Friday, February 08, 2008


The Washington, D.C.-based Council on American-Islamic Relations is calling an Air Force Academy lecture on terrorism today a broadside on the Islamic faith, based on past comments of its speakers.

In fact, many say the three speakers at issue are evangelical Christians falsely claiming to be former Muslim terrorists.

Members of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, a group suing the federal government to combat what it calls creeping evangelism in the armed forces, told the New York Times it was typical of the Air Force Academy to invite born-again Christians to address cadets on terrorism rather than experts who could teach students about the Middle East.

“This stuff going on at the academy today is part of the endemic evangelical infiltration that continues,” said David Antoon, a 1970 academy graduate and a foundation member.

“What’s troublesome to me is this is pure ideology and it has nothing to do with academics,” Antoon said. “This is the Air Force Academy. It used to be an academic institution of excellence. It has become a political Bible college with the evangelicals holding so much influence with what’s going on there.”

Foundation founder Mikey Weinstein of Albuquerque, an academy graduate, asks in an article published in the Colorado Springs Gazette, “If they (the invited speakers) are indeed terrorists, why are they not being prosecuted, jailed or deported or sent to Guantanamo Bay, or is it because they’ve accepted fundamental Christianity? Or if this is fabricated and it’s a total fraud, why are they being invited to the academy?”

Academic professors and others who have heard the three men speak in the United States and Canada said some of their stories border on the fantastic, like Mr. Saleem’s account of how, as a child, he infiltrated Israel to plant bombs via a network of tunnels underneath the Golan Heights. No such incidents have been reported, the academic experts said. They also question how three middle-aged men who claim they were recruited as teenagers or younger could have been steeped in the violent religious ideology that only became prevalent in the late 1980s.

Prof. Douglas Howard, who teaches the history of the modern Middle East at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Mich., heard Mr. Saleem speak last November at the college and said he thought the three were connected to several major Christian evangelical organizations.

“It was just an old time gospel hour — ‘Jesus can change your life, he changed mine,’ ” Mr. Howard said. “That is mixed in with ‘Watch out America, wake up America, the danger of Islam is here.’ ”

The three will be paid a total of $13,000 for their appearance, some of it from private donors, said Maj. Brett Ashworth, a spokesman for the academy.

Okay, I gotta ask as an American citizen who doesn't happen to be a follower of Mike Huckabee why are my tax dollars being spent on this kind of crap.

It's outrageous that a trio of obvious evangelical snake oil salesmen are speaking at the publicly funded Air Force academy and are allowed to vent their anti-Muslim propaganda to boot.

I don't happen to be a Muslim either, but millions of Americans are and I have to think they have rights, too.

Of course, in the climate we have today maybe they don't.

The Air Force claims despite all the evidence these guys, these speakers, are experts. And they must be because they've been presented as such on the Fox News Channel, The 700 Club, the Pastor John Hagee program, and similar venues.

But maybe I'm being unfair to pick on the Air Force Academy. I mean what are they to do but follow the lead of their bosses who wanted recently to use your money and mine to deliver some nice little "freedom packages" to our soldiers in Iraq.

I'm for freedom.

However, the freedom packages weren't really about freedom. They held Bibles, proselytizing material in English and Arabic and the apocalyptic computer game "Left Behind: Eternal Forces" (derived from the series of post-Rapture novels), in which "soldiers for Christ" hunt down enemies who look suspiciously like U.N. peacekeepers.

The packages were put together by a fundamentalist Christian ministry called Operation Straight Up, or OSU. Headed by former kickboxer Jonathan Spinks, OSU is an official member of the Defense Department's "America Supports You" program. The group has staged a number of Christian-themed shows at military bases, featuring athletes, strongmen and actor-turned-evangelist Stephen Baldwin.

The packages never got sent after the meddlesome, no doubt commie, Arab loving Military Religious Freedom Foundation blew the whistle on the whole shebang.

Now you might think this whole dealie was just a fluke.
Or you might not.

It wasn't that long ago, the Los Angeles Times pointed out, Christian Embassy, a group whose expressed purpose is to proselytize to military personnel, diplomats, Capitol Hill staffers and political appointees in a breach of security was allowed to have a film crew to roam the corridors of the Pentagon unescorted while making a promotional video featuring high-ranking officers and political appointees. (Christian Embassy, which holds prayer meetings weekly at the Pentagon, is so entrenched that Air Force Maj. Gen. John J. Catton Jr. said he'd assumed the organization was a "quasi-federal entity.")

Hell, maybe they are.

Last time I checked our military men and women swear and oath to defend the Constitution. You remember that document? It mentions something about Church and State.

In an interview with Tikkun that Weinstein fellow I mentioned above (but forgot to note was assistant general counsel to President Ronald Reagan) said:
"About 12.6 percent of the American public are Dominionist Christians. It’s still a chunk—38 million. And they are represented very well now on all 737 U.S. military instillations that the Pentagon acknowledges that we have. It’s really closer to 1000. In 132 countries around the world, as we garrison the globe."

They are represented in a group called the Officers Christian Fellowship, for the officers, and for the enlisted folks, the Christian Military Fellowship. These groups have a tripartite goal, a goal they believe is much more critically important than the oath they all swore out: to protect, defend, support and serve the constitution of the United States. They are unabashed and unapologetic about it. It’s right on their web site. Goal number one: they want to see a spiritually transformed U.S. military. Goal number two: with ambassadors for Christ in uniform. Let me say that one again, and think back over history. That hasn’t worked out too well in the last 2000 years. Ambassadors for Christ in uniform. At least they didn’t have nuclear weapons and laser guided weapons before. Third, empowered by the Holy Spirit."

They work assiduously up and down the chain of command, using, in fact, the draconian specter of command influence to push this weaponized Gospel of Jesus Christ. It’s very digital, one and zero. Either you accept our view or we or our version of Jesus will have to kill you."

There are four specific stenches that are attended to Dominionist Christians, particularly in the military. It’s much like walking into a ditch, or in my native New Mexico we would call it an arroyo, on a hot summer day, and walking upon the diseased corpses of 10,000 swine, and having that malodorous stench invade your nose. The first of the four stenches is virulent anti-Semitism. Virulent. Second, virulent homophobia. The third is virulent misogyny, basically the idea that women should be consigned to collecting food, preparing food, serving food, cleaning up after meals, spreading their legs, getting pregnant, and raising children. The last is the massive subordination of flawed man—you know, when humans pop out of their mothers’ wombs they are of course bearing Original Sin—so therefore, the massive subordination of man’s law, by which they mean the Constitution, to this weaponized Gospel of Jesus Christ."

