Friday, October 27, 2006

VOTE GREEN FROM NOW ON!

CITIZENS:

VOTE FOR
TITUS NORTH

GREEN PARTY
The Candidate for peace and social justice

Anti-war
National health-care
Pro-women’s rights
Marriage Equality
Reparations for slavery
Minorities’ rights
Public Transportation
Anti-Poverty
Democracy and
The Constitution

votenorth@yahoo.com
www.votenorth.org

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Immigration Frustration

City Limits WEEKLY
Week of: March 27, 2006
Number: 528

IMMIGRATION FRUSTRATION: LOCAL
GROUPS REJECT SENATE COMPROMISE

Local grassroots immigration groups criticize national orgs for backing
Senate deal. > By Saurav Sarkar

National immigrant lobbying groups rejoiced earlier this month when
members of the Senate Judiciary Committee reportedly reached a tentative
agreement to include a guestworker program and conditional legalization
for some undocumented immigrants in the Committee's final immigration
bill.
"The Committee made a decisive move towards creating sound policy,"
wrote the Washington, DC-based National Immigration Forum (NIF), in a
press release. It is "a dramatic step forward towards a comprehensive
approach to immigration reform."

However, a wide range of grassroots worker and immigrant advocacy groups
in New York City are rejecting the current proposals before Congress,
including the rumored compromise now before the Judiciary Committee.
While most local groups embrace provisions to legalize undocumented
immigrants and reunite immigrant families, they say other parts of the
bills will simply make life harder for non-citizens. The proposals, the
groups say, fail to adequately protect workers' rights, and are too
strict on border control, and threaten to increase jailing and
deportations.

The Senate proposals mean "more walls, more personnel, [and] more
funding for detention," said Kavitha Pawria, Legal and Policy Organizer
of Desis Rising Up & Moving (DRUM), one of about 20 pro-immigrant groups
that make up the Immigrant Communities In Action (ICIA) coalition.

Instead of supporting the McCain-Kennedy bill like its DC counterparts,
ICIA has adopted a platform that calls on Congress to add to any pending
legislation "human and civil rights protections by reducing detention
and deportation, ending collaboration between the [Department of
Homeland Security] and public agencies...and ending deaths and abuses of
migrants at the borders." They are also asking for "Equal protection of
labor rights [for] all immigrant workers."

A separate coalition called Break the Chains includes New York immigrant
and worker advocacy organizations like National Mobilization Against
Sweatshops (NMASS), Chinese Staff and Workers' Association (CSWA), and
Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF), has also
criticized the current Congressional proposals and is trying to shift
the national debate. Instead of a guestworker program, it's urging a
repeal of "employer sanctions"-penalties for hiring undocumented
workers.

Meanwhile, however, the legislation rolls forward. If the Judiciary
Committee votes a bill to the full Senate this week, the legislation
would still be competing with a number of other proposals, including a
measure from Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist that would increase
grounds for deportation, fund an additional 4,400 border patrol agents
and contains no provision for legalizing undocumented workers.

Any Senate bill that gets approved will have to be reconciled with HR
4437, introduced by Representative James Sensenbrenner (R-WI) and passed
by the House of Representatives in December. That bill focuses on
increased policing, jailing, and deportation both at the border and in
the interior, prompting massive protests in Los Angeles, Chicago,
Phoenix, Milwaukee and other cities over the past two weeks. Among other
provisions, the House bill would make being undocumented a felony and
assisting an undocumented immigrant a crime.

"Obviously, we all need to defend against [bad legislation]," said
Benita Jain, a staff attorney with the Immigrant Defense Project of the
New York State Defenders Association (NSYDA), a group that serves as a
legal resource to criminal defense attorneys, advocates, and immigrants
fighting detention and deportation and is not part of either coalition.
"But the proactive agenda needs to include fixing the 1996 laws that
vastly expanded the grounds for detention and deportation of
immigrants."

George Tzamaras, director of communications at American Immigration
Lawyers Association (AILA), believes that local groups may be asking for
too much in a difficult political climate. "We very much understand that
McCain-Kennedy isn't a perfect bill...but [it] gives pro-immigrant
organizations a foundation, so in the near future we can advocate for
those other items."

Jei Fong, staff organizer with CSWA, disagrees. "The real function that
all these bills are serving is to create this atmosphere of fear, [to
say] that there's no point in really demanding anything, that it's not
possible in this political climate," she said. "The more...these
national groups give into that, the whole debate just shifts to the
right."

