Friday, September 07, 2007


It was back on July 31 that the flats and workplaces of Dr. Andrej Holm as well as those of three other persons, were searched by the German secret police. Dr. Andrej Holm was arrested, flown by helicopter to the German Federal Court in Karlsruhe and brought before the custodial judge. The Germans said the good Doctor (well, PHD) was a terrorist.

German academic Dr. Andrej Holm is the father of three children and lives in Berlin. He is a sociologist interested in the power relations of gentrification and urban renewal and is a critic of German government policies.

That about wraps it up, I'd say.

The warrant used to bust this budding Bin Laden also claims that Holm is intellectually capable of authoring the rather sophisticated texts of the militant groups, since he has a PhD in political science. This person is also said to be suspicious because »he works in a research institution and thus has access to libraries, which he can use inconspicuously for doing the research needed to produce the texts of the militant group«.

Not only that, but Holm he is associated with the mysterious Dr. B.

Dr B is alleged to have used, in his academic publications, "phrases and key words" also used by a militant group, among them "inequality" and "gentrification". The police found it suspicious that meetings occurred with German activists in which the sociologists did not bring their mobile phones; the police deemed this a sign of "conspiratorial behaviour".

Who wouldn't?

Not only that but the German police point they have out evidence the concept of
"gentrification" is, in fact, one of the key research themes of Andrej Holm und Matthias B.

And they have published on gentrification internationally.

But that isn't all.

These guys have made their expertise available to citizens' initiatives and tenants' organizations.
Holy crap!

The commie British rag the Guardian writes of the case:

Consider the hapless Dr B a little further. He's not actually accused of writing anything inflammatory, but seen rather to be intellectually capable of "authoring the sophisticated texts" a militant group might require; further, our scholar, "as employee in a research institute has access to libraries which he can use inconspicuously in order to do the research necessary to the drafting of texts" of militant groups, though he hasn't writtten any. The one solid fact the cops have on Dr Holm is that he was at the scene of the "resistance mounted by the extreme leftwing scene against the World Economic Summit of 2007 in Heiligendamm", perhaps mistakenly believing he is studying this scene rather than stage-managing it.

These reds are so stupid they don't even realize what they've written.

He was at the scene! Got him! Book em Danno.

Professor Jerome Krase from The City University of New York (probably a terrorist himself) writes:

"What is especially troubling to me as an Activist or Public Scholar is that Dr. Andrej Holm, Dr. Matthias B., Florian L., Oliver R. und Axel H. were investigated and arrested for the kind of activities that I and most other socially conscious social scientists routinely engage in.

Over the course of my career I have engaged in research and writing about Civil Rights for Nonwhite minorities, Affordable Housing, and most recently the rights of the newest immigrants in the United States and abroad.

If such work can so easily be presented as “potentially” (therefore actually) criminal then it must follow that critical academic activities of all sorts, including those that are only distantly related to political and social engagement can be horribly transformed, by the State, into crimes of subversion and terrorism.

I understand that we live in dangerous and difficult times but such menacing actions by those who are sworn to protect the rights of its citizens must be ever more cautious and reluctant to use its power to take those rights away and cast a chilling shadow across the scholarly community that historically has been a bastion against tyranny."

This guy is obviously one of those crackpot professors poisoning the minds of our young people with their commie propaganda and brain washing techniques.

And how does the American professor explain the fact that Dr. Holm did not take his mobile phone with him to a meeting. The German secret cops considered this evidence of “conspiratorial behavior." I guess so!

And yet some activist judge in Germany let Dr. Andrej Holm out on bail.

Hell, at this very moment he could be meeting with someone without his cell phone.

I apologize for not covering this sooner. I was probably busy writing one of those articles I've done on gentrification.

But I swear I had my cell phone with me at all times.

The following is from (Canada).

Scientists find out: gentrification is bad for you

At a time when we hail creativity as an urban panacea from New York to Toronto, from Berlin to Shanghai, those who research the downside of gentrification, and expose social exclusion and marginalization will not go silently into the urban night.

by Roger Keil and Ute Lehrer
September 7, 2007

Gentrification is bad for you. How bad? Just ask a group of German researchers who find themselves accused of belonging to a “terrorist organization,” largely because they published on the subject. Their work on gentrification (among other things) can allegedly be linked through textual analysis to the communiqués of a so-called 'militant group' suspected of political extremism. In turn, three persons, who are charged with trying to set fire to three army vehicles outside of Berlin on July 31, 2007, are suspected by the police to be members of that group. In this cycle of suspicions, the ends don't quite meet.

However, in the eyes of the German police writing texts is not the only crime committed. The researchers are also accused of having “contacts,” mostly resulting from their long participation in neighborhood groups and anti-war movements, to people seen as a being a part of Berlin's radical left-wing scene. Ideas and contacts are mixed by the prosecution into a cocktail of “terrorist activities.”

Gentrification plays a critical part in this story. People in Toronto, Vancouver, Montreal and other Canadian cities have learned in recent years that a seemingly unstoppable process is changing their cities. Gentrification is the name of the game. It replaces the local corner store with a Starbucks and a low-rent apartment with a luxury condo. It evaporates the jobs that allow people to make ends meet.

Scholars have studied this process, which takes its name from the root of the word, gentry, used for the English landed aristocracy, since the 1960s. Since the mid-1980s, it has spread as a worldwide phenomenon and has changed the face of our cities. While many urban development agencies and municipal governments actively promote gentrification as a strategy of urban renewal, critical researchers everywhere decry the catastrophic consequences for local communities, poor people and the social diversity of cities.

This kind of research has now gotten some academics into trouble. In a bizarre series of developments, the German Federal Prosecutor has accused a sociologist, a political scientist, as well as a student and a social movement activist of “terrorism.” One prominent scholar, Dr. Andrej Holm, was in solitary confinement in a Berlin jail for almost a month and came out only on bail, with charges still standing; another one, Dr. Matthias B. has had his apartment raided, his computer confiscated and is under investigation for belonging to a terrorist association.

All accused have been charged under a section of German criminal law, 129a, which was passed in 1976 at the height of the tense period of West German history, when the government pulled out all the stops to defeat the terrorist threat of the Baader-Meinhof group, also known as the Red Army Faction. It is directed in particular at exposing and destroying links between the 'doers' and the 'thinkers' in movements. From its inception, it has been criticized for allowing the state to criminalize both activists and researchers by claiming that together they form a terrorist association. It seems that 31 years after it saw the light of day, the law has finally created its perfect storm.

We have gotten used to a fair degree of government panic and overreaction since the unfortunate events of 9/11 but the German developments signal yet another step into the wrong direction. Although there is no established link at all between the critical scholarly writings of the accused—some as long ago as 1998—and the attempted burning of the army vehicles, the connection is nonetheless made. Nor has it been established that the three arrested for alleged arson are members of the elusive “militant group,” an association the accused have denied.

The wider consequences of this development are alarming beyond Berlin. The question on the mind of many critical social scientists everywhere is now: which aspects of their work may lead to their criminalization down the road? If they can do this in Germany, should we be surprised that people are arrested and tortured for their views as it has happened to Dr. Kian Tajbakhsh and fellow academics recently in Iran, who are accused of pro-American propaganda. Tajbaksh and his colleagues have been arrested three months ago and have been detained since. Those arrested in Tehran are in jail for doing work interpreted as threatening by the government there. Have we arrived at the point where thinking critically has become a dangerous activity in the West, too?

Both cases have exposed the vulnerability of critical social science research. But they have also led to an unprecedented wave of immediate protest and reaction among the academic and intellectual communities worldwide. In the German case, a flood of letters from individuals and declarations from major social science associations from around the world arrived on the desk of the German authorities. And while this international outcry certainly does not have any direct impact on the case, those that work closely with Andrej H. say that this worldwide protest had put enough pressure on the German authorities in order to get Andrej H. out of jail on bail, but without having any charges dropped. Also, all the other accusations against all parties in regards to terrorist activities are still standing and the three activists are still in solitary confinement.