But then he is one of that tribe that is always causing problems. Oops, I forgot I am one of that tribe, too.

You know what though? We're Americans, too. And it ticks me off when the government that supposedly represents me uses the institutions of government in an attempt to impose a religious world view on its soldiers and on the general population.

And it scares me, when they cozy up with premillenial dispensational reconstructionist dominionist evangelical fundamentalist Christians who as they Weinstein guy said basically believe they have an inalienable right to push the weaponized Gospel of Jesus Christ 24/7 irrespective of any "man’s laws" like the Constitution or the case law that construes it.

It ought to scare you and your next door neighbor, too.

The following is from

Muslims Protest Air Force Academy Guest

A Muslim advocacy group is decrying the U.S. Air Force Academy's decision to invite three self-described former terrorists who the group said slam Islam with "hate-filled" rhetoric.

The D.C.-based Council on American-Islamic Relations said one of the speakers, Walid Shoebat, has said that "Islam is the devil."

Shoebat, Kamal Saleem and Zachariah Anani are scheduled to speak Wednesday at the 50th Annual Academy Assembly in Colorado Springs, where the topic of the four-day event is "Dismantling Terrorism."

Shoebat has published an online autobiography describing his journey from membership in the Palestine Liberation Organization to Israeli sympathizer. Saleem also is a former member of the PLO, and Zak Anani describes himself as a former member of several Lebanese terrorist groups. The three appear together regularly.

Maj. Brett Ashworth, an Air Force Academy spokesman, defended the decision, saying the purpose of the event is "to educate future officers and delegates from 50 colleges on the ideology and methodology of terrorists" and the three men could provide valuable insight.

But Ibrahim Hooper, a spokesman for CAIR, said the men also denounce the Muslim faith.

"Islam is the devil? I mean c'mon!" Hooper said. "And these people are going to talk as experts to cadets who may possibly serve in parts of the Muslim world?"

Saleem, who said he quit the PLO in 1985 after converting to Christianity, said in a telephone interview there are always people who disagree with his views about Islam.

Others, he said, tell him, "Thank you for enlightening us."

Hooper said the three speakers have triggered protests at speaking engagements throughout the country, and he told Air Force academy officials that inviting the men to speak about terrorism would be like "inviting David Duke to speak about race relations."

He said CAIR offered to connect the Air Force with Muslims in Colorado who also could speak at the event to balance the discussion. However, he said he was told the topic was terrorism, not religion.

"The academy assembly has nothing to do with religion or evangelical Christianity for that matter," Ashworth said. "This is not going to be a discussion on Islam. It's a discussion on terrorism."

Religion has been a sensitive topic at the Air Force Academy in the past. A group of cadet graduates had claimed the academy violated their rights, saying evangelical Christian values were forced onto them. They filed a lawsuit, which was dismissed in 2006 after a judge said they couldn't claim their rights were violated because they no longer attended the academy.

An Air Force task force also concluded there was no religious discrimination at the Academy but noted some cadets and staff were insensitive. In February 2006, the Air Force adopted new guidelines cautioning top officers about promoting their religious views.


Farmworker and immigration advocates said the Bush administration proposed changes to a little-used agricultural guest-worker program would in fact weaken rules that protect workers under the program. These administrative policies, announced this week by the Department of Labor (DOL) as a proposed change to regulations, would drastically lower protections and minimum housing standards for the farmworkers who harvest our nation’s crops.

“Farmworkers face the most devastating policy changes since the end of the abusive Bracero program in the early 1960s” said Bruce Goldstein, Executive Director of Farmworker Justice. “The White House and Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao are heartlessly slashing wage rates and removing labor protections for United States agricultural workers. The administration is encouraging agricultural employers to hire cheap foreign labor thus lowering the wages for all U.S. workers,” he continued. “Employers should offer wage rates based on America’s labor standards, not those of developing nations.”

The DOL proposal, says Farmworker Justice, will also change the wage formula for the H-2A program by using different statistics to set the wage rate. Previously these rates were calculated based on surveys performed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. For example, the 2007 rates (still in effect for now, and based on 2006 wages) include: California, $9.20 per hour; Georgia, $8.51; New York, $9.50; North Carolina, $9.02; Ohio, $9.88. Now the DOL wishes to use flawed surveys by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) that result in substantially lower wage rates. The complex proposal would involve large numbers of individual wage rates in numerous geographic areas and would allow employer manipulation of the wage system.

Erik Nicholson, director of the United Farm Workers' guest-worker program, said the proposed changes are a step backward for foreign agricultural workers who will see their wages reduced and who will be even more vulnerable to exploitation by their employers.

"We've also seen that if wages are depressed for foreign guest workers we fully expect to see wages go down for domestic workers as well," Nicholson said.

Ira Mehlman, a spokesman for the Federation for American Immigration Reform, which calls for reducing immigration, said, “It looks as though the government is relaxing the rules to make it easier for agricultural employers to hire workers at whatever wages they want to dictate.”

President John Sweeny of the AFL-CIO said, "The Department of Labor will hurt both immigrant and U.S.-born workers alike if it goes ahead with its plans to strip a number of workers’ rights from the H-2A agricultural guest worker program. The Bush Administration has shown once again that it will go to any extreme to cater to the interest of corporations at the painful expense of workers, and that it is not serious about real fixes to our nation’s broken immigration system."

Who likes the proposal?

The American Farm Bureau (AFB) does. Although the AFB likes to claim they are the "voice of American agriculture" the AFB leadership is in fact nothing more than highly paid corporate agribusiness lobbyists which acts as a mouthpiece for corporate agribusiness.

The following is from the United Farm Workers of America.

Bush Administration H2A Proposal is Nothing More Than Gutting of Existing Worker Protections

Once again, the Bush Administration is attempting to strip away the few protections afforded to workers who harvest our nation’s crops.

