Friday, March 30, 2007


Teachers in France are carrying out a one day strike today in support of one of their own arrested by cops while she tried to protect her students.

Valérie Boukobza-Rodriguez was arrested while trying to prevent the arrest of an illegal immigrant, the man in question was trying to collect his granddaughter from school. The police had set up checkpoints around the school and were checking the papers of all those coming to collect children. The police used tear gas and truncheons on the small crowd that were also attempting to aid the man and his children.

This is another example of police targetting parisian schools, previously they have taken children from schools. This has led to solidarity groups being set up in many schools by students teachers and parents.

Earlier in the week, there was a demonstration of over 1000 poeple in support of Boukobza-Rodriguez and the use of children and schools in taking sans-papiers (without papers) into custody. Chants called for an end to the expulsions of sans-papiers families who have provided education for children.

The following article is from

France: Solidarity strike for arrested teacher

French teaching unions have called for a one-day strike this Friday in parisian primary schools in support of an arrested teacher.

Valérie Boukobza, the headmistress of a school in the north of Paris, was arrested on the 20th of March after intervening to try to prevent the arrrest of a chinese illegal immigrant who was collecting his two grand-daughters from her school. A police car was damaged and an officer injured in the course of scuffles, with police using tear gas against those present. Ms. Boukobza was arrested and charged with damaging public property, she has since stated that her intervention was part of her duty of care towards the two pupils whose grandfather was being arrested.

Seven French teaching unions (SNUipp-FSU, SE-UNSA, SGEN-CFDT, SUD-Education, Snudi-FO, CGT-Education et CNT Sèvres-Babylone) have put out a joint call for strike action and for a march to begin at Sèvres-Babylone at 2pm.

The unions have denounced the heavy-handed treatment of Ms. Boukobza and have criticised the education authority in her district for failing to support her. The Interior minister (and probable next President) Nicolas Sarkozy has called for the courts to be 'allowed to do their job'. Something which Ms. Boukobza, currently held on remand, is unable to do.


There are a whole bunch of people concerned the costs of the upcoming Olympics in Canada are receiving nowhere near the same amount of media attention as the supposed benefits.

Just yesterday the cops paid attention, of sorts, to those folks and raided the offices of the Downtown Eastside Residents' Association (DERA).

In Vancouver's Downtown Eastside and other areas the process of gentrification has greatly intensified in anticipation of the 2010 Olympics. This has meant increased displacement, policing and incarceration – as well as the loss of life due to opportunistic illnesses, exposure and neglect. This has disproportionately impacted those concentrated in poor areas: Aboriginal people, new immigrants, seniors, people with disabilities, drug users – and creates especially vulnerable conditions for women and single mothers.

"The games have skewed all the priorities for the entire region," comments Burnaby Mayor Corrigan. "Everything's become devoted to this three-week party that's going to happen in 2010. It's like imagining that everything you do in your own life is all designed and built toward your next birthday."

A recent low budged documantary film focuses on these social costs, especially the steady loss of low-income housing in the neighbourhood adjacent to the primary Vancouver venue, GM Place. The film, Five Ring Circus, offers an insightful insider's view of the ongoing housing protests organized the by the Anti-Poverty Committee and affiliated groups. The film documents how outrage at Vancouver City Council's decision not to protect existing SRO housing stock -- in spite of promises to the contrary made during the Olympic bid -- boiled over into angry street protests.

According to its web site:

The Downtown Eastside Residents' Association (DERA) is a community-directed, charitable society formed in 1973 by residents of Vancouver's Downtown Eastside.

Located in the poorest urban neighbourhood in the nation, DERA has fought for 31 years to focus the attention of government, industry and the public on the key components of poverty and homelessness. We work hard for decent, secure, affordable housing, jobs, livable incomes, community and recreational facilities, park space, safer streets, and community-based neighbourhood planning.

DERA was formed as a reaction against the general attitude of indifference and neglect which many felt to the area, then known as "Skid Road". Skid Road was a powerful and destructive characterization that promoted a feeling of hopelessness.

The Anti-Poverty Committee is an organization of poor and working people, who fight for poor people, their rights and an end to poverty by any means necessary they have also been involved in the struggle.

These groups have been joined by The Native Youth Movement which is calling for a Boycott and Cancellation of the 2010 Winter Olympic Games. The Games are scheduled to take place on un-surrendered Native Land from February 12-27, 2010. NYM say the 2010 Olympics represent nothing less then, "...a continued history of colonization and Genocide."

The following is from

Vancouver police accused of political attack on social activists with raid

VANCOUVER — Police raided the office of the Downtown Eastside Residents Association in a bid to discredit social activists opposing the 2010 Winter Games, an association spokesman said Friday.

The association’s office was searched Thursday night by police looking for evidence in the theft of the Olympic flag from city hall.

Executive director Kim Kerr said the raid was “a political attack” on his group and the Anti-Poverty Committee, which is campaigning for more social housing.

He said both groups have made public statements they were not responsible for the flag theft, noting the Native Warriors Society has claimed responsibility.

Kerr said police raided the DERA offices in an attempt to undermine the work of the groups around the housing issue.

“Our main concern is that the theft gives police reason to intimidate protesters,” he said.

In a photo e-mailed to news outlets in early March, three people posing with what appears to be the flag said they stole it to honour a native elder who died after being jailed for a highway expansion protest.

Kerr said police arrived about 11 p.m. They didn’t take anything with them when they left.

“They’re (police) trying to point fingers everywhere they can,” said Jill Chettiar of the Anti-Poverty Committee.

She questioned the timing of the raid, three weeks after the flag was stolen.

The committee has said it will protest at the next Vancouver Olympic Games Organizing Committee board meeting in May if the meeting isn’t opened up to the public.

Chettiar said the raid won’t stop her group from pressing on with its protests.

The protesters say the money going towards the Olympics would be better spent to build social housing and ease poverty.

On March 12, anti-poverty activists and a native group chanted slogans and used noisemakers to drown out the speeches at an Olympic flag-lighting ceremony at city hall.

Earlier that day, an Olympic countdown clock was vandalized, despite having 24-hour security.

In February, a ceremony in downtown Vancouver to mark the three-year countdown to the start of the Games was disrupted by anti-poverty protesters who threw eggs and paint-filled balloons.

