Monday, March 30, 2009

Khmer Rouge Trials May Expose US, China


Analysis by Marwaan Macan-Markar

PHNOM PENH, Mar 30 (IPS) - Limits placed on a United Nations-backed war crimes tribunal in prosecuting surviving leaders of the genocidal Khmer Rouge regime may not prevent revelations about international actors linked to Cambodia's dark period.

It ranges from the period of Khmer Rouge history that the court will consider, a geographic limit to account for only atrocities committed by Cambodian nationals, and who among the surviving Khmer Rouge leadership can be hauled before the tribunal of foreign and local jurists.

Already, Noam Chomsky, linguist and trenchant critic of Washington’s foreign policy has fired a salvo ahead the opening session of the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC), as the tribunal is formally known.

On Monday, Kaing Khek Eav, or ‘Duch,’ took the stand at the ECCC to mark the beginning of the tribunal, which comes 30 years after the extremist Maoist group was driven out of power by Vietnamese troops.

Duch was the chief jailor of Tuol Sleng, a former high school in the Cambodian capital, which became the largest detention and torture centre of the Khmer Rouge.

Between 12,380 to 14,000 men, women and children were tortured and then killed under Duch’s watch. Many victims were accused of having links with the U.S. spy agency, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). Only 11 people survived.

In all, the Khmer Rouge was responsible for the deaths of 1.7 million people, nearly a quarter of the country’s population at that time, as they sought, between April 1975 and June 1979, to create an agrarian utopia.

But, as Chomsky asserts in the ‘Phnom Penh Post’, an English-language daily, the Khmer Rouge’s brutality against fellow Cambodia citizens did not emerge out of a political vacuum.

Chomsky points a finger at leading figures of the U.S. political establishment like Henry Kissinger, a member of the late president Richard Nixon’s administration, who should also be held accountable for creating the conditions that paved the way for the rise the Khmer Rouge.

‘’It (the trial) shouldn’t be limited to the Cambodians,’’ says Chomsky in an interview that appeared on the weekend. ‘’An international trial that doesn’t take into account Henry Kissinger or other authors of the American bombings and the support of the KR (Khmer Rouge) after they were kicked out of the country, that’s just a farce.’’

‘’The records say that the US wanted to ‘use anything that flies against anything that moves’ (during the bombing of Cambodia), which led to five times the bombing that was reported before, greater that all bombings in all theatres of World War Two, which helped create the Khmer Rouge,’’ he asserted.

Washington began flying sorties over Cambodia in the mid-1960s to crush parts of the country being used by North Vietnamese troops. These bombing raids using B-52 planes were kept a secret from the U.S. public for years.

During the Nixon years, from 1969 to 1973, an estimated 500,000 bombs were dropped, resulting in the deaths of close to 600,000 Cambodian men, women and children.

But the relatives of these victims will not have their day in tribunals such as the ECCC.

It stems from the limit of ‘’territorial jurisdiction’’ and ‘’temporal jurisdiction’’ written into the language of the laws to establish the special tribunal.

Washington, in fact, had a role in a placing such limits on how far across geography and time the war crimes tribunal could reach when a law to deal with the genocide in Cambodia was being shaped in the early 1990s.

‘’It is the policy of the United States to support efforts to bring to justice members of the Khmer Rouge for their crimes against humanity committed in Cambodia between April 17, 1975 and January 7, 1979,’’ Washington declared at the time as it threw its weight behind the effort to investigate a grisly period of Cambodia’s past.

China, however, may have more to worry, given its direct role in assisting the Khmer Rouge during the period the ECCC is examining. Beijing reportedly pumped in a billion U.S. dollars to help the Khmer Rouge, in addition to providing other material and diplomatic support.

The Asian giant wanted to draw Cambodia into its orbit to counter the growing influence of its communist adversary, the Soviet Union, and its Vietnamese ally.

The current Cambodian government of Prime Minister Hun Sen, in fact, has grown nervous about the prospect of Beijing’s role during the Khmer Rouge genocide surfacing during the trial. After all, China has emerged as a dominant economic player, investing nearly 1.5 billion US dollars in 2007.

‘’The government would like to keep China’s name out of the trial. It does not want to upset the good relations between the two countries,’’ a highly-placed Cambodian official told IPS on condition of anonymity. ‘’What happened then was Cold War politics. But we have moved on; we have mended fences.’’

Hun Sen, himself, hopes to benefit from an initial decision by the ECCC to prosecute Duch and four other surviving leaders of the Khmer Rouge. Such a limit will ensure that he and other senior members of his government who held roles of commanders or ranked as officials in the Khmer Rouge regime will not have to account for their role in the genocide.

‘’Many more people need to face the court to really deliver justice to the millions of victims of these horrific crimes,’’ says Brittis Edman, Cambodia researcher for the rights watchdog Amnesty International. ‘’The Extraordinary Chambers must urgently expand its prosecution strategy to investigate and prosecute more cases before it is too late.’’

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Tens of Thousands Demonstrate against G20 Summit in London

G20 demonstrators march in London

Tens of thousands of people have marched through London demanding action on poverty, climate change and jobs, ahead of next week's G20 summit.

The Put People First alliance of 150 charities and unions walked from Embankment to Hyde Park for a rally.

Speakers called on G20 leaders to pursue a new kind of global justice.

Police estimate 35,000 marchers took part in the event. Its organisers say people wanted the chance to air their views peacefully.

Protesters described a "carnival-like atmosphere" with brass bands, piercing whistles and stereos blasting music as the slow-paced procession weaved through the streets.

Police said one man was arrested during the march for being drunk and disorderly.

Unite union, general secretary Derek Simpson said: "I think it's an important message but whether it will get through to the people meeting in London I don't know. Anyone who sees the numbers on this march should realise how important it is."

Families with children in pushchairs were among those marching along the 4.2-mile route under banners with slogans including 'capitalists - you are the crisis' and 'justice for the world's poor'.

As protesters passed the heavily-policed gates of Downing Street, there were chants and jeers with one person shouting "enjoy the overtime".

BBC News reporter Mario Cacciottolo said people were clearly angry, but the atmosphere was not tense.

Milton McKenzie, 73, from Essex, told him: "How the hell can we have a situation here in Britain where we have people out of work and the bankers just cream it off and are helped by the government."

  • World leaders will meet next week in London to discuss measures to tackle the downturn. See to the G20 summit.
  • The G20 countries are Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, South Korea, Turkey, the United Kingdom, the US and the EU.
  • Italian trade unionist Nicoli Nicolosi, who had travelled from Rome, said: "We are here to try and make a better world and protest against the G20."

    Glen Tarman, chairman of the Put People First co-ordination team, said: "An exciting alliance has been born today. We will keep up the pressure on world leaders and the UK government to address our demands and put people first."

    TUC general secretary Brendan Barber said he wanted to see G20 leaders agree a plan of action to deal with the financial downturn.

    "Where I hope we will see a consensus emerge is in the recognition that unless they act together, then the problems are only going to get worse.

    "This, unlike any other recession, is a recession right across the world."

    The Energy and Climate Change Secretary Ed Miliband said it was important for the G20 to make commitments on helping the environment as well as the economy.

    "There are some people who will say you can either tackle the economic crisis or the climate crisis.

    "But the truth is that both come together with this idea of a Green New Deal, of investing in the jobs of the future, which are going to be in the green industries of the future."

    The director of the the Adam Smith Institute, Dr Eamonn Butler, said governments have caused the economic crisis.

    "The world market economy is actually a very moral system that raised a billion people out of poverty in the last 10 years," he said.

    A huge security operation is under way in the run-up to the G20 summit, at which world leaders will discuss the global financial crisis and other issues.

    There have been fears that banks and other financial institutions could be the focus for violent protests.