This week, the U.S. Department of Labor announced what it calls the "most significant overhaul of the nation’s agricultural guest worker program in two decades." That sounds good, but look a little closer and you will discover that instead of fixing the problem, this so-called reform is nothing more than a gutting of existing protections for both domestic and foreign workers.

The proposed plan to the H2-A/guest worker program is simply unacceptable. This so-called "overhaul" of the nation's agricultural guest worker program will result in lower wages and worsen conditions for farm workers that are already unacceptable. DOL's proposal includes an easing of the standards farmers must follow to show they have tried to hire domestic workers first. It also hurts those workers coming in under the H2-A program by lowering wages and undermining labor protections that already exist for U.S. workers.

The key to real solution to this dilemma is the UFW-backed AgJOBS. This bill will provide a stable and reliable agricultural workforce. AgJOBS has the support of growers, workers and a bipartisan majority in Congress.

In the coming days, we plan on raising public awareness about how the federal administrative changes are being forced upon us, instead of a legislative solution. We intend on engaging elected officials and community organizations across the nation to stop these changes from being enacted.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008


A large convoy of cars traveled across the Auckland Harbor Bridge in New Zealand yesterday in protest against not being able to fly the Maori flag (pictured here) on the bridge on Waitangi Day. The protesters say they are really trying to raise awareness. The Maori Sovereignty flag, the Tino Rangatiratanga, symbolizes liberation and identity.

Te Ata Tino Toa representative Tia Taurere said the flag symbolized the long tradition of struggle and resistance by Maori against colonization and the Crown theft of Maori land and resources.

"I think there is a lot of fear behind the ignorance. We would like to change that kind of thinking to seeing a positive symbol instead of something they fear," says protester Tia Taurere.

Te Ata Tino Toa, also had asked the Auckland Airport, councils, kohanga reo, The Warehouse, NZ Post, Auckland University, media outlets and other groups to parade it in the five days before the public holiday. So far, the university is the only public institution to say it will fly the flag.

Professor Margaret Mutu said although the flag had flown on various occasions at the university's Waipapa Marae, it had been in full flight since the "ridiculous controversy".

"By not flying a flag they [Transit] are demonstrating a fear of it. I don't know what that fear is - maybe a fear of the unknown. They're scared to acknowledge the part Maori play in this country.

For most New Zealanders, Waitangi Day is about rest and relaxation but for Maori it has become a symbol of activism.

This year hundreds of people marched on the treaty grounds at Waitangi in support of those arrested in last year's police raids on a so-called terror ring.

The group walked from Te Tii marae and circled the flagpole before being welcomed at the carved meeting house in the treaty grounds.

Police and Maori wardens surrounded the flagpole at the treaty grounds as the group marched on.

Tame Iti who was one of the 16 people charged under the Arms Act after police raids throughout the country last year said people have become scared of the fight for political independence. But he says te mana motuhake is about the freedom free to be a Tuhoe, or a Ngapuhi - or a Pakeha.

The following is from Radio New Zealand.

Protest against banning of Maori flag on Auckland harbour bridge

About 20 cars slowed traffic over the Auckland Harbour Bridge on Wednesday in a protest over the banning of the Tino Rangatiratanga flag from the bridge.

Transit says it closed two north-bound lanes for safety, and there were tailbacks as protesters took about 30 minutes to drive across to the North Shore at 5km/h.

Te Anau Tuiono, a spokesperson for the Maori sovereignty group Te Ata Tino Toa, says flying the Tino Rangatiratanga flag would acknowledge Maori status as tangata whenua - much as the Aboriginal flag is used in Australia.

The Government rejected a request to allow the flag to be flown last year, and Transit has altered its policy so only the New Zealand flag can be raised on the bridge.


Protests stood in sub zero weather outside the government offices where bids were underway for millions of acres of oil leases off Alaska's coastline in the Chukchi Sea. The area off Alaska's northwest coast also is used by walruses and whales taken by subsistence hunters, plus endangered sea birds.

The Alaska Wilderness League says protests also are planned for Shell Oil gas stations.

On Monday, Animal activists pressed the US government to add the polar bear to the list of endangered animal species before the sell-off. "An endangered listing can affect the sell-off of the oil drilling rights," Brandon Frazier, a spokesman for global animal welfare group International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) said. "The authorities would have to get approval through the Fish and Wildlife Service to conduct drilling if there is an endangered species that inhabits the area."

The US Fish and Wildlife Services last month announced it was putting off a decision on listing the polar bear as a threatened species until after the sell-off of oil and gas drilling rights in Alaska.
"They are trying to wait it out, get the lease-sale through and then make the decision," said Frazier.

"That way, they could list the lease-sale as an exemption," he added.

Those opposed to the slaes also say the federal government has ignored changing conditions in the Arctic Ocean, including record low summer sea ice, that already are stressing polar bears, whales and other Arctic sea life.

"The Chukchi Sea is an ecologically rich frontier environment, and it is changing rapidly due to global warming," said Stan Senner, Audubon Alaska executive director. "We barely know this changing seascape, and this is not the time to move forward with a massive lease sale."

“The Chukchi Sea is our garden. We’ve hunted and fished in the ocean for thousands of years,” said Jack Schaefer, President of the tribal council of the Native Village of Point Hope. “The ocean is what our history and culture is based on. We can't afford to stop our religious, cultural and subsistence activities that depend on the ocean. One oil spill could destroy our way of life,” said Schaefer.

A coalition made up of the Native Village of Point Hope, the City of Point Hope, the Inupiat Community of the Arctic Slope, REDOIL (Resisting Environmental Destruction on Indigenous Lands), Alaska Wilderness League, Center for Biological Diversity, National Audubon Society, Natural Resources Defense Council, Northern Alaska Environmental Center, Oceana, Pacific Environment, Sierra Club, and The Wilderness Society filed suit in federal district court in Alaska on January 31, arguing that in making its decision to hold today’s lease sale, MMS did not adequately weigh the impacts oil and gas activities would have on wildlife like polar bears, or on native villages along Alaska’s North Slope. The organizations are being represented by Earthjustice, a nonprofit environmental law firm.

Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, PEER says the Interior Department is working to stop the flow of internal e-mails from its own scientists that undermine the legality of the offshore oil and gas lease sales.