It seems a line has been crossed. At a time when we hail creativity as an urban panacea from New York to Toronto, from Berlin to Shanghai, those who research the downside of gentrification, and expose social exclusion and marginalization will not go silently into the urban night. Critical social science is indispensable for a healthy democratic society. Standing up for free speech and academic freedom must concern us all. When those who are persecuted for their critical academic work are in danger, it is up to all of us to step up to the plate to defend their and our freedoms.

Roger Keil and Ute Lehrer are professors in the Faculty of Environmental Studies at York University.


A couple of weeks ago I was speaking with a neighbor whose wife is a teacher. We were talking about how much earlier kids go back to school around here then when we were young (about 150 years ago, I suppose). Anyway, he said his wife's chief complaint besides losing some days of summer were the stupid teacher "meetings" held for several days before the start of the school year. She found them to be an incredible waste of time and money. Below you'll find an essay of sorts by someone who agrees.

Anyway, as you are reading the post think about all the school programs that are underfunded.

Think about how all the hardworking teachers must feel when they listen to the complaints of other hardworking people about how their money is flushed down an endless drain called the education system. Those teachers, who work hard, on the front lines so to speak, they know they ain't getting that money and they know they ain't wasting that money and yet the bullseye is too often painted on them.

And then dear friends think about your own job. Chances are wherever you work and whatever you do someone upstairs is making some real absurd decisions and they are wasting your time and money and everyone else's time and money (and depending on your job probably the famous tax payers money as well). And you, like the teachers, know it isn't you getting the bucks and it isn't you making the decisions, but it is likely you who will pay the price one way or another.

And then wonder why the party that represents best the interests of those people wasting the money (stealing? the money) gets away with being seen as those who are out to defend the simple tax paying American from the "tax and spend" liberals.

What a joke.

How do THEY get away with it. Why do WE let THEM get away with it.

Would that other party which claims to represent working men and women be any better? Do you remember it being any different?

I don't.

And we wonder why so many people refuse to pay attention anymore.

And then there is US. We're so busy speaking to each other (singing to the choir, as they say) that we can't seem to touch base with the bulk of the folks out there. Duh! Their issues are too mundane for us. We've bigger things on our minds.

Now, I'm not here to knock the bigger things WE have on OUR minds, but I'm here to try to remind that we'll never, ever (and haven't ever) get the bigger things dealt with if we don't even understand the little issues that dog people every damn day.

Anyway, somehow I've gotten way off base and I'm not sure I'm even making any sense.

Some of you may have noticed that for the past little while the Oread Daily has been including one article every day that deals with real life issues facing real people. I'm trying to do something a little different than the usual leftist spiel. Can't be sure that it matters. Can be sure that it is difficult even to dig up some of these and then to write coherently about them, but it has been fun.

And today, I've gotten away with it by just ranting on semi-incoherently for a while.

The following is from a site appropriately named the Mad as Hell Club.

Welcome Back, We’re Going to Bore You Now
By Dennis Danziger

After 66 uninterrupted days of vacation, I felt energized, joyful, and almost ready to return to work.

So the Sunday night before my first day back, I set the alarm for 6:30 AM, done more out of ritual than necessity. I fear over sleeping. It’s one of the things you can’t do as a teacher - show up late. Which is why I woke Monday at 4:12 A.M. and again at 5:17, turned off the alarm at 5:38, showered, walked the dog in the dark and arrived at school at 6:54.

At 7:50, after perusing a summer’s worth of accumulated school mail, I enjoyed our welcome back continental breakfast which was composed mainly of sugar, white flour, starch, fructose, caffeine, a wide variety of artificial sweeteners, some fresh fruit, cream cheese, and diet sodas, you know, brain food. Then the 100 of us teachers were steered into the un-air-conditioned auditorium and following a brief ice breaker, we sat through three days (18 hours) of speeches and meetings designed to…well, what?

I looked around the auditorium. Teachers were spread out. Back walls were favorite spots. The most gung-ho, “I wish school was year round” types sat up close, near the mic, and tried to hang in and pay attention, but the heat and the never-ending speeches were wearing them down.

Fourteen years ago in a teacher training class I was taught that the human brain shuts down, what was it, after 12 minutes of listening to one voice speaking? Avoid lecturing all period, the master teachers preached. Use graphics, visuals, audio. Break off into small groups, role play, draw, experiment, meditate. Whatever you do, don’t lecture, lecture, lecture.

So we teachers sat and ignored the lecturers who droned on about earthquake drills, lockdowns, parking privileges, attendance procedures, photocopying procedures, library procedures. We half heard presentations on how to work the new telephones and the computer system, how to initiate student suspensions, how to order supplies, how and when to check out textbooks, where to park during construction, and dozens of other things, most of which I’ve heard every August for years and years.

Those who had come to school unprepared (no reading material or crossword puzzles) shuffled from the auditorium to the bathroom, to the Main Office, to the copy machine, to their classrooms, to Starbucks, to the benches outside the auditorium to talk with colleagues or to answer cell phones or to let out primal screams.

One of the best teachers on faculty, who is a staunch backer of the almost everything our administration does, nodded toward the guy doing the power point presentation and said, “This is like trying to learn to drive a car by watching someone drive a car. These are teachers, you’d think they’d pick up on the fact that almost everyone stopped listening hours ago.”

But the presenters kept on presenting. I took out a calculator and multiplied:

$50 (approximate teacher hourly pay)
x 6 hours (our work day)
x 100 (approximate number of teachers gathered) which came to
$30,000 (per day)
x 3 (Professional Development Days)

= $90,000 of taxpayer money spent on teachers like me working crossword puzzles on company time.

And we’re only one school. Multiple this waste (and I’ve taught at other schools who welcome back teachers with the same sort of soul destroying activities as these) by the over 600 schools in our district and we’re beginning to talk about throwing some serious money down the drain.

Ninety minutes into Day Two, a colleague nudged me and said, “We should break off in groups, grab a new teacher and take her out for coffee and just sit and talk and get to know her. Make her feel she has some fellow teachers she can come to for help. That would be better than this.”

“That would be constructive,” I said.

“And what would be wrong with that?” she asked.

“Well this is clearly what the administration wants. To numb us out. To bore us to death. To make sure we know that they’re in charge and they can do anything they want to with us. And that they’ve got the money to do it.”

“But this is all so boring and humiliating,” my colleague said.

”Yep,” I said. “And I think that’s exactly the point.”


About 100 demonstrators interrupted the Board of Regents meeting at the University of Minnesota Friday morning, saying they were there to support striking U of M union workers.

Earlier this week at a rally whose size was estimated as anywhere from 600 to several thousand (depending on who you asked) cheering striking workers, students and faculty, were greeted by Elizabeth Edwards, wife of presidential candidate John Edwards, who spoke in support of University of Minnesota clerical, technical and health care workers, The rally was one of the high points in the first day of the strike.

“I like my job and I like the university atmosphere,” said striker Sarah Wolf at that rally. “But just because I like my job doesn’t mean I should be compensated less than any other state worker.”

Clerical, technical and health workers walked off their jobs Wednesday at the University of Minnesota's five campuses after last-ditch contract talks broke down late the night before.

The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 3800 represents about 17 percent of the employees in the University of Minnesota system — some 3,500 workers responsible for fixing computers, distributing paychecks, assisting dentists and veterinarians, and many other jobs. The striking AFSCME workers are receiving widespread support from other union workers, students, and faculty at the univeristy.

Although administrators at the University of Minnesota have found the money to give themselves fat pay raises, they are demanding clerical, health-care and technical workers at the University accept a meager 2.25% wage increase. With the cost of living estimated to increase by 3.5% annually (i.e. inflation), a 2.25% raise amounts to a pay cut!

The administration has attempted to spin this as a 4.25% increase by adding in step increases - which are not received by all workers and do not impact the starting salaries of future workers.

Phyllis Walker, president of Local 3800 told Fight Back News, “The University can try to play fuzzy math all they want, but it doesn’t change the facts. Someone starting a new job at the University today makes 5% less after inflation than someone who started in 2003. Our strike is not just about fair wages for ourselves, it’s an issue of economic justice for all workers in Minnesota. The University explains its salary decisions by saying it follows the market. As the third largest employer in this state, the University has the power to set the market, and they have systematically worked to push wages down for frontline workers. We are standing up for our standard of living.”

