Thursday, April 30, 2009

Mule Fucker, Neal Horsley is Candidate for Governor in Georgia

Now I occasionally joke about places where your brother and father or sister and wife are the same person but this is just too fun

http://rawstory.com/08/blog/2009/04/30/candidate-for-georgia-governorship-says-hed-kill-his-own-son-to-secede/

Candidate for Georgia governorship says he’d kill his own son to secede

By John Byrne

Published: April 30, 2009
Updated 16 hours ago


A longshot Georgia candidate for governor who’s already admitted having sex with a mule before finding God says he’s ready to sacrifice his own son in an effort to get his state to secede from the union.

Neal Horsley made national headlines when he posted the names, phone numbers and addresses of abortion doctors online. His “Nuremberg Files” website also crossed off the names of doctors as they were killed.

Now he’s ready to make new news. In an interview by Dylan Otto Krider published late Wednesday, he indicated he’d kill his own son to dissolve the United States (in an effort to overturn Roe v. Wade).

Continued at: http://rawstory.com/08/blog/2009/04/30/candidate-for-georgia-governorship-says-hed-kill-his-own-son-to-secede/

The right wing had clearly gone insane.

I suppose at least it was a female mule? After all there's nothing gay about our mule fucking Neil Horsley, is there?

Ultra Right Wing Republican, Virginia Foxx.: Notion that Matthew Shepard murder was hate crime ‘a hoax’

Jeremy Gantz

Published: April 29, 2009
Updated 7 hours ago

Less than one month after she used the term “tar baby” on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives, Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.) has managed to offend another group of Americans: gay people.

Speaking on the House floor Wednesday while a hate crimes bill – known as the “Matthew Shepard bill,” after the gay 21-year-old who was brutally murdered in 1998 – was being debated, Foxx called the University of Wyoming student’s association with the legislation “a hoax” because, she said, Shepard was not killed because of his sexual orientation.

“The bill was named after a very unfortunate incident that happened, where a young man was killed, but we know that that young man was killed in the commitment of robbery,” Foxx said. “It wasn’t because he was gay… The hate-crimes bill was named for him, but it’s, it’s really a hoax, that that continues to be used as an excuse for passing these bills.”

Foxx’s belief in this “hoax” may stem from a 2004 episode of ABC’s 20/20 program, which included interviews with both the men convicted of murdering Shepard. One of the men, Aaron McKinney, said his motivation for the murder was robbery, not hatred of gay people. Gay and lesbian advocates challenged the report’s credibility.

During a 1998 hearing prior to the trials of McKinney and Russell Henderson, a police investigator testified that one of the men – just before beating him with a pistol butt – told Shepard, “it’s Gay Awareness Week.”

Brad Luna, a spokesman for the Human Rights Campaign, a gay-rights group, Wednesday said that Foxx “should be ashamed of herself.”

“It is no longer acceptable in this day and age to just come right out and say you don’t like gay people. Instead, extremist opponents of equality must resort to these types of malicious and twisted lies,” Luna said.

The bill, officially called the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act, passed the House over conservatives’ objections. If also approved by the Senate, it would provide grants for investigation and prosecution of hate crimes to state and local authorities, the Associated Press reported.

House Passes Hate-Crimes Bill

http://www.advocate.com/news_detail_ektid81116.asp

The U.S. House of Representatives passed an LGBT-inclusive federal hate-crimes bill on Wednesday afternoon.
By Kerry Eleveld

The U.S. House of Representatives passed an LGBT-inclusive federal hate-crimes bill on Wednesday afternoon with a 249-175 vote. Democratic representative Jerrold Nadler of New York, chair of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Civil Liberties, applauded the passage of the Matthew Shepard Act.

“The law routinely looks to the motivation behind a criminal act and treats the more heinous of them differently,” Nadler said on the House floor. “Manslaughter is different from premeditated murder, which is different from a contract killing. We also punish crimes differently if they are terrorist acts, defined as violent acts that ‘appear to be intended to intimidate or coerce a civilian population.’”

Republican representative Virginia Foxx of North Carolina said that the idea of Matthew Shepard’s murder being called a hate crime is “a hoax” while his mother, Judy Shepard, looked on to the House floor from the gallery. Speaking of the slain college student, whose parents have since become ardent voices for the legislation, Foxx said, “we know that that young man was killed in the commitment of a robbery. It wasn’t because he was gay. This — the bill was named for him, [the] hate-crimes bill was named for him, but it’s really a hoax that continues to be used as an excuse for passing these bills.”

A Senate version of the bill was introduced Tuesday. Joe Solmonese, president of the Human Rights Campaign, anticipated the Senate would vote on the legislation, now called the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act, by the end of the year.

“We’re confident that we’ll make progress in the Senate as well,” Solmonese said. “We’re in conversations with Senator [Harry] Reid and other leaders in the Senate to try to determine the most expeditious way to move the bill and one that keeps that bill intact and gets it to the president’s desk.”

President Obama issued a statement Tuesday, putting his full weight behind the measure: “I urge members on both sides of the aisle to act on this important civil rights issue by passing this legislation to protect all of our citizens from violent acts of intolerance — legislation that will enhance civil rights protections, while also protecting our freedom of speech and association. I also urge the Senate to work with my administration to finalize this bill and to take swift action.”

The bipartisan Senate bill is being carried by Democrat Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts and Republican Olympia Snowe of Maine. Other cosponsors include Democrat Patrick Leahy of Vermont, Republican Susan Collins of Maine, and Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, who switched his affiliation Tuesday from Republican to Democrat.

Civil rights and faith groups held a press conference call urging swift passage of the bill with leaders from the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, American Association of People With Disabilities, American Civil Liberties Union, Human Rights Campaign, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, National Council of La Raza, and the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism.

Caroline Frederickson, director of the ACLU’s Washington legislative office, said that discussion on the House floor Wednesday was sure to include warnings that the bill would impinge on freedom of speech and religious practices. She countered that since 2005 the bill has included specific provisions to protect basic First Amendment rights.

“The bill specifically blocks evidence of speech and associations that is not specifically related to the crimes,” she said, adding, “This bill will have the strongest protection against the misuse of a person’s free speech that Congress has enacted in the federal criminal code.”

The Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act enhances federal involvement to combat hate crimes and authorizes the U.S. Justice Department to investigate and prosecute bias-motivated violence against a person based on actual or perceived race, color, religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability.

Right Wing Extremist Bachmann compares gays to pedophiles on hate crimes bill

4/29/09 1:44 PM

Rep. Michele Bachmann spoke out against federal hate crimes bill being considered on the U.S. House floor on Wednesday slandering gay and lesbian people by comparing them to with pedophiles, and saying that the bill would protect pedophiles from hate crimes.

"Apparently people who are practicing pedophiles would be considered protected under this legislation, but not, I understand, veterans, not, I understand, pregnant women, not, I understand, 85-year-old grandmothers would be protected under this law,” she said. “But who would be protected? A pedophile, someone who considers themselves gay, someone who considers themselves transgender, someone who considers themselves a cross-dresser? That is who is protected.”

Of course like most Republi-Nazis she is an ignorant liar as there are numerous other categories of people who are granted extra protections under the law including herself as a Congress person.

But then the ever bigoted Bachmann has never had working relationship with the truth as she is like most Republi-Nazis, honesty challenged.

G20 police 'told to remain calm'

Officers policing the G20 protests in London were told to remain "calm and restrained", says a Met police report.

Supervisors also had to ensure officers displayed ID numbers, says the report being presented to a Metropolitan Police Authority meeting later.

The Independent Police Complaints Commission is looking into more than 80 allegations that police used excessive force at this month's demonstrations.

Ian Tomlinson, 47, died minutes after he was pushed over by an officer.

A police officer has been suspended and interviewed under caution on suspicion of manslaughter following the death of the newspaper vendor.

An initial post-mortem examination concluded that Mr Tomlinson had died from coronary artery disease, but a second examination, by a different pathologist, concluded abdominal bleeding had been the cause of death.

The results of a third post-mortem, requested by the interviewed police officer's legal team, have not been released.

'Professional'

Temporary Assistant Commissioner Chris Allison's report says that in the run-up to the G20 meeting, the media had "exaggerated" the potential for violent disorder.

