Saturday, May 20, 2006
The United Nations says an investigation into police torture in Chicago needs to go further.
In 1987, Chicago Police Detective Robert Dwyer bragged to his sister Ellen Pryweller, “I can make anyone confess to anything.” He wasn't just blowing smoke.
The repeated practice of torture by Chicago police came to light in the late 1980s and early 1990s. The People's Law Office, an activist firm, conducted an investigation and identified sixty-five suspects who were tortured by Commander John Burge or other officers and detectives between 1972 and 1991 in Areas 2 and 3.7 A report by the police investigatory agency, the Office of Professional Standards (OPS), found that physical abuse "did occur and that it was systematic....The type of abuse described was not limited to the usual beating, but went into such esoteric areas as psychological techniques and planned torture. The evidence presented by some individuals convinced juries and appellate courts that personnel assigned to Area 2 engaged in methodical abuse."
In 1993, the Illinois Supreme Court concluded that Burge and his men had carried out years of “systematic torture”. That embarrassed the city enough to force Burge into retirement.
But even after the Supreme Court’s ruling, every attempt by defence attorneys to challenge the convictions of their clients because of torture was thrown out. No criminal court judge has been willing to take the word of any prisoner over that of the police department and prosecutors.
In April 2002, anti-police brutality and anti-death penalty activists won a victory when a special prosecutor was appointed to investigate Burge.
Yesterday, a Cook County judge today ruled that details of the 2002 investigation into the allegations of police torture should be released, but one of the report's authors says it will not be available for at least another two weeks.
In a written ruling, Chief Criminal Courts Judge Paul Biebel ordered
the release of the report created by two special prosecutors he
appointed in 2002 to investigate the alleged torture of 192 black men
in interrogation rooms during the 1970s and 1980s.
Earlier in the day community activists and others opposed to the death penalty protested outside the Criminal Courts Building in Chicago, urging Biebel to release the report.
"I want to see that report. I want to see it released," said Gloria
Faye Collier, one of the demonstrators to the Chicago Tribune. "I want to see Burge and those police officers indicted."
The rally, organized by the Campaign to End the Death Penalty and the Justice Coalition of Greater Chicago, followed the release Friday morning of the statement by a United Nations anti-torture panel criticizing the four-year investigation into allegations of police brutality in Chicago as not going far enough.
Meanwhile, prisoners remain on death row following confessions forced by Burge and others on the police force through torture techniques.
The following is from Pantagraph.co.
U.N.: Chicago police torture inquiry should go further
GENEVA -- A four-year investigation into allegations of torture at the Chicago Police Department needs to go further, a U.N. anti-torture panel said Friday, calling on the United States to ensure punishment for law enforcement officials who mistreated suspects.
A report by the U.N. Committee Against Torture said the multimillion-dollar investigation into the alleged torture of 192 black men in interrogation rooms during the 1970s and 1980s was "limited" and not yet led to any prosecutions.
Allegations include officers using suffocation techniques, such as placing a typewriter cover over a suspect's head, along with electric shocks, beatings and mock Russian Roulette to elicit confessions.
The investigation in Illinois has stemmed from a decision by Cook County's Chief Criminal Court Judge Paul Biebel to appoint special prosecutors Edward J. Egan and Robert D. Boyle to look into claims of torture by a violent crimes unit led by former Chicago Police Lt. Jon Burge. Burge has denied any misconduct but was fired in 1993 for mistreating a suspect. The investigation has cost $5.5 million.
Biebel ruled Friday that a report stemming from the investigation should be released to the public, but he did not specify exactly when. He scheduled the next status hearing for June 2. Attorneys for some police officers involved in the case have argued against the release of the report.
It is unclear whether the investigation will lead to indictments. Statutes of limitations could be an issue because some of the allegations date from the 1970s.
The U.N. committee says the United States "should promptly, thoroughly and impartially investigate all allegations of acts of torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment by law enforcement personnel and bring perpetrators to justice."
The committee is a panel of 10 independent experts who review nations' compliance with a 1984 global convention establishing a broad ban on prisoner mistreatment.
The U.N. report also criticized American policies in its war on terrorism, and said U.S. authorities are failing to protect prisoners held in domestic prisons against acts of sexual violence. It also called for the U.S. to improve conditions for women and children under custody.
Fernando Marino Menendez, an expert from Spain who chairs the committee, said the U.S. government needed to provide more information on what it was doing to ensure justice for people claiming to have been tortured by Chicago police.
U.S. authorities should inform the committee "if they have already found out some problems about police brutality and torture in Chicago, about which nothing has been done for some time," Marino Menendez told reporters.
Friday, May 19, 2006
Sojourner Truth Organization was a small new communist organization, which came into existence in the winter of 1969-70. It was one of the first of the post new left organizations which was involved in direct factory organizing during this period. The group lasted well into the 80s (when it quite simply withered away) and had branches and or members in Chicago, Kansas City, San Francisco, Portland, Denver, New Orleans, and New York and elsewhere. STO while small in number was active in the workplace, anti-imperialist and anti-racist organizing, the womens movement, the anti-nuclear movement, the solidarity movement, anti-fascist organizing and more.
It distinguished itself from other New Left and new communist groups in a number of ways. Perhaps, the most significant was in its critical approach to the role of race in the formation of the American working class which is placed on the front burner of all of its organizing activity. This perspective is perhaps best expressed in Noel Ignatiev's Preface to Workplace Papers, a 1980 publication of the STO:
Briefly stated, this perspective was as follows:
in modern industrial societies, bourgeois rule depends on the development of a variety of "systems" that channel the outbreaks of the exploited class and allow their absorption by capital; that the specifically American framework for this process is the white-skin privilege system — the conferring of a favored status on the white sector of the proletariat; and that the trade unions cannot be understood apart from this framework.
STO was influenced by the ideas of the radical Marxist theorist C.L.R. James and by Italian Autonomist Marxism.
STO argued (along with James) that a free society emerges from the desires and actions of the working class itself, not the teachings or leadership of a vanguard.
STO's thought and practice is still felt in a number of present day organizations.
Anarchists, also, have expressed an interest in STO which was not an anarchist but a Marxist organization. Still they find STO's positions in favor of extra-union labor organizing, direct action anti-fascism, autonomy, dual consciousness, and the white-skin privilege analysis to be of interest.
Many, if not most of its members are still active today in one way or another.
You may notice that in many places the viewpoint of the Oread Daily (whenever that viewpoint is actually put out there) and that of STO coincide.
There are two related web sites some of you might find of interest.
The first is an archive of STO material - Sojourner Truth Orgaization can be found at http://www.sojournertruth.net/main.html. There you will find numerous pamphlets and essays written by STO members. Although they are years old they are not at all without merit.
In addition to the above mentioned link, for those of you interested, there is also a current STO related blog at http://sojournertruth.blogsome.com/.
The following comments come from the blog and mention a pamphlet which you can download at the archives site mentioned previously.
White Skin Privilege
April 17, 2006
Ah, white Skin privilege. Years before I ever heard of the Sojourner Truth Organization, I had heard this term, perhaps initially in some sort of workshop for white people confronting racism. By the time I graduated from college, I was familiar with the journal Race Traitor, whose primary editor I knew was Noel Ignatiev. By the time I met Noel in person a year or two later, I was just becoming aware of the past existence of STO. All of this is fitting, in a way, because probably the single greatest legacy of STO to the white left of the last two decades has been precisely the notion that people who are socially designated as white have specific privileges as a result.
Given the broad acceptance of this analysis within the contemporary white left, and particularly among anarchists, it is hard to imagine how marginal it was in the early 1970’s. At that time, within the white left, STO was one of only a handful of small, far-left groupings that advanced the white-skin privilege line as central to the functioning of white supremacy in North America. In an interview, one former member of STO recalled presenting the basic outline of this analysis at a conference in Atlanta in 1974; Bob Avakian (then of the RU, now maximum leader of the RCP, living in France) denounced STO’s approach as “bankrupt, bankrupt, bankrupt!” Throughout the 1970’s, this was probably a broadly representative response within the white left. (This is probably still the line of the RCP on this question, although I honestly haven’t paid much attention recently; perhaps the folks at Red Flags can enlighten us.)
The basic idea of white skin privilege comes from W.E.B. Du Bois, who, in his classic work Black Reconstruction in America discussed the “public and psychological wage” (p. 700) that white workers received in exchange for their complicity in the continued functioning of white supremacy. For many decades, such an analysis was welcome in black circles, but had no currency among white radicals. In the 1960’s, two white revolutionaries, Noel Ignatin and Ted Allen, began to popularize this approach to understanding and fighting racism.
The “wage” identified by Du Bois amounts to a series of easily identified relative privileges that are granted to white people in the United States, regardless of their economic class: preferential treatment by cops and courts, being hired first and fired last from most jobs, access to higher quality schools, and so forth. There can be little doubt that these privileges continue to exist in general terms up through the present day, even (or perhaps especially) when they are enforced without reference to (or in contravention of) the law. This was even more clear when Ignatin and several others founded STO in 1969/1970.
STO’s version of white skin privilege analysis differed from that put forward by some others in the white left during the 1970’s. On the one hand, groups like the Weather Underground and the Prairie Fire Organizing Committee (PFOC) argued that white skin privilege so poisoned the well of the white working class in North America that there was no point to the sort of workplace organizing that STO prioritized for much of its existence. As a former member of STO explained in reference to PFOC, “They totally unmoored themselves from the class, and we hadn’t; that was what distinguished us from them.”
On the other hand, especially during its middle period, when it embraced national liberation struggles as the centerpiece of communist revolution, STO was criticized in some circles (including those clustered around Ted Allen) for putting too much emphasis on the complicity of the white working class in the functioning of white supremacy. The basis for this critique was Allen’s historical work, which purported to demonstrate that the development of white supremacy was almost entirely the result of top-down action by the bourgeoisie. (Allen’s The Invention of the White Race was the eventual culmination of this line of thinking.)
In the end, STO steered a sort of middle course, recognizing both the problems and potential of the white working class in North America. In this sense, the white skin privilege analysis of white supremacy can be seen as an example (albeit the most important one by far in the US) of the dual consciousness that I wrote about previously.
