereignty and the national position will be defended regardless of what the Provisional movement does in the future and we urge all republicans to embrace republican principles by upholding and defending the sovereignty of the Irish nation.

IRA Move Gives Peace A Chance

Following an editorial from the Ulster Herald which came out just prior to the IRA's historic announcment today. (See the full IRA Announcment several articles below)

AS loyalist hoodlums lined Belfast streets to intimidate their rivals in full view of the police this week, the pasty, watery condemnations from mainstream unionism were a glaring contrast to the invective being hurled at republicans. Even as the IRA prepares to deliver what should be a definitive commitment to peace, the truth is that many unionist leaders maintain an ambivalence about loyalist paramilitary violence - even at its most horrific. They consider it as a ‘response‘ to IRA violence by a reserve force of the state.

So as we await news from the IRA that its violence has ended for all time, there is no such deadline for ending loyalist violence. For too long, the sole focus has been on silent IRA arms while UVF, UDA and LVF weapons blazed away.

It should go without saying that there has always been more than one side to the conflict. Most nationalists believe that fact has been ignored.

So more than ten years after the ceasefire announcements, huge segments of loyalism imagine that they function as a sort of peace-time Mafia. Their vicious, cruel, and psychotic deeds have, perversely, been glorified in a few Sunday tabloids. Many recognised leaders - past and present - have been elevated to the status of community heroes. Vicious hoodlums, who have publicly flaunted their immunity from arrest, would have been seen as callous murders in any normal society.

As of this weekend, local and international opprobrium should be redirected where it belongs. Likewise, British agencies which have conducted black operations throughout the Troubles, even to the present day, must also go away. At a time when conflict seems to be gripping more and more of the world, Ireland has long since earned its right to peace.

Meanwhile, the momentous IRA move anticipated by the Irish, US and British governments should be warmly welcomed by all those who cherish peace and hope. Even if early indications that no move will satisfy the DUP are borne out, it should not halt the momentum.

Following the recent attacks in London, Britain more than ever wants peace in Northern Ireland. True, it cannot force the DUP into an executive with Sinn Féin, but it can fast-track and implement all aspects of the Good Friday Agreement.

The overwhelming majority of people in Ireland want enduring peace and fellowship. Now that all the smoke is being blown away and the mirrors directed to the remaining threats and sources of violence, this is the time to deliver it in full.

Fascist Paisley Responds to IRA Statement (warning: hold your nose)


Statement by Democratic Unionist Party Leader Dr Ian Paisley MP MLA:

“The history of the past decade in Northern Ireland is littered with IRA statements which we were told were ‘historic’, ‘ground-breaking’ and ‘seismic’. These same statements were followed by the IRA reverting to type and carrying out more of its horrific murders and squalid criminality. The unionist community feels no obligation to cheer the words of P O’Neill. We will judge the IRA’s bona fides over the next months and years based on its behaviour and activity.

Even on the face of the statement, they have failed to explicitly declare an end to their multi-million pound criminal activity and have failed to provide the level of transparency that would be necessary to truly build confidence that the guns had gone in their entirety. This lack of transparency will prolong the period the community will need to make its assessment.

We treat with contempt their attempt to glorify and justify their murder campaign and we will be evaluating the extent of the price paid by the Government and the consequences that will have for the political process."

Statement from Irish Northern Aid National Chairman, Paul Doris

"Today we have seen the IRA issue a historic commitment to continue its pursuit of an independent and united Ireland, through exclusively peaceful means. (SEE COMPLETE IRA STATEMENT BELOW)

“The onus is now on the British and Irish governments to ensure the full implementation of the Good Friday Agreement and we call upon them to immediately restore the democratic institutions which have been suspended for nearly three years.

“Unionism can no longer be allowed to veto progress and change. Unionists must accept the significant democratic mandate of Irish republicanism and form an inclusive power sharing government.

“The IRA has once again shown its courage and unfaltering confidence by creating this huge opportunity for the Irish Peace Process to move forward.

“It is now time for all others to follow suit and remove ALL guns from Irish politics once and for all.

“On behalf of the Executive Board of Irish Northern Aid, I wholeheartedly embrace today’s commitment from the IRA. Further, I pledge that Irish Northern Aid will continue to work until our shared goal of an independent and united Ireland is made a reality.”


Irish Social Democratic and Labor Party (SDLP) Leader Mark Durkan stated:

"The SDLP welcomes today's statement (See Complete IRA Statement Below). We have stressed that the IRA's break with
its past has to be clear, clean and complete. This statement appears to be that.

"The SDLP hopes that, as promised, all IRA paramilitary activity and all IRA
involvement in organised crime will end now and for good - as well as the culture of
cover-up and community control. That is the only way we can get the Agreement up
and running and make progress for all the people of this island.

"Eighteen years on from the start of Hume/Adams and seven years on from the Good
Friday Agreement, today's statement is long overdue. The delay by the provisional
movement in honouring its commitments to date has been profoundly damaging. It has
only encouraged anti-Agreement unionists in their belief that they too can hold up
political progress for years.

"That is why it is vital that the provisional movement delivers quickly on what it
has promised today and what the Agreement has always required. Actions on the
ground must demonstrate this.

"There is an equal obligation on all loyalist paramilitaries to end their terror and
their crime. The two Governments and unionist parties must bring equal pressure to
bear on them to ensure this.

"There is also an onus on the two Governments and unionist parties to work to
deliver the full implementation of the Good Friday Agreement.

"It has to be noted that today's statement does not commit to the provisional
movement to policing. Yet policing is fundamental to accepting the rule of law and
vital to tackle organised crime. The SDLP calls on Sinn Fein to join with us in
upholding the new beginning to policing.

"The use of violence was always immoral and unjustified. It achieved absolutely
nothing and brought incalculable suffering to victims throughout the North. They -
and their loss - should be first and foremost in our minds today."

Martin McGuinness On IRA Announcement

Sinn Féin chief negotiator McGuinness has hailed the IRA’s announcement on the cessation of its armed campaign (see full IRA Statement Below) and claimed it was a decisive initiative.

Speaking in Washington, he said: “It contains the potential to unlock the political stalemate that has frozen the Irish peace process and the implementation of the Good Friday Agreement.

“There is now an inescapable responsibility on the British and Irish governments to push urgently ahead with the implementation of the Agreement and, also, on the leadership of unionism to finally accept the principles of power sharing, equality and human rights.

“Britain’s role in Ireland has historically been negative and divisive. We have seen the consequence of this in every generation particularly since the partition of the island, against the wishes of the Irish people, 80 years ago.

“Today’s momentous decision by the IRA recognises that there is now an opportunity to resolve these historic difficulties peacefully and democratically.”

On the significance of the announcement,Mr McGuinness said: “This places an enormous responsibility on all of us to seize this opportunity to ensure that conflict never happens again.

“We can do this by making politics work. There is a particular responsibility on all of us who argued that there is a political and peaceful way forward to prove this case by delivering real and meaningful progress.

“The two governments have an urgent duty to implement the Agreement in all its aspects. In particular this means that the British government must stop pandering to negative unionism and those in their own system who seek peace only on their own terms.”

Looking to the future, he added: “If others in political leadership here in the United States, in Britain and in Ireland respond to today’s IRA statement in a spirit of generosity and openness, the faltering Irish peace process can be revived and completed successfully.

“The way forward is dialogue, negotiation and accommodation. And in a world beset with conflict and division, the success of the Irish peace process can offer much needed hope for the future.”

Source: Irish News

Joint Statement by the Prime Minister and the Taioseach

"We welcome today's developments concerning the IRA. (See Complete IRA Statement Below)

"The end of the IRA as a paramilitary organisation is the outcome the Governments have been working towards since the cessation of military activity in 1994. We acknowledge the significance of the IRA statement. Both Governments are hopeful that the practical elements of this statement will be implemented in the terms set out. If the IRA's words are borne out by actions, it will be a momentous and historic development.

"We also acknowledge that trust has been damaged and will take time to rebuild. Independent verification will be vitally important to enable trust and confidence to be restored. Vital roles in the verification process will be played by the Independent International Commission on Decommissioning and the Independent Monitoring Commission. We have asked the IMC to produce an additional report in January 2006, three months after their next regular report. Their reports will help the Governments to assess whether all paramilitary and criminal activity on the part of the IRA has come to a decisive end and whether decommissioning has been fully completed.