Jody Ebert, member of AFSCME 3937 and a university alumna stated, “I went to the fair yesterday and brought with me, 'I Support U of M Workers' buttons. Anyone who commented on the button got one. I was out of them in the first 30 minutes! Everyone I talked to supported us in our effort to get a fair wage increase. When workers are denied a livable wage, the economy suffers."

Clerical worker Sandi Sherman made the point, "For me it's a question of dignity. The University of Minnesota administration has shown disrespect to workers organized by AFSCME since they decided to form unions. This contract offer is just the latest slap in the face, and I for one feel that I have no choice but to stand up and say this is unacceptable."

Cherrene Horazuk, AFSCME 3800 vice-president said, "Working people around the country have seen their wages fall in relation to inflation while corporate executives reap huge salaries and bonuses off the backs of their employees. President Bruininks and senior administrators now want to implement this system of haves and have-nots at the U of M. This is a public institution, and our taxes should not be used to enrich a few administrators while impoverishing frontline workers."

“While our paychecks shrink, top administrators are enjoying huge raises,” said Phyllis Walker, president of Clerical Local 3800.

For example, Minnisota president Bob Bruininks, who makes $450,000 annually (and gets a free mansion too!) recently managed to get a 17.5% raise the next two years, on top of the $100,000 increase awarded him since 2003.

AFSCME Local 3800 president Phyllis Walker warned the strike will slow things down initially and eventually could bring some departments "to a standstill."

According to Fight Back News, the strike is already having a profound impact. Just a few examples are:

Veterinary Medicine – St. Paul Campus:
The Veterinary Teaching Hospital and Clinics are virtually shut down and are only accepting emergent patients. At least 50% of the University of Minnesota’s veterinary technicians walked off work today, leaving some 15 specialty clinics and the animal hospital open only for emergency calls. Clinic appointments scheduled through the week of Sept. 17 have been canceled due to the lack of technicians to provide care. Inexperienced students are being asked to take over technical responsibilities.

School of Dentistry – East Bank Minneapolis Campus:
The school of dentistry clinics were reduced to one floor of clinics. Without AFSCME Local 3260 dental assistants, lab technicians and dental hygienists, two floors of dental clinics in Moos Tower have consolidated to one floor. Healthcare employees interview patients and assist teeth cleaning, as well as fabricate dentures and crowns.

Bursar’s Offices - West Bank Minneapolis Campus and St. Paul Campus:
With the absence of AFSMCE clerical workers, the Bursar's offices on the West bank and St. Paul areas are closed for the duration of the strike.

Anderson and Wilson Libraries - West Bank Minneapolis Campus
Anderson Library is cleared of technical and clerical workers. Anderson holds eight special collections and archives units and is the central office of the MINITEX Library Information Network. Staff at Wilson Library, the main West Bank library, is significantly reduced. No books leave a U of M Library without touching an AFSMCE worker.

911 Dispatchers - Twin Cities Campus:
Without AFSCME police dispatchers, University of Minnesota police cannot handle the computerized dispatch system. Minneapolis dispatchers are also AFSCME and are handling 911 calls for the U of M only. Normal dispatch operations cannot be fulfilled.

Facilities Management - Twin Cities Campus
The facilities management emergency call center is cleared of employees. The call center answers problems with building maintenance such as elevator malfunctions and electricity failures.

Some instructors are defying the University of Minnesota and moving classes off-campus to show support for striking "U" workers.

Provost E. Thomas Sullivan said in a letter to faculty and staff that university employees who refuse to report to work as directed are considered to be engaged in an illegal sympathy strike.

Paula Rabinowitz, chair of the English department and professor at U of M, told the student newspaper The Badger Herald she chose to hold class off campus at the University Baptist Church — the strike center for the local AFSCME — because she refuses to cross the picket line.

“As a faculty member I feel a responsibility to teach my class as part of the university,” Rabinowitz said. “But I will do it off campus because it tells the students I respect the picket line, and I refuse to cross it.”

The following is from the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

Protesters interrupt, stop U regents meeting
By Jeff Shelman, Star Tribune

More than 100 protesters -- many of them students -- interrupted and forced adjournment of the University of Minnesota Board of Regents meeting this morning and five protesters were arrested by university police.

The protesters, supporting striking union workers at the university, entered the room about 9:30 a.m. and stood near the back, when regents chair Patricia Simmons asked members of the board whether they had any questions for university president Robert Bruininks.

At that point, one of the protesters shouted, "We want to know when there's going to be a fair contract for the workers at this university."

Simmons repeatedly pounded on her gavel and called the meeting to order. When the protesters didn't quiet, she called a recess of the board at 9:40 a.m.

That's when several protesters ran and sat arm-in-arm in front of the back door of the regents meeting room that members of the board were going to use to leave the room.

Those protesters were handcuffed by police and moved out of the way and all but one regent left the room. When protesters approached the door, university officers aimed pepper spray at them, but they did not use it.

At 10:25 a.m., the handcuffed protesters were led out of the room by university police.

Five people were arrested for interfering with public property. They were transported to the Hennepin County Jail.

Regent Steven Hunter, who is the secretary/treasurer of the Minnesota AFL-CIO, stayed in the room and listened to the protesters.

The regents' meeting was delayed for an hour by the incident, and when they resumed, Hunter gave his views on the strike for about 5 minutes.

When the regents attempted to return to their agenda, protesters who had remained in the room shouted, “Shame on you.”

The chair then adjourned the meeting for the rest of the day.

The university released an e-mail that said in part: "The Board of Regents adjourned its meeting today as a result of the illegal actions of a small, but highly disruptive group of people. The majority of these people were neither students nor employees of the University of Minnesota.

"Freedom of expression is paramount to the fulfillment of the university's educational mission. As citizens, these individuals were provided with the same opportunity to attend and observe the meeting of the Board of Regents as would be afforded anyone. Unfortunately, once afforded this opportunity, these individuals engaged in activities that transcend freedom of expression and were illegal. . . ."

At 11 a.m. today, a rally supporting the workers was held outside of the McNamara Alumni Center. U.S. Senate candidate Al Franken was expected to speak.

Friday marks the third day of the strike at the university by one-third of about 3,150 technical, clerical and health-care workers represented by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME).

The biggest issue is a battle over wages, with union officials unhappy with the university's proposed 2.25 and 2.5 percent raises, saying they don't keep up with inflation. University officials maintain that when service anniversary step increases of 2 percent are considered, the offers are fair.


Two days ago the Oread Daily featured an article about the residents of the small Georgia town of Talmo who were trying to deal with the stench and water contamination caused by a wastewatrer plant owned by the Agri-Cycle company. That article was entitled "TINY GEORGIA TOWN FORCED TO LIVE WITH STENCH AND CONTAMINATION." Well, the grease and other waste caught fire yesterday (see photo). Check out the article below for an update.

The following is from the Athens Banner Herald (Georgia).

Fire at Talmo plant extinguished

TALMO — Firefighters were able to extinguish a fire at a private wastewater recycling plant near the Jackson-Hall county line by midday today, more than a day sooner than originally expected.

Agri-Cycle caught fire at about 3:30 p.m. Wednesday when a pump apparently sparked a fire in a grease-filled waste lagoon.

Afraid they would further pollute nearby Allen Creek, firefighters didn't douse the grease fire with chemicals, but waited through the night.

By late this morning, only the edges of the lagoon still burned, and firefighters could extinguish the last of the flames with flame-retardant foam, according to North Jackson Fire Chief Chip McEver.

"We got lucky," McEver said.

Though the 3-acre fire threatened to burn for days, firefighters declared the blaze completely extinguished at 12:40 p.m. today.

Other than the waste in the lagoon, the only thing that burned was one telephone pole.

The fire sent a 20-story column of black smoke, visible from U.S. Highway 129, into the sky above Talmo Wednesday evening.

Agri-Cycle had operated under a provisional permit from the Georgia Environmental Protection Department to process restaurant grease and poultry processing waste, but EPD yanked that provisional permit in August and ordered Agri-Cycle owner Richard Harville to close the plant and submit a plan to clean up the site. However, the plant has continued to operate pending an appeal.

