Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Iraq Today

Family member grieves for the loss of her relatives prior to a funeral ceremony in the Shiite holy city of Najaf, 160 kilometers (100 miles) south of Baghdad, Iraq on Wednesday, April 30, 2008. The woman's relatives were killed during recent clashes in Baghdad's Sadr city.
(AP Photo/Alaa al-Marjani) (Note the body of the terrorist the woman is holding)
Iraqis cover dead bodies with blankets in the ruins of a destroyed house by an alleged US air strike on Baghdad's Sadr City. At least 925 people have been killed in clashes between militiamen and security forces in Baghdad's Sadr City that began on March 25.
(AFP/Ahmad al-Rubaye)

From Iraq Today website

John Ross on the What the 3 NAFTA Witches Brewed Up in New Orleans This Month

FROM: JOHN ROSS
011-5255-5518-1213 X102
johnross@igc.org

Blindman's Buff #209


BAD JAZZ ABOUNDS IN NEW ORLEANS AS THREE NAFTA LEADERS HUDDLE FOR THE LAST TIME

NEW ORLEANS (April 29th) - Mexican President Felipe Calderon was not having a good day. His plan to arrive in New Orleans for the NAFTA Summit April 21st-22nd with a freshly minted law privatizing Mexico's oil industry in his pocket had been foiled by the opposition's takeover of congress. Now after repeatedly promising his U.S. backers that privatizing was a done deal, he was flying up the Gulf empty-handed. Moreover, the Mexican Congress had waited until the last minute to grant him permission to travel to New Orleans. He practically had to beg for the permission, an acute embarrassment to Calderon, more than half of whose compatriots do not think he was legitimately elected president.

Just to add to the bad juju, the mariachis who were selected to welcome Felipe Calderon at Louis Armstrong International Airport had been stopped by Homeland Security and stripped of their instruments. The six members of the Mariachi Mexico Tipico who had motored over from Houston for the occasion in their wide sequined sombreros and tight silver-studded pants, waited disconsolately outside of the barricaded terminal for the return of their violins, guitars, and guitarones.

In their stead, the Preservation Hall Jazz Band, that venerable posse of oldsters, were assembled on the tarmac to tootle "When The Saints Go Marching In" when the Mexican president's plane touched down - it wasn't "Caminos de Michoacan", Calderon's favorite mariachi tune, but it would have to do.

Although still seriously scarred three years after Hurricane Katrina struck home, the damaged cradle of jazz was chosen to play host to the fourth Summit of North American Leaders and the last one with Bush on board. Indeed, the beleaguered U.S. president was returning to the scene of his greatest disaster (arguably - there have been so many) hauling a wagonload of bad baggage. Bush's ratings have plummeted to the lowest ever for an outgoing U.S. head of state and over 62% of the American public consider his presidency a catastrophe, according to a consensus of the polls. In the weeks after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Bush had boomed to nearly 90% popularity.

The Great Slide had, in fact, begun right here in the Big Easy August 29th 2005 with his government's failure to respond to the devastation wrought by Katrina. Still, George Bush was back in town hell bent on defending NAFTA from its many detractors and even if the huddle with Calderon and Canada's Stephen Harper was going to be more protocol than substance, at least he'd get a chance to practice his bad Spanish on Felipe.

NAFTA is back in the news after a 14-year absence in which no one paid any attention whatsoever to the millions of workers and farmers on both sides of the border decrying the deprivations that the trade treaty has dumped upon them. But in recent weeks, the dueling Dem frontrunners Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama have been barnstorming rust belt states like Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Indiana where NAFTA impacts are poignant - during the Pennsylvania campaign, the Hershey Corporation, the nation's most emblematic chocolate maker, announced it was moving hundreds of production jobs from its Hershey Pennsylvania plant to Mexico - and renegotiating the trade treaty has become a hot button campaign issue.

Both Obama and Hillary are vying to show who hates NAFTA the most. Hillary harps on how Mexico, where the average wage is 13% that of the U.S. average wage, has been cheating on environmental and labor standards, thus putting American workers at an unfair disadvantage, and promises to renegotiate the trade agreement within her first hundred days as president, seemingly oblivious to the fact that it was her spouse who had, in fact, drawn up the labor and environmental side agreements that nudged NAFTA through the U.S. Congress in the first place.

Actually, Hillary and Bill Clinton owe their years in the White House to the North American Free Trade Agreement - if Texas tycoon H. Ross Perot had not tossed his Stetson into the ring back in '92 running against the trade treaty and its "giant sucking sound" and rustling 19% of the vote from the first Bush, the Clintons would never have gotten to sleep in the White House.

Obama too, backed up by the backbone of what's left of the U.S. labor movement has commited to renegotiate NAFTA at the earliest opportunity. On the other side of the aisle, presumptive Republican candidate John McCain is as big a NAFTA booster as Bush.

Mexico's Calderon is also plagued by demands to renegotiate the TLCAN (its Spanish initials) with particular focus on the agricultural chapters. With the elimination of all tariffs on 200 key agricultural products, including corn, beans, and sugar this past January 1st, Mexico's farmers are facing an uncertain future and tens of thousands of protestors marched up to Mexico City this winter, driving their tractors and their cattle through the capital's streets.

Calderon responds by defending the TLCAN and stonewalling the scoffers. NAFTA has brought boom times, the president counters, commerce has multiplied 25 times since 1994 (the U.S. economy is 25 times bigger than Mexico's.) But the bald truth is that only a handful of transnationals have harvested the benefits of increased trade and the income divide south of the border is now wider than what it was 14 years ago. Despite promises that increased job opportunities would end out migration to the U.S., 10% fewer manufacturing workers are employed in Mexico in 2008 than when the treaty kicked in and the escalating displacement of Mexico's small farmers, pushed off the land by NAFTA corn imports, has increased migration to El Norte.

Yet, despite the negatives, Bush and Calderon and their northern neighbor Harper insist now is not the time to tamper with the trade treaty. What they mean is that there will never be a time to renegotiate NAFTA.

Although the North American Free Trade Agreement has made rich men richer, the poor are about to get much poorer thanks to the TLCAN. As the black night of recession descends over the United States, NAFTA serves as a transmitter of the bad news. The sinking economy means canceled inventories and orders and what manufacturing - read, "maquiladora" - jobs that haven't already fled to China in this no-win race to the bottom, are about to dry up. As employment sags north of the border, remissions from El Norte, Mexico's second source of dollars raking in $20 billion USD a year, could be reduced by as much as a third, according to Inter-American Development Bank (BID) estimates. With 90% of its exports destined for U.S. markets, Mexico's immediate future is dimming every day. Predicted growth hovers around an anemic 2%, a rate that doesn't keep pace with population growth. Not unsurprisingly, the fall-out from the U.S. nose-dive softens the further south the money goes. While Mexico is paralyzed, thrumming Latin American economies like Venezuela and Brazil will shrug off the recession.

Technically speaking, the New Orleans jamboree was mounted under the banner of NAFTA Plus - the so-called Security and Prosperity Partnership of North America, better known by its Spanish language acronym ASPAN. The ASPAN looks past free trade to the integration of security apparati and energy resources amongst the three "North American" nations. High-level cabinet ministers accompanied their bosses to New Orleans for a series of hush-hush bi-lateral head knockings. ASPAN negotiations are not open to public scrutiny or congressional oversight.

The Calderon party had hardly landed when Homeland Security chieftain Michael Chertoff whisked Felipe's Interior Minister Juan Camilo Mourino off to hash out Mexico's role in the Bush terror war. Agreement was announced on setting up a biometric database of all travelers, visa applicants, and passport holders entering the U.S. from Mexico. Moneys for the database will be drawn down from the White House's $1.4 billion USD Plan Mexico (AKA the Merida Initiative), a clone of Bush's much maligned Plan Colombia, that would equip and train repressive Mexican security forces cited by international human rights organizations as responsible for myriad human rights violations. Plan Mexico transfers, funding for which has not yet cleared the U.S. Congress, include dozens of second-hand helicopters and used transportation carriers plus cutting edge technological tools to eavesdrop on every Mexican's telephone and e-mail communications.

Plan Mexico is the latest White House strategy to annex Mexico's security apparatus, the so-called "third link" first proposed during the Reagan years. Mexico is regarded as the U.S.'s southern security perimeter under the purview of the North Command, the Colorado-based command center charged with protecting U.S. mainland from potential terrorist threats. One goal of the Security and Prosperity Partnership is to legitimatize U.S. troop deployment on Mexican soil to combat hypothetical threats to the United States.

