Friday, July 11, 2008


In Atlanta, the St. Mark United Methodist Church is seeking the demolition of 3 historic properties – 768 and 776 Juniper and 125 5th Street. Their plan is to demolish the buildings, cut down several old growth trees, replace the trees with new, smaller trees and create a surface parking lot for their membership.

The idea has stirred up a hornets nest of controversy in the neighborhood.

There are those who say the church has turned a cold ear to neighbors concerns and cares only about itself. They claim the plan is just a continuation of big developers destroying the historic nature of Atlanta for their own greed.

Supporters of the church say they have tried to work with the community, that the structures they want to tear down are not historic just old and run down, and that the church needs to move forward with its plan in order to preserve its own historic self and to carry out missions of social justice and spiritual advancement.

Me, I don't live there, so I don't know. I'm always wary of any big outfit that seems to want to override opposition of neighborhood residents. But on the other hand some of the comments of those "neighbors" and some of their concerns bother me.

The Midtown Neighbors' Association (MNA) which is fighting the plan sent out a request to its members and others urging them to:

" their community in its demand for legislative action that would make the wanton demolition of historic buildings if not illegal at least more difficult than the current process. Atlanta has long been the poster child of demolition and we have lost most of our best architectural works our community is increasingly outraged by continuous threat to our built environment and we need to be orchestrated in both supporting that public interest and pushing that agenda publicly."

The MNA says the Juniper Street corridor is an important "buffer" to the commercial development on Peachtree Street. Juniper Street's character lies in the historic mid-rises that predominate. In particular, argues the group, "...this block's historic value will be lost if these buildings are demolished. To build a parking lot is not only a code violation, but unnecessary."

The church argues it just wants to develop more convenient and safer parking for its members. It says this plan is important for Saint Mark’s long term future and that it will add to the Midtown community.

Neighborhood resident Charles Jordon disagrees. He says, "Demolishing these buildings and trees for a one day a week parking lot is not in the best interest of the neighborhood. There is no economic or aesthetic benefit of having a large parking lot. Historic buildings should only be demolished for sound reasons that enhance the neighborhood."

Many in the area seem to oppose the parking lot because they say it will attract "undesirables" and "transients." I can't help but wonder exactly what that means. Such comments can really be codewords for a not so pleasant agenda. In fact, one of those opposed to the Church plan wrote the following comment at the Journal Constitution, "I do know that the St Marks homeless outreach program attracts and feeds the vagrants who get drunk and roam through my back yard."

It sounds to me like that neighbor doesn't think much of the Outreach Ministry at Saint Mark which the church's website describes "... as varied and diverse as the people who enter our doors each Sunday morning. Saint Mark has a long and vibrant history of social justice and advocacy, often on the cutting edge of social change. We have committed ourselves to reaching out and helping those people who, for whatever reason, find themselves in need."

Anyone who has trouble with that...well, maybe they ought to move somewhere else.

Anyway, a supporter of the plan and a member of the church points out in their own comment in the Journal Constitution, "There is more potential crime in the houses that are sitting there falling apart than in a parking lot that will be used heavily by church members and the community members that come to the church for weekly activities."

The following ditty comes from the Atlanta Journal Constitution.

Midtown church told to save historic buildings

For more than five years, Elston Collins has been a member of the St. Mark United Methodist Church at the corner of Fifth and Peachtree streets.

That is, until now.

Collins resigned from the congregation in protest of the church’s desire to demolish three historic buildings along Juniper Street and to replace them with a surface parking lot.

“It’s really disappointing for me on lots of fronts,” said Collins, who also serves as president of the Midtown Neighbors Association. “Neighbors couldn’t believe my church was doing this.”

Originally, it appeared as though the church was willing to work with the community and historic preservation leaders to explore solutions that would keep the buildings yet provide parking and future development opportunities. In May, St. Mark agreed to defer its demolition permit request for at least 30 days to explore those solutions.

“We pulled in so many resources from the community,” Collins said. “We had experts who presented them alternatives with potential funding streams. What really sent me over the edge was that while we were trying to find solutions, the church decided to go ahead with demolition. I was just appalled that the church could be so two-faced.”

Collins is not alone with his frustration.

At a meeting of the Development Review Committee Thursday evening, not one member of the public spoke in favor of the church’s plans.

The committee then voted unanimously to oppose the demolition permit and against any variances that would permit the church to develop a parking lot. The committee’s vote reaffirmed similar votes taken by the Midtown Neighbors Association and the Neighborhood Planning Unit - E.

St. Mark member Bill Sanders, who spoke on behalf the church, said preservationists “made some excellent suggestions, but it involves land we don’t own and money we don’t have.” Later he described the alternative solutions as “half-baked.”

In addition, Sanders said the church wanted to consolidate its land holdings on its block so it eventually could develop the site into a 20-story building. But he said that could five, 10 or 50 years out.

After committee members voted in a closed door session, Clifford Altekruse summed up the group’s position that the church did not seriously explore alternatives.

“It’s our sense that the church is turning down that opportunity so it can demolish the buildings,” Altekruse said. “That strikes us as wrong because it’s hurtful to the neighborhood and it’s unnecessary because financing was available. The committee is srongly opposed to granting any of the variances.”

Currently the three buildings, built around 1905 as residences, have no historic designation. Committee members acknowledged there might not be a legal standing to prevent their demolition.

But they also read from land-use and zoning regulations that the church’s proposal to build a surface parking lot on that site is not permitted.

NPU-E Chair Penelope Cheroff, who sits on the committee, explained that having driveways and parking lots fronting major streets only take away from Midtown’s growing pedestrian environment. “It flies in the face of all we’re trying to do in Midtown,” she said.

The committee’s recommendation and the demolition requests are now headed to City Hall. If the city denies the permits, the church then could appeal the decision in the courts.

In the meantime, Elston Collins will be looking to join another congregation.


Way down in New Zealand the Whangamata Marina site occupation has entered its twelfth day. Those occupying the site say the project will be an "environmental disaster".

A low-key cross-section of iwi and hapu members, surfers, boaties and other locals from the Whangamata community flew flags and banners as they continued their 15-year opposition to the proposed marina at the site.

The occupation, by Ngati Kupenga Hako and the Surfbreak Protection Society, is an 11th hour protest against the $20 million project.

Protester spokesperson Pauline Clarkin of Te Kupenga o Ngāti Hako said those occupying the site want to raise public awareness of the "inadequacies of the marina proposal".

The discovery of a small native lizard, the moko skink, and unhappiness about what they say are changes to the resource consent, prompted the protest.

Clarkin said the protesters were concerned at what she said was "too much work going on behind the closed doors of both Environment Waikato and Thames Coromandel District Council".

Clarkin explains, “In the last 5 months there have been several changes to the marina proposal. There has been a significant reduction of the rock lining of the marina channel; the removal of a 40metre breakwater from the marina design and consent to remove indigenous vegetation from the coastal marine area something that was never sought or consented to in the original decision.”

Surfbreak has been on site of the proposed Whangamata Marina since Tuesday July 1(construction start day) to support the Hauraki Iwi in their protest.

Surfbreak writes at its website that the main thrust of the Hauraki Iwi negotiations is that since the original decision on the marina much has happened and many changes have been asked for by the Marina Society. These changes are overseen by Department of Conservation, Thames Coromandel District Council and Waikato Regional Council. The Hauraki Iwi want all the changes put in to one big pot and not looked at ad hoc. They are seeking an inquiry that will put all issues together. The list of changes is long, but there are four issues that directly affect Surfbreak Protection:

1. The lease or sale of coastal land by TCDC to the Marina Society. Surfbreak Protection has been in this process since the beginning and it is still unfinished business.

2. The Golf course consent. This consent involves the marina society dumping 27,000 cu m of marine sediment on to the Whangamata golf course, a fresh water floodplain. Surfbreak Protection argues the principle "what comes out of the marine environment stays in the marine environment". Thus the dumping consent should have been publicly notified.