Over the past several months, many residents have written letters to the EPD asking the agency to revoke Agri-Cycle's license and free them from the rancid odor and reported spills of untreated waste into Allen Creek.

"That administrative order they were issued said he was going to have to clean it up," Wayne Miller, who owns a cattle ranch adjacent to the plant, said Wednesday at the scene of the blaze. "Well, he's cleaning up all right. It's burning out of those ponds and into the air."

The EPD's order came after Talmo-area residents claimed for nearly three years that the plant was processing septic tank waste without an EPD permit, discharging some waste into an adjacent creek and making their town smell like rotting chickens.

EPD officials, in an administrative order, claimed that Agri-Cycle overloaded the spray fields it used in the last stage of waste processing, and also processed household waste without a permit, made modifications to the plant without the EPD's permission and caused at least two spills of "greasy organic solids" into Allen Creek.

The EPD order cited violations of the plant's wastewater treatment permit dating back to 2005.

Thursday, September 06, 2007


The following is from MADRE.

Nicaraguan Communities Devastated by Hurricane Felix

On September 3, Hurricane Felix slammed into the North Atlantic Coast of Nicaragua with 160 mile-an-hour winds. Right now, injured and traumatized people have no access to medical care. Emergency generators and communications are down. The Category Five storm ripped roofs off houses and collapsed whole buildings, uprooted trees, and destroyed bridges and other basic infrastructure in this rural area. Indigenous women and their families whom MADRE has worked with for years in Puerto Cabezas, Waspam, and Kisalaya, have been devastated by this storm.

Rose Cunningham is a local resident of Waspam, Nicaragua and the director of MADRE's sister organization, Wangki Tangni, which serves the area hardest hit by the hurricane. Knowing that the hundreds of communities along the Coco River had no early warning system for the hurricane, Rose Cunningham boarded a canoe on Monday, September 3, and traveled up River warning families to leave their wooden houses on the banks of the river and move to higher ground.

Many of the communities that Rose visited have been totally destroyed. Hundreds of families have lost their homes and all of their possessions. Now they face flooding, mudslides - and in Puerto Cabezas, on the shores of the Atlantic Ocean, tidal waves - that often accompany storms of this magnitude.

MADRE is responding to the crisis through our Emergency and Disaster Relief Fund. We have been in contact with Rose Cunningham by satellite phone and she tells us that families are in urgent need of relief items.

We know that flood conditions in 100 degree heat and tropical humidity mean that outbreaks of malaria and cholera will soon set in. Water-borne diseases and simple, but life-threatening diarrhea pose another danger. Much of the communities' traditional food sources-including, beans, rice, cassava, and plantains-have been destroyed. In fact, this was the week to harvest rice and beans, which means that communities have no food reserves to draw from.

MADRE has launched a campaign to raise $100,000 of emergency aid for the communities of our sister organizations in Nicaragua. Please help us to provide:

Water purification tablets
Mosquito netting
Temporary shelters
Zinc sheeting to repair roofs
Anti-fungal creams
Broad-spectrum anti-biotics
Emergency generators
Sleeping mats
Clothes for babies and children and bedding for families

We know that the devastation faced by the women of our sister organizations in Nicaragua today is not an isolated tragedy. In fact, storms of this force are becoming more frequent as sea temperatures rise due to atmospheric warming. Coming on the heels of Hurricane Dean last month, Hurricane Felix's landfall marks the first time in more than 120 years that two Category Five storms have hit land in the same season. Only 31 Category Five storms have ever been recorded in the Atlantic - eight of them in the last five seasons.

MADRE's Emergency and Disaster Relief Fund works to respond to the immediate needs of women and families threatened by events like Hurricane Felix. The Fund also enables local womens organizations serving those most directly threatened by the crisis to affectively rebuild their communities on a stronger foundation.

To help click HERE.


Divest for Darfur is a national campaign to encourage investment firms, especially JP Morgan, Franklin Templeton, Fidelity Investments, Capital Group (American Funds), and Vanguard, to withdraw investments from companies that help fund genocide in Darfur in particular the PetroChina Co.

Yesterday the Save Darfur Coalition publicly kicked off their new divestment campaign targeting the above name companies.

If successful the activists said they hope that the pressure of the US companies would in turn cause the Chinese to use their weight as the largest buyers of Sudanese oil to press for peace in Darfur.

Oil provides up to 90 percent of Sudan's export earnings. Activists say up to 70 percent of this revenue is spent on the military.

"Sudan's government is susceptible to economic pressure," Adam Sterling, director of the Sudan Divestment Task Force told IPS. "Yet, it has faced little such pressure over Darfur."

"The American people do not want to invest in genocide," Zahara Heckscher, divestment campaign manager at the Save Darfur Coalition, said Wednesday as coalition members said they would target the five investment firms with a mix of negative advertising, protest, and investor pressure.

"Together these companies touch far more than 60 million households in the United States and hold nearly $8 billion worth of PetroChina stock," said Eric Cohen, chairman of the Boston-based Investors Against Genocide group.

U.S. firms are prohibited from investing directly in Sudan under economic sanctions imposed by Washington in 1997. They may, however, invest in foreign companies that do business in Sudan. Darfur activists said there are 500 such companies worldwide.

Since July the European Parliament has encouraged European firms to divest.

Can a divestment campaign work. Supporters look to what happened in South Africa as an example to say that it can.

As was the case with South Africa, Sudan's wealth is concentrated. It is swimming in petrodollars, thanks significantly to China, which buys more than half of its oil exports. Khartoum spends upwards of 70% of its oil profits on its military, armed mostly by purchases from China.

But let's not just blame China alone.

Engineer Live reports China has the most significant interests in Sudan and has invested billions in building the oil industry up from the ground, but it has also been joined by India and Malaysia. The Greater Nile Petroleum Oil Co. (GNPOC), a joint venture between the China National Petroleum Corp. (40 per cent), Malaysia's Petronas (30 per cent), India's ONGC (25 per cent), and national oil company Sudapet (5 per cent), is the key player.

The following was taken from the web site of the Sudan Tribune.

Save Darfur coalition targets more US investment firms

Darfur activists on Wednesday launched a campaign to pressure five major U.S. investment firms to divest from companies they say help fund genocide in the Sudan.

The Save Darfur Coalition hopes to persuade Franklin Templeton, JPMorgan Chase & Co. (JPM), American Funds, Fidelity Investments and Vanguard Group to divest from PetroChina Co. (PTR), the listed arm of state-owned China National Petroleum Corp. The coalition previously put a spotlight on Warren Buffett and Fidelity for their holdings of the stock.

The five firms were selected because they are "the largest U.S. mutual-fund companies with investments in PetroChina," said Zahara Heckscher, campaign manager for Divest for Darfur, a campaign of the Save Darfur Coalition, which is made up of about 180 organizations.

The firms collectively have about $4.9 billion invested in PetroChina, according to the divestment campaign. Human-rights groups have focused attention on PetroChina, saying it is connected to Sudan’s rulers and a brutal campaign of genocide.

Investment firms said they are abiding by U.S. law and their fiduciary responsibilities to act on behalf of their investors. U.S. companies aren’t allowed to do business in Sudan, but they are permitted to invest in foreign firms with operations there.

Anne Crowley, a spokeswoman for Fidelity Investments, said that "Fidelity Funds in the U.S. has significantly less in PetroChina than it had at the beginning of the year," but that change wasn’t because of the campaign.

"Fidelity does not tell its fund managers how or when to buy any stock," she said.

As of July 31, Fidelity Investments had about $60 million of PetroChina stock in the Fidelity Southeast Asian Fund and Fidelity Advisory Emerging Asia Fund.

Fidelity International Ltd., a separate company headquartered in Bermuda, has investments in PetroChina.

John Woerth, a spokesman for Vanguard Group, said three Vanguard funds "have exposure to these stocks, two of which are passively managed index funds." The funds are Vanguard Energy Fund, Vanguard FTSE All-World ex-US Index Fund and Vanguard Emerging Markets Index Fund.

