Friday, July 27, 2007


The Washington Post reports two American civilian contractors who worked on a massive U.S. Embassy construction project in Baghdad told Congress yesterday that foreign laborers were deceptively recruited and trafficked to Iraq to toil at the site, where they experienced physical abuse and substandard working conditions.

The Congressional hearing concerned the construction of the US embassy in Baghdad.

Among those testifying was John Owens, who worked on the site as a security liaison from November 2005 to June 2006, said he'd seen foreign workers packed in trailers and working 12 hours a day, seven days a week, with time off Fridays for Muslim prayers. Several told him they earned about $300 a month, after fees were taken out, and that they were docked three days' pay for such offenses as clocking in five minutes late.

Testimony also came from Rory Mayberry, who said he'd been a medic on the site for five days, said First Kuwaiti had asked him to escort 51 Filipino men from Kuwait to Baghdad but not to tell them where they were going. Their tickets showed that they were flying to Dubai, Mayberry said. They screamed protests when they discovered on the flight that they were headed to Baghdad, he said.

This is just the tip of the iceberg and Congress shouldn't act surprised to hear about these abuses..

In 2005, journalist David Phinney (author of the article below) reported in CorpWatch that KBR, a division of Halliburton at the time, was importing thousands of cheap labor from impoverished south Asian countries such as Pakistan, Philippines, Nepal, Sri Lanka and India using “subcontractor” labor providers. These labor providers, based in the Middle East, such as First Kuwaiti and Prime Projects International, would also subcontract to “recruiters” in those countries thus creating many layers making it difficult, if not impossible, for the Pentagon to track the labor and billings that would flow up to KBR and then to the Army.

While American workers received $80,000 to $100,000 a year working for KBR in Iraq, these Third Country Nationals, known as TCNs, were only earning between $200 and $1000 a month doing much of the same work. Along with that, reports by former KBR employees and some soldiers, have disclosed these TCNs were working under terrible conditions – frequently sleeping in crowded trailers, waiting outside in line in 100 degree heat to eat “slop” while their American counterparts were sleeping in more comfortable housing and dining at the military dining facility. Reports from former employees have also disclosed that KBR is increasingly relying on TCNs apparently with the goal of comprising at least 80% of their labor force.

Not much has changed.

The following bit of reporting is from the blog Iraq Slogger.

Despite Crackdown, Labor Abuses Persist

Despite US measures designed to halt labor abuses perpetrated by contractors working on US-funded projects in Iraq, anecdotal evidence indicates serious problems persist.

American civilian sources working at military camps report low-wage contracted laborers having limited access to medical care, crowded and decrepit living quarters, and questionable food. Some were reportedly tricked into working in Iraq, and accounts of contractors holding employees' passports continue, despite an April 2006 order from the US military specifically barring the practices.

“These issues are commonly known and there has been nothing done about this,” said one American contractor in a string of emails earlier this month from Camp Diamondback. He said he had been speaking with Sri Lankans who were recruited with the understanding they would be working in Kuwait.

According to the contractor, they were informed they would be going to Iraq after arriving in Dubai during transit. “The two men I speak with most often arrived in Mosul in late March,” wrote the contractor. “They were to make 2 to 3 times their normal salary. Thus far, they've not been paid and have only received an advance of $50.”

The contractor also sent photos of bathrooms, reporting that the only running water was on the floor. Old toilets are discarded outside the workers' living quarters, he said, where they sleep ten to a room on thin mattresses.

One worker suffering from diarrhea and vomiting was reportedly told the condition couldn’t be too severe since the employee had worked all day before reporting it. The doctor told the worker to “deal with it or go back” to Sri Lanka. “I asked one if he had any paperwork and he had none,” the contractor said.

Describing a photograph of the typical meal of mostly rice with a side of slop served to low-wage contract workers, the contractor commented: “This picture is of their food today. This is apparently a good day (with) double the usual meat portions.... The days are hit-and-miss whether they get vegetables.”

Another American contractor familiar with working conditions prior to the 2006 contractor order said in an email last week that “the treatment is still pretty much the same” at a large camp outside Baghdad. He said that 6,000 workers have no dentist and must travel to Kuwait for treatment.

“I know all of this because I had a laborer with bad pain in two teeth last week and the medic was giving him ‘tablets’ which were totally ineffective in alleviating this poor guy's pain. They are given the option of taking off work and flying to Kuwait for treatment at their own expense.”
The contractor said that “incoming laborers are still paying agency fees, and though they now carry their passports and a copy of their contract, all that did was create an additional task for us with no improvement.”

Even having passports returned can be a problem, said one Pakistani worker near Fallujah during a telephone conversation several weeks ago. He complained that while passports had been returned, the front pages had been ripped out.

But having part of a passport may be better than none at all. An American contractor at Camp Stryker said in an email last March that dozens of Indian workers found employment conditions with a Saudi subcontractor so bad that:

"They are running away at night from their camps here at Stryker and jumping the wire.... I am concerned for them because they are running and have no where to go..... The embassy is in the Green zone ten miles away.... and you have to go in the red zone to get to there from here."

The source said that Americans brought the Indian laborers back to the camp and that none of the low-paid workers had identification or passports. A manager with the Saudi contractors had taken the documents away before they fled the camp, the source was told. The Indian workers said they were quitting their jobs because they were being beaten. One reported he had been handcuffed to a post for hours.

Each of these anecdotes come from single sources, but the accounts of labor conditions closely track common complaints previously reported.

The Saudi contractor did not reply to email inquiries or phone calls requesting an interview. The US Army referred the inquiry to a spokesperson at KBR, which holds the prime contract with the Army for maintenance and dining at Camp Stryker. The spokesperson said the incident was untrue:

KBR has determined the information you have to be incorrect and does not involve KBR or its subcontractor. However, we can assure you that KBR does not condone and will not tolerate any practice that unlawfully compels subcontractor employees to deploy, perform work or remain in a place against their will.

The KBR spokesperson did not respond to a request for a contact with the Saudi subcontractor.


The following is from Bill Berkowitz and is taken from MediaTransparency.

Are high-profile evangelical leaders endangering victims of domestic violence?

Dr. James Dobson and Dr. John MacArthur, two influential evangelical family
counselors, 'blame' battered women for their plight, says Christian evangelical author Jocelyn Andersen.

While domestic violence -- also known as intimate partner violence -- is in no way limited to any particular race, religion, ethnic group, class or sexual preference, author Jocelyn Andersen maintains that for far too long too many evangelical pastors have tried to sweep the problem under the rug. According to Andersen, the problem of physical, as well as emotional and spiritual abuse, is being exacerbated by the outdated teachings of several high-profile conservative Christian pastors.

Dobson is dispensing life-threatening advice to abused Christian women

In the introduction to her new book "Woman Submit! Christians & Domestic Violence" (One Way Cafe Press, 2007), Andersen points out that "The practice of hiding, ignoring, and even perpetuating the emotional and physical abuse of women is ... rampant within evangelical Christian fellowships and as slow as our legal systems have been in dealing with violence against women by their husbands, the church has been even slower."

Andersen maintains that domestic violence in Christian families "often creates a cruel Catch-22 as many Christians and church leaders view recommending separation or divorce as unscriptural, but then silently view the battered woman, who chooses not to leave, with contempt for staying and tolerating the abuse. Victims quickly pick up on this hypocritical attitude and either leave the church altogether -- or begin hiding the abuse. Either way they are giving up the spiritual guidance, and emotional support, they desperately need."

"The secular medical world has had to reach in to advise and help women from the church see the truth of their situations, get shelter, and inform religious leaders about the need to accept medical and clinical facts about physical and mental abuse," -- a news service of the American Family Association -- reported in late June.