3. The Marina Society have now unlined the walls of the channel (initially they were to be lined with textile and rock). Surfbreak requested drawings of the unlined channel, wanting to know the length, the angle of the batter and the stability of the sandflats in the area and found no such drawings exist. Yet the councils have allowed this to go through without public notification of a variation to consent. The unlining of the channel walls has the potential for a huge increase in maintenance dredging. The continuous removal of marine sediment to land could affect the quality of the Bar. Therefore public notification should take place to allow an assessment of effects.

4. WRC must do a Boat Traffic Management Plan to explain the use of the shared access channel to the Bar and assess maritime safety issues around the skilane and boatramp.

Finally, the group says the consent issuing authorities and the two Crown leasing agents should have given public notice that the proposed Whangamata marina was not going to start on the 1st of July 2008, because consents and leasing arrangements were not in place. Instead they allowed the Marina Society to say that they were beginning works on the 1st of July. Surfbreak Protection knew that consents were not in place and that leases had not been signed. Surfbreak Protection therefore assumed that the Marina Society was going to start work before they got required permission.

Surfbreak says it has found out that the Marina Society have not done a prospectus that would allow them to fund this most controversial of projects. The two councils, Thames Coromandel District Council and Waikato Regional Council have spent over 12 million dollars on this proposed marina. Currently the two councils and the Department of Conservation are spending about $100,000 per week to facilitate such a marina. And yet nobody has checked if they have the funds.

The followoing is from the Waikato Times (New Zealand).

Protesters vow to continue sit-in
As the Whangamata marina sit-in hits its 12th day, protesters are still demanding the Government veto the project.

Anti-Whangamata marina protesters are continuing their sit-in at the proposed site.

Now into its 12th day, the sit-in by Hauraki iwi and the Surfbreak Protection Society has drawn national attention.

Pauline Clarkin, from Te Kupenga o Ngati Hako, told the Waikato Times the group did not plan to abandon their posts until they had an assurance from Conservation Minister Steve Chadwick that the proposed 205-berth marina would not go ahead.

"We are waiting for a response from the minister.

"Until we get that we will stay. Hopefully it will not be for too long."

Whangamata marina supporters have all the necessary permits to start building the long-awaiting marina and have had a number of legal victories through the courts allowing them to proceed.

But Ms Clarkin said marina protesters were opposed to the environmental and cultural effects they say would be caused by the planned dredging of the wetlands and the on-site construction.

Concern for local wildlife, such as the recently discovered moko skink, and the effect on the Whangamata surf break, have also been factors behind the protest.

"We want clarity, we want the Environment Minister Trevor Mallard to use his powers to investigate the process the Marina Society has been through, and we want the Conservation Minister Steve Chadwick to declare her position (on the lease of Doc-owned land which Thames Coromandel District Council has to approve)," Ms Clarkin said.

The Whangamata Marina Society yesterday announced it had pushed the start date for work back from this month until September 1, but a spokesperson said this was not a sign of problems.
"Yes, the start of construction of the marina has been delayed by one month, no, it is not the result of cashflow problems ...

"The reason for the delay is that the wording is checked by lawyers .. to ensure that the investment offer is as robust as it can possibly be."

In a press release, the society said it had all the required consents and delays were simply due to choosing the best way to proceed.

"It has now been agreed between the parties that in order to comply with the resource consent, it will be necessary for the society to complete the onshore development generally in accordance with the consent plan endorsed by the Environment Court.

"This requires an area of approximately 1.3 hectares."

The society is required to meet a number of conditions before construction can start, including a requirement that a cash bond be lodged with TCDC and Waikato Regional Council to remove any of the development works if for any reason the marina development is not completed, and proof it has the funds to complete the project.

The works will be paid for by the sale of the berths.

When the Waikato Times visited the internet site TradeMe, one berth was listed at a price of $260,000 and only two other listings had been posted elsewhere online.

Ms Clarkin said the society was simply "stalling".

"I think the Marina Society hasn't got the cash, so they are just blaming us for holding them up," she said


Dawes County, Nebraska (see map) is the site of a very unreported story about racism against American Indians. In recent days a " red ribbon grand jury" was convened there to investigate the actions of the legal system.

Long time Indian activist Russel Means (pictured here) says the "red ribbon grand jury" was called because of "egregious violations" by police and the courts across Dawes County that he says will result in legal action against the cities of Chadron and Crawford, and possibly others. The “grand jury” is sponsored by the Republic of Lakota. The grand jury compared the disparity of arrests between Native Americans and non-Natives, the severity of charges for the two groups and sentences.

Means and Vernon Moves Camp, who works with the Native American Civil Rights Commission, recorded 3 hours of testimony from 13 individuals, alleged police brutality, lack of investigation, excessive bails and stiffer punishments for Native Americans.

Most of those testifying were Native Americans with complaints about police brutality, discrimination, excessive bail and longer sentences for Indian defendants, and a lack of investigation by law enforcement of crimes against Native Americans.

The grand jury was set up after Moves Camp's daughter, Dominique Ten Fingers, was charged with assault for allegedly hitting another woman with a nail-studded piece of wood. Her family says the charges are racially-motivated, and asked Means for help.

Appearing last month at the arraignment of Dominique Ten Fingers, 22, on assault and disturbing the peace charges in Dawes County, Means commented, “I know that racism and hatred exist in the periphery of the reservation and in the border towns. It’s unreasonable and unconscionable.” He added, “Here is a woman unlawfully charged, illegally held and unconstitutionally treated. So, now we are on the offensive. Chadron is not going to get rid of us.”

The Chadron Record reports the charges against Ten Fingers stem from an incident that occurred May 15-16. The Chadron Police Department received a call to 1010 Maple Street at 11:16 p.m. May 15. Listed as an assault n second degree, the call log reflects that “someone had just thrown something thru her front window and broke it.” The log indicates the call was cleared at 1:14 a.m. May 16.

County attorney Vance Haug insists race played no role in the charges.

However, affidavits from Sharon Iron Horse, Lana Grass and Lakisha Garrett prepared by Moves Camp, claim O’Connor and Kelly Broberg initiated the fight and that any injury caused by Ten Fingers was in self-defense. Moves Camp and other supporters of Ten Fingers want the charges dismissed. They are also calling for criminal complaints against O’Connor, Broberg, Officers Fuchser and Bauer, the Dawes County Sheriff and the State of Nebraska. Documents presented to the Chadron Record by Moves Camp allege illegal entry, willful damage, illegal arrest and incarceration, misuse of office for personal gain, violation of oath of office, defamation and slander.

You can actually view and listen to the opening remarks made by Means (and other testimony and information as well) at the red ribbon grand jury by going to

News about this is hard to come by, but I'll keep searching.

The following is from the Chadron News (Nebraska).

Indian activist finds racism in area legal system
By KERRI REMPP, Record staff writer

A difference of opinion over the issue of racism in Dawes County is pitting Native American activist Russell Means against the local police and judicial system.

Means was in Chadron for the second time within a week June 24 to hear testimony at what he calls a Red Ribbon Grand Jury. He first came to Chadron the week before for the arraignment of Dominique Ten Fingers on assault charges. Ten Fingers’ family believes the charges were brought against her for racial reasons and contacted Means for help. He responded by setting up the grand jury to allow individuals to testify about mistreatment at the hands of the police and judicial system. Individuals were also welcome to testify in support of law enforcement.

Means and Vernon Moves Camp, who works with the Native American Civil Rights Commission and is Ten Fingers’ step-father, recorded testimony for over three hours last week and plan to return July 10 at 10 a.m. for another session. Thirteen individuals told their stories to Means and Moves Camp.

“Essentially everyone testified to police brutality, lack of investigation, excessive bail, excessive sentencing on Indians,” Means said, adding that one couple prefers to shop in Rapid City, S.D., out of fear of what will happen to them in Chadron. Gas prices have forced them to return to Chadron to do business, however, and they are so scared they have their son meet them half-way.