One person climbed on a stage and shouted obscenities.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007


Jerusalem Initiative: Joint Statement of Communist Party of Isreal and the Palestinian People's Party

Jerusalem Initiative

Joined Appeal of the Communist Party of Israel (CPI)
and the Palestinian People's Party (PPP)

To communist and worker parties, peace organizations, trade
unions, women organizations and youth movements

This Year we mark 40 years of the Palestinian territories'
occupation (in June 1967) and the 60 years anniversary to
the UN general assembly resolution regarding the
establishment of two states in mandatory Palestine
(November 1947).

Our parties, the Palestinian People's Party and the
Communist Party of Israel, which for many years foster
cooperation between themselves in the struggles against
Israeli occupation and its crimes as well as for just
peace, hereby address all the communist and worker parties,
peace organizations and workers, women and youth movements
in a call:

Let us mark both of these dates in a world effort, broad as
possible, which aims at ending the Israeli occupation as
soon as possible, and the establishing of a just and
lasting peace between the states, Israel and Palestine.

As part of this effort both our parties would hold and
international conference on June 3rd 2007 in Jerusalem
under the title:

The Jerusalem Initiative for Peace between the two states,
Israel and Palestine.

The 40 years experience of occupation has proven that
there isn't a military solution to the national conflict in
the Middle east' and that peace are vital to all peoples.
Nonetheless, the Israeli government, with the comprehensive
support of the U.S. administration, expands the settlement
in the Palestinian occupied territories, intensifies the
political and economic siege of the Palestinian people and
starves it, and creates fait a compli in order to prevent
the establishment of an independent Palestinian state. The
40 years of occupation has proven also that the
Israeli-Arab conflict is a source of danger for the peace
in the region and the peace of the world.

We call upon every peace seeker, party and organization in
the world to declare the week between the 2nd and 10th of
June 2007 as "The Israeli-Palestinian Peace Week", during
which solidarity activities would be held with the
Palestinian people and the Israeli peace forces, who
struggle against the occupation and its crimes and for
lasting peace which is based on the following principles:

The June 4th 1967 lines (the Green Line) will be the agreed
peace borders between the state of Israel and the
independent Palestinian state created alongside it. Any
change in these borders would have to be agreed by both
In Jerusalem there will be two capital cities the capital
city of Israel and the capital city of Palestine.
All the settlements in the occupied territories will be
The Palestinian refugees' problem will be resolved
according to the UN resolutions.

Such a peace program, which is accepted by the UN and the
international community, is the hope to cease the bloodshed
and the beginning of an era of lasting peace. It is a plan
which has not been implemented, in spite of the fact that
the two state principle solution has been set by the UN
general assembly 60 years ago.
Peace is vital! Peace is possible!
2007 The year of activities for an Israeli-Palestinian

The Palestinian People's Party
The Communist Party of Israel

March 2007


Hundreds took to the streets of Paris, Texas yesterday to protest the seven year prison sentence handed down to a 14 year old girl accused of shoving a hall monitor at a local school. Shaquandra Cotton, now 15, says the teacher's aide pushed her first and denied her permission to enter school before the morning bell in 2005.

The girl has already spent more than a year at the Ron Jackson Correctional Complex in Brownwood, about 300 miles from her Paris, Texas, home. The facility is part of an embattled juvenile system that is the subject of state and federal investigations into allegations that Texas Youth Commission staff physically and sexually abused inmates.

Her family and civil rights activists say they want her home now. They are condemning the sentence as unusually harsh and shows a justice system that punishes youthful offenders differently based on race.

“My daughter has been (at Brownwood) a year now,” Creola Cotton, standing in front of the Lamar County Courthouse, told the Herald Democrat, “It’s time for her to come home.”

From her blog:
Shaquanda Cotton
Location: Paris : Texas : United States
About Me

I am a 14-year-old black freshman who shoved a hall monitor at Paris High School in a dispute over entering the building before the school day had officially begun and was sentenced to 7 years in prison. I have no prior arrest record, and the hall monitor--a 58-year-old teacher's aide--was not seriously injured. I was tried in March 2006 in the town's juvenile court, convicted of "assault on a public servant" and sentenced by Lamar County Judge Chuck Superville to prison for up to 7 years, until I turn 21. Just three months earlier, Superville sentenced a 14-year-old white girl, convicted of arson for burning down her family's house, to probation.

The first article below is from BET. The second is from the Chicago Tribune.

Texas Teen Gets 7 Years for Pushing Teacher
By Tracy Stokes, News Staff & Wire Services

In Paris, Texas, last year, a 14-year-old White girl burns down her family's home. Her punishment? Probation. In the same town three months later, a 15-year-old Black girl, Shaquanda Cotton, is sentenced to seven years in prison for pushing a hall monitor at her high school.

Shaquanda had no prior arrests, and the monitor, a 58-year-old teacher’s aide, was not hurt, according to Black leaders in the northeast Texas town of about 26,000 residents. But in March 2006, the same judge, Lamar County Judge Chuck Superville, who let the White teenage girl go on probation, convicted Shaquanda of "assault on a public servant" and sent her to prison at least until she turns 21.

Officials at the Texas Youth Commission declined to discuss the case with, citing Texas law.

"State law forbids us from acknowledging whether we have any youths are in our system, despite the 50 million issues of print that's been run," said Jim Hurley, a spokesman for the Texas Youth Commission. "We’d have to break the law to talk about it."

Civil Rights Uproar

While the U.S. Department of Education is investigating the incident, the case has civil rights groups in an uproar.

"I don't understand the judge's rationale for his decision," Dr. Howard Anderson, president of the San Antonio Branch of the NAACP, told

In highlighting what he called an egregious miscarriage of justice in a town with a long history of civil rights abuses, Anderson pointed to the case of the 14-year-old convicted arson (whose name was not released because of her age), who was slapped with probation, and the case of a 19-year-old White man in Paris, convicted of killing a 54-year-old Black woman and her 3-year-old grandson with his truck. The latter, he said, was also sentenced to probation and told to send the family a Christmas card every year.

"Then you have Shaquanda's case,” Anderson said. “She pushed a hall monitor, and she gets seven years confinement? If I look at all three of these sentences, and I'm not a lawyer, I have to wonder what the judicial system is doing. In this particular case, what is this judge doing?"