"Secular organizations are constantly addressing the religious aspects of domestic violence," Andersen told the news service. "Christian women struggle with it and the secular organizations see what Christian women go through and religious women go through. They have set it up as their goal to educate spiritual leaders on the spiritual aspects, and the different aspects of domestic violence so they can give good counsel to the women coming to them. It's a big issue."

Andersen's book discusses why women who are victims of domestic abuse stay with their abusers: "The third chapter of [the Book of] Genesis give us a clue, when the woman is told, 'your desire will be to your husband' -- and he will 'rule over' you. The clue right there is no matter how he acts, her desire is often still toward him. She loves him. She responds to the abuse with an even greater determination to try to resolve the situation ... and make it better."

According to OneNewsNow, "Andersen never advocates divorce -- yet she says after domestic violence enters the marriage picture, there must eventually come a point where a Christian woman decides what the will of God is for her in the face of the dangers of abuse. And that is where Andersen says the woman will likely conflict with pressure from the church to stay, no matter what."

High-profile evangelical leaders blaming the victim

Andersen, whose account of physical abuse by her husband makes for a harrowing first chapter, says that the problem is exacerbated by misguided advice and use of outdated information in the writing of Dr. James Dobson, founder of Focus on the Family, and Dr. John MacArthur, a pastor-teacher at the Sun Valley, California-based Grace Community Church. "We do see some very big-name evangelical leaders blaming the battered woman for the abuse," Andersen explained. "You know, talking about how she may provoke her husband into doing it; or that her poor, non-communicative husband can't handle maybe what she's trying to communicate to him and he lashes out and hits her -- [that] shifts the blame right off him and to her."

Via several emails, Anderson told Media Transparency that the work of Dobson and MacArthur perpetuate the problem of domestic violence among evangelical Christians.

She chose to look closely at their work because of the "scope of influence" they wield "within the Christian Community." Both men are "prolific writers with best-selling books," and the both "have large listening audiences for their radio broadcasts," which "have been staples of Moody Christian Radio for years." Millions of people listen to the broadcasts weekly, she said.

"Both Dobson and MacArthur are high-profile evangelical leaders with enough influence and ability to make a positive contribution to the plight of battered women which would result in lives being saved." Instead, "their words are often used to send Christian women back into the danger zone with counsel that encourages them to try and change violent husbands or return to violent homes as soon as the 'heat is off.' The last time I looked, assault was a crime, but Christian women are generally not encouraged to report that crime."

In her book, Andersen cites an incident in which a battered wife wrote to Dobson telling him that "the violence within her marriage was escalating in both frequency and intensity and that she feared for her life." Dobson "replied that her goal should be to change her husband's behavior--not to get a divorce ('Love Must Be Tough,' (1996) [this is the edition that was being sold as of March 2007])."

"He did suggest leaving as a temporary solution, but only as a way of manipulating the husband's behavior. I found it inexcusable that not one note of real concern for this woman's immediate physical safety was sounded in his response--in spite of the fact that she clearly stated she was in fear for her life."

"Dobson counseled her to precipitate a crisis in her marriage by choosing the most absurd demand her husband made, then refusing to consent to it. This was not only absurd advice in a domestic violence situation, but life-threateningly dangerous as well, and very telling of the fact that, in spite of over 1,000 deaths per year due to wife-beating, the wife beater is not generally viewed as a real threat to his wife's life or safety. "

Andersen also takes on MacArthur: According to a tape titled Bible Questions and Answers Part 16, a member of Grace Community Church asked MacArthur how a Christian woman should react "and deal with being a battered wife."

MacArthur's answer contained "some very dangerous advice to battered wives. He said divorce is not an option to a battered wife, because the Bible doesn't permit it." While saying that it was okay "for the wife to get away while the pressure was on" it was with the understanding that she would return. "He warned wives to be very careful that they were not provoking the abusive situations. Because, he said, that was very often the problem."

"Three years later, MacArthur said essentially the same thing (softened with a few disclaimers) in a booklet he still distributes today titled 'Answering Key Questions About the Family.'"

"How many thousands of pastors, leaders and lay Christians have been and are still being influenced through the writing of James Dobson, John MacArthur and others who share their views?" Andersen asked.

Andersen says that both of these pastors "admit they believe a large percentage of battering cases are instigated and provoked by the wife." While Dobson "described the issue of domestic violence as a problem of 'epidemic proportions,' in 'Love Must Be Tough,' only five-plus pages are devoted to the subject. And he used over half those pages to highlight a case in which a wife deliberately provoked her husband into hitting her so she could gain her 'trophy' of bruises which she could then parade around with in order to gain sympathy."

While those incidents happen, Andersen points out that "the bulk of the research about domestic violence refutes the myth that battered wives enjoy being battered or deliberately provoke the violence in order to gain some moral advantage. That unfair example in no way typifies the face of domestic violence."

"If a Christian Leader blames a woman for the violence in her marriage and neglects to encourage a battered wife to use the legal resources available to her in order to preserve her physical safety, that leader is not only sanctioning the abuse but perpetuating it as well," Andersen maintains.

"Many wife-beaters who are church-goers, professing Christians, even pastors and leaders of churches are getting the message loud and clear that their spiritual leadership is not so concerned with the fact that they beat their wives as they are concerned that wives should be submitting to their husbands and not seeking legal protection or divorce."

"Telling a woman to leave while the heat is on with the intention of returning is not uncommon advice among evangelicals. It amounts to no less than sending a battered woman back into a violent home. With a violent spouse when is the heat ever really off? This is sin and, in my opinion, it is criminal."

Thus far, Andersen hasn't received any grief for the charges in her book. She said that she received a request for a review copy of her book and a media kit from a news correspondent at Family News in Focus -- a Focus on the Family news service -- which she mailed several weeks ago, but hadn't yet heard from them again.

Thursday, July 26, 2007


Over 100 people bravely took to the streets in Mogadishu on Thursday protesting against the raping of five women on Wednesday night allegedly by government soldiers.

The protesters chanted anti-government slogans and gathered in front of a hotel in north Mogadishu in the first unauthorized public protest in Mogadishu since the government imposed martial law in the city several months ago.

“The troops, who dressed in government military forces uniform, raided our camp last night raping five women including a mother with a newly-born baby,” Madey Ahmed, one of the protesters told Afriquenligne by telephone.

Throughout the Somali conflict, rape has been used as a weapon of war by all the factions to punish rival ethnic factions. The UN Human Rights Commission Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women reported that rape and sexualized violence were widespread in Somalia. Aggressors attack women from rival clans and ethnic minorities. Such occurrences are even more prevalent in displaced persons camps.

Human Rights Watch has reported Somali women who have been raped face not only the physical and psychological trauma of rape but also the likelihood of rejection by their families. A strong cultural stigma is attached to rape in Somalia, as elsewhere. In numerous cases, families have begged UNHCR officials to take their young daughter to another camp after she has been raped because of the stigma on the family. In other cases, once a woman is raped she is ostracized by her husband and isolated from her family.

For fear of being stigmatized, Somali women refugees who are victims of rape often refuse to acknowledge publicly that they have been raped, even when medical evidence indicates that the attack occurred. In other cases, women do not seek medical assistance or file a police report because they do not want it known that they were raped.

Most women who have been raped only go to a doctor if they suffer other injuries from being beaten, knifed or shot, and even then, many do not mention that they were raped.

On occasion, if a rapist is identified as another refugee, the families settle the case through the elders with the rapist's family paying "blood money" in compensation for the crime committed. Unfortunately, the settlement is usually negotiated on behalf of the woman by her male relatives, sometimes against her wishes, and the settlement money often remains with the male relatives.