During the past three weeks, PEER has released a series of internal e-mails from current and former Interior scientists raising questions about how badly environmental assessments of Arctic offshore oil development were skewed.

The e-mails are contrary to Bush administration claims that environmental risks were adequately considered prior to offering tracts for lease in the Chukchi, Beaufort and Bering Seas for oil exploration.

The Minerals Management Service said today the oil and gas exploration lease sale has drawn a record number of bids for Alaska's outer continental shelf.

The following is from KTUU (Alaska).

Chukchi Sea lease sale starts in Anchorage

With protesters standing outside, the U.S. Minerals Management Service on Wednesday opened bids for more than 29 million acres of petroleum leases in the Arctic Ocean off Alaska's northwest shore.

Officials said there were 667 bids to be reviewed Wednesday. The process was expected to take about four hours. ConocoPhillips was among the early bidders.

Randall Luthi, MMS director, says he is confident development could occur without harm to the environment. The closest bid is 54 miles off shore.

A handful of conservation and Alaska Native groups demonstrated outside against the sale as temperatures dipped to minus 13.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008


Today I voted in a primary election for the first time in my life. I voted for John Edwards. Yup, that's the John Edwards who isn't running for President any longer.

I decided for once in my life there was actually someone I WANTED to vote for, not because he was the best of a bad bunch but because I actually found someone who I thought just might make a real difference. So by god, I voted for him.

Now many of you out there in OD land will say electoral politics are a farce. Others of you who think it does matter this year will say I shouldn't have wasted my vote. Some of you will point out Edwards is a southern white man with lots of money.

I don't care.

If you actually look at what John Edwards has been saying during the course of this campaign you can't help but notice, if you are willing to admit it, that he was head and shoulders above Obama or Clinton on every issue. He wasn't afraid of "class war," he relished it. He wasn't jabbering about bringing us all together, he was about taking on the rich and the corporate powers.

Lots of you will say it was just talk. I don't think so. Many will point out he didn't vote in the Senate like he talks now. You're right. I think the guy actually grew and I don't hold that against him. I think he grew over the years and I think he grew in the time since he first stood in the 9th Ward of New Orleans and said he was running for President. I think he grew with each working person, each poor person, each sick person, and each angry person he met along the way. I think he grew with every picket line he walked and with every workplace he entered. I think he grew to the point that he actually understood class, that he understood poverty, and a lot more. I think he actually wanted to do something about it all.

I think the corporate owned media (and their friends in the Board Rooms across America) recognized that even as many so called progressives didn't. I think it scared them. They gave him no coverage and they wrote him off. Couldn't have a guy like that as a serious possibility for President. As George Bush I would say, "Wouldn't be prudent."

Examine the records of Obama and Clinton and you can't reach any conclusion but they are both run of the mill Democrats. If Obama wasn't black and Clinton wasn't a woman this primary battle wouldn't have been any more exciting then if it had pitted Chris Dodd against Joe Biden.

Now I am not here to downplay the significance of having a black president or a woman president. And either is certainly a hell of an improvement over Bush and anything the Republicans have to offer.

But Obama and Clinton when you get past the hype, past the drama, past the excitement offer Democratic Party solutions, generally safe middle ground solutions. They do not offer a qualitative change (no matter how many times they say the word).

John Edwards offered something else again...and few were listening.

It's too bad.


On Feb. 11th, Longest Walk II participants will embark on a 5 month journey from San Francisco to Washington, D.C. arriving on July 11th. The walk is to promote harmony with the Earth and to raise other issues of importance to American Indians.

"We walk for the Seventh Generation, for our youth, for peace, for justice, for healing of Mother Earth, for the healing of our people suffering from diabetes, heart conditions, alcoholism, drug addiction, and other diseases. We walk with the message: All Life is Sacred, Save Mother Earth," reads the mission statement for the walk.

Back in 1978 a similar walk took place. That walked followed the introduction of eleven legislative bills in the 95th Congress which would have abrogated Native Treaties that protected remaining Native sovereignty. The Longest Walk of 1978 was a peaceful, spiritual effort to educate the public about Native American rights and the Native way of life. The 3,600 mile walk was successful in its purpose: to gather enough support to halt proposed legislation abrogating Indian treaties with the U.S. government.

"In 1978, our communities faced many hardships such as non-existing religious rights and criminalization of our people who fought for cultural survival, this is why the Longest Walk was necessary. As Indigenous Peoples in the United States, our environment and our cultural survival are directly correlated and are still imperiled today, this is why we must walk once again" stated Jimbo Simmons of the International Indian Treaty Council.

"Right now there's a lot of global warming, there's a lot of pollution," Dennis Banks said. "So I thought we should walk again for Mother Earth."

The walkers also will clean up Mother Earth along the way, Banks said, by bringing trash bags and picking up litter as they go. They will speak to the communities they pass through and learn what environmental issues they're facing

This walk is about the future, Banks told the Santa Cruz Sentinel, about leaving a healthy world for our children seven generations from now.

"Every time we do something, we have to consider the consequences for the seventh generation. Are our words good for the seventh generation, are our actions today good for the seventh generation?" Bank said.

"We see the changes of global warming," he said. "Because of that I realize it's affecting not only native people, but it's affecting people across the country. Every human being is in peril right now. If we don't do anything in this generation, there will be no seventh generation.

Tashina Banks Moore, national communications coordinator for the event says about 200 people are signed up to walk the entire 4,400 miles, but hundreds more are expected to join for shorter distances. The trek is drawing walkers from Russia, Australia, New Zealand and Peru as well as Buddhist monks and nuns from Japan.

Chuck Billy, lead singer of legendary thrash metal band Testament and proud member of the Pomo Indian Tribe will be performing at the Longest Walk Kickoff Concerton Saturday, February 9. The concert begins at 5:00PM at the Eastside Cultural Center in Oakland, CA. Chuck Billy will be performing alongside his brother Andy and 2006 Native American GRAMMY & NAMA recipient Star Nayea.

The following story is from the Contra Costa Times.

Activist continues to fight for American Indians

When the American Indian community needs a fighter, a negotiator, a man of wisdom and passion, the burden often falls on Dennis Banks.

It has been that way for 40 years, since Banks started the American Indian Movement. He led the 19-month takeover of Alcatraz in 1969, the Trail of Broken Treaties caravan in 1972, the occupation of Wounded Knee and the 71-day siege in 1973.