    Commander Simon O'Brien, one of the senior command team in charge of policing security, said: "It's fair to say that this [the march] is one of the largest, one of the most challenging and one of the most complicated operations we have delivered.

    "G20 is attracting a significant amount of interest from protest groups. There is an almost unprecedented level of activity going on."

    Saturday's march will be followed by a series of protests on Wednesday and Thursday by a variety of coalitions and groups campaigning on a range of subjects, from poverty, inequality and jobs to war, climate change and capitalism.

    Berlin march

    Ahead of the summit, Prime Minister Gordon Brown has been visiting a number of countries seeking support.

    On Friday, during a visit to Chile, he said people should not be "cynical" about what could be achieved at next week's summit, saying he was optimistic about the likely outcome.

    However, in an interview with Saturday's Financial Times, German Chancellor Angela Merkel dampened expectations of a significant breakthrough.

    She said one meeting would not be enough to solve the economic crisis and finish building a new structure for global markets.

    In Berlin, thousands of protesters have also taken to the streets with a message to the G20 leaders: "We won't pay for your crisis".

    Another march took place in the city of Frankfurt. The demonstrations attracted as many as 20,000 people.

    Banners accused the Germany government of being too willing to spend billions bailing out financial institutions and too slow to protect ordinary workers, the BBC's Steve Rosenberg said from Berlin.

    Friday, March 27, 2009

    Bomb explodes in Greek port

    A homemade bomb rocked the Greek port of Piraeus today, damaging buildings and cars but causing no injuries, police said.

    It was unclear whether the attack directed against ship-repair company DT Marine, the latest in a string of bombings of businesses, was politically or criminally motivated.

    Greece's anti-terrorism squad was investigating the blast which damaged eight cars and three adjacent buildings.

    There has been a string of bombing attacks against domestic and foreign businesses in Greece since widespread rioting in December sparked by the police killing of a teenager.


    Wednesday, March 25, 2009

    Whose side are you on?

    Published Mar 22, 2009 10:37 PM

    It’s easy to find editorials in the corporate press knocking the Employee Free Choice Act. This isn’t one of them. The EFCA strengthens the right of workers to organize. That’s all we need to know. Both the House of Representatives and Senate need to pass the EFCA, and do it now!

    Organizing on the job is a right. It is even the law. But the bosses have found ways around the law. EFCA stops corporate bosses that block organizing or intimidate pro-union workers. With EFCA, deep-pocket bosses with herds of high-priced lawyers can’t postpone elections. They can’t refuse to bargain. They have to sign a contract.

    For anyone who isn’t sure whose side they’re on, look at the lineup against EFCA. Both Bank of America and Citigroup—financial institutions that top the big bailout chart—organized anti-EFCA tele-meetings. Both gorged on the housing boom and then evicted workers from their homes. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is rolling out cash for the media blitz to convince Congress to weaken EFCA or kill it altogether.

    Last December, the Bank of America and U.S. Chamber of Commerce both got an up-close lesson on the power of organized workers. When BOA cut credit to the Republic Windows and Doors factory in Chicago, causing it to abruptly close, the women and men of United Electrical workers union Local 1110 protected their labor investment and their right to pay and benefits under the WARN Act. They sat down in the plant and locked themselves inside. They were African-American, Latina and Latino, white but mostly immigrant workers—united.

    Labor/community demonstrations including lesbian/gay/bi/trans people protected the plant from any police action. Across the country and around the world support came streaming in. Protests hit BOA branches everywhere. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce representative urged BOA to settle quickly before other workers got the same idea. Both came to the table and met with the workers. And they did settle. The union won. That is why big business is against EFCA and why we’re for it. It’s also why workers must not just rely on Congress, but organize and fight for the EFCA.

    Articles copyright 1995-2009 Workers World. Verbatim copying and distribution of this entire article is permitted in any medium without royalty provided this notice is preserved.

    Death link to too much red meat

    Scientists have produced new evidence suggesting eating lots of red and processed meat damages health.

    They found big meat eaters had a raised risk of death from all causes over a 10-year period.

    In contrast, a higher intake of white meat was associated with a slightly reduced risk of death over the same period.

    The US study, featured in Archives of Internal Medicine, was based on more than 500,000 people.

    The need is for a major reduction in total meat intake
    Dr Barry Popkin
    University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
    The researchers, from The US National Cancer Institute, found those whose diet contained the highest proportion of red or processed meat had a higher overall risk of death, and specifically a higher risk of cancer and heart disease than those who ate the least.

    People eating the most meat were eating about 160g of red or processed meat per day - approximately a 6oz steak.

    Those who ate the least were only getting about 25g per day - approximately a small rasher of bacon.

    Conversely, those who ate the highest proportion of white meat had a lower risk of overall death, and a lower risk of fatal cancer or heart disease than those who ate the lowest proportion.

    The researchers calculated that 11% of deaths in men and 16% of deaths in women during the study period could have been prevented if people had decreased their red meat consumption to the level of those in the lowest intake group.

    Cancer compounds

    The researchers said cancer-causing compounds were formed during high-temperature cooking of meat.

    No one's saying that people should avoid bacon or burgers completely, but evidence tells us that cutting down on these foods can reduce the risk of dying from cancer and other diseases
    Ed Yong
    Cancer Research UK
    Meat is a major source of saturated fat, which has been associated with breast and colorectal cancer.

    In addition, lower meat intake has been linked to a reduction in risk factors for heart disease, including lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels.

    The latest study adds to a growing body of research linking high red and processed meat consumption to an increased risk of ill health.

    Recent UK research found one in ten people has tried to cut down on processed meats, such as bacon, in the wake of previous reports linking them to cancer.

    Writing in the same journal, Dr Barry Popkin of the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, stressed there were health benefits to eating some red meat.

    But he added: "The need is for a major reduction in total meat intake, an even larger reduction in processed meat and other highly processed and salted animal source food products and a reduction in total saturated fat."

    Dr Mark Wahlqvist, a nutrition expert from Australia's Monash University, said eating small amounts of red meat - around 30g a day - provided a good source of key nutrients.

    He said: "Fresh, lean red meat of these amounts is likely to be of more benefit than harm."

    Ed Yong, of the charity Cancer Research UK, said two large studies had now linked eating lots of red or processed meat to some cancers.

    "No one's saying that people should avoid bacon or burgers completely, but evidence from large studies like this tells us that cutting down on these foods can reduce the risk of dying from cancer and other diseases."

    Vandals Hit Home of Ex-Chief of Bank

    Jolly good, Spot on as they say in Britain

    LONDON — The house of Fred Goodwin, the former chief executive of ailing Royal Bank of Scotland, was vandalized early Wednesday and windows of his car were smashed.

    Mr. Goodwin attracted criticism for keeping his £703,000, or $1 million, pension despite a string of ill-timed acquisitions under his reign that brought the bank under government control and calls from Prime Minister Gordon Brown to surrender the payment.

    At least three windows on the ground floor level of his house in an affluent suburb of Edinburgh, Scotland, were smashed and a black Mercedes S600 parked in the driveway was vandalized. It is unclear whether Mr. Goodwin was in the house at the time.

    “We can confirm we attended at an address in Oswald Road at 4.35 a.m. on March 25 and inquiries are ongoing,” a spokeswoman for the Lothian and Borders Police said in a statement. No one has been arrested or charged and the police are seeking for anyone with information about the incident to step forward, she said.

    Royal Bank of Scotland paid £290 a month for security arrangements at Mr. Goodwin’s house, the bank said earlier, adding that such arrangements are normal practice for any departing chief executive. Linda Harper, a spokeswoman for the bank, declined to comment on the incident and said it was a matter for the police.

    Mr. Goodwin left Royal Bank of Scotland after the government pumped in £20 billion following the acquisition of the Dutch lender ABN Amro at the peak of the market. Once hailed as a skilled deal maker who turned a small bank into a global financial services operation, Mr. Goodwin became the target of public scorn and a symbol of the decline of Britain’s banks because of the bank’s losses.