The interesting question, then, to which I do not have a clear answer, is “how did (a version of) the white skin privilege analysis become so widely accepted within the white left, and even among progressive liberals?” The transition must have begun sometime in the late 70’s or early 80’s, with the growing acceptance of this approach within the campus left in the US.
Among anarchists, the turning point was clearly marked with the creation of Love and Rage in 1989. At least two former members of STO were members of L&R at various points, and Race Traitor was a common point of reference for the group throughout the 1990’s, even among the substantial portion of the membership that disagreed with its analysis. By the time Love and Rage disbanded in 1998, the face of North American anarchism had changed dramatically, and no more so than in the area of understanding and confronting white supremacy. In the end, the legacy of STO for anarchists has been most visibly built around the increasing acceptance of a white skin privilege analysis over the past fifteen years.
Greenpeace has today blockaded a Cargill grain terminal in Brazil while calling on consumers to put pressure on a major U.S. based fast food chain to stop actions which it says is helping to destroy the Amazon Rain Forest.
Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) is fuelling the destruction of the Amazon by selling cheap chicken fed on soya grown on deforested land.
The Domincan Today says recent Greenpeace investigations have traced the chain of rainforest destruction directly from the heart of the Amazon, via Cargill's facility, to KFC's European restaurants, which sell bucket-loads of cheap soya-fed chicken to millions of people every day.
The Amazon rainforest is being destroyed at an alarming rate and is in urgent need of protection. Since January 2003, nearly 70,000 km2 has been destroyed, equivalent to an area of rainforest the size of 6 football fields every minute. Soya, which is mainly grown to feed animals, is a leading cause of this destruction.
A report last month in Nature magazine revealed that 40% of the Amazon will be lost by 2050 if current trends in agricultural expansion continue, threatening bio-diversity and massively contributing to climate change.
The first article below is from Anencia Brasil. The second is from Greepeace UK.
Greenpeace activists blockade port
Manaus - Since 8:30 this morning (19), the ship Arctic Sunrise, belonging to the non-governmental organization for environmental protection, Greenpeace, has been blockading a grain terminal built by the US multinational corporation, Cargill, in the northern Brazilian river port of Santarém. The activists are protesting the advance of soybean cultivation in the Amazon region and the construction of the terminal without environmental impact studies.
They are surrounded by soybean producers who are threatening to invade the ship. So far the military police have succeeding in averting confrontations.
"We have already received notification from the port authority saying that we have to leave, that we are violating Brazilian laws," says the coordinator of Greenpeace's Amazon Campaign, Paulo Adário. "We acknowledge the fact that the police must do its job, but we are doing ours. What must get out of here is this port, which is illegal."
Adário said that the protest began when activists climbed a soybean unloading bridge and extended a banner saying "Out with Cargill."
Campaigners and soya farmers clash as Cargill's illegal depot is blockaded
To stop the export of soya from deforested areas of the Amazon, Greenpeace have this weekend blocked the operations of US multi-national Cargill, one of the leading culprits in the invasion of soya into the Amazon. On Friday, operations were stopped at Cargill's illegally built export facility in Santarém with our ship the MV Arctic Sunrise seized by Brazilian police after rampaging soya farmers boarded the ship and attempted to get at the crew. Three activists were injured on the day.
The Amazon rainforest is being torn down to make way for soya plantations which provide animal feed for chickens and cattle that end up on the shelves and menus in European markets. We've been campaigning to get McDonald's and KFC to stop using meat fed on Amazon soya but they only represent one end of the chain.
Cargill is the company that links the soya fields of the Amazon and the fast food restaurants over here, shipping out enormous quantities of soya to provide high-protein diets for Europe's livestock.
The largest privately owned company in the world, Cargill are leading the soya invasion. They not only ship the stuff over, they are building the infrastructure needed to transport thousands upon thousands of tonnes of beans through the Amazon basin and into the ports. They have an estimated 13 silos in the Amazon, as well as their illegally built port facility in Santarém.
Cargill have tried to deny that a problem exists, claiming our report Eating Up the Amazon was based on "oversimplification and distortion". But that just won't wash and they have failed to challenge the key findings of the report, namely that the Amazon soya industry is knee-deep in environmental destruction, slavery and land-grabbing and, as the biggest player in town, Cargill is implicated in all of these.
220,000 tonnes of soya was exported to the UK in the last year from one Amazon port alone
And they clearly don't like what we're saying. Over the past two weeks, Greenpeace campaigners in and around Santarém have met with intimidation, threats and violence from soya farmers - even local journalists were attacked simply for being there. During the blockade of Cargill's dodgy port facility, the Greenpeace ship Arctic Sunrise was rammed repeatedly by a tug while Cargill employees tried to cut the anchor.
Despite their grip on the Amazon, Cargill can be persuaded to stop driving the deforestation. If their clients, such as McDonald's and KFC, demand that they adopt sound environmental and socially responsible principles, they will no choice but to meet our demands. Cargill themselves have admitted to customers that using only non-Amazon (and non-GM) soya can be done.
But who do the fast food chains listen to? Their customers, that's who. So use your consumer power to tell them that if they don't stop buying their meat from companies who care a hill of beans for the Amazon rainforest, then you'll stop buying their food.
Hawaiian activists and farmers are that the University of Hawaii (UH) give up its patents on three lines of taro whose lineage extends back to Polynesian taro first brought to the Islands centuries ago. The University was granted U.S. patents on the varieties in 2002, and has also sought world-wide patent rights.
"UH needs to show more respect for native Hawaiian culture," activist Walter Ritte told the press last March. "Hawaiians would never dream of patenting or genetically manipulating kalo (Taro is known as "kalo" to native Hawaiians). Kalo is a gift handed down to us by our ancestors. Hawaiians believe kalo is the first born (named Haloa), and is our elder brother. We have a Kuleana or responsibility to honor, respect and protect Haloa, so he in turn will sustain us."
Big Island educator Ku Kahakalau says, "Taro is a sacred plant to us. It's believed to be a body form of the Hawaiian god Kane.
They are far from alone in their opposition to the patents.
Farmers are concerned that genetically engineered taro would be patented and that they might have to pay a license fee to grow it.
And in fact, farmers wishing to purchase huli, or breeding stock, must sign a licensing agreement with UH. The licensing agreement states that "UH owns the taro cultivar..." It prohibits farmers from selling or breeding the patented plants, and requires payment of a royalty to the University.
"As a farmer, I strongly object to patents on taro or any other crop," Hanalei taro farmer Chris Kobayashi says in a press release from the Center for Food Safety. "Why should farmers have to pay for huli? Our taxes have helped to fund UH. Some of us have been cooperators with UH on different taro research programs including breeding, cultivation and diseases. More importantly, how can anyone claim ownership of plants that have evolved and been selected or bred by farmers for specific environmental conditions and desirable properties over generations?"
The article below is from KHON (Hawaii).
Protestors lock UH regents out of board meeting
Native Hawaiian protesters wanted to be heard.
They tried to assure that, by locking Uuniversity of Hawaii regents out of their board meeting. The drama ended peacefully, but the battle is far from over.
The protest at the John Burns School of Medicine in Kakaako started out much like other protests by native Hawaiian groups.
But it took a different turn when protesters locked the two main doors to the building. It's symbolic because another door was left open. But they made their point. The UH Board of Regents was holding its monthly meeting on Thursday. Protesters led by Walter Ritte are frustrated that they're not being heard. They want UH to drop its patents on several lines of taro. They believe that native Hawaiians are descended from taro, so owning the patent is like owning their ancestors.
"We're saying you cannot own our taro, you cannot own our taro. It's so simple!" says Ritte.
But the university says the patents are meant to protect taro. If UH drops the patent, someone else can step in.
"If we walk away from these patents they're worried about Monsanto or some other company coming in and taking them, and they're gonna be in an even less advantageous position. What I want to do is protect this," says Gary Ostrander, UH vice chancellor for research.
"Skay so you have your excuses," says Ritte.
"No, it's not an excuse, Walter," argues Ostrander.
"It is excuses!" says Ritte.
Board of Regents chairwoman Kitty Lagaretta agreed to sit down with Ritte to find a solution. But Ritte refused until the patents are dropped.
"If you cannot drop the patent then there can be no talking, simple as that," says Ritte.
"Then we're stuck," says Lagaretta.
"Yeah we're stuck," says Ritte.
The lockout delayed the regents meeting about a half hour. Then the protesters backed off.
"Right now we're lifting the kapu so it's noa, everything is free and open again," says Ritte.
Ritte says if UH does not drop the patents, the protests will get louder. UH issued a statement saying it recognizes taro as something sacred and it wants to resolve the issues surrounding it.
Thursday, May 18, 2006
According to Australians for Native Title and Reconciliation (ANTaR) the conservative Howard Government has squandered a unique opportunity to end Australia’s Indigenous health crisis with the release of its 2006 budget, Australians for Native Title and Reconciliation (ANTaR) said tonight.
ANTaR National Director, Gary Highland said the modest increase of around $25 million in Aboriginal health spending next year would do little to close the 17 year life expectancy gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians.
“Research by Access Economics for the Australian Medical Association has indicated that an additional $400 million per year is needed to tackle this problem,” Highland said. Highland added the $1.6 billion required over the next four years to overcome the Indigenous health shortfall was a fraction of the $37 billion in tax cuts to be handed out during this time.
“It appears this Government is prepared to continue letting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children die seventeen years before their non-Indigenous counterparts," Highland said.
This related story comes from the Australia Broadcasting Corporation.
Tennant Creek residents plan strike over Indigenous services
People in the Northern Territory town of Tennant Creek are preparing to go on strike next week, in a bid to get the Federal Indigenous Affairs Minister to come and see them.
Local service station owner Richard Dodd says Indigenous health and housing standards are close to the worst he has seen them in 28 years.
He says the town's demographics are compounding the problems.
"There is not enough in place in town to help the youth of this town," he said.
"Someone gave me the statistics the other day that we have got the largest, the youngest population in Australia in this area, so we're not, haven't got means in this town to handle that."
About 100 people were killed in two of the most violent days in Afghanistan since the 2001 ouster of the Taliban, as hundreds of insurgents attacked a southern town and fighting flared across the country.
A fierce Taliban-led insurgency in recent months has placed Ghazni, which lies just 135 kilometres south of the capital Kabul, among the most volatile provinces in southern Afghanistan.