Consequently, it says, police were briefed on the correct intelligence picture. They were reminded to remain "calm, restrained" and to react "professionally" to events.

Supervisors were meant to ensure that officers displayed identification numbers on their uniforms, but video footage of the demonstrations has indicated that some did not show them.

Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Paul Stephenson has criticised officers who failed to display their ID numbers.

But he said that policing the G20 was "one of the most complex policing operations that's ever been undertaken - protecting multiple heads of state".

Home Office minister Lord West has said that thousands of officers acted "absolutely professionally" during the protests.

But he said: "This does not excuse acts that are criminal and there are now investigations for those particulars."

The report will also reveal problems during the protests with the police radio communications system, Airwave.

Demand on radio channels was "unprecedented" and there was an "issue" with radio batteries because police were deployed for so long, the report says.

Story from BBC NEWS:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/2/hi/uk_news/8026097.stm

Published: 2009/04/30 04:00:41 GMT

© BBC MMIX

Monday, April 27, 2009

At G20 protest, bystander dies after police beating

Published Apr 24, 2009 9:25 PM

During the anti-G20 protests in London, as tens of thousands of people took to the streets to protest a secluded meeting on the global economic crisis held by the richest capitalist countries, Ian Tomlinson, a 47-year-old newspaper seller, was walking home from work. He had to pass a gauntlet of menacing barricades and shielded police with dogs and batons.

Tomlinson never made it home on April 1. He was beaten severely by police and died that same day from internal hemorrhaging.

hands in pockets, before he was clubbed to
the ground from behind by a cop. " border="0">

A videotape shows Tomlinson, above with
hands in pockets, before he was clubbed to
the ground from behind by a cop.

Tomlinson’s death has made headline news worldwide because the original coroner’s report said he died from a heart attack and the police initially denied having assaulted him. This report may have stood forever had it not been for an anonymous hedge fund manager from New York who videotaped the Tomlinson beating while visiting London.

The videotape prompted a demand for a second autopsy, which substantiated that he had indeed died from internal bleeding. London’s Independent Police Complaints Commission, the Tomlinson family and their lawyers have enough evidence to call for an investigation into his death.

The videographer told the UK Guardian newspaper: “Judging by the short amount of time that lapsed between him being hit and pushed to the ground and him collapsing and dying, it just seemed to be coincidental that it was called a heart attack.

“Now I’m glad I came forward. It’s possible Mr. Tomlinson’s death would have been swept under the rug otherwise. There was nothing except some witnesses speaking to the Guardian saying they saw him being beaten. But it was their statements versus the police. You needed something incontrovertible. In this case it was the video.” (April 18)

The police officer who struck Tomlinson is “under investigation” and “on sick leave” but has not been officially charged. If charges are brought against him, reports hint that they mostly likely will be manslaughter, not murder.

More video footage, this documentation from a television crew at the same protest, showed a police officer slapping Nicola Fisher across the face and then hitting her leg with a baton. Fisher stated that while she and others were walking to an April 1 vigil for Tomlinson, the police tried to physically stop them from going further.

She stated: “Suddenly quite a few police officers came and made a line in front of us and almost straight away the officer in front of me shouted, ‘Get back!’ and pushed me before I even had a chance to move.

“When he did that I, as an instant reaction, pushed back, then straight away he gave me a back hander across my left cheek.

“I started shouting at him saying, ‘What are you doing hitting a woman?’ and pointed at my face and said, ‘Do you realize there are three film crews filming you?’

“I was just so angry and shocked that he had done it and to be honest, I really didn’t think he was going to get his baton out and hit me like he did.

“It wasn’t a tap, he used his full force. It was very violent and aggressive and unnecessary.” (guardian.co.uk, April 18)

There were reportedly 145 complaints made by protesters of police brutality during the G20 protest, including the tactic of kettling—meaning the corralling of protesters in enclosed pens for several hours.


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.

Capitalism and the flu

Mike Davis, whose 2006 book The Monster at Our Door [1] warned of the threat of a global bird flu pandemic, explains how globalized agribusiness set the stage for a frightening outbreak of the swine flu in Mexico.

THE SPRING Break hordes returned from CancĂșn this year with an invisible but sinister souvenir.

The Mexican swine flu, a genetic chimera probably conceived in the fecal mire of an industrial pigsty, suddenly threatens to give the whole world a fever. Initial outbreaks across North America reveal an infection rate already traveling at higher velocity than the last official pandemic strain, the 1968 Hong Kong flu.

Stealing the limelight from our officially appointed assassin--the otherwise vigorously mutating H5N1, known as bird flu--this porcine virus is a threat of unknown magnitude. Certainly, it seems far less lethal than SARS in 2003, but as an influenza, it may be more durable than SARS and less inclined to return to its secret cave.

Given that domesticated seasonal Type-A influenzas kill as many 1 million people each year, even a modest increment of virulence, especially if coupled with high incidence, could produce carnage equivalent to a major war.

Meanwhile, one of its first victims has been the consoling faith, long preached in the pews of the World Health Organization (WHO), that pandemics can be contained by the rapid responses of medical bureaucracies, independent of the quality of local public health.

Since the initial H5N1 deaths in Hong Kong in 1997, the WHO, with the support of most national health services, has promoted a strategy focused on the identification and isolation of a pandemic strain within its local radius of outbreak, followed by a thorough dousing of the population with anti-viral drugs and (if available) a vaccine.

An army of skeptics has rightly contested this viral counter-insurgency approach, pointing out that microbes can now fly around the world (quite literally in the case of avian flu) faster than the WHO or local officials can react to the original outbreak. They also pointed to the primitive, often nonexistent surveillance of the interface between human and animal diseases.

But the mythology of bold, preemptive (and cheap) intervention against avian flu has been invaluable to the cause of rich countries, like the U.S. and Britain, which prefer to invest in their own biological Maginot Lines, rather than dramatically increase aid to epidemic frontlines overseas--as well as to Big Pharma, which has battled Third World demands for the generic, public manufacture of critical antivirals like Roche's Tamiflu.

The swine flu, in any case, may prove that the WHO/Centers for Disease Control (CDC) version of pandemic preparedness--without massive new investment in surveillance, scientific and regulatory infrastructure, basic public health and global access to lifeline drugs--belongs to the same class of Ponzified risk management as AIG derivatives and Madoff securities.

It isn't so much that the pandemic warning system has failed as it simply doesn't exist, even in North America and the EU.

Perhaps it is not surprising that Mexico lacks both capacity and political will to monitor livestock diseases and their public health impacts, but the situation is hardly better north of the border, where surveillance is a failed patchwork of state jurisdictions, and corporate livestock producers treat health regulations with the same contempt with which they deal with workers and animals.

Similarly, a decade of urgent warnings by scientists in the field has failed to ensure the transfer of sophisticated viral assay technology to the countries in the direct path of likely pandemics. Mexico has world-famous disease experts, but it had to send swabs to a laboratory in Winnipeg (which has less than 3 percent of the population of Mexico City) in order to identify the strain's genome. Almost a week was lost as a consequence.

But no one was less alert than the legendary disease controllers in Atlanta. According to the Washington Post, the CDC did not learn about the outbreak until six days after the Mexican government had begun to impose emergency measures. Indeed, the Post reported, "U.S. public health officials are still largely in the dark about what's happening in Mexico two weeks after the outbreak was recognized."

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

THERE SHOULD be no excuses. This is not a "black swan" flapping its wings. Indeed, the central paradox of this swine flu panic is that while totally unexpected, it was accurately predicted.

Six years ago, Science dedicated a major story (reported by the admirable Bernice Wuethrich) to evidence that "after years of stability, the North American swine flu virus has jumped onto an evolutionary fast track."

Since its identification at the beginning of the Depression, H1N1 swine flu had only drifted slightly from its original genome. Then, in 1998, all hell broke loose.

A highly pathogenic strain began to decimate sows on a factory hog farm in North Carolina, and new, more virulent versions began to appear almost yearly, including a weird variant of H1N1 that contained the internal genes of H3N2 (the other type-A flu circulating among humans).

Researchers whom Wuethrich interviewed worried that one of these hybrids might become a human flu (both the 1957 and 1968 pandemics are believed to have originated from the mixing of bird and human viruses inside pigs), and urged the creation of an official surveillance system for swine flu. That admonition, of course, went unheeded in a Washington prepared to throw away billions on bioterrorism fantasies while neglecting obvious dangers.