Two non-Natives also testified to unfair treatment. William Stolldorf of Crawford, a disabled military veteran, claims to have been harassed by the city’s police officers in an effort to “run him out of town.” He says he’s been the victim of illegal search and seizure, “physically roughed up and physically taken into custody without being read my rights.”

“I live in fear, but I refuse to be run out of town and the home I grew up in,” Stolldorf said.

Denis Lyons, also of Crawford, also claimed harassment by local police and said a Native American family he knows were discriminated against in terms of housing in Crawford and eventually left town.

“We live in fear in Crawford,” Lyons said.

Means said in light of the testimony at the grand jury, he plans to widen the scope of his investigation. While it was originally meant to focus on Chadron alone, Means said he now wants to call attention to the “egregious violations” by police and court system of constitutional rights throughout Dawes County.

“Based on the evidence we’ve gotten already, we are going to be suing Dawes County, Chadron and Crawford and maybe others for the gross violation of our civil and human rights, for gross discrimination, gross hatred,” Means said.

Local law enforcement and county officials vehemently deny that racism plays a role in arrests, charges and sentencing in Dawes County.

“From my experience working with the local law enforcement race is never a motive. The officers work hard to do a good job and be fair to all regardless of race,” said county attorney Vance Haug, who did not wish to comment further since Means’ investigation began with Ten Fingers’ ongoing case.

“Race is not a factor in the charging of that case. To comment further would be unfair to the defendant,” he said.

Dawes County Sheriff Karl Dailey insists his agency follows the law as closely as possible and works to give fair treatment to all, both on the street and in the jail.

“I can’t speak for other agencies, but at my agency we’re an equal opportunity arresting agency. We don’t care rich, poor, white or not. If a person needs arrested we arrest them. If a person doesn’t need arrested and a situation can be resolved without it, we don’t arrest them,” Dailey said.

Native American representatives have come through the jail in the past and never found anything to substantiate claims of racism, he added, saying Means is welcome to inspect the facility himself.

“My facility is open to whatever scrutiny anyone wants to give it

Chadron Police Chief Tim Lordino and Lieutenant Rick Hickstein attended most of Means’ grand jury.

“It concerns me that we have part of the population of Chadron that is upset with the law enforcement,” Lordino said, explaining he attended the meeting in order to hear the concerns and address them.

“If I didn’t care about them, I wouldn’t have showed up,” he said.

“As law enforcement administrator, I will not be tolerable of traffic stops that are based on race, arrests based on race. We need to be fair and impartial in the administration of our job in law enforcement. That’s the only way it should be.”

The Chadron Police Department has not received any complaints that individuals have been harassed based on race, Lordino said. Should there be a complaint, the department has policies in place to handle those, including an internal investigation or turning the investigation over to another agency to insure the complaint is investigated fairly and impartially. Lordino stressed he is willing to listen to anyone who comes to his office with a complaint about the department.

“We will continue to look into any complaint we have fairly and impartially,” Lordino said. “Nobody should be fearful of reprisals from law enforcement.”

Despite those assurances, Means firmly believes racism against Native Americans is deep-rooted.

“Most citizens of Dawes County absolutely don’t realize what their county and city governments have been doing to Indian people,” he said. He plans to edit the video taken at the grand jury and post it on YouTube and the Republic of Lakotah Web site.

Moves Camp said all of the information gathered at the grand jury last week and the upcoming one July 13 also will be forwarded to authorities responsible for human and civil rights. He encouraged anyone else who wants to come forward at the second grand jury to write down their stories and sign their statements.

“You guys are going to verify that (racism) not only exists but is prevalent,” Moves Camp said.

There will be no demonstrations or endangerment of individuals or public property in the process of investigating these claims.

“Together we’ll win and we’re going to do it legally and lawfully,” Means said. “We want the government of the state to pay attention to the injustice,” he added, calling for sentences in cases allegedly based on race to be commuted.

Dawes County is just the beginning, Means said.

“I want people to understand that this investigation is not going to be limited to just Chadron or Nebraska. We’ve already had complaints from the reservation about tribal government and will be looking into that.”

Wednesday, July 09, 2008


In the last seven years, Mercy Jaiswal has been physically assaulted three times. She was beaten with pots filled with hot coffee. She was kicked so powerfully that her leg was covered with a massive bruise that would linger for months. Most recently, she was thrown "like a rag doll," sustaining a fractured arm that required surgery and six months of recovery time. Mercy Jaiswal is a registered nurse. All of her injuries, says New York State Nurses Association, occurred when she was at work in a Long Island healthcare facility, delivering professional nursing care to the patients that she "loves so dearly."

What are nurses looking for when they head to work each day? A chance to care for fellow human beings in their time of need, to exercise state-of-the-art skills, to bring meaning to their own lives and to earn a paycheck.

What are nurses not looking for? To be elbowed, slapped, punched, kicked, verbally abused, even shot or raped.

There's no question that nurses face big risks: according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, nurses and other personal care workers suffer 25 injuries annually resulting in days off from work for every 10,000 full-time workers. That's 12 times the rate of the overall private sector.

Fifty percent of nurses surveyed by the Massachusetts Nurses Association (MNA) and the University of Massachusetts said they had been punched at least once in a two-year period. Some reported being strangled, sexually assaulted or stuck with contaminated needles.

Nurses understand that they have a tough job, but getting attacked and abused is not what former Boston area emergency room nurse Ellen MacInnis says she signed up for.

"It was very frightening," the 18-year veteran told CNN. An angry and frustrated patient had grabbed MacInnis' hand, dug her nails in and made a chilling threat. "If you have children, I'll find them and I'll kill them."

Nurses are often on the receiving end of physical assaults, because they are typically the first and most frequent medical personnel by the bedside of ill and sometimes angry or frustrated patients.

A recent study by the Emergency Nurses Association (ENA) showed that 86 percent of all ER nurses who responded to the survey had some form of violence committed against them while on duty over the past three years.

"Those are astronomical numbers," said ENA president Donna Mason, who is in Salt Lake City this week for the group's annual conference.

Mason told the Deseret Times last fall, "The public needs to know this is not OK. You would never kick a cop or a firefighter for putting out a fire. Nursing is a very trusted profession. We want to take care of people."

Those who are committing violence in emergency rooms are not typically gang members who are brought to the hospital after a violent confrontation with a rival gang and are looking for payback, Mason said. Rather, it's citizens who are sometimes intoxicated, and many times upset with having to sit for hours in the waiting room.

Violence is most frequent in psychiatric wards, emergency rooms, waiting rooms and geriatric units, according to a National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health report. However, no nurses are immune from workplace violence.

“Factors contributing to workplace violence include stress, poor staffing levels, long working hours, improper training of personnel, and power and control issues,” writes author John Murray, Colonel, USAF, NC, RN, PhD, CPNP, CS, FAAN, who is Director of Education, Training & Research for Joint Task Force National Capital Region Medical in Bethesda, MD and President of the Federal Nurses Association. Murray encourages workplaces to create a healthy work environment by adopting principles from organizations such as the American Organization of Nurse Executives and the Nursing Organizations Alliance.

“We must send a clear message that intimidation and abuse will not be tolerated in the workplace,” says Pamela Cipriano, PhD, RN, FAAN, CNAA-BC, Editor-in-Chief of American Nurse Today. “And, we have to provide nurses with the skills they need to respond appropriately.”

The American Hospital Association says executives are very aware of the problem and are taking steps to address it, including expanding security staffing, increasing the use of surveillance cameras and providing training on how to deal with violent situations. However, nurses say that while some hospitals are supportive, far too many discourage nurses from discussing these assaults and do little to prevent them.

And in fact 80% of actual incidents go unreported.

"Nurses need to know that violence against them will be fully prosecuted," said Tina Gerardi, RN, chief executive officer for the Nurses Association. "And their potential attackers need to know the same thing."