"Verified acts of completion will provide a context in which we will expect all parties to work towards the full operation of the political institutions, including the Northern Ireland Assembly and Executive, and the North-South structures, at the earliest practicable date.

"We also expect all parties and community leaders to use their influence to bring loyalist paramilitary and criminal activity to an end, including the full decommissioning of weapons.

"The normalisation of society in Northern Ireland also requires that all parts of the community support and enjoy the protection of the police. It is more important than ever that progress is made in extending support across all sections of the community for the new policing arrangements throughout Northern Ireland.

"There has been great progress in recent years. The benefits of the Good Friday Agreement for the people of Ireland have been immense. The two Governments are committed to its full implementation. It is our intention to work closely in partnership to grasp this opportunity to inject renewed momentum into the process.

"We urge all political leaders, and everyone with a genuine interest in bringing peace and stability to Northern Ireland, to join with us in our determination to ensure continued and rapid progress."

Resentment And Fear From Working Class Republicans

Harry McClafferty grimaced as the newsreader announced the IRA was abandoning its armed campaign for good (See Full IRA Statement Below).

All around him a stunned hush fell over Danny Molly`s bar in the republican stronghold of Ardoyne, north Belfast.

Turning from the giant TV screen, Mr McClafferty, 51,
struggled to control his fury and resentment at the Provisionals` statement.

The former hotel maintenance manager declared: "It`s a
bunch of c**p.

"A lot of good men who died would be turning in their graves, just like my stomach is turning over listening to this."

All through the district people who look to the IRA to protect them from loyalist terrorists were gripped by anxiety.

Young mothers and hardened workmen who lived through three decades of sectarian murders all feared they will be left exposed.

"I wouldn`t have given up a single empty shell because this neighbourhood is going to be defenceless," claimed Terry McLarnon, a retired merchant seaman.

The 63-year-old and his pal Tommy Jones had met for a regular pint in Ardoyne`s Gaelic Football Club, situated behind rows of terraced houses from where the IRA recruited hundreds of volunteers.

Inside a sign warned that all Northern Bank notes would be refused due to a flood of forgeries in the area.

The fakes are believed to have been printed on top of cash stolen in the IRA`s £26.5 million heist at the bank`s Belfast HQ in December.

"About £360 was passed at the weekend," a staff member said.

One punter who refused to give his name claimed the Provisionals were attempting to dump the counterfeit cash just like the weapons.

"They are conning their own people," he said.

After arguing to get his money accepted, Mr Jones, an affable and immaculately dressed 65-year-old, spoke of his disillusionment with the entire peace process.

"I`ll be in a box and this will still be going on," he predicted.

Before the Troubles erupted in the late 1960s, he would go out with Protestant workmates straight after finishing their shifts as trolley bus drivers.

Now, however, he won`t even venture into the city centre and gave this verdict of the IRA`s decision: "It`s a bad, bad mistake."

Many refused to openly criticise Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness, pinning their faith on the Sinn Fein leaders` strategy.

But they were puzzled and frustrated by the decision to get rid of all the guns when loyalists remain fully armed.
Widower Jimmy McAley, 50, urged republicans to store their huge arsenal rather than destroy them.

"Give all the weapons up and the swines on the other side will come in and wipe us out like they did in `69," he claimed.

Mr McAley, admitted the conflict had left him a bitter and committed republican.

Grinning enigmatically, he added: "But they never got me for membership."

Beside him a 38-year-old woman who only gave her name as Pat was prepared to put more trust in the IRA.

"This will have been done for the people," she said.
Her friend was less convinced, however, as she dreaded a return to the old days of feeling vulnerable.

"I used to put a plank up at my door because I was afraid," the 35-year-old woman said.

"Then the ceasefires happened and everybody got a wee bit more at ease.

"But I`m afraid again because the protection might not be there now."

As the Provisionals went out of business, many suspected the dissident republican terrorists opposed to the peace process would recruit heavily.

A labourer taking in the news during his lunchbreak was outraged by the IRA disarmament but refused to give his name, claiming he would be shot.

"It`s a total disgrace," he insisted.

"We are handing over the whole show and that shite across the road (loyalists) still have theirs.

"The dissidents came after the ceasefire and this will make them even stronger.

"I never thought I`d see this day."

In a portacabin used as a working man`s club one man split from the others and whispered his views in an empty corner. Revealing arms heavily tattooed with intricate republican designs, he claimed: "This is the Provisionals surrendering."

Source: UTV

Republicans Look to Demilitarization

As the IRA embarked on a new chapter (See IRA Statement Below) tonight, cities, towns and villages across Northern Ireland were expecting a dramatically changed landscape.

Republicans were hopeful that Army watchtowers which for decades have scarred the lush green hills of South Armagh would disappear forever.

But they also wanted a dramatic reduction in the number of troops and military activity.

As Northern Ireland Secretary Peter Hain`s officials
prepared a revised programme of demilitarisation, a Sinn Fein source gave an indication of what republicans were expecting.

"The British Government will have to move urgently and speedily," he told PA.

"That means fundamental and substantial movement on demilitarisation across British military bases, their presence on the streets and the occupation of places like Divis Tower and removing the watchtowers in South Armagh.

"Bear in mind that in South Armagh the overwhelming majority of people support the peace process. The minority includes the DUP and dissident republicans who have not raised their head there in years.

"Therefore there is no argument for the kind of watchtowers and helicopter activity which we have seen."

The Government outlined a programme for demilitarisation in May 2003 - some of which has already been implemented.

Among the pledges it made was the retention of the regular Army garrison in 14 bases including Aldergrove, Antrim, Ballykinler, Ballymena, Coleraine, Divis Mountain,
Lisburn, Holywood, Magilligan and St Lucia in Omagh.

Unionists were concerned that some of these bases would be sacrificed if there were plans to reduce more troop numbers and military installations.

At her Fermanagh-South Tyrone constituency office in Lisnaskea, Co Fermanagh, Democratic Unionist Assembly member Arlene Foster insisted that demilitarisation should be based on the level of threat to security and not political expediency.

"People here are asking: what more have we to give?" the Fermanagh and South Tyrone MLA said.

"Fermanagh needs the military the most in Northern Ireland because of the level of dissident threat we have.

"People here are asking are they going to announce troop reduction? What effect is that going to have in this area, not just on military patrols but on general policing?"

Source: UTV

Gerry Adams On IRA Statement

An Phoblacht spoke to Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams on today's historic developments. (SEE BELOW FOR COMPLETE IRA STATMENT).

Mr Adams said:

"Today's decision by the IRA to move into a new peaceful mode is historic and represents a courageous and confident initiative. It is a truly momentous and defining point in the search for a lasting peace with justice. I commend the commitment of those who have taken this decision and I appeal for unity and solidarity among all Irish republicans on the island of Ireland and beyond and for the struggle to be carried forward with new energy and enthusiasm.

"The IRA decision presents an unparalleled challenge and opportunity for every nationalist and republican.

"There is an enormous responsibility on us to seize this moment and to make Irish freedom a reality. I would urge all Irish nationalists and republicans, including those who have shown such commitment over the years as Volunteers of the IRA to put their undoubted talents and energy into building a new Ireland.

"Today's IRA initiative also presents challenges for others.

"It places a clear onus on the British and Irish Governments to fully and faithfully implement the Good Friday Agreement.

"In particular this means an end to pandering to those unionists who are rejectionist and the British Government must urgently address the demilitarisation, equality and human rights agendas.

"It means the Irish Government actively promoting the rights and entitlements of all of its citizens, including those in the North.

"It means that unionists who are for the Good Friday Agreement must end their ambivalence. And it is a direct challenge to the DUP to decide if they want to put the past behind them, and make peace with the rest of the people of this island.

"Today's IRA statement can help revive the Peace Process; it deals with genuine unionist concerns and removes from the leadership of unionism its excuse for non-engagement.