The following is from Shabelle Media Network (Mogadishu)

Demonstrators Accuse Gov Troops of Raping Five Refugee Women
By Aweys Osman Yusuf

Some of Mogadishu's Internally Displaced People in Heliwa district staged a huge protest against Somali government troops who raided a refugee camp and raped at least five refugee women including a teenage a girl.

The demonstration which was orchestrated by the relatives and neighbors of the victims took place in north of the capital with protestors chanting anti-government troops slogans.

Aden Osman, the husband of one the raped women, said he was taken out with a gun point by the troops, while butting him.

"They were several men armed with AK 47 guns and they said they were searching for insurgents and they began beating me until I went out conscious and then went for the women in the camp, raping them," he said.

Mumino Mohammed, one of the victims, told Shabelle that she had 15 days old baby. "I gave birth a baby 15 days ago, I told them, three soldiers who came into my shelter, that I have very small child but they raped me the three of them, despite my screams and begging that should leave me alone," she said.

Osman said they even raped 15 year old girl in the camp. "No one came to help us. All women in the camp were crying and screaming for help. They beat every single man in the camp," he said.

Nourto Haji, one of the victimized women, also said she was tortured before the troops raped her. "I am a mother of four children, and they beat my husband ordering him that he and the children get out," she said.

In the protest, they asked Somalia's transitional government to do something about their complaints and punish the soldiers who commited the cruel acts against them.

On Wednesday a demonstration against government troops also took place in north of the capital. Protesters were complaining that troops robbed their properties.

Hundreds of Somali businessmen and women were chanting anti-government slogans, marching inside Karan district for hours.

Some of them told Shabelle that the market in the area was raided and robbed twice in this week, demanding that the government should release one of their fellow traders.

Mohamoud Hassan Kulmiye, one of the rally-makers, said that they will continue staging demonstrations against the government until Aweys Mohammed Gaal, a shopkeeper, who was apprehended by Somali troops is released.

Abdifitah Nour Sabriye, the deputy of Mogadishu mayor, told Shabelle after he was contacted on Thursday that there were no government troops who raped IDPs.

"First, no group can stage a demonstration in Mogadishu without our knowledge and there are no government forces that raped women," he said.


This is one of those stories out of nowhere that I run across from time to time that are almost beyond belief...but aren't.

Desmond Key, 28, was picked up by cops after he had stopped to help a female relative. At the time, the police discovered that the car he was driving had incorrect plates and was unlicensed.

Hardly the crime of the century.

Anyway, the coppers took him in to custody.

Three weeks later Key is still in the hospital with injuries inflicted upon him while in the hands of the police. Hospital officials say that Key was suffering from pancreatitis and could not say conclusively whether this condition had been aggravated by the beating, which had left bruises all over his body. However relatives say that Key was the picture of health up to the time of his incarceration-though he had been recovering from surgery which he had undergone some two months before.

Key told the press from his hospital bed what happened told of his ordeal in the cell at the Grove police station when he was arrested. "On Sunday [three weeks ago, on June 17] they picked me up and took me into custody[ Grove Police Station]. Me and one of the officers had one or two words with each other. He came into the cell after he was let in by one of his squad mates and began slapping me about the place," Keys alleged.

Key says the policeman beat him for about 15 minutes with a wooden baseball bat in his midsection and back. Key also states that only one policeman took part in the beating, but no one tried to stop it, other than the man who shared the cell with him. "I blacked out and came to when they threw water in the cell on me. After that, I started feeling sick and was throwing up clots of blood [so] they took me to the hospital," he alleged.

And, of course, Key subsequently had six charges filed against him, including resisting arrest, but due to his condition, he has yet to be officially arraigned.

The article below is from the Nassau Guardian (Bahamas).

Police brutality claims

Officers who allegedly brutalized a man while he was in his jail cell may face criminal charges if he dies.

Desmond Key, who was allegedly beaten by police and as a consequence has been hospitalized since June 11, is now battling for his life. He stopped breathing and was admitted to the Princess Margaret Intensive Care Unit [ICU] four days later. He has since undergone surgery and remains in critical condition in the ICU.

Key's family members told The Guardian on Wednesday that the police complaints unit said it would have to turn the case over to CID for further investigations because of Key's condition. Desmond Key's family has alleged that their relative was beaten with a baseball bat by officers from the Grove police station while in custody.

"The ministry of national security [is] awaiting the letter so they will know how to proceed," Key's mother, Christine Key said.

Key's family recently made a public plea for blood donations. They have requested persons with A, B or O negative blood type to donate blood for Key who has a rare blood type—AB negative.

His mother Christine said she still believed the police who allegedly beat her son so viciously were responsible for his present condition. "Desmond was working at a job which required that he work very hard ," she said. "He was fine up until the time he was beaten up by the police."

Christine Key also said that doctors warned that her son might not fully recover from recent surgery for pancreatitis, which he was diagnosed with after he was taken to hospital. This condition, according to doctors, could have been caused by a variety of things, including trauma from a severe beating.

After Key's arrest and the alleged beating at the prison, he allegedly complained of stomach pains and was also said to have been throwing up clumps of blood. He was taken to the hospital the next day, where he has remained ever since.

"The doctor told us that he might have brain damage because of complications suffered during surgery, " Christine Key said.

She also said that at this point the family was preparing for the worst.

Desmond's grandmother, Verona Bastian, a former police reserve officer, said she had taken all the proper measures in reporting the incident with officials at the corruption and complaints unit and was satisfied with the way things were proceeding.

"We are not trying to make the police look bad," she said. "What we want is for the law to obey the law."

Police officials were not available for comments up to press time.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007


I have to admit I haven't thought about the Venceremos Brigade in years. In truth, I didn't even know they still existed. But they do. The 38th Brigade in in Cuba right now defying the stupid blockade that almost no one really wants anymore.

In Cuba the Brigade issued a statement which in part read:

"We are united in our belief that Cuba is living proof that another world is possible and that another United States is necessary," reads the document presented at the International Press Center during a press conference in Havana on Monday.

"We know that the Bush administration, through its so-called Commission for the Transition to Democracy, also known as "Plan Bush", is increasing its efforts to undermine the Cuban government. Our responsibility is to stand up against this madness," the declaration adds.

Ricardo Alarcon, president of the Cuban parliament spoke to members of Pastors for Peace, the Venceremos Brigade other US organizations currently visiting Cuba at the auditorium of the Ministry of Informatics and Communications in Havana and thanked them for their support.

Alarcon also took the opportunity to denounce the Bush administration’s pampering of international terrorist Luis Posada Carriles, while unjustly maintaining the Cuban Five in prison for working to prevent terrorist attacks against the island.

According to a communiqué from the the Cuban Friendship Institute (ICAP,) nearly 1,000 activists from 30 countries will visit the island this summer.

The visitors are members of the Venceremos Brigade from the United States, the Juan Rius Rivera Brigade from Puerto Rico, the Ernesto Che Guevara Brigade from Canada and the Jose Marti Brigade from Europe.

In addition, Cuba will soon be receiving members of the first Indian organization in solidarity with the island, the Bhagat Singh Brigade, and of the Cuba-United States "Friendshipment" Caravan.

During their stay in the island, the various activists will carry out work in agriculture and will visit places of social and historical interest in central and eastern Cuba

The following is taken from the IAC website.

Venceremos Brigade Defies U.S. Travel Ban to Cuba

Sixty members of the 38th Contingent of the Venceremos Brigade are currently painting a school working side by side with Cuban students and teachers - in defiance of US restrictions on travel to the island. There are no restrictions on travel to any other country in the world.