Analysts now fear that the Taliban resurgency there is part of a wider resurrection of the Islamist movement, that will lead to a dramatic escalation in violence in other areas of southern Afghanistan, including Helmand province where British troops have been deployed.
In a dispatch from the Institute for War & Peace Reporting, Jandad Khan, a bus driver who travels regularly from Andar district to Ghazni city, said that outside district headquarters, security posts and major roads, the government exerts little authority.
“The real authority in the countryside is in hands of the Taliban who are patrolling in the area freely, without any fear, day and night,” he said.
Local Taliban commander Mullah Muhammad Anas (not his real name), who claims to be appointed by the militia’s so-called governing council to lead insurgency operations in Andar, claimed in the same dispatch that the authorities are reluctant to confront his forces.
“Their strategy is to avoid the Taliban,” he said. “We see police in checkpoints along the roads standing idle. We pass by them constantly.”
According to Anas, the Taliban is winning in Andar, not only because of better equipment and tactics, but also due to the increasing support and growing sympathy of the population. “We are gaining influence among the people,” he said.
“We had very few sanctuaries in the district two years ago, but now there is a place for us in every village.”
And now back to Afghanistan with the following report from AKI.
AFGHANISTAN: NEW COMMANDER THE KEY TO TALIBAN SPRING OFFENSIVE
Many jihadis in Afghanistan and farther afield are convinced that by year's end Taliban leader Mullah Omar will be back in power in Afghanistan, from where he was driven by US-led forces in late 2001. That may be wishful thinking, yet Taliban preparations over the past eight months indicate the so-called 'spring offensive' will be bloody. The gunbattles in southern Helmand province which have killed at least 70 people in the past two days are proof. And crucial to the offensive is Mullah Omar's recent decision to bring in a legendary anti-Soviet fighter, Maulana Jalaluddin Haqqani as commander-at-large.
The winter buildup for the Taliban's ongoing attempts to destabilise the Karzai-led administration, as NATO troops move into the more restive southern provinces, has involved the mass recruitment of suicide bombers and underhand deals with local tribal elders in various Afghan provinces.
"Once again we are facing like situation like the mid-1990s when bloodshed was everywhere, the situation went from bad to worse and circumstances prompted the Taliban movement to emerge and boot our government out," warned former Afghan prime minister Ahmad Shah Ahmadzai, on a telephone with Adnkronos International (AKI) from Kabul.
"The Karzai administration has no writ anywhere and we are once again in a limbo," added Ahmad Shah, acting premier of Afghanistan before the Taliban seized power in 1996.
However, sources across the border suggest that while recent decisions by Mullah Omar have contributed to the Taliban broadening their armed revolt in southern Afghanistan, their progress has been made possible by long months of ground work and planning.
The major decision - which sources believe dates back to April 2006 - was bringing in Maulana Jalaluddin Haqqani as the key commander in Afghan resistance.
Jalaluddin Haqqani was not part of Taliban movement when it emerged from Zabul in the mid-1990s, but he was the first, most powerful commander of the Afghan resistance who surrendered to Taliban, unconditionally.
Now in his 50s Haqqani is respected as a legendary commander of Mujahadeen who fought against the Soviet presence in Afghanistan and was responsible for seizing the first major city, Khost, in 1991 from the communist government.
Though Haqqani still command greatest respect all over Afghanistan and among tribal elders of Khost, Paktia Paktika and Gardez, because he did not belong to the original Taliban core, he could not acquire any central role in the Taliban-led resistance.
Yet he has always remained loyal to Mullah Omar. Proof of that was given in after 9/11, when Haqqani was invited to Islamabad by the Pakistani secret services, the ISI, who offered him the presidency if he would lead a revolt against Mullah Omar and carve out “moderate Taliban”. Haqqani refused and went back to the Ghulam Khan mountains to pitch intense battle against allied forces.
He continue to operate in the areas of Khost and Paktia with random attacks but Mullah Akhtar Osamani and Mullah Dadullah remained the central commanders of Taliban.
That all changed, sources believe, last month. Mullah Omar examined his forces and decided to 'promote' Jalaluddin Haqqani, giving him more funds, huge stockpiles of arms and ammunition and many hundreds of youths who had been trained with Iraqi resistance in the techniques of urban guerrilla warfare.
Mullah Omar has assigned geographic areas to each commander but now Jalaluddin Haqqani has been made commander at large. He is given control of suicide attackers to launch them through out Afghanistan and is authorized to pitch battles with his group any where on Afghan soil.
The flow of funds and human resources have boosted Haqqani’s influence in the southern region and many old veterans of the Afghan resistance, like Nasrullah Mansoor’s commander Saifullah Masoor, who were previously sitting idle in Gardez and other areas have joined Haqqani.
The personnel change at the top comes at the end of steady preparations throughout 2005 and in to 2006.
The Taliban launched a major recruitment drive all last year. When the Pakistan government clamped down on Jihadi activities and discouraged militants from infiltrating Indian-administered Kashmir, many fighters were re-routed to the Taliban.
In Pakistan, former members of banned organizations such as Laskhar-i-Toiba and Jaish-i-Mohamed gravitated towards North and South Waziristan, in the mountainous borderlands with Afghanistan, where the Taliban have established an Islamic state on the pattern of their regime in Afghanistan. All pledge their allegiance to Mullah Omar.
Jihadi sources indicate that there may be up to 27,000 fighters gathered in North Waziristan alone, with a further 13,000 believed grouped in South Waziristan. It is from this predominantly tribal area - where Pakistan's central government has no writ despite attempts to send troops - that militants can pass into southern Afghanistan, stage their attacks, and retreat.
The local Taliban leadership is believed to have formed 100 suicide squads by February 2006. Their motto “fight till the last man and last bullet” though if they carry out suicide attacks there will, naturally, be no fighting at all.
Syed Saleem Shahzad, author of the above report, is the Karachi bureau chief for Asia Times.
Larry Darby is or was (its unclear to me which as I've seen reports both ways) general counsel for the Atheist Law Center in Montgomery, Ala. He is also a candidate in the democratic primary in Alabama for Attorney General.
Last weeks Larry Darby was the guest speaker at the National Vanguard New Jersey's monthly meeting at the Juvenile Order of United Automechanics (JOUAM) Hall, the nationwide group's local chapter headquarters.
“It’s time to stop pushing down the white man. We’ve been discriminated against too long,” Darby said in an interview with Philly Burbs prior to that speaking appearance.
Darby referred to illegal immigration as a "Mexican invasion," and proposed a three-part plan to deal with it.
Part one of Darby's plan includes bringing home the Alabama National Guard from Iraq, asking the Governor to declare martial law, and stationing the Guard at all entry points to the country, with orders to "shoot to kill." Darby said, "We are at war. we are being invaded by a foreign country."
Darby said that part two of his plan is to "get out the infection that's here," by treating illegal aliens as "prisoners of war." He stated that county sheriffs should be the first line of defense in curbing the invasion, and that the system of constables should be rebuilt in order to assist the sheriffs. He advocates creating a compact with Mississippi, Louisiana, and Texas to cooperate in transporting all illegals back to Mexico.
Part three is to take "preventive medicine" to ensure that the flow of aliens doesn't happen again. He would do this by outlawing organizations that advocate open borders.
Larry Darby concedes his views are radical, but he said they should help him win wide support among Alabama voters as he tries to "reawaken white racial awareness."
The article below is from The Forward.
Ala. Democrats Scramble To Bounce Shoah Denier From Primary Ballot
By Jennifer Siegel
A Democratic candidate for Alabama's attorney general's office has been exposed as a Holocaust denier less than a month before the state's June 6 primaries.
Larry Darby believes that there were no more than 140,000 Jewish deaths during World War II — most of them having been brought on by typhus — and that the historically accepted figure of 6 million killed is a lie promoted by the "Holocaust industry," The Associated Press reported last week.
The revelation about Darby, who ran for attorney general in 2002 as a Libertarian, has sent the state's Democratic Party scrambling to keep him out of the two-way primary, which also includes Mobile County's district attorney, John Tyson Jr.
We do "not stand for what Mr. Darby has been espousing," said Jim Spearman, executive director of the state's Democratic Party, in an interview with the Forward. Spearman said that the party is currently determining whether it can keep Darby out of the primary based on a provision in its bylaws stating that conduct deemed "incompatible" with a declaration of candidacy could be grounds for disqualification.
According to a poll of 400 registered voters, conducted last month for Alabama press outlets, Tyson has 21% of the vote against Darby's 12%, with about two-thirds of respondents undecided. The survey had a margin of error of five percentage points.
But Spearman said that the poll, conducted so far in advance of a relatively low-profile race, is misleading. He added that political insiders view Tyson as heavily favored to win.
Darby, a self-described Dixiecrat, reportedly favors the imposition of martial law to stop illegal emigration from Mexico.
"Someone needs to speak up for the white man," he told the Decatur Daily News. "It's been a long time since someone took up that bat and took a swing for the white man."
He also said that Alabama should recall its National Guard troops from Iraq because "they are fighting for Israeli interests and not for Alabama or United States interests."
Although Darby's antisemitism did not draw widespread attention until last week, the candidate was previously involved with prominent Holocaust deniers. One of them is David Irving, to whom he played host at a meeting last July. As a result of the visit, Darby was forced to resign as president of the Atheist Law Center, which he founded after he earned a degree from the Montgomery, Ala.-based Jones Law School in 1999.
Last weekend, Darby traveled to Elmwood Park, N.J., to attend a meeting of the New Jersey unit of the National Vanguard, a group formed in 2005 by key activists who were expelled from the neo-Nazi National Alliance. According to the Anti-Defamation League, last weekend's meeting was held at the Juvenile Order of United Automechanics Hall and was attended by roughly 20 people, including David Duke and Prussian Blue, a white-power pop group.
In a letter posted on the National Vanguard site, Darby argued that the posting of the Ten Commandments in government buildings — a practice opposed by several influential Jewish organizations — is actually an attempt to "telegraph" the notion that "Jewish Supremacism is the law." He also took aim at several presidents for declaring an "Education Day" tied to the efforts of the Chabad-Lubavitch Hasidic movement to promote the so-called Noahide Laws, the biblical rules that, according to Jewish tradition, should be obeyed by all human beings. "Upon examination," Darby said, the laws "subjugate" non-Jews.