Monday, March 06, 2006

Millions of dollars worth of aid money is being wasted

*BBC NEWS*, February 26, 2006

"Millions of dollars worth of aid money is being wasted" Ashraf Ghani: "More
than 90% of the more than $1bn that was spent on about 400 UN projects in
Afghanistan in 2002 was a waste of money" By Toby Poston, BBC News business
reporter As more than 5,000 British troops are being deployed in
Afghanistan, it is becoming clear that the dire security situation is just
one of many obstacles that hold back reconstruction efforts.

True, security is a major worry for aid agencies, who saw 30 of their
workers die last year.

But in some cases, the agencies' wasteful bureaucracies are also holding
back efforts to rebuild this war ravaged country, according to Ashraf Ghani,
who has written a report on international development and post-war
reconstruction, sponsored by the Overseas Development Institute (ODI).

As chancellor of Kabul University and Afghan finance minister between
2002-2004, Mr Ghani's word carries some weight.

When he says millions of dollars worth of aid money is being wasted, both
donor nations and aid agencies take note.

Complete waste of money Mr Ghani believes the Afghan government could build a school for about $40,000 (£23,000), a fraction of the $250,000 cost racked up when one
international aid agency took on the task of delivering 500 schools.

The difference would arise because the Afghan government would use locally
hired contractors, while the aid agency spent 80% of its funds on hiring
external technical assistants, he explains.

Another case of money being wasted was the reconstruction of the road
between Kandahar and the capital Kabul, which the government estimated would
cost $35m.

It was eventually built by USAID and ended up costing more than $190m, Mr
Ghani says.

Moreover, these are not isolated cases, Mr Ghani insists, as he estimates
that more than 90% of the more than $1bn that was spent on about 400 UN
projects in Afghanistan in 2002 was a waste of money.

More harm than good But the billions of dollars of aid pumped into Afghanistan over the past four years have not merely been wasted; the cash injections might even be
doing more harm than good, Mr Ghani suggests.

The country's 280,000 civil servants earn an average wage of $50 per month,
while approximately 50,000 Afghans work for aid organisations where support
staff earn up to $1000 a month.

"Within six months of starting my job as finance minister, my best people
had been stolen by international aid organisations who could offer them
forty to a hundred times the salary we could," Ashraf Ghani says. In
particular, it has been damaging to the government and its ability to build
law and order and deliver public services, he says.

With more than 2,400 national and international aid agencies and other
non-governmental organisations (NGOs) registered in the country, the
government is finding it hard to hold on to its staff, Mr Ghani says.

The country's 280,000 civil servants earn an average wage of $50 per month,
while approximately 50,000 Afghans work for aid organisations where support
staff earn up to $1000 a month.

"Within six months of starting my job as finance minister, my best people
had been stolen by international aid organisations who could offer them
forty to a hundred times the salary we could," he says.

Lucrative work ODI workers on the ground say Mr Ghani has a point.

They say Afghanistan is brimming with expensive foreign contractors and
consultants who are often duplicating or replacing work that could be
carried out by the government.

"There is a tendency for UN agencies and non-government organisations to
rush in with thousands of small projects, each requiring international staff
and drivers," says Clare Lockhart, a research fellow at the ODI and a former
advisor to the Afghan finance ministry.

These experts cost far more in overheads like living expenses and
repatriation costs than in actual fees for their services, but with further
lucrative work in the pipeline, it is not in their interests to pass on
their skills to their Afghan counterparts, Ms Lockhart explains.

An inquiry by the US daily, the Washington Post (Nov.20, 2005), has
discovered serious flaws in the US efforts to rebuild Afghanistan,
suggesting that corruption and inefficiency caused millions of dollars to be
wasted on useless projects. Nevertheless, she also points out that some
projects, for example like the National Solidarity Programme, are worth
copying.

The programme has seen hundreds of millions of dollars delivered straight to
local communities, thus enabling 13,000 villages to plan and manage their
own reconstruction and development projects, she says.

Corruption Critical voices, such as Mr Ghani's, have helped ensure that in future
Afghanistan's own government and people will gain greater control over how
aid money is spent.

Early this month, the launch of the Afghan Compact initiative saw more than
$10.5bn in aid pledged to Afghanistan over the next five years, as part of
an agreement where both the Afghan government and its outside backers must
benchmarks progress in areas such as security, economic development and
better government.