"Republicans will not be surprised that our opponents will continue to try to defeat us. Initiatives by the IRA are unlikely to change, in the short-term, the attitude of those who oppose us whether in London or Dublin or within unionism. We can expect this to continue until we succeed in our endeavours.

"Today's statement by the IRA is clear evidence of the commitment of republicans to the Peace Process. The question now is whether the two governments and the unionists are prepared to take up the challenge of building the necessary next steps to a just and peaceful future.

"The road map is clear. Sinn Féin is a party looking forward. We have a vision of a new future, a better future, and we have the spirit and the confidence to work with others to achieve this. Irish republicans and nationalists are now in a new area of struggle. There is a role for everyone in this new situation. Let us move forward together to re-build the Peace Process and deliver Irish unity and independence."

Commenting on the release of Seán Kelly, Gerry Adams said:

"I welcome the release of Seán Kelly. There are other prisoners who continue to be held, including those qualifying prisoners held in Castlerea. Sinn Féin will continue to campaign for their speedy release."

IRA Statement Ending The Armed Struggle

"The leadership of Óglaigh na hÉireann has formally ordered an end to the armed campaign. This will take effect from 4pm this afternoon.

All IRA units have been ordered to dump arms. All Volunteers have been instructed to assist the development of purely political and democratic programmes through exclusively peaceful means. Volunteers must not engage in any other activities whatsoever.

The IRA leadership has also authorised our representative to engage with the IICD to complete the process to verifiably put its arms beyond use in a way which will further enhance public confidence and to conclude this as quickly as possible.

We have invited two independent witnesses, from the Protestant and Catholic churches, to testify to this.

The Army Council took these decisions following an unprecedented internal discussion and consultation process with IRA units and Volunteers.

We appreciate the honest and forthright way in which the consultation process was carried out and the depth and content of the submissions. We are proud of the comradely way in which this truly historic discussion was conducted.

The outcome of our consultations show very strong support among IRA Volunteers for the Sinn Féin peace strategy.

There is also widespread concern about the failure of the two governments and the unionists to fully engage in the peace process. This has created real difficulties.

The overwhelming majority of people in Ireland fully support this process.

They and friends of Irish unity throughout the world want to see the full implementation of the Good Friday Agreement.

Notwithstanding these difficulties our decisions have been taken to advance our republican and democratic objectives, including our goal of a united Ireland. We believe there is now an alternative way to achieve this and to end British rule in our country.

It is the responsibility of all Volunteers to show leadership, determination and courage. We are very mindful of the sacrifices of our patriot dead, those who went to jail, Volunteers, their families and the wider republican base. We reiterate our view that the armed struggle was entirely legitimate.

We are conscious that many people suffered in the conflict. There is a compelling imperative on all sides to build a just and lasting peace.

The issue of the defence of nationalist and republican communities has been raised with us. There is a responsibility on society to ensure that there is no re-occurrence of the pogroms of 1969 and the early 1970s.

There is also a universal responsibility to tackle sectarianism in all its forms.

The IRA is fully committed to the goals of Irish unity and independence and to building the Republic outlined in the 1916 Proclamation.

We call for maximum unity and effort by Irish republicans everywhere.

We are confident that by working together Irish republicans can achieve our objectives.

Every Volunteer is aware of the import of the decisions we have taken and all Óglaigh are compelled to fully comply with these orders.

There is now an unprecedented opportunity to utilise the considerable energy and goodwill which there is for the peace process. This comprehensive series of unparalleled initiatives is our contribution to this and to the continued endeavours to bring about independence and unity for the people of Ireland.

Irish Republican Army orders an end to armed campaign.

The IRA is fully committed to the goals of Irish unity and independence and to building the Republic outlined in the 1916 Proclamation.

Our decisions have been taken to advance our republican and democratic objectives, including our goal of a united Ireland.

We believe there is now an alternative way to achieve this and to end."

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Syria Scoops Up Prisoner Support Activists

Syria has arrested two members of a recently formed political prisoners support group, whose inaugural meeting was broken up by police on Monday. AKI is reporting Yasin al-Hamawi, the father of jailed Syrian dissident, Abu Haytham al-Hamawi, himself arrested two years ago after he helped launch an anti-corruption campaign, was picked up by police on Tuesday evening, at his home in Dariya near the capital, Damascus. The other man, Muhammad al-Abdallah, the son of a political prisoner, Ali al-Abdallah, was arrested at his home on Wednesday morning.

The Syrian Human Rights Committee (SHRC) says eyewitnesses have reported the arrest of Yasin al-Hamawi occurred at around 11am Tuesday morning, when several cars approached his place of work and took him away. It is not known which intelligence apparatus arrested him, nor the destination to which he was taken to.

The Commission of Relatives of Prisoners of Opinion and of Conscience (CRPOC) was holding its inaugural meeting on Monday when police surrounded the building where the launch was being held, in the town of Dariya near the capital Damascus. The police then peacefully broke up the meeting, but first warned one of the group's leaders, Yasin al-Hamawi, not to organize another one without the authorities' consent.

The Commission for the Rebirth of Civil Society, described the arrests "as a violation of the most basic right of the relatives of the prisoners; the right for them to follow the cases involving their loved ones and to seek their release."

The Arab Organization for Human Rights (AOHR) released a statement demanding that authorities reveal who issued an arrest warrant against Hamawi, and that he be formally charged before a civilian court or be released immediately. Just last week SHRC faxed a petition signed by more than 1,000 people to President Bashar Al Assad yesterday calling for the release of the head of the group and other political prisoners.

SHRC stated that it views the arrest of the citizen Yassin al-Hamwi as an attempt to terrorize and silence the Syrian citizens who call for the release of their sons, fathers and relatives from prisons, and strongly condemns these despotic and barbaric acts of suppressing freedom.

SHRC requests that Yassin al-Hamwi and all other political detainees in the jails of the Syrian regime be released, and requests that all human rights defenders shed light on the acts that the Intelligence and security forces in Syria commit and demand for the release of all prisoners of conscience. Sources: Syrian Human Rights Committee, AKI, The Peninsula (Qatar), Khaleej Times

Sonny Hertzberg

Sonny Hertzberg, a member of the New York Knickerbockers basketball team of the 1940s, died Monday at age 82.

The 5-foot-9 guard scored a team-high 14 points in the Knicks' first home game in 1946.

In 1946, Hertzberg’s teammate, Ossie Schectman, scored the first basket in a game in the Basketball Association of America, the precursor to today’s NBA.

Hertzberg is a member of the New York City Basketball Hall of Fame and the Jewish Sports Hall of Fame.

"He was a top guy, no question. He never gave anybody any trouble. He was always helpful on the court," 86-year-old Ralph Kaplowitz, another of the original Knicks, said yesterday. "We've been friends since 1945 and would talk every day."

Something Else to Worry About

In China the death toll has risen to 24 from a baffling illness which Chinese health officials say is caused by known bacteria from pigs. Twenty one others are in critical conditions while only five have recovered.

China says the disease is caused by the pig bacterium Streptococcus suis. According to the Chinese Ministry of Health the first cases surfaced in June 2005 in two cities in China’s Sichuan province. All cases were either farmers that had butchered infected pigs or people who later handled the contaminated pork products. China says there is no person to person transmission reported.

The first recorded human case of S. suis was in Denmark in 1968. Only 200 cases have been reported since then, excluding the current outbreak. Dick Thompson, a World Health Organization (WHO) spokesman in Geneva told New Scientist full laboratory reports on the 76 confirmed and 41 suspected infections will help experts to understand why this outbreak has grown so large and deadly. They will look for co-infection with other pathogens and attempt to solidify the diagnosis and extent of the outbreak.

Some are concerned that the infections disease could be the feared outbreak of bird flu. The World Health Organization says it is not disputing China's contention that a known pig-borne bacteria has caused the latest deaths, but says the high mortality rate is alarming.

"It's never occurred in an outbreak this big before," WHO spokesman Bob Dietz told AFP. "We're accustomed to seeing only one or two cases. We're not accustomed to this large number of people getting infected. And we don't understand why that is." Dietz said it is still too early to say if a serious outbreak of the disease is imminent. "We do see a steady increase in numbers in reported cases, and a slow but steady rise of deaths. But these types of hard figures are still not reliable enough to make a prediction of course," he said.