Gary Bledsoe, an Austin attorney who heads the state NAACP branch, told that Shaquanda was merely trying to defend herself.

"All she (Shaquanda) did was grab the aide to prevent a strike,” Bledsoe said. “It's like they are sending a signal to Black folks in Paris that you stay in your place in this community, in the shadows, intimidated.”

Sad History

And keeping Blacks in their place is nothing new in Paris, say leaders, who remind that it’s the site of the first highly publicized lynching of a Black by a large White mob. In 1893, fugitive Henry White was captured in Arkansas and brought to Paris, where he was tortured and burned alive on a train bed as more than 10,000 angry townsfolk cheered and jeered.

Activists say that the Shaquanda sentence is nothing more than a modern-day lynching.

Cotton has been incarcerated at a youth prison in Brownwood, Texas, for the last year on a sentence that could run until her 21st birthday. But like many of the other youths in the system, she is eligible to earn early release if she achieves certain social, behavioral and educational milestones while in prison.

But according to The Chicago Tribune, officials at the Ron Jackson Correctional Complex repeatedly have extended Shaquanda's sentence because she refuses to admit guilt and because she reportedly was found with contraband in her cell – an extra pair of socks.

"She's not admitting any guilt, because she doesn't feel that she did anything," Anderson told "Not to mention, who saw the pushing, if it did occur?"

Cotton's mother, Creola, who Anderson describes as "strong-willed," said her daughter was singled out because she accused the school district of racism on several occasions.

In fact, 12 discrimination complaints have been filed against the Paris Independent School District in recent years. District officials dispute the charges, but the U.S. Department of Education, which is still investigating the case, has reportedly asked the U.S. Department of Justice to get involved.

In 1998, Paris, Texas, was named the "Best Small Town in Texas" by Kevin Heubusch in his book The New Rating Guide to Life in America's Small Cities.


To some in Paris, sinister past is back
In Texas, a white teenager burns down her family's home and receives probation. A black one shoves a hall monitor and gets 7 years in prison. The state NAACP calls it `a signal to black folks.'

By Howard Witt
Tribune senior correspondent
Published March 12, 2007

PARIS, Texas -- The public fairgrounds in this small east Texas town look ordinary enough, like so many other well-worn county fair sites across the nation. Unless you know the history of the place.

There are no plaques or markers to denote it, but several of the most notorious public lynchings of black Americans in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries were staged at the Paris Fairgrounds, where thousands of white spectators would gather to watch and cheer as black men were dragged onto a scaffold, scalded with hot irons and finally burned to death or hanged.

Brenda Cherry, a local civil rights activist, can see the fairgrounds from the front yard of her modest home, in the heart of the "black" side of this starkly segregated town of 26,000. And lately, Cherry says, she's begun to wonder whether the racist legacy of those lynchings is rebounding in a place that calls itself "the best small town in Texas."

"Some of the things that happen here would not happen if we were in Dallas or Houston," Cherry said. "They happen because we are in this closed town. I compare it to 1930s."

There was the 19-year-old white man, convicted last July of criminally negligent homicide for killing a 54-year-old black woman and her 3-year-old grandson with his truck, who was sentenced in Paris to probation and required to send an annual Christmas card to the victims' family.

There are the Paris public schools, which are under investigation by the U.S. Education Department after repeated complaints that administrators discipline black students more frequently, and more harshly, than white students.

And then there is the case that most troubles Cherry and leaders of the Texas NAACP, involving a 14-year-old black freshman, Shaquanda Cotton, who shoved a hall monitor at Paris High School in a dispute over entering the building before the school day had officially begun.

The youth had no prior arrest record, and the hall monitor--a 58-year-old teacher's aide--was not seriously injured. But Shaquanda was tried in March 2006 in the town's juvenile court, convicted of "assault on a public servant" and sentenced by Lamar County Judge Chuck Superville to prison for up to 7 years, until she turns 21.

Just three months earlier, Superville sentenced a 14-year-old white girl, convicted of arson for burning down her family's house, to probation.

"All Shaquanda did was grab somebody and she will be in jail for 5 or 6 years?" said Gary Bledsoe, an Austin attorney who is president of the state NAACP branch. "It's like they are sending a signal to black folks in Paris that you stay in your place in this community, in the shadows, intimidated."

The Tribune generally does not identify criminal suspects younger than age 17, but is doing so in this case because the girl and her family have chosen to go public with their story.

None of the officials involved in Shaquanda's case, including the local prosecutor, the judge and Paris school district administrators, would agree to speak about their handling of it, citing a court appeal under way.

But the teen's defenders assert that long before the September 2005 shoving incident, Paris school officials targeted Shaquanda for scrutiny because her mother had frequently accused school officials of racism.

Retaliation alleged

"Shaquanda started getting written up a lot after her mother became involved in a protest march in front of a school," said Sharon Reynerson, an attorney with Lone Star Legal Aid, who has represented Shaquanda during challenges to several of the disciplinary citations she received. "Some of the write-ups weren't fair to her or accurate, so we felt like we had to challenge each one to get the whole story."

Among the write-ups Shaquanda received, according to Reynerson, were citations for wearing a skirt that was an inch too short, pouring too much paint into a cup during an art class and defacing a desk that school officials later conceded bore no signs of damage.

Shaquanda's mother, Creola Cotton, does not dispute that her daughter can behave impulsively and was sometimes guilty of tardiness or speaking out of turn at school--behaviors that she said were manifestations of Shaquanda's attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, for which the teen was taking prescription medication.

Nor does Shaquanda herself deny that she pushed the hall monitor after the teacher's aide refused her permission to enter the school before the morning bell--although Shaquanda maintains that she was supposed to have been allowed to visit the school nurse to take her medication, and that the teacher's aide pushed her first.

But Cherry alleges that Shaquanda's frequent disciplinary write-ups, and the insistence of school officials at her trial that she deserved prison rather than probation for the shoving incident, fits in a larger pattern of systemic discrimination against black students in the Paris Independent School District.

In the past five years, black parents have filed at least a dozen discrimination complaints against the school district with the federal Education Department, asserting that their children, who constitute 40 percent of the district's nearly 4,000 students, were singled out for excessive discipline.

Send messages of encouragement!