Another letter from Darby, posted on the Web site, includes a fund-raising pitch citing the poll that has him trailing by only nine points.
"Please help me close that gap," Darby wrote. "I need money to make more personal appearances and buy campaign literature and other materials. You can help me make a difference."
"The public education system is going to change," said Yvette M. Jones, chief operating officer at Tulane. And there's no better time, she added, than when you have "a clean slate."
As you read the article below here is some further information to keep in mind.
Tulane University contracted Johnson Controls to rebuild the Fortier High's storm-damaged mechanical and electrical infrastructure. Johnson also is seeking outside funding to help refurbish Lusher Charter Schools and other ailing entities.
Why is this of any importance?
Johnson Controls has a no-bid contract (signed prior to Hurricane Katrina) that was rife with corruption and prompted several federal indictments. As the Times-Picayune newspaper has reported, Johnson Controls landed a 20-year, $81 million energy-management contract with former New Orleans Mayor Marc Morial, a contract that was awarded without the public's or city council's knowledge. Members of the Morial administration and others skimmed hundreds of thousands of dollars from the contract, which led to numerous federal indictments.
New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin, who succeeded Morial, had raised questions about the Johnson Controls contract even before the scandal broke. The Nagin administration charged that the deal's structure made it impossible to verify whether the savings on energy costs were being realized, and the contract was larded with noncompetitive subcontracts for Morial cronies.
A central figure in the scheme was Terry Songy, who was a project manager for Johnson Controls Inc. He pled guilty in a plea bargining agreement with the feds.
Songy was fired by Johnson Controls after company officials "learned" of the money and gifts he had taken from others involved in the job, representatives have said. Company officials said that Johnson Controls was innocent of any wrongdoing and unaware of the skimming.
If nothing else, you would have to wonder about the company's oversight ability if they were indeed unaware that anything was wrong.
And now the company is getting millions for a whole range of projects in New Orleans.
The following was sent to me from a friend in New Orleans. I am not sure who actually wrote it or where it may have appeared. But it is some mighty good information.
Who Stole Fortier High School?
How does a historically black high school get turned into predominantly white elite charter school? Alcee Fortier High School in New Orleans is a symbol of everything wrong in New Orleans today. Hurricane Katrina drove 1,000 black students out of the school in August of 2005. Two months later, while 90% of the black community was still in exile and nearly all the Fortier students, parents, and staff were still banned from the city by martial law, Tulane University and administrators from Robert M. Lusher Middle school took over the Fortier building to convert it into a new Lusher High School. Tulane kicked in $1.5 million to seal the deal on the condition that the children of Tulane faculty and staff (virtually all-white) would be allowed to attend the new charter high school without having to take admission exams—as Lusher required for other students.
Hundreds of Fortier students who hoped to return in January of 2006 found their school had been stolen from them. Worse yet, Tulane and Lusher had begun improvements on the building including removing lead paint and asbestos. For years, wealthy white people had no problem with black children breathing in deadly lead and asbestos, but now that their children were going to attend the school, the building had to be made safe.
Tulane had long wanted to create an exclusive high school that would employ its own personnel and be financed by the state. Activists have labeled the plan racist because the new school would primarily benefit the children of Tulane professors at the expense of other public schools that are seriously under funded . Despite employment practices by Tulane that would conflict with policies negotiated between the Orleans Parish School Board and the American Federation of Teachers for school employees, some board members have endorsed Tulane's participation in establishing a new high school.
With the prospect of further access to public funding, Tulane began to insinuate itself into the New Orleans Public Schools (NOPS) by means of a new Internet library resource, "offered only to educators in the New Orleans Public School District..." . Although Tulane does not have a school of education, it began "testing the waters" by sending student observers into various public schools and has enlisted the cooperation of Kathy Riedlinger, principal of Lusher Extension School. It also installed a business program into the John McDonogh High School curriculum.
Exercising powers newly afforded him by Senate Act 193, Superintendent of Schools Anthony Amato quietly negotiated with Tulane to make it a "partner" in a new Lusher High School that would be housed in an uptown school building (Sophie B. Wright Middle School), whose current students would be displaced. Public outrage following disclosure of this "under-the-radar" scheme was a factor that contributed to Amato's abrupt resignation.
Well-organized Lusher parents, determined to sever the school's relationship with a dysfunctional central administration now in crisis, drafted a proposal to convert Lusher into a publicly-supported charter school administered by a private board selected by the school's parents. In a move toward self-imposed privatization, Lusher teachers overwhelmingly agreed to give up their representation by the teachers' union in exchange for a system of accountability to an untried administrative board with which they will now have to negotiate salaries, working conditions and benefits, and depend upon to resolve disputes and grievances. Presumably, the new Lusher board will be empowered to set student enrollment qualifications, hire and dismiss teachers at will, receive private funding, expand to upper grade levels, create alternative programs, and enter into relationships with other academic institutions.
New Orleans had been under a compulsory evacuation order when Hurricane Katrina struck on August 29, 2005. Then came the breaches of the levee system protecting the city and the floods that destroyed scores of neighborhoods, businesses and institutions, leaving New Orleans with an uncertain future. With the population dispersed and the public school system shattered, Tulane quickly moved to implement its plan to acquire Lusher School, turn it into a publicly-supported charter school, and expand its grades through high school. The takeover would provide for the education of the children of returning faculty displaced by the storm.
The political resources brought to bear to secure Lusher could serve as a model of how things are done in a closed political environment. New Orleans' Mayor Ray Nagin placed Tulane President Scott S. Cowen in charge of "fixing" New Orleans' foundering public school system and appointed him to head the Committee on Education of his Bring New Orleans Back Commission. As chair of the Education Committee, Cowen had direct access to Governor Kathleen Blanco's Louisiana Recovery Authority, which controlled financing for the rebuilding of New Orleans. Joining Cowen's Education Committee was Phyllis Landrieu, a member of the Orleans Parish School Board and its future president. Another school board member, Heidi Daniels, is the wife of Tulane's executive director of state and local affairs, Flozell Daniels Jr.
Conspicuous by their subordinate role in the educational decision-making process were representatives of local universities with functioning departments of education. For example, the College of Education at the University of New Orleans has an extensive program of teacher training at the undergraduate and graduate levels and its dean, Dr. James Meza, has served as Executive Director of the Louisiana State Board of Elementary and Secondary Education. In contrast, Tulane has neither a school of education, nor does it offer formal courses in teacher preparation. The political forces that dictated Mayor Nagin's choices of committee leadership await illumination from an observer privy to the behind-the-scenes activities of the mayor's commission.
From their temporary headquarters in Houston, Texas, Tulane administrators continued their campaign to acquire control over Lusher School and issued a fait accompli in the form of an October 5, 2005 press release describing the new K-12 charter school and their intention to supplement the teaching staff with Teach For America volunteers. On September 15, 2005, the proposal to establish Lusher as a charter school and expand its grades through high school had been approved by the Orleans Parish School Board at a meeting held in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and by October 28, 2005, the Orleans Parish School Board approved the use of Alcee Fortier High School for Lusher's middle and upper grades, thus completing the acquisition process. Tulane had pledged $1.5 million as an immediate source of operating funds, and this was matched by $1.75 million from the state. Tulane's “Bold Renewal Plan” for Tulane University, including the dismissal of many tenured professors, was not announced until December 8, 2005.
With the privatization of Lusher, Tulane succeeded in avoiding collective-bargaining with teachers and implemented instead an authoritarian hierarchy in which employees would serve at the pleasure of their superiors, termed a "performance-based" policy. Despite the surplus of certified veteran teachers who were unemployed post-Katrina, Tulane and Lusher principal, Kathy Riedlinger, opted to employ teachers tolerant of anti-union principles and Teach For America recruits. The latter are noted for their youth and enthusiasm, brief (generally two-year) commitment to service, and their minimal training in educational pedagogy. The Teach For America program is funded by the U.S. Government, and Tulane has a direct connection to it through Walter S. Isaacson, a member of Tulane's Board of Governors who also chairs the Teach For America Board of Directors. Dismissing the role played by the five local universities that actually operate departments of education (University of New Orleans, Loyola, Dillard, Xavier, and Southern Universities), Isaacson, a Tulane graduate, declared Cowen "the hero when it comes to New Orleans education."
With a selective enrollment policy and first preference given to the children of professional staff at Tulane, Loyola, Dillard and Xavier Universities, places at Lusher Charter Schools were rapidly filled, forcing some parents in the Lusher district who were not connected with those universities to look elsewhere for schools to educate their children.
What became of the 1,000 former black Fortier students? Tulane could care less. Fortier is a symbol of how the wealthy white elite and their middle-class supporters had no place for black people in their “vision” of a better New Orleans. First they starved the schools to death by refusing to fund them adequately; now they are building a new city on the bones of the old.
Wednesday, May 17, 2006
This is a follow up on yesterday's story "TENT CITY VOWS TO FIGHT ON TO SAVE "PRICELESS ECOSYSTEMS". Check it out for lots of background on the story below from the CBC.
Aboriginal elders join Eagleridge protest
Two First Nations elders have thrown their support behind the protesters who are trying to stop the expansion of the Sea to Sky Highway through Eagleridge Bluffs in West Vancouver.
The two members of the Squamish First Nation spelled out their opposition to the project at the site of the tent city above Horseshoe Bay on Tuesday.
"The government has no jurisdiction in our territory," said Harriet Nahanee, as she waved a copy of a royal proclamation from many years ago that detailed the First Nations' right to the land.
Nahanee was joined by hereditary Chief Capilano, who said many members of his band are opposed to the highway expansion – which is part of the preparations for the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver and Whistler.
The Squamish First Nation has signed agreements with the B.C. government on a number of Olympic-related projects, and stands to benefit financially from the Games.
But Capilano said he's opposed to the elected chiefs who made those deals, declaring the land belongs to his ancestors and grandchildren – not the B.C. government.
Capilano said many Squamish people have been too afraid to speak out until now. "Their livelihood comes from the elected chiefs, so they're put in line as soon as they stand up.
"A lot of them talked to me and I know what's in their hearts. So all I can say is that there will be, if necessary, there will be a great bundle of us here if it carries on."
On Monday, a B.C. Supreme Court judge ordered the protesters to move out, to allow the construction to begin – or to face being arrested. The Coalition to Save Eagleridge Bluffs is appealing that ruling.