“The U.S. is investigating Michael Moore for his travel to Cuba when he was making 'SICKO', but, in addition to our work, we’re investigating how Cuba, a developing country with few natural resources, can provide free universal health care to all its citizens,” said Ann Sparanese, a brigadista from Englewood, New Jersey. “They’ve got it, and we need it,” she added.

The group, composed of people of all ages and from many backgrounds, is also visiting the Latin American Medical School, largest in the world with 10,000 students from 29 countries – including 100 from the U.S. – all of whom receive their medical education free of charge with their commitment to work in under-served communities when they graduate.

Based at an international work camp located outside Havana, additional exchanges will include Cuban high school and university students, activists from the women’s federation and trade unions, hip hop artists and other cultural performers, leaders of the National Center for Sex Education fighting homophobia, and internationalists (Cubans who have fought against apartheid in Southern Africa or provided free health care in many countries of the world). They will also meet with relatives of the five Cubans imprisoned in the U.S. for their anti-terrorist activities in Miami.

And they will learn about Cuban efforts to deal with an on going transportation crisis and serious economic inequities. They face these and other challenges against the backdrop of the 50 year old U.S. economic blockade and the Bush ‘regime change’ maneuvers and attacks. Only yesterday, the State Department admitted it intends to violate the Migration Accord, the only agreement which exists between the two governments.

On the morning of Saturday, July 28, the 60 Venceremos Brigadistas, with a contingent of 18 activists from across the U.S. from FIST (Fight Imperialism Stand Together), will make their way on foot, with baggage and backpacks, over the one-mile length of the International Peace Bridge from Ft. Erie (Ontario) Canada, into Buffalo, N.Y declaring to U.S. Customs and Immigrations that they have visited Cuba. The crossing will take place at approximately 9:00am, after a send-off on the Canadian side at 8:00am.

On the same morning at the border of Mexico and McAllen, Texas, over 150 Pastors for Peace Friendshipment “caravanistas” will take the same stand as they make their way back to the US from their delivery of humanitarian supplies to Cuba.

Supporters will gather in Buffalo at the foot of the Peace Bridge and in adjacent Front Park as the bridge crossing begins. The will be there both to celebrate the successful challenges and to organize any defense actions that may be needed at either border crossing.

Over recent years, more than 350 travel challengers from the Venceremos Brigade and Pastors for Peace have received “Requests to Provide Information” and threats of fines from the Office of Foreign Assets Control (US Treasury Department). “The letters we have received have inspired us to return to Cuba,” says Tshaka Barrows of Oakland, California. “We learn every day in our country that if we do not exercise our rights, we will lose them!”

Travel restrictions have been in effect for 45 years, but the Bush Administration severely tightened the travel ban and stepped up enforcement and prosecution. It is even impossible for Cuban Americans to visit their families on the island except by special “license” once every three years. Most forms of educational travel have also been eliminated. The Venceremos Brigade, founded in 1969, has brought more than 10,000 people to Cuba in yearly contingents since then and has never sought “permission” (i.e. a license) to do so.

CONTACT: BOB GUILD, 212-560-4360,


As we mentioned a few days ago all across America more and more people are being forced out of their homes and sometimes into the streets as low income housing disappears before their eyes. In a Chicago neighborhood residents are battling to be able to afford to live where their working class families have lived for generations.

The Chicago Tribune reports a Bronzeville group fighting for affordable housing in the Chicago neighborhood spent much of Monday night putting up 1,800 signs on vacant city-owned properties it hopes to protect from gentrification.

But by 8:30 a.m. Tuesday, the city delivered its own message through employees sent to tear down the signs, which read "Yes -- To An Affordable Home on This Lot! No -- To the City's Vision for Bronzeville."

"They don't act this quickly to mow these vacant lots or pick up this trash," said Valencia Hardy (pictured here), a Bronzeville homeowner who participated in the effort. "I don't think they were up long enough to have the impact we were looking for."

The city's vision, they say, is to sell land to developers and price Bronzeville residents out.

When Hardy gazes at the vacant lots stretching from the 120-year-old house on South Calumet Avenue her family has owned for more than 20 years, she sees signs announcing new townhouses starting "in the low $600's." Hardy, a disabled postal service retiree fears that means there will eventually be no room for the likes of her in her neighborhood.

Bronzeville's history as an all-black mixed-income community informs Hourinsg Bronzeville's desire to see a roughly even divide between market-rate housing and middle- and low-income housing, organizers said.

"People who work hard and live right should be able to live in their own community without being threatened by the greed of others," Hardy told the Chicago Methodist Reporter last May, noting that middle-income families couldn't afford Bronzeville today.

Housing Bronzeville is looking to create the Bronzeville Housing Trust Fund. The fund would be financed by a .009 percent increase in the property tax bill of current Bronzeville property owners. The fund would be used to subsidize developers and buyers to create affordable housing. Establishing the trust fund is a three-step process: an advisory referendum (that has already been passed with more than 80% of the vote in the 2004 November general election), legislation, (already written) to be put forth by one of the four Alderman in the area or a Illinois state legislator and, the creation of a binding referendum to put the trust fund into law.

The trouble is no one will sponsor the legislation - even though some alderman in the area claim to support the goals of Housing Bronzeville.

The following is from WLS-TV (Chicago).

Some Bronzeville residents feeling squeezed out

There are a lot of changes going on in Chicago's Bronzeville neighborhood. Change can be good. It can bring a lot of improvements to a community. But a lot of long time residents in Bronzeville are worried they are getting squeezed out.

We've see this happen is other Chicago neighborhoods: new homes go in getting top dollar and those who were there first have to keep up or get out. Some fear Bronzeville's rich history will be lost if those who live to tell the tales will be forced to find less expensive accommodations elsewhere.

Say what you want about the nation's slump in housing, in the Bronzeville neighborhood you'd never know. New developments are going in and vestiges of the less prosperous times are going away. Middle class families that endured the tough times want to stay to enjoy the community's rebirth, but some say financially it's a challenge.

Pastor Jeffrey Cambpell's congregation is in Bronzeville. He wanted to move to the neighborhood where his mother grew up but can't afford it.

"They lived here, they kept the community, the working people kept the community. And now the working people are being priced out of the community that they've kept," said Campbell, Housing Bronzeville.

Tuesday, members of Housing Bronzeville handed out flyers regarding the neighborhood's current housing situation and they put up 1,800 signs. The signs, they say, went up in front of every vacant lot owned by the city. They are concerned new development doesn't offer affordable housing for middle-income families.

Community activists say the high prices are forcing out the very families that add richness to the community.

"It just hurts my soul to see African-Americans, who have been the backbones of this country and who have held the land, saved the land, are now being put off of it," said Cynthia Bowman, Housing Bronzeville.

"If the taxes get much higher it's gonna be a struggle," said Valencia Hardy.

Hardy's father bought their home in 1984 for $34,000 cash. They have kept up their property and the vacant lots nearby. Hardy, now herself a retired postal worker, says she may not be able to kept it up for much longer. Across the street, developers are asking 20 times as much for new homes.

"For the medium-income family, the average new postal worker or bus driver, policeman, they can't afford to live in this area," said Hardy, Housing Bronzeville.

A city spokeswoman issued a statement saying, "The Department of Housing and the City of Chicago work to identify opportunities for affordable housing development in neighborhoods across the city." Activists say, whatever new development comes in, they want their concerns taken into consideration.


Following up on yesterday's story about striking nurses in Fiji, it seems their action is gaining strong support from many sectors, including unionists and women's organizations.