Shaquanda Cotton
Jackson Correctional Complex,
Unit 2, Dorm 4
P.O. Box 872
Brownwood, Texas 76804

Contact the Judge!

Honorable M.C. (Chuck) Superville, Jr., Judge
Lamar County Courthouse
119 North Main
Paris, TX 75460
Phone # 903-737-2410
Fax # 903-785-3858

Contact Governor Rick Perry!

Office of the Governor Main Switchboard: (512) 463-2000
[office hours are 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. CST]

Office of the Governor Fax: (512) 463-1849

Mailing Address
Office of the Governor
P.O. Box 12428
Austin, Texas 78711-2428

Delivery Address
Office of the Governor
State Insurance Building
1100 San Jacinto
Austin, Texas 78701

Tuesday, March 27, 2007


Incorporated in 1907, the City of Toppenish is located in Central Washington and is situated about 20 miles southeast of the City of Yakima. The City covers approximately two square miles and has a population of 9,000 residents.

This little city is now caught up in a controversary surrounding what at best were some stupid and at worst racist remarks made by its mayor.

It seems that a week or so ago local TV station KIMA ran a story about the high crime rate in Toppenish, which is the largest city on the Yakama Indian Reservation.

The mayor didn't like the report and attacked first the messenger (KIMA), then he went on to blame Indians for the problem:

"The Indians don't pay taxes, which affects our revenue to fight the crime". That's why Toppenish is one of the worst gang-infested hellholes in the Northwest? That's why hearing news of the latest shooting, stabbing, drive-by or meth lab bust in Toppenish ranks right up there next to the weather forecast?

Yikes, Mr. Mayor.

The only taxes not paid by local Inidans is the sales tax and that is becasue the town is located on tribal land. In addition, tribal members point out all the money they contribute to the local economy through businesses like Legends Casino.

"It has been reported to me that two percent of the annual revenue is donated to the city of Toppenish," said tribal member Linda Pratt. "So the city of Toppenish is benefiting financially from the Yakama Nation they are not losing out."

The following little ditty comes from the YAKIMA HERALD-REPUBLIC

Toppenish mayor on the hot seat

TOPPENISH -- City Council members tabled a discussion Monday night about whether to remove Mayor Bill Rogers for blaming the city's budget shortfall on a sales tax exemption for Yakama tribal members.

Three council members voiced concern about how Rogers has treated residents at council meetings, and at least one councilman said he should step down. Rogers has nine months left on his two-year term as mayor, a largely ceremonial job chosen by fellow council members.

Council members began discussing Rogers' actions after hearing from several residents, many of them Yakama tribal members, about the comments he made last week to KIMA-TV, a CBS affiliate in Yakima.

They planned to discuss it in a closed session, but Rogers -- who hired former Lower Valley District Court Judge George Colby to represent him in the matter -- requested it be public.

Rogers even told Councilman Loren Belton, who also disapproved of the comments, that he didn't think the council could remove him if it wanted.

Monday night's meeting drew more than 70 residents, with many lining the wall in the back of City Hall and filling the foyer.

Some residents, admitting they didn't like Rogers' comments, nonetheless favored keeping him in his post. But most of those who said they wanted him out were tribal members who called his comments racist.

Rogers publicly apologized last Thursday for telling KIMA, "The Indians don't pay taxes, which affects our revenue to right the crime," and repeatedly apologized to tribal members during Monday night's City Council meeting.

But his comments continue to be at the center of controversy in town, as they seemed to have unearthed old racial wound suffered by many tribal members.

Some tribal members during the meeting recalled racist statements they grew up hearing about Indians in town, and when Indians weren't allowed in many businesses.

"It seems that attitude toward the Yakama Indians hasn't changed," said tribal member Misty Smartlowit. "It's going to keep going on and it should stop with you."

At the request from Councilwoman Elaine Willman, the council decided to hold off on any discussions about the mayor until Councilwoman Clara Jimenez -- who was absent -- could be present.

Reading from a statement she prepared, Willman defended Rogers and said KIMA took his comments out of context.

Tribal member Merna Jackson questioned the credibility of Willman, who leads the local Citizen's Standup Committee, which in the past has taken aggressive stances against the tribe over an alcohol ban and utility tax.

"And you think know you can write something and condone the mayor's conduct?" she said. "I'm really upset about this."

Councilman Fred Diaz said Rogers has made other comments in the past that offend people and that he should step down.

At least one business owner is also calling for the mayor's ouster, and a grassroots effort by some tribal members is threatening to boycotting local businesses until Rogers steps down.

Yakama Tribal Council Vice Chairman Sam Jim said earlier Monhat tribal leaders would like Rogers to apologize in person but aren't endorsing any boycott efforts.

"We're concerned about what he said," Jim said. "He shouldn't have said it."

It wouldn't be the first boycott by tribal members. In the mid-1990s, strained relations between the city and the tribe saw some tribal members avoiding local businesses.

At Dad's Restaurant, 433 S. Elm Street, the reader board outside says "Wanted, New Mayor for Toppenish." Inside, a stack of open letters calling for the mayor's ouster sits on the counter near the cash register.

Owner Dan Eshleman, who wrote the letter, says Rogers stepped over the line.

Rogers said he was angrily responding to the way KIMA had reported on crime in town when he made the comments to its reporter.

KIMA described the town as "rampant with crime" and that "nearly every resident in the tiny community lives in fear."

Rogers said he still plans to apologize in person to tribal leaders, and has already done so during a telephone conversation with Tribal Council Chairwoman Lavina Washines.

In a statement released Friday, Washines said the tribe didn't want to make any more of an issue of Ropers' comments, but didn't want it to happen again.


Most children in the Gaza Strip have been tear gassed, have had their homes searched and damaged, and have witnessed shooting, fighting and explosions. Many have been injured or tortured as a result of chronic war that spans generations, says a Queen’s University study released last summer.

According to the study, there is a pattern of violence against Palestinian children in the Gaza Strip that has serious and debilitating psychiatric and psychological effects.

“Gaza has been an occupied territory for a long time, and still is; Israel controls its borders, its air and water access. It has been described as a vast open-air detention centre” says Queen’s community health and epidemiology researcher John Pringle. “Bombs are being launched into Gaza during this latest eruption of Middle East violence, but are being ignored in light of other crises.”