In the UK, the Department for International Development is paying 70% of
this year's £100m aid budget direct to the Afghan government, making it the
largest donor to it's core budget.

The funds are not earmarked, and there are firm commitments to deliver the
funds for at least three years hence. This gives the Afghan government the
chance to plan ahead.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Comprehensive Immigration Reform: March 2nd Hearing

Forwarded on 3/1/06:

On March 2, the Senate Judiciary Committee will begin consideration of a
comprehensive immigration reform bill proposed by Chairman Specter. The "mark-up"
will begin at 9:30am ET in the Dirksen Senate Office Building, Room 226. Since
sections of the bill which criminalize persons who have overstayed their visas, strip
the courts of jurisdiction to review administrative decisions and dramatically
increase immigration enforcement on the U.S.-Mexican border and in the interior of
the U.S. mirror the "enforcement-only" bill already passed by the House of
Representatives, we comment below only on other sections of the bill:

* Conditional Non-Immigrant Work Authorization - This would be available, with
certain enumerated exceptions, to persons who were employed in the U.S. on January 4,
2004, and whose employers pay a $500 fee. Spouses and minor children of these
workers could qualify to remain in the U.S., although not to work, upon payment of a
$100 fee. How long will conditional non-immigrants be allowed to remain in the U.S.
The bill does not say.

* H-2C Guest Worker Program - Allows guest workers to be employed for up to six
years, three years at a time, in the U.S. at which time they would have to leave the
U.S. for one year. Is it possible for guest workers to eventually become lawful
permanent residents? Again, the bill does not say.

* F students would be permitted to work during the school year for up to 20 hours per
week, and 40 hours per week during vacations, if their employers could demonstrate
that they are unable to find qualified U.S. workers. A new F-4 category would be
established for students pursuing advanced degrees in math, engineering, technology
or the physical sciences. F-4 students, upon attaining their degrees and obtaining
full-time employment related to their field of study would be immediately able to pay
a fee of $1,000 and adjust their status to permanent residence.

* Employment-Based Immigration - The EB cap would be raised from 140,000 to 290,000
per year. Workers, and their families, who possess advanced degrees in science,
technology, engineering or math, and who have been employed in the U.S. for a minimum
of three years in nonimmigrant status, would be exempt from the EB numerical cap. If
they obtained their advanced degree from a U.S. university, they would be eligible
for a "more flexible labor certificate procedure." The country-based numerical caps
would be raised.

* H-1B Cap - Would be raised to 115,000 annually. Thereafter, the cap would be
controlled by a "market based escalator mechanism". Persons with advanced degrees in
math, science, technology and engineering would be exempt from the cap.

* Family-Based Immigration - Immediate relatives (parents, spouses and children of
U.S. citizens) would be removed from the 480,000 numerical ceiling. The extra visas
generated from this change would be redistributed among the family-based preference
categories. If the petitioner dies after the petition is submitted, the
beneficiaries would still be able to immigrate to the U.S.

Readers should bear in mind that all of these amendments to the law are still in a very preliminary stage. They will be considered by the Senate Judiciary Committee starting tomorrow, March 2. By March 27, the full Senate will debate the bill that emerges from the Judiciary Committee. If and when the Senate passes a bill, it will need to be reconciled with the "enforcement-only" bill which passed the House of Representatives. Some of the House leaders are on record as opposing any guest worker program, labeling it an "amnesty".

Former Senator Alan Simpson, a co-author of the 1996 anti-immigrant law, got it right
when he stated that "it's going to be an extraordinary debate filled with fear and
guilt and racism and xenophobia."

One of the opening salvos was fired by Representative Tom Tancredo (R-COLO), the
leader of the anti-immigration forces in the House of Representatives: "Words almost
fail to describe the threat this bill poses to our national and economic security...By legalizing the millions upon millions of illegal aliens in the U.S., Specter makes a mockery of our laws and crushes our already strained legal immigration system. The American people will not stand by idly as this unmitigated disaster makes its way through the Senate."

Pro-immigration organizations have stated that the bill would "create a permanent
underclass" of workers who would be unable to attain permanent residence in the U.S.
Many believe that a guest worker program which does not lead to permanent residence
would be useless. Why would a person who is working without permission in the United
States sign up as a guest worker unless they are given a chance to legalize their
immigration status? Simply so they could be deported when their legal status
expires?