    Death threats and outrage aimed at recipients of $165 million in bonuses at the insurance giant American International Insurance was cited as one reason officials eventually decided not to release the names of the employees who received the money.

    Tuesday, March 24, 2009

    Nearly 1 in 5 workers has no health insurance

    Payroll taxes support Medicare, low-income kids, but adults get overlooked

    updated 11:02 p.m. CT, Mon., March. 23, 2009

    WASHINGTON - American workers — whose taxes pay for massive government health programs — are getting squeezed like no other group by private health insurance premiums that are rising much faster than their wages.

    While just about all retirees are covered, and nearly 90 percent of children have health insurance, workers now are at significantly higher risk of being uninsured than in the 1990s, the last time lawmakers attempted a health care overhaul, according to a study to be released Tuesday.

    The study for the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation found that nearly 1 in 5 workers is uninsured, a statistically significant increase from fewer than 1 in 7 during the mid-1990s.

    The problem is cost. Total premiums for employer plans have risen six to eight times faster than wages, depending on whether individual or family coverage is picked, the study found.

    “The thing I think is interesting is how many workers are newly uninsured,” said Lynn Blewett, director of the State Health Access Data Assistance Center at the University of Minnesota, which conducted the research. “In the last couple of years we’ve seen a deterioration of private health insurance.”

    About 20.7 million workers were uninsured in the mid-1990s. A decade later, it was 26.9 million, an increase of about 6 million, the study found.

    In the 1990s, there were eight states with 20 percent or more of the working age population uninsured. Now there are 14: Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Carolina and Texas.

    et workers continue to pay the bill for covering others. Their payroll taxes help support Medicare, which covers the elderly. Income taxes and other federal and state levies pay for covering the poor and the children of low-income working parents. But government provides little direct assistance to help cover workers themselves.

    “There really aren’t safety-net programs for adults,” Blewett said.

    The study comes as the Obama administration is scrambling to maintain support for a health care overhaul this year in the face of record federal deficits. A program like President Barack Obama’s, which would commit the nation to coverage for all, is estimated to cost about $1.5 trillion over 10 years. Yet the U.S. health care system, already the world’s costliest, is also considered one of the most wasteful.

    “I don’t think we can delay action beyond this year,” said Dr. Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, president of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, which sponsored the study and provides extensive financing for health care research. “It’s clear that we are at the brink.”

    For the Ramer family of Denver, Iowa, it’s already too late. Husband Jim, a truck driver for a road-building company, died of a heart attack in 2005 at the age of 59. He was uninsured and trying to cope with diabetes, a chronic disease that requires prescription drugs and follow-up medical care to keep under control.

    His wife, Cindy, 58, works full time caring for mentally disabled people as a certified nursing assistant. But the nursing home that employs her canceled its medical coverage several years ago because it had become too expensive. Ramer is now uninsured and hasn’t had a regular checkup in about three years. Instead, she goes to health fairs for bone-density measurements and other screening tests.

    “I don’t think it’s fair that I’m caring for people and helping them with their health care, and I don’t have adequate, affordable health care of my own,” said Ramer. “I’m not asking for a handout. I’m just asking for something I can afford, and won’t have all these restrictions that they’ll cover this and won’t cover that.” Ramer says she can afford to pay about $100 to $150 a month.

    If anything, the situation for workers appears to be worse than is reflected in the report. It analyzed Census data through 2007, the latest year available. But that before the economy tumbled into recession.

    Monday, March 23, 2009

    All homosexuals should be stoned to death, says Muslim preacher of hate

    [Makes me rather glad I live in a country where I can exercise my Second Amendment Rights.

    Why doesn't Britain deport this pig? I guess they have gotten too freaking politically correct for words. These are the same people who refused entry to Geert Wilders who produced the film Fitna.]

    By Sam Greenhill
    Last updated at 12:34 AM on 21st March 2009

    All homosexuals should face stoning to death, a Muslim preacher of hate declared yesterday.

    Anjem Choudary, the firebrand cleric who wants to see Britain ruled by Sharia law, said such a regime was the only way to fix the country's ills.

    Under it, adulterers and homosexuals would be killed by stoning. Asked if that would include anybody - even a Cabinet minister such as Business Secretary Lord Mandelson - Choudary responded with an astonishing diatribe.

    Hate, hate and more hate: Anjem Choudary (centre), flanked by two cohorts, prepares to give a press conference on Friday in which he says homosexuals should be stoned to death

    He said: 'If a man likes another man, it can happen, but if you go on to fulfil your desire, if it is proved, then there is a punishment to follow. You don't stone to death unless there are four eyewitnesses. It is a very stringent procedure.

    'There are some people who are attracted to donkeys but that does not mean it is right.'

    Choudary was speaking at a press conference in London arranged by Muslim extremists to justify their protest in Luton last week against soldiers returning home from Iraq.

    His incendiary remarks immediately prompted calls for him to be investigated by police. Tory MP Patrick Mercer said: 'These statements show the depravity of this man's beliefs. They must incite hatred and encourage terrorism, and I would encourage the Metropolitan Police to investigate them as rigorously as possible.'

    The Rev Sharon Ferguson, chief executive of the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement, said: 'This is appalling. The police should look very closely at what has been said to see if there is any action they should be taking.'

    Police were not at the press conference but a Scotland Yard spokesman said officers would investigate if a complaint was made.

    Only last week, Choudary, a self-styled 'judge of the Sharia Court of the UK', was defending the shameful protests against soldiers parading through Luton after a tour of duty in Iraq.

    Yet a week ago, the Daily Mail exposed fundamentalist Choudary's student days when he was pictured swigging beer, cavorting with women and puffing on a cannabis joint - offences for which he would be lashed and stoned under his version of Sharia law. Yesterday he sheepishly confessed:

    'Yes, I was not always practising Islam. Certainly in my student days I was not a practising Muslim.'

    Wake-up call: Omar Bakri has warned of another 7/7-style attack

    Yesterday Choudary, 42, was flanked by two fellow firebrands at the press conference at the Express by Holiday Inn Hotel in Chingford, East London.

    It started with warning from fellow hate cleric Omar Bakri, who warned that Britons should 'wake up before it is too late' or suffer another 7/7 terror attack.

    The preacher threatened that ordinary Muslims living here would rise up and retaliate for the 'evil' acts of British soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan.

    Bakri, banned from Britain four years ago, broadcast his threats from his Lebanon bolthole over a speakerphone.

    In London, sitting alongside Choudary was Ishtiaq Alamgir, another ringleader of the Luton protests, who accused British soldiers of torture, rape and murder. He said: 'Those British soldiers have blood on their hands.'

    A third firebrand, Abu Abdullah, 30, branded the British Government 'tyrannical' and warned: 'Do not relax, do not recline, or you will be touched by the fire of hell.'

    Corrupt cops lead NY mayor to consider 'martial law'

    03/23/2009 @ 2:28 pm

    Filed by Stephen C. Webster

    A New York town's decades-long struggle with police corruption has its mayor considering potential measures most would consider drastic: disbanding the entire department and declaring "martial law."

    "It may be that as a stopgap measure, that you would need military forces - State Police, National Guard," said Brian Stratton [pictured on right], mayor of Schenectady, New York.

    "The governor would have to declare it and then the National Guard would come in," reported Capital News 9. "The mayor said it's more for a transition to a new police force if that were to happen."

    Controversy over Schenectady's officers is nothing new.

    "My father who served in this office from 1956 to 1958 was battling police corruption," said Stratton in a separate report by Capital News 9.

    "Years later, the battle continues as at least five Schenectady police officers face possible termination," reported the station.