“Children comprise 47 per cent of Gaza’s population and are extremely vulnerable,” Pringle adds. “It seems the international community is neglecting them, that somehow Palestinian children don’t deserve the protections guaranteed under the Geneva Convention and humanitarian law. We must remember that where we drop our bombs, plant our landmines, and aim our guns, is where children are born, play, and go to school.”

Beyond direct confrontation with violence, children’s rights continue to be grossly violated in a multitude of ways – whether it is their right to proper health care, quality education, safe water and sanitation, opportunities for recreation, and protection from all forms of abuse.

UNICEF reports:

Budgetary shortfalls at the Ministry of Health (MoH) have left stocks of essential drugs and disposables at critical levels. At the end of January 2007, 15 per cent of the essential drugs and 8 per cent of disposables were out of stock in Gaza.

While services including immunization and child nutrition were maintained in the face of extraordinary financial and logistical challenges over the past months, a resumption of the public sector strike in early February points to further difficulties in the delivery of basic quality health care. In the West Bank, movement and access restrictions, fuel shortages, and vehicle breakdowns hamper health care delivery in isolated areas.

Under-5 mortality rates are worsening and the nutritional status is threatened by household poverty, poor quality foodstuffs. Chronic malnutrition now stands at 9.9% across oPt, and at an alarming 13.9% in Gaza. More than 70% of nine-month old children in Gaza are anemic.

The following comes from the Canadian site Rabble News.

Health care and children in crisis in Gaza
by Miriam Garfinkle and Reem Abdul Qadir

The children of Gaza are in crisis.

In spite of the removal of the Israeli settlements and permanent army bases from Gaza in the summer of 2005, Israel continues its occupation. According to a report by an Israeli-based legal rights group, Gisha, Israel continues its control over Gaza's air space, its waters, its borders, the movement of goods and people, the taxation system and the population registry.

After the 2006 election in Gaza, Canada was one of the first countries to withhold world funds from the Gazan authorities. This has left the population in a terrible situation.

Gaza is one of the most densely populated areas in the world. In an area of only about 365 square kilometres there is a population numbering about 1.25 million. Three-quarters of the population is living in poverty. Forty per cent are unemployed. Food and water supply are precarious and sewage treatment is totally inadequate.

According to Dr. Robert Horton, editor of the Lancet, in a recent article in the New York Review of Books, there are desperate shortages of medical specialists. Diagnostic facilities are unavailable to large sections of the population and procurement of medicine is difficult.

Over 60 per cent of the population in Gaza is under the age of 18. As a result of the ongoing and escalating conflict, children are showing increasing symptoms of stress and depression. According to a survey of children conducted by the Gaza Community Mental Health Program (GCMHP) and published in 2004 by the World Psychiatric Association, a vast majority of children under the age of 11 suffer with significant multiple symptoms that have been identified with “post-traumatic stress disorder.”

Increasing numbers of children have been observed to be bedwetting as old as nine or ten years of age and severely disrupted sleep and night terrors are common. Moodiness, anxiety and hyperactivity are other behavioural manifestations of extreme stress in these children.

Since the year 2000, more than 5000 houses have been demolished in Gaza. In fact, of the children surveyed by the GCMHP, 99 per cent have experienced a shelling of their home. The loss of home has an enormous impact on children. Home is associated with security and comfort. Israeli forces also often raid and vandalize homes. Children, witnessing the powerlessness of their parents to protect them against these acts are left feeling insecure and anxious.

The survey also reveals that 96 per cent of children have witnessed shooting, fighting or explosions often resulting in the death and injury of civilians. Sonic booms — the incredibly loud and distressing sound of the supersonic flight of military planes similar to thunder — have become an increasing feature of Israel's occupation. The Israeli air force carries these out over populated areas especially at night and in the early morning. Physicians for Human Rights-Israel and the Gaza Community Health Program petitioned the Supreme Court of Israel demanding these flights be halted.

For years, children have been exposed on a daily basis to heavily armed Israeli military personnel and tanks threatening them on the streets. Children have had to cross random military checkpoints on their way to school and have had their schools attacked with gas and live ammunition.

The term post-traumatic stress disorder is not really valid here because there is no “post” for these children — the trauma is ongoing and pervasive. Health care providers are trained to deal with emotional trauma using the supportive and protective factors in a child's life. In the Gaza situation it is difficult to find these factors. Fundamentally there is no safe place.

These days one hears a lot about the Canadian soldiers in Afghanistan who are adults who have been specifically trained for warfare. Yet many of them are traumatized by the experience of seeing comrades injured or killed, or suffering injuries or danger themselves. The trauma goes on, long after the experience has ended and they are back in a place of safety. How much worse then for children who witness and experience these events day after day, week after week with no end and with no place of safety.

As Canadian health care professionals, we are deeply troubled by the situation and worried for the future of the people of Gaza and especially these children. What will the long-term effects be of this endless trauma? What can we, as Canadians and health care professionals, do about it?

Resilient health care providers on the ground, like Dr. Mona El-Farra and Dr. Eyad El Sarraj, have been struggling to provide adequate grassroots primary health and mental health care in Gaza for years against these mounting odds. We have worked with a group of Palestinians and Jews in Toronto to organize a fundraiser to support the health care operations in which these physicians are involved. We are also insisting that the Canadian government restore and indeed increase its funding to Gaza.

We also demand that Israel stop its continued methods of collective punishment of civilians in direct contravention of international law. Ultimately there can be no solution to this horrific situation until there is an end to the military occupation of Gaza and the West Bank, which continues and indeed escalates, despite the 2005 pull-out of Israeli settlements.

There is both a public health and mental health crisis unfolding in Gaza at a breakneck pace. As human beings, as Canadians, as Jews and Palestinians, we all have a moral obligation and vital stake in protecting these children and giving them access to a viable future. The alternative is unthinkable.

Miriam Garfinkle M.D. and Reem Abdul Qadir M.S.W. R.S.W. are health care professionals who write from Toronto.

Monday, March 26, 2007


After months of preparation the much-awaited Permanent Peoples’ Tribunal’s (PPT) second session on the Philippines has declared the Bush and Arroyo regimes guilty of crimes against humanity.

The verdict came after three days of hearing testimony on political killings, abductions and other alleged violations of human, economic, civil and political rights in The Hague, The Netherlands.