"In managing these funds, we are obligated to track the funds’ underlying target benchmarks," he said.

He said investors could choose the Vanguard FTSE Social Index Fund, which has a socially responsible benchmark that filters for social, humanitarian and environmental issues.

The other three companies didn’t have any immediate comment.

When Berkshire Hathaway Inc. (BRKA, BRKB) and its chief executive, Buffett, were criticized by the coalition, the company said it had seen "no records, including the various materials we have received from pro-divestment groups, that indicate PetroChina has operations in Sudan." The company said PetroChina’s parent, owned 100% by the Chinese government, does business in the Sudan, but that PetroChina exerts no control over its parent company.

The Darfur divestment campaign, modeled in spirit on the campaign to end apartheid in South Africa, plans to run print and television advertisements, gather petition signatures, and take other steps to pressure investment firms, said Heckscher. It is targeting specific companies it says do business in the Sudan, not all investments in Sudan.

Many firms managing socially responsible funds have adopted an investment model recommended by the coalition. A list compiled by the coalition is at

"Americans do not want their family savings invested in genocide," said Eric Cohen, chair of Investors Against Genocide.

Cohen said 20 states and more than 50 universities have begun to divest from Sudan. He said there is "tremendous market opportunity" for firms that divest because "Americans don’t want to be connected" to companies with investments in Darfur.

As many as 400,000 people have been killed and about 2.5 million have been displaced by genocide in Darfur, said Heckscher.


Last month Virginia Gutierrez was pulled over by police in Arizona for a headlight infraction. She ended up being deported and dropped off on the Mexican side of the border in Nogales.

Yesterday dozens rallied outside the Arizona State Capitol in a push to bring back the 18-year-old honor student who was all set to begin classes at Arizona State before being thrown out of the country to which her parents had brought her when she was only three.

The rally was marred by a group of bigots who shouted inane comments about just about everything including the war in Iraq. The bigots were mostly middle aged and white. Big surprise, huh?

A witness report on the Phoenix New Times Blog went like this:

One handlebar mustachioed dood (sic) I approached smelled heavily of beer, and threatened to turn violent until a plainclothes cop warned him that if he kept "bumping" into people, he would be arrested. You could feel the hatred, the prejudice and fanaticism oozing out of the man's pores. Why, I wondered? How could anyone bring themselves to hate 18-year-old Virginia? A hard-working, meek individual if there ever was one. A young woman with a 4.2 GPA, and scholarships to attend ASU this fall.

Never has the meanness and spite of the anti-immigrant crowd been more blatant than in their response to Virginia Gutierrez's situation. The irony is that these self-described "patriots" in fact represent the worst America has to offer -- the angry, rabid rabble of redneck U.S.A. But Virginia, though undocumented, represents all of the best values of the American dream: hard work, education, self-sacrifice, and self-improvement. And I suspect the nativists hate her even more for it.

I think that about says it all.

The following is from KTAR (Phoenix).

Protesters Disrupt Rally in Support of Deported Teen

Protesters disrupted a small rally at the state capitol supporting a deported North High School graduate.

One week before she was set to begin classes at Arizona State University, Virginia Gutierrez was pulled over by police for a headlight infraction. The traffic stop touched off a series of events that led to her deportation.

While in custody, Gutierrez signed a voluntary deportation document, but friends say she had no legal representation and was under duress.

Gutierrez, who has lived in the U.S. for most of her life, has not been heard from since federal authorities dropped her off on a street corner in Nogales. Her family remains here, afraid to come forward because of their immigration status.

"Nogales isn't really a place for a young lady. It's dangerous. It's a border city," said Esmeralda Hermosillo, Gutierrez's best friend.

Gutierrez came to the U.S. as a young child with her illegal immigrant parents. She's an honor student, with scholarships to attend ASU this fall. But last month she was deported to Mexico.

The Reverend Brad Wishon says that's wrong. "We can talk about immigration policy all we want, but every time we forget there are people connected to those policies, I think we lose a little bit of our humanity."

"This is about passing things like the Dream Act that Senator McCain sponsored," Wishon says. "She would not be in this situation if the Dream Act had been acted on."

Joshua Darland wonders what her deportation says about this country. "That we think it's OK to use our tax dollars to inhumanely drop off a young woman on a street corner in Nogales without any consideration to her health and well-being."

The small rally was disrupted by hecklers.

"Virginia is at home where she belongs. That's good. Virginia enjoy your country," says Heckler.

Across the street, a sign on a truck, blaming Virginia's illegal immigrant parents for making her a criminal.

Many counter-protestors shared the perspective of Mothers Against Illegal Aliens founder Michelle Dallacroce.

"Illegal is illegal," said Dallacroce, whose organization is now 10,000 strong.

"They're misplacing their values. Their values should be on the rule of law. And in America, the rule of law is that if you're illegally in this country, you should be deported. Period," Dallacroce said.

Gutierrez's friends said their hope was to obtain a student visa for the would-be university freshman, but they said even that was a long shot.


I'll just bet you don't own a second home on the slopes of the Rockies in Aspen. In fact, I'll just bet not one of the regular readers of the Oread Daily lives in Aspen at all. If you do, you probably should (or should not) be reading this article because it is about you.

Second-home investments, while a boon for the wealthy, can be the bane of people with modest incomes who live in towns like Aspen where prices skyrocket thanks to the second-home market. Often, longtime residents must decide between being renters forever, commuting long distances to work – or leaving altogether.

In fact, most of the people who do the real work don't even live in town of Aspen.

An increasing number of housekeepers, cooks and other workers who support Aspen’s resort economy are bused up Highway 82 every day from Rifle, Silt and New Castle to work for as little as $12 an hour.

In any event, the homes lost in Aspen to these new comers who buy them up as second homes (or just for the property to build new one) were once occupied by working families.

The children of the original owners can no longer afford the homes of their parents.

But, hey, that is just a problem for the locals, isn't it?

Anyway why should the rest of us give a hoot about those who actually get to live in the city itself and their problems. In fact, the median income for a family living there is $70,300.

Hang on, my friends, there is indeed a reason.

The rich and the famous who occupy these vacation homes in Aspen are often good liberals who would tell you of their concern for the planet.

They, along with their not quite as wealthy friends who live there full time would shake their heads if told their placid little town was spewing all sorts of harmful substances into the atmosphere. I mean, come on, there is no real industry there.

No big factories, but Aspen has more large luxury homes per capita than just about anywhere on earth. And the lifestyle of those who live in these homes feasts on fossil fuels more heavily than in other parts of the country.

Dan Richardson, the city's global warming project manager, estimated 75 percent of Aspen homes come complete with a hot tub, sometimes two. Several houses have snowmelt systems to keep driveways and sidewalks ice-free.

"Some snowmelt systems can use as much energy, if not more, to heat the driveway as to heat the house," Richardson told the Aspen Times Weekly.

Then there are the habits of some people with money to burn. Many Red Mountain mansions stay lit up at night even though no one has stayed in them for weeks. Thermostats keep the empty edifices at a cozy 72.

"I don't think there's a code in the country that regulates how much energy a house can use," said Richardson.

An analysis done by the Sopris Foundation entitled "Anybody home" found:

"Many vacation homes are set to run warm in winter and cool in summer: the hot water heater is often on year-round, the one or two or three refrigerators keep things(or nothing at all) cool, the wine collection up to spec, the security and ventilation systems on, and exterior and interior lighting to simulate occupancy.

Many of these uses are important for security; many energy demands are unnecessary and egregious: driveway heating, roof melt systems, hot tubs, towel bar heaters, 24/7 exterior lighting... Excessive energy consumption, often with no comfort or security benefits, represents a problem for a community that aims to reduce community energy intensity and emissions of greenhouse gases."

So while you and I are asked continually to conserve, the rich who populate not just Aspen, but all the places like it, go on about their merry business blissfully changing our planet forever and ever.

While all across this land of ours people approach their utility bills with dread, these beautiful people could give a hoot. They've got money to burn and by god they intend to burn it.

But that's a perk for being rich, after all.

The following comes from the Denver Post.