Nearly one third of those so far infected have died. Syptoms of the disease include high fever, nausea, vomiting and haemorrhaging.

ProMed reports that Hong Kong has ordered hospitals to be on alert for people exhibiting symptoms such as fever and nausea and advised travelers to Sichuan to take precautions such as not touching dead animals and using mosquito repellant.

Yesterday Chinese health officials admitted that they have yet to find any treatment for those who have been infected. "The (Chinese) Center for Disease Control and Prevention is conducting drug sensitivity tests to find a more effective treatment," Ministry of Health spokesperson Mao Qun'an told China Daily, and daily reports on the situation have been made to the WHO.

The provincial and central governments have launched campaigns to identify
and destroy infected pigs and shut down channels for the bacteria to
spread, including forbidding farmers from slaughtering or processing infected pigs. Sources: ProMed, People’s Daily (China), China Daily, Xinhua, New Scientist

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Fear for Women In Sudan

Amnesty International is expressing concern over the welfare of three female lawyers working on women's issues in Sudan. The lawyers who have been brought in for questioning by the National Security Service over the past two days had just participated in a local Human Rights Workshop composed of local lawyers and NGO groups, in Dar al-Katah, Port Sudan, Eastern Sudan.

The women played a very active role in the meeting and thus may have become targets of the government. The women are Nijalla Mohamed Ali, Sana Hassan Babiker, and Halima Hussein Mohamed.

The workshop concluded by issuing recommendations that the Sudanese Government sign an agreement ending discrimination against women and prohibiting female genital mutilation (it is estimated that, at least, 70% of women in Sudan have undergone the “procedure.”).

The National Security Service said they were called in for questioning about possible links to foreign Non Governmental Organizations.

Amnesty says in the past, the Security Services have used continued questioning as a form of harassment of human rights activists.

Amnesty International calls for the cessation of repeated summons as a means of harassment against civil society activists.

According to many women activists, the Nairobi peace agreement, which supposedly ended 21 years of civil war in southern Sudan, should signal a new phase for the engagement of Sudanese women.

"A major problem with this peace agreement is that it is an agreement negotiated without the participation of other political parties or civil-society organizations in which more women are represented," said Sonia Asis Malik, lecturer at Ahfad University for Women in Omdurman and member of the Babik Budri Scientific Association.

"Women were basically excluded from this peace agreement," Malik added.

Malik also pointed out that while various Sudanese constitutions since independence had granted equal rights and duties to all Sudanese, irrespective of their origin, race, sex or religion, in reality things were quite different.

"It is not practiced and it will not be practiced," Malik said. "Since our independence, [the constitution] gives women rights with one hand and takes them with the other. A lot of discrimination also happens in the private sphere."

Mary Cirillo Bang of the New Sudan Women's Federation told IRIN last May that women and children had been most affected by the wars that raged in Sudan since 1955. "When two elephants are fighting, the grass suffers," she said. "Women and children are the grass."

Kezia Layinwa Nicodemus, Commissioner for Women, Gender and Child Welfare of the Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM), in an interview last year said, "Women's position in Sudanese society is not very good, because women have not been taken on board when men are making decisions. So women are sort of left behind. But with this secretariat for women [which Kezia is head of], we are trying to bring up women so that they develop quickly and are on the same footing as men.”

Nicodemus was not uncritical of the SPLM itself. “They are scared of giving rights to women. They say too many rights are not good for women. So we need this to be improved so that men and women come together and they listen to new ideas, so that men can accept that they are human beings and their wives are also human beings. She has her rights, I have my rights. At the moment, very few men get that.” She added, “In the SPLM hierarchy there is only me. Even if I have a good idea, who will support me? All men will be against that idea. So I hope that in the near future we will get more women. I am not supported very much. It is still difficult for women, because you can be appointed but you are not assisted financially. Then you have no power.”

Considering that the negotiated “peace agreement” was between the SPLM and the Sudanese government, it’s difficult to see any great improvements for women in Sudan on the immediate horizon

And least we forget, in Darfur, where genocide is the name of the game, armed forces and militia members have raped thousands of women and tens of thousands of women suffered other violence and forced displacement in the conflict there. Women were raped during attacks and frequently abducted into sexual slavery for days or months. Sources: Irin, Sudan Times, Amnesty International


A search continues for Amber Redman, a 19-year-old girl from the Buffalo First Nation who has been missing for almost two weeks. Amber was last seen at around 2:30 a.m. July 15 outside Trapper's bar in Fort Qu'appelle, Saskatchewan.

Police say they have few major leads in the case. Redman was last seen outside of a bar in the early morning hours of July 15.

Redman is described as Aboriginal, 5'8, 126 pounds with long brown hair. She was last seen wearing blue jeans, blue denim jean shirt and blue metal earrings in the shape of a heart with two eagle feathers.

People with information are asked to call the Fort Qu'Appelle RCMP at 332-2222, their local police department or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477. Sources: Indianz, CBC

Angry Demonstration Protests US Raid In Afghanistan

A couple of thousand angry Afghans Tuesday stormed the US base at Bagram angered over the arrest of a former mujahidin commander, Engineer Hamidullah, from the Deh Mula village along with a prayer leader of a mosque and six other locals in the nightime hours between Monday and Tuesday. Hamidullah was the Taliban's former deputy chief of finance.

The protesters also burned tires, hurled stones, damaged cars and chanted anti-American slogans.

Pravda reports that violence erupted after six U.S. military vehicles traveling in a convoy tried to enter the base. The protesters threw stones at them before troops inside the cars leaned out their windows and fired into the air with handguns. The vehicles then sped into the base and the demonstrators chased them, trying to push down a metal gate guarded by Afghan forces. The Afghan soldiers used batons to beat back the protesters and several fired into the air with their assault rifles as they shouted at the protesters to go home. Most dispersed.

"A protestor was injured in US troops' firing outside the base while around 400 local employees inside the base joined the protestors to push their demand," Mohammad Zahir Rahimi told Xinhua from the scene.

The US military denies firing any shots during the incident. US military spokeswoman Cindy Moore said the forces had recovered explosives from Hamidullah's house. The man was detained following reports that he was planning to attack the Bagram military headquarters. She added the US forces were accompanied by Afghan intelligence and police personnel.

The brother of Hamidullah said US forces were mistaken when they targeted his brother or that someone had purposely misled them.

Condemning the arrest, the demonstrators said the soldiers raided and searched their houses in the middle of the night. They warned of serious consequences if such search operations were not halted. "We have fought against the former Soviet Union and the Taliban, but if the excesses continued, we will raise weapons against the US this time," screamed a young man punching the air reported Pajhwok Afghan News. "We have supported the Americans for years. We should be treated with dignity," said Shah Aghar, 35, a local resident. "They are arresting our people without the permission of the government. They are breaking into our houses and offending the people. We are very angry."

A statement from the Coaltion Press Office said that Afghan and U.S. forces attempted to contact local leaders to involve them in the operation but were unable to do so.

Meanwhile, in recent days Taliban forces have stepped up attacks on US troops possibly in response to a call from Mullah Mohammed Omar (remember him), to take down the current Afghan government and to drive foreign forces from the country. The Australian reports that Omar’s message is addressed to the members of the ousted Taliban movement's leadership council, many of whom are thought to be co-coordinating attacks from Pakistan or in the mountains of southern Afghanistan. Omar calls on leaders to stick together in their fight against the Government and foreign forces. "Unite and do not disagree. Continue your jihad and victory will be yours," the voice on the recording says. Sources: Pajhwok Afghan News, AfhanMania, Xinhua, SABC, Reuters, Pravda, Afghan News Network, BBC, Combined Forces Command – Afghanistan - Coalition Press Information Center (Public Affairs), The Australian

Monday, July 25, 2005

Jersey Terror Police On the Move

The New Jersey State Police Counter-Terrorism Bureau decked out in bulletproof vests and armed with assault rifles descended on a home in Jersey the other day without a search warrant and ransacked the home of some local residents of Exxex County.

You probably didn’t hear about it.

Ted Nebus was the lucky guy whose apartment was torn asunder, and whose computer, containing his master's thesis on labor relations, was carted off. The counter terror guys also seized several signs advocating animal rights.