Read by tribunal president François Houtart of Belgium , the verdict linked the extrajudicial killings and other human rights violations to the US-led "war on terror" and said these were "committed with the support and full awareness of the [US] government" and thus qualified as "crimes against humanity, with all the consequences for the persons who are responsible for them."

Among the verdict's findings was the existence of what it called "the politics of impunity" and the government's "attitude of denial," noting that "Even the most brutal atrocities hardly elicit any decisive action or even oral condemnation" from the administration.

It noted the administration's hedging on releasing the report of the Palace-created Melo Commission and that the findings of UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial killings Philip Alston, which said most of the murders were linked to the military, were "totally denied and even derided by the government."

The Permanent Peoples' Tribunal is an international opinion tribunal, independent from any State authority. It examines and judges complaints regarding violations of human rights and rights of peoples that are submitted by the victims themselves or groups representing them. The Tribunal was founded in June 1979 in Italy by law experts, writers and other intellectuals. It succeeded the Russell Tribunals I and II or the International War Crimes Tribunal, which held two sessions in 1967 to expose the war crimes committed against the Vietnamese people.

In 1980, the Permanent Peoples' Tribunal convened a Session on the Philippines to hear the case against the dictator Ferdinand E. Marcos, at the suit of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) and the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF). It was the first international juridical body to condemn the US sponsored Marcos dictatorship. Marcos was later deposed through a popular uprising in February 1986.

Arroyo and Bush, Jr. were found guilty of charges ranging from systematic violations of civil, political, social, economic, and cultural rights to violations of national self-determination and liberation committed against the Filipino people. Bush in particular was indicted for his role in renewed military intervention and for supporting Arroyo’s brutal counter-insurgency program in the guise of counter-terrorism.

Initiators of the charges said the political killings, forced disappearances, torture and other violations of human rights escalated in the context of the U.S.-backed counter-insurgency and counter-terrorism programs of Arroyo.

Asia Journal reports the verdict issued by the international forum of lawyers and human rights experts against the Arroyo government will be sent to the United Nations (UN), International Court of Justice (ICJ) and other world bodies to focus "world attention on the human rights crisis in the Philippines."

A statement from the tribunal secretariat quoted its general secretary, Gianni Tognoni, as saying that, aside from the UN and ICJ, the verdict would also be sent to the European Parliament and "various foreign governments" with the aim of getting world opinion to "add more pressure [on] the US-supported Arroyo government to stop the killings."

Although the verdict "may be legally non-binding, it is nevertheless morally binding," tribunal president François Houtart of Belgium said.

The tribunal called the Philippines' membership in the UN Human Rights Council "unacceptable" because it "undermines the credibility of the UN in this field, is an intolerable offense to the victims;" and "a denial of the many well documented denunciations of the dramatic violations of human rights in the Philippines."

It also called "sharp attention to the safety of the witnesses who courageously have contributed to the fact-finding task of the tribunal. If anything would happen to any of them, we will hold the government of the Philippines responsible for that."

Among the witnesses who appeared before the tribunal was Senator Maria Ana Consuelo "Jamby" Madrigal, who, according to the statement, described the country as "ruled by a military junta with…Arroyo acting only as a figurehead."

It also quoted Madrigal as saying that the verdict "will dispel the claims of the Arroyo government that there is democracy in the Philippines."

Others who testified, either in person or through a video hookup from the Philippines were Marie Hilao-Enriquez, secretary general of human rights alliance Karapatan; Dr. Constancio "Chandu" Claver; Dr. June P. Lopez, an expert in handling torture and trauma victims; retired Navy captain Danilo Vizmanos; UP Faculty Regent Roland Simbulan; Bishop Elmer Bolocon of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines and Ecumenical Bishops Forum; Elmer Labog, chair of the Kilusang Mayo Uno (May First Movement); and Danilo Ramos of the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (Peasant Movement of the Philippines).

Other tribunal jurors were Japanese novelist and social activist Oda Makoto; Dutch criminal law professor Ties Prakken; Norwegian lawyer and former foreign ministry officer Oystein Tveter, Malaysian social development expert Irene Fernandez, and Colombian Lilia Solano.

The following article comes from Bulatlat (Philippines).

Victims’ Kin Welcome Guilty Verdict on Arroyo, Bush by Int’l Tribunal

Families of victims of extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances and other human rights violations welcomed the verdict of an international tribunal declaring both the Arroyo and Bush governments guilty of crimes against humanity.

In a press conference in Quezon City, Monday, Dee Ayroso, coordinator of Desaparecidos, said in Filipino, “The verdict of the Permanent Peoples’ Tribunal is a big victory for all of us. Let the whole world know that Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and George W. Bush are criminals.”

The Permanent Peoples’ Tribunal (PPT) released its 13-page verdict Sunday, around 2pm at the Pax Christikerk in The Hague, the Netherlands. Francois Houtart, president of the PPT’s Second Session on the Philippines, read out the verdict after three continuous days of hearing testimonies from at least 13 witnesses.

Houtart described the extrajudicial killings, forced disappearances, massacres, torture and other atrocities allegedly committed by the Arroyo government as “crimes against humanity”. Such violations which the PPT said were in no way justified as “necessary measures against terrorism,” said Houtart.

Evangeline Hernandez, spokesperson of Hustisya (Victims United for Justice) and mother of slain human rights advocate Benjaline Hernandez, said, “Now, we stand on a high moral ground. We have come a long way to seek justice. The international community has seen the true face of Arroyo.”

Hernandez added, “We, the relatives of numerous victims of extrajudicial killings, are no longer fearful or ashamed.”

Houtart warned that the Arroyo government will be held accountable if something happens to the witnesses who testified before the PPT.

Ayroso said, “We hope that the PPT’s findings will pave the way for the ouster of Arroyo.”

In 1980, the PPT’s First Session on the Philippines declared Marcos guilty of human rights abuses. The dictator was ousted in 1986 through a popular uprising.