But what caused this acceleration of swine flu evolution? Probably the same thing that has favored the reproduction of avian flu.

Virologists have long believed that the intensive agricultural system of southern China--an immensely productive ecology of rice, fish, pigs, and domestic and wild birds--is the principal engine of influenza mutation: both seasonal "drift" and episodic genomic "shift." (More rarely, there may occur a direct leap from birds to pigs and/or humans, as with H5N1 in 1997.)

But the corporate industrialization of livestock production has broken China's natural monopoly on influenza evolution. As many writers have pointed out, animal husbandry in recent decades has been transformed into something that more closely resembles the petrochemical industry than the happy family farm depicted in schoolbooks.

In 1965, for instance, there were 53 million American hogs on more than 1 million farms; today, 65 million hogs are concentrated in 65,000 facilities--half with more than 5,000 animals.

This has been a transition, in essence, from old-fashioned pig pens to vast excremental hells, unprecedented in nature, containing tens, even hundreds of thousands of animals with weakened immune systems, suffocating in heat and manure, while exchanging pathogens at blinding velocity with their fellow inmates and pathetic progenies.

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

ANYONE WHO has ever driven through Tar Heel, N.C., or Milford, Utah--where Smithfield Foods subsidiaries each annually produce more than 1 million pigs as well as hundreds of lagoons full of toxic shit--will intuitively understand how profoundly agribusiness has meddled with the laws of nature.

Last year, a distinguished commission convened by the Pew Research Center issued a landmark report on "industrial farm animal production" underscoring the acute danger that "the continual cycling of viruses...in large herds or flocks [will] increase opportunities for the generation of novel virus through mutation or recombinant events that could result in more efficient human-to-human transmission."

The commission also warned that promiscuous antibiotic use in hog factories (a cheaper alternative to sewer systems or humane environments) was causing the rise of resistant Staph infections, while sewage spills were producing nightmare E. coli outbreaks and Pfisteria blooms (the doomsday protozoan that has killed more than 1 billion fish in the Carolina estuaries and sickened dozens of fishermen).

Any amelioration of this new pathogen ecology, however, would have to confront the monstrous power exercised by livestock conglomerates such as Smithfield Foods (pork and beef) and Tyson (chickens). The Pew commissioners, chaired by former Kansas Gov. John Carlin, reported systemic obstruction of their investigation by corporations, including blatant threats to withhold funding from cooperative researchers.

Moreover, this is a highly globalized industry, with equivalent international political clout. Just as Bangkok-based chicken giant Charoen Pokphand was able to suppress investigations into its role in the spread of bird flu throughout Southeast Asia, so it is likely that the forensic epidemiology of the swine flu outbreak will pound its head against the corporate stone wall of the pork industry.

This is not to say that a smoking gun will never be found: there is already gossip in the Mexican press about an influenza epicenter around a huge Smithfield subsidiary in the state of Veracruz.

But what matters more (especially given the continued threat of H5N1) is the larger configuration: the WHO's failed pandemic strategy, the further decline of world public health, the stranglehold of Big Pharma over lifeline medicines, and the planetary catastrophe of industrialized and ecologically unhinged livestock production.

"Swine Flu" epicenter is a huge US owned hog farm in the state of Veracruz

LA VOZ DE AZTLAN
Los Angeles, Alta California
April 27, 2009


[MAP] Various news outlets in Mexico, including the Mexico City newspaper La Jornada, are reporting that the "nexus" of the Swine Flu virus is a huge swine "factory" named Granjas Carroll which is a subsidiary of the US hog giant Smithfield Foods. Grangas Carroll is located near the village of La Gloria and about 100 miles east of Mexico City.

The Swine Flu which is creating widespread panic in Mexico and throughout the world appears to be caused by a strange concoction of swine, avian, and human viruses that were fermented in the Grangas Carroll smelly hog fecal ponds that attract millions of flies. Veracruz newspapers are reporting that about 60% of the campesinos in La Gloria are now infected with pulmonary and
flu like diseases. Three children have died of the disease and many are presently hospitalized. The outbreak started as early as December 2008 but has been kept under the rug. Smithfield Foods executives are denying that viruses can be transferred from hogs to humans or that their pigs are infected with Swine Flu.

Journalists are also accusing Veracruz politicians and government officials of corruption because of their attempts to cover up the origin of the infections. News reports claim that corrupt politicians are protecting the interests of the US corporation. Yesterday, Veracruz state authorities arrested 5 campesinos and accused them of bringing up false allegations against Granjas Carroll. La Jornada is reporting that the Mexican Congress has called for an investigation of Smithfield Foods to determine their responsibility in the Swine Flu epidemic.

http://www.aztlan.net/swine_flu_origins.htm

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
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Contact:
http://www.aztlan.net/contactlavozdeaztlan.html
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US admits responsibility for emissions to bring big polluters together

Hillary Clinton offers admission to ease obstacles towards reaching agreement at climate change summit in Copenhagen

Greenpeace activists display a banner from a crane near the State Department in Washington

Greenpeace activists display a banner from a construction crane near the State Department in Washington Photograph: Tazz/Tazz/Greenpeace

The Obama administration issued a mea culpa on America's role in causing climate change yesterday in a move to get the major world economies working together on a global warming treaty.

The admission was offered by Hillary Clinton at the start of a two-day meeting of the world's biggest polluters intended to ease some of the biggest obstacles towards reaching a deal at UN talks in Copenhagen in December.

Clinton placed the gathering of officials from 17 countries, the European Union and the United Nations on a par with the G20 meeting that tackled the economic crisis in London earlier this month.

As the secretary of state opened the meeting, Greenpeace USA's new executive director, was arrested in his first day in the job. He and six other climbers unfurled a massive banner from a construction crane near the state department with a message for environment ministers from the world's largest economies: "Stop Global Warming. Rescue the Planet." Radford called for the industrialised world to commit to deeper cuts in emissions and provide financial and technical assistance to developing countries.

Clinton directly addressed the complaints of developing countries such as India and China, that America and the European Union, by demanding binding emissions cuts, want to saddle them with the burden of dealing with climate change. They argue they did not cause the problem and must prioritise economic growth.

Clinton said America recognised industrialised countries bore a major responsibility for the greenhouse gas pollution that had led to climate change: "Some countries like mine are responsible for past emissions."

She added that she wanted China and India to grow their economies: "We want people to have a higher standard of living."

She said Obama had broken with eight years of denial under George Bush and was determined to act on climate change. "The United States is fully engaged and ready to lead and determined to make up for lost time both at home and abroad," she said. "The United States is no longer absent without leave."

She said she saw climate change as the gravest problem facing the international community. "No issue we face today has broader long term consequences or greater potential to alter the world for future generations," she asserted. "The facts on the ground are outstripping the worst case scenario models."

Diplomats see yesterday's gathering of officials from Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, the European Commission, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Korea, Mexico, Russia, South Africa, United Kingdom, the United States, Denmark and the United Nations as an important way station on the road to Copenhagen.

The two-day meeting – one of three major gatherings before next December – is not expected to produce definitive agreements. But diplomats said they hoped to get a clearer idea of how the various countries were prepared to act on climate change. There was also hope of establishing a range for future negotiations on financial aid and technological assistance to developing countries which will bear the brunt of global warming.

In almost 100 days in office, Obama has worked hard to persuade the international community that his administration wants to play a leadership role on climate change. Clinton emphasised that progress yesterday, noting presidential directives issued by Obama and recent rulings from the Environmental Protection Agency on regulating carbon dioxide as a pollutant.

However, Obama officials are still acutely conscious they need to win over Republicans and fellow Democrats as Congress considers proposals for a cap and trade system of emissions reductions. They must also recruit an American public that has devoted less attention to climate change as the economic recession deepened.

Iowa's gay couples begin to wed today

by AP News

The only gay couple who were legally wed in Iowa are looking forward to getting some company. Iowa county clerks were to begin processing same-sex marriage applications Monday, following the Iowa Supreme Court's ruling on April 3 that legalized same sex-marriage. Iowa typically requires a three-day waiting period for marriages, but judges can waive that and allow immediate weddings.