On the energy front, NAFTA Plus integration translates to "what's yours is mine" but the Bush White House's vision of a privatized Mexican oil industry to guarantee continued supply (1.5 million barrels a day) and even bigger profits for Big Oil has temporarily been blunted by a Mexican opposition led by leftist firebrand Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador.

The future of Washington's troubled bi-lateral Free Trade Agreement with Colombia was much on Bush's mind down in New Orleans. Accusing House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of "killing" the deal (Pelosi has offered to bring the FTA to the floor if Bush yields on a new stimulus package and extending unemployment benefits for recession ravaged U.S. workers), the outgoing U.S. president enlisted Harper and Calderon's condemnation of his Democratic rivals.

Charging the Dems with encouraging narco-terror and building up Hugo Chavez's evil empire, Bush exalted Colombian president Alvaro Uribe as a paragon of democracy. Ironically, at the very hour the lame duck U.S. president held forth in the Big Easy, Bogotá police were rounding up Uribe's cousin, Mario, the former president of the Colombian senate, for conspiring with paramilitary death squads in 1997 to massacre peasants. Alvaro Uribe himself is under investigation for his role in the killings.

So busy licking Bush's boots and glad-handing the big business bigwigs (Ford, Wal-mart, Campbell Soup, the North American Competiveness Council) who always converge on these klatches, Felipe Calderon couldn't even spare a second for the obligatory stroll through the French Quarter. Indeed, outside of the tourist-infested Quarter, there isn't much to see in New Orleans three years after Katrina ripped it apart.

Population is down to 200,000 from a half million on the morning the storm struck. The forced exodus of black workers has not been compensated by the invasion of profit-driven Caucasians. Thousands are still living in Formaldehyde filled FEMA trailers (they have a May 31st eviction date) and 10,000 units of usable public housing are being demolished to make way for global real estate moguls like Donald Trump. Row after row of rotting, abandoned homes are mute testimony to the national disgrace that is the Lower Ninth Ward. National Guard Humvees still patrol the streets.

In contrast, since Katrina, the Mexican community in New Orleans has more than doubled to 83,000 (27,000 in neighboring Mississippi.) Many were trucked in by unscrupulous subcontractors paying bottom line wages (if they got paid at all) for shoddy reconstruction scams. Now the indocumentados line up mornings in the Home Depot parking lots waiting for day work and undercutting black workers in the local job market, which has ratcheted up racial tensions. "The Mexs work for less than the niggers," Big Steve Jennings, a cab driver, comments to his passenger.

New Orleans has been the destination for displaced Mexicans for a couple of centuries. Mexican brass bands are said to be an inspiration for New Orleans marching bands. Mexico opened its first consulate here in 1824, just three years after liberation from Spain. In fact, Calderon took advantage of his visit to re-inaugurate the New Orleans consulate closed down in 2002 because of budget cuts.

The Mexican president's sojourn here suffered one final embarrassment when a Calderon travel official with the same name as the most celebrated drug lord in Mexico, Rafael Quintero, was charged with the theft of a half dozen cell phones and Blackberries that U.S. officials had left outside a closed door tete a tete with their NAFTA Plus counterparts. Captured in flagrante on video, the U.S. Secret Service chased Quintero all the way to the New Orleans airport where he claimed diplomatic immunity. Whether the cell phones contained information that compromised either Calderon or Bush has yet to be revealed.

The Security and Prosperity Partnership junta was countered by the New Orleans Peoples' Summit, which sought to draw attention to the city's woeful situation. Demonstrators could not get near the Windsor Court Hotel where the junta was held but a Bush downtown drive-through drew heavy jeers from disgruntled ironworkers on a nearby construction site, according to a report in the Baton Rouge Observer.

Unlike previous North American leadership summits, no triumphal announcements or high-flying hype topped off the New Orleans soiree which seemingly was designed more to enhance Bush's legacy in the last months of his regime than to produce tangible agreements.

Or was the Summit itself a pretext for another agenda? For months, right-wing talk show mouthpieces and conspiracy-minded bloggers have been ballyhooing the Security and Prosperity Partnership meet as setting the table for a North American Union, akin to the European Union, with one currency and one flag and no borders - Mexico would get back the U.S. southwest under this fanciful plot.

Although the White House took great pains to debunk the hypothesis as an extremist pipedream, who knows what exactly was being negotiated behind locked doors or over the prawn etouffee at the pricey Commander's Palace? Given the duplicity of the leaders of North America a denial invariably means that a deal is in the works.


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Do you have connections in the publishing industry? Would they like to read John Ross's riveting unpublished short novel "The History of Latin America, A Novella"? Contact johnross@igc.org for further instructions.

The New Walls of Baghdad - UN Security Council - Global Policy Forum--Gorilla's Guides

Portion below; whole thing here: http://gorillasguides.com/2008/04/29/the-new-walls-of-baghdad-un-security-council-global-policy-forum/

Instead of learning from the French experience, the U.S. has naively looked to the Israeli experience as a training manual for counterinsurgency. The U.S. continues to be mesmerized by a mythical version of Israel that is based more on savvy marketing than demonstrated performance. Israel’s responses to unconventional war has never been well developed or very successful; it was defeated by Hezbollah in South Lebanon not once but twice, and its attempt to crush the Palestinian uprising through force actually led to further suicide bombings, while its destruction of the Palestinian infrastructure has left the political field open to Hamas and Islamic Jihad.

Mimicking Israel is a recipe for failure. Martin Van Creveld, an Israeli military historian who had lectured U.S. military officials on Israeli military strategy in late 2003, warned in an Associated Press article (December 12, 2003) that just as Israel had been unsuccessful in eliminating militant groups and suicide bombers, the United States cannot expect to be victorious in Iraq. “The Americans are coming here to try to mimic all kinds of techniques, but it’s not going to do them any good,” he reportedly warned. “I don’t see how on earth they (the U.S.) can win. I think this is going to end the same way Vietnam did. They are going to flee the country hanging on the strings of helicopters.”


The new “surge” strategy in Iraq, led by General David Petreaus, has been heavily marketed as an example of the U.S. military’s application of the “lessons of history” from previous counterinsurgencies to Iraq, foremost among them the need to win the population over from insurgents through cultivating human relationships, addressing popular grievances and providing security. Yet one glance at the realities on the ground in Iraq today reveal that the cornerstone of current U.S. military strategy is less about cultivating human relationships than about limiting them, primarily through concrete walls and checkpoints. And it has been less about minimizing violence than containing Iraq’s population and redirecting the battlefield from the streets to the skies above Iraq.

While the coffee klatches between Marine commanders and Sunni tribal sheikhs may garner all the publicity, the real story on the ground in Iraq is that from Baghdad to Mosul, the U.S. military has been busy constructing scores of concrete walls and barriers between and around Iraqi neighborhoods, which it terms “Gated Communities.” In Baghdad alone, 12-foot-high walls now separate and surround at least eleven Sunni and Shiite enclaves. Broken by narrow checkpoints where soldiers monitor traffic via newly issued ID cards, these walls have turned Baghdad into dozens of replica Green Zones, dividing neighbor from neighbor and choking off normal commerce and communications. Similar walls are being erected in other Iraqi cities, while the entire city of Falluja remains surrounded by a razor-wire barrier, with only one point of entry into the city. Moreover, the U.S. military has doubled its use of unmanned aerial drones and increasingly relies upon aerial strikes to quell insurgent activities, often through bombings and targeted assassinations.

While there is no question that overall levels of violence have temporarily decreased, Iraq has become virtually caged in a carapace of concrete walls and razor wire, reinforced by an aerial occupation from the sky. Reporting from a recent visit to the Dora neighborhood of Baghdad, the seasoned journalist Nir Rosen noted in Rolling Stone (March 6, 2008) that:

Looming over the homes are twelve-foot-high security walls built by the Americans to separate warring factions and confine people to their own neighborhood. Emptied and destroyed by civil war, walled off by President Bush’s much-heralded “surge,” Dora feels more like a desolate, post-apocalyptic maze of concrete tunnels than a living, inhabited neighborhood.


House Democrats Work on Huge Iraq Money Bill

The strategy would let many Democratic lawmakers register their opposition to the war, but it wouldn't change the outcome. The Senate would eventually wrap all the spending into one package to send to the White House for Bush's signature.
Portion below; whole thing here:
http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2008/04/28/MNCU10BATO.DTL&type=printable

House Democratic leaders are putting together the largest Iraq war spending bill yet, a measure that is expected to fund the war through the end of the Bush presidency and for nearly six months into the next president's term.

The bill, which could be unveiled as early as this week, signals that Democrats are resigned to the fact they can't change course in Iraq in the final months of President Bush's term. Instead, the party is pinning its hopes of ending the war on winning the White House in November.