Fiji Women's Rights Movement executive director, Virisila Buadromo in a statement,

“We would like to show our solidarity with these brave women, who are underpaid and undervalued, yet provide an invaluable service for Fiji’s people.”

The Fiji Trades Union Congress, a local non government organisation and an international trade union body expressed its support for the Fiji Nursing Association strike, as well.

Congress president Daniel Urai confirmed yesterday individual affiliate unions would express their support and solidarity in the normal manner by presenting money and food donations when they visited the picketing nurses.

Support has come in from international bodies as well.

Hans Engelberts, the secretary of the France-based trade union movement, Public Service International in a letter of support wrote,

"We have been following developments in Fiji with growing concern over the interim Government's harsh employment policies, inflexible stance, intimidating tactics and threats of physical violence," Engelberts stated.

"PSI supports the right of Fiji's nurses to decent levels of pay and working conditions which would alleviate the high incidences of stress burn out and mortality rates."

The following is from the Fiji Times.

Women's group support nurses

THE Fiji Women's Rights Movement (FWRM) today expressed support for Fiji's striking nurses, saying they are underpaid and undervalued, yet provide an invaluable service to the people of Fiji.

FWRM executive director Virisila Buadromo called on police to allow the nurses to conduct their legal strike in peace, and not engage in intimidation or harassment.

''The Movement stands with the nurses, and we urge our fellow citizens to also support these important service providers. We also urge the authorities and other citizens and groups to ensure that this remains a peaceful and lawful protest,'' Ms Buadromo said.

FWRM is concerned about the safety of the striking women, and calls on all authorities to respect the rule of law and the nurses' right to take industrial action.

Members of the Fiji Nursing Association (FNA) went on strike at midnight last night, after talks with the interim regime failed.

The nurses are calling for the reinstatement of the five per cent pay cut imposed on all civil servants earlier this year.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007


As one of the few sources of on going coverage of the oft ignored struggle of the Saharawi People, the Oread Daily presents the essay below and hopes you read it.

The following is taken word for word and without comment from
Axis of Logic.

Western Sahara : 32 years of exile and struggle - International Law is not Utopia
By Luis Portillo Pasqual del Riquelme, Ph.D. Translated for Axis of Logic by Atenea Acevedo, Tlaxcala*
Jul 19, 2007, 05:32

The author sent this essay to the Spanish newspaper El País (Spain) on 05/21/2007 and kindly asked the editors to publish it. El País contacted the author on 05/29/2007 and informed him that his paper could not be published due to space limitations. Read the author's Letter to El País reader's advocate.

Last 30 April the article titled "Postponing Utopia, Defending Dignity," by Bernabé López García, was published in the Opinión Section of El País. The article basically justifies the position of the Moroccan government on the future of Western Sahara. The author argues that the Moroccan offer represents a unique historical opportunity for the Saharawi People to integrate into Morocco as a limited autonomy region, and compares the concessions made by the PCE in the early stages of our transition to democracy to the concessions, he believes, the Polisary Front should make now, thus giving up on its right to independence (because it is utopian). According to the author, such concessions would allow the Saharawi People to put an end to the Diaspora, exile, and pain, and they could then live with dignity.

I believe that this approach not only is a mere repetition of the Moroccan view, but also evades key issues and includes arguments that do not adhere to reality. Allow me to explain myself:

1. Comparing the situation of Spain and the PCE in the early stages of our transition to democracy with that of the Polisary Front and Morocco as an invader trying to de facto annex a territory beyond its sovereignty is fallacious (International Court of Justice: "The Western Sahara Case. Advisory Opinion of 16 October 1975". The differences are many (a National Liberation Front is much more than a political party): the PCE was part of the same country (Spain), while Morocco invaded and illegally and illegitimately occupied the land of another people. There is no possible relationship between the two situations. Therefore, the comparison is unsustainable.

2. The credibility of Moroccan leaders in the Saharan dispute is non-existant. The Moroccan army dropped bombs with napalm and white phosphorus on the Saharawi People and caused the forced exodus of the survivors of such genocide - still unpunished. Most of them sought refuge in the Algerian dessert (Carlos Jiménez Villarejo, "Genocidio en el Sáhara", El Periódico, 4/2/2007; Tomás Bárbulo, "La historia prohibida del Sáhara Español", Destino, Barcelona, 2002). In the then Spanish province, Morocco imposed a second colonization process in the last third of the 20th Century!- and aborted the Spanish decolonization process originally demanded by the UN. Morocco has constantly defied international law and hindered an internationally recognized solution for this type of conflict (self-determination referenda. And after a 16-year war against the Saharawi People and the dismantling of every plan put forward by the UN, it now makes a unilateral offer to the Polisary Front -legitimate representative of the Saharawi People- to negotiate about a limited autonomy based on the non-negotiable Moroccan character of the Saharawi territory, and of course, with no place for self-determination or independence (the advantages and benefits of independence have been thoroughly studied by scholars like Carlos Ruiz Miguel, Professor of Constitutional Law and author of the paper, "Sáhara Occidental: Independencia, paz y seguridad", Cuadernos de Pensamiento Político nº 12, 2006.

3. After all this time (32 years), after so many commitments unfulfilled, so many strategies to cut the grass under the feet of the decolonization process, Morocco is still sticking to fait accompli policy: the negotiation between the Parties would involve, at the most, a few conditions of an alleged autonomy and the relevant process. The Saharawi People would have to immediately accept and suffer being submitted and annexed to Morocco. Is that what Bernabé López calls "defending dignity"? Is it not true that the Charter of the United Nations states that the solution of decolonization conflicts is an open referendum on self-determination? ( What would we, Spanish People, do in a similar situation, if "they" (the Saharawi) were Spanish and "us" (the Spanish) were Saharawi and faced the same ordeal? What did we do when the Napoleonic troops invaded our land? Did we give up on our independence? Did we let our dignity be crushed? No, we did not. We stood on our feet; we fought back and drove the invader out. The consequences were immortalized by Francisco de Goya in the painting titled The Third of May 1808: The Execution of the Defenders of Madrid. To this day, some of those patriots are honored as heroes, their bodies buried in the cemetery of La Florida, in Madrid.

4. It is actually because the Saharawi were denied by Morocco what is now falsely considered utopian -first, through the invasion and the occupation; then, through the systematic violation of international law- the Saharawi People had no choice to defend their dignity and survival than to proclaim the Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR) in exile, already recognized by more than 80 countries. Let us not forget that, since the cease-fire declared in 1991 under the auspices of the UN, the SADR has always used peaceful means to seek a legitimate and decent future for its people, a future the condition of which is the inalienable right to self-determination.

5. There are not "two coherent projects on the table that recognize the right to self-government of the Saharawi People". The document submitted by the Polisary Front to the UN Secretary-General last April to be discussed by the Security Council is titled "Proposal of the Polisary Front for a mutually acceptable political solution that ensures the self-determination of the peoples of Western Sahara". In turn, the document submitted by Morocco bears a very different title: "Autonomy Initiative for the Sahara Region". No need to comment. The proposal of the Polisary Front claims and defends international law as expressed in UN resolutions, while the Moroccan project denies it or, at least, mutilates it. Already in April 2006, the Report of the UN Secretary-General to the Security Council (S/2006/249, paragraph 37) stated word by word the following:

"In the bilateral consultations my Personal Envoy held [...], the Frente Polisario reiterated that it would under no circumstances negotiate about any kind of autonomy under Moroccan sovereignty. My Personal Envoy clarified that [...] he had spoken of negotiations without preconditions, with a view to achieving a just, lasting and mutually acceptable political solution that would provide for the self-determination of the people of Western Sahara. The Security Council would not be able to invite parties to negotiate about Western Saharan autonomy under Moroccan sovereignty, for such wording would imply recognition of Moroccan sovereignty over Western Sahara, which was out of the question as long as no States Member of the United Nations had recognized that sovereignty."