    "Public Safety Commissioner Wayne Bennett says under the law, he's not allowed to consider the opinions of Mayor Stratton but he says the mayor has given him full authority to make whatever decisions have to be made in these cases," reported Fox 23 in Albany, NY.

    "The six officers who may be fired are Darren Lawrence, accused of driving drunk, crashing in Colonie, fleeing the scene and beating a friend to keep him from reporting the incident; Michael Brown, accused of driving drunk, hitting another car, fleeing the scene and refusing a Breathalyzer test; John Lewis, accused of DWI, threatening to kill his ex-wife and numerous other charges; Gregory Hafensteiner and Andrew Karaskiewicz, accused of beating a drunken man during an arrest; and Dwayne Johnson, accused of leaving work four hours early on numerous Tuesdays," reported the Daily Gazette.

    New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo plans a community forum in Schenectady on Tuesday to hear a litany of complaints from residents, not all of them centered on the police abuses.

    Police Chief Mark R. Chaires, appointed in Sept. 2008, was taken by surprise by the options his mayor is considering.

    "When I think of martial law, I think of rioting," he told Capital News 9. "I think of Watts riots and things like that. I haven't seen anything that rises to that level. I was a little surprised to hear that."

    Chaires pledged in Feb. to fire several of the officers involved. He specifically wondered why department supervisors failed to notice officers stealing time

    In January, the head of the city's civilian complaint review board resigned and complained that his role as a lead investigator had been relegated to dropping off complaints at police headquarters.

    An ineffectual review board only serves to reinforce the perception that the Schenectady Police Department is a rogue organization that operates without legitimate oversight," opined NYCLU Director Melanie Trimble.

    "I'd like to go one week where we don't have a negative newspaper article about the department," said City Councilman Gary McCarthy, in a report by the Times-Union. "It's just baffling that it just keeps happening. It's human nature that people are going to make mistakes, but this just seems so institutionalized."

    "In the meantime, terminating these guys — for such serious offenses as driving drunk then leaving the scene of a personal injury accident; beating up a DWI suspect while taking him to the police station; driving drunk, then assaulting a passenger and fleeing the scene; driving drunk and violating numerous orders of protection to harass your spouse; and regularly taking hours off during a shift while also collecting huge amounts of overtime — seems justified," editorialized the Daily Gazette.

    "From the city’s perspective, a worst-case scenario is that the firings would cost a lot of money to defend and wouldn’t hold up. In the meantime, though, the bad apples would have to stew in their own juices, pay their own legal expenses, and be ineligible to collect overtime. No officer would be likely to find such a prospect attractive, and the specter just might keep other officers honest. Wouldn’t that be a novelty?"

    Venezuela: Same-sex partnerships on fast track to being legally recognized, says legislator

    Romelia Matute, a member of Venezuela's National Assembly and Deputy of the Assembly's Family Commission, has announced that the Venezuelan legislature is well on its way to approving a bill that would grant same-sex couples legal recognition, including shared patrimony and inheritance rights.

    As reported on Friday in Spain's ABC, Matute stated that "the report on the 'Organic Bill for Gender Equality' is almost ready for a second - and final - [legislative] debate," adding that it would include language allowing "the union between two people of the same gender" in the form of something she called "co-inhabiting associations".

    Matute said that members of the National Assembly, a majority of whom belong to President Hugo Chávez' party, had met "several times" with gay rights organizations and said that it was those organizations who requested that the "co-inhabiting association" term be used.

    She said that the government would recognize "the joint-living associations formed by two persons of the same gender, on mutual accord and free agreement, with the full legal and patrimonial effect".

    Matute also said that the bill would address transgender issues: "Whoever changes their gender through surgical means, or any other means, exercising their freedom, has the right to their identity, and to drafting or changing all documents associated with their identification".

    In a statement distributed today by Radio Reflejos of Venezuela - which operates an online LGBT news radio show - they call it a collective achievement for the LGBT Venezuelan movement and single out a few individuals who, they say, have attended meetings with those drafted the bill: Transgender rights activist Rummie Quintero from Transfemenina, who is said to be the first transgender person to be ever called for consultation by the National Assembly; Elena Hernaíz from the Reflejos Foundation; transgender attorney Tamara Adrian, from Diverlex (pictured right); and organizations such as Union Afirmativa, the Lesbian Feminist Collective, and others.

    Interestingly, they do not mention the United Socialist Bloc for Homosexual Liberation or their leader Heisler Vaamonde, who has aligned himself with the Chávez government over the years despite few advances in LGBT rights during his decade-old rule.

    The activists do urge people to contact the Deputies of the Family Commission to offer support for this initiative as it reaches the parliamentary floor for a vote. They include:
    • Marelys Pérez Marcano:
    • Flor Ríos florrios: @
    • Carmen Rodríguez Rauseo: carmenrodriguez @
    • Juan José Molina: juanmolina @
    • Diluvina Cabello: diluvinacabello @
    • Alberto Castellar: albertocastelar @

    There are no specific details on when the bill might reach the floor for a vote.


    Teen dies after police use Taser to break up fight

    by The Saginaw News
    Sunday March 22, 2009, 6:11 PM

    BAY CITY -- State police have launched an investigation into the death of a teen whom police Tased.

    The 15-year-old died about 3:40 a.m. Sunday after Bay City police used a stun gun to subdue him at an apartment on South Catherine near East John.

    Neighbors summoned authorities to quell a large fight, police said.

    When officers arrived, neighbors directed them to an apartment where they found two people arguing.

    Officers' attempts to diffuse the situation failed, police said.

    Police say they used the stun gun after the teen tried to fight with them and others in the apartment.

    Authorities have not released the name of the teen or the officer who deployed the stun gun.

    Worldwide workers & peasants fight back

    Published Mar 22, 2009 10:41 PM

    200,000 workers march

    More than 200,000 Portuguese workers carried out the largest day of struggle in decades as they marched down the main boulevard of Lisbon on March 13 to demand an improvement in their living conditions. Workers from every trade and profession, service, production, transportation and public service, women and men, seniors and youths in this country of 10 million people filled the center of the capital in response to the call from the CGTP-IN union confederation.

    In an earlier comment warning about the crisis, Bishop D. Manuel Clemente from Oporto, Portugal’s second city, said that real unemployment was at 15-20 percent in his region and that more and more middle-class families were experiencing hunger.

    The progressive Portuguese Web site called the protest “a magnificent affirmation of combativeness, class consciousness and collective determination. The significance of this demonstration is clear. It represents an overwhelming response to the attempts of the government and of the big capitalist bosses to point to the international crisis as being the sole element responsible for the brutal aggravation of living and working conditions; and to make the workers pay all the costs and suffer all the consequences of the crisis; also to use the crisis to justify a new escalation of arbitrary measures, including a new wave of layoffs and an attack on workers’ rights that make jobs insecure.”

    Premier José Sócrates and his nominally Socialist Party have carried out rightist social and economic policies since taking office four years ago.

    —John Catalinotto

    100,000 peasants march

    More than 100,000 peasants under the banner of All India Krishak and Khet Mazdoor Sangathan (All India Peasants and Agricultural Laborers Organization) from all over the state of West Bengal in India gathered in the city of Kolkata (Calcutta) and marched to protest the anti-peasant policies of the federal and state governments that seek to uproot the peasants from fertile agricultural lands, and hand these lands over to national and foreign capitalists as Special Economic Zones for setting up industries and for real estate business.

    Last year, in spite of state and other repressive acts, a determined and militant peasants’ struggle staved off the forcible acquisition of peasants’ land in the Nandigram region. Mass actions also stopped the setting up of a small-car factory at Singur.

    The hungry and oppressed but determined peasants marched through the streets throwing a challenge to West Bengal government: “Either meet our demands or shoot us down.”