Aspen vacation homes: Energy hogs

With their heated driveways, outdoor hot tubs and 24-hour surveillance systems, Aspen's vacation homes each use more electricity than a block of average American homes, a new study reports.

As a result, the luxurious second homes generate most of the town's residential greenhouse gases, even though many of them are occupied only a few weeks each year.

They emit more carbon than Aspen's fully occupied homes, according to the study by the Sopris Foundation.

"I suppose if you make a million dollars or more, and there are several people in Aspen who do - many, actually - you can afford the utility bills," said Richard Heede of Climate Mitigation Services, who conducted the study.

Still, Heede was surprised to find that second homes generate 61 percent of the town's residential carbon dioxide emissions - the main man-made greenhouse gas - even though they are unoccupied an average of 277 days a year.

Aspen vacation homes each generate 43.8 tons of carbon dioxide a year compared with 32.4 tons by each full-time, single-family residence, the report calculates.

The average U.S. household with four people generates between 30 and 40 tons of carbon dioxide a year, depending on elements such as its type of heating fuel, according to the federal Environmental Protection Agency's carbon calculator.

Aspen's vacation homes are often much larger than locally owned homes and use, even when empty, as much energy as full-time residences, Heede said.

"Many energy demands are unnecessary and egregious, such as driveway heating, roof-melt systems, hot tubs (and) towel-bar heaters," he said.

Then there are the whirring motors of cigar humidors and wine cellars, and the flicking on and off of 24/7 floodlights, the report says.

While disproportionate energy use in second homes exists in every mountain-resort community, it is most pronounced in Aspen, where conspicuous consumption is a status symbol and there are 150 homes exceeding 10,000 square feet.

The average single-family home in Aspen is 3,272 square feet, according to the report.

"Rich people just don't care," said Howard Geller of the Southwest Energy Efficiency Program. "Financially, it just doesn't matter to them."

Linda Venturoni, who conducted a study of the economic and social impacts of second homes for the Northwest Colorado Council of Governments, said monstrous manses continue to sprout from Telluride to Winter Park.

"A lot of those resort communities are starting to catch up," she said.

Environmental consciousness, however, appears to be growing even among the ultra- rich, who increasingly seek energy-efficient, green-built homes.

"We're seeing it across the country. People want that quality," said John Beldock, chief executive of EcoBroker International, which trains real-estate agents in identifying and seeking environmentally friendly features.

"Nobody wants their vacation home to idle inefficiently when they're not there," he said. "They didn't get rich by flushing 10 months' worth of energy costs down the toilet."

Officials in Aspen now require renewable-energy fees for new houses bigger than 5,000 square feet or those that exceed their "energy budgets" under the building code, and they are considering mandatory energy audits for existing homes when they are sold.

"We are definitely aware of the fact that Aspen residential- energy use is higher than the national average," said Calla Ostrander, a staff member with the Canary Initiative, the ski town's pioneering broad-scale effort to reduce greenhouse gases. "This just helps raise awareness," Ostrander said.

Worried that global warming is leading to major climate changes that could dramatically curtail the ski season over the next 50 years, Aspen has taken aggressive steps to set a good example and raise environmental awareness.

The city now generates more than 70 percent of its power from renewable energy, and this week officials began selling carbon credits that allow residents to fund renewable-energy projects to offset the carbon generated through consumption of fuel and other goods.

While transportation - particularly air travel - is the single greatest generator of greenhouse gases in town, second homes are perhaps the most visible and vilified contributors, and are viewed by critics as a symbol of gluttony and decadence.

Even "green" second homes, they argue, are excessive and consume natural resources in construction and energy requirements.

Heede was cautious to point out that nearly every resident in Aspen could cut down on greenhouse-gas emissions and make his or her home more energy-efficient.

"We're not just singling out the second home owner living in the most monstrous homes and here only at Christmas and in June," Heede said. "We're just saying maybe we should look under our feet and do what we can to help."

Wednesday, September 05, 2007


The Baltimore Sun reports the men and women who clean Camden Yards home of the Baltimore Orioles called off a planned hunger strike at a Labor Day prayer service and rally to give the Maryland Stadium Authority a few more days to sign a binding "living wage" agreement that the workers have demanded.

Organizers with the United Workers Association, a human rights group founded by homeless day laborers in Baltimore, said they were encouraged by public remarks Friday from Gov. Martin O'Malley and Frederick W. Puddester, chairman of the stadium authority.

Association organizers said they would delay the hunger strike until Saturday after the stadium authority's regularly scheduled meeting Thursday, where the board is expected to begin the process of rebidding the stadium cleaners' contract.

The association says the stadium is the largest employer of day laborers in the city. Rosenthal said between 150 and 200 workers are employed for each game.

The workers who pick up trash and clean bathrooms at the Orioles and Ravens stadiums during and after each home game typically earn $7 an hour. The association is asking for at least Baltimore's living wage of $9.62, which applies to service contracts with the city. The new state living wage, which goes into effect Oct. 1, will be $11.30 in the Baltimore area. The new law does not, however, include temporary workers

The $7 an hour Lamont Pollard currently makes cleaning up Oriole Park at Camden Yards isn’t enough to help support his family of four.

And he’s skeptical it will change, even if he starves himself in protest.

“I’ve been hearing the same story for two years, and I’m tired of nothing happening,” said Pollard, 27, of Baltimore City, who was one of about a dozen stadium workers who had planned to participate in the hunger to protest low pay and demand a living wage.

Robert Graham, 39, of Baltimore, who has worked at Camden Yards for the past two baseball seasons, said the workers are "willing to sacrifice food and anything else to get people to listen."

The following is from Dissident Voice.

Cleaning Up After the Orioles
[posted online on September 4, 2007]

Finally something newsworthy is happening at Camden Yards in September. No, it's not the Baltimore Orioles limping toward another lackluster finish at their ornate ballpark, famous for selling old-time baseball nostalgia at high-end prices. It's the scrappy members of the United Workers Association, fighting both the resistance of the Maryland Stadium Authority (MSA) and the apathy of Orioles owner Peter Angelos for a living wage.

The UWA, a human rights group founded by homeless day laborers in Baltimore, represents 800 low-wage workers who make up the pool of the 100-120 people who keep Camden Yards clean. Stadium workers--the people who clean out the bathroom stalls, sweep up the small mountains of cigarette butts and make the Camden Yards experience as pristine as promised--make poverty wages, just $7 an hour.

Work schedules for stadium workers can vary as well. Some workweeks can be well over forty hours; in other weeks, if the Orioles are on the road, the laborers don't work at all. Take-home pay varies accordingly, depending on the number of home games in a week and how long the games last. The windfall earned from a game that goes into extra innings can make a real difference in the way a family eats in a given week.

Because they are doing "day labor," members of the UWA who show up to work are sent home if they're not needed. The wages are so low, and the job so "flexible," that some workers live in homeless shelters. One worker was kicked out of public housing because her pay that month couldn't match the monthly rent.

For three years, stadium workers have been demanding to be paid Baltimore's official living wage of $9.62 an hour. They soon could even make a claim to more: On October 1 the state's newly passed living wage law will require state government contractors to pay their employees $11.30 an hour. Both of the city's stadiums--Camden Yards and M&T Bank Stadium, where the NFL's Baltimore Ravens play--were paid for on the public dime.

In this solidly blue state, paying stadium workers a living wage should be common sense, but it is not. The MSA contends that stadium workers are not eligible because they are temporary workers. And what makes them temporary? That they don't have to work "away" games.

The response by UWA members has been to raise public awareness and ask that most basic question to the city of Baltimore: Is this just? They're conducting panel discussions, protests and concerts, and have even threatened a hunger strike. Along the way they have garnered the support of heavyweights like Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley and Baltimore Mayor Sheila Dixon. It's the kind of grassroots labor organizing that doesn't make the nightly news shows. But now the UWA and the stadium workers appear close to reaching a settlement.

On Labor Day, the UWA called off the planned hunger strike after hearing that a meeting of the MSA on Thursday could end with very positive results. Frederick Puddester, chairman of the MSA, even remarked to the Baltimore Sun, "[Living wage is] the policy of the state. Can the Stadium Authority argue that they're exempt on a technicality? Yes, they could. But I don't plan to take that approach."