According to the Home News Tribune, police said the raid was linked to an investigation into, get this, criminal mischief and trespassing.

It turns out that Nebus’ wife, Janice Angelillo, was already in custody. She had been picked up by the NJ State Police for allegedly spray-painting (terrorism?). Her bail has been set at $15,000 cash.

Janice is the treasurer of the Central New Jersey Industrial Workers of the World and an avid animal rights activist.

Nebus’ neighbor, Tom Howard, was puzzled by the action Saturday night. "It's like if you saw one of those hyped-up movies, except you replace the Hollywood stereotype of the evil terrorist with the people who actually live there," Howard said. "And it's a woman who is a school teacher, who's an art teacher at a school who weighs 100 pounds soaking wet, and her husband, who is a grad student studying labor relations."

"They're pacifists," Howard said. "They protest for peace." He said he was not particularly aware of the couple's animal-rights activities, but said Angelillo is "very interested in treating animals humanely." He added, "The couple adopted five stray of them, Acadia, has been missing since the incident."

The search warrant, signed several hours after Nebus and several others were detained, covered computer-related material and paper towels, Howard said, adding that the police said Angelillo had allegedly spray-painted.

"For allegedly spray-painting, they sent a SWAT team," Howard said.

Dan O'Donnell, the building's owner said he has seen people with protest signs entering and leaving the house, but there's never been any trouble with the residents.

Capt. Steve Serrao of the counter-terrorism bureau said at the scene that police were unable to release details of the investigation. The Highland Park, New Jersey Police Department assisted the state police in the operation. A K-9 unit also was on the scene.

Next door neighbor Howard said he understands the need to respond to threats, but said he believes the reaction he saw to an investigation of criminal mischief and trespassing seemed overdone.

"It was one of those things where you will look at things and you'll read about things going on, and then one day, you're going to a barbecue and the next thing you know, you've got an assault rifle pointed at you," he said. Sources: Rise Up, Home News Tribune (New Jersey), and a couple of e-mails

"Women Are Forced to Risk Their Lives and Health"

As we here in the USA get ready for yet another debate on abortion rights in the upcoming confirmation hearings for Bush’s pick for the Supreme Court, in Colombia, women can be imprisoned for up to four and a half years for having abortions even in cases of rape or when their lives are at risk.

“Women should be not sent to prison for having abortions,” said Marianne Mollmann, Women's Rights researcher at Human Rights Watch. “Colombia’s restrictive abortion laws violate women’s basic human rights and should be repealed.”

On April 14, Colombian lawyer Mónica del Pilar Roa López, project director at Women’s Link Worldwide, requested the court to review the country’s law on abortion and declare it unconstitutional. Roa’s office was broken into on June 16 and two computers as well as confidential files were stolen. Human Rights Watch is concerned for the safety of all personnel working on this case.

An estimated 450,000 abortions occur every year in Colombia. Recent studies indicate that a higher proportion of adolescent girls than adult women undergo illegal abortions.

Roa says, “Abortion in Colombia is illegal under every circumstance. Colombia's abortion law stipulates that both the woman who has the abortion and the abortion provider can be sentenced to up to three years in prison.” She says that while women do not go to jail for this reason very often, “Women are forced to risk their lives and health by getting unsafe abortions. This is how abortion is the third leading cause of maternal mortality in Colombia, which is unacceptable given that unsafe abortion is the only cause of maternal mortality that can be prevented.”

''It's like a double standard,'' said Mónica Roa, ``If the rich had to have clandestine abortions, this would have changed long ago. The rich don't have to worry about it because the poor are the ones who die.''

Women across Colombia are not only filing court actions they are marching in the streets to legalize abortion. And, says the Miami Herald, the response so far has been surprisingly positive.

Maybe that support should not be surprising at all. Ironically, a recent study by the World Economic Forum put Colombian women ahead of Switzerland and Italy in terms of equality with men. They hold high political posts and executive positions and also serve as commanders in a guerrilla force that has been fighting the government for more than four decades.

Last week, several women's organizations held a march. ''Sex when I want it; pregnancy when I decide,'' the marchers clad in black T-shirts chanted in front of the Constitutional Court. The night before, women spray-painted messages like, ''If men had abortions, it would it be a commandment,'' and plastered stickers around the city with similar messages.

The suit to change the law itself is really a pretty tame one that would require abortion be legal for women who were raped or whose life is in danger. Abortion rights advocates see it as a first step.

The Catholic Church, however, thinks even that is too much. ''The Church is worried,'' Monsignor Fabián Marulanda, the Secretary General of the Episcopal Conference, the church's governing body there says in the Herald. ``If there's no clear legislation about this, any woman can simply say they were [raped] and then abort.''

Last month reports the Herald, authorities in the northeastern city of Pamplona arrested two teenage girls after they sought medical treatment for complications during abortion procedures. Both students were charged with obtaining illegal abortions and later expelled from their university. In Bogotá, judges sentenced two more women for the same crime after they suffered bad reactions to abortion pills and were rushed to the hospital.

Still, the counter-response has been just as swift. In Pamplona, the local media reported that 135 professors from 13 universities had signed a letter protesting the arrests of the two girls and their expulsion. And in Bogotá, marchers challenged those who might question their rights.

I remember when abortion was not legal here in the US. I remember the women’s movement fight to make it legal. Hopefully, we won’t have to go through that again, but if we do, then so be it! Sources: Miami Herald, Human Rights Watch, Women’s Human Rights Net

Lesbians Attacked in Kansas City---"No Big Deal," Say Police

Two Kansas City, Missouri lesbians were attacked by a bat-wielding woman in the early morning hours of July 14 – and the KC cops don’t think it’s a big deal.

Kansas City Anti-Violence Project (KCAVP) says the women were walking hand in hand down a busy KC street in a local restaurant district when a pickup truck drove by, and a women in the passenger seat yelled anti-gay comments in their direction. The truck circled the block for another round of hate speech, and then made a third pass at the victims. This time, the truck stopped, a woman came out with a bat and proceeded to attack the pair, pummeling one of the lesbians multiple times. The attack halted only when the flashing lights of a tow truck, not a police car appeared.

One of the women, 23, suffered a concussion amongst other injuries in the assault.

More than 30 minutes later says KCAVP, two officers arrived who told the women “they didn’t have to respond to the call at all” and would not acknowledge that it was a hate crime even though anti-LGBT slurs had been yelled and was motivated because the two women were walking together. The police also gave no appearance of caring or motivation to pursue who perpetrated the crime. "I would think being bashed over the head with a bat would give reason for police to come to a scene," Doug Riley, executive director of the KCAVP, said in a press release. "They need to be held accountable for their inaction and insensitivity."

After that press release, the local media made mention of the case.
And that got the attention of the police. The police called the women back into the station to give their statements again, and pressed much harder for a description of the assailant.

“The Kansas City, Missouri police must provide equal and compassionate service to all people,” said Riley… They need to explain to the victims and to the community what is being done to solve this crime and prevent others from happening.”

To the best of my knowledge, there have been no arrests. Sources: Kansas City Star, KCAVP, Planet Out

"What Do You Say to That?"

The split in the AFL-CIO is big news today. The split was made official with the announcement from several dissident unions that they will boycott the AFL-CIO annual convention which starts today. "Over the past nine months, every corner of the labor movement has debated reform," said Anna Burger, chair of the dissident Change to Win Coalition. "The AFL-CIO, to its credit, has listened to us. But in the end, they have not heard us. The language of reform has been adopted, but not the substance. Our principles have been watered down and papered over ... we have reached a point where our differences have become unresolveable."

What’s it all about? Is it in fact about anything meaningful?

Service Employees International Union (SEIU) President Andy Stern, a leader of the “dissidents” wrote the other day:

“This convention could have been a chance for workers to celebrate the union movement's modernization after 50 years of change in our economy -- a dramatic event as historic as the founding of the CIO in the 1930s.”

“It could have been an inspirational discussion of strategies to unite workers in each industry or occupation - and to build unions with the focus and resources to do that.”

“It could have highlighted new global union partnerships that are not just about general solidarity but about specific campaigns uniting the strength of employees of the same global corporations.”