    The demands included a stop to illegal markets and for supply, at a fair price to the peasants, of seeds, fertilizers and pesticides, as well as essential commodities; withdraw the tax on diesel fuel and supply free electric power to farmers with less than three acres of land; ensure a fair price for the agricultural produce, e.g., rice, potatoes and jute; stop police atrocities on the poor peasants and the tribal people; stop investment of foreign and national monopoly capital in retail trade; introduce free medical care and education for the rural poor; stop the trafficking of women; conserve and protect agricultural lands and protect the rural people from the ravages of drought, flood and river erosion.

    The march ended with a huge public meeting where leading intellectuals of the state and political leaders from the Socialist Unity Center of India expressed solidarity with the peasants’ struggle.

    Workers hold boss overnight

    All the unions in France have called for “a day of action” March 19 to confront the loss of jobs in France. Official unemployment increased from 7.2 percent in the first quarter of 2008 to 8.2 percent the last quarter of 2008 (Libération, March 5), and the provisional figures for 2009 are grim. France’s economy is predicted to shrink by at least 1 percent in 2009, meaning it is unlikely that hiring will pick up.

    The mood of French workers is clear from what they did to the head of Sony France on March 11.

    Sony is scaling back its manufacturing operations in France because its global losses across most of its products demand “cost cutting,” which is a polite word for layoffs.

    When the head of Sony’s operations in France and its director of human resources went to their plant near Dax in an isolated area of southwest France to present their layoff plans, the 311 workers in the plant didn’t like what they heard.

    So they “detained” the head of Sony France, the director of human resources and their local bosses in their offices overnight, releasing them only when the government agreed to act as a mediator.

    Patrick Hachaguer, the CGT leader at this plant, said Sony offered one month of salary for each year worked, but nothing extra for workers over age 55. “We don’t have much to lose because we’ve already lost our jobs,” he added. “Sony France decided to give us cut-rate compensation when we’re in a much worse situation because of the economic crisis.”

    Sony had previously offered more compensation in its layoff packages.

    —G. Dunkel

    Thousands demonstrate in victory celebration

    A general strike in the French-controlled Caribbean island of Martinique has ended with agreements between the February 5 Strike Collective and the local business and government officials.

    The strike had coincided with similar actions in Guadeloupe, where a 44-day work stoppage secured a 200-Euros monthly salary increase. It has been reported that the agreements in Martinique are along the same lines as those in Guadeloupe.

    Both strikes had been intensely political, with calls for a greater say among the majority African population in the affairs of the French colony, which is nominally an overseas department of the mainland.

    State repression brought violence on several occasions in both Guadeloupe and Martinique during the general strikes. In Guadeloupe, trade unionist Jacques Bino was killed on Feb. 16 in a clash involving the French riot police who were dispatched in the hundreds to quell the strike. The workers named the agreement ending the strike the “Jacques Bino Accord.”

    In Martinique, workers clashed with riot police as well as business elites, called the “Bekes,” who are largely the French descendants of slave owners from the 18th and 19th centuries. French police reported that four of their personnel were injured in rebellions that erupted in late February.

    In a tremendous culmination to the strike, a crowd estimated at 20,000 turned out to celebrate the victory on March 14. The population of the island is approximately 400,000.

    Articles copyright 1995-2009 Workers World. Verbatim copying and distribution of this entire article is permitted in any medium without royalty provided this notice is preserved.

    Secretary of the Thievery

    If Timothy Geithner doesn't want to make bank shareholders or bondholders pay a price, the only remaining entity left to foot the bill for the bailout of Wall Street is the federal government--i.e., taxpayers.

    AT THE center of the firestorm over $165 million in federally funded bonuses for employees of the insurance company AIG was Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner, whose tenure so far has unfolded in a series of disasters.

    Most of the criticism of Geithner has focused on what he hasn't done: that his heavily hyped February unveiling of a plan to fix the banks left too many details out, or that he failed to prevent the AIG bonuses from being paid out long after he knew they were planned.

    The problem with this line of criticism--however well deserved--is that it doesn't get at the nub of what Geithner and the rest of the Obama economic team are actually doing. Here, the policy failures are much more serious.

    John Hussman, manager of the Hussman Strategic Growth mutual fund, supports government takeovers and restructuring of insolvent financial institutions. Recently, he chided the administration for its "misguided policy response...[that] has focused almost exclusively on squandering public money and burdening our children with indebtedness in order to defend the bondholders of mismanaged financial institutions (blame Paulson and Geithner--I've got a lot of respect for our President, but he's been sold a load of garbage by banking insiders)."

    - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

    WHY WOULD Geithner--who, we were told, was one of the most qualified and smartest people for the treasury secretary's job--fall for such obviously wrongheaded policies? A long February 25 profile by Bloomberg News reporters Yalman Onaran and Michael McKee offers some insight into this question.

    First, Onaran and McKee show that the hallmark of Geithner's career has been playing second fiddle to bigger players--especially former Treasury Secretaries Robert Rubin, Larry Summers and Henry Paulson.

    Rubin and Summers are as implicated as anyone in creating the deregulatory climate that led to the explosion of exotic and risky securities at the center of the financial crisis--and the development of "too big to fail" financial institutions. Paulson, a former CEO of investment bank Goldman Sachs, dreamed up last fall's massive federal bailout of Wall Street, including his former employer.

    At each crucial moment, Rubin, Summers and Paulson found in Geithner an accomplished technocrat who helped to implement their policies. Today, many doubt that Geithner is an independent actor. Most think of him as a cipher for Summers, one of Obama's chief White House economic advisers.

    Second, it's clear that Geithner is completely enveloped in the Wall Street money culture that has brought the world economy to the brink of catastrophe.

    As chair of the New York Federal Reserve before becoming Treasury Secretary, Geithner had regulatory authority over all of the Wall Street banks, including Rubin's Citigroup. Yet for most of his time in office, he did little to rein in the biggest excesses that have brought these firms to the brink of ruin.

    In one case in 2006, Onaran and McKee noted, Geithner supported the Federal Reserve's lifting of Citigroup's requirements to report on its risk management. The Fed had required Citigroup to make these reports only three years earlier, when Citigroup had been identified as helping the collapsed Enron Corp. set up the "off balance sheet entities" that Enron used to hide its fraudulent activities.

    Chris Whalen, a former New York Fed official and co-founder of a risk advisory firm told the Bloomberg reporters: "You have the old boys' network here...So it would be unnatural for Geithner to turn around to any of these guys at Citi and say, 'Hey, you have a problem.'"

    One aspect of this "old boys' network" is the behind-closed-doors insularity that turns momentous public policy decisions into opportunities for self-dealing by Wall Street insiders.

    As has been reported in the media, the decision to nationalize insurance giant AIG last fall was made by three principal actors--Geithner, Federal Reserve Chair Ben Bernanke and Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein.

    Perhaps it was merely coincidence that Blankfein's firm was owed billions by AIG--and that almost $12.9 billion given to AIG by federal government ended in Goldman Sach's coffers.

    - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

    THIRD, IT'S clear that because of his experience and Wall Street ties, Geithner can't conceive of a solution to the financial crisis that isn't pre-approved by Wall Street.

    One would think that a treasury secretary, acting in an era of unprecedented crisis, should be able to take forceful actions to make financial institutions do what's needed re-stabilize the system.

    Geithner had no worries about offending the sensitivities of Asian bankers when, as an International Monetary Fund official during the 1990s Asian financial crisis, he ordered dozens of banks shuttered. Yet almost all of the major initiatives Geithner has announced require huge taxpayer subsidies to banks and other financial firms to prod them to do what a forceful government should be able to order them to do.

    The two major plans announced to tackle the banks' toxic assets and jump-start consumer lending envision trillions in federal subsidies to lure private investors to buy toxic securities. Taxpayers will be forced to bear almost all the risk for these worthless securities, and major financial institutions will be shielded from the consequences of their disastrous decisions.