Continued at http://pageoneq.com/stories/Iowas_gay_couples_begin_to_we_0427.html

Why ‘debt service’ must be stopped

Published Apr 26, 2009 8:09 PM

If an unemployed worker steals a loaf of bread, she or he goes to jail. Bankers who have stolen New York City, however, go home to their mansions. The banks’ “legal” robbery is responsible for unemployment, poverty and the deprivation of our children. Their culpability needs to be exposed and challenged.

We hear over and over in the big-business media that the city can’t meet its budget and that the Metropolitan Transit Authority has no money. The real truth is shocking.

The city’s direct budget is $59 billion a year. This enormous wealth is created by the workers, not the bankers who stuff their vaults through usury and federal bailouts. Most of the revenue comes from Jane and Joe Taxpayer, with corporations getting tax breaks and even refunds.

Who gets the $59 billion? Twenty percent of that goes to tax-free debt service. Debt service is mostly interest paid to banks that bought municipal bonds. Twenty percent comes to $11.8 billion a year, tax-free.

Every year the amount of debt service grows. Alan Hevesi, former New York state comptroller, said in a 2005 report that “debt is projected to grow at an average annual rate of 9.5 percent.” As revenues fall because of the economic crisis, the debt service continues to grow, as does its percentage of the total budget.

Add to this the tax-free interest paid to banks through back-door borrowing (BDB). The website of the state comptroller describes BDB: “This is debt issued by public authorities (public benefit corporations) without voter approval. The State has authorized numerous authorities to issue debt which the State is contractually obligated to pay for the interest and principal. This debt is not approved by the voters but tax dollars are used to repay the debt. ... [This debt] makes up 93 percent of outstanding State funded debt ... and increased 40 percent from 2000 to 2006.”

Not just corruption—it’s capitalism

It’s not just tax dollars from the city and state that go to the banks. Take the MTA, which is the fifth-largest debtor in the United States. Its debt service—tax-free interest paid to the banks—comes to $1.5 billion a year, or 13 percent of the MTA’s budget. In four years it will rise to $2 billion, or 16.5 percent of its budget. That’s enough to roll fares back and increase service dramatically.

Had enough? Wait. BDB was used to fund the gentrification project called Hudson Yards. It cost $4 billion, all from borrowed money. The New York City comptroller’s office admits that the interest over 40 years on that loan will be $10 billion.

This shell game goes on and on. It seems every year a new shadow entity—like the Transitional Finance Authority—is set up. It issues bonds. The city pays it back.

There are plenty of other examples: Water and Sewer, Sports Authority, Bridge and Tunnel, etc. Feel ripped off? Wait again. There are also state interest payments. Throw in the interest on loans, mortgages or rent and your credit card—there is no law limiting interest rates on credit cards—and much of your income goes to the banks in interest.

Can we forget the federal debt service and the recent outright giveaway to the banks of more than $2 trillion in tax money?

Emergency measures needed

If an official issues a contract to a friend using public funds, it’s considered criminal corruption. What is it called when politicians get government to take out loans from bankers who fund their campaigns? Business as usual. And the exorbitant payments to the banks for these loans go on, year after year. It doesn’t matter if schools or hospitals close—the bankers must be paid. In fact, the New York City Charter says that before one glass of milk is bought for a school child, debt service must be paid.

Unemployment is skyrocketing in New York City. In some African-American communities it is 60 percent. Transit fares are going up so high many people can’t afford to even look for a job. Rents are insane. If this is not a bona-fide emergency, what is?

The city should declare a state of emergency and declare a moratorium on debt service payments to the banks. Even a partial moratorium would help. Just $3.5 billion could create 100,000 useful jobs at $30,000 a year with health insurance.

“Repudiation” is a legal term for acknowledging a contract or debt and refusing to pay it. In the 1840s, after the capitalist economic panics of 1837 and 1839, nine states actually repudiated part or all of their debt because of a bona-fide emergency with legitimate social conflicts. The demand for a moratorium just means putting a stop to paying interest to the banks so those billions could be used for jobs and other critical needs.

A moratorium on debt service is logical and just, as is the demand for a moratorium on foreclosures and layoffs. Yet it won’t happen without a mass movement to demand it. The bankers will get hysterical between sips of their $1,000-a-bottle wine as they fly to and from their numerous mansions. Yet such a measure would help save the lives and livelihoods of millions of people. We can do it!


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.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Britain: Propaganda campaign mounted to justify brutal G20 policing

By Julie Hyland
24 April 2009

A concerted effort is being made to limit criticism of police actions during protests surrounding the G20 summit in London, and even to justify them.

The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) has been forced to mount several investigations into police violence during the demonstrations on April 1 and 2. These include an inquiry into the circumstances surrounding the death of 47-year-old newspaper vendor Ian Tomlinson, who was making his way home from work on April 1 when he became caught up in a police “kettling” operation involving the forcible detention of hundreds of protesters in side-streets.

Police initially denied any contact with Tomlinson and a first post-mortem claimed that he had died from a heart attack. Video footage subsequently showed that the father of nine had been hit from behind by a masked police officer, causing him to fall and hit his head.

With eyewitness accounts indicating that this was only the last of three separate assaults on Tomlinson by police over a 90-minute period, Peter Smyth from the Police Federation questioned the “impartiality” of IPCC head Nick Hardwick.

After days of stalling, Hardwick and the IPCC had finally been pressed into action by the deluge of evidence showing indiscriminate police violence during the protests. At the weekend, Hardwick had registered the mildest of criticisms of policing during the G20. He said he had “serious concerns” about the supervision of officers at demonstrations, that it was “unacceptable” for officers to conceal their identification numbers and remarked that police needed to remember that they were “servants, not masters” of the people.

Decrying Hardwick’s “deplorable behaviour”, Smyth said Hardwick had donned “the mantle of witchfinder general” and was guilty of passing “lofty and withering judgment on London’s police officers.”

Earlier, London Mayor and Conservative Party member Boris Johnson had defended the G20 police operation. Johnson, who chairs the Metropolitan Police Authority, said, “The overwhelming majority of people in this city and this country understand the particularly difficult situation they [the police] face when being asked to provide security in a demonstration such as the G20.”

Johnson was speaking alongside Metropolitan Police chief Sir Paul Stephenson, who claimed that police behaviour had to be placed “in context”. While there “have been some concerning images which need to be fully and properly investigated”, Stephenson said, “there needs to be a context here.

“That operation was one of the most complex policing operations that’s ever been undertaken—protecting multiple heads of state,” Stephenson stated, adding that it had also kept the public “largely safe” and prevented damage.

Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Sir Ken Jones, president of the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO), said there was a need to approach the issue of policing “objectively and look at the issue from all perspectives.”

“I can’t find any other country that doesn’t use water cannon, CS gas, rubber bullets. Our approach is proportionate and, in fact, has delivered on many other occasions.”

“What I am saying is that the world is changing,” Jones continued. “The way that some people come to these protests now, particularly in Europe, and offer violence to people, to property, to other legitimate protesters, and, yes, they came to attack the police, this has become an increasingly difficult job for us to pull off.”

Home Office Minister Lord West concurred. British police tactics were better than “water cannon, baton rounds or shooting people—all of which seem to occur in some other countries,” he said.

“I am very proud of them [the police] and the way I approach it generally is they are on our side and they are our people.”

Separately, Paul McKeever, chairman of the Metropolitan Police Federation, complained of an anti-police “bandwagon” surrounding the G20 protests. Officers had faced “real provocation” during the demonstrations, he claimed.

Contempt for democratic rights

Such statements are testimony to the contempt for democratic rights within the political establishment and state.

The comments by West and Jones over policing in “other countries” are disingenuous, especially given the police killing of innocent Brazilian Jean Charles de Menezes in July 2005. It was only after de Menezes was gunned down in full public view that it emerged the police had secretly adopted a shoot-to-kill policy under the guise of the “war on terror” some two years before. Police are also equipped with tasers and CS gas. Nor should it be forgotten that water cannon, CS gas and rubber bullets have all been deployed for decades in Northern Ireland.

More fundamentally, Jones’s accusation that protests are invariably aimed at “violence to people, to property” and to the police points to the degree to which political dissent is now officially regarded as criminal behaviour. Such is the degree of social polarisation, and the resulting political alienation, that any activity that questions the existing set-up is considered a threat, which should be responded to with force.