And the (so far) last Resolution of the Security Council, dated 30 April 2007 (S/RES/1754), again "calls upon the parties to enter into negotiations without preconditions in good faith [...], with a view to achieving a just, lasting and mutually acceptable political solution, which will provide for the self-determination of the people of Western Sahara."

6. International law is, however deficient- a set of rules devised by human as a framework for peaceful coexistence and the peaceful resolution of conflicts. But it ought to be observed and enforced. Morocco does not observe it (as per Chapter VI of the Charter of the United Nations) and the international community does not put enough pressure on the need to enforce it (as per Chapter VII). Bernabé López points out, "international law is a framework to ensure respect of peoples' rights." But, are the legitimate rights of the Saharawi People respected? On the other hand, have the Saharawi violated the rights of the Moroccan People? Had the SADR invaded and occupied Morocco, what would have been the reaction of the international community? Kuwait and East Timor- ring bells and are not far in time. No need to speculate.

7. The reason why Morocco has continuously hindered a transparent and fair referendum is because its leaders fear the results. They thus deny in advance and eliminate from reality what according to Bernabé López is utopian (international law and, eventually, independence), while they keep the Saharawi People living under the most degrading conditions, in exile and abject poverty ( They want to buy time, exhaust and demoralize the Saharawi, alienate the historical memory of the younger generations, defeat an entire people by exhaustion with the futile hope of seeing them finally surrender and accept whatever they are offered, deeply immersed in the contradictions imposed by unfair obstacles.

8. Contrary to the author's statement, Morocco has not been following the ostrich policy for over 30 years, but rather the burnt land policy, the fait accompli policy from the times of the infamous Green March (of frenzied and manipulated civilians, on one side, and tanks, airplanes and troops, on the other) hatched with the strategic advice of Henry Kissinger. And Spain and the international community decided to adopt a laissez faire attitude and look away, absorbed in more profitable business, displaying a shortsightedness that has lasted way too long and has become unbearable.

9. The right to self-determination does not compulsory or necessarily presuppose independence. As explicitly and literally stated in item 8 of the Saharawi Proposal,

"The Polisary Front also commits to accepting the results of the referendum, regardless of its outcome, and to negotiate with the Kingdom of Morocco, under the auspices of the United Nations, the rights it is willing to grant to the Moroccan population settled in Western Sahara for 10 years, and the political, economic and security rights it is willing to guarantee to the Kingdom of Morocco should the self-determination referendum result in independence".

10. If it now seems like the times are changing, it is because the ruling Moroccan elite has run out of playing cards; because the Saharawi People have resisted with dignity time and time again, honoring their determined commitment with international law (not with Utopia), because they have spun a network of solidarity among different peoples and defended their cause in fora all over the world. And because civil society increasingly demands -as opposed to the ruling class at least part of the time- the enforcement and observation of international law.


Communiqué of the Personal Envoy of the UN Secretary-General for Western Sahara, 19 June 2007

In accordance with Security Council resolution 1754 of 30 April 2007 on Western Sahara, the Secretary-General arranged for Morocco and the Frente POLISARIO to enter into negotiations, without preconditions, in good faith, taking into account the developments of the last months, with a view to achieving a just, lasting and mutually acceptable political solution, which will provide for the self-determination of the people of Western Sahara.

Under the Secretary-General's auspices, the meeting was held in Manhasset, New York, at the Greentree Estate, on 18 and 19 June 2007, with the participation of the parties, Morocco and the Frente POLISARIO. Representative of the neighboring countries, Algeria and Mauritania, were also present at the opening and the closing sessions and consulted separately.

During the meeting, negotiations started as requested by Security Council resolution 1754. The parties have agreed that the process of negotiations will continue in Manhasset the second week of August.

© Copyright 2007 by

Please note: Reprints of this translation may be published on the condition that the author and original source (Axis of Logic) be cited. We also ask that the article appear without modification, linked to the original source. Thank you!

About the author - Luis Portillo Pasqual del Riquelme has a Ph.D. in Economics. He is former professor of Economic Structure and Institutions at the Autonomous University of Madrid. He has been an editor in chief of the Economic Bulletin and head of the Economic studies and research section at ICE (Información Comercial Española, Review of Economy). Author of Alimentos para la Paz? La “ayuda” de Estados Unidos (IEPALA, Madrid, 1987) (Food for Peace ? The US “help”). He is a member of the Workers' Commssions (trade union) and of ATTAC Madrid.

Original Source in Spanish published on June 20, 2007: Rebelión

Tlaxcala- Atenea Acevedo is a member of Tlaxcala, the network of translators for linguistic diversity. This translation may be reprinted as long as the content remains unaltered, and the source, author, translator and reviser are citedThis translation may be reprinted as long as the content remains unaltered, and the source, author, translator and reviser are cited.


They said they would and they did. Nurses walked off the job everywhere in Fiji at midnight just as they had promised. The nurses are taking a brave stand not only on their own behalf but that of all public services workers in what is the first real protest since the military government in Fiji lifted a state of emergency.

Since taking power in a coup last December, Fiji's military government has cut the wages of public servants and reduced the compulsory retirement age.

Unions have warned the interim Government not to disrupt their strike by bringing in scab labour or using threats that the military is capable of handling things because they, as workers of this country, have the right to go on strike.

General secretary of the Fiji Islands Council of Trade Unions, Attar Singh, said replacing nurses with outsiders is illegal. “That is the point and the message that we have sent to the administration and we hope that the administration will be better advised that if the strike does go ahead it’s only because of its own inaction and failures and that in such an event it’ll be illegal and wrong for it to replace our striking members by scab labour.”

Before the walk out began, the Fiji Nurses Association says it would not be intimidated by crowd control exercises carried out by armed riot police and the military.

Recently, armed police and military personnel have been seen practising crowd control exercises that have drawn comparisons to the Tiananmen Square type tactics.

The FNA general secretary, Kuini Lutua, says if they do go on strike, protests will be peaceful and she’s baffled at the display of force, when a number of its union members are married to police and military men.

“We’re telling them you are not going to be that stupid to take that type of action against your wife, your mothers. Fiji’s a very small place, almost everybody is related to somebody and we don’t know how these people will face us,” said the general secretary of the Fiji Nurses Association (FNA), Kuini Lutua.

The FNA received 98 per cent of support from nurses in a secret ballot for a strike mandate earlier this year.

A local Fijian blogger says that the nurses and teachers have the support of majority Fijians who are ready to show their support for the strike. It says that it is expected these Fijian supporters will visit these protestors with food, money, grog and the usual Fijian “giving” gesture, something similar to that in 2000 when masses of Fijians moved to Parliament House to show their support.

The following is from the Brisbane Times.

1,500 nurses go on strike in Fiji

About 1,500 Fiji nurses have gone on strike in the country's first major protest since the military government lifted a state of emergency last month.

Fiji Nursing Association (FNA) general secretary Kuini Lutua said her members walked out of hospitals at midnight (10pm AEST).

"We had our vans waiting for them at the hospitals and we are taking them to FNA headquarters where they will meet," Lutua said minutes after her members walked off the job.

She said nurses were demanding the reversal of a five per cent wage cut imposed by the interim government.

Since taking power in a coup last December Fiji's military government has cut the wages of public servants and reduced the compulsory retirement age in a bid to rein in spending.

Other public servants have lodged strike action to occur from August 2 in protest at the new policies.