The protest camp went up a month ago, in an effort to stop the provincial government from building a new section of highway through the area . Instead the coalition wants the government to build a tunnel.
Cuban President Fidel Castro said he would offer his resignation if the United States, can prove that he has a huge personal fortune as claimed by Forbes magazine.
Fidel Castro made a special TV appearance on Monday along other Cuban personalities to respond to the defamation by the US Forbes business magazine, which released an article listing him among the world’s ten richest leaders.
“I challenge everyone, above all that petty thief Bush, the US intelligence agencies, the thousands of banks in the world, to prove it.” he said and added that “If they can prove that I have a bank account abroad with 900 millions, or 1.5 billion dollars, or with one single dollar, I will resign my post.”
Earlier this month, Castro was listed by Forbes as the seventh wealthiest ruler with 900 million dollars. The estimate includes state enterprises that the magazine assumes he controls in Cuba, among them the Havana Convention Centre, the Cimex retail conglomerate and a pharmaceutical company that exports vaccines.
The Cuban Revolution leader considered it ridiculous that he was attributed with such a vast fortune when he had no heirs. “What do I want all that money for if I am turning 80 years old, what a strange fortune without heirs?” he asked himself and said “they want to make me appear like one of those many thieves that they nourish.”
Castro says his net worth is nil and that he earns only 900 Cuban pesos ($US40) a month as head of state.
The following article comes from AxisofLogic.com
Please, Not Fidel Castro’s Fortune Again!
By Pascual Serrano. Translated from Spanish for Axis of Logic by Barbara Maseda and revised by Nancy Almendras, Tlaxcala*
Forbes magazine says that he has a 900 million dollar fortune. Let’s see how they calculated it.
Once again Forbes magazine has included the Cuban president in the list of what they call the richest “kings, queens and dictators." Of course, all the media enthusiastically echoed this information, released every year.
If we search in Google News, we’ll see that more than a hundred websites report, not on the list of millionaire rulers, but on Fidel Castro’s presence in the list, despite his position is not the first one, but the seventh. One can presume that if the Cuban president would not be in this inventory, the wealth of these people wouldn’t be breaking news.
The magazine reports that Castro’s fortune reached 900 million dollars this year, almost double the 550 millions in 2005. But the most important is to see how Forbes calculated Castro's money. In the website they explained: "For another controversial dictator, Fidel Castro, we assume he has economic control over a web of state-owned companies, including El Palacio de Convenciones, a convention center near Havana; Cimex, retail conglomerate; and Medicuba, which sells vaccines and other pharmaceuticals produced in Cuba.". Of course the president of Cuba has the control of the governmental companies, just like in every other country. But this time Forbes has varied its last year thesis, when they claimed that the companies were owned by Castro.
It continues: "Former Cuban officials insist Castro, who travels exclusively in a fleet of black Mercedes, has skimmed profits from these outfits for years." All the Cubans know that Castro rides in a twenty-year-old black Mercedes, accompanied by cars of his guard, like the rest of the presidents, especially those that the US has attempted to assassinate. In most of the countries all the ministers and many managers have a Mercedes, and quite less old than Castro’s.
The reasoning about former officials saying that he "has skimmed profits from these outfits" as evidence of his wealth, is a worthless empty argument. His “fortune” certainly doesn’t come from the profits of the Palacio de Convenciones, a centre where public acts are held, and where the single money circulating is the Cuban peso, in case one wants to buy a one peso  coffee in the bar. As for Medicuba and Cimex —as I pointed out last year replying the same Forbes´ argument—, both are public companies that market national products. There is not any registration or document establishing that these companies belong to the president, all the countries have public companies.
And here comes Forbes’ real challenge, How much has the president kept for himself? This is the way they calculated it: "To come up with a net worth figure, we use a discounted cash flow method to value these companies and then assume a portion of that profit stream goes to Castro." That way, instead of 900 millions they could have found twice as much; after all, it was just about imagining the "portion of that profit stream" which they believe “goes to Castro." If they will do the same next year, they’ll probably be able to report that his fortune has doubled.
The report goes on: "To be conservative, we don’t try to estimate any past profits he may have pocketed, though we have heard rumors of large stashes in Swiss bank accounts. Castro, for the record disagrees, insisting his personal net worth is zero." In fact, to prove the existence of his fortune they should have detected money in a bank account in his name, or title deeds accrediting him as owner or usufructuary. Strange millionaire this one, whose jewels, yachts, mansions and holidays skiing or in the beach are invisible.
After analyzing Forbes’ calculation method, it is obvious that they don’t have evidence of money in any bank account, nor properties in his name. Nonetheless, they continue to say that he has 900 million dollars. In 2003, the magazine established Fidel Castro's wealth was about 110 million dollars. They have said before that it was very complicated to estimate these fortunes, so they calculated the Cuban president's personal treasure assuming that a percentage of Cuba's gross domestic product (GDP) was going to his pocket. So simple like that.
The news coverage on the issue was contradictory. Reuters began its report saying that “the Cuban President Fidel Castro got furious when Forbes magazine estimated his fortune at 550 million dollars last year". Several paragraphs later on, the same note said that "Castro had stated that he was considering to suit Forbes after the publication of the list in 2005, and he laughed at the fact that his fortune was very similar to that of the queen of England.” He got furious and laughed at the same time? He made those comments at the Palacio de Convenciones —the same one making him rich— before thousands of Cubans. Indeed, —I was there— he amusedly highlighted that the fortune attributed to him was similar to that of the British Queen, and he added that to take or not any actions against the magazine was up to him.
It looked like Castro was going to overcome Queen Elizabeth this year. But according to the media, neither the Buckingham Palace, nor the crown jewels were considered part of her fortune. On the other hand, Fidel Castro gets 900 millions with the yields of Palacio de Convenciones where only official events are held and the entrance is free of charge.
If instead of being a socialist president determined to share his Palacio de Convenciones with the Cubans, Fidel Castro would be a fifty thousand million dollar capitalist like Bill Gates, he would certainly be awarded the Prince of Asturias Prize for International Cooperation in Spain.
 Forbes’ report
 Less than $ 0.10 (dollars).
Visit the author's website at: www.pascualserrano.net
This article was originally published in Rebelión.
MALCOLM X TRIBUTE (NEW ORLEANS)!!!
This Friday May 19th we encourage our people to Join us
@ The Neighborhood Art Gallery between 6-10pm
as we pay tribute to the Great Warrior The Honorable Malcolm X!
Chairman Fred Hampton Jr., Chairman of The POCC/Prisoners of Conscience Committee
and Special guest
Kalonji Jama Changa- National Chief Coordinator of The POCC and
The FTP Movement
The Neighborhood Art Gallery is located @
1410 Oretha Castle Haley Blvd. (formerly Dryades Street)
New Orleans, Louisianna
The event is sponsored by Neighborhood Unity
Tuesday, May 16, 2006
Most of the 41 hunger Afghan strikers at St Patrick's Cathedral who are demanding asylum in Ireland have agreed to drink water after moves began to arrange talks with officials from the Department of Justice. Still seven of the protestors were taken to hospital today suffering from severe dehydration.
The Taoiseach has said the Government will not give in to threats.
Some of the group have been denied refugee status in Ireland and are protesting over the length of time being taken to hear their appeals. Others are applying for the first time.
The following report comes from Ireland On Line.
We'll starve to death, say asylum hunger strikers
A group of Afghan asylum seekers vowed today to starve themselves to death unless they are allowed to remain in Ireland despite Justice Minister Michael McDowell’s insistence that they cannot stay.
Thirty-three men began refusing food and water at St Patrick’s Cathedral in Dublin yesterday afternoon and were joined by eight others today.
They insisted they will die one by one unless they are granted political asylum.
Osman Hotok, 27, spokesman for the group, said the men fear being tortured if they are sent home.
“There are reports of politically motivated or extra-judicial killings by the government or its agents,” Mr Hotok said.
“For example, torture, official and punitive, poor prison conditions, abuse of authority by regional commanders, trafficking in persons and abuse of workers and children.
“The refugee applications commissioner has not given full attention to us and unlawfully refused most of our asylum applications.
“We will remain on hunger strike until somebody could come forward to guarantee us that we will get political asylum or we will die one by one.”
The group, which includes seven teenage boys, were visited by Church of Ireland Archbishop of Dublin Dr John Neill. The clergyman pleaded with the men to drink water, and the men have said they will consider this.
A 17-year-old boy who began the hunger strike yesterday was taken to hospital after a few hours without food. It is believed he has a kidney complaint.
Another of the failed asylum seekers, Sultan Kabir Chakari, a 45-year-old blind man from Kabul, fears that he will be persecuted if returned. He said he will be tortured in Afghanistan because of his role as an official in the Foreign Ministry under the Taliban regime.
Justice Minister Michael McDowell urged the asylum seekers to call off their protest and insisted he would not negotiate with them.
“I understand that in Belgium some 20 churches were occupied. We don’t do business that way and we won’t do business that way,” he said.
“We don’t deal with people in the lump so to speak, we deal with every individual case.”
Mr McDowell said the Irish Government had developed a complex immigration system which was suitable to deal with asylum applications.
“There’s a system there. It’s wrong for me to try to break down our system and it’s wrong for anybody else to try to break down our system,” he said.
“It’s a very sophisticated system and people can’t just suddenly say ‘we’re opting out’.”
He said asylum seekers had been returned to Afghanistan in the past.
“I would just ask the public to bear in mind that although there are disturbances in Afghanistan, that doesn’t mean that anybody has the right to come and live in Ireland,” he added.
Tribes across Indian Country are seeing their people and their communities devastated by meth production, use and distribution. Methamphetamine, or meth, has taken hold on reservations across Indian Country. The drug, typically imported from Mexico but sometimes produced in labs on tribal lands, has contributed to already-high crime rates, torn apart families and put a strain underfunded law enforcement, health and social service programs.
According to one law enforcement official, the Navajo Nation has experienced a more than 100 percent increase in methamphetamine use in the last five years, and the FBI estimates that up to 40 percent of violent criminal cases on the Nation involve methamphetamine.
On the Wind River Reservation in Wyoming, a Reservation specifically targeted by Mexican methamphetamine cartels, criminal charges for drug possession increased 353 percent, assaults tripled, theft doubled, and child abuse increased by 85 percent.