Bay Area lawmakers, who represent perhaps the most anti-war part of the country, acknowledge the bill will anger many voters back home.

"It's going to be a tough sell to convince people in my district that funding the war for six months into the new president's term is the way to end the war," said Rep. Lynn Woolsey, D-Petaluma, a leader of the Out of Iraq Caucus who plans to oppose the funding. "It sounds like we are paying for something we don't want."

The bill is expected to provide $108 billion that the White House has requested for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Lawmakers who are drafting it say it also will include a so-called bridge fund of $70 billion to give the new president several months of breathing room before having to ask Congress for more money.

The debate is shaping up as a key test for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

The San Francisco Democrat, who opposed the war from the start, faces fierce criticism from the anti-war left for refusing to cut off funding for the war. She's trying to hold together a caucus split between anti-war lawmakers, who'd prefer a showdown with the White House, and conservative Democrats, who believe cutting off the war funding would make the party look weak on national security and put its majority at risk.

Guns-for-butter

Pelosi is plotting a "guns-for-butter" strategy to try to force Bush to accept some new domestic spending in exchange for the money he needs to fight the war. The speaker is floating a proposal to extend unemployment benefits for 13 weeks for those whose benefits have run out. The package also could include a new GI Bill benefit to help veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan pay for college.

Bush is already vowing to veto any spending that goes over his $108 billion request. House Republicans, eager for an election-year fight with Democrats over spending, are pledging to back up his veto threat.

"We're going to insist that this is about funding the troops and nothing else," House Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, said last week.

Pelosi has been trying to ease tensions within her caucus over the bill. Anti-war lawmakers - including Woolsey, Rep. Maxine Waters of Los Angeles and Rep. Barbara Lee of Oakland - met with the speaker last week to urge her to keep the votes on war spending and domestic spending separate.

"We raised concerns," Lee said. "It just wouldn't make sense to force (members of Congress) to choose between providing food stamps for people who are hurting and need help during this terrible time and funding an occupation that people do not support."

House leaders may be able to get around the issue by splitting the votes. Last May, Democrats used a similar tactic, staging votes on two amendments - one for $22 billion in domestic spending, and another for $98 billion for the two wars - to allow anti-war lawmakers to vote for the domestic spending, but against the money for the war.

The strategy would let many Democratic lawmakers register their opposition to the war, but it wouldn't change the outcome. The Senate would eventually wrap all the spending into one package to send to the White House for Bush's signature.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Psychopaths Always Blame Their Victims--Twelfth Bough

Link to original article on Twelfth Bough: http://editorseye.com/WordPress/?p=481
Picture via uruknet.info and Whatreallyhappened.com

I’m sure you haven’t heard on TV news that the IDF killed a Palestinian family of four small children and their mother, among others, as they were getting ready to eat breakfast. I mean, if an Israeli family was killed we’d be hearing about it non-stop; but this was just a Palestinian mother and her four little children. Just some collateral damage…

Four Palestinian children, all members of one family, were killed Monday morning in an Israel Defense Forces strike in the northern Gaza Strip, Palestinian sources reported. According to the report, an IDF shell hit a house in the town of Beit Hanoun, killing five members of the Abu Meatak family. Palestinian medics identified the dead children as sisters Rudina and Hana Abu Meatak, aged 6 and 3; and their brothers 4-year-old Saleh and 15-month-old Mousad. Their mother, Miyasar, was in her late 30s. Her two older children were critically wounded in the strike, the officials said.

A 15-year-old boy was also killed in the strike while making his way to school. Nine people were reportedly injured, three of them sustaining serious to critical wounds.

A Palestinian source in the Strip said that a member of the al-Quds Brigades, the Islamic Jihad’s military wing, was also killed by IDF soldiers.

The IDF reported that it had attacked a group of gunmen spotted near forces operating in Beit Hanoun. Soldier belonging to the Givati patrol brigade exchanged fire with Palestinian gunmen in the area. During the military activity, an IDF soldier was lightly injured in the leg and rushed to hospital.

It sounds like there was some gunfire exchanged between IDF soldiers and Palestinian gunman, slightly wounding an IDF soldier, and then a shell hit the house killing all these innocent civilians. Source article http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3536673,00.html.

The IDF is looking into the incident, but has yet to obtain a full picture of what happened. Military sources noted that a group of gunmen was spotted shortly after 8 am near Givati forces operating in the area. An aircraft fired at them and hit them, while tanks fired shells towards the area.

Translation: The IDF has yet to prepare an adequate excuse for the utter disregard of Palestinian lives. They need an excuse suitable for international consumption because, though they don’t care about these people who were killed, they know that some people will whine about it causing a slight inconvenience to Israeli public relations activities. So the IDF is ‘looking into the incident, but has yet to obtain a full picture of what happened’, which means they haven’t got the story down yet. They do know, however, that ‘a group of gunmen was spotted…near Givati forces’, and the IDF hit them with aircraft fire and then, just to be sure, fired tank shells toward the area. After all, ‘a group of gunmen’ must never be allowed near IDF forces, even if they gunmen are inside Gaza where they live. An IDF soldier patrolling Occupied Gaza could get injured and have to be rushed to hospital. So, you know, the IDF was just defending themselves.

“The area where the fighting is taking place is very crowded,” a source said. “The terror organizations are knowingly operating near civilians and putting them in danger. We are thoroughly looking into the circumstances of the incident.”

You see, it’s not the IDF’s fault that these people were killed because the ‘area where the fighting is taking place [Gaza, where the Palestinians live and can’t leave] is very crowded [right, because the Israelis have them trapped in there like animals and they can’t leave]…The terror organizations [aka Palestinian men trying to help their people survive] are knowingly operating near civilians [uhh, yeah, seeing as they’re all trapped inside a cage] and putting them in danger [or trying to save them from death by Occupation]’.

One of the options the army is looking into is whether the family members were hurt as a result of an explosion of weapons on the gunmen’s bodies.

Yeah, how do you know it wasn’t a Palestinian suicide bomber that murdered this Palestinian family by blowing up the entire house? Huh? That could happen.

Addressing the possibility that the family was hit by IDF fire, the source said, “This is an essential activity taking place within the populated areas in a bid to distance the terrorists from the border fence. If we don’t operate there, we’ll find the terror organizations on the border fence and inside Israel.”

OK OK…it’s possible that the IDF killed them, but listen…the Israelis have to fight the Palestinians over there in Gaza and the West Bank so that they don’t have to fight them in Israeli cities. Fighting in Israeli cities would just, like, totally wreck their beautiful democracy. Ask George Bush. This is totally moral.

We are pursuing a comprehensive strategy to win the war on terror. We’re taking the fight to the terrorists abroad so we do not have to face them here at home. (Applause.) We’re denying our enemies sanctuary and making it clear that America will not tolerate regimes that harbor or support terrorists. And we’re spreading freedom, because the terrorists know there is no room for them in a free and democratic Middle East. (Applause.) - George W. Bush speech, 7/4/05, West Virginia University, Morgantown, West Virginia

Scenes From An Iraki Childhood April 28th 2008--Gorilla's Guides

His brother’s name was Ahmed Fayad.

Ahmed was one of the civilians massacred by American troops in their assault on Sadr city on the night of Sunday 27th April 2008.

His brother’s name was, Waleed Jabour.

Waleed was one of the people killed during the American assault, on Sadr city on the night of April 27th 2008.

The only way of describing what the Americans are doing in Sadr city at present is to say that they are conducting serial massacres of civilians.
From Gorilla's Guides for the Perplexed

"Fifty Shots! That's Murder!"

Portion below; whole sad article here:
http://www.counterpunch.org/jw04282008.html

After the judge delivered his verdict, Trent Benefield, who was injured in the shooting and excoriated by the judge as a liar, wept among his friends and said, "If I did it, I'd be doing twenty-five to life." This verdict had been preceded, a few weeks before, by another one, the sentencing verdict of John White, a 54-year-old black homeowner in Long Island who shot and killed an unarmed drunken white teenager who came to his house shouting "Nigger" and, White thought, threatening his family. White wept too, on the witness stand, telling the jury of his fear, the whirl of historical memories, of real and imagined terrors that combined in some mad vortex that ended in a killing that night. He called it an accident. The essential facts of White's case were as clear as those of the three cops. He was armed; his victim was not. He was afraid a gun or guns might appear from somewhere in the dark, some lynch mob on the way; they did not, but he killed a 16-year-old. A jury convicted White of manslaughter. His fear or the drunken, repulsive behavior of the victim did not figure in the conviction; they were matters for mitigation, and at sentencing White was given two to four years in prison. Supporters of Bell's killers have taken to railing against protesters for having no respect for presumption of innocence, reasonable doubt and other noble features of the trial system that seem almost quaint until they're written in bright capital letters when cops kill someone. Like the three cops only with more justification -- he had not gone out looking for a confrontation with his victim -- John White said he had feared for his life. No doubt that fear was real, but killing an unarmed teenager was not an act of self-defense, and it didn't look like an accident. A jury was able to make the distinctions that Judge Cooperman and his august champions in the legal profession suggested were beyond anyone's capability in the killing of Sean Bell.