In 1978, he helped organize the first Longest Walk from California to Washington, D.C., to publicize to the nation and the world the plight of the indigenous people.

Thirty years later, Banks is still walking for American Indian rights. On Feb. 11, he and other activists will gather on Alcatraz to begin the 30th anniversary of the Longest Walk to Washington.

"Thirty years ago, I thought we'd do it once and that would be it," he said. "But the idea keeps going. Full steam ahead. Until I go to the grave, I'll be walking.

"They'll drag me across the country. I'll put wheels on my body, and they'll drag me."

Vallejo resident Norman "Wounded Knee" DeOcampo is full of praise for Banks. "I can compare Dennis with a lot of leaders across this country. I compare him with Sitting Bull, Geronimo and Crazy Horse."

Part of the cross-country crusade is education -- both in the mainstream press and among American Indians.

"We're losing our leaders," Wounded Knee said. "And we need to reach to the young people and get them involved."

Banks said Wounded Knee is the one whom young and old should admire.

"We should honor this man for what he has done for many years," Wounded Knee said. "He's an icon. He should be up there with Martin Luther King Jr."

Banks and Wounded Knee say that American Indians can have an effect on this year's presidential election. Any candidate who has an ear for American Indians would be acknowledged, Banks said.

"They're setting the stage for what's going to happen," he said. "They're demanding change, and so are we."

The highest office in America ever achieved by an American Indian was attained by Charles Curtis, a member of the Kaw tribe, who was vice president from 1929 to 1933 under Herbert Hoover.

Banks looked forward to the day an American Indian runs for the president.

Until then, Banks said he is hoping the next president holds corporations accountable that "have smokestacks spewing millions of tons of toxic materials in the air that we breathe." He also says that global warming "has to stop."

Another crucial goal is eliminating the disruption of sacred burial sites, Banks said.

"Let's start protecting the future while we protect the past," he said, hoping bones that have been uncovered for university study will some day be returned to the ground.

"Bury the bones. Let their journey continue," he said. "Some native people -- and I'm one of them -- believe that your journey is interrupted if your grave is interrupted."

Though 75, Banks intends to walk at least 15 miles a day for The Longest Walk 2, starting as the sun rises at Alcatraz.

"Full steam ahead."


As Israeli conducted more air strikes on Gaza, Egypt called on Hamas to allow Palestinian Authority personnel to oversee Egypt's border with the Gaza Strip, and warned Palestinians in Gaza not to test Egypt's patience. This followed clashes on that border as Egypt closed it down.

Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit called for reason to prevail within the leadership of Hamas in Gaza, the day after Palestinian gunmen and Egyptian forces exchanged fire at the Gaza-Egypt border, killing one person and wounding 59 others.

"We call on the authorities governing the (Gaza) Strip to allow observers and individuals from the Palestinian Authority to return once again to the crossing to oversee the implementation of (the 2005 border) agreement," he said.

"Egypt is generous and Egypt is patient. Egypt has its patience, but this patience undoubtedly has its limits," Aboul Gheit told reporters.

Palestinian gunmen and Egyptian forces exchanged fire at Gaza Strip's border with Egypt on Monday and a Palestinian civilian died in the fighting, medical workers said.

Egyptian security officials said Palestinians also threw petrol bombs at the police and border guards and at the border wall separating Egypt and the Gaza Strip.

Hosni Mubarak, the Egyptian president, in an interview published on Tuesday in a Spanish newspaper, said that Egypt will not allow Palestinians to breach its border with Gaza again.

"It is a mistake to besiege the Palestinians but we will not accept that the border be left open indefinitely. What happened will not be repeated," he told the daily newspaper ABC.

Up to half of Gaza's 1.5 million swarmed into Egypt over the past 12 days to stock up on fuel, medicines and other supplies after militants blew large sections of the border barriers.

Senior Hamas leader Mahmoud Zahar said Saturday, February 2, his group had agreed with Egypt on restoring order to the chaotic frontier.

People on both sides of the border were dismayed by the closure of the joint borders.

"I am sick, I need to see a doctor in Egypt," complained Zaki Abu Nasira, a 45-year-old from the southern Gaza town of Khan Yunes.

"There is no medicine here, we don't have the medicine that I need here."

Palestinian families reunited by the fall of the Rafah wall regretted they would face separation again.

"This is not right, this is injustice," Jamil Toman, a 63-year-old Palestinian and Cairo resident who had been visiting relatives in Gaza, told Reuters.

Toman left the Gaza Strip before the 1967 war in which Israel occupied the territory, and has not been able to get an Israeli permit to return for the past 40 years.

Nafisa Mahmoud, an Egyptian women, was in tears as she returned to Egypt from visiting friends in Gaza.

"It's so sad that they closed the border, we are one people and should be able to visit each other without obstacles."
By the way, eight persons are reported dead in today's Israeli air strikes.

The following is from the Middle East Times.

Tensions on Gaza-Egypt border

Cautious calm returned to the Rafah border between the Gaza Strip and Egypt on Tuesday after violent clashes left one Palestinian dead and scores of others injured amid growing tension following Egypt's closure of the border and uncertainty surrounding the future management of the frontier.

Egyptian security forces took total control of the border, closing holes in the barrier that were blasted open by Palestinian militants, while Hamas security forces reportedly coordinated with their Egyptian counterparts to prevent a repetition of the confrontations that erupted late Monday.

One Palestinian man was shot dead and other protesters and Egyptian soldiers were injured when a demonstration protesting the Egyptian closure of the Rafah crossing turned violent.

Militants blew open the border wall on Jan. 23 as half of Gaza's 1.5 million people flooded into Egypt, which allowed them entry to buy desperately-needed supplies that had run out due to a suffocating Israeli blockade.

But Egypt resealed its border two weeks later as the authorities tried to prevent more people from swarming into the country and after failing to secure an inter-Palestinian agreement on managing the frontier.

Hamas, the Palestinian Islamic movement that has been controlling the impoverished coastal strip since ousting the Fatah-led Palestinian Authority (PA) of President Mahmoud Abbas last June, said Tuesday it regretted the use of force by Egyptian security forces and the "treatment that Egyptian security has metted out to Palestinian citizens," in reference to Monday evening's clashes.