Darrell Hillaire, the chairman of the Lummi Nation of Washington, reported similar problems. He said 41 percent of the 1,200 children born on the reservation in the last 10 years have been affected by drugs like meth.
Although tribal leaders have shared similar struggles with meth, their approach to dealing with the drug, and enforcement issues in general, differed. Many have said prevention should be the main focus in preventing people -- especially youth -- from abusing drugs.
"A lot of it is empowering our youth to come up with solutions of their own," said Brian Wallace, the chairman of the Washoe Tribe of Nevada and California.
In Minnesota, the Red Lake Nation recently pulled out of a drug task force out of fear its sovereignty was being encroached, said chairman Floyd Jourdain Jr. Coupled with comments in The New York Times story that accused him of hindering drug investigations, Jourdain said he is being viewed as "anti-enforcement" and "difficult."
"These collaborations, these task forces, have to be approached very carefully," he said, citing an example of an attempt to enforce state law on tribal lands. Although Minnesota is a Public Law 280 state, Red Lake does not fall under the act so the state has no criminal or civil jurisdiction there.
But other tribal leaders dismissed those kinds of concerns. Dennis Smith, the vice chairman of the Shoshone-Paiute Tribes on the Duck Valley Reservation in Nevada and Idaho, said tribes need all the help they can get to fight meth. Smith said it was unrealistic for tribes to engage in battle alone or rely on the federal government. "The Bureau of Indian Affairs doesn't have the manpower and will never work," he warned. So developing partnerships with local and state governments is a sensible solution, he said.
In the spirit of Indians healing Indians, a recnet meth conference was inspired by a slogan and a solution taking a slightly different road than the mainstream efforts. “No war on drugs, let’s declare healing on meth. Resist, Reach Out, Recover,” said a banner and a tee shirt prominent at the conference.
No War on drugs? Why not? Indian Country Today reported Don Coyhis (Mohican Nation), Founder and President of White Bison, Inc., explained that in the Indian way, to think of efforts against the effects of methamphetamine as a healing rather than war would bring our thinking more in line with how Native people relate to problems. To heal, rather than to make war, would rally the People’s efforts in a more effective manner.
“I talked to some Elders about four months ago,” he said, “and they were explaining to me how things work in the spiritual world. They said that when you declare war on something, each of those words gives an instruction. When you declare war on something, spiritually you actually call the enemy. When somebody pushes on your hand, it pushes back. The very thing you declare war on, you are destined to lose.”
He went on to explain that we must take back our power as Native people in the coming tsunami, the meth epidemic, which is here, now, and growing fast. He said, “Even though the dominant society is a war-declaring entity, we don’t do that. Not for this one. Not for our children. We declare healing. We must demonstrate the right way to solve problems. When something huge comes along that’s a threat to us, we provide healing. So when we arrest someone and they are incarcerated, we provide healing. We try to help them. We try to heal in that way. It’s within our power, its within our culture, its within the Elders’ teachings.”
The following comes from the Billings Gazette in Billings Montana.
Hundreds rally in opposition to reservation meth use
LAME DEER -- The war on meth marched through Lame Deer on Friday.
Several hundred people -- including small children in strollers, students carrying signs, and adults -- marched down Cheyenne Avenue in the Northern Cheyenne Indian Reservation's first large community event to combat methamphetamine use on the reservation.
The march led to a rally at the tribal headquarters, then continued to the school, where the afternoon included a feed and a series of speakers and entertainment.
"We have declared war on meth," Tribal President Eugene Little Coyote said to a round of applause and ululating. "But those are just words. We have now arrived at a time to turn our words into action."
Members of a community task force, spearheaded by the tribal health board, are the generals in the war, Little Coyote said. He called on the Tribal Council to target manufacturers and dealers.
Members of the community will have to work together to fight meth in their families, their towns and their tribe, he said. That will include speaking out when they need to and supporting law enforcement.
Request to join task force
Little Coyote said he expects to ask the Tribal Council next week to join a Cooperative Agency Task Force that is being created and includes law enforcement from the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the FBI and Colstrip. There is already a drug task force working, but this group will be another tool in the fight.
"There is strength in numbers to fight meth," Little Coyote said.
Shanaya Sandcrane, 12, was among the students who carried signs and marched. Shanaya said the rally had an effect.
"I think it should make a difference," she said. Meth "seems like it's had an effect on a lot of people here."
People should not use it, Shanaya said, "because there's nothing good coming out of it."
Don Shoulderblade, Keeper of the Sacred Hat, one of the tribe's convenants, said the hat has been with the Cheyenne people through all their battles.
"Today she's still with us in the battle with drug abuse," he said.
"Meth is a destroyer," he said. "It destroys lives, it destroys home, it destroys your health and, most of all, it destroys your spirit."
After his talk, Shoulderblade gave a prayer, partially spoken in English, and asked the creator, Maheo, to watch over the Cheyenne people and lead them on the right path.
"The meth that is tearing up our families, destroying our homes, take it away, Maheo," he prayed.
Several Tribal Council members encouraged residents to not only refuse to use methamphetamine, but to speak up when they know others are using.
A challenge not to use
Not using is a challenge, Lame Deer District council member Allen Fisher said.
"That's not easy when you have methamphetamine promotion out there," Fisher said.
And it takes bravery to speak out against others using the drug.
"Learn to ask for help," Fisher said. "Do not cover it up. Make some changes. Take a stance of nonuse."
Ashland District Councilman Joe Fox Jr. said the rally will take hold of those who attended, especially the many children in attendance.
"I truly believe the Cheyenne people have to heal each other, and this is a start," Fox said.
Birney District Councilwoman Alberta Fisher talked of children and adults who are afraid, hungry and having financial troubles.
"These are all the effects of meth, alcohol and drugs," she said.
Fisher said she has family and friends who use meth.
"We bury people, and they bring us many tears, they bring us many hardships," she said. "And yet we fail to go to the source of the problem and put them in jail.
"Let's get to the source of the problem, and that's the drug dealers. Prosecute them. Don't be afraid. They are the ones that are killing us."
Lame Deer District Councilman Jace Killsback said drug users have "no shame" and will smoke meth in public. Using the slang of his 20-something generation, Killsback said they "light a bulb in their car downtown."
People have to speak out -- just as they did at the march and rally -- when they see drugs being used or sold, Killsback said. A call to police is the first step, he said.
"Don't be afraid to call in if you see somebody all geeked out or that's dealing drugs," he said.
The British Columbia (BC) Ministry of Transport is proposing an expansion of the Sea-to-Sky highway 99. This expansion threatens Eagleridge Bluffs in West Vancouver.
British Columbia's provincial government's plan for a 2.4 km overland highway for the first section of the Sea to Sky highway improvement project will destroy a priceless ecosystems, recreational hiking trails, and the visual beauty of one of the Lower Mainland’s most important gateways. A 4-lane highway would devastate Eagleridge Bluffs, the Larson Creek Wetlands and the Baden Powell Trail. This is an area that the Canadian government has identified as having the two most sensitive ecosystems in the entire Sea to Sky corridor. It is the gateway to the Sunshine Coast, Vancouver Island, Sea to Sky country and Whistler.
Alternative plans which preserve all this and are much safer than the overland route have been presented by those opposed to the government's idea. One plan envisions use of a tunnel while another would simply add a third lane to the existing 3 km of highway, from Lions Bay to Sunset Beach. Both plans are a very viable, low-impact option, which would likely save the taxpayer over 100 million dollars.
The BC Government, including the Ministry of Transportation, has fed a great deal of misinformation to the people of BC, Canada and the world about the impact to the environment, recreation and visual values, the cost and the safety of a 2.4km overland highway route versus a 1.4 km four lane divided tunnel. Adding a third lane to the existing 3 km of highway, from Lions Bay to Sunset Beach, is also a very viable, low-impact option, which would likely save the taxpayer over 100 million dollars.
The government's plan has met opposition from the BC Ministry of Environment (WLAP), Environment Canada (Canadian Wildlife Service), the Ministry of Transportation’s consultants (Robertson Enviro Services) the Mayors and Councils of North and West Vancouver, the Greater Vancouver Regional District and thousands of residents.
Yet the government continues to stand by it's hasty, ill-conceived decision.
The 2010 Winter Games will be held in and around Vancouver, British Columbia. The destruction of this environment (largely for those Olympics) breaks BC's Premier Gordon Campbell promise of a "Sustainable Olympic Games, the greenest games yet”.
The article below is from the Vancouver Sun.
Eagleridge tents are ordered out
Judge orders demonstrators to stop blocking highway construction
WEST VANCOUVER - Protesters say they will continue to occupy their tent city at Eagleridge Bluffs today despite being told Monday by a B.C. Supreme Court judge to stop blocking construction of the $600-million highway expansion through a forested area above Horseshoe Bay.
Coalition to Save Eagleridge Bluffs president Dennis Perry said some protesters are prepared to defy the injunction issued by B.C. Supreme Court Judge William Grist.
"There are many people who are ready for civil disobedience and, hey, it's an honourable thing to do as we all know."
Transportation Minister Kevin Falcon said construction will resume this week and that an enforcement order will be sought from the court if the occupation continues.
"If they continue to block construction, they will be in open contempt of a court order," said Falcon.
"There are serious consequences in doing so and they should govern themselves accordingly."
Perry said the Eagleridge protest is in the tradition of dissent that includes Martin Luther King and the civil rights movement in the U.S. and the struggle by women for the right to vote.
Perry also said his group plans to appeal the judgment. "We've lost this little battle. We certainly haven't lost the war," Perry told reporters.
Grist said the protest violated the provincial Transportation Act, which prohibits obstruction of construction. He granted the injunction application of Peter Kiewit Sons, the firm contracted by Victoria to build the section of road through the Eagleridge Bluffs.
Grist also rejected the demonstrators' request for an injunction to stop the project because the environmental approval process was flawed. The Eagleridge protesters want the government to build a tunnel or add a third lane to the highway rather than cut a road through the bluffs.
Grist said his decision allows for continued protest of the highway expansion plan, but that the demonstrators must not impede construction.
The judge said protesters must remain at least 25 metres from the project site and between 75 and 300 metres away when workers are falling trees or conducting explosions.