"We are all Sean Bell!"

"We are all Sean Bell!"

Our words bounced off the walls and the underside of the bridge at the Jamaica station of the Long Island Railroad, amplified, thunderous. We all meant them. But there were no pictures of white women on that whiskered sign of police victims, and no white men either. Leftists who have worried that an electoral victory for Barack Obama will somehow remove the oppression of blacks as a subject in American politics need not fret. Whatever Obama's fortunes, it's a good bet that another black family's loved one will be shot dead in the streets by police somewhere in America, and another court will decide that the trained killers had every reason to be afraid. Again they'll walk, and protesters will march, and editorialists will say we must honor the rule of law and take steps so it never happens again. "Unfortunately, sometimes people die", as Michael Oliver, who got off thirty-one shots, said after acquittal. "I have to live with that for the rest of my life." If the pattern follows, he'll get a desk job, and the police union will say how unfair it all is.

Investigators: Millions in Iraq Contracts Never Finished

Portion below; whole thing here: http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/national/1152ap_iraq_reconstruction.html


WASHINGTON -- Millions of dollars of lucrative Iraq reconstruction contracts were never finished because of excessive delays, poor performance or other factors, including failed projects that are being falsely described by the U.S. government as complete, federal investigators say.

The audit released Sunday by Stuart Bowen Jr., the special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction, provides the latest snapshot of an uneven reconstruction effort that has cost U.S. taxpayers more than $100 billion. It also comes as several lawmakers have said they want the Iraqis to pick up more of the cost of reconstruction.

The special IG's review of 47,321 reconstruction projects worth billions of dollars found that at least 855 contracts were terminated by U.S. officials before their completion, primarily because of unforeseen factors such as violence and excessive costs. About 112 of those agreements were ended specifically because of the contractors' actual or anticipated poor performance.

In addition, the audit said many reconstruction projects were being described as complete or otherwise successful when they were not. In one case, the U.S. Agency for International Development contracted with Bechtel Corp. in 2004 to construct a $50 million children's hospital in Basra, only to "essentially terminate" the project in 2006 because of monthslong delays.

But rather than terminate the project, U.S. officials modified the contract to change the scope of the work. As a result, a U.S. database of Iraq reconstruction contracts shows the project as complete "when in fact the hospital was only 35 percent complete when work was stopped," said investigators in describing the practice of "descoping" as frequent.

Mother, Four Children Amongst Victims of Israeli Gaza Strike--Electronic Intifada

Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) killed four children and their mother when they shelled their home in Ezbet Beit Hanoun in the northern Gaza Strip today. Another man was killed in the attack which occurred during an IOF incursion in different parts of the town of Beit Hanoun. Al Mezan Center for Human Rights' monitoring finds that the IOF stepped up their aggression on Gaza. In April 2008 alone, the IOF killed 66 Palestinians, 20 of whom were children and one was a woman. One hundred and thirty-nine others were injured, including 18 children. IOF launched 29 incursions into the Gaza Strip during the same period.

According to Al Mezan Center's field investigations, at approximately 8:15am on 28 April 2008, IOF scouting drones fired two rockets that landed in front of the house of Ahmed Eid Abu Me'teq, which is located near Abdullah Azzam mosque in Ezbet Beit Hanoun. As a result, four children and their mother were killed, and their sister was wounded. One man was also killed. Those who were killed were identified as:
  • Five-year-old Saleh Abu Me'teq;
  • Four-year-old Rodina Abu Me'teq;
  • Three-year-old Hana' Abu Me'teq;
  • One-year-old Mos'ad Abu Me'teq;
  • Their mother, 40-year-old Myassar Abu Me'teq; and
  • 40-year-old Ibrahim Hajouj.
Eleven other people were also injured, including four children. Five of the injured were reported to have sustained serious wounds.

Meanwhile, according to the Center's monitoring, IOF's incursion in the area continues. At approximately 6:00am on 28 April 2008, IOF ground troops, backed by 20 armored vehicles and drones, penetrated the vicinity of Beit Hanoun (Erez) Crossing. They took positions in the streets of al-Sultan Abdul Hamid and al-Shanti, and in the Thakanet al-Ghazalat, Talet al-Haowuz and Um al-Nasser areas. The IOF took combat positions and opened fire towards Ezbet Beit Hanoun, al-Seka and al-Sultan Streets in western Beit Hanoun.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Israeli War Crimes--Continuation

Husayn Zurayq, 13, was hit all over his body by an Israeli cluster bomb in South Lebanon.

Post from "Missing Links" Blog

Portion below; whole thing here: http://arablinks.blogspot.com/
I agree with the author. Where is the outrage about the U.S. airstrikes on civilian areas in Sadr City?

A group of over 50 parliamentarians staged a sit-in in Sadr City to demand the lifting of the siege on that city, and the attacks on it. They said if normality isn't restored they will do the same again on Monday. Voices of Iraq takes the trouble to point out that the group included not only Sadrist members of parliament, but also two members representing Sunni groups, the IAF and the Dialogue Front, along with one representing the (remains of the) United Iraqi Alliance.

What is particularly noteworthy here is that no one at the Democratic-party, or center-left, or progressive end of the political spectrum in America has had even one word to say in condemnation of the American policy of blockade and airstrikes against this densely-populated urban area. And as I noted earlier, this includes in particular the two people who are most looked-to for guidance in this, messrs Cole and Lynch, both of whom have conspicuously declined to say anything about this. It's possible they are constrained by relationships of one kind or another with US government people or institutions. If they have conflicts they should disclose what they are. Already too many people assume the Democrats will just continue the universally-reviled policies of the current regime. You'd think these experts would want to show something different.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Nadine Gordimer Celebrates with Israel!?

The following is an edited open letter from Gaza lecturer Dr. Haider Eid to Nobel Prize-winning South African author Nadine Gordimer:

Dear Ms. Gordimer,

I am a Palestinian lecturer in Cultural Studies living in Gaza. I happen to also have South African citizenship as a result of my marriage to a citizen of that beloved country. I spent more than five years in Johannesburg, the city in which I earned my PhD and lectured at both traditionally black and white universities. At Vista in Soweto, I taught your anti-apartheid novels My Son's Story, July's People and The Late Bourgeois World. I have been teaching the same novels, in addition to The Pick Up and Selected Stories, to my Palestinian students in Gaza at Al-Aqsa University. This course is called "Resistance, Anti-Racism and Xenophobia." I deliberately chose to teach your novels because, as an anti-apartheid writer, you defied racial stereotypes by calling for resistance against all forms of oppression, be they racial or religious. Your support of sanctions against apartheid South Africa has, to say the least, impressed my Gazan students.

The news of your conscious decision to take part in the "Israel at 60" celebrations has reached us, students and citizens of Gaza, as both a painful surprise, and a glaring example of a hypocritical intellectual double standard. My students, psychologically and emotionally traumatized and already showing early signs of malnutrition as a result of the genocidal policy of the country whose birth you will be celebrating, demand an explanation.

They wonder in amazement, as do I, that you might have missed Archbishop Desmond Tutu's contention that conditions in Israeli-occupied Palestine are worse than those under apartheid? They ask how you can ignore UN human rights observer John Dugard's dispassionate and insightful report on the dismal state of human rights in the occupied territories? Surely, you have not been unaware of South African minister Ronnie Kasrils' writings following his latest visit to Gaza and the West Bank? Like you, these three men, all South Africans, were also active in the fight against racism and apartheid. Dugard's words on Palestine are very significant: "I certainly have a sense of deja vu ... The sad thing is that Israel is unwilling to learn from the South African precedent." In an article titled "Apartheid: Israelis adopt what South Africa dropped," Dugard observed that the human rights situation in the occupied territories continues to deteriorate and called the conditions "intolerable, appalling, and tragic for ordinary Palestinians." Significantly, Dugard made shocking parallels between the situation in Palestine and your country South Africa under apartheid: "Many aspects of Israel's occupation surpass those of the apartheid regime. Israel's large-scale destruction of Palestinian homes, leveling of agricultural lands, military incursions and targeted assassinations of Palestinians far exceed any similar practices in apartheid South Africa."