While the tension at the crossing eased, the strain of the people's confinement in Gaza reportedly erupted elsewhere on Tuesday. News agencies reported that hundreds of Palestinians who were rounded up by Egyptian authorities following the clashes at the border set fire to a government building in the Egypt's Rafah town.

Egyptian security sources said the authorities detained some 500 Palestinians in an administrative building in Rafah late on Monday.

"They set fire to the building, broke windows and destroyed furniture," the source said, according to AFP news agency, adding these Palestinians would be allowed back into Gaza "once the arrangements are made."

Remarking on the border clashes, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak insisted, in an interview published in Spain's ABC daily newspaper on Tuesday, that "we did not give any order to shoot anyone."

Mubarak also stressed that Egypt will not allow the Rafah border with Gaza to be breached again. "It is a mistake to besiege the Palestinians but we will not accept that the border be left open indefinitely," he told the Spanish daily. "What happened will not be repeated."

Middle East analysts say Cairo has been placed in an awkward position as it struggles between not appearing as if it is collaborating in the starvation of the besieged Palestinians in Gaza and controlling its borders with the strip, which was under Egyptian control when Israel captured it in 1967.

Analysts say that preventing another penetration of this crossing is easier said than done if the animosity remains between rival Hamas the PA – and all indications point to a continued enmity.

In separate talks with Fatah and Hamas leaders in Cairo last week, Egypt failed to secure a Palestinian agreement on managing the Rafah crossing.

The PA sought to reactivate a 2005 agreement that Hamas categorically refuses because it includes supervision by European Union monitors and Israeli electronic surveillance that gives it the final say over the movement of goods and people.

Hamas said it wanted a purely Egyptian-Palestinian control with no Israeli or foreign interference, but showed readiness to accept the deployment of PA representatives at the Rafah terminal, although such a move may appear as if the Islamic group was yielding power back to the PA.

The continued power struggle between the two main Palestinian factions amid the stifling Israeli blockade on Gaza's population is dimming hopes for any formal arrangement that would prevent chaos in the border area.

Just as Palestinians were able to blast open the barrier last month, they can do it again. But like Monday's clashes showed, the Egyptian authorities will not be so hospitable the next time.

Monday, February 04, 2008


Hundreds of workers and their supporters battled police in the capital of Bangladesh on Friday in response to the beating death of one of their own by company goons. reports last Wednesday (30th Jan) two workers in World Dresses Ltd, Mirapur, Dhaka, The two were apparently almost the last of the workforce on the premises at 8pm, as they were washing themselves before leaving. Five officials appeared and accused them of loitering with intent to rob the company. They took the men to upper floor and started beating them mercilessly. Although they were seriously injured the garment officials did not take them to hospital immediately. One of the men died the other remains in the hospital in bad condition.

The dead man was later identified as Mohammad Khokon, 23. The injured worker is Abdul Malek.

Police said several officials and security guards of the factory were responsible for the beating.

The unrest that the incident created led to work stoppage in many factories in the area. More than 500 workers tried to put up barricades on a busy highway that connects the capital with southern and western Bangladesh and were attacked by police.

Bangladesh has more than 3,000 garment factories that employ more than 2 million workers, mostly women.

The textile industry earns the impoverished country more than $10 billion each year, mainly from exports to the United States and Europe, according to the Export Promotion Bureau.

In recent months harassment of labor and human rights activists by the government has intensified. Last Thursday Human Rights Watch said the government should immediately end the harassment of labor rights activists who are conducting legitimate activities to protect the rights of workers in the country.

“The interim government is abusing its emergency powers to target individuals who are trying to protect workers’ rights in Bangladesh’s most important export industry,” said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “This should set off alarm bells among donors and governments who don’t seem to understand or care how the authorities are using the state of emergency to systematically suppress basic rights.”

“International companies that source garments in Bangladesh should insist that the Bangladeshi government end harassment of labor rights activists,” said Adams. “They should make it clear that labor organizing and activism is part of the deal when operating in the world economic system and that they will not accept it if activists are jailed, intimidated or harassed by the authorities.”

Bangladesh has been under a state of emergency since January 11, 2007. The emergency rules have placed serious limits on civil and political rights, and have severely diluted constitutional protections of individual rights. In a letter to the government dated August 1, 2007, Human Rights Watch called for the lifting of the state of emergency.

The following is from Independent Bangladesh.

'Hundreds protest RMG worker’s death

At least 10 garments workers were injured Friday morning as the police charged at them with truncheons when the workers rallied at Mirpur Section 1 in Dhaka demanding punishment for the people responsible for the death of a worker.

Mohammad Khokon, 22, a worker of the World Dresses Limited, who was beaten Wednesday night by the factory management on suspicion of being involved in stealing, died in Dhaka Medical College Thursday morning.

Along with Khokon, another worker, Abdul Malek, was beaten. Critically injured, Malek was taken to Dhaka Medical College Hospital Thursday morning and then was shifted to Orthopaedics Hospital.

The agitated workers on Friday blocked the road stretch from the Mirpur Section 1 crossing to the Technical College point, suspending traffic for two hours and a half till 10:30am.

Witnesses said several hundred workers of the World Dresses Limited, a sister concern of the Vertex Group housed in Khalil Bhaban at Mirpur, gathered at the factory gate at about 7:30am.

As the factory management announced a general holiday, the workers brought out a procession in protest at the killing. They demanded punishment for the people responsible for the death of their fellow.

A large number of law enforces were deployed at the place. The lawmen asked the demonstrators to call off the blockade at about 9:00am. Immediately after, the deployment of lawmen was reinforced.

They started charging at the workers with truncheons at around 9:30am in which 10 workers were injured.

The workers then pelted the lawmen with stones, said Milon, a worker injured in the incident. He said the police fired three teargas shells to disperse the demonstrators, leading to a clash.

The demonstrators left the place at about 10:45am as the Rapid Action Battalion and the joint forces personnel started patrolling the area.

The World Dresses Limited managing director, Osman Gani Talukder, along with former BGMEA vice-president Abdus Salam Morshedi, BGMEA director Golam Sarwar Milon and chief of the BGMEA crisis management cell Khaled Monsur reached the place and held a meeting with the workers in the presence of high police officials at about 11:15am.