“It could have made historic progress on diversity not only through standards and timetables but by setting the stage to help millions of people of color and working women to form unions and change their lives and communities.”

"All this was possible earlier this year when it became clear that 40 percent of the AFL-CIO, including 3 of the 4 largest affiliates, was prepared to support real change. The AFL-CIO officers could have chosen to use their powers of persuasion to build on that base and organize a majority.”

“Instead, they chose to start with the 50-year-old structure of 57 separate and overlapping unions as a given and then water down every proposal so it wouldn't offend entrenched interests and outmoded traditions. They chose not to lead and to help workers win -- but to play it safe and do nothing that might disturb the lowest common denominator status quo.”

“The AFL-CIO's opportunity appears to have been lost, but the crisis facing working people in America remains. It will apparently take another convention this fall of unions committed to change to provide the new hope working people need.”

Joe Hansen, of the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW): says:

“We are taking this historic step with our coalition partners to build a 21st century worker movement for a new generation of workers. Unions built the American middle class. We are taking this action to revitalize the labor movement to build worker power.”

“Unrestrained corporate power has set in motion a global race to the bottom—a race dedicated to widening the gap of inequality—eroding basic wages—eroding labor and social standards—and limiting basic democratic participation.”

“Our unions are changing now to win worker power in the workplace, the community, and the political process.”

“The Change to Win Coalition (the new workers organization devoted to “transforming the American labor movement”) is taking the lead to engage and organize workers—and build a worker movement to raise living standards, win health care and pension security, and make government responsive to working people.”

United Farm Workers of America (UFW) President Arturo Rodrigues announced his union was joining the Change to Win Coalition. He said,

"To realize our goal of organizing significant numbers of low-to moderate-wage Latino and immigrant workers in the face of fierce employer resistance during the next decade, we must move aggressively to apply new resources and make changes in our own organization. We are convinced the Change to Win Coalition mirrors our commitment of finding new ways to refocus on organizing and vigorously pursue anti-worker employers."

All this sounds pretty good, but are you, dear reader, convinced that the Change to Win group is all it is cracked up to be? Are you convinced they will offer much more than the stodgy AFL-CIO?

JoAnn Wypijewski writes today in Counter Punch that she, at least, is not. She writes, “On the one side, so the story goes, we have the dynamic "organizing" unions with vivid blueprints for revitalization; on the other side, the dinosaur unions and leadership of the AFL-CIO, content with the status quo even as union membership dips to its lowest level in 70 years.”

After pointing out all that Sweeny and Company has not done Wypijewski asks who are the dissidents anyway?

Her answer is none to flattering, “They are six union officials with little in common but their sex and race, hatred of some of the federation staff and leadership, and size of their memberships or egos. Representing five unions with about a third of the federation's members, they have banded together under a program whose only live demands (because the only ones they uniformly agree on) are more power for themselves in an Executive Committee of select larger unions and a 50 percent rebate on the dues their unions pay to belong to the federation. Three of their executive councils have authorized these men to pull their unions out of the AFL-CIO whenever they see fit.”

She writes about the dissidents leading actors:

* Andy Stern, president of SEIU, the nation's biggest union, with 1.8 million members. Wypijewski says, Stern, “…for most of the past ten years that his former mentor, John Sweeney, has been president of the AFL-CIO, Stern has been instrumental in everything from the staffing of the organizing department, to the policy on immigration, to the effort to consolidate state and local labor bodies, to the endorsement of political candidates (spending $65 million of his poor members' money, more than the total spent by the AFL, to try to elect John Kerry). One of Stern's brains trust, Steve Lerner, had charge of the AFL's failed strawberry campaign, its failed Las Vegas building trades campaign, and is married to the woman who headed the AFL's ridiculously bloated and now dissolved field mobilization department.

Wypijewski adds that the SEIU, “…is notable for the biggest, most geographically outstretched (therefore least participatory) locals, the most aggressive application of trusteeship (stripping power from an inordinate number of locals), and the heaviest reliance on national staff with no experience in the jobs or culture of the workers.”

* James P. Hoffa, president of the Teamsters, the nation's biggest general union, representing everyone from truckers to warehousers to clerks to casino workers to nurses and public defenders. The Teamsters has 1.4 million members. Wypijewski says, “Hoffa's own grasp of organizing is tenuous. He is close to the most reactionary and corrupt elements in the Teamsters. His most energetic political interventions have been to thump for Arctic drilling and to attack his own reform-minded members. Yet Hoffa was embraced by Stern when the former proposed the 50 percent dues rebate. Though it has been promoted as an incentive to organizing, the dues rebate is, in essence, a tax cut for the largest, richest unions. It is now the top "insurgent" demand, on which, they say, they will brook no compromise."

Hoffa's brand of "aggressive organizing", writes Wypijewski, “…is best illustrated by his collaboration with Tyson Foods earlier this year to decertify his own union's Local 556 in Pasco, Washington. The 1,500 meatpackers had been led by Maria Martinez, a co-chair of Teamsters for a Democratic Union. After a relentless campaign, in which workers were bombarded by literature bearing Hoffa's attacks on the local leadership, threatened with plant closure and forced to vote twice, the workers capitulated. They are now among the 92 percent of private sector workers whom the Change to Win Coalition has dedicated itself to unionizing.”

Next up for Wypijewski is:

* Joe Hansen, president of the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) with 1.4 million members). “Hansen,” he writes, “is given to thundering in the press that "the status quo will not stand.” However, according to Wypijewski, “Hansen is intimate with the status quo, his reputation stamped in the mid-1980s when he was the UFCW leadership's tool in destroying the strike and ultimately the union of meatpackers with Local P-9 at the Hormel plant in Austin, Minnesota. ”P-9" is one of those markers in labor history, emblem of both the courageous spirit of rank-and-file workers and the machinations of treacherous union leadership. Hansen, who'd plotted with strikebreakers, was made the trustee from which position he expelled the workers' elected leaders, offered unconditional surrender to the company, and saw to it that none of the strikers ever returned to work.”

Wypijewski says Hansen is well known for his sandblasting of 16x80 foot mural that 100 workers had painted on a labor center wall, “erasing first the painted faces of the workers and then the slogan "Solidarity".

And it goes on. You get the drift.

Bill Fletcher, Jr., long-time labor and international activist, is currently president of TransAfrica Forum in Washington, DC. He wrote a column a while back in Black Commentator in which he accurately pointed out the issues raised by the “dissidents”, “…were important, but largely secondary to the greater challenge facing organized labor. Missing from the SEIU analysis (and virtually anything else that has subsequently appeared from either SEIU, its allies or its opponents) have been issues including a clear understanding of the forces of capitalism that workers are up against, including but not limited to globalization; the manner in which the US government has shifted more and more to the Right and become increasingly hostile to workers and their unions; how unions should organize critical regions like the US South and Southwest, and particularly how to ally with African Americans and Latinos in these regions in order to be successful; how to engage in political action in such a way that working people can advance an agenda and candidates that represent their interests and not simply the institutional interests of unions or established political parties; the continued relevance of fighting racism, sexism and other forms of oppression and intolerance if workers are to ever unite; how to work with and build mutual support with workers in other countries; and the critical importance of joining with others to fight for democracy.”

He wrote that the debate in the AFL-CIO was taking place on “Mount Olympus.” The rank and file workers were not being asked to participate in the debate over the future of organized labor. “No attempt has been made by either side in this debate to bring the debate to the members. The members have not been asked their opinions…”

A cover story in a different issue of the Black Commentator boldly declared, “"Even as unions struggle to respond to forces bent on their annihilation, they remain deformed by racism – the same plague that has crippled the U.S. labor movement at every stage in its history. Black workers, the most enthusiastic ‘joiners’ and activists, also face the most dire consequences of labor’s historical weaknesses. Yet, too often, their white comrades – including those who proudly consider themselves ‘progressives’ – seek ‘solutions’ to labor’s problems at Black workers’ institutional expense."