Moreover, in its final declaration, the World Conference against Racism non-governmental organization forum, held in Durban in 2001, stated that: "We declare Israel as a racist, apartheid state in which Israel's brand of apartheid as a crime against humanity has been characterized by separation and segregation, dispossession, restricted land access, denationalization, 'bantustanization' and inhumane acts."

You are no doubt aware of Israel's deep ties with apartheid South Africa, during which Israel, breaking the international embargo, supplied South Africa with hundreds of millions of dollars of weapons. Apartheid South Africa relied on apartheid Israel to persuade Western governments to lift the embargo. How did you relate to Israel during that period and what was your position regarding countries and individuals that did not support the policy of isolating apartheid South Africa? You were surely critical of the infamous policy of "constructive engagement" led by then British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and US President Ronald Reagan at the height of the struggle in the 1980s. And today, inexplicably, you have joined the ranks of sanctions busters.

The eminent Palestinian scholar Edward Said, who gave you his friendship, would have been dismayed by your decision. He named you as a model for what he called "oppositional intellectuals." It was his strong belief that, with regard to Israel, "[it] only takes a few bold spirits to speak out and start challenging a status quo that gets worse and more dissembling each day." Little did he know that you would fail the oppressed in Palestine.

My cold and hungry students have divided themselves into two groups, with one group adamant that you, like many of your courageous characters, will reconsider your participation in an Israeli festival that aims to celebrate the annihilation of Palestine and Palestinians. The other group believes that you have already crossed over to the side of the oppressor, negating every word you have ever written. We all wait for your next action.

Dr. Haidar Eid is an Associate Professor in the Department of English Literature, Al-Aqsa University, Gaza Strip, Palestine.

14 Year Old Girl Murdered by Israel

Why Unions Should Support Palestine

From Australian Green Left Weekly via Badil
Portion below; whole thing here: http://www.greenleft.org.au/2008/747/38626
But what words can you use to describe a state that was founded on the driving out of 700,000 people out of their country? And how else can you describe a state whose current strategy, in the words of Israeli PM Ehud Olmert, is to “ “maximise the number of Jews; to minimize the number of Palestinians”? Or whose “defence” minister, Matan Vilnai, recently threatened that the population of the Gaza Strip “will bring a bigger holocaust upon themselves” than Israel’s siege is already imposing?

And how is the Palestinian struggle for national survival and liberation a “sexy” cause, when every mainstream politician and union careerist is falling over themselves to support Israel, no matter how much it violates international law or abuses Palestinians’ human rights?

Each year, Washington gives US$3 billion in aid to Israel, as well as military and political support. Australia supports Israel in international bodies such as the UN. Australian companies, NGOs and government bodies have links with Zionist organisations such as the Jewish National Fund (which buys up land in historic Palestine that can only be sold to Jews), while the establishment media are almost universally pro-Israel and often rabidly anti-Palestinian.

Those in the CFMEU and MUA who were brave enough to go against the tide and sign the advertisement have taken an important first step in supporting justice for the Palestinian people, the achievement of which will be the only way to bring peace in the Middle East.

In many countries, unions have been at the forefront of campaigns against companies that profit from the ethnic cleansing of Palestine. For example, Irish unions have joined the international boycott of Caterpillar (which sells armoured bulldozers to Israel and which are used to demolish the homes of Palestinian civilians). Irish unions have also refused to train Israeli workers for a project contracted to Veolia (owners of Connex in Melbourne) to build light-rail lines between the illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank.

In Canada and England, tertiary education unions have supported the academic boycott, which targets Israeli universities that contribute to Israel’s apartheid regime through military research or discrimination against Palestinian students.

Without the massive support from the Western powers, Israel would not be able to maintain its occupation of the West Bank and Gaza, or its system of apartheid and ethnic cleansing of Palestinians. Union activists in Australia need take the lead in opposing this support by joining the international campaign for divestment, sanctions and boycott.

The Audacity of Revolution vs. The Hope of Chumps

Peter Camejo Response to Medea Benjamin's Shameful Support for Dems

Righteous, Blistering portion below; to read all, go here: http://www.counterpunch.org/camejo04262008.html

Where was Medea Benjamin during the Democrats hate campaign against democracy in 2004? You were campaigning for a pro-war candidate and supporting the vicious anti-Nader/Camejo campaign.

Medea Benjamin in her effort to support John Kerry helped successfully to manipulate within the Green Party support for David Cobb, the anti-Nader pro-voting Democrat candidate who favored US occupation of Iraq in two public debates with me.

She worked to get the Green Party convention to prevent Nader/Camejo from being endorsed after Nader/Camejo representatives won a number of Green Party primaries and state conventions, including California.

During the 2004 campaign, there was a letter on David Cobb’s web site titled “Vote Kerry and Cobb.” And it was signed by Medea Benjamin, among others.

If you are going to seek fairness and oppose “trashing,” why don’t you start with all your friends whose extreme public attacks on Nader/Camejo you never protested?

Why not promote among your Democratic friends the publishing of ads apologizing to Nader and the American people for the twenty-four harassing lawsuits in twelve weeks filed by Republican corporate law firms like Reed Smith and Kirkland & Ellis and abuses they committed in 2004 against the rights of the American people to have free elections and voter choice?

Yes Medea Benjamin you have the right – like so many before you – to seek to reform the Democratic Party. The truth is, however, that what you actually achieve is to give cover for this pro-war anti-labor political organization. Millions upon millions have tried to reform the Democratic Party for decades.

The AFL-CIO went in to reform the Democrats with millions upon millions of supporters only to be reduced from 33% of the work force to 12% – a submissively controlled force ineffective in defending even their own existence – unable to even get the Democratic Party to repeal the notorious anti-labor Taft Hartley law of 1947.

The generation of progressive “leaders” that capitulate in 2004 will have to be replaced by a new generation that will stand by principles like the early abolitionists of the Liberty Party, the Populists who led the uprising of 1890s, the Debsian socialists and Women’s Party activists of the early twentieth century – and yes like Ralph Nader who refuses to capitulate to a Democratic Party that has and is selling out the American people.

Making personal attacks on Ralph Nader is starting to get a little old. Maybe it’s time for your Democratic Party friends to end their political bigotry against Nader/Gonzalez.

Yes we should all work together on issues we agree on. Yes we should try to get people regardless of what party they are registered with to support specific objectives.

That is how the most massive peace demonstrations ever were organized in the 1960s and 1970s or the millions who marched together for immigrant rights just a couple of years ago. Of course none of those actions were ever supported by your Party, the Democrats.

The ranks of the Democratic Party are desperately seeking change. In time they will see that the Democratic Party cannot be and will not be the agency through which peace, social justice and saving our environment will come. On this issue you and I remain divided. On the debate about this issue Nader and those supporting him have been saints in their language in comparison to your friends in the Democratic Party.

The Nader/Gonzalez campaign has nothing to apologize for. Nader has been one of the most beautiful examples of showing respect for all including those who disagree with him.

It is time for you and your Democratic Party associates to show respect and apologize to Ralph Nader.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Americans Tell It Like It Is to the Iraqis

http://www.thenation.com/doc/20080512/sutton

Found on
Angry Arab Newservice

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Don't Cops Have a Union? Wait Til They Need Support.

A Detroit police sergeant arrests Ada Walker outside the American Axle and Manufacturing Holdings Inc., plant in Detroit, Thursday, as the striking UAW members picketed outside the company's shareholders meeting. About 3,600 members of the UAW have been on strike against American Axle since Feb. 26 after failing to reach a new contract agreement.
(April 24, 2008)

Al-Sadr's Response to Sunni Rejoining Maliki Gov't?

The reference below to Iran influence seems a little hinky; this article says Iran backed the Maliki attempt to shut down Al-Sadr: http://www.arabnews.com/?page=4&section=0&article=108710&d=8&m=4&y=2008.

Anyway, below is the article I referred to in the title.
Portion below; whole thing here: http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/cgi-bin/PrintStory.pl?document_id=2004371019&zsection_id=2003905675&slug=websadr24&date=20080424

BAGHDAD — Muqtada al-Sadr is considering setting aside his political ambitions and restarting a full-scale fight against U.S.-led forces — a worrisome shift that may reflect Iranian influence on the young cleric and could open the way for a shadow state protected by his powerful Mahdi Army.

A possible breakaway path — described to The Associated Press by Shiite lawmakers and politicians — would represent the ultimate backlash to the Iraqi government's pressure on al-Sadr to renounce and disband his Shiite militia.

By snubbing the give-and-take of politics, al-Sadr would have a freer hand to carve out a kind of parallel state with its own militia and social services along the lines of Hezbollah in Lebanon, a Shiite group founded with Iran's help in the 1980s.