"Each year thousands of nurses are attacked in the workplace," said Assemblyman David Koon (D-Perinton), sponsor of a New York State bill which would make assaulting a nurse a Class C felony. "Violence should not be 'just part of the job' for nurses. It is important for the state to establish that violent or abusive acts against nurses will have severe consequences, as they do for attacks on police, firefighters, and emergency service personnel."

New York State Assemblyman Marc Molinaro while discussing the above proposal said, “As a volunteer fireman and the husband of a nurse, I understand the importance of protecting those who protect us. With the growing crisis over nurse shortages, it is all the more important we send a message that assaulting our nursing professionals will not be tolerated and that we support the tireless work that nurses dedicate themselves to.”

The following is from the New York Times (you don't see that very often).

Nurses Step Up Efforts to Protect Against Attacks

Karen Coughlin, a psychiatric nurse in Taunton, Mass., remembers the evening four years ago when her 14-year-old son asked her if any patients had tried to kill her that day.

“I was astounded, but he was serious because he’d heard about co-workers going to the hospital for injuries,” Ms. Coughlin said. “I’ve been hit, I’ve been kicked and spit on. I’ve had a knife pulled on me. I love what I do and many of the patients I work with, but I don’t love the conditions I work in.”

Three years ago, an enraged patient — 6 feet 4 inches and 275 pounds — smacked another patient, bit a health aide, threatened to kill Ms. Coughlin and lunged forward to strike her. He was restrained before he reached her.

“I really thought that my life was in danger,” she said. “It was probably the most terrified I’ve been in my 24 years of nursing.”

In recent years, nurses like Ms. Coughlin have sounded the alarm about workplace violence, most of it committed by patients. According to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics, half of all nonfatal injuries resulting from workplace assaults occur in health care and social service settings.

Nurses and other personal care workers bear the brunt of such attacks, with 25 injuries annually resulting in days off from work for every 10,000 full-time workers — 12 times the rate of the overall private sector, according to the bureau. The most dangerous settings are psychiatric units and nursing homes, where patients are often confused, disoriented or suffering from mental ailments, as well as emergency rooms, where long waits for care can anger patients, and the people with them.

The level of violence may well be higher, since the government figures include only the most serious incidents. A booklet published by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration in 2004 noted that violence in health facilities was “likely to be underreported, perhaps due in part to the persistent perception within the health care industry that assaults are part of the job.”

Nurses say the persistent nationwide nursing shortage is making matters worse, because understaffing increases the risk of violent incidents. And nurses cite the fear of assault as a reason for low morale, especially if they feel that management does not share their concern.

“Many nurses who are the victims of violence will actually leave their position rather than fight the system,” said Evelyn Bain, coordinator of the health and safety division of the Massachusetts Nurses Association, a union that represents more than 20,000 nurses.

It is hard to tell whether the problem has grown more serious in recent years or is simply receiving more attention, because researchers differ in their study methods and their definitions of violence. But, either way, advocates for nurses have stepped up efforts to fight it. They are demanding that employers provide greater protections and security for staff members, lobbying state legislatures to increase penalties for assaults on health care workers and urging nurses to report all incidents rather than shrug them off.

“It’s much more on the radar screen than it ever was, absolutely,” said Diana Mason, editor in chief of The American Journal of Nursing. “Nurses are just starting to get to the place where they’re saying, ‘I don’t have to put up with this.’ ” She added that the problem was international in scope.

One of the largest studies on the issue was a 2004 survey of 6,300 randomly selected nurses in Minnesota, in which 13 percent of respondents reported having been physically attacked during the previous year and 39 percent reported having been threatened, verbally abused or sexually harassed. Patients committed almost all of the physical assaults and two-thirds of the verbal ones, with visitors as well as physicians and other staff members responsible for the rest. The study appeared in the journal Occupational and Environmental Medicine.

Its lead author, Susan G. Gerberich, a professor of public health at the University of Minnesota, said nurses frequently felt pressure not to report violence incidents. “Nurses find different kinds of responses from their administrations and different levels of support,” she said. “Everything from ‘This is not tolerated at our institution’ all the way to ‘If you don’t like it, people, you can leave your job.’ ”

In a 2006 survey by the Emergency Nurses Association, a national group, 86 percent of respondents said they had experienced violence in the previous three years, and a fifth said they encountered it frequently.

Emergency room nurses say they also face the potential for violence from patients’ family members. “If you have families come in and their loved one has been in a traumatic accident, and their anxiety levels are so high, it can overwhelm their coping skills,” said Nancy Hughes, the director for occupational and environmental health at the American Nurses Association, another professional organization.

Ms. Hughes recalled an emergency room incident in which she escorted a woman who was high on drugs to the bathroom. Although the two women had a security escort, the patient managed to punch her so hard in the chest that she needed surgery.

“It was quite a traumatic event, but I didn’t get much support where I worked,” she said. “The doctor I was working with said don’t be a wimp, sort of take your lumps and don’t worry about it.”

Richard Wade, a spokesman for the American Hospital Association, said health care facilities should not necessarily be blamed for patient violence. “These things don’t happen because of breaches of security,” he said, “but because something happens that you can’t predict, and nurses are on the front lines.”

But Mr. Wade added that hospitals were very much aware of the issue and were addressing safety concerns in a variety of ways, among them increasing camera surveillance, expanding the security staff and training employees to deal with potentially violent situations.

“You want to have good security, but you don’t want it to feel like going through an airport screening or like a place in lockdown,” he said. “Hospitals are by their very nature supposed to be open, caring places where patients and families feel safe and don’t feel imprisoned.”

Tammy Peterman, the chief operating officer at University of Kansas Hospital in Kansas City, said it had stepped up its security efforts in recent years. It now keeps certain units locked at all times, funnels late-night visitors through a single entrance with a metal detector and mandates violence prevention training for all staff members.

The state Highway Patrol maintains a round-the-clock post at the hospital, and officers make rounds to enhance their visibility and reduce the risk of violence, Ms. Peterman said, adding, “When you’re driving down the interstate and you see the police, you don’t speed.”

Nursing organizations and unions have been the most active in drawing public attention to the issue. The Massachusetts Nurses Association, for example, has conducted member surveys on violence and lobbied for legislation to increase penalties against perpetrators and require employers to improve worker protections. (Ms. Coughlin, the Boston-area nurse, testified before the State Legislature on violence against nurses.)

The organization has dubbed Brockton Hospital, in the suburbs south of Boston, the “poster child” for workplace violence. Last year, in response to complaints, OSHA investigated the hospital and found, according to its report, that “the types of physical assaults include, but are not limited to, punching, kicking, biting, scratching and pulling hair.”

The agency recommended that the hospital analyze the workplace hazards, solicit extensive comments from employees, and develop a comprehensive violence-protection plan. The nurses’ association says the hospital has done little to carry out the recommendations, which are voluntary.

Rob Brogna, a spokesman for Signature Healthcare, which owns the hospital, said that even before the investigation, the company had an “ongoing initiative” for workplace safety. “Many of the suggestions raised by OSHA had already been put in place at the hospital before they even came out,” he said, declining to comment further about the union’s complaints.

Other states are also looking at legislative fixes. Last year New Jersey and Oregon passed legislation that requires health care facilities to assess the dangers of workplace assault and develop programs to address it. Liz Jacobs, a spokeswoman for the California Nurses Association, said improved nurse-to-patient ratios mandated by the State Legislature had helped reduce violence.

“Staffing levels really affect what happens in terms of safety on the unit,” said Barbara Williams, a psychiatric and emergency room nurse who retired last year from Dominican Hospital in Santa Cruz, Calif. “If people’s needs don’t get met in a timely manner, that level of frustration builds. When people become angry, the nurses become the focus of the anger when they really had nothing to do with it.”


Anti-Gypsyism continues to be the most widespread, accepted and unpunished form of racism in Europe. The current Italy crisis – in which parties with explicitly racist agenda have taken control of the government and begun implementing their explicitly racist agenda, while at the same time fomenting the public to vigilante acts of violence – has no precedent in post-Holocaust Europe.