As Kansas City’s Walt Bodine used to say, “What do you say to that?” Sources: Labor Advocate, UFCW, Huffington Pos, Daily Kos, Black Commentator, Counter Punch, Change to Win Coalition

Tony: Lookin' Good

Prime Minister Tony Blair has spent more than £1,800 of taxpayers’ money on cosmetics and make-up artists since coming into office, it has emerged.
Between 1999 and 2005 Downing Street paid £1,050.22 for cosmetics for Mr Blair’s media appearances.

Another £791.20 was spent over the past two years on make-up artists.

But this seems modest compared with Irish premier Bertie Ahern, who is reported to have spent more than £115,000 on his appearance since 1997.

The Independent reported in June that Mr Ahern had spent 28,000 euros (£19,000) on make-up in the past year, and said his office had confirmed that since 1997 Mr Ahern’s appearance had cost taxpayers 167,000 euros (£115,895).

The figures relating to Mr Blair’s expenditure on cosmetics were revealed on Thursday by government whip Lord Bassam of Brighton, in answer to a Parliamentary question by Tory Lord Hanningfield.

The written Parliamentary answer was given out on the final day before MPs and peers broke for the summer.

Fake tan?

The day was also marked by an attempted bomb attack on London transport, similar to the attacks carried out on 7 July.

The Sunday Times suggested Mr Blair’s use of make-up spiralled during stressful periods, such as the Iraq war.

It said his spending on cosmetics peaked between 2003 and 2004, when the prime minister was being asked to justify intelligence reports on weapons of mass destruction.

There was also speculation during the last election campaign about whether Mr Blair had been using fake tan.

But the brands and products used by Mr Blair were not revealed in the Parliamentary answer.

Sunday, July 24, 2005


The following is taken directly from the web site of the Colombia Support Network...

The Colombia Support Network has released the results of an investigation carried out by a fact-finding CSN delegation from San Jose de Apartado's sister community of Dane County (Madison) Wisconsin. CSN's report on the massacre at Mulatos has been forwarded to representatives and senators in the U.S. Congress. Call your representatives to encourage them to read and act on the report. Call the Congressional switchboard at 202-224-3121 or go to the CSN Action Center.


Colombia Support Network
PO Box 1505, Madison, WI 53701

June 26, 2005


By act of Congress, renewal of United Sates aid to Colombia ($700 million per year to the Colombian government, mostly in military aid) depends on their meeting conditions on human rights. This report presents the information we have gathered and the basis for our recommendations, which appear at the end of this report.

Apartado, in northeastern Colombia (map), is the sister community of Dane County, Wisconsin, our home. Our delegation from the Colombia Support Network (John Gibson, Eunice Gibson, Norman Stockwell, Conrad Weiffenbach, and Cecilia Zarate Laun) visited Colombia from April 16 to 26, 2005.The visit was supported with letters from Wisconsin Senators Russ Feingold and Herb Kohl, Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk, and Wisconsin Secretary of State Douglas LaFollette, sent in advance to people in the agencies with which we wished to meet. We met with people in Apartado, in the Peace Community of San Jose de Apartado, and in the offices of a large number of government and non-government organizations in Medellin and Bogota.

We offer this information to the United States Congress, Department of State, and other concerned groups and individuals wishing for information to guide their discussions on human rights in Colombia.

This electronic report contains significant parts that are accessed via hyperlinks to the CSN website, where they are hidden files. The linked documents contain essential information from our investigation, supporting the conclusions and recommendations presented at the end of these pages.

To recap events briefly, On February 21, 2005, Luis Eduardo Guerra-Guerra, one of the founders and leaders of the Peace Community of San Jose de Apartado, was murdered in an area near the Mulatos River. Three children and four other adults were also murdered in this massacre Paramilitary checkpoints present in prior years on the road between San Jose and Apartado have been removed, but there are now checkpoints of the Colombian Police and Army. A police station (link to photo) was put within the village of San Jose, against the wishes of the peace community, which observes a non-violent resistance to the armed conflict. In response to the placing of the Police station in the village of San Jose, the Peace Community has abandoned their village, moving to a new site a few km away, where they are living in a new settlement, for which construction has begun

The background of events in this region of Colombia is comprehensively summarized in a Background section of this report. A list (spreadsheet from the community) of 500 violations of human rights, including other massacres that the people of San Jose de Apartado have suffered, is also presented. San Jose’s website (in Spanish) offers more recent information. San Jose represents the experience (website with comprehensive listing of human rights violations in Colombia, in Spanish) of many rural communities in Colombia: the aggression toward them is systematic.

The culpability of the armed forces in the most serious of human rights violations has been acknowledged by the Colombian Procuraduria, which in May 2005 issued a decision (document in Spanish) that disciplinary action will be taken against units of the Army and Police that were in command of the region in which San Jose de Apartado is located in the years 2000 to 2002, for their responsibility in the same types of violations of human rights then in San Jose, including massacres. Please see the Background document and list of violations from the community for details on those violations.

US aid must not support the Colombian Police and Army in such behavior.

We expect that similar action from the Procuraduria will result in due time following the massacre of February 2005, which they are now investigating.

But whether the sanctions against those responsible in the military will be effective remains to be seen. Often in the past such sanctions have not been so.

Information we gathered during our visit:

We met April 18th and 19th with the people of San Jose, who told us among other important things that when they travel through the check- points along the road to Apartado they still suffer personal harassment and confiscation of purchases and other belongings. A group of leaders summarized their concerns (notes of interviews with community leaders) about the police station placed in the village after the massacre, inability to get justice from the government, their stigmatization in the media by government officials, and the history of recent abuses.In private meetings, witnesses shared information on the massacre of February 21 and related events with us. Some were able to identify forces in that area during the massacre as Army, and one said soldiers there told them the Army did it. Please see our summary notes on this point, and our notes from interviewing witness1, witness2, witness3, witness4 and witness5. For their protection, information that could lead to the identification of these witnesses has been expunged. Witnesses were assassinated after giving testimony following a massacre in San Jose a few years ago.

We had supper on the evening of May 19 with five members of the Apartado Municipal Council, and met with the mayor (Alcalde of Apartado) in his office on April 20. Please see our notes regarding their hostile attitudes toward San Jose.

We met with General Hector Jaime Fandino-Rincon, Commander of the 17th Brigade of the Colombian Army stationed in Carepa, near Apartado (link to photo) in his office at the Brigade Headquarters for an hour on April 20. Our notes on the discussion there outline how he argued that his troops were not involved in the massacre of February 21, and his ideas implying it was due to an internal dispute within the Peace Community or an action of the FARC guerrillas.

The historical context regarding some persons mentioned in these notes is in the section, Peculiar Characters for Application of Democratic Security in Apartado, beginning on page 19 of the Background document.

We met with Colonel Yamik Armando Moreno of the National Police, in charge of the region in which San Jose and Apartado are located, in his headquarters for two and a half hours on April 20. As indicated in our notes from that meeting, he presented a version of events surrounding the massacre, and a theory of who did it, that was nearly identical to that of General Fandino. He expressed a very hostile attitude toward the Peace Community, while maintaining a friendly one toward us.

We met with the Procurador of the Nation, Edgardo Jose Maya-Villazon, who told us that the investigation by his office of the February 2005 massacre in San Jose and related events there was in an advanced state. He arranged for us to meet with his staff to discuss our findings. He said the Police station should be in the place where the Peace Community wants it, which would be consistent with the ruling of the Inter- American Court, a ruling which he said the Colombian government should follow.

We met with Carlos Franco, Director of the President of Colombia’s Human Rights Program, on Monday April 25, 2005. He strongly defended the principle of a police station in San Jose, and listed a large number of events (such as hand grenades exploding in the village) that he felt discredited the community. Please see our notes of the meeting

The representative at the office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Luis Carlos Monge with whom we met, as well as Procurador Maya and his staff, told us that the location of the police station within San Jose does not meet conditions imposed by the Inter-American Court for Human Rights, nor with Colombian law.

The members of the Procurador’s staff who met with us told us that:

“Unfortunately the public forces also violate human rights and the law.”
“High Army powers have recently trained people who historically do not respect Human Rights.”