It also would carry potentially disastrous security implications as the Pentagon trims its troops strength and Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki finally shows progress on national reconciliation.

"Muqtada has shown a great deal of patience not calling for an all-out war yet with so much pressure on him," said Mohan Abedin, director of research at London's Center for the Study of Terrorism and an expert on Shiite affairs. "The Mahdi Army is by far the most powerful Iraqi faction. It can cause damage on a massive scale if it goes to war."

Al-Sadr's next move is still uncertain, but he clearly holds important cards.

The Mahdi Army is estimated to have about 60,000 fighters — with at least 5,000 thought to be highly trained commandos — and is emboldened by its strong resistance to an Iraqi-led crackdown launched last month in the southern city of Basra and elsewhere.

Al-Sadr's movement also holds sway over the densely populated Shiite parts of Baghdad and across the Shiite south by controlling vital needs such as fuel and running social services such as clinics.

A cease-fire declared last summer by al-Sadr has been credited with helping bring a steep drop violence.

But al-Sadr — who has been in the Iranian seminary city of Qom for the past year — is seriously considering tearing up the truce and disassociating himself from his political bloc in parliament, according to loyalists and Shiite politicians interviewed by the AP over the past two weeks.

Then al-Sadr would be free to unleash Mahdi attacks on U.S. and Iraqi forces, the political insiders said.

They include members of the 30-seat Sadrist faction in parliament and members of rival Shiite parties, including two who saw al-Sadr recently in Iran. All requested anonymity because of the sensitivity of the subject.

"The emphasis is now on weapons and fighting, not politics," said one of the lawmakers in the Sadrist bloc. "(Al-Sadr) now only communicates with the Mahdi Army commanders."

Any Mahdi Army offensive could have serious repercussions. Mahdi fighters engaged in fierce battles with U.S. forces in 2004 and then were blamed for waves of roadside bombings that were once the chief killer of American troops.

Mahdi militiamen also fought Iraqi security forces to a virtual standstill last month in Basra before an Iranian-supervised truce.

NYTimes Reporting that Sunnis Are Rejoining Maliki [Puppet] Gov't

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/04/24/world/middleeast/25iraq.html?hp


BAGHDAD — Iraq’s largest Sunni bloc has agreed to return to Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki’s cabinet after a nine-month boycott, several Sunni leaders said on Thursday, citing a recently passed amnesty law and the Maliki government’s crackdown on Shiite militias as reasons for the move.

The Sunni leaders said they were still working out the details of their return, an indication that the deal could still fall through. But such a return would represent a major political victory for Mr. Maliki in the midst of a military operation that has at times been criticized as poorly planned and fraught with risk. The principal group his security forces have been confronting is the Mahdi Army, a powerful militia led by Moktada al-Sadr, the radical Shiite cleric. Even though Mr. Maliki’s American-backed offensive against elements of the Mahdi Army has frequently stalled and has led to bitter complaints of civilian casualties, the Sunni leaders said that the government had done enough to address their concerns that they had decided to end their boycott.

“Our conditions were very clear, and the government achieved some of them,” said Adnan al-Duleimi, the head of Tawafuq, the largest Sunni bloc in the government. Mr. Duleimi said the achievements included “the general amnesty, chasing down the militias and disbanding them and curbing the outlaws.”

The recently passed amnesty law has already led to the release of many Sunni prisoners, encouraging Sunni parties that the government is serious about enforcing it. And the attacks on Shiite militias have apparently begun to assuage longstanding complaints that only Sunni groups blamed for the insurgency have been the targets of American and Iraqi security forces.

Exactly which ministries will be given to which Sunni politicians is still under negotiation, said Ayad Samarrai, the deputy general secretary of the Iraqi Islamic Party, the largest party within Tawafuq. Among those under consideration are the ministries of culture, planning, higher education and women’s affairs and the State Ministry for Foreign Affairs, Mr. Samarrai said.

The details are complicated because Ali Baban, who now heads the most powerful of those ministries, the planning ministry, was a member of the Sunni bloc but left it in order to stay in his post after the boycott began. Mr. Samarrai said that the most likely arrangement was that Mr. Baban would remain head of the planning ministry and another ministry would be given to the Sunnis.

The list of names that Tawafuq would nominate for the ministries was also still being negotiated within the bloc, Mr. Samarrai said. “Now we are discussing the details,” he said.

The official government television channel, Iraqiya, appeared to confirm the deal, following a meeting between Mr. Maliki and David Miliband, the visiting foreign secretary of Britain. Iraqiya said the prime minister “said that reconciliation has proved a success and all political blocs will return to the government.”

Also on Thursday, court and legal officials said that the capital case against Tariq Aziz, the deputy prime minister of Iraq under Saddam Hussein, would begin next week. The case involves the execution of more than 40 Iraqi merchants in 1992.

A lawyer for Mr. Aziz, Badi Arif, said on Thursday that Mr. Aziz is having unspecified health problems while in prison but “his morale is high.”

Hamas Calls for Popular Revolt at Rafah on Friday

From Palestine Information Center via Uruknet

April 24, 2008

GAZA, (PIC)-- The Hamas Movement called for a popular revolt at the Rafah border crossing at noon Friday in protest at the Israeli siege which prevents the entry of minimum basics of life to Gaza.

Ashraf Abu Daya, the spokesman for the popular action of Hamas, said the Palestinian masses will be marching at noon towards the crossings of Beit Hanoun and Rafah, pointing out that these angry marches will be a message to everyone to move urgently to put an end to this unjust siege which became intolerable.

In a related context, the Mizan center for human rights appealed Wednesday to the international community to intervene urgently and swiftly to rescue the besieged Gaza Strip from a serious humanitarian disaster.

In a statement received by the PIC, the center underlined that the Israeli siege paralyzed most of the public utilities and private businesses including the education, health and transportation sectors in Gaza and it also affected governmental and non-governmental institutions especially the UNRWA.

The statement highlighted that the gradual escalation of the fuel crisis, which began dramatically to affect all aspects of life, raised worries that this crisis would cause more serious violations against the civilians, especially since this crisis came at a time while Gaza suffers from an acute shortage of different supplies including the minimum basic needs.

So. African Trade Unions Lead Zimbabwe Solidarity

Whole article found on Marxmail.org below:
The Congress of South African Trade Unions [COSATU] welcomes
the statement by a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman that the
China Ocean Shipping Company which owns the An Yue Jiang,
has decided to recall the ship because Zimbabwe cannot take
delivery of the 77 tonnes of weapons and ammunition onboard.

If true, this is an historic victory for the international trade union
movement and civil society, and in particular for the South African
Transport and Allied Workers Union, whose members refused to unload or
transport its deadly cargo.

Today's meeting between the COSATU General Secretary, Zwelinzima Vavi
and the Secretary General of the Movement for Democratic Change, Tendai
Biti, confirmed beyond all doubt that the people of Zimbabwe are now
facing a massive crisis - a brutal onslaught from a regime that is
determined to cling to power by stealing the elections and imposing its
will through violence.

In COSATU's view the 'government' of Robert Mugabe is now illegal and
illegitimate. Its term of office expired at the end of March when the
people voted. Its has refused to release the results of the presidential
election and has illegally organised a recount of votes in 23
constituencies in which the ruling ZANU-PF lost narrowly to the MDC,
long after the time limit of 48 hours had expired. It has even been
'recounting' the presidential votes in those constituencies before they
had been announced.

Combined with this blatant vote-rigging, the ruling party has unleashed
a systematic campaign of violence against MDC members and supporters,
which has already claimed at least ten lives. Thousands have been
displaced from their homes, five hundred injured and hospitalised and
these numbers are increasing by the day.

Meanwhile the 'government' is continuing to rule illegally, with the
former ministers restored to their posts, even those who lost their
seats in the parliamentary elections. COSATU demands that the
governments of Africa refuse to recognise this despot who is desperately
hanging on to power, and to stop inviting him to meetings of the SADC or AU.

COSATU salutes the stand taken by its transport affiliate SATAWU and
other unions around the continent, and now calls upon all its affiliates
and Southern African trade union partners, to identify, and refuse to
handle, any goods destined for Zimbabwe which could be used to assist
the illegal government or be used to oppress the people.

The federation will be holding a meeting with civil society, church and
NGO groups on Thursday, 24 April, at which plans will be finalised for a
huge protest march in South Africa, in solidarity with the people of
Zimbabwe, and to demand the removal of the Mugabe dictatorship and the
installation of a government elected by a majority on 29 March 2008.