    Just about any price paid for these securities will amount to a massive rip-off of taxpayers, who will be forced to pay billions more than any private investor is currently willing to pay for them. Even Obama's plan to help homeowners includes bribes to banks to coax them to approve mortgage restructuring and refinancing.

    And all of these plans seem to assume that all the financial sector needs is a lot of government money to get it back to its freewheeling ways. Commenting on the latest plan to clear toxic assets from the bank's balance sheets, liberal economist and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman wrote, "The Obama administration is now completely wedded to the idea that there's nothing fundamentally wrong with the financial system--that what we're facing is the equivalent of a run on an essentially sound bank."

    This, as David Kotok, chief strategist of the Cumberland Advisors investment fund, put it bluntly isn't "change, as Obama promised, but just the same old stuff."

    Banking analyst Paul Miller, another expert that Bloomberg's Onaran and McKee consulted, said Geithner was too protective of the big Wall Street banks to act against them. "His philosophy is don't wipe out the shareholders because they'll never come back," Miller said. "But the only way to get to the problem is to dilute shareholders away. These guys are unwilling to take these big steps."

    If Miller is right that Geithner doesn't want bank shareholders to pay a price, and if Hussman is right that Geithner doesn't want bank bondholders to pay a price, then we really are in trouble. Because the only remaining entity left to pay is the federal government--i.e., the taxpayer.

    If this is truly the end result of Geithner/Obama economic policy, then we are in the midst of witnessing one of the biggest-ever transfers of wealth from ordinary people to the Wall Street gamblers who ran the financial system into the ground.

    All of which makes you wonder: Why, when Obama's transition team was announcing its picks for major economic posts, did Geithner emerge as the odds-on, and almost unchallenged, favorite to pick up where his predecessor Paulson, left off?

    If nothing else, it appears that the more than $69 million that the finance, insurance and real estate sector gave to Barack Obama's presidential campaign is one investment that may pay off.

    = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =

    Columnist: Lance Selfa

    Lance Selfa Lance Selfa is the author of The Democrats: A Critical History [2], a socialist analysis of the Democratic Party, and editor of The Struggle for Palestine [3], a collection of essays by leading solidarity activists. He is on the editorial board of the International Socialist Review [4].

    US: Working families struggle to make ends meet

    By Mike Bryan
    21 March 2009

    As thousands of jobs are shed on a daily basis and consumer credit tightens, the economic crisis is driving working families and individuals to make difficult decisions on how to spend their dwindling resources—many with serious ramifications for their current and future well-being.

    Because real wages have stagnated since the early 1970s, families have attempted in recent years to make ends meet by working longer hours, taking on second jobs, or by adding more family members to the labor force. Such options have now become few and far between as more and more workers search for work and many are forced to work reduced hours.

    The most recent Federal Reserve flow of funds report indicates that at $13.9 trillion, American household debt more than doubled over the last decade. Or, as Time magazine put it, "Household debt in the US—the money we owe as individuals—zoomed to more than 130% of income in 2007, up from about 60% in 1980."

    However, with the collapse of the housing market has come a drying up of credit. Decreased home values mean decreased home equity that can be realized either through sale or borrowing. Some banks are even offering customers hundreds of dollars to cancel their unused home equity lines of credit. Likewise, credit card companies are decreasing credit limits, raising rates, canceling cards, or offering small financial incentives to cancel them.

    Reuters quoted banking analyst Meredith Whitney, who warned that "credit cards are the next credit crunch." Available lines of credit were reduced by nearly $500 billion in the fourth quarter of 2008 alone, she said, estimating that over $2 trillion of credit card lines will be cut in 2009.

    In response to these pressures, people—and businesses—have cut back on spending. According to a Commerce Department report released February 27, consumer spending—which accounts for about two-thirds of the US economy—decreased in the fourth quarter of 2008 at a 4.3 percent pace, the most in 28 years.

    Spending on health care is one area where people are cutting back, often endangering their health, their lives. According to the February 25 news release for a Kaiser Family Foundation survey, in the past 12 months more than half (53 percent) of American households say they have cut back on health care due to cost concerns.

    The survey showed: "The most common actions reported are relying on home remedies and over-the-counter drugs rather than visiting a doctor (35%) or skipping dental care (34%). Roughly one in four report putting off health care they needed (27%), one in five say they have not filled a prescription (21%), and one in six (15%) say they cut pills in half or skipped doses to make their prescription last longer."

    When medical care cannot be postponed, however, the consequences of health care outlays can be devastating. Nineteen percent of people reported "serious financial problems recently due to family medical bills." Spending for health care means other bills are put off, and families must cut back on basic necessities like food, housing and utilities. "Specifically, 13 percent say they have used up all or most of their savings trying to pay off high medical bills in the past 12 months," according to the Kaiser study.

    A recent Bank of America Retirement Savings Survey also found that economic conditions have caused 18 percent of respondents to withdraw money from their qualified retirement accounts prematurely. In spite of having to pay income tax and, in most cases, a 10 percent early withdrawal penalty on this money, 25 percent of respondents withdrew the funds because they needed it to make credit card payments, 22 percent needed it to make mortgage payments, and 22 percent because they had lost a job.

    Reports indicate pawnshop business is booming in the US, Canada and Britain. In addition to an influx of new customers, many of those who used to shop in pawnshops are now going there to sell items to get cash to pay bills.

    Reports also indicate a marked increase in the number of people donating their blood, semen, hair, and eggs. Donations of blood can earn $20 to $35, semen can earn up to about $200, a yard of hair up to about $2,500, and eggs up to $10,000. "The Center for Egg Options in Illinois has seen a 40 percent increase in egg donor inquiries since the start of 2008," according to Reuters.

    A recent survey by Feeding America, formerly America's Second Harvest, finds a 30 percent average increase in people seeking help at food banks across the nation, twice the increase seen six months ago. More than 70 percent of food banks are unable to meet the demand and are being forced to cut back on the food they provide to soup kitchens, food pantries and emergency shelters.

    After a request for $300 million in emergency assistance was left out of the recent economic recovery package, Vicki Escarra, president and CEO of Feeding America, said, "It is tragic that this legislation ignores the emergency food needs of millions of people affected by the faltering economy."

    "Many of the people we see are recently unemployed and do not currently qualify for food stamps, or are waiting for benefits to be approved," she said. "Our food banks are seeing unprecedented numbers of people coming to food pantries across the country, and their shelves are becoming emptier by the day.

    Escarra added, "We cannot continue to feed millions of additional men, women and children who are turning to us, often for the first time, without more support from the federal government. Americans are going hungry, and we are in a crisis."

    More and more people are also looking to payday lending companies for needed cash. In some states, these legalized loan-shark operations can charge over 400 percent interest annually on loans. While several states have passed laws putting a cap on the interest rates these companies can charge at far lower levels, 35 states have not.

    Even in those states where interest rates have been capped, payday lenders are finding ways around usury laws. Ohioans voted in the last election to cap payday lending rates at 28 percent, to limit the amount a person can borrow from such firms to $500, and to allow a consumer to take out no more than four loans per year. To get around the law, when payday lenders give a customer a $500 check, they then charge the customer $75 to cash it.

    Washington DC: Over 3 percent infected with HIV or AIDS

    By Ed Hightower
    23 March 2009

    According to a new report, the HIV rate in Washington DC is the highest in the country. With nearly 3 percent of residents of the nation's capital living with HIV/AIDS, the rate is higher than in some West African countries.

    DC Mayor Adrian M. Fenty released the city's Annual HIV/AIDS Epidemiology Report at a press conference last week. The report found that at least 15,120 city residents—about 3,000 out of every 100,000 residents over the age of 12—have HIV or AIDS. While the mayor tried to explain that there was some good news—HIV-positive births are down and more people with AIDS are living longer and better—the fact remains that Washington DC is mired in an AIDS epidemic.

    Acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS) is a condition caused by the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). HIV inhibits the body's ability to protect itself from hostile microorganisms. At a certain point after contracting HIV, the number of CD4+ T cells in a person's bloodstream becomes so low that the body cannot fend off otherwise mild diseases. This process can take up to a decade. People suffering from this stage of infection are said to have AIDS and typically die within several months. The World Health Organization estimates that over 33 million people suffer from HIV worldwide.

    A demographic breakdown of the epidemic reveals a high frequency of infection in DC residents between the ages of 30 to 59. Among 30 to 39-year-olds, 3.4 percent are infected with HIV or AIDS, as are 5.3 percent between ages 50 and 59. A staggering 7.2 percent of residents between the ages of 40 and 49 are infected with HIV or AIDS.

    By ethnicity and gender, black males were by far the most frequently infected group, with a 6.5 percent rate of infection. Hispanic males followed at 3.0 percent. In the white male and black female population, 2.6 percent of residents were infected. Hispanic females were infected at a rate of 0.7 percent and white females at 0.2 percent.

    Officials explain that the 3 percent infection rate actually underestimates the number of cases of HIV/AIDS in the city. Shanon Hader, director of the city's HIV/AIDS Administration, told the Washington Post regarding the recent report, "It's not the whole story." Health workers can only record as infected those who are willing to undergo HIV/AIDS testing, meaning there are likely many residents who are unaware they are infected.

    There are also known cases of infection that were not counted in the most recent study. Donald Blanchon, operator of the Whitman-Walker Clinic, a large provider of AIDS-related care, stated that two clinics he operates in Washington DC and another in northern Virginia reported 541 new HIV cases last year alone. Blanchon told the Post that more people had been coming in for testing following the mayor's press conference. Forty-four people came in last Monday alone, with three testing positive for HIV.

    The District of Columbia provides some funding to distribute condoms and clean IV needles. Recent efforts focus on encouraging the public to get tested for HIV.

    Predictably, some politicians and health officials are trying to downplay the seriousness of the epidemic, portraying it as essentially a question of individual behavior. David A. Catania, a DC city council member, lectured, "We have to, as individuals ... love ourselves more and ask important questions about our own relationships." He added, "We cannot protect you if you're not willing to protect yourself."

    Mayor Fenty, a Democrat, spoke along the same lines: "We know we have a lot of work to do as a government to educate and get the information out, and as a community to step up and realize how dangerous we are with our sexual behavior."

    The revelations of the DC Annual HIV/AIDS Epidemiology Report underscore the fact that workers in the United States confront the same social catastrophe faced by workers in all countries. Infant mortality, child poverty, and unemployment are all on the rise in America. Recently, modern Hoovervilles have formed in several major US cities, a product of the deepening economic crisis.

    At the root of the AIDS crisis in the US lies enormous social inequality. The District of Columbia will soon release new information on the correlation of AIDS and poverty. It should confirm what is already obvious: that HIV preys heavily on growing sections of the working class who have diminishing prospects for employment, and quality housing and health care.

    Paris youths in row over condoms

    Police in Paris made 11 arrests following clashes between groups polarised by Pope Benedict XVI's views over condom use in Africa.

    Youths in favour of the Pope fought pro-condom activists staging a protest outside Notre Dame Cathedral as worshippers left after Sunday mass.

    Last week the Pope said condoms were not the answer to Aids in Africa, and that sexual behaviour was the issue.

    French politicians from a wide range of parties criticised the comments.

    Comments 'deadly'

    The Pope's comments preceded a weekend of demonstrations by Aids activists in France.

    Free condoms were distributed outside Notre Dame and Aids-awareness activists Act Up-Paris carried portraits of the pontiff labelling him an "assassin".

    The Pope's comments are "deadly", said Eric Marty of Act Up-Paris.

    "More than 20 million HIV-positive people live in Africa. Tell people in Africa that condoms make Aids worse, that's not possible, it's an insult for those who suffer from Aids."

    But the activists are missing the point, according to Roman Catholic protesters who say the Pope meant that condom use does not provide 100% protection from HIV/Aids.

    Two surveys at the weekend showed the German-born pontiff's popularity in France has fallen sharply.

    Sunday, March 22, 2009

    More than 10,000 march on Pentagon, leading war profiteers

    [Amazing how the lying sacks of shit in the media describe these thousands as hundreds. It is a trick of the ruling elite as old as war and Empire. Pretend a consensus for war and deny opposition.]

    From ANSWER

    On Sixth Anniversary of Iraq war...

    Getty image of March on Pentagon
    The last two-thirds of the march (Getty Images)

    A "throng of war protesters swelled Saturday as they marched across the Memorial Bridge." (AP) The protesters marched on the Pentagon and what followed was a dramatic direct action at Boeing, Lockheed Martin, General Dynamics and KBR, corporations that demonstrators labeled "merchants of death." The predominantly young crowd continued to grow as the day proceeded. They marched through the Pentagon north Parking Lot and then into downtown Crystal City, where the leading war corporations' headquarters are located.

    The march was led by a contingent of Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans. There was a significant delegation from members of the Arab and Muslim communities and many students participated.

    The Arlington County Police mobilized in full riot gear in an attempt to block the demonstrators from delivering symbolic coffins at the doorsteps of the war corporations. They brought tear gas, snarling dogs and pointed guns loaded with rubber bullets directly at demonstrators. The Arlington County Police also put out an absurdly low count of the demonstration, which was more than 10,000 people.

    In Los Angeles, a simultaneous demonstration drew 4,000 people, which culminated with a dramatic die-in at the Kodak Theater. Another 4,000 demonstrated in San Francisco, where police carried out violent attacks on demonstrators and arrested numerous people.

    "This is the launch of the anti-war movement in the post-Bush era. Bush is gone, but the occupation of Iraq continues, the war in Afghanistan is escalating, and the people of Palestine are living under a state of siege," stated Brian Becker, National Coordinator of the ANSWER Coalition.

    Below are a few additional photos from the march, which can be downloaded in hi-resolution and credited to Bill Hackwell if used:
    Demonstrators cross bridge M21 300
    Demonstrators cross the bridge to the Pentagon (View hi-res)
    Coffins at War Profiteers 300
    Demonstrators lay coffins at the doorstep of the War Profiteers (View hi-res)
    March 21st Front Banner
    Front banner of March (View hi-res)
    Afghanistan coffin March 21
    A protester carries a coffin draped with an Afghani flag (View hi-res)

    Venezuela's Chavez calls Obama "ignoramus"

    Sun Mar 22, 2009 3:24pm EDT

    CARACAS (Reuters) - Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez said on Sunday his U.S. counterpart Barack Obama was at best an "ignoramus" for saying the socialist leader exported terrorism and obstructed progress in Latin America.

    "He goes and accuses me of exporting terrorism: the least I can say is that he's a poor ignoramus; he should read and study a little to understand reality," said Chavez, who heads a group of left-wing Latin American leaders opposed to the U.S. influence in the region.

    Chavez said Obama's comments had made him change his mind about sending a new ambassador to Washington, after he withdrew the previous envoy in a dispute last year with the Bush administration in which he also expelled the U.S. ambassador to Venezuela.

    "When I saw Obama saying what he said, I put the decision back in the drawer; let's wait and see," Chavez said on his weekly television show, adding he had wanted to send a new ambassador to improve relations with the United States after the departure of George W. Bush as president.

    In a January interview with Spanish-language U.S. network Univision, Obama said Chavez had hindered progress in Latin America, accusing him of exporting terrorist activities and supporting Colombian guerrillas.