Aside from Houtart, who is from Belgium and Director of the Centre Tricontinental (Cetri), the PPT jurors included Oda Makoto (Japan), well-known novelist and social activist; Ties Prakken (The Netherlands), professor in criminal law Maastricht University; Oystein Tveter (Norway), lawyer and former Director of the Karibu Foundation and former foreign ministry official in South Africa and Zambia; Irene Fernandez (Malaysia), lawyer, social development expert and head of Tenaganita; and Lilia Solano (Colombia), 2005 Right Livelihood Awardee (alternative Nobel) and Director of Project for Life and Peace.

The PPT jurors also found ‘unacceptable’ the membership of the Philippines in the United Nations Human Rights Council, saying it is an ‘intolerable offense’ to the victims.

Meanwhile, Renato Reyes Jr., secretary general of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) disputed Malacañang’s claim that the PPT is a mere black propaganda. Reyes pointed out that the respondents were invited to attend the hearings through their embassies in Rome and in The Hague. “They (Arroyo and Bush) waived their right to defend themselves and to air their side.”

Bayan is also one of the complainants in the case against Arroyo.


The following comes from the website Edge of Sports. It needs no introduction.

Jocks 4 Justice Speak out for Gary Tyler
By Dave Zirin

The history of the American legal system is scarred with instances of injustice: the Haymarket martyrs, Sacco and Vanzetti, the Scottsboro Boys, Julius and Ethel Rosenberg. Add to this list the case of Gary Tyler, convicted of murder at the age of 16. Tyler's case was remarkable because at the time of his 1975 conviction, he was the nation's youngest death-row inmate. The spotlight dimmed when his sentence was commuted to life without the possibility of parole in 1977, a year after the US Supreme Court declared Louisiana's death penalty unconstitutional.

Tyler, now 48, is living out his days in Louisiana's notorious Angola prison. A former slave plantation, Angola is home to 5,000 prisoners, 75 percent of whom are black. He has now spent years of his life behind bars because he was the wrong color in the wrong place at the wrong time.

National interest in Tyler's case was revived by a recent series of articles by New York Times columnist Bob Herbert. In 1974 Tyler was on a school bus filled with African-American students who attended the formerly all-white Destrehan High School in St. Charles Parish, Louisiana. A white mob attacked the school bus. As Gary's brother Terry recalled years later to journalist Adam Nossiter in a piece published in The Nation, "They were on the attack, man. It was panic."

Witnesses at the time said someone on the bus pointed out the window and yelled, "Look at that white boy with that gun." After several pops, a 13-year-old white student, Timothy Weber, lay wounded on the ground. Weber's cousin, Deputy Sheriff V.J. St. Pierre, rushed the boy to the hospital, where he later died from a gunshot wound. Later, white supremacist David Duke came to Destrehan to fan the flames of racial hatred.

Herbert wrote, "That single shot in this rural town about 25 miles up the Mississippi River from New Orleans set in motion a tale of appalling injustice that has lasted to the present day." The police came onto the bus and Tyler was dragged off. Then came the beatings. As Juanita Tyler, Gary's mother, told Herbert, "One of the deputies had a strap and they whipped him with that. It was terrible. Finally, when they let me go in there, Gary was just trembling. He was frightened to death. He was trembling and rocking back and forth. They had kicked him all in his privates. He said, 'Mama, they kicked me. One kicked me in the front and one kicked in the back.' He said that over and over. I couldn't believe what they had done to my baby." An all-white jury found Tyler guilty of first-degree murder. Since his conviction, the four witnesses against him have recanted their testimony.

The murder weapon, as Herbert reported, had been "stolen from a firing range used by the sheriff's deputies." It appeared out of nowhere as the murder weapon. The gun has since magically disappeared from the evidence room.

A federal appeals court ultimately ruled that Tyler did not receive a fair trial, but justice was again denied. In an interview with Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez of Democracy Now!, Herbert explained that the court ruled that "the charge to the jury was flawed, and they said that it was flawed so badly that it clearly could have had an impact on how the jurors ruled. But they were so insistent on not having this case overturned and not having Gary Tyler freed or have a new trial that they ruled on a technicality that he did not deserve a new trial. So it's on the record that a federal appeals court has said that his trial was fundamentally unfair."

In 1989, Louisiana Board of Pardons (LBP) voted 3 to 2 to commute Tyler's sentence from life to sixty years, making Tyler eligible for a speedy release from prison. But Louisiana Governor Charles "Buddy" Roemer, a Democrat facing an electoral challenge from David Duke, refused to issue a pardon. A crucial element in Roemer's decision was the racially charged political climate: Eighteen years later, that climate has changed. And now the fight to free Gary Tyler has been reignited by a new advocacy effort, led by Tyler's family, lawyers and activists.

Joe Allen, a member of the Free Gary Tyler steering committee, credited Bob Herbert's columns for reviving the effort to free him. "Gary's case is one of the great miscarriages of justice in the modern history of the US but had largely been forgotten until the recent work by Bob Herbert," he told me. "I think there is momentum now that makes it possible for the first time in decades to build a national campaign for his freedom."

In addition to the Free Gary Tyler campaign, Amnesty International's relaunched advocacy has given the Tyler case new visibility. Building on this momentum, I contacted people I know from the world of sports to ask if they would to stand with Tyler at this critical time. And they have responded.

Tommie Smith and John Carlos were part of the most dynamic moment in the history of sports and struggle when they raised their black-gloved fists at the 1968 Olympics. Lee Evans was also a gold medal winner at those Olympics and a leader of the Olympic Project for Human Rights. Rubin "Hurricane" Carter was a top-ranked boxer who spent almost twenty years in prison for a triple homicide before being exonerated after an international campaign to win his freedom. Jim "Bulldog" Bouton and Bill "Spaceman" Lee were all-star pitchers for the Yankees and Red Sox who told uncomfortable truths about both society and the game that they love. Etan Thomas plays for the NBA's Washington Wizards and stands in the tradition of the previous generation of political athletes. Together, they and other sports figures are asking Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco for the release of Gary Tyler. Read the statement to see how Tyler's quest for justice has brought these and other extraordinary figures from the world of sports together.

To: Gov. Kathleen Blanco

We, the undersigned members of the sports community, call upon you, in the name of justice and racial reconciliation, to pardon Gary Tyler and free him from Angola prison. Gary is an innocent man who has spent 32 of his 48 years on earth behind bars for a crime he did not commit. Gary's life has been destroyed because of racial hysteria and that peculiar brand of police work known internationally as "Southern Justice."