Now the government Black Shirts plan to follow Hitler's path with a program to fingerprint every Roma in the country (pictured here are police marching through a gypsy camp moments before they forced residents out).

Isabella Clough Marinaro writes in the Guardian:

"Seventy years ago this month Italy's Fascist regime published a "Manifesto of Race", which paved the way for its notorious racial laws persecuting Jews and members of other supposedly "inferior" minorities."

Now the country's rightwing government has stepped up special measures against another entire ethnic grouping — the Roma — provoking warnings by a Catholic publication that Italy was forgetting the lessons of the past."

In what is described as a census, Italy's Roma would be photographed and fingerprinted in preparation...for what. A member of the Northern League party in Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's fascist government, Roberto Maroni the Interior Minister, says the whole thing is being done "to prevent phenomena such as begging."

“Perhaps the Left dreams of an Italy populated by lots of Oliver Twists exploited by the Fagin of the day,” Osvaldo Napoli, a right wing deputy, said. “But we are not in the Victorian England of Dickens, and children cannot wander abandoned through the streets of our cities.”

Of course, it is Roma settlements which have been criminally attacked and fire-bombed by gangs of thugs, while the Corte di Cassazione (Supreme Court) has assented to anti-Roma racism on the basis that it is justified because — it says — Roma are ‘all thieves’.

It is only two generations ago that such a coldly administrative measure as this fingerprinting plan was the prelude to mass deportations, imprisonment, torture and death.

Gypsies were among the first victims of the Nazis.

Writes Isabella Clough Marinaro again:

"The popular Catholic magazine Famiglia Cristiana denounced the move as "an indecent and racist proposal" reminiscent of "when Jewish children were identified with a yellow star on their sleeves". It declared that "Italy still hasn't come to terms with its tragic responsibilities and has not shown enough shame" about its racist past. This is particularly true of the present government "if a minister injects the concept of race into the country's laws"."

Famiglia Cristiana wrote the plan was evidence of a "creeping racism" and, in fact, meant that the children were being "enrolled in a list of 'probable future criminals.'"

The magazine expressed concern over the fact that several government ministers who ran as faithful Catholics have not opposed Maroni publicly, but said it was not surprised that Alessandra Mussolini, the head of the Italian Parliament's commission for children and granddaughter of the former Italian dictator Benito Mussolini, did not because "ethnic and religious indexing are part of her family's DNA."

Oh yeah, get this, the Red Cross has signed up to help...the government stigmatize the Roma.

For all of the attention this has received in the Italian bourgeois press — a few column inches here and there — it appears that the selection of Roma for ’special measures’ is nothing out of the ordinary and of little import.

“Our children do not steal,” says Vanda Colombo in the searing heat of a Gypsy camp on the outskirts of Verona. “The older ones go out to do honest work. We are Italian Gypsies, not foreigners. We are scapegoats.”

She adds, "This is like the Shoah, the Holocaust. The Nazis exterminated Gypsies as well as Jews, and this kind of discrimination is how it started. If they come here and try to fingerprint our children we will stop them.”

High profile figures from the Italian Jewish community such as Riccardo Di Segni, chief Rabbi of Rome and Amos Luzzatto from Italy's Union of Jewish Communities have registered their protest against the policies. As Di Segni puts it "We have to be on the alert, not only because of what is happening but because of what could happen. First one group is singled out, then another. This must be stopped."

And of course Di Segni is right.

And in fact already it isn't only gypsies who the new fascists are out to get. The government says it will shut down a controversial mosque in Milan. Roberto Maroni, said that he would close the Jenner Mosque by August, citing complaints over noise. It attracts more than 4,000 worshippers each week, with Friday prayers often spilling out on to the street.

The Roman Catholic Church in Milan has come out in support of the Muslim community. Monsignor Bottoni, the priest in charge of inter-faith relations, said only a Fascist government would resort to such tactics.

Roberto Marino says he could care less what the Monsignor thinks.

On Monday, hundreds took to the streets of Rome of the government fingerprinting scheme.

The demonstration was organized by the ARCI cultural association, which encouraged participants to give their own fingerprints in a petition of protest called the "imprint of racism."

The following is from EU Business.

Euro-MPs protest to Italy over Roma fingerprint row

(STRASBOURG) - More than 100 members of the European Parliament, including party group leaders, on Wednesday added their fingerprints to a petition protesting Italy's policy on gypsies.

"We urge the Italian government and authorities to refrain from proceeding to the collection of fingerprints of Roma, including minors, as this would clearly constitute an act of discrimination based on race and ethnic origin," said the petition, which was signed by 120 deputies.

Giusto Catania, an Italian communist MEP who organised the protest, said: "This is a strong political act that aims to demand an immediate end to this action. We are going to send it to the Italian government right away."

Italian Interior Minister Roberto Maroni, a member of the right-wing Northern League party, which is part of Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's centre-right coalition, said recently that Roma would be fingerprinted.

The operation would be carried out with police and with the cooperation of the Red Cross, he added.

In a draft resolution, set to be endorsed Thursday, the MEPs urged Italy not to collect fingerprints from Roma gypsies, until the European Commission could investigate the situation.

It was unacceptable they said, "to violate their fundamental rights and to criminalise them," even given their stated aim of protecting children.

Maroni has said that children would be fingerprinted "to prevent phenomena such as begging."

EU Justice Commissioner Jacques Barrot said on Monday there were risks with such a policy and called for a report from Maroni on Italy's plans by the end of the month.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008


I can't figure out all these folks who are up in arms because they think Barack Obama is shifting to the right. Jeez, despite what so many of you wanted to believe, the guy was never, ever on the left. It didn't take much to figure that out. The strange thing is the only people who really thought he was an actual progressive, left winger were people on the right, and some people on the left. The mainstream media was just excited he was a "liberal."

Lord knows, the Oread Daily has been documenting the living, breathing Barack for a long time now. I'm not some brilliant guy who had to dig and dig to find the real Obama. All anyone had to do is listen to him and look at his votes and, hey, as they say, "the truth is out there."

Even Obama's so called switch on Iraq is no switch. He said the same things months ago that he said last week. The only difference is that back when he liked to surround those comments with others that made him seem like he was pulling the troops out, no ifs ands or buts. But he also talked about sixteen months, and he talked about facts on the ground, and he talked about the commanders, etc.

And even the Senator's comments which appeared over the weekend from an interview with Relevant magazine, ("Covering God, Life, and Progressive Culture") Obama said,

"I have repeatedly said that I think it’s entirely appropriate for states to restrict or even prohibit late-term abortions as long as there is a strict, well-defined exception for the health of the mother. Now, I don’t think that 'mental distress' qualifies as the health of the mother. I think it has to be a serious physical issue that arises in pregnancy, where there are real, significant problems to the mother carrying that child to term. Otherwise, as long as there is such a medical exception in place, I think we can prohibit late-term abortions."

Even this shouldn't come as a surprise to those who saw his flyer "Committed Christian" which his campaign distributed in South Carolina, Kyntucky and elsewhere.

The truth is too many left leaning good people and young people wanted to believe, were desperate to believe he was special, that he wasn't just another politician.

Now, some of those who swallowed the Obamamania pill are claiming they knew all along what he was (see Tom Hayden in the Nation, for a prime example), or that they'd been deceived, or that he really doesn't mean what he is saying now...or, or, or....

I actually feel badly for the young followers who enthusiastically latched onto the Senator from Illinois (including who still do). They so badly want something different from what they've seen before...and, I hate to sound like just another old guy, they don't have the experience of having seen the act before.

To those others, those a little older, those with more experience on the left, those who claim (and some correctly) to have been a part of THE MOVEMENT, I can only ask, "What the hell is the matter with you?"

Sen. Barack Obama himself, appears so taken with himself that I think he believes his own hype, that he believes, as he looks skyward in his speeches, that he is answering some calling from on high.