    "My, what ignorance; the real obstacle to development in Latin America has been the empire that you today preside over," said Chavez, who is a fierce critic of U.S. foreign policy.

    In the 20th century the United States supported several armed movements and coups in Latin America. Chavez says Washington had a hand in a short-lived putsch against him in 2002, which was initially welcomed by U.S. officials.

    Chavez and Obama will both attend the Summit of the Americas in Trinidad and Tobago next month. It is not known whether they will meet.

    Most of OPEC nation Venezuela's export income comes from oil it sells to the United States, but Chavez has built stronger ties with countries like China in an attempt to reduce dependence on his northern neighbor.

    Chavez expelled its U.S. ambassador in September in a dispute over U.S. activities in his ally Bolivia, which also expelled its U.S. ambassador. Ecuador's left-wing President Rafael Correa this year kicked out a mid-ranking U.S. diplomat.

    (Reporting by Frank Jack Daniel; Editing by Eric Walsh)

    A Combative Trial in Colorado as Ward Churchill Seeks to Win Back His Job

    DENVER — A wrongful termination lawsuit filed by a former professor against the University of Colorado has been unfolding in exciting fashion in a courtroom here.

    The professor, Ward L. Churchill, was dismissed by the university in July 2007 on grounds that he plagiarized and falsified parts of his research on Native Americans. But Mr. Churchill contends that he was fired in retaliation for an essay in which he described office workers killed in the World Trade Center attacks as “little Eichmanns.”

    Mr. Churchill, seeking to be reinstated to his tenured position, is expected to testify on Monday.

    The civil trial, which has finished its second week in district court, has been as combative and colorful as Mr. Churchill.

    His lawyer, David Lane, has sought to portray him as the victim of a “howling mob” of university administrators, conservative media and politicians who were “falling over themselves” to have him fired.

    But Patrick O’Rourke, a lawyer for the university, said in his opening statement, “Ward Churchill was fired for one reason and one reason only: he engaged in the worst kind of academic fraud that you can.”

    Much of the testimony has focused on Mr. Churchill’s extensive scholarship, including his theory that Capt. John Smith purposefully introduced smallpox among the Wampanoag Indians in the 17th century.

    It was after the outrage over Mr. Churchill’s “Eichmann” essay that other scholars came forward with claims of plagiarism. In May 2006, a faculty committee found that his academic work was seriously flawed. The committee further concluded that he had no factual basis for his smallpox theory.

    Marianne Wesson, a University of Colorado law professor who led the committee, testified last week that Mr. Churchill had, in some of his work, cited writings of other scholars that he had actually ghostwritten, creating the illusion that there was a body of work supporting his theories.

    Mr. Lane accused Ms. Wesson of bias, pointing to e-mail messages she wrote comparing backers of Mr. Churchill to the public support for O. J. Simpson, Bill Clinton and Michael Jackson.

    “I really don’t doubt that Professor Churchill was, to many students, a very inspiring teacher,” Ms. Wesson testified. “I think he is a tragic figure, and it makes me sad that so much talent, so much promise has been wasted.”

    3 Officers Are Dead After Traffic Stop Leads to Shootings in Oakland

    Three police officers in Oakland, Calif., were gunned down on Saturday and a fourth was critically wounded in an afternoon of violence that began with a routine traffic stop and ended with a grim 9 p.m. news conference to announce the toll of one of the worst days in the police department’s history.

    The police said a 27-year-old gunman shot two motorcycle officers after being pulled over at 1:15 p.m. Saturday, killing one and wounding the other. The gunman then fled to a nearby apartment.

    A manhunt ensued through the streets of the East Oakland section of the city. When the police tracked down the gunman and burst into the apartment, he shot two more officers with an assault rifle, killing them both, before he was shot dead by the police.

    The two officers who were shot at the scene of the traffic stop were identified as Sgt. Mark Dunakin, 40, and Officer John Hege, 41. The police said Mr. Dunakin was killed and Mr. Hege was in “grave condition” at Highland Hospital on Saturday night.

    The two Special Weapons and Tactics officers who were killed in the apartment were identified as Sgt. Ervin Romans, 43, and Sgt. Dan Sakai, 35.

    The police said the gunman was Lovelle Mixon, of Oakland, and said he was on parole for assault with a deadly weapon. They had a warrant out for his arrest.

    They did not say why officers pulled over Mr. Mixon to begin with, but said it appeared to be a routine traffic stop.

    They said he appeared to be the only suspect.

    In a somber news conference at police headquarters in Oakland, police officials struggled to describe the enormity of the violence.

    “I’ve been to a lot of police funerals,” the acting police chief, Howard A. Jordan. “This will be a pretty traumatic and daunting task for us as a department. It’s not going to be easy and it’s not going to happen tomorrow, but in the end, I think we will move on from this.”

    The news conference was attended by most members of the Oakland City Council as well as the former mayor, Jerry Brown, who is now the state’s attorney general.

    Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger of California released a statement Saturday lamenting the deaths. “This is a tragic day for law enforcement officers everywhere,” Mr. Schwarzenegger said. “All four officers dedicated their lives to public safety and selflessly worked to protect the people of Oakland.”

    A man who works at a barbershop near the site of the traffic stop told The Oakland Tribune that the two officers had wounds to their faces.

    “I went over to one officer and saw he was bleeding from his helmet pretty bad,” the witness said. “The other officer was laying motionless.”

    Tension between police and the community has escalated since the fatal shooting of an unarmed 22-year-old, Oscar Grant III, by a transit police officer on New Year’s Day.

    Mr. Grant was shot at close range while lying face down on a train platform. He was among several people who had been removed from the train by police officers investigating a fight. The former Bay Area Rapid Transit officer accused in the shooting, Johannes Mehserle, has pleaded not guilty to a murder charge.

    Violent protests hit the streets in the weeks after Mr. Grant’s death. On Jan. 7, more than 100 people were arrested after protesters marched through the city breaking store windows and setting cars and trashcans on fire.

    Oakland’s black community and law enforcement have had a tense relationship for years, including a corruption case known as the Riders case in which a group of police officers were accused of abusing and falsely accusing suspects. Three of the officers were acquitted, but the case nevertheless damaged the department’s reputation.

    The Associated Press reported Saturday that people lingered at the scene of the traffic-stop shooting. About 20 bystanders taunted the police.

    Jesse McKinley contributed reporting from Oakland, Calif.

    Dutch MP appeals against UK ban

    A Dutch MP who was refused entry to Britain has launched an appeal against the Home Office's decision to ban him.

    Freedom Party MP Geert Wilders has asked the Asylum and Immigration Tribunal to overturn the ruling.

    He had been invited to show his film Fitna - which refers to the Koran as a "fascist book" - in the House of Lords when he was refused entry last month.

    Home Secretary Jacqui Smith had judged his presence in the UK to be a threat to public security.

    After he was sent back to the Netherlands from Heathrow last month, the Home Office said there was a blanket ban on Mr Wilders' entry to the UK under EU laws enabling member states to exclude someone whose presence could threaten public security.

    Holland's foreign minister, Maxime Verhagen, has described the refusal as "highly regrettable".

    A spokesman for the Tribunals Service confirmed the Asylum and Immigration Tribunal had received an appeal from Mr Wilders.

    His film caused outrage across the Muslim world when it was posted on the internet last year.

    Screening go-ahead

    Fitna's opening scenes show a copy of the Koran followed by footage of the 9/11 attacks in the US and the bombings in Madrid in 2004 and London in 2005.

    Mr Wilders had been invited to the House of Lords for a screening by the UK Independence Party's Lord Pearson.

    It went ahead as planned, despite Mr Wilders' non-attendance.

    Earlier this year, a Dutch court ordered prosecutors to put the MP on trial for inciting hatred and discrimination by making anti-Islamic statements.

    A date for the appeal hearing is not likely to be set for four months.