It was this, not Johnson’s claim of concerns for public safety that guided police operations during the protests. Forcible containment for hours at a time, beatings and the use of plain-clothes and masked, unidentifiable officers were intended to intimidate and punish those joining the demonstrations.

Nor is this confined to the G20 protests. Only days later, police carried out the unprecedented pre-emptive arrests of 114 people in Nottingham on “suspicion” that they had been planning an environmental protest.

Yet McKeever suggests in his comments that concerns over the implication of these unprecedented developments for civil liberties are bogus, illegitimate and part, presumably, of a left-wing inspired anti-police bandwagon.

Nobody should be deceived into believing that the public outcry over the police assaults on peaceful protesters will produce any let-up in the undermining of democratic rights. On the contrary, the statements by Johnson and senior police chiefs indicate that the representatives of the state apparatus intend to press ahead regardless.

They are encouraged in this by the perfidy of what passes for the official “workers” movement and Britain’s nominally liberal elite.

Not a single leading member of the Labour Party or the trade unions has registered any public criticism of the police’s actions. It could not be otherwise, given that Labour has blazed the trail for the adoption of methods more akin to a police state as an integral part of its big business agenda.

The trade union bureaucracy may, on the odd occasion, shout about defending the “rights of British workers”. But this is only when such protestations serve the reactionary purpose of dividing the working class—as in the recent “Britons first” campaign. When it concerns protecting these rights against the state, however, there is silence.

A recent comment by Shami Chakrabarti, director of Liberty (formerly the National Council for Civil Liberties) in the Times newspaper, was noteworthy only for the extent to which she accepted the restricting of fundamental rights.

“The right to protest is precious but not unlimited,” she asserted, claiming that “[F]ew would argue against proportionate interferences with that right to protect people and property.”

“The use of force—when it is proportionate and necessary to make arrests and prevent harm to the police and public—can be reasonable,” she continued.

“But it is neither lawful nor productive to use violence against an individual protester, however annoying they are, because other people are misbehaving or an officer has lost his rag. As for the tactic of uniformed officers obscuring their identity numbers, the commissioner has clarified that this is unacceptable,” she went on lamely.

“The G20 demonstrations may prove a momentous moment in Britain’s surveillance culture”, she continued tritely, from which “we might all learn”. Video footage showing the police in action meant that they “will understand how it feels to be watched and the dangers of rushing from snatched images to judgment. We complainers are reminded that well-targeted surveillance has its place and that the right to privacy, like protest, is not unlimited.”

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Report: Iraq militia kill gays with anal glue torture

There is no god. The world would be far better off without religion.

04/23/2009 @ 12:00 am

Filed by RAW STORY

Report: Iraqi militia kill gays with anal glue torture Even John Yoo would never go this far. The International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission is circulating a foreign report which claims that gay Iraqis are being murdered using a monstrous torture tactic.

The IGLHRC notes:

The following is a translation of a story from Alarabiya, a UAE-based media network, which was published on its Arabic website a few hours ago. While IGLHRC has not verified all of the allegations, many are consistent with patterns of human rights violations being reported from within the country. As a signatory to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), the Iraqi government has an obligation to protect the right to life (Article 6) and the right of all its citizens “to be free from torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment” (Article 7).


From the translated Al Arabiya article:

A prominent Iraqi human rights activist says that Iraqi militia have deployed a painful form of torture against homosexuals by closing their anuses using "Iranian gum.” … Yanar Mohammad told Alarabiya.net that, “Iraqi militias have deployed an unprecedented form of torture against homosexuals by using a very strong glue that will close their anus.”

According to her, the new substance 'is known as the American hum, which is an Iranian-manufactured glue that if applied to the skin, sticks to it and can only be removed by surgery. After they glue the anuses of homosexuals, they give them a drink that causes diarrhea. Since the anus is closed, the diarrhea causes death. Videos of this form of torture are being distributed on mobile cellphones in Iraq.' According to this human rights activist, for the past 3 weeks a crackdown on homosexuals has been going on based on a religious decree that demands their death; dozens have been targeted. She says that the persecution of homosexuals is not confined to the Shiite clerics. Some Sunni leaders have also declared the death penalty for sodomy on satellite channels."


An Iraqi police official told Al Arabiya, "We, like everyone else, have heard rumors about these cases, but we can’t comment on something that is not evidence, and there is no evidence for these crimes either in terms of motivation or in terms of the nature of the criminal acts. We do not know the motives of the killers and we do not know the intentions of those killed.”

The blog Towleroad also has "posted disturbing BBC video of a young Iraqi man being forced to strip at a police stop for wearing women's clothes, as well as reports of fliers being posted around Baghdad's Sadr City threatening death to homosexuals."

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Socialism or capitalism?

Published Apr 19, 2009 9:31 PM

There was a time when the captains of finance and industry were proud of the label capitalist. “Forbes—Capitalist Tool” was a magazine popular with the Wall Street crowd. Schools taught about the benefits of capitalism over its biggest enemy, socialism.

Somewhere along the way, the enthusiasm for capitalism began to wane. Maybe it had to do with the fact that real wages were dropping and benefits were being slashed while the super-rich were whooping it up. More popular-sounding phrases began to take over. Countries were being pressured to accept “free markets.” The people who put up “venture capital” were called “entrepreneurs.” The magazine of multi-millionaire Steve Forbes became just plain “Forbes.”

Then came the housing crisis, the stock market dive, the jobs crisis, the budget cuts, the credit card crisis—in other words, the boom-to-bust crisis of capitalism that was inevitable in this profit system. The super-rich demanded, and got, trillions of dollars from the government to shore up their banks and other financial instruments.

But for millions of workers and dispossessed, the bottom has dropped out of their lives. More and more they are realizing this is the product of capitalism.

A national telephone survey was conducted recently by the polling firm Rasmussen Reports. It asked a simple question: Which is better, capitalism or socialism?

Just four months ago, in December, a similar poll asked people if they preferred a “free market economy” over one managed by the government. Some 70 percent were for the free market. But now, it seems, they don’t think capitalism is so “free.” In the new poll, two-thirds said big business and big government work together against the people’s interests. Now only 53 percent say they prefer capitalism over socialism. Among younger people, 37 percent prefer capitalism, 33 percent socialism, and 30 percent are undecided.

After so much Red Scare propaganda in this country, a lot of people are confused about socialism—although fewer than before. What if the questions were phrased this way:

Would you prefer an economy run by workers (socialism) or by bosses (capitalism)?

Would you prefer an economy geared to meeting people’s needs (socialism) or geared to producing profits for a few (capitalism)?

Do you think people should have a right to a job, a home, education and health care (socialism), or that the rich should have the right to fire, evict, foreclose, underfund the schools and deny medical care (capitalism)?


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.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Meltdown losses of '$4 trillion'

By Steve Schifferes
Economics reporter, BBC News

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has warned credit crunch losses could reach $4 trillion (£2.75tn), damaging the financial system for years to come.

It says that even if urgent action is taken to clean up the banking system, the process will be "slow and painful", delaying economic recovery.

Banks may need $1.7 trillion in additional capital, the IMF forecasts.

And it warns that the cost of the bail-out will severely hit UK government finances with its added debt burden.

The IMF report estimates that the total costs of bailing out the UK banking system will add 13.4% to government debt, or about £200bn - compared with 12.1% in the US and 13.9% in Ireland.

But a Treasury spokesman told the BBC that the IMF forecast was "very high" and took no account of the fees paid by the banks.

He added that the Budget would "make a prudent provision for potential losses from banking interventions".

Tory shadow chancellor George Osborne said the IMF figures showed the "potentially massive cost of Gordon Brown's utter failure to regulate the banking system".

WHY $4TN LOSS MATTERS
  • The banks' huge losses have made them reluctant to lend
  • The lack of lending has pushed the world economy into a deep recession
  • Government budgets are strained by the cost of the bail-outs, hitting taxpayers
  • Rising bill

    One year ago, the IMF estimated that total losses from the credit crunch would be $1 trillion, which has been exceeded, showing how rapidly the financial meltdown has escalated.

    The IMF now says that banks are likely to lose $2.7 trillion, but other financial institutions such as insurance companies and pension funds are also coming under strain.