And to tell you the truth, that kind of thinking, whether it comes from George Bush or Barack Obama, downright scares me.

And still, despite it all, things are so bad that I'll spend the five minutes it takes to go out and vote for Obama. I won't expect much, but I'll expect better than McCain or Bush.

Many of you anarchists out there will upbraid me for even voting. Hard to argue with you about that (and I've made the argument myself over the years). However, as I said above, voting requires little energy, little time, and doesn't really take me away from working on the real tasks at what the heck, surely Barack will do better on global warming then the republicans...or something...and better is, at least, better.

What follows are just some comments from the Oread Daily made during the primaries trying to make the point in the face of all that "Obama madness" that the guy was only a Democrat...nothing more, nothing less.

Some samples from the Oread Daily during the primary campaign:


"One of Sanchéz Berzain's US lawyers is Gregory B. Craig. Craig is a senior foreign policy advisor to presumptive Democratic nominee Sen. Barack Obama."


"The speech (on Cuba and Latin America" should be a big disappointment to his progressive supporters, if you ask me."

While Obama said he would meet with Raul Castro he added a precondition (what happened to "no preconditions") which pretty much means no such meeting would take place. He said members of the exile community would have to have "a seat at the table.""

He also promised to keep the embargo in place (something he opposed last year)."

Obama failed to mention acts of terrorism perpetrated with absolute impunity against the people of Cuba financed by those who sponsored the speech (carried out by convicted terrorist Posada Carriles)."

Some will say we should remember who he was talking to (wink wink). But that is part of the problem with Obama and part of what makes him just another politician. Like everybody else the guy is out looking for votes from, as the blog Open Anthropology puts it, "...almost every sector imaginable, including the upper crust of Miami’s Cuban elites in this case." It's part of his call me the great "UNIFIER" mantra. Someone needs to tell him you can't make real change and at the same time look for love from everyone."

From the article ""WE ARE ALL SEAN BELL"

"It would be nice to see Barack Obama out there with the protesters, but that's not gonna happen, is it?"

From the article "I CONFESS, I'VE STAYED AT BILL AND BERNARDINE'S APARTMENT", discussing the debate where his relationship with Bill Ayers came up

"Finally, there is the heroic Obama "yeah, well, so's your old man" retort."

"I was pissed that Obama displayed a total lack of courage or character and just tried to "out McCarthy" them by his crack about the pardons of Susan Rosenberg (served over 16 years in prison) and Linda Evans (served over 15 years in prison)."


"President Bush thinks guest worker programs are swell. His plan would actually loosen regulation of the program."

Hillary Clinton opposes a guest worker program and Barack Obama supports one (as does John McCain). I'm sure Obama's idea of a guest worker program are different from McCain's or that of President Bush."

But whatever, the case may be, any guest worker program had better include clear guidelines for the treatment of those who get to be our guests. What is happening today along the gulf coast is not something unusual."


"The response made by Barack Obama to the cross border killing and incursion ought to disappoint his "progressive" supporters. A statement released by the Obama campaign pretty much parroted that of the Bush Administration (and his opponent Hillary Clinton). The statement read:

"The Colombian people have suffered for more than four decades at the hands of a brutal terrorist insurgency, and the Colombian government has every right to defend itself against the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).

The recent targeted killing of a senior FARC leader must not be used as a pretense to ratchet up tensions or to threaten the stability of the region."

The presidents of Colombia, Ecuador and Venezuela have a responsibility to ensure that events not spiral out of control, and to peacefully address any disputes through active diplomacy with the help of international actors."


"Let's face it comrades, Sen Obama is a mainstream Democrat who supports nuclear power as a good option, who is ready to send the troops back into Iraq, who proclaims his readiness to unilateral action if he finds it necessary, who is not interested in a mortgage moratorium or any other real answers for people in the process of losing their homes, who makes very clear that although he happens to be Black he is not a Black candidate (god forbid) and which maybe is why he couldn't find time to attend the State of the Black Union forum in New Orleans this month , who although proud of his talk against the Iraq War never votes to cut off funds (which even his party finally found the courage to do during the Vietnam War), who calls himself a "movement," who runs an Oprah like campaign, whose wife warned us many long months ago that this would be our only chance to elect her husband President because they had other things to do then run for office (like make sure the kids get to ballet), who surrounds himself with a slightly different batch of Bill Clinton's advisers then does Hillary Clinton, who listens to the voice of Zbigniew Brzezinski, who endorsed George I (and who brilliantly, you may remember, armed the mujaheddin in Afghanistan to fight against its communist government and who led the U.S. toward a new arms buildup - a policy that is more generally associated with Ronald Reagan now), who just like Hillary Clinton voted for an extension of the corporate-neoliberal North American Free Trade Agreement to Peru, and who despite what he keeps saying does not offer a plan for universal health care."

"I'll just bet you didn't know during the primary campaign in South Carolina, as pointed out by Glenn Greenwald at Salon, the good Sen. Obama distributed a brochure which seem to include religious appeals at least as overt and explicit as anything Rev. Huckabee has done. The center page of the brochure proclaims -- in the largest letters on the page -- that Obama is a "COMMITTED CHRISTIAN," and includes three pictures of Obama, all of which show him praying or preaching in a Church, and also includes a fourth picture: of the interior of a Church with a large cross lurking in the background. The page also says that Obama is "guided by his Christian faith" and quotes Obama saying: "We do what we do because God is with us.""

That same page prints Obama's views "on the power of prayer," and -- using the same language George Bush has frequently used as a signifier to evangelical voters -- says that Obama is "Called to Christ," "Called to Bring Change" and "Called to Serve.""

Similarly,Greenwald reports, the front page of the brochure shows Obama in a chin-on-hand contemplative posture and underneath, it reads: "Answering the Call." The last page shows two more pictures of Obama in Church, proclaims him again in large letters to be a "COMMITTED CHRISTIAN," and describes how he "felt a beckoning and accepted Jesus Christ into [his] life.""

Now, I know, as a Jew, maybe I'm overly sensitive to this sort of thing, but as a left winger from way back I think we all should be."

I've got to say this, okay, so don't yell at me. What really irks me about Sen. Obama is that he seems to think we, you and me, are all so lucky to have the opportunity to hear him, to see him, to support him (maybe because he is "called"). And it bothers me that he gets so prickly about any criticism of him (for which he always has an answer anyway). I mean, do you remember what he said if he could think of some major fault of his. He started talking about a messy desk."

But, my friends (as John McCain always says - I feel like calling McCain to let him know I'm not his friend), I'm not here trying to tell you that Sen. Obama is worse than anyone else currently trying to move into the White House, just that he isn't one of us...and he isn't better than us either."

Or this on guns (and, as readers of the OD already know, I believe in a right to bear arms...but with some conditions) in the article "THE LAWSON FILE: DUCK HUNTING CLINTON BATTLES GUN RIGHTS DEFENDER OBAMA"

"Not to be outdone by all this gun talk by some woman, Barack Obama said in Wisconsin, "There is an individual right to bear arms. "But it's subject to common sense regulation, just like most of our rights are subject to common sense regulations."

"Earlier Barack offered his sympathies for those shot at Northern Illinois University, but specified no new ideas to enforce gun control in his home state of Illinois. "I've said before, and continue to believe, that we need to do a more effective job of enforcing our gun laws," he said, speaking in Milwaukee, Wis., on Friday."

Obama's Web site has a link for "sportsman" with a section for "protecting gun rights."

The senator, a former constitutional law instructor, said some scholars argue the Second Amendment to the Constitution guarantees gun ownerships only to militias, but he believes it grants individual gun rights."

While campaigning in Idaho, Barack told crowds, ""I come from a state - we've got a lot of hunters in downstate Illinois. And I have no intention of taking away folks' guns.''"


"So when many of my friends, people who I respect, tell me that the big reason they now are Obama supporters is they love the way he brings out all that love and enthusiasm from today's young people or from people who never vote, a couple of things bother me."