Patrick Craven (National Spokesperson)
Congress of South African Trade Unions
1-5 Leyds Cnr Biccard Streets
Braamfontein, 2017
P.O. Box 1019
Johannesburg, 2000
SOUTH AFRICA
Tel: +27 11 339-4911/24
Fax: +27 11 339-5080/6940/ 086 603 9667
Cell: 0828217456
patrick@cosatu.org.za

Chavez Brings Real Solidarity to UN-Beleaguered Haitians

Found on Marxmail.org
Portion below; whole thing here:
http://americas.irc-online.org/am/4140

Venezuela's President Hugo Chávez found a hero's welcome when he visited Haiti on March 12. People from Port-au-Prince's poor neighborhoods lined the streets of the capitol to cheer, chant, dance, and sing, with all the infectious enthusiasm of Haitian celebrations. President Chávez returned the affection. He jumped from his motorcade and joined the party, marching, even running with the crowd. At the National Palace, Chávez climbed up on the perimeter fence to slap hands like he had just scored a World Cup goal. He publicly thanked the Haitian people for their hospitality and enthusiasm, and for their historic support for liberty in the world.

President Chávez and the Haitian people hit it off so well for reasons of principle and of practice. Haitians consider Chávez a leader in the fight against the global inequalities that keep people in Haiti, Venezuela, and the rest of Latin America poor, hungry, and uneducated. They admire him for standing up to the most powerful leader in the world, George Bush (whose name was frequently invoked that day, not charitably), and to the World Bank and other powerbrokers. Even better, unlike their former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide (whose name was frequently, and charitably, invoked), Chávez keeps getting away with it.

In turn, Chávez knows that the Haitian people have been standing up to inequality and oppression for more than 200 years. He knows that Haitians won their independence in 1804 by beating Napoleon—the most powerful leader of his day—and that Haiti became the first country to abolish slavery. Chávez knows, and acknowledged at the National Palace, that Haiti played a critical role in his own country's independence. He also understands that the Haitian people are still fighting for their sovereignty, and will keep fighting as long as necessary.

President Chávez was also welcomed because he came bearing much-needed gifts. At the Palace, he signed a US$100 million agreement with Haiti's President Préval to provide Venezuelan oil, development assistance, and financial aid for the Cuba/Haiti partnership that supports Cuban medical professionals in Haiti's poorest areas and trains Haitian healthworkers in Cuban medical schools (Fidel Castro joined the Chávez-Préval meeting by phone). These gifts are particularly welcome because unlike the North American and European donors, Venezuela and Cuba do not condition their largesse on Haiti decreasing social spending or restructuring its economy to benefit multi-national corporations.

This public display of mutual affection contrasts sharply with the Haitian poor's relationship with other Latin Americans in Haiti, a relationship that is increasingly hostile. A few days before Chávez' visit, Edmond Mulet of Guatemala, the Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General, told Brazil's Folha newspaper that "a photo of Haiti today would reveal a horrible situation: poverty, the absence of institutions, debility, and the absence of the State." Brazil's Ambassador to Haiti, Paulo Cordeiro Andrade Pinto, told the newspaper that President Préval was "passive" and "sluggish."

Ambassadors Mulet and Andrade Pinto do not jump from their motorcades to join Port-au-Prince's street celebrations. They travel as quickly as possible between their homes in wealthy neighborhoods and their offices in wealthy neighborhoods, with armed escorts in large cars, windows tinted and rolled up, air-conditioning on. Their employees, the soldiers of MINUSTAH, the United Nations (UN) "peacekeeping" mission that Mulet directs and Brazil leads, do go to poor neighborhoods, but when they do they stay in armored personnel vehicles, their automatic weapons, rather than their hands, extended to the Haitian people.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

NYTimes Wakes Up: Inmate Count in U.S. Dwarfs Other Nations’

Portion below; whole thing here:
http://www.nytimes.com/2008/04/23/us/23prison.html?hp=&pagewanted=all


The United States has less than 5 percent of the world’s population. But it has almost a quarter of the world’s prisoners.

Indeed, the United States leads the world in producing prisoners, a reflection of a relatively recent and now entirely distinctive American approach to crime and punishment. Americans are locked up for crimes — from writing bad checks to using drugs — that would rarely produce prison sentences in other countries. And in particular they are kept incarcerated far longer than prisoners in other nations.

Criminologists and legal scholars in other industrialized nations say they are mystified and appalled by the number and length of American prison sentences.

The United States has, for instance, 2.3 million criminals behind bars, more than any other nation, according to data maintained by the International Center for Prison Studies at King’s College London.

China, which is four times more populous than the United States, is a distant second, with 1.6 million people in prison. (That number excludes hundreds of thousands of people held in administrative detention, most of them in China’s extrajudicial system of re-education through labor, which often singles out political activists who have not committed crimes.)

San Marino, with a population of about 30,000, is at the end of the long list of 218 countries compiled by the center. It has a single prisoner.

The United States comes in first, too, on a more meaningful list from the prison studies center, the one ranked in order of the incarceration rates. It has 751 people in prison or jail for every 100,000 in population. (If you count only adults, one in 100 Americans is locked up.)

The only other major industrialized nation that even comes close is Russia, with 627 prisoners for every 100,000 people. The others have much lower rates. England’s rate is 151; Germany’s is 88; and Japan’s is 63.

The median among all nations is about 125, roughly a sixth of the American rate.

There is little question that the high incarceration rate here has helped drive down crime, though there is debate about how much.

Criminologists and legal experts here and abroad point to a tangle of factors to explain America’s extraordinary incarceration rate: higher levels of violent crime, harsher sentencing laws, a legacy of racial turmoil, a special fervor in combating illegal drugs, the American temperament, and the lack of a social safety net. Even democracy plays a role, as judges — many of whom are elected, another American anomaly — yield to populist demands for tough justice.

Whatever the reason, the gap between American justice and that of the rest of the world is enormous and growing.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Evo Morales' 10 Commandments to Save the Planet

The 10 commandments president Morales suggested
to save the planet, life and humanity are:


1-Acabar con el sistema capitalista
1-Stopping the capitalist system

2-Renunciar a las guerras
2-Renouncing wars

3-Un mundo sin imperialismo ni colonialismo
3-A world without imperialism or colonialism

4-Derecho al agua
4-Right to water

5-Desarrollo de energías limpias
5-Development of clean energies

6-Respeto a la madre tierra
6-Respect for Mother Earth

7-Servicios básicos como derechos humanos
7-Basic services such as human rights

8-Combatir las desigualdades
8-Fighting inequalities

9-Promover la diversidad de culturas y economías
9-Promoting diversity of cultures and economies

10-Vivir bien, no vivir mejor a costa del otro
10-Living well, not living better at the expense of others

Monday, April 21, 2008

Big Brother IS Watching--Better Pick Up That Dog Poo

Portion below; whole thing here: http://philippi666.newsvine.com/_news/2008/04/14/1429551-civil-liberties-in-britain-being-encroached-in-name-of-security-


Many Americans who feel that their civil liberties are being curtailed – and law enforcement excesses perpetrated – in the name of homeland security, may derive a certain measure of comfort from knowing they are not alone. Britain, the country that gave the world the Magna Carta – and whose name, for centuries, has been synonymous with fair play and citizens’ rights – now seems to have joined the club.

Just as 9/11 changed the United States forever, the July 2005 train bombings in London woke Britain up to the new reality that they are no longer invulnerable. And just as in America, government and law enforcement agencies seem to be infused with a sense of near paranoia.

It does not take a great deal to arouse suspicion these days. Any behavior that does not fit the established norm is regarded as having potential for terrorist activities. US airports make passengers take off their shoes before boarding an airplane. In Britain, some local councils are going one better by making use of surveillance cameras to trap and fine folks for failing to pick up dog poop.

According to a report published in a British newspaper, the Telegraph, more than 1000 covert surveillance operations are being launched each month by local authorities to investigate offences that can be only described as petty. Examples include underage smoking and breaches of planning regulations.

Big Brother seems to be getting bigger every month. In Britain, the weapon of choice is Regulation of Investigative Powers Act 2000 (RIPA). The primary function of RIPA is ostensibly legal surveillance of terrorism-related activities. However, it is being increasingly misused to investigate anything that can be described as a criminal offence.

One city council admits that it has used RIPA to investigate illegal building works; other city councils have used spy cameras installed in tins and bundles of twigs to catch fly tippers. Some schools have installed surveillance cameras in exam rooms to keep tabs on potential cheating activities – like using cell phones to cheat on tests. A Dorset city council admitted it had spied for more than two weeks on a family it suspected of lying on a school application form.