    And it says that emerging market economies, which will need $1.8 trillion in refinancing next year, will be hard-hit by the collapse of cross-border lending. It predicts that there will be no net private lending at all to developing countries this year.

    The report comes as the IMF and World Bank are beginning their spring meeting in Washington, after receiving a promise of $750bn in fresh funds agreed at the G20 summit.

    Policy response

    The IMF's latest Global Stability Report says that the banking system has not yet been stabilised, despite the billions of dollars spent by governments.

    But it warns that political support for further bank bail-outs is waning.

    Systemic risks remain high and the adverse feedback loop between the financial system and the real economy has yet to be arrested
    IMF

    It says that there may be "a real risk that governments will be reluctant to allocate enough resources to solve the problem" because the public has become "disillusioned by what it perceives as abuse of taxpayer funds".

    The situation is especially difficult in the US, where Congress appears reluctant to allocate additional bail-out funds above the $700bn approved last autumn despite the inclusion of another $750bn in President Obama's latest budget proposal.

    The US Treasury has instead proposed a private-public partnership to buy up troubled assets underwritten by loans from the Federal Reserve.

    But the IMF comments that "uncertainty about political reactions may undermine the likelihood that the the private sector will constructively engage in finding orderly solution to financial stress".

    Deeper recession

    The IMF says that restoring the banking system so that it functions normally is likely to take several years, and this will make the recession longer and deeper than usual.

    COST OF REBUILDING BANKS
  • US banks: $275bn
  • Eurozone banks: $725bn
  • UK banks: $250bn
  • Other European banks: $225bn Source: IMF, based on 6% capital/assets ratio
  • But it warns that if policies are unclear or not implemented forcefully and promptly, "the recovery process is even more delayed and the costs, in terms of taxpayer money and economic activity, are even greater".

    It adds that the worldwide recession has deepened the financial crisis.

    "Systemic risks remain high and the adverse feedback loop between the financial system and the real economy has yet to be arrested, despite the wide range of policy actions and some limited improvement in market functioning.

    "Further effective government action - particularly geared toward cleansing balance sheets and strengthening institutions - will be required to stabilise the global financial system and to provide the foundation for a sustainable economic recovery."

    On Wednesday, the IMF will present its world economic forecast.

    It is expected to be the gloomiest for 60 years, with the world falling into a global recession, and an even sharper decline in output in the rich countries.

    Story from BBC NEWS:
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/2/hi/business/8009734.stm

    Published: 2009/04/21 18:23:45 GMT

    © BBC MMIX

    Monday, April 20, 2009

    “The Aftermath of the December Greek Riots”

    By John Vassilipoulis and Paul Mitchell
    20 April 2009

    George Kasolas (left) and Spiros Christofi

    Photographers George Kasolas and Spiros Christofi spoke to the World Socialist Web Site about the cancellation of their exhibition “The aftermath of the December riots in Greece” just one day after it opened at the Hellenic Centre in London earlier this year.

    George explained that he had worked at the centre previously and asked permission to show the pair’s pictures. He even agreed to pre-submit them to the centre for approval. The photos were well received at the opening night and reception, but the next morning they were taken down. No explanation was given by the Centre’s management as to why the photographs were removed.

    Photo by Spiros Christofi

    George said they were surprised that the event was cancelled and angry that they have unable to find out who took the decision or why. He said they had received legal advice that suggested the centre had reneged on its contract with the artists. The only conclusion the artists were able to draw was that the reason for withdrawing the exhibition was political.

    Since then the two have resisted attempts by the Hellenic Centre to silence them, but despite approaches to the British media only the Art Newspaper publicised their case.

    Both are deeply sympathetic to the youth who took part in the December events in Athens and see the link between the riots and the bleak prospects for Greek young people. As Spiros explained the police shooting of 15-year-old Alexandros Grigoropoulos on December 6, 2008, was the “the drop that made the glass overflow” and became the catalyst for resentment over poverty wages and rising joblessness (one quarter are currently unemployed) to explode.

    Spiros said that the young people who took part in the events were unfairly demonised by the media. Although he doesn’t condone individual and indiscriminate violence, “when the powers that be are completely indifferent to a lost generation of young people, many people will think the ends justify the means.”

    Spiros explained how the two had gone about taking the photos, “In December 2008 images of riots in Athens after police shot dead a teenager had a lot of media exposure in the UK and worldwide. Youths set up road blocks, threw petrol bombs, burned cars and smashed shop windows.

    “Although left political activists like myself condemn violence, I am able to see the desperation of the people of Greece. The government, low wages and unemployment are only a few of the reasons for the peoples’ unrest.

    “We visited Athens during the period of the riots, and we saw the way the media tended to exaggerate the violence of the events. In this way, the cover up of the real problems became possible.

    Photo 2 by GeorgePhoto by George Kasolas

    “What I witnessed in Athens was a large presence of armed police in the streets, stop and search policies, arrests of media journalists and citizens. Although it was Christmas, there was a reduction of older people in the city juxtaposed by the presence of youths and demonstrators.

    “In the centre of Athens where the riots broke out, the signs of unrest and the desperation of the people were visible. Graffiti tags with slogans were all over the city walls, and government buildings were targeted and vandalized. There was unrest in the air, amplified by the presence of police guarding the Christmas tree in the city centre that was burned down a week before.

    “I focused on the aftermath of the riots and simply shot the buildings that were vandalized. I believe that these were the signs of widespread civil unrest with the government and not just the “anarchist” groups and youths blamed and criticised by the local media.

    “The events were not covered in an un-biased way, and it is my perspective that the media were covering up the extent of this unrest. This is understandable as a lot of the media, with a few exceptions, are affiliated with political parties in Greece. This is still visible today. Recent events occurring in Greece have also been ignored by the mainstream media.”

    Spiros explained, “The images that we have shown are a realistic visual representation of Athens at the time when the city was under disruption and at a point in time where the economic crisis has reached the people.”

    Photo 1 by GeorgePhoto by George Kasolas

    George added, “The photographs themselves weren’t taking an explicit political position. They don’t contain any depictions of the riots themselves, but scenes of Athens after the riots.”

    “Perhaps it was the picture of the entrance to the National Bank of Greece sprayed with red paint that they objected to.”

    Spiros described how the Hellenic Centre has strong links to the Greek embassy and Orthodox Church and is patronised by rich Greek and Cypriot businessmen and bankers in London, who use it as a vehicle for making tax deductible donations and as a platform for promoting “a safe and acceptable face” of Greek culture. “They just want to see landscapes, blue seas and skies and whitewashed buildings.”

    He also talked of the double standards the Centre employs, since it has a permanent exhibition on its premises devoted to Conservative Prime Minister Karamanlis—thus providing his government with a political platform.

    In choosing the Hellenic Centre for their exhibition, the two artists had no illusions about the conservative ethos of the organisation. However, as Spiros explained, it did seem like the rational choice for an exhibition since they wanted to target an audience of young Greeks living in London. While a venue such as Photographers’ Gallery might have been more open to staging their exhibition, not a lot of Greek people would necessarily be aware of it.

    George and Spiros are committed to using their chosen medium to portray the world as it is and well aware that this is completely at odds with the artistic and media establishment. As George explained, it seems as if the entire mass media establishment is intent on sweeping the current financial crisis under the carpet hoping it will go away.

    They both agreed that capitalism makes it extremely difficult for artists to find a platform for honest and engaging work. They see the Athens riots as a product of a global system that puts personal enrichment above the needs of humanity. As Spiros concluded, an international movement is needed to oppose the current status quo.

    Visit Spiros’s web site.

    Saturday, April 18, 2009

    Jobless Rate Climbs in 46 States, With California at 11.2%

    California and North Carolina in March posted their highest jobless rates in at least three decades, as unemployment increased in all but a handful of states during the month, the Labor Department said Friday.

    California's unemployment rate jumped to 11.2% in March, while North Carolina rose to 10.8%, the highest for both since the U.S. government began a comprehensive tally of state joblessness in 1976.