"Back in those 60s which lots of folks like to say Barack somehow brings back memories, the young people like me weren't all agaga about political candidates. We didn't think then a movement based on Gene McCarthy or Robert Kennedy was THE MOVEMENT. No, our movement was in the streets, it was us. We were turned on by the Black Liberation Movement, by the likes of the Black Panther Party, by Malcolm X, by Marin Luther King, by those who put it all on the line marching across the South, not by a black politician. There is a difference folks. We saw LIBERALS as co-opting us. They weren't our heroes."

There were certainly those folks, others from my generation, who were "Clean for Gene" and who were all out for McGovern, but they weren't us. They were the good kids. They were never who we were."

Anyway, I have this deep seated fear that if Obama is the guy and if he goes down what happens to those people, the good kids? Do they go on to be like the good kids of the McCarthy and McGovern campaign and go into business or into the democratic party?"

And then I wonder, too, what if Obama wins and what if I happen to be right for once and he turns out to be not all that different that all those democrats before him...what happens to all those people who wanted that "real change.""

And above I've been mostly talking about white folks."

What about African Americans? It's not for me, a white guy, to speculate. I'll just say Obama quotes Martin Luther King, but he ain't Martin Luther King. There is a difference between an Alabama primary and an Alabama jail."

And then I wonder if anyone will notice when REAL CHANGE doesn’t happen? We're pretty much trained these days to only notice the drama on TV. It'll be eight years before we notice that we don't have universal healthcare."


"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)."


"Well, I can tell you this, unfortunately Barack Obama, though he has called for a “worldwide ban on weapons to interfere with satellites and a ban on testing anti-satellite weapons,” does not endorse a ban on nuclear weapons in space as called for by virtually the entire international community. And, though critical of the enormous wastes incurred from Bush’s missile defense program, he has announced his support for the continued development of missile defense capabilities."

No reason to go on. You get the point.

Monday, July 07, 2008


The following announcement is from the Justice for Jason Committee. An earlier Oread Daily article about what is happening to Jason Vassell can be found at

Save the date & ask for time off work…

Pre-Trial Hearing for Jason Vassell

Thurs. 7/24/08, 2pm
Hampshire Superior Court (15 Gothic Street,
Northampton MA)
For info about carpools from the Boston area, contact

This will be an important pre trial hearing for Jason Vassell (pictured here), and it will provide an opportunity for opposing counsel to come up with a roadmap for how Jason’s case will be tried. Jason’s lawyers will be asking the Commonwealth to provide certain evidence and will agree to turn over other evidence that may come into our possession. At the present time, it is unclear who will be prosecuting Jason’s case as the Assistant District Attorney who was assigned to it has left or is about to leave the District Attorney’s office. The physical presence of friends, family members, and other supporters would be greatly appreciated!!

Background: On Sunday, February 3, 2008, two white men—not university students—appeared at the window of the dormitory room of Jason Vassell, a twenty-three year old African American student at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. The two men subjected Vassell to racial invective and threats of violence. They kicked in Vassell’s window and later gained access to an outer vestibule of the dorm, where they attacked Vassell, breaking his nose and causing a serious concussion. The injured Vassell, defending himself with a small pocketknife, wounded his assailants.

At present, caught up in a protracted and costly legal process, Jason Vassell—an otherwise decent, gentle, young black man and law-abiding citizen described by his professors as a serious, respectful, and diligent student—finds himself in a Kafkesque nightmare. Removed from school he faces two charges that could, if the prosecution succeeds, subject him to 30 years in state prison.

If you haven’t yet done so, please sign the petition calling for the charges again Jason to be reconsidered: .

To contribute to Jason’s defense, you may write a check to Esmie James, Mr. Vassell’s mother.

Mail checks to “Justice for Jason,” PO Box 197, Amherst MA 01004


The International Campaign for Justice in Bhopal reports that after 22 days of their hunger strike, nine Bhopalis, including 7 who are survivors of the 1984 gas disaster and/or victims of water contamination, ended their fast at 2 p.m. on 2 July.

Ten others promptly took up the baton announcing their indefinite fast to break the Government’s silence on the Bhopal demands. The 10 people include 21-year old Suresh Pal, who was beaten and jailed for his peaceful demonstration outside the Prime Minister’s Office, Hakam Singh, an ailing gas victim, and Piyush Sethia, a supporter of the Bhopal campaign from Salem, Tamilnadu.

The Bhopal nine broke their fast under medical advice after a doctor declared at least three people – Irshaad Khan, Meera More and Iqbal Khan Khokhar – to be in danger due to their abnormally low pulse rates and blood pressure. All three are gas-affected people; 20-year old Irshaad was born to gas-affected parents.

Since March 29, protesters, some on hunger strike, some not, have been in Dehli demanding government assistance for the victims of the 1984 Bhopal industrial disaster that killed thousands.

The activist began a sit-in on March 29, the day after they arrived in the capital of Dehli. In the months since then, protesters have held several programs, including demonstrations in front of Singh's residence on May 5 and 22.

The protesters complained of being beaten by police after one of the demonstration outside the prime minister's office in the Indian capital.

Despite police pressure and government recrimination they say they aren't going anywhere until Prime Minister Manmohan Singh agrees to meet them to discuss promises made two years ago concerning economic, social and medical rehabilitation, and provision of clean drinking water to them.

The protesters and hunger strikers are demanding the govenment provide facilities for health care, medical research, social support, and economic rehabilitation of the people, the establishment of a separate commission in Bhopal, the provision of safe drinking water, employment forthe survivors, and legal action against the criminals responsible for the disaster.

Although assurance by the Prime Minister to take up these issues had been given two years ago, not a single action yet has been taken.

One of those who just ended her hunger strike (but remains at the protest) is Aziz Bi, 74. Bi still suffers effects from the disaster. Bi told Union of Catholic Asian News (UCA News) that she still remembers how bodies and carcasses piled up in Bhopal's streets on the morning of Dec. 3, 1984, a few hours after some 40 tons of poisonous methyl isocyanate gas escaped from Union Carbide disorders.

Iqbal Khan Khokhar, another protester, told UCA News he feels the most immediate of many needs is to have "clean drinking water," since toxic waste and hardware of the abandoned factory have contaminated Bhopal's groundwater and other water sources.

The drinking wells and taps of communities living within a considerable radius of the plant have been infected with chemicals that are implicated in cancers and birth-defects. People have no other water supply and have been forced to drink that poison.

Late last month police in Houston, Texas arrested activist Diane Wilson at the Indian Consulate. Diane, who was also fasting, is part of an ongoing Global Fasting Relay, which is being supported by nearly 400 concerned individuals in the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Canada, and India.

Diane who on July 2 also ended her fast said she will, however, continue to mobilize public opinion to increase pressure on the Government to act urgently.

When asked why she had fasted, Diane said, "As one of the Bhopalis said, 'What else can people do when their government ignores their pain and cries of injustice? Agitate, agitate!'"

“Wilson, a mother of five, became aware of the Dow/Carbide crimes in Bhopal after learning that her own Texas county, located near several chemical plants including a Carbide/Dow plant, was the most polluted in the U.S.,” said a press release from the International Campaign for Justice Bhopal, the broad international umbrella group of Bhopal supporters. “Wilson refers to the survivors as ‘my sisters and brothers,’ as she is also from a community polluted by Dow/Carbide in Seadrift, Texas.”

You can send a fax in support of the hunger strikers to India's Prime Minister by clicking

The following is from Race Wire.

Bhopal Still Suffers from Toxic Waste

Almost 25 years after the deadly pesticide poison from a Union Carbide factory killed thousands, Bhopal residents are still hurting. With hundreds of tons of waste still not removed from the site, residents have seen the effects of the toxic remains that have seeped into the water and soil.