The Fijilive website has reported a warning from Police Commissioner Commodore Esala Teleni that no one other than the striking workers will be allowed to participate in the industrial action.

"We have received intelligence that there may be people out there who will try to disrupt the strike," Teleni said.

The strikes in Fiji have prompted Australia to update travel warnings to people in the country.

"You should avoid demonstrations, street rallies and public gatherings as such events could result in civil disorder," the advice reads.

"There may be some strike action by civil servants, including nurses, in July and August."

The strike by nurses is the first large public protest since the military government lifted a state of emergency that had been in place since February.

The Public Emergency Regulations came into force in February and outlawed political protests.

The regulations restricted personal liberty, freedom of expression, freedom of assembly and freedom of association. They were lifted on June 1 amid pressure from the European Union.

Self-appointed Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama last week warned that anyone trying to politicise industrial action will face consequences.

"Government respects the unions' right to go on strike provided they conduct themselves and act responsibly. However, people who are going on strike for political reasons will be dealt with severely," Bainimarama said last week.

Lutua said the FNA did not want the strike to become a forum for people to have wider political debate.

"We are asking our members to try and have control of the crowd that is coming to show support for them," she said.

Monday, July 23, 2007


Speaking to a County Supervisor last February, 52-year-old man who was living in his wrecked van said, "Nobody set out to be in this position. It wasn't their hope and dream as children."

County officials estimate there are 1,700 people living in the hills, in cars and in other hideaways across Marin. And that figure all agree is low as many homeless avoid being counted.

In fact, Homeward Bound a chief provider of transitional and long-term housing and support services for homeless people in Marin County on its website says nearly 10 percent of Marin County residents are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless every year. And more than 6,000 people in Marin will find themselves homeless this year. They include 1,200 children, their parents, single adults, couples, people with mental-health disabilities, and the elderly.

"There are people who have been stuck up in that hill for 10 years," Joseph Taylor, a 54-year-old Navy veteran who lives in a makeshift cabin hidden in the hill above San Rafael's Andersen Drive told that same Supervisor.

Marin County is renowned for its natural beauty, liberal politics and affluence. According to the 2000 Census, Marin County has the highest per capita income in the country at $44,962.

Something is horribly wrong here...there...everywhere.

A few people (see photo) remembered that yesterday.

The following is from the Marin Independent Journal (California).

Paying tribute to Marin's homeless
Joe Wolfcale

Teacher Tom, Guitar John, Dirty Mike and Trooper were some of the names that resonated Sunday throughout the courtyard at St. Raphael's Church as people crowded around the parish's Tree of Life.

Nearly 100 people, including clergy from throughout the county, came together on a bright sunny day to remember the more than 125 people who have perished in the county without shelter and to raise awareness about the plight of those who live on the streets without a roof over their heads and struggle to carve out an existence day to day.

The Marin Interfaith Street Chaplaincy and the Rev. Paul Gaffney organized the 10th annual memorial silent procession, a four-block walk from Albert Park in downtown San Rafael that culminated at St. Raphael's Church with the reading of the names of Marin's deceased homeless.

In the final column of a program remembering those homeless who died on Marin streets in the last decade was the starkest remembrance of all, "unknown friend."

"Today we've come together to form a circle of life," Gaffney told the gathering at Albert Park before the procession got under way.

Gaffney then read a poem by Suzanne Walker. One touching passage was particularly poignant for the event.

It read:

"I want to shine a light on a corner of the world

like a small beacon in the night,

or a small circle of warmth in a storm."

Gaffney went on to say he was surprised by the outpouring of support for Marin's homeless.

"The turnout today is really awesome to me," he said. "I'm truly at a loss for words. It's beautiful that you all could come here and support each other. Now, let's do it."

And with that, the peaceful group headed slowly north along A Street, carrying placards and signs while bells tolled in unison with footsteps. One sign read, "Your courage will not go unforgotten."

Fairfax homeless resident Paul Karpowicz carried a photograph of his friend, Malcolm Jones, who according to the event's flier, died in 2005.

"I knew him for about eight years," said Karpowicz, who said he lives in a tent on a hill in Fairfax. "He was just a beautiful, sincere, caring person. He had this remarkable way of putting into words the feelings people had in their hearts. I recognize quite a number of names on this list."

According to a survey released this year by the Marin Continuum of Housing and Services, more than 1,200 people live on Marin streets without shelter. More than 70 percent were men and about two dozen were under the age of 18.

The Rev. Rick Slone of the Green Gulch Farm Zen Center said the homeless problem could be better addressed in there wasn't such a divide between the haves and the have-nots on the county and people could actually integrate their lives.

"That's really the missing piece," Slone said. "There's energy to mobilize and a lot of goodwill in this county, but there's still that barrier between those folks living on the streets and those not on the streets. We need to use events like this to enlighten awareness about the problem."

St. Raphael's pastor the Rev. Paul Rossi greeted the marchers on the steps of the rectory and offered prayers.

Various marchers took turns reading the names of the homeless who have died, a list numbering 126 who have been chronicled since 1995.

After the reading was completed, Gaffney asked if anyone in the crowd wanted to add any names and at least 10 additional homeless who have died were recognized by friends or family members.

After the procession, marchers gathered at the Vineyard Christian Fellowship at 809 B St. for music, art, poetry and refreshments.


Your support is needed today

Dear Friends,

The Islamic regime in Iran has launched a campaign of arrests, kidnapping, executions and stoning to death in an attempt to drive back the ongoing protests, strikes and demonstrations in Iran by creating a climate of terror and fear. We are calling on all labour and human rights organisations around the world to raise their voice of protest ‎against this barbarity of the Islamic regime.

The following are just a few examples of the Islamic regime’s ongoing atrocities:

- On the evening of July 10th Mansoor Ossanlou (see accompanying photo), the president of the Union of Workers of Tehran and Suburbs Bus Company (Sherkat e Vahed), was abducted by the regime’s plain clothes security agents as he was getting off the bus. He was beaten up and taken into custody. He is now being held at the high-security Evin Prison.

- Mahmoud Salehi, well known labour activist, long persecuted for organising May Day rallies and for his labour activities, and who has been in jail ‎since April 2007, is reported to have slipped into a coma due to kidney failure following denial of medical care by the authorities. He lost his other kidney in previous years of imprisonment under the Islamic regime.

- On July 10th, workers arrested on May Day this year in the city of Sanandaj were put to trial on the charge of “disturbing the peace”. They are: ‎Khaled Savari, Eghbal Latifi, Yadollah Moradi, Taieb Molaee, Fars Gavilian, Sedigh ‎Amjadi, Abbas Andaryari, Habibollah Kalkani, Moheiedin Rajabi, Taieb Chatani and Sedigh ‎Sobhani.‎

- On July 14th, labour activists Shais Amani, the head of the executive board, and Sedigh Karimi, member of the board, of the National Union of Dismissed and Unemployed Workers, appeared in court. Their charges include “disturbing the peace”, “acting against national security”, collecting donations for the family of Mahmoud Salehi, membership in their union and in a workers’ committee working to set up free labour organisations, as well as “contacts with opposition organisations”.