    Continue reading at: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB123998769476529637.html

    Pope's Panties are in a Twist because the People of Europe are Ignoring the Old Queen's Dicatates

    A report in the Dallas Morning News Saturday was titled, "Vatican says critics trying to intimidate pope into silence"

    Oh gee... How could that be? You mean the insane rantings of a former Nazi are being ignored. Funny but I always picture the young Pope Adolf as Helmet Berger in Luciano Visconti's "The Damned". A pretty blond child raper aging over the years into the decadent evil old red Prada pump, wearing satan clad and bejeweled Supreme Chancellor Palpatine Of Star Wars fame.

    Nearly two millenia of evil and many have risen from the lower depths to spread their poison while rimming the royals who generously su[pport them for the church's aid in keeping the working people stupid and obedient.

    Now the Pope is upset and claims that governments speaking the truth that his beliefs are both malevolent and stupid is wrong. The sick old Nazi thinks " that condoms aren't the answer to Africa's AIDS epidemic and the best strategy is the church's effort to promote sexual responsibility through abstinence and monogamy."

    On the other hand the voices of science and reason coming from modern Europe including France, Germany, the United Nations' AIDS-fighting agency and the British medical journal The Lancet called the remarks irresponsible and dangerous. The Belgian Parliament passed a resolution calling the remarks "unacceptable" and demanded Belgium's government officially protest.

    Time to end the tyrany of superstition. There is no God.

    Britain: Militant construction workers blacklisted and denied employment

    By Simon Whelan
    9 April 2009

    Its existence was hotly denied by the British construction industry, but the government has discovered conclusive evidence of a construction industry employee blacklist. A database containing the names of over 3,000 construction trade workers was allegedly accessed by large corporations in order to deny socialist and militant workers work on building sites.

    On raiding the premises of the Consulting Association, officials found a substantial database stretching back over 30 years. The Consulting Association is a one-man operation, run by former Special Branch officer Ian Kerr.

    According to documents seized by the Information Commission, Kerr recently billed Sir Robert McAlpine building corporation for services rendered for a total of £26,841. The construction contractor responsible for the building of the 2012 Olympic Games stadium in north-east London paid Kerr’s organisation £5,951 between April and June 2008. McAlpine’s began recruiting for the Olympic contract in April 2008.

    The government’s Information Commissioner Richard Thomas began the investigation into the alleged existance of a blacklist only after an article appeared in the Guardian last year. Thomas believes Kerr has spent the last 15 years compiling and maintaining the database on UK workers.

    It is believed that companies paid an annual subscription of £3,000 to Kerr, and then a fixed fee for each name they wanted investigated. It appears the subscription paying companies would send Kerr information about workers who stood up to management so Kerr could pool the information for future dissemination.

    Deputy Information Commissioner David Smith told the press, “On raiding Mr. Kerr’s business premises we discovered an extensive operation involving household names in the construction industry. This is a serious breach of the Data Protection Act. Not only was personal information held on individuals without their knowledge or consent but the very existance of the database was repeatedly denied”.

    The Information Commission is set to proscecute Kerr, whom it accuses of selling information to construction companies. It is alleged that more than 40 companies paid an annual subscription in order to access the database to vet for socialist and militant construction workers. A spokesperson for the Information Commision told the Financial Times, “We are minded to serve Enforcement Notices on the companies saying they should stop paying for people’s personal information”.

    Firms including major names like Balfour Beatty, Laing O’Rouke and Sir Robert McAlpine are alleged to have bought personal details. On the strength of these reports workers have been denied employment because they stood up for their own and other workers’ rights in a notoriously corrupt and casualised industry.

    The reports compiled by Kerr reads like a hit list. Workers are denounced in terms that leave prospective employers in little doubt. Comments on the database about workers include the following: “ex shop steward”, “communist party”, “orchestrated strike action”, “Do not touch!”, “Caused IR problems on that site (lazy and trouble stirrer)”, “EEPTU (sic) says no!!”, “UCATT very bad news”, “Poor time keeper wll cause trouble strong TU”.

    There are also the following instructions: “Do not divulge any of the above”, “applied to...via agency for...project. Main contact given details. Response to agency—‘not required’ Agency will say—‘job now filled’ as their response to above”.

    The EETPU is a now defunct and a component part of the Manufacturing, Science and Finance union. It was notoriously right-wing and anti-communist. Its entry suggests at the very least that its views on a worker chimed with those of Kerr.

    The Labour government must ultimately take the blame for the existence of the blacklist. In 1999 the government did a U-turn over the banning of such employer blacklists when they argued that the lack of proof concerning the existence of blacklists meant “there was no hard evidence that blacklisting was occuring”.

    When asked by the press for his reaction Kerr remarked, “There was nothing sinister about it. It was bona fide”. The ex-Special Branch officer was less forthcoming when the Guardian asked him about an article it printed some 15 years ago, which alleged he was working at the time for the Economic League, an avowdly anti-socialist organisation.

    The Economic League was established by rich businessmen who wished to suppress the class struggle. This employer spying agency built up files on tens of thousands of workers between 1919 and 1993. It folded when it came under pressure for holding incorrect information on workers, not for the more fundamenal issue of blacklisting.

    Kerr ran his operation from a nondescript first floor office in Droitwich. When the Guardian asked in an ajoining shop about Kerr, the shop asistant remarked, “Oh yes, Ian. He has been here for years. We never really knew what he does—probably works for MI5 or something”.

    After the raid by the Information Commission on Kerr’s office, most of the more than 40 different companies who used Kerr’s services issued no comment statements. One or two said they had recently ended their subscription to Kerr or had bought up smaller companies that had subscriptions.

    Last year Alan Wainwright, a former director with Balfour Beatty subsidiary Haden Young, produced a partial version of the list at an industrial tribunal. Wainwright said, “Mr. Kerr managed a small company which collated these lists from the construction companies and conducted relevant checks when so requested. Mr. Kerr explained that Carillion were one of the member companies, and I specifically recall him mentioning Bovis as another. Mr. Kerr informed me that the company functioned and was funded in the following way. Each member company would forward to him a list of prospective employees or agency labour workers they were considering to engage. Mr. Kerr would then check names against the lists he had collated from the other member companies. Mr. Kerr reported back verbally any operatives that were not to be employed or supplied by agencies”.

    Friday, April 17, 2009

    Standing up to Starbucks

    Adam Turl talks to barista and union organizer Erik Forman about the campaign to organize Starbucks.


    WHEN BANK of America hosted a conference call to discuss how to defeat the Employee Free Choice Act, one executive used a new formulation: "the Starbucks problem."

    His worry: workers might follow the example of Starbucks baristas and form their own unions without waiting for bigger "traditional" unions to organize them.

    In the past five years, the Starbucks Workers Union (SWU)--a part of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW)--has spread from one Manhattan store to win hundreds of members in New York City, Minneapolis-St. Paul, Grand Rapids, Chicago and beyond.

    The SWU has made inroads among a section of the workforce--low-wage retail workers--that many unions have written off as too difficult to organize. Indeed, organized labor represents just 5 percent of workers in retail.

    Since its formation, the SWU has won a series of important National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) rulings and achieved gains for baristas on the job. Given the dire straits workers face today, if Corporate America is worried about the "Starbucks problem," then union members and supporters should take a close look at the SWU.

    What you can do

    If you work at Starbucks and you're interested in joining the union, find out more at the Starbucks Workers Union and the Industrial Workers of the World Web sites. You can e-mail the union at starbucksunion@yahoo.com.

    Union baristas in Minneapolis-St. Paul write for the Twin Cities Starbucks Workers Union Blog.

    Starbucks likes to present itself as a "socially responsible corporation." In reality, Starbucks workers face the same problems that other retail workers face: unpredictable hours, inaccessible health care, low wages and lack of job security.

    "The core of the problem boils down to this: Starbucks orders 'labor' the same way it orders coffee beans or paper cups," said Erik Forman, who works in the Mall of America outside Minneapolis-St. Paul.

    A major issue for Starbucks workers is the way the company organizes hours. If baristas want a "full-time" workweek of more than 32 hours, they must make themselves available for up to 70 hours a week. "Starbucks uses something known as 'automated labor scheduling' software to determine how workers will be scheduled," Forman said. "If the system projects a slight downturn in business on a particular day or week, baristas lose work hours."