Many Eagleridge protesters were not satisfied that they will be provided areas where they can continue to demonstrate.
"They are just locations from which we can watch our bluffs be destroyed -- and this is very hard to take," said Eagleridge Coalition activist John Bannister. "At the moment my tent is there and I don't have plans to remove it."
Betty Krawczyk similarly said she won't voluntarily leave the tent city if police arrive to evict her. "They have their job to do and I have mine, and mine is to fight against the injunctions that this province is using to quell public protest dissent.
"I do know there is lot of disappointed people here who love the bluffs and would be quite willing to do whatever to protect them."
In his judgment, Grist said submissions by the coalition's lawyers failed to challenge either the legality of the transportation minister's choice of the route or the federal-provincial environmental process permitting the highway upgrade.
Monday, May 15, 2006
This administration makes Richard Nixon look sane.
And that is scary.
Oddly enough I'm running an article from ABC News.
Federal Source to ABC News: We Know Who You're Calling
May 15, 2006 10:33 AM
Brian Ross and Richard Esposito Report:
A senior federal law enforcement official tells ABC News the government is tracking the phone numbers we (Brian Ross and Richard Esposito) call in an effort to root out confidential sources.
"It's time for you to get some new cell phones, quick," the source told us in an in-person conversation.
ABC News does not know how the government determined who we are calling, or whether our phone records were provided to the government as part of the recently-disclosed NSA collection of domestic phone calls.
Other sources have told us that phone calls and contacts by reporters for ABC News, along with the New York Times and the Washington Post, are being examined as part of a widespread CIA leak investigation.
One former official was asked to sign a document stating he was not a confidential source for New York Times reporter James Risen.
Our reports on the CIA's secret prisons in Romania and Poland were known to have upset CIA officials. The CIA asked for an FBI investigation of leaks of classified information following those reports.
People questioned by the FBI about leaks of intelligence information say the CIA was also disturbed by ABC News reports that revealed the use of CIA predator missiles inside Pakistan.
Under Bush Administration guidelines, it is not considered illegal for the government to keep track of numbers dialed by phone customers.
The official who warned ABC News said there was no indication our phones were being tapped so the content of the conversation could be recorded.
A pattern of phone calls from a reporter, however, could provide valuable clues for leak investigators.
GUARD HEADS SOUTH: "IT PROBABLY MAKES ABOUT AS MUCH SENSE AS THE WAR OR ANY OTHER REMEDY THE PRESIDENT HAS BEEN COMING UP WITH RIGHT NOW"
I'm sure lots of good ole Americans are thinking Bush's plan to send the National Guard to the Mexican border is a swell idea.
Some beg to differ.
The article below is from WXYZ News in Detroit.
Local Activists Rally Before President’s Speech
As President Bush prepared to announce his plan on immigration reform, a small group rallied outside the immigration offices in Detroit, Monday.
Illegal immigrants have been upset for months about congressional bills that would clamp down on their ability to stay in the U.S.
Monday, local activists had two goals in mind. First, to protest a Friday raid in southwest Detroit that lead to the arrest of 17 illegal immigrants and second, to protest Bush’s plan to use the National Guard to patrol the Mexican border.
Rally organizer, Elena Herrada, said, "The national guard being put on the Mexican border is the president’s remedy to the crisis of immigration right now. It probably makes about as much sense as the war or any other remedy the president has been coming up with right now. There are not enough people to send to Iraq right now and they’re going to militarize the Mexican border? I don’t know what they have in mind. It seems to me like there’s a lot of desperate people jockeying for some very hateful positions and our community is defenseless against it."
Detroit activists would like to see amnesty plans to make it easier for illegal immigrants to become American citizens and have planned multiple protests for Monday.
There are an estimated 150,000 illegal immigrants in Michigan and up to 12 million across the country.
At the website for the Hilton Hotels Corporation it states, "If you have a passion for service and hospitality, there's a special place for you at the Hilton Family of hotels."
Apparently you are supposed to in point of fact, "know your place" if you intend to work for Hilton.
More than 100 suspended workers and their allies picketed at the Hilton Los Angeles Airport hotel Sunday to protest working conditions and demand their jobs back.
A coordinator for hotel workers union Unite Here says the hotel's management suspended the employees in an effort to keep them from unionizing. The union says the workers were suspended when they complained to management about disciplinary action against a leader in the workers' effort to organize.
That leader, Sergio Reyes, was suspended, then fired.
The suspensions at the Hilton, which at 1,234 rooms is the second-largest hotel in Los Angeles County, came in the midst of a heated campaign to raise wages and organize workers at 13 airport-area hotels by Unite Here, the hotel and restaurant workers' union.
UNITE (formerly the Union of Needletrades, Industrial and Textile Employees) and HERE (Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees International Union) merged on July 8, 2004 forming UNITE HERE. The union represents more than 450,000 active members and more than 400,000 retirees throughout North America.
UNITE HERE boasts a diverse membership, comprised largely of immigrants and including high percentages of African-American, Latino, and Asian-American workers. The majority of UNITE HERE members are women.
The following comes from the Daily Breeze and was printed before the Sunday protest.
70 Hilton workers suspended
Employees at nonunion facility near LAX are barred after a demonstration seeking improved working conditions earlier this week. L.A. Councilwoman Hahn leads some who try to re-enter.
The ongoing struggle over unionizing Los Angeles International Airport-area hotels took a contentious turn Friday as the LAX Hilton suspended about 70 workers for taking part in a demonstration, prompting a union to file charges with a federal labor board.
Unions and activist groups have held a series of labor actions at the hotel this week as part of a wider campaign of linking revitalization efforts in the Century Corridor with improved working conditions. The stretch of Century Boulevard leading to LAX from the San Diego (405) Freeway has one of the county's highest concentrations of hotel beds -- and no union contracts.
The situation escalated Friday morning when City Councilwoman Janice Hahn led scores of the suspended employees in an attempt to re-enter the hotel, only to be rebuffed by security guards.
Eventually the dispute spilled onto Century Boulevard as politicians and labor leaders held a midday rally in front of a picket line of more than 100 workers and activists.
"These are good, loyal Hilton employees. They're the face of hospitality for Los Angeles," Hahn said. "I think (the hotel) totally overreacted to the situation, and I think they're treating them unfairly."
The suspensions followed a demonstration earlier this week in which employees took a coordinated break from work and tried to meet with hotel managers. Workers said they wanted to discuss an earlier disciplinary action against an employee who supports the union drive.
The complaint filed with the National Labor Relations Board on Friday accuses the hotel of violating federal labor law by retaliating against employees engaged in protected activity.
The hotel's general manager, Grant Coonley, denied that any of the disciplinary actions were in response to organizing activity. The initial employee was suspended for job-performance issues, he said, and so was the larger group this week.
"We had 67 employees that refused to go back to work and tied up the employee cafeteria for 2½ hours," Coonley said. "They were told several times to go back to work and go home and they refused."
The employees, who represent about 10 percent of the hotel's work force, have been told they will find out Monday when they can come back to work.
El Segundo resident Patricia Simmons, who has been a waitress at the hotel for 19 years and makes $6.75 per hour plus tips, said the loss of several work days is hitting her family hard.
Simmons said she took part in the demonstration only during her lunch hour. Co-worker Concepcion Ortiz, who earns $9 per hour as a parking cashier, said a supervisor approved her taking a break to go to the demonstration but she was still suspended.
"So many people have been humiliated," Ortiz said. The demonstrations "are important for their respect."
The rising tensions come as the city is considering both beautifying the Century Corridor and requiring its hotels to better compensate their workers and to retain them for a time when the businesses change hands.
Hahn, who represents the Harbor Area but who has gotten involved in the issue as chairwoman of the council's Trade, Commerce and Tourism Committee, said the confrontation may make it more difficult for the parties to work together. But she still wants to push for new landscaping and a nearby conference center to draw business.
The councilwoman, who spent part of Friday morning monitoring individual workers' debriefings with Hilton supervisors, said she told the general manager as much in their meeting. "I really wanted to work with him but I made it clear the key to the success of the hotel is the workers," she said.
A week and a half ago the 8th International Salon “Ipposfera” was opened in St.Petersburg which included the All-Russian equestrian jumping competition took place. This is a large scale competition with a great prize fund. And for the first time in history such an event was accompanied by a mass protest action against the equestrian sport. This action was organized by the Horse Revolution Association.
Since I live with a rescued racing greyhound I can appreciate this bit of news.
The following little ditty is from Horsetalk.
Protesters mar Russian jumping competition
The writing on the posters included: 'Get that metal in YOUR mouth!'; 'Sportsmen, aren't you ashamed?'; 'Shame on sportsmen - horse torturers!'; 'Show-jumping is the favorite fun of yahoos. It's time to stop this sadistic fun! The equestrian sport is horse torturing and humiliation!'
A large Russian showjumping competition was marred recently by a mass protest against equestrian sport. The action was organised by the Horse Revolution Association at the 8th International Salon "Ipposfera" in St Petersburg.
A huge billboard saying "Aren't you ashamed?" was installed in front of the main pavilion of the exhibition. The protesters say it "drew public's attention to incalculable suffering that horses have to endure in the mincing machine of the equestrian sport".
The protest action attracted attention of the leading part of Russian mass media, many television channels showed later reports about it.
Sunday, May 14, 2006
Earlier this year, Human Watch Rights reported, "The estimated 8.8 million largely South and Southeast Asian and Arab foreign workers in Saudi Arabia comprise a third of the country's population, according to Minister of Labor Ghazi al-Gosaibi. Many face exploitative working conditions, including sixteen-hour workdays, no breaks or food and drink, and often remain confined to locked dormitories during their time off. Security forces deported tens of thousands of illegal immigrants in 2005. Arrested foreign workers face torture and prolonged incommunicado detention."
While several hundred Filipinos being held in Saudi jails were recently granted a pardon by the King, hundreds, if not thousands, more remained locked up in stinking conditions in jails across the middle east.
The following is from Bulatlat.
A tale from a Saudi jail
‘Para Kaming mga Baboy’ (We Were Like Pigs)
Joelito Lesma, one of a group of 12 OFWs currently confined in their employer’s quarters and set to be transferred to a Saudi jail, did not wait for President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to visit the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and ask King Abdullah to have him pardoned. He found his own way to escape the kingdom.