As Carl Johnson, a former stadium cleaner and striker, told me: "On Friday the governor and the MSA chairman came out publicly in favor of living wages. We considered their public comments to be an indication of a good-faith effort at figuring out how to end poverty wages at Camden Yards. We're postponing the start date [of the hunger strike] to give the MSA some breathing room so that they can turn words into actions.... After three years of organizing and fighting for a living wage, we want to make sure that a living wage is actually won in the end. We'd prefer to call off the hunger strike altogether once a binding living-wage solution is in place, and we're hopeful that the breathing room will help get the MSA to the needed solution."

The progress made on a living wage for day laborers in a hard-edged, damaged metropolis, which locals lovingly call Charm City, could open a new chapter in grassroots labor organizing not seen since the early days of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s Poor People's Campaigns, a model that puts the poor in charge of movements to fight poverty. "The United Workers Association was founded to try and start a 'human rights' model of organizing led by low-wage workers themselves," Greg Rosenthal, a UWA organizer, told me. "It's all about leadership development from the ranks of the poor, a movement to end poverty led by the poor."

Three of the six paid organizers for the UWA come from the ranks of workers. Of the 800 that the UWA represents, according to Rosenthal, as many as 100 are active worker/organizers. Whenever there is a reporter who needs to be talked to, a home visit that needs to be made, a speech that needs to be given, the workers themselves are front and center. Also of note is that the UWA is largely composed of African-American and Latino workers. In an era when communities of color are often pitched against one another, their solidarity inspires hope.

It's interesting that the UWA will win or lose without a lick of help from Orioles owner Peter Angelos. The UWA claims that in 2004 Angelos promised to make up the difference in a living wage out of his own deep pockets. It's a promise he has failed to keep. Angelos loves to tout his credentials as a union-supporting, lifelong Democrat. He made his fortune as an attorney representing trade unions in class-action suits against the ill effects of asbestos. He further burnished his credentials as the "worker boss" when he was the only owner to publicly support the players' union in the 1994 strike.

But since 2004 he's done little for the people scraping the crud off his stadium. The Baltimore Orioles, once one of baseball's proudest franchises, has withered under his watch. What makes Marylanders smile about Angelos these days is the rumor that he is considering selling the team to a group led by Orioles icon Cal Ripken Jr. A victory for the UWA would be a victory for all Baltimore workers--and a nice slap back at Angelos, who apparently won't unload the team soon enough for either the workers of the UWA or the residents of Charm City.


How would you like to live in a town that stinks? I mean really...stinks. Well, the people of the small Georgia town of Talmo are like you. They don't like it one bit. However, its seems awfully damn hard to get something done about the cause of it all. That would be the Agri-Cycle company and their wastewater treatment plant.

Almost 3 years ago Agri-Cycle moved onto its current property in Talmo...and ever since resident's say their town has smelled like rotting chicken.

The smell is only part of the problem for Talmo residents. They told News Channel 32 recently what worries them even more is the fact that some of the greasy waste from the plant has made its way into Allen Creek which flows through Jackson County.

This contamination is only one reason why the state Environmental Protection Division has finally, after three years of complaints from local residents, ordered the plant to close.

State EPD officials say in an administrative order that Agri-Cycle overloaded the spray fields it used in the last stage of waste processing and processed household waste without a permit.

It also says the plant caused at least two spills of greasy organic solids into Allen Creek.

The EPD order cites violations of the plant's wastewater treatment permit dating back to 2005.

Anyways, Charles Fletcher says he lives more than a mile away from this wastewater processing plant, but he says it still smells like he lives right next door to it. “It becomes so nauseous," he told News Channel 32, "at times you feel like you're going to vomit.”

Rodney Barrows says the smell and flies only get worse closer to the plant. He practically lives next door to the Agri-Cycle Plant and says he's constantly smothered by the smell.

“Now what we're dealing with is a grease smell; a used grease smell,” Rodney Barrows told NewsChannel 32.

Agri-Cycle owner Richard Harville says many of the accusations made in the EPD order are immaterial or untrue. Harville said he plans to appeal and continue operating the plant during the appeal process.

He said that claims being made against the company ``are untrue or don't have any bearing.''

So the poor residents of Talmo aren't done with this yet.

In fact, as Main Street News (Jackson County, Georgia) points out,

"The operation of the Agri-Cycle plant is an example of bad corporate citizenship. The firm simply doesn’t care about how it affects local citizens, the environment or the local watershed. It repeatedly violated EPD rules and mandates and misled the public about what it is really doing.

Firms like Agri-Cycle are why we have to have agencies such as the EPD. If all firms would do the right thing, there would be no need for such government oversight.
But as Agri-Cycle shows, some business owners simply don’t care. Some companies will flout the rules and even common sense.

But enforcement of the rules is mostly a toothless tiger. It may take months or years for the plant to be closed.

In the meantime, area residents should continue their fight against the odor coming from Agri-Cycle. Their protests won’t go unheard or unnoticed."

In case you were wondering, Talmo with a population of less then 500, is not a prosperous place. The per capita income for the town is $14,256. About 12.6% of families and 18.2% of the population were below the poverty line, including 19.3% of those under age 18 and 6.7% of those age 65 or over. Almost 44% of the town is Hispanic. Fifty one percent is white.

The number of those renting is above state average. The number of rooms per house is below state average. The number of college students is below state average.

The people of the town are workers. For males the most common jobs are in Building and grounds cleaning and maintenance occupations, laborers and material movers. For women they are Agricultural workers, and food processing workers.

In other words, these are hard working Americans, who like many hard working Americans, are getting screwed.

The following is from the Gainseville Times (Georgia).

Talmo plant facing closure: Neighbors still not satisfied

Last week, the state Environmental Protection Division ordered a Talmo wastewater treatment plant to stop taking waste, also giving Agri-Cycle 30 days to submit a closure plan. But a neighbor claims the plant still is in operation.

Located in northern Jackson County, the facility has been racking up violations and upsetting residents since it opened three years ago. Dominique Weatherell, who manages the EPD's industrial wastewater department, said the plant has had a number of noncompliance issues over the past two years.

"That in itself really has caused us to move with the administrative order," he said.

Effective immediately after the administrative order was issued on Aug. 21, the state mandated that Agri-Cycle cease to accept waste for any type of treatment. Some of the issues cited in the order include contaminating nearby Allen Creek with fecal matter and E.coli, building two ponds without state permission and accepting domestic waste for treatment, according to the EPD order.

"It's a frustration to the people who live downstream, and also to me, because I drink city water," said Clayton Dinn, who lives right across from the plant in Cedar Hollow subdivision.

Dinn claims the plant continues to operate despite the EPD order and that he has seen several trucks going in and out throughout the day.

In 2004, Thomaston-based Agri-Cycle came to Talmo when owner Richard Harville purchased the former Valley Fresh poultry processing plant just beyond the city limits.

The plant decomposes grease and poultry waste and then uses a land-application waste treatment system, or sprayfields, to dispose of the waste on company property.

Valley Fresh, which sold the site to Agri-Cycle, was issued a new wastewater-processing license in 2000. The license was transferred to Agri-Cycle in 2004, but expired in 2005. Agri-Cycle has been operating under a provisional license since the lapse, state officials have said.

EPD ordered Harville to implement a stream-monitoring program for the unpermitted discharge into Allen Creek within five days after the order was issued. That program is to include upstream and downstream sampling for dissolved oxygen, fecal coliform bacteria, pH and temperature.

Allen Creek runs into the Oconee River, which feeds into the Bear Creek Reservoir responsible for the water supply for Jackson, Barrow and Oconee counties.

Agri-Cycle also has 30 days from the day the order was issued to submit a closure plan to the EPD for the facility. The company can appeal but so far has not done so, Weatherell said.

Harville could not be reached for comment Thursday about the EPD order. But he has said before that his company is dedicated to improving the environment, air and water quality and working with people in a way that is beneficial to everyone.