“Current negotiations re. demobilization could intensify paramilitary presence, making the situation like the massacre more common.” With regard to a perception that the Peace Community is “taken ideologically by the guerillas,” and similar statements from the Police, some Apartado council members and the Mayor, and some other Colombians with whom our delegation met:

We would not expect members of the Peace Community of San Jose de Apartado not to know guerillas personally. Members of the Peace Community have grown up with and been friends with a wide variety of local people, some of whom wound up with the guerillas.

San Jose presents non-violent resistance in a country that only knows violent resistance. That is why they are important and why FARC guerillas have killed nineteen residents since the community declared itself a Peace Community.
We would expect some residents of San Jose, as neutrals, to be in touch with friends in the guerillas, just as they would be in touch with friends in Apartado who may have been, for example, trained by the Army to act as paramilitaries. Their lives are in Apartado.

So when, as Colonel Moreno of the national police reported, a cell-phone call from a woman in San Jose to a friend in the guerillas was intercepted, with the essence of the conversation being: “did you do that “ (referring to some guerilla action), this does not mean that San Jose is violating neutrality. When members of the community encounter guerillas out in the countryside and talk with them (as Col. Moreno reports the Police have observed), this does not mean that San Jose is violating neutrality. We would expect friends to keep in touch for a variety of social reasons (including births, deaths, personal support), and that conversation would flow at those encounters. Officers and others who grew up in privileged circumstances may not personally know any guerillas or campesinos, and may not appreciate the above points.

Colonel Moreno told our delegation that another reason he believes the leaders of the community are overtly against the government is that their website billboards the word “RESIST”. One’s perceptions are often influenced by one’s peer group. The authors of the website more likely intend an exhortation to resist the kind of population displacement that has already been forced on several million Colombian campesinos.

San Jose is caught in a Civil War. The most principled stance is to be neutral, not contributing to the killing of friends, in-laws, brothers and sisters who may be guerillas, paramilitaries and armed forces of the nation. The position of the Peace Community is one that we recognize and respect, and you may very well respect it too.

San Jose de Apartado is a good community that can develop the country

Contrary to views expressed by members of the Apartado Council, police, army, and some government officials, we found in visiting and talking with people in San Jose that the members of the community are properly and exceptionally well motivated. San Jose de Apartado provides an alternative model for peaceful rural development of the traditional agricultural sector in Colombia.

We visited with work teams taking care of children, constructing sidewalks and housing; cutting trees into lumber across the river and up a hill from the camp, carrying the cut lumber from where the trees had been felled, and carrying rocks and gravel from the river for the walkways, all without gasoline powered vehicles. We saw no gasoline-powered vehicles on site, - only a gasoline chain saw, human labor and a very few draft animals. No bulldozers, shovels or trucks. The road from Apartado goes by outside the barbed wire fence behind which the new camp is located, and no road goes into the new site.

The fact that their community works as a collective could be seen as an asset to the nation, not a threat. We believe that San Jose de Apartado is a highly respectable, indeed admirable community, especially because they have maintained their ideology and resisted displacement while 150 members have been murdered and massacred over the past fifteen years.

Our Conclusions:

We believe the following conclusions are well based on the information we have gathered:

The Army was responsible for the massacre of members of the Peace Community on February 21, 2005

The Peace Community has developed a highly respectable and principled stance toward the war in Colombia: an active peaceful resistance. We found no credible evidence of willingly participation of the Community in the armed conflict or of Community support for the FARC guerrillas or any other armed actor.

The Peace Community of San Jose de Apartado is an experiment of non-violence which is unique in the world. One of its most remarkable features is the truly democratic form in which decisions are made with the whole Community deciding on every important measure.

The Colombian Government made a mockery of the Inter American Court when it chose not to follow the Court’s recommendation which specifically says to negotiate decisions with the Community. The location of the Police station was agreed to tentatively in the discussion between Luis Eduardo Guerra representing the desires of the Community and Vice President Santos. The Community’s request was to locate the Police on the outskirts of the town, not inside .The Colombian government used the massacre as an excuse to impose the authoritarian decision of locating the Police station inside the town.

We believe the Community’s decision to oppose the placement of a Police station within the Community to be eminently reasonable for the following reasons:

a) it is consistent with the Community’s principled opposition to having arms in their midst; and b) the Community would leave itself open to becoming engaged in the armed conflict, as the guerrillas might carry out an armed attack against the Police station which might injure or kill Peace Community residents and damage their homes, as happened to the indigenous community of Toribio in Cauca province while our CSN delegation was in Colombia.

We found credible evidence of extensive cooperation and coordination between the Army and the paramilitaries in the massacre of February 21, 2005 and other events involving the Peace Community of San Jose. It is clear to us that the Colombian Government has failed to curtail these paramilitaries, whose activities are illegal under Colombian law. Under these circumstances the Peace Community’s rejection of Army presence in the Community appears sensible and reasonable.

We believe on the basis of the evidence we received during our visit to San Jose, Apartado, Medellin and Bogota that the Colombian Government has failed to take measures to protect the Peace Community as ordered by the Inter-American Court and by Colombia’s Constitutional Court.

In one sense the Peace Community of San Jose is a representative of rural communities throughout Colombia which have organized as civil society and in constituent assemblies to oppose the armed conflict, but have experienced aggression by the Colombian state, rather than protection, with their institutions and lands subjected to attack by paramilitary forces acting in concert with the Colombian Armed Forces

We ask that you incorporate the above information regarding human rights in Colombia, including information in linked documents, in your reports and deliberations, in so far as you recognize it to be useful.

Our Recommendations:

We recommend, based on our information in this report:

That United States aid to Colombia’s armed forces be cut off until Colombian armed forces collaboration with paramilitaries and until changes are made by the Colombian government in its policies toward rural agrarian communities like San Jose de Apartado.

That the United States require investigation by the respective Colombian authorities of all military and police commanders of the region encompassing Apartado since 1997, when San Jose declared itself a Peace Community

That the United States deny visas for Colonel Duque, General Fandino and other Army and Police officers responsible for the soldiers and policemen who have abused the residents of the Peace Community of San Jose de Apartado since 1997.

That the United States withhold aid from Colombia unless the Colombian authorities:
Respect the desire of the Peace Community to have no armed actors within their borders and demonstrate that Army and Police collaboration with paramilitaries has ended, and also develop a just alternative to the proposed government plan for demobilizing and “reinserting” paramilitary into civilian society.

Respond effectively to conditions required for Colombia by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights and by Colombia’s own constitution.

Cease using military (including National Police) professionals in civilian functions such as teachers and doctors that the government is obliged to provide in rural communities.

Remove the local offices of the Judiciary (Fiscalia) from military bases, to enable their impartiality

The United States can help to end the continuing, severe violations of rights of peasants like those of San Jose de Apartado, who hold and embody the highest moral position consistent with the conditions forced upon them.

Millions of Colombians have already become internally displaced. The toleration and (yes) support by US aid of ongoing massacres and harassment of the populations of San Jose and many other rural communities can be halted.

We hope that the information gathered by our delegation will help lead to a foreign policy towards Colombia based upon the principles upon which our nation was founded.

This report is dedicated to the memory of Luis Eduardo Guerra, Deiner Guerra (age 11), Bellanira Areiza, Alfonso Bolívar Tuberquia, Sandra Milena Muñoz, Natalia Tuberquia (age 5), Santiago Tuberquia (18 months) and Alejandro Pérez, who died in Mulatos, Apartado, Colombia, February 2005.


Parents sing their children to sleep.
Death came the other night.
Raw murder made a deeper sleep.
Now they sleep a deep, deep sleep.

Soldiers with guns and long knives put parents to sleep.
Knives were sharp, brought swift pain.
Now the children sleep.
Now they sleep a deep, deep sleep.

Some children ran and ran and hid.
They need someone to lullaby so they can sleep.
But fear makes sleep hard, less deep.
Now they sleep a deep, deep sleep.

Their eyes shone. Their ears could hear songs
Visits from pain and hurt were wrong.
No lullaby will ease their fear, help them sleep.
Now they sleep a deep, deep sleep.

The children of San Jose are now asleep.
Eyes can’t see. Ears can’t hear.
Now their sleep is deep.
Now they sleep a deep, deep sleep.

Please, God, help all Colombian children
So for all,
So for all,
Now they sleep a deep, deep sleep.

John Gibson, Madison, June 2005