After the meeting, Osman Gani announced that the company had already given Tk 1,50,000 to Khokon's family and Tk 350,000 more would be given very soon. He said he would also give Tk 25,000 to Malek for his treatment cost.

He also announced all the workers of the factory would get the attendance and refreshment allowances for Friday. Mirpur zone police deputy commissioner Anwar Hossain said, 'The situation is now under control as the factory management has fulfilled all the demands of the workers.' A government handout, meanwhile, said the situation was under control and 1,800 of the 2,000 joined work.

The handout said the factory management had given a portion of the amount it earlier announced to give to Khokon's family in compensation and the rest of the amount would be given on Saturday.

The insurance money of Tk 1 lakh will be paid in a month. Of the accused, two have been arrested and others will be arrested soon, the handout said. Malek filed a case with the Mirpur police against the factory management in this connection Thursday evening.


Chilean writer and communist activist Volodia Teitelboim passed away last Thursday in Chile at the age of 91 due to a cancer that caused him respiratory and kidney failure.

Born in Chillán to Jewish immigrants, Teitelboim was interested in literature from an early age. Volodi became one of the most representative symbols of the Chilean left and joined the Communist Party when he was only a teenager. He was the general secretary of the party and, during the Pinochet dictatorship (1973-1990) he was in exile in Moscow.

From there, he denounced the human rights violations committed in his country, on his program Escucha Chile, broadcast by Radio Moscow on short wave.

Volodia Teitelboim was one of those rare beings to combine an active and influential life in politics with the talents of a discriminating writer and literary critic. He was one of Chile's leading essayists, combining writing with half a century as a member of the Politburo of the Chilean Communist Party.

Amongst those who mourned his passing was Fidel Castro who said, ""I will not say he has died; he has left to live in ideas. He joined the ranks of those who struggle and will continue to struggle for those dreams."

The following is from the Santiago Times.


Volodia ValentÌn Teitelboim, the renowned Chilean Communist Party leader and writer, was buried Saturday in the General Cemetery of Santiago, where both supporters and detractors paid their respects to one of the most outspoken opponents of the Augusto Pinochet dictatorship.

A lymphatic cancer patient for the past two years, Teitelboim entered the Universidad de Chile’s medical clinic on Jan. 15. At the time he was suffering from pneumonia resulting from a severe lung infection. Ten days later, he experienced a relapse. Refusing to be connected to life support, he passed away Thursday, Jan.31, at 91 years of age.

Teitelboim was born to Eastern European Jewish immigrants in 1916 in the southern town of Chill·n, Region VII. In 1932 he entered law school at the Universidad de Chile, where he first started attending political meetings, and soon joined the Juventud Comunista (Communist Youth).

After more than two decades of activity in the Communist Party (PC), Teitelboim was elected a deputy to Congress in 1961, and then to the Senate in 1965. He remained a senator until the military coup in September, 1973. Exiled in the USSR, he founded the magazine “Araucania de Chile” and started the “Escucha Chile!” program on Radio Moscow, in which he denounced the human rights abuses of the dictatorship.

He eventually returned to Chile in 1988, and was elected Secretary General of the PC in 1989, a post he held until 1994.

A prolific writer, Teitelboim produced dozens of works, including anthologies, epic poetry, novels, biographies, and a four-volume autobiography. Among his biography subjects are Pablo Neruda, Gabriela Mistral, Vicente Huidobro, Jorge Luis Borges, and Juan Rulfo. He received Chile’s National Prize in Literature in 2002.

Teitelboim once said he was married to politics, but that literature was his secret lover.


Now this is a hard one for me to relate to exactly although I get the idea and it’s indicative of lots of things. Folks in Hawaii like to go to the beach (I live over a thousand miles from the nearest beach myself) and who can blame them. In fact the Hawaii Supreme Court long ago guaranteed them access.

Guarantees aren't meaning much in the face of the barriers that regular members of the public are facing when they try to get down to the water.

So on Sunday members of more than 20 organizations hit the streets to protest barriers to beach access. KHON on Oahu's north shore, dozens of people stood along Kamehameha highway in front of Turtle Bay Resort.

"What we've done is teamed up with beach access Hawaii to sort of call attention to the lack of public right away to the beach," says Timothy Vandeveer, Defend Oahu Coalition.

Vandeveer says on Oahu, there are only 86 public rights of way for more than 200 miles of beach and shoreline.

"We're here to show legislators we care about beach access. And also show the owners of the hotel that we'd like more access to the beach," says Vandeveer.

"The resort has five miles of coastline here and the only access is the main one at the front of the hotel," says Mark Cunningham, Defend Oahu Coalition.

"We want to remind people that beach access is pretty important to a lot of us out here, it's our way to enjoy the natural resources we have as well as pass on those legacies to our next generation," says Margaret Primacio, Defend Oahu Coalition.

Rallies were also held this morning on Maui, Kauai, Molokai, and the Big Island.

So called public beaches everywhere are more and more controlled either by rich homeowners or big hotel and resort corporations leaving working stiffs with maybe, if they're lucky, a few small stretches of shore here and there.

Scott Werny, chairperson of the Surfrider Foundation Oahu Chapter, added: "Not only that, but some of these private landowners are acting like ground hogs when they deny the public access to our own beaches." According to Werny, many shoreline paths were created with the intent to provide beach access and are tax assessed at only $100 -- yet they remain closed to the public.

Funny how that is.

"State law, affirmed by the Hawaii Supreme Court, clearly states the right of Hawaii's people to go to the coast," said Miwa Tamanaha of KAHEA, the Hawaiian-Environmental Alliance. Speaking of the protest, she added, "This is an islands-wide issue, and this day is an opportunity for individuals in Hawaii to affirm to their elected representatives their desire to access our public shorelines."

And sometimes where there is access the cost of parking has become prohibitive for those who aren't rolling in the bucks.

"The people that can't afford to park in this area will be forced out and have to park somewhere else," Melissa Ling-Ing told a Land Board meeting.

The Honolulu Star Bulleting weighed in on the issue:
"Our oceans and beaches are precious resources that are at the root of why most of us live here. These are public areas, for all to enjoy. Families, fishermen, surfers, paddlers and countless others rely on access to our shorelines for recreational needs. Yet more and more we see areas all over our islands where beach access paths are being gated or fenced; we see ocean-side parking areas being reduced and fees being imposed; and we see land development that threatens to diminish or block access. Simply stated, it is becoming harder to reach the beach."