BY AUBREY SC MAKILAN
Joelito Lesma did not wait for President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to visit the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and ask King Abdullah to have him pardoned.
He found his own way to escape the kingdom.
“Mas nagtagal siguro ang hirap ko doon kung lumapit ako sa kanila (referring to Philippine embassy officials),” he said. (My hardships could have lasted longer if I asked them to help in my case.)
Lesma was one of 12 Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) who ran away from and subsequently charged their employer before a Jeddah court in January 2006 for contract substitution, non-payment of salaries and benefits, non-issuance of official receipts of payment, and illegal termination. His companions were Estanislao Madayag Jr, Mouriel Depra, Jerry Dianala, Levy Defino, Allan Malate, Jason Paano, Eduardo De Silva, Harrison Suguitan, Ariel Cordova, Jerry Padua, and Joel Poliwas.
In April, the court ruled in favor of their employer. The 12 OFWs were ordered to pay 5,564 Saudi riyals each to their employer.
Lesma escaped from the barracks of their employer where they were initially held.
He paid a Filipino-Muslim to bring him to a “safehouse” where other run-away workers were waiting to be arrested by the Saudi police. They were later brought to a Jeddah jail called Jawazat where he stayed for almost a month.
“Kahit na may umaalis, araw-araw libo-libo ang pumapasok,” narrated Lesma, “Para kaming nasa kulungan ng baboy.” (When people leave the jail, thousands more replace them. We felt like being in a pig sty.)
Each cell could contain a thousand, Lesma said, but there were too many prisoners that we sometimes step on one another. “Marumi, malamig ang sementong hinihigaan namin. ‘Yung karton na pwede mong isapin sa likod, minamana sa mga umaalis. Pero dahil sa liit, paggising mo sa umaga, nasa semento ka na rin,” (The cement floor where we lied down to sleep was dirty and cold. The piece of box we used to lie down on was given by fellow prisoners who were released earlier. But the piece of box was too small that when you woke up in the morning, you almost always ended up on the cement floor.) he recalled.
He only had one pair of pants, two underwears and two T-shirts. “’Pag hinubad mo ‘yung pantaloon mo, tatayo mag-isa ‘yun mamaya,” (If you removed your pants, it was so stiff with dirt that it could stand on its own.) he said, adding that others would steal your clothes once you removed them.
Even if there was sufficient food, it was not properly given to them, he said. They were fed at 10 a.m., 4 p.m., and 10 p.m.
“Iiwan lang ng mga pulis sa gitna ‘yung malalaking lalagyan ng kanin at ulam tapos hahayaan na nilang magkagulo kami. Walang disiplina. ‘Yung iba nga, yung natatapon na lang sa sahig ang kinukuha para makakain. Parang pagkain ng baboy,” (The police leaves the big containers of rice and viands at the middle of the cell and lets us grab our food. There was no discipline. Others just eat the food that spills on the floor. It is just like feeding pigs.) said Lesma.
Because of their condition, Lesma told Bulatlat most of them had colds, fever, and cough.
“Sa halos isang buwan akong nandon, isang beses ko lang nakitang nagdala ng gamot ang (Philippine) embassy sa amin,” he lamented, “Para makainom kami ng gamot, magpapabili pa kami. Eh pa’no ‘yung mga walang pera?” (In the almost one month I was there, Philippine embassy personnel brought us medicine just once. To be able to drink the medicine you need, you have to ask people to buy it for you at your own expense. If you don’t have money, what will happen to you?)
While in jail, Lesma contacted a person who helped him process his papers. He identified this person as an embassy employee who can get you out of the kingdom through the backdoor.
He said that he was asked to fill out two forms. On one form he was asked to supply his personal information for the embassy’s record. For the other form, he used an assumed Muslim name to facilitate his escape.
“Mas madali kung wala kang mga dalang papeles,” said Lesma, “’Di na ako humingi ng tulong sa embassy dahil sa natalo na kami, matatagalan pa ang kaso namin sa kanila.” (It is easier if you had no personal papers on you. I did not ask help from the embassy because we already lost our case and it will take longer to have them facilitate our release.)
He said they were asked to tell the authorities they were there for ‘Umbra’ or Lesser Pilgrimage so that they will be charged only for overstaying.
Lesma was able to return to the Philippines through the backdoor under the new name of Ali Ibrahim.
He promised he would not leave again if the destination is the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
“Kung sana kasya ang kinikita ko dito, hindi ko naman gustong iwan ang asawa at tatlong anak ko,” (If only I was earning enough, I never wanted to leave my wife and three children.) he said.
More are stranded
The families of abused and stranded OFWs in Saudi Arabia called on the government to help in the repatriation of their relatives.
Upon her arrival from a four-day state visit in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, May 11, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo announced that she was able to convince King Abdullah to pardon 700 OFWs languishing in Saudi jails. On May 12, 170 repatriated OFWs arrived in Manila from Jeddah.
“What about the others left behind?” asked Migrante International and the families of stranded Filipino migrant workers.
Maita Santiago, Migrante International Secretary-General said that the 11 OFW companions of Lesma would be transferred from the barracks of their employer, where they are currently confined, to a jail in Alkhobar, Saudi, Arabia if they would not be able to pay their employer the 5,564 Saudi riyals fine imposed by the court on each of them by May 12. As of press time, Migrante International has not yet received word regarding the fate of the 11 OFWs.
“Hihintayin pa ba nilang makulong ang mga ‘yun bago sila umaksyon?” (Will the government wait until the 11 are imprisoned before acting on their case?) asked De Silva ‘s wife Lani, who was teary-eyed during the interview with Bulatlat.
The OFWs and their families do not have enough money to pay the fine. Lani said that they were told by officials of the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) that the government has no fund to pay the employer.
Lani said that her husband cries over the phone every time he shares the hardships they endure. “Isang beses na lang daw sila kumakain sa isang araw,” (They only eat once a day.) said Lani.
“Hindi pa nga ako ulit nakakatawag mula nung May 8 dahil naaawa akong marinig ’yung mga kwento nila,” (I haven’t called him since our last conversation May 8 because my heart breaks when I hear their stories.) she said.
Lani also complained that the DFA supplied the 11 with food only three times during the four months that they were confined at the employer’s quarters. She added that the DFA even delivered expired food once.
“Wala ring malinaw na sinasabi ang gobyerno sa kaso nila,” she said, “Hihintayin pa ba nila ang susunod na amnesty? Kelan, ‘pag patay na sila?” (The government does not give us a clear response regarding the case of the 11 OFWs. Will the government still wait for another amnesty? Until when will the government wait? When the 11 are already dead?)
Lani complained that her husband is suffering from frequent attacks of asthma and sinusitis. Michel, wife of Madayag Jr., is worried about her husband’s rising blood pressure.
More OFWs in distress
“The case of the 11 is just an example of the urgent plight that many Filipino migrants and their families still face,” said Santiago. “Mrs. Arroyo’s so-called ‘pasalubong’ (take home offering) of even around 300 OFWs repatriated clearly falls short of our expectations. While its good some are coming home- this publicity gimmick says nothing about the situation of the many more left behind,” said Santiago in a statement.
According to a DFA 2004 report, there are around 1,841 Filipino migrants detained or imprisoned across the Middle East while 4,429, largely women, are in Philippine government shelters across the region. There are approximately 820,000 OFWs in Saudi Arabia with many of the women working as domestic or household workers, numbering around 148,500 while the 318,500 men work as production and construction workers, the report also said.
Migrante is currently handling two other cases, that of abused Filipina OFWs Jinalyn Rejano and Editha Orea.
Jinalyn was raped on February 14 by seven men (her employer, his family and a staff member at her recruitment agency) while Editha was also abused by her employer. Although both are now at a Philippine government run shelter, their efforts to obtain justice against their Saudi Arabian employers are dimming.
”Nangako ang DFA at OWWA na ilalaban ang kaso. Pero nung na-dismiss na e pauwiin na lang daw si Jinalyn. Sa dami ng nabibiktima ang iba ay walang lakas loob na ilaban ang kaso kaya tinatago na lang ang nangyari. Pero si Jinalyn gusto niyang habulin ang mga nagkasala sa kanya. Marami pang kaso ng rape pero sa tingin nila hindi nila kaya lumaban kaya nananahimik na lang. Sana bigyan ng gobyerno ng pansin ang mga kaso at hindi puro drawing. Gusto sana naming magkasama-sama na. Okay lang na sa ngayon ay magkalayu-layo pa kami basta mabigyan ng hustisya,” (The DFA and OWWA promised that they would pursue the case. But when Jinalyn’s case was dismissed, they told me to just ask Jinalyn to come home. But Jinalyn insisted that she wanted to obtain justice by having her rapists punished. There are a lot of cases of rape of OFWs but some chose to keep silent because they felt that they had no means to pursue the case. We hope that the government will be serious in pursuing the cases and is not out only to put up a show. While we want her to come home soonest to be together. It is okay that we are still temporarily separated for as long as we obtain justice.) said Elmer Rejano, her husband.
Long term solution
Meanwhile, Migrante International chairperson Connie Bragas-Regalado said the president’s “photo-opportunities in Saudi Arabia will do little to genuinely alleviate the plight of Filipino migrant workers in the Kingdom.”
Bragas-Regalado said among the urgent issues the president should be taking up with King Abdullah are: “the cases of OFWs on death row; the Unified Contract, which essentially legitimizes contract substitution; the formation of a shelter for male OFWs, which is currently not allowed by Saudi Arabian laws; and the right of OFWs to leave the country whenever they desire. Currently, OFWs without exit visas granted by their employer are prevented from leaving the country.”
“Particular to the OFWs in jail, there should also be an independent investigation as to how legal funds for OFWs are used by the Department of Foreign Affairs,” she added.
Citing the Migrant Workers Act of 1995, Bragas-Regalado said that P100 million is supposed to be allotted by the government annually to help OFWs who get into trouble with the law. The money is given to the Legal Assistant for Migrant Affairs, which is under the DFA. In a recent report to the House of Representatives, the DFA said more than 4,700 OFWs were languishing in jails in various countries.
”In the long-run, the best interests of Filipino migrants are served if instead of exporting workers, the Philippine government genuinely implements policies that create viable livelihood opportunities for its people in the county,” she said.