As you are undoubtedly aware, New York Times columnist Bob Herbert has spent the last month exposing the terrifying truth behind Gary's conviction. In 1975, Gary Tyler, an African-American teenager, was convicted by an all-white jury for the murder of Timothy Weber, a thirteen-year-old white youth. Weber was shot and killed during a busing riot where 200 whites attacked Gary's school bus. Weber's death quite understandably sent shock waves across the state. The police needed a killer. They chose Gary and his nightmare officially began. Gary's mother detailed to Herbert the sounds of listening to deputies at the police station savagely whipping her son, while they blocked her from entering the room. "They beat Gary so bad," she said. "My poor child. I couldn't do nothing." Every witness who identified Gary as the shooter has since recanted and alleged police intimidation. The gun supposedly used on that day has disappeared.

In the mid-1970s, Gary's case mobilized thousands across the country for his freedom and led Amnesty International to declare him a "political prisoner." Denied a fair trial 32 years ago, imprisoned for life for a crime he did not commit--we call upon you to free Gary Tyler now.

Rubin "Hurricane" Carter, boxer and author of The 16th Round

Tommie Smith, 1968 Olympic gold medalist

John Carlos 1968 Olympic bronze medalist

Lee Evans, Olympic gold medalist

Etan Thomas, Washington Wizards center and author of More Than an Athlete

Jim Bouton, former New York Yankee pitcher and author of Ball Four

Bill "Spaceman" Lee, former Boston Red Sox pitcher and author of The Wrong Stuff

Eddie Mustafa Muhammad, former Light Heavyweight Boxing Champion and head of Joint Action for Boxers (J.A.B.)

David Meggyesy, former NFL linebacker and retired Western Regional Director, NFL Players Association (NFLPA)

Jeff "Snowman" Monson, Ultimate Fighting Championship fighter

Toni Smith, former member of Manhattanville College Women's Basketball team

Dr. Phil Shinnick, member of the 1964 US Olympic team

Bobbito Garcia co-editor of Bounce Magazine and NYC DJ

Dennis Brutus, former director of the South African Non Racialist Olympic Committee and professor emeritus of Africana Studies at the University of Pittsburgh

Doug Harris, executive director, Athletes United for Peace

Lester Rodney, sports editor, the Daily Worker, 1936-58

Rus Bradburd, former assistant basketball coach at the University of Texas El Paso and author of Paddy on the Hardwood: Journey Through Irish Hoops

Julio Pabón president and CEO of Latino Sports Ventures

William Gerena-Rochet, editor of

Dave Zirin is the author of the forthcoming book: "Welcome to the Terrordome: The Pain, Politics and Promise of Sports" (Haymarket). You can receive his column Edge of Sports, every week by e-mailing

Contact him at


A number of gay activists from the group Soulforce were arrested today after staging a sit-in at a Baptist seminary.

The group, Soulforce, attempted to meet with the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary's president, the Rev. R. Albert Mohler Jr., an influential evangelical leader.

About a dozen members of the group were arrested and escorted off the campus and charged with criminal trespassing after sitting in front of Mohler's office for about two hours, said Jarrett Lucas, a co-director of a Soulforce tour that is visiting Christian colleges

Mohler asserted in a recent article that homosexuality would remain a sin even if it were biologically based, and stated he would support a hypothetical medical treatment that could switch an unborn gay baby's sexual orientation.

Mohler said he would endorse prenatal hormonal treatment _ if such a technology were developed _ to reverse homosexuality. He said this would no different, in moral terms, to using technology that would restore vision to a blind fetus.

''I realize this sounds very offensive to homosexuals, but it's the only way a Christian can look at it,'' Mohler said. ''We should have no more problem with that than treating any medical problem.''

''He's willing to play God,'' said Harry Knox, a spokesman on religious issues for the Human Rights Campaign, a national gay-rights group. ''He's more than willing to let homophobia take over and be the determinant of how he responds to this issue, in spite of everything else he believes about not tinkering with the unborn.''

Mohler's argument was endorsed by a prominent Roman Catholic thinker, the Rev. Joseph Fessio, provost of Ave Maria University in Naples, Fla., and editor of Ignatius Press, Pope Benedict XVI's U.S. publisher.

Such logic dismayed Jennifer Chrisler of Family Pride, a group that supports gay and lesbian families.

''What bothers me is the hypocrisy,'' she said. ''In one breath, they say the sanctity of an unborn life is unconditional, and in the next breath, it's OK to perform medical treatments on them because of their own moral convictions, not because there's anything wrong with the child.''

What follows is a press release from Soulforce expaining the sit in that led to the above mentioned arrests.

Gay/Straight Youth Sit-in at Southern Baptist Leader's Office; Demand Apology for Eugenics Remarks
For Immediate Release
Contact: Kyle DeVries, East Bus Media Director
Cell: 612-715-6284,

In light of recent inflammatory comments by Albert Mohler, leaders of the Soulforce Equality Ride have decided to reroute temporarily in order to conduct a sit-in at his office in the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. They will demand a public apology for statements Mohler made earlier this year that encouraged the intentional prevention of homosexuality. The 2007 Soulforce Equality Ride is a journey by 50 young adults seeking to end religion-based discrimination by visiting Christian universities where both policy and doctrine condemns lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people. The group is divided between 2 buses traveling 2 distinct routes across the nation.

In a recent blog, Mohler wrote, "If a biological basis is found, and if a prenatal test is then developed, and if a successful treatment to reverse the sexual orientation to heterosexual is ever developed, we would support its use as we should unapologetically support the use of any appropriate means to avoid sexual temptation and the inevitable effects of sin." The Equality Riders do not plan on leaving the Seminary until Mohler rescinds his harmful comments and publicly apologizes for them.

Norton Hall, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary

Twenty-five lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and straight young adults, Christian and non-Christian, on a mission to converse with and educate tomorrow's conservative leaders.

Mohler is considered the "reigning intellectual" in the Evangelical Christian community and therefore holds influence over millions of people. His support of eugenics is both dangerous and immoral. Left unchallenged, such prejudice becomes a destructive force that affects everyone. The 25 young adults who will sit-in recognize the ignorance, fear, and hate that impel such homophobia. They feel called to meet such bigotry with nonviolent resistance and to demand change