Of course, the problem doesn't exist in Hawaii alone. Go to the other end of the country, for example, to the late great state of New Jersey.

All along the New Jersey coastline (which includes communities beside the Delaware River, the Hudson River, Raritan and Sandy Hook bays, and the Atlantic Ocean) there are barriers to public beach access. In Jersey, a majority of people are being restricted from enjoying local beaches due to a small, parsimonious group of residents who exercise their right to private property by restricting people from the coast with fences, gates, and mean signs.

In California, the state has negotiated easements allowing public access to the beach, but in many parts of the city access remains blocked by fences and locked gates put up by rich and very rich homeowners.

''I can't think of any place that's worse than Malibu, but there are places that are just as bad,'' said Sara Wan, chairwoman of the California Coastal Commission, the agency charged with protecting the public's access to the coast.

Among the property owners living by such easements are David Geffen and Frank Mancuso, a former MGM chairman.

Mr. Mancuso and a neighbor, Donahue Wildman, have volunteered to pay for a program to bus youths to other beaches rather than open the access between their properties.

Isn't that nice?

And let's take one last stop in Florida where it has been more than 18 months since private developers and government officials illegally closed public access to one of the nicest beaches in Dade County - shutting out tourists, surfers, fishermen and others who prize this unique area.

The Surfrider Foundation there says:
..."since 1970, the Village of Bal Harbour has leased state-owned land beneath the Haulover Bridge from the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) for $1 per year. According to the terms of the lease, the Village was to maintain a parking lot and a beach access point so that the public could use the beach. In 2003, the Village ILLEGALLY subleased this land to private condominium developer WCI, which later shut off public access to the beach and closed the parking lot (using it to store construction materials). The Village pocketed $300,000 from the developer.

"Since the Surfrider Foundation uncovered these shady dealings in June 2006, Bal Harbour Village has consistently refused to return beach access and parking to the general public. (An "alternate" access point - offered only recently and grudgingly by the Village - has no parking and requires fishermen & surfers to carry equipment through a dangerous construction site to reach the beach.) Beachgoers are fed up and demand that Bal Harbour surrender their ill-gotten gains to FDOT and be denied oversight authority of the area."

By the way, the rich do not, despite what they might think, own the ocean.

The Surf Rider Foundation issued a beach manifesto in which they called for the following:
Beach access would be free and uninterrupted. You could get to the beach to check the surf or stick your toes in the sand at least every half-mile in urban areas. There would be adequate parking, restrooms, and other amenities. Money would be budgeted for the acquisition of coastal open space.

You could surf or swim after it rains without the fear of getting sick, or at least know where it's safe because a notice would be posted if the water quality were bad. You would know the locations of storm drains and sewer outfalls.

Sand would flow freely to form surf breaks and beaches, and not be captured by dams, blocked by groins, or walled up behind seawalls and riprap. People would live far enough away from the shoreline that beach erosion would not be a problem. Beaches would be where and what they were naturally meant to be. As a result, we would not need to rely on beach fill and we would not need shoreline structures. It would be widely appreciated that beach ecology is as important as the ecology of the oceans.

Sandy beaches would be recognized as diverse and productive systems, which serve as a critical link between marine and terrestrial environments.

There would be no net loss of surfing areas, and all coastal recreation opportunities would be protected.

Advances in technology would be used to make information readily available to the public, government officials, and scientists alike. Information would be presented in a way that is easily understood. All of us, not just a select few, would be able to participate in the decision-making process regarding our precious coastal resources.

Beach access sites would be inventoried, surf zone water quality monitored, and beach erosion measured. Keeping track of these things would help to ensure that our Mother Ocean's bounty is preserved for future generations.

Where are the Beach Boys when you need them?

The following is from Kauai Garden Island (Hawaii).

Beach access issues draw statewide crowds

Protesters around the state hit the beach and streets Saturday to raise awareness about the loss of beach and shoreline access throughout the state.

“We have more than 20 groups involved, spread across almost all the islands that are protesting some local issue with beach or shoreline access,” said Scott Werny, co-chair of the Surfrider Foundation O‘ahu Chapter and one of the event organizers. “There is a different story at each location, but whether it’s lack of adequate parking, pay parking, gated paths, warning signs, or threatening development, it all boils down to inadequate shoreline access.”

Werny points out that shoreline and beach access is still threatened, even though Hawai‘i law states access is a guaranteed right.

On Kaua‘i, approximately 20 members of the Surfrider Foundation Kaua‘i Chapter were on hand at Princeville Hotel to protest the limited number of public parking spaces available for access to Hideaways Beach.

“The Surfrider’s mission is to protect and respect the beach,” said Diana LaBedz of Waimea. “If everyone did, we would be enjoying the beach, not protesting.”

Princeville Hotel did not offer comment by press time.

“Part of the mission of the Surfrider Foundation is to ensure access to our public beaches,” said Gordon LaBedz, chair of the Kaua‘i chapter. “In Hawai‘i, it is the law. We are simply asking homeowners, hotels and the county to obey and enforce the law.”

In 1995, the Hawai‘i Supreme Court decided that all beaches in Hawai‘i were open to the public and cannot be privately owned. According to Hawai‘i Revised Statutes, “the purpose of this chapter is to guarantee the right of public access to sea, shorelines, and inland recreational areas, and transit along the shorelines, and to provide for the acquisition of land for the purchase and maintenance of public rights-of-way and public transit corridors.”

“We really hope that this event will raise awareness of our current state of beach access in Hawai‘i and hope that our city and state officials can work together and pass legislation to address these issues and solve this problem once and for all,” Werny said. “There are some good bills now pending and we hope they will be given a fair review and made into good law that will force our officials to secure and maintain adequate routes to reach the beach.”

Kaua‘i now has the strongest coastal protection law in the state after the County Council passed a science-based shoreline setback ordinance in December, late last year.

The ordinance mandates a 40-foot minimum setback plus 70 times the annual coastal erosion rate as suggested in the Hawai‘i Coastal Hazard Mitigation Guidebook.