    The problems extend to wages and benefits. In the Minneapolis area, starting pay hovers just above Minnesota's state minimum hourly wage of $6.15, ranging from $6.50 to $7.50 an hour. Raises generally lag behind increases in the cost of living. And while Starbucks widely promotes the fact that it offers health insurance, the company spends far less energy making sure employees are actually covered. Less than 42 percent of Starbucks employees are on the company's health care plan--a lower rate than Wal-Mart.

    "You have to work a minimum of 20 hours each week in order to qualify," Forman said. "With wild fluctuations in the number of hours you are scheduled, workers and their families often lose their health care for six months at a time."

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

    WORKER DISCONENT over Starbucks' pay and conditions set the stage for organizing. In May 2004, workers at a midtown Manhattan Starbucks launched the SWU.

    From the beginning, the company went all out to bust the union. "We wanted to negotiate with Starbucks over our serious concerns," Forman recalled. "But rather than sit down at a table with us, the bosses began writing checks to the union-busting consultants of Akin Gump and the PR flacks at Edelman, the world's largest public relations firm. They contracted Edelman to craft a facade of 'social responsibility.'"

    At first, workers filed for a NLRB election to vote on union recognition. Starbucks responded by "using its political clout to gerrymander the bargaining unit from one pro-union store to every store in midtown and downtown Manhattan," Foreman recalled.

    The workers realized they couldn't win, so they tried a different tack. Unable to go the traditional route to unionization via an NLRB election, they drew on more radical traditions--fighting back around wages, benefits and working conditions and recruiting baristas to the union without official NLRB recognition. As Forman says:

    We've decided to go back to the basics of the labor movement. Workers organized unions before 1935, before we had a "right" to organize...In developing an organizing model that works in the service industry, we've gone back to the roots of unionism, opting for a strategy that puts "direct action" at the center. We've been able to spread because we've done something that business unions would consider unthinkable--we've put our organization entirely in the hands of rank-and-file baristas.

    Forman said that the SWU emphasizes what it calls "solidarity unionism"--that is, the idea that "workers are most powerful where the bosses need us most: on the shop floor. Our power as workers comes from our ability to withhold our labor, or interfere with the production process in other ways."

    At the Mall of America last summer, workers confronted management about unbearable temperatures in the store. As Forman described it:

    We had been complaining about how hot it was for years, but management refused to buy a fan or install air conditioning because it was "too expensive." At the same time, our store was pulling in $30,000 a week.

    One morning, four of my co-workers walked into the back room of our store and gave the boss an ultimatum: "Will you buy the store a fan? Yes or no?" He stalled....so my four coworkers walked off the job, got in a car and drove to Target, leaving the boss to cover the floor. He was livid.

    About 20 minutes later, my coworkers walked back in with a $14 box fan. They plugged it in, wrote "Courtesy of the IWW," drew a small black "Sabotage cat" [the IWW logo] on it, and enjoyed the breeze.

    This left management with a choice. They could either remove the fan, in which case they would look like jerks. Or they could leave it there, as a monument to their own negligence.

    To their credit, they did the right thing. Two days later, the district manager arrived with a $150 industrial floor fan. Two weeks later, they began installing air conditioning. This is the power of direct action. One week, $40 is too much to spend to bring the temperature in the store to within OSHA standards. The next week, management is spending $10,000 to keep the workers happy.

    Similarly, in August 2008, a union member and single mother from the Bronx, Anna Hurst, suffered heat stroke on the job at a New York Starbucks and was forced off the work schedule for two weeks. In response, a dozen baristas marched into the store during rush hours and demanded she be compensated.

    Forman recalled another situation at the Mall of America where workers' action on the job resulted in a quick victory:

    One of our coworkers had not been paid by Starbucks for almost a month because of a bureaucratic mistake...When we found out about this, the four of us who were working decided to stop work and demand that our coworker get her paycheck. For about 10 minutes, we told customers we were on strike, sending them elsewhere for their coffee. We called the district manager to complain. He came to the store later that afternoon and cut our coworker a check. We won.

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    IN ADDITION to confronting management's abuse of workers on the job, the SWU has organized pickets and rallies to draw attention to the union and workers' fights against management.

    "Since 2004, we have made real progress." Forman said. "After months of pressure from the union, Starbucks conceded a wage increase for baristas in the New York City metro area in 2006. We have fought numerous battles over health and safety issues, discrimination, and unfair treatment by management in the workplace. Despite Starbucks nationally-coordinated anti-union campaign, the union continues to pick up steam."

    Government documents show that Starbucks has spied on union members (including after work hours) and transferred workers to keep down the ratio of pro-union workers. In New York City, the company was found guilty of nearly 30 violations of labor law--including interrogating employees and firing union members.

    As Forman explained, the Starbucks Workers Union has "had to fight tooth and nail for our right to exist as a union at Starbucks." Starbucks management has already been forced to agree to four settlements with the NLRB over the company's violations of the workers' right to organize.

    As a result, Starbucks has been forced to reinstate employees, pay damages and make agreements with the union--for example, to allow baristas to wear union pins at work. The company also faces outstanding NLRB cases in New York, Minneapolis-St. Paul, Chicago, and Grand Rapids, Mich.

    Erik Forman himself was terminated for union activity in July last year. The day after he was fired, workers at his store walked out in protest, and more than 50 baristas in the Twin Cities area signed a petition for his reinstatement. Within a month, he was rehired and paid back wages.

    Nevertheless, management continues to target SWU activists. "Recently, Chicago IWW barista Joe Tessone attempted to confront CEO Howard Schultz about this treatment of baristas," Forman said. "Two weeks later, he was fired on specious grounds."

    Faced with this level of harassment, Starbucks workers have put international solidarity at the center of their campaign, including a global day of action against Starbucks last July 5. That day, French workers staged a sit-in at a Paris Starbucks in solidarity with fired American baristas. As Forman said:

    Starbucks is a global company, so we have to be a global union. In addition to labor solidarity, we have made efforts to build ties to coffee farmers through our "Justice from Bean to Cup" initiative. We sent Sarah Bender, a New York City barista, to Ethiopia to a meeting with coffee farmers there who were demanding a decent price for their beans from Starbucks.

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    EVEN THOUGH Starbucks remains profitable, the company is using the economic crisis as a pretext to squeeze more out of workers. Management tactics include cutting hours and closing stores, without cutting back on workloads. In response, Starbucks workers have organized pickets against layoffs and store closings, the lack of severance pay and a speed-up in the pace of work.

    "Naomi Klein's recent book, The Shock Doctrine, comes to mind," Forman said. "While Starbucks profits have dipped, it's still an immensely profitable company, bringing in over $300 million in pure profit last year alone. And yet, Starbucks has used the language of 'crisis' to push through a string of anti-worker cutbacks."

    Forman says the company is squeezing workers hard:

    First, they haven't increased the base wage in almost three years. Second, they're making new demands on workers' schedules through what management calls 'optimal scheduling,' laying off thousands of baristas while forcing the remaining skeleton crew to be available for up to 80 hours out of the week.

    On top of this, they have been running the stores at even lower levels of staffing than in the past, leaving us scrambling to get work done. And of course, since last summer, they've been shuttering stores, kicking workers to the curb who made the record profits of the last decade possible."

    Liberte Locke, a New York barista, made a similar point to The Epoch Times newspaper. "In my store, the layoffs have been targeted at workers who have been there the longest," she said. "Employees were given no warning: they didn't even let them finish their shifts, and they were given no severance pay."

    The company has the money to avoid these cuts. Thus, when Starbucks recently purchased a corporate jet for $45 million, the SWU pointed out that the money "could provide over 5 million additional work hours to employees in need or maintain its gutted 401k program for three years."

    Given the scale of Starbucks' attacks, the SWU's gains are all the more impressive. They point to how the sparks for a revitalized labor movement could come from outside traditional unions, just as employers fear. Other recent examples include the two-week strike by nonunion workers at the Cygnus soap factory in 2007 in Chicago and the Republic Windows and Doors factory occupation in the same city in December 2008, led by the independent United Electrical workers' union.

    For their part, SWU activists see themselves as part of the militant tradition of unionism that the IWW championed at its founding in 1905.

    "There is a direct link between the revolutionary vision of the IWW and the day-to-day dynamics of solidarity unionism in the Starbucks campaign," Forman said. "Our message for workers is that if we can do it at Starbucks, we can do it anywhere. It is possible to organize, even at Starbucks, even in the Mall of America."