"We're doing everything we can and we'll continue to do things that are proper to improve our process, to improve treatment and thereby improve the environment in every aspect," he previously told The Times. "That's our obligation under any circumstance."

Dinn said the monthlong time frame in which the plant can appeal is too lenient.

"They get a free pass for 30 days," he said. "Five days would have been sufficient time for them to appeal."

Though residents have been unhappy with the plant ever since it came to Talmo, Weatherell said the EPD started getting an increased number of complaints in the spring. Neighbors are most upset about the plant's odor, which they have compared to human waste and rotting carcasses.

In the past, Harville has attributed the odor and flies to the area itself, which is heavily agricultural. He has said there are many cows near residents' homes that could be contributing to the problem.

While Weatherell said the EPD doesn't specifically address odors in the administrative order, "We're addressing things that could be consequential."

A copy of the order, which was issued Aug. 21, states that the plant has not been operating in compliance since 2005.

Officials with the EPD inspected Agri-Cycle in November 2006 and found that the plant had constructed an anaerobic lagoon without state approval of design plans or specifications, which is required by law. A second wastewater lagoon, found during an inspection on Aug. 15, was constructed without EPD approval, the order stated.

During an inspection in May, the EPD found the following:

Domestic organics were discovered in the treatment system, indicating that the facility had accepted domestic waste.

The sprayfields were hydraulically overloaded.

Stormwater ponds contained process wastewater.

Ditches had been constructed around the sprayfields and contained process wastewater.

In addition to the violations noted by the EPD, Agri-Cycle and Jackson County have been in a legal dispute for the past two years.

In August 2005, the county issued a case-and-desist order for Agri-Cycle, claiming the company was operating a nonconforming use on the property based on the county's zoning regulations. Agri-Cycle appealed the order and was allowed to continue its operation. The case is on the docket to be heard in November, but it has been pushed back twice.

"It's an ongoing frustration," Dinn said. "I'm trying to figure out what it takes to close down an operation like this until the court cases are heard."

Originally scheduled to be heard in the spring, the case was moved to September. Now it will be at least November before it is heard in court.

Dinn said he understands the need to go through the judicial system and to give Agri-Cycle the chance to appeal.

Dinn said he would just like to see the matter resolved.

"I'm doing my very best to tolerate it and understand that there's a process we need to go through," he said. But, "there's got to be someone out there that says, 'enough's enough.'"

Weatherell said that while Agri-Cycle can no longer operate in its current location, the order doesn't say it can't begin doing business anywhere else in the state.

However, he said, if Agri-Cycle is looking to operate a wastewater treatment facility somewhere else, it would have to apply to the state and show how it would be in compliance with its laws.


Eric Brown, 27, and his wife Monique Vasquez were arrested the evening of August 31 after a confrontation with Yonkers police. Residents who witnessed the incident told a local cable news reporter that at one point eight officers were on top of Brown, and that they repeatedly used racial epithets, including the "N" word. A local TV news broadcast also ran a clip of an amateur video showing a large police presence on the street and, at one point, several officers carrying a handcuffed person away.

Brown and Vasquez were charged with disorderly conduct, a violation and misdemeanor counts of resisting arrest and obstruction of governmental administration. Brown faces an additional charge of unlawful possession of marijuana, a violation.

Karen Edmonson, president of the Yonkers chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, told the Journal News she was disgusted over the incident, especially that the charge had changed so drastically.

"This is a Yonkers special," she said. "When you're a black man in Yonkers, N.Y., you will not get justice."

A report on WCBS-TV said the amateur video shows the altercation. Witnesses say 27-year-old Eric Brown and his wife Monique were stopped by police while they were walking their pit bull.

Witnesses say police started to get violent with Brown after he said the pit bull belonged to a friend. The video shows multiple officers lifting Brown off the ground and carrying him into a police car after restraining him on the ground.

Brown's 8-year-old daughter and his mother-in-law watched the entire incident unfold.

"My mom was saying, 'Stop, stop, get off him, he didn't do nothing,' so they just took my mom and grabbed her," his daughter said.

Added his mother-in-law: "He started grabbing Eric. He started grabbing him, throwing him on the floor for no reason. He didn't do nothing wrong."

Witnesses also say they heard police officers using racial slurs.

It is to be noted that the Yonkers police even before this latest incident were suspect. Just two days before the arrest of Brown and Vasquez federal law enforcement officials announced a probe into brutality claims against the department. A letter from the Justice Department did not say what exactly prompted the investigation. It said federal authorities would "seek to determine whether there are systemic violations of the Constitution or laws of the United States in the use of force by members of the YPD."

According to the Journal News, people living on Yonkers' largely minority southwest side say an investigation of the Police Department is long overdue because officers have for years mistreated black residents.

Marquette Fields, a 51-year-old southwest Yonkers resident, said police assaulted her 19-year-old nephew on Riverdale Avenue last month during an arrest.

"While he was handcuffed, they beat him in the head," she said. "How could he be resisting arrest if he's handcuffed?"

Fields said police show no respect to black residents, especially on the southwest side.

"You say one thing wrong, and they arrest you."

The following is from Lower Hudson On Line.

Family, activists say Yonkers man was beaten twice by city police Friday night

YONKERS - Cries of police brutality escalated into screams of legal corruption outside City Court yesterday, where family members and activists gathered after a 28-year-old man's postponed arraignment on charges stemming from a confrontation with Yonkers police.

Eric Brown, who briefly appeared in court handcuffed, limping and with stitches above his right eye, was charged Friday night with violations of disorderly conduct and unlawful possession of marijuana, and misdemeanor counts of resisting arrest and obstruction of governmental administration. On Saturday, he also was charged with second-degree assault, a felony.

While Brown remains in jail without bail, his arraignment was adjourned until today - five days after his arrest, his outraged supporters said.

Brown's wife, Monique Vasquez, 27, cried in front of the Cacace Justice Center and was comforted by her mother, Lola Reaster, who was also in tears. Both now say Yonkers police beat Brown twice - first on Friday during the confrontation, then again in jail over the weekend, after he had already been treated at St. Joseph's Hospital.

"He looked real terrible," Reaster said. "He can't hardly walk."

A spokeswoman for the Westchester County District Attorney said most suspects are arraigned within 24 hours, but someone who wants to retain his or her own attorney may end up waiting several days until those arrangements are completed.

"He refused Legal Aid. He wants to get his own lawyer, and he petitioned for time to do that," said Christina Frantom, a spokeswoman for the District Attorney's Office. "During the arraignment, the court awarded him time."

But Brown's supporters say he should have been assigned a temporary attorney, so that bail could be set.

"I'm disgusted," said Karen Edmonson, president of the Yonkers chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. "It's just all one big, utter, complete miscarriage."

Vasquez and Brown were walking on Hamilton Avenue when, according to Yonkers police, officers approached Brown because he did not clean up after his dog. They arrested Brown after he raised his hands toward an officer, and marijuana was found in his pocket, police said.

But Vasquez said police began cursing and using racial epithets, threw her husband on the ground, handcuffed him and beat him. One of the officers punched her, handcuffed her and dragged her into a police cruiser when she tried to protect Brown, she said. She was charged with disorderly conduct and resisting arrest and was released on $500 bail.

"(Brown) didn't do anything wrong," said Lamont Badru, 19, a member of the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement, a local advocacy group. "There are witnesses, there's video footage. We have badge numbers and everything. We want indictments. Not only do we want him free, but we want indictments against these officers."

"Any allegation of police misconduct will be thoroughly investigated by this department," Yonkers Deputy Police Chief Charles Gardner said. "However, after several viewings of this video in question, in our opinion, it does not indicate excessive force was used.

"It should be noted that Eric Brown has an extensive arrest history," Gardner added.

Gardner said Brown was arrested nine times and has six misdemeanor convictions. He said Brown's arrests included charges of resisting arrest, assault, obstruction of governmental administration, disorderly conduct and bail jumping.

Gardner added that in October 2004 both Brown and his wife were arrested by the state police at Hawthorne. She pleaded guilty to attempted obstruction of governmental administration in February 2005.

Badru and his fellow group members said they believe the arraignment has been delayed so that Brown's injuries heal before he appears before news cameras.