- On July 10th, the judiciary’s spokesman announced that death sentences against 20 people had been upheld and a further 15 had been sentenced to death. It was also announced that around 100 people had been arrested ‎in connection with the recent protests against petrol rationing.‎

- The stoning to death of a man in the city of Takestan was confirmed by the judiciary, following earlier denials.‎

- On July 9th the regime implemented an unofficial marshal law against students of ‎Tehran University and Polytechnique. 16 students are reported to have been arrested, including the following:Mohammad Hashemi, Mehdi Arabshahi, Ali Nikonesbati, Bahareh Hedaiat, Hanif ‎Yazdani, Ali Vefghi, Abdollah Momeni, Bahram Faiazi, Habib Hajheidari, Mojtaba ‎Bayat, Saeed Hossein Nia, Masoud Habibi, Morteza Eslahchi and Ezzate Ghalandari.‎

- On the same day, more people were arrested in the capital Tehran, including a number of young motorists, whose families later gathered outside the police station where they were being held. A number of women’s rights activists were also summoned to face various charges.

The above are just a few examples of the atrocities taking place in Iran right now. We call on all labour and human rights organisations around the world to protest in every way they can against this barbarity of the Islamic Republic regime to secure the release of Mansoor Ossanlou, Mahmoud Salehi and other activists, unconditionally and immediately, and to put an end to the executions, stonings and trial of workers, and women’s rights activists.

Shahla Daneshfar
International Labour Solidarity Committee of the Worker-communist Party of Iran‎


You've probably seen the pictures and videos of the floods (in fact two great floods in two months) across England in the last few days.

It seems that an about to be published major study can lay the blame directly at human in global warming.

According to government climate scientists, the journal Nature is publishing a study that concludes there is a distinct "human fingerprint" in the changes of precipitation patterns in the northern hemisphere.

It would seem that even British Prime Minister Gordon Brown has reached the same conclusion. After flying over the flooded countryside, he said: “Like every advanced industrialised country, we are coming to terms with the issues surrounding climate change.

“We are going to have to look at drainage, surface water, as well as river water, and what we are going to be able to do in the future in relation to that.

“We will have to invest in coastal defences, flood defences and of course drainage in infrastructure in the years to come and that’s why we are setting aside more resources to do so.”
Better set aside a whole lot more resources, Gordie.

However, lets not let the media pretend we've never been warned of just this before.

For example, an April 2004 report by the British Office of Science and Technology provided a most chilling picture of how global warming would affect the lives of millions of Britons over the next half century.

Compiled by 60 experts under the leadership of the government's chief scientist, Sir David King, it shows that many towns in Britain are threatened by rising sea levels, river flooding and the overwhelming of Victorian drains by flash floods.

The report, Future Flooding, looks forward to 2080 but says that the threat is already growing and most of the worst of its predictions will have happened by 2050.

So what we are seeing this summer is likely just the very beginning.

Meanwhile as fires continue to ravage Greece, the Prime Minister there also pointed the finger at global warming.

Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis last Thursday as he expressed his deep sorrow for the tragic deaths of three seasonal fire-fighters killed on the day before in the line of duty noted that the destructive fires of the current summer were a result of global warming.

"The weather phenomena this year favoured as never before the outbreak of destructive fires, peaking with that of Parnitha. We are already living with the consequences of climate change," the prime minister said.

In the US not only do we have to continue to live with the consequences of global warming but we have to live with the consequences of George Bush...

The following comes from the Independent (UK).

England under water: scientists confirm global warming link to increased rain

It's official: the heavier rainfall in Britain is being caused by climate change, a major new scientific study will reveal this week, as the country reels from summer downpours of unprecedented ferocity.

More intense rainstorms across parts of the northern hemisphere are being generated by man-made global warming, the study has established for the first time ? an effect which has long been predicted but never before proved.

The study's findings will be all the more dramatic for being disclosed as Britain struggles to recover from the phenomenal drenching of the past few days, during which more than a month's worth of rain fell in a few hours in some places, and floods forced thousands from their homes.

The "major rainfall event" of last Friday ? fully predicted as such by the Met Office ? has given the country a quite exceptional battering, with the Thames still rising. In Gloucester water levels had reached 34 feet, just 12 inches below flood defences ? the same level as during the flood of 1947 ? although a police spokesman said last night that the River Severn had stopped rising.

Last night vast areas of the country around Gloucestershire and Worcestershire were still inundated, large numbers of people in temporary accommodation, transport links were widely disrupted, and yet more householders were standing by to be flooded in their turn, in one of the biggest civil emergencies Britain has seen.

About 150,000 residents in Gloucestershire were left without drinking water when the Mythe Water Treatment Works in Tewkesbury became inoperable after flooding. Another 200,000 people are at risk of losing their supplies. The water shortages may last until Wednesday and 600 water tanks were being drafted to the area.

Panic buying of bottled water was reported, with supermarkets selling out of stocks, and there were contamination problems in south London, where 80,000 households and businesses in the Sutton area were advised to boil their water after rain got into a tank. Yet another potential danger was from car thieves; West Mercia police warned drivers who had abandoned their cars in the floodwater to collect them quickly to prevent theft.

The Great Flood of July is all the more remarkable for following right on from the Great Flood of June, which caused similar havoc in northern towns such as Doncaster and Hull, after a similar series of astonishingly torrential downpours on 24 June.

Meteorologists agree that the miserably wet British summer of 2007 has generally been caused by a southward shift towards Britain of the jetstream, the high-level airflow that brings depressions eastwards across the Atlantic. This is fairly normal. But debate is going on about whether climate change may be responsible for the intensity of the two freak rainfall episodes, which have caused flooding the like of which has never been seen in many places.

This is because the computer models used to predict the future course of global warming all show heavier rainfall, and indeed, "extreme rainfall events", as one of its principal consequences.

The new study, carried out jointly by several national climate research institutes using their supercomputer climate models, including the Hadley Centre of the UK Met Office, does not prove that any one event, including the rain of the past few days in Britain, is climate-change related.

But it certainly supports the idea, by showing that in recent decades rainfall has increased over several areas of the world, including the mid-latitudes of the northern hemisphere, and linking this directly, for the first time, to global warming caused by human emissions of greenhouse gases.

The study is being published in the journal Nature on Wednesday, and its details are under embargo and cannot be reported until then. But its main findings have caused a stir, and are being freely discussed by climate scientists in the Met Office, the Hadley Centre and the Department for Environment For Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

One source familiar with the study's conclusions said: "What this does is establish for the first time that there is a distinct 'human fingerprint' in the changes in precipitation patterns ? the increases in rainfall ? observed in the northern hemisphere mid-latitudes, which includes Britain.

"That means, it is not just the climate's natural variability which has caused the increases, but there is a detectable human cause ? climate change, caused by our greenhouse gas emissions. The 'human fingerprint' has been detected before in temperature rises, but never before in rainfall. So this is very significant.

"Some people would argue that you can't take a single event and pin that on climate change, but what happened in Britain last Friday fits quite easily with these conclusions. It does seem to have a certain resonance with what they're finding in this research."

The Hadley Centre lead scientist involved with the study was Dr Peter Stott, who specialises in finding "human fingerprints" ? sometimes referred to as anthropogenic signals ? on the changing climate.

Last September Dr Stott, who was not available for comment yesterday, published research showing that the climate of central England had warmed by a full degree Celsius in the past 40 years, and that this could be directly linked to human causes ? the first time that man-made climate change had been identified at such a local level.

The human fingerprint is detected by making computer simulations of the recent past climate, with and without emissions of greenhouse gases ? and then comparing the results with what has actually been observed in the real world.

In Dr Stott's research, and in the study to be published on Wednesday, the observed rises in temperature and rainfall could be clearly accounted for by the scenario in which emissions were prominent.

The conclusions of the new rainfall study are regarded as all the more robust as they are the joint work of several major national climate research bodies, led by Environment Canada, with each using its own supercomputer climate model.

Global warming is likely to lead to higher rainfall because a warming atmosphere contains more water vapour and more energy. Since climate prediction began 20 years ago, heavier rainfall over Britain has been a consistent theme.