Figures available from the Office of the Surveillance Commissioner reveal that councils and other government departments put in almost 12,500 applications for ‘directed surveillance’ last year – almost double the number in the previous year.

End the Siege on Gaza--From London to Seattle

End the Siege of Gaza
London protest Saturday 26 April, opposite 10 Downing Street, Whitehall, 4-6 pm


JOIN SEATTLE'S CONTINGENT: Saturday April 26th

11 a.m. Denny St. Overpass & I-5

Noon Westlake Park, 4th & Pine, Downtown Seattle

206.524.2207 for info

Paralyzed Children on Wheel Chairs Are Waiting at the Egyptian Gate of Rafah Border Crossing

Found on Palestinian Pundit

GAZA, (PIC)-- A large number of Palestinian children with special needs participated Sunday in a massive march to appeal to the world's children and human rights organizations to help them to lift the unjust Israeli siege on them, carrying banners reading, "let me live like the rest of the world's children" and "world without mercy or conscience."

The march, which was organized by the education ministry in Gaza, headed to the headquarters of the world health organization, where Palestinian children handed an appeal letter to Dr. Mahmoud Dahir, the director of WHO's office.

In the same context, the popular committee against the siege warned of an imminent collapse of the health system in Gaza as a result of tightening the Israeli siege and slashing fuel quantities allowed into the Strip, which would lead to a multiple disaster.

MP Jamal Al-Khudari, the head of the committee, held the international community fully responsible for the siege on Gaza, stressing the need to provide the Palestinian wounded of the Israeli holocaust especially children and women with urgent medical treatment outside Gaza.

MP Khudari renewed his call on Egyptian leadership to allow the wounded to leave Gaza through the Rafah border crossing to receive treatment in Arab and Islamic hospitals and then return after recovery.

For his part, Dr. Atef Odwan, a member of the Hamas parliamentary bloc, warned of the seriousness of the humanitarian situation in Gaza as a result of the Israeli siege and called on the Egyptian government to open the Rafah crossing in order for Palestinians to buy their needs of fuel, food and medical supplies.

Dr. Odwan pointed out in another context that there are Arab pressures on PA chief Mahmoud Abbas to open dialog with Hamas, but they have not succeeded so far because the American influence on Abbas is stronger.


US News Media's Latest Disgrace--[An Old Story]

The NYTimes expose of generals skewing the news for the Pentagon is not new. Robert Parry explains how press corruption started during the Reagan era. Portion below; whole thing here: http://www.consortiumnews.com/2008/042108.html

The scope of the problem dawned on me in the late 1980s, as I watched the widespread criminality of the Iran-Contra and related scandals – ranging from money-laundering, gun-smuggling, drug-trafficking and acts of terrorism – get swept under the rug because they implicated senior U.S. officials.

During those years, I witnessed the Washington press corps – which still basked in the glory of Watergate and the Pentagon Papers – rushing headlong toward becoming little more than a propaganda funnel for the powers-that-be.

Indeed, in 1992, my first book, Fooling America, argued that the Watergate-Vietnam-era press corps was undergoing a historic transformation into a snarky conveyor of ill-considered conventional wisdom.

The book also made the case that this transformation was not accidental, nor was it driven just by corporate greed and journalistic careerism (though there was plenty of both). There also was a powerful ideological component.

Behind the scenes, the Reagan administration had constructed a domestic framework modeled after CIA psychological warfare programs abroad. The main difference this time was that the psy-op took aim at the American people with the goal of managing how they perceived events, what insiders called “perception management.”

From documents that I uncovered during the Iran-Contra scandal, it was clear that the motive behind this extraordinary operation was the bitterness that conservatives felt toward the mass protests against the Vietnam War and toward American journalists whose reporting supposedly had undermined the war effort.

So, Ronald Reagan’s team made it a high priority to rein in troublesome journalists and to reverse the so-called “Vietnam Syndrome,” the American people’s revulsion over any more foreign military adventures.

The documents revealed that the domestic operation took shape in the early 1980s under the guidance of CIA Director William Casey, who even donated one of the CIA’s top propagandists, Walter Raymond Jr., to manage the program from inside President Reagan’s National Security Council staff.

Other factors fed into the success of this propaganda operation, especially the rise of a bright group of political intellectuals known as the neoconservatives. They proved especially adept at using McCarthyistic tactics to marginalize and silence dissent.

The crowning achievement of this decade-long effort came during the first Persian Gulf War of 1990-91. President George H.W. Bush believed that a successful U.S.-led ground offensive could finish the job of bringing the American people back from their post-Vietnam malaise.

However, after months of devastating aerial bombings, Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev had persuaded Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein to withdraw his troops from Kuwait with no more killing, and Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf and other front-line U.S. commanders favored the deal.

But Bush rebuffed the offer, instead ordering the ground attack that slaughtered tens of thousands of fleeing Iraqi troops during a 100-hour campaign. [For details, see the Colin Powell chapter of Neck Deep.]

When the ground war ended, Bush offered an insight into his central motivation. In his first comments about the U.S. victory, he declared: “By God, we’ve kicked the Vietnam Syndrome once and for all.”

Sunday, April 20, 2008

The US Palestine-Israel Fairytale

And to think I have revered Mark Twain because of his "Anti-Imperialist League" activity! Palestine cannot get a break, even from anti-imperialists, it seems.

Portion below; whole thing (found on uruknet.info) here: http://www.palestinechronicle.com/view_article_details.php?id=13720



A memorable quote in Mark Twain's Tom Sawyer Abroad (1894) still carries a wealth of relevance. He writes, "They own the [holy] land, just the mere land, and that's all they do own; but it was our folks, our Jews and Christians, that made it holy, and so they haven't any business to be there defiling it. It's a shame and we ought not to stand it a minute. We ought to march against them and take it away from them."

Recently an influential pastor, John Hagee of the Dallas's Cornerstone mega-church, followed his endorsement of Republican presidential candidate John McCain with some telling remarks. "What Senator McCain, I feel, needs to do to bring evangelicals into his camp is to make it very clear that he is a strong defender of Israel and that he has a strong 24 years of being pro-life. And I think on those two issues they will get on common ground and have a common understanding."

Such are the views of a man who has ever- growing influence among an ever-swelling culture in the US -- the evangelical Christian bloc. No mention was made of the well being of Palestinians, even Christian Palestinians, many of who are descendants of the early church.

To be sure, the human rights and needs of Palestinians are rarely addressed by American officials. On the rare occasion that they are, any expression of support must be closely followed by a strong condemnation of "Palestinian terrorism".

Welcome to America's parallel reality on Israel and Palestine, bare-faced in its defying the notions of common sense, equality and justice, ever-insistent on peeking at the Arab- Israeli conflict through a looking glass manufactured jointly in the church, in Congress and in the newsroom, where the world is reduced to characters interacting in a Hollywood-like movie set: good guys, well groomed and often white-skinned versus bad guys bearing opposite qualities.

The End of the World as You Know It--And The Rise of the New Energy World Order

TomDispatch has the above article from Michael Klare here: http://www.tomdispatch.com/post/174919/michael_klare_oil_rules_

Below is a paragraph of this very interesting article that explains what Klare is driving (sorry) at:
This new world order will be characterized by fierce international competition for dwindling stocks of oil, natural gas, coal, and uranium, as well as by a tidal shift in power and wealth from energy-deficit states like China, Japan, and the United States to energy-surplus states like Russia, Saudi Arabia, and Venezuela. In the process, the lives of everyone will be affected in one way or another -- with poor and middle-class consumers in the energy-deficit states experiencing the harshest effects. That's most of us and our children, in case you hadn't quite taken it in.
For this that would like more info, Against the Grain, a KPFA radio show, has an interview with Michael Klare here: http://www.againstthegrain.org/

Saturday, April 19, 2008

We Drive; They Starve

Found on Angry Arab Newservice
Portion below; whole thing here: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/money/main.jhtml?xml=/money/2008/04/14/ccview114.xml

We drive, they starve. The mass diversion of the North American grain harvest into ethanol plants for fuel is reaching its political and moral limits.


A demonstrator eats grass in front of a U.N. peackeeping soldier in Port-au-Prince
A demonstrator eats grass in front of a U.N. peacekeeping soldier during a protest against the high cost of living in Port-au-Prince

"The reality is that people are dying already," said Jacques Diouf, of the UN's Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). "Naturally people won't be sitting dying of starvation, they will react," he said.

The UN says it takes 232kg of corn to fill a 50-litre car tank with ethanol. That is enough to feed a child for a year. Last week, the UN predicted "massacres" unless the biofuel policy is halted.

We are all part of this drama whether we fill up with petrol or ethanol. The substitution effect across global markets makes the two morally identical.