In this case it seems both corporate and government inaction can be blamed for the numerous birth defects in the region. Dow Chemical Company says it’s not their mess to clean up while India says they want help disposing of the waste. Meanwhile, Bhopal families are still trying to live in this wasteland and they are paying a hefty price.

In 2005, a state-financed study called for long-term epidemiological studies to determine the impact of contaminated drinking water, concluding that while the levels of toxic contaminants were not very high, water and soil contamination had caused an increase in respiratory and gastrointestinal ailments.
In the Shiv Nagar slum about half a mile from the factory, there is a boy, Akash, who was born with an empty socket for a left eye. Now 6, he cannot see properly or speak. He is a cheerful child who plays in the lanes near his house.

His father, Shobha Ram, a maker of sweets who bought land here many years after the gas leak and built himself a two-room house, said the boy’s afflictions were caused by the hand-pumped well from where his family drew water on the edge of the sludge pond for years. He said it had not occurred to him that the water could be laced with pesticides.

“We knew the gas incident took place,” he said. “We never thought the contaminated water would come all the way to our house.”

The stories repeat themselves in the nearby slums. In Blue Moon, Muskan, a 2-year-old girl, cannot walk, speak or understand what is happening around her. Her father, Anwar, blames the water.

In Arif Nagar, Nawab and Hassan Mian, brothers who are 8 and 12, move through their house like newly hatched birds, barely able to stand. They have no control over their muscles. Their mother, Fareeda Bi, is unsure of exactly what caused their ailment, but she, too, blames the water.

“There are more children like this in the neighborhood,” she said, “who cannot walk, who cannot see.” [New York Times.]

Internationally, activists have taken up a hunger strike in protest of the lack of government involvement in Bhopal.


At the G8 Summit in Japan security is tight and protesters are being kept as far away from the summit site as possible.

Police are attempting to keep protesters in a specially designated camping area on the opposite side of sapphire-blue Lake Toya, away from the plush hilltop hotel where the leaders were staying.

So fearful is the Government of incident or attack that cities as far away as Tokyo have also been under tight security for more than a week.

Activists throughout Japan have been arrested at demonstrations and in their homes, often on “technical” charges, such as not registering a change of address. Overt surveillance of activists, academics and reporters has been taking place for months, and with some local activists for years.

Still protesters and police engaged in a tense stand-off on Monday as Japanese authorities blocked demonstrators from nearing a summit of the world's most powerful leaders at a secluded mountain resort.

Around 50 anti-globalisation protesters, mostly from abroad, marched towards the Group of Eight leaders' luxury hilltop hotel but before they could come close they were stopped by more than 100 anti-riot police with 20 vans.

"This isn't what democracy looks like," one of the protesters howled at the police, who stood guard with shields under pouring rain.

Hundreds of protesters faced off with police on Sunday. A demonstration by about 5,000 people on Saturday led to a brief clash with police; four people, including a television cameraman, were detained.

While many of the protesters are foreigners, they also include Ainu -- the indigenous people on Japan's northern island of Hokkaido.

Kenichi Kawamura, whose Ainu name is Shinrit e=oripak Aynu, performed a traditional ritual to pray to the gods for successful demonstrations against the Group of Eight summit.

"The G8 are coming to our land to do whatever they please. Please protect us," said the 57-year-old, wearing an Ainu gown and a headband during the ritual, which was carried out in his indigenous language.

The Ainu were displaced when settlers from Japan's main island of Honshu settled Hokkaido in the 19th century. They still lag behind in education and income in the Asian economic power.

Protesters are organizing various events in the upcoming days of the G8 Summit, between the 7th and 9th of July. The No! G8 Legal Team says it will be paying close attention to the behavior of the police and government, especially since the excessive police response to demonstrations which have already taken place “Labor and peace movement leaders are concerned that the police will arrest them for organizing these protests, search their homes and interrogate their family members,” said Dan Spalding, Legal Worker Vice President of the National Lawyers Guild.
Meanwhile, protests are taking place around the world expressing outrage at this coming together of the rich to decide what to do with the rest of us.

In the Philippines, members of militant groups on Monday staged a peaceful picket in front of the Japanese Embassy in Manila to join other protesters worldwide in denouncing the ongoing three-day G-8 summit in Japan.

The activists, belonging to the Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) and joined by the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan called the meeting a sham meant to preserve profits of big business.

"What a great lie for the G-8 to proclaim that their top agenda is to alleviate the peoples of the world from price spikes of basic commodities. The leaders of the G8 countries and their capitalist cohorts have created and aggravated the crisis that all of us endure today, "KMU Chair Elmer Labog said.

Hundreds of activists from around the world gathered in Mali for the opening of a poor people's summit organised to counterbalance the G8.

"The governments of the G8, heavily industrialised countries, are most responsible for climate change and the international food crisis, which are raging over the world," said organiser Barry Aminata.

A brief protest outside the Japanese Embassy in Singapore targeted repression at the summit and the news of foreign scholars, independent journalists and media workers being detained at airports in Japan where they were subjected to long hours of questioning. Infoship News reports some have had their visit cut short while others, such as activists from the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions, have been outright barred from entry into Japan.

The following is from AFP.

Japan blankets island with security for G8

TOYAKO, Japan -- More than 20,000 police on Sunday sealed a secluded mountain resort in northern Japan as the world's top leaders gathered, with protests kept far away from the summit venue.

Japan imposed a no-fly zone across a stretch of its northern island of Hokkaido as US President George W. Bush arrived for three days of talks with 22 other leaders in the remote lakeside town of Toyako.

Hundreds of activists held demonstrations for a second straight day in Sapporo, the closest major city to the summit area, on issues ranging from labor rights to Tibet to global poverty.

"Down with the G8 summit!" chanted some 100 demonstrators from left-wing labor unions, who were nearly outnumbered by riot police with helmets and shields.

No arrests were immediately reported Sunday. A day earlier, police arrested three demonstrators and a cameraman accused of kicking officers.

Activists of British-based charity Oxfam dressed up in oversized masks of the G8 leaders held up a mock cheque offering $50 billion for poor countries -- a promise made at the summit in Scotland in 2005.

"It is unacceptable that in the 21st century a woman dies every minute in childbirth or pregnancy due to lack of health care," said Oxfam campaigner Akiko Mera. "The G8 must keep their promises and deliver health care for all."

Separately, dozens of pro-Tibet demonstrators rallied to denounce Chinese President Hu Jintao, who is due to attend an extended session of the G8, chanting, "We can't forgive China!"

But the demonstrations were far from the summit venue, a hilltop hotel some 150 kilometers (90 miles) from Sapporo where the leaders will discuss issues including soaring oil and food prices, climate change and global conflicts.

Filipino leftwing activist Renato M. Reyes, Jr. said that he and his colleagues were trailed across Hokkaido by police, with some even sleeping in their car outside of the demonstrators' hotel.

"There are so many police officers, asking for your license, where you are going and what you are up to," said Reyes, secretary general of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (New Patriotic Alliace, Bayan), an umbrella group of farmers, students and workers.

He described it as "harassment."

"The G8 are very afraid of people criticizing them. They are afraid because they feel guilty about something," he said.

Police and media shuttle buses were the only vehicles allowed onto the roads heading to the venue, where banners fluttered in the breeze to greet world leaders.

"This isn't such a special occasion for ordinary people like us," said Kyoko Tateishi, a convenience store manager in Rusutsu, where the main media center is located.

"Sales are declining as we see no visitors except for the media and police. We don't expect much from the summit," she said.

But those working in tourism said that, like an Olympics, the summit can sell the town's name as a resort, which has been recovering since a volcanic eruption eight years ago.

"I hope the summit will end without any accidents, riots or terrorism. That would improve the image of our town, drawing more tourists and making our lives much better," said Hiroaki Otomo, a 60-year-old taxi driver in Toyako.

Despite the arrests, the demonstrators were relatively peaceful compared with previous G8 summits.

Last year militant activists threw Molotov cocktails and stones during demonstrations in Germany that drew tens of thousands of protesters.