While passage of the guest worker and conditional nonimmigrant provisions of the bill
remains highly uncertain, we believe that those sections of the bill which increase
the EB and H-1B caps have a better chance of being enacted into law since they
benefit only those who have complied with U.S. immigration laws.

A Night at Arianna's: Democrats and the War

Posted 02/27/2006 @ 6:54pm The Nation
Jon Wiener

At a Democratic Party fundraiser hosted by Arianna Huffington in Los Angeles recently, Howard Dean and Barbara Boxer laid out strategy for the upcoming Congressional races, with lots of strong talk about retaking the House next fall -- and, on Dean's part, one stunning silence: Iraq.

The occasion was a fundraiser for a Democrat hoping to win a special House election next month in a Republican district in northern San Diego county. The former incumbent, "Duke" Cunningham, dubbed "the poster boy of Congressional corruption," pled guilty to several felony counts of bribery and resigned. The special election will be held on April 11, and the Democrats are putting impressive resources into electing Francine Busby, a school board member campaigning as an ethics-in-government candidate. She lost to Cunningham in 2004.

The presence at Arianna's house of the Democratic National Chairman, a senator, and three members of Congress underscored the importance Democrats attach to this campaign. Taking over a Republican district in this special election, they argue, would set the tone for the Congressional races to come in the fall.

In Arianna's grand living room, Dean said the Democrats would never win back a majority in Congress by running only on their traditional issues--health care, Social security and education. He said "we need to learn from Karl Rove, and attack our opponents where they are strong"--which means attacking them on defense.

"Here's our strategy for 2006," he said. "We need to argue that Bush has failed to get bin Laden; after five years in power, he's failed to stop North Korea's nuclear weapons program; he's failed to stop Iran's nuclear weapons program; and he's failed to provide adequate security for our ports. We need to argue that the Democrats will do a better job protecting the nation than Bush has. We promise that we will kill or capture bin Laden; with the help of China and Russia, we will shut down the North Korean nuclear program; we will prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear power; and we will protect our ports."

Notably missing from the list: "we will end the war in Iraq."
Boxer took a different tack. The Democrat who won more votes in 2004 than any candidate in the nation except for Bush and Kerry, who won more votes in 2004 than any Senate candidate in history--6.9 million votes--called the war a "disaster" and "a horror story" and said, "We should listen to the Iraqi people. Polls show that 70 per cent of the Iraqi people now say we should leave. We should do what they want--and bring the troops home."

Jane Harmon, a "moderate" from LA who is the senior Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, was also in Arianna's living room--and was notably silent. In other venues she has endorsed a proposal to maintain US troop levels in Iraq and shift US forces to major urban centers and key economic areas. "We've got about a year to get it right," she recently said.

Elsewhere Nancy Pelosi of San Francisco, the House Democratic leader, has endorsed Pennsylvania Democrat John Murtha's call for immediate withdrawal. Dean, however, has supported gradual withdrawal of US forces: 80,000 troops out by the end of this year, and the remaining 60,000 withdrawn by the end of 2007, with many redeployed to nearby bases in Afghanistan, Kuwait and Asia.

Candidate Busby's position on the war is to the right of Dean: while her campaign emphasizes that she "opposed the war in Iraq from the beginning and believes the war was a distraction from the very real threat of terrorism," she is in favor of setting "benchmarks" rather than a timetable for withdrawal -- which is not too different from the Bush position.

The open district, which runs along the coast north of San Diego, has 160,000 Republicans and only 107,000 Democrats. The race is turning out to be one of the most expensive House campaigns in the country. The eleven Republicans and Busby together have raised nearly $1.9 million, making it the fourteenth most expensive House campaign, according to the San Diego Union-Tribune. Busy has raised more than $520,000, while her leading Republican opponent, Alan Kurt Uke, has reported raising $420,000, according to the Union-Tribune, most of it from himself.

The crowd at Arianna's was heavy with candidates for other state and local offices and campaign staffers keeping one eye on their Blackberries. Hosts included Sherry Lansing, dubbed by the Hollywood Reporter "the grande dame of female executives," who is stepping down as head of Paramount Pictures; Robert Greenwald, whose most recent film, Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price just opened in Europe; and several members of ANGLE, "Access Now for Gay and Lesbian Equality." If any of them were looking for a clear party position on ending the war in Iraq, they left bitterly disappointed.

War funds likely to win quick OK from Congress

Edward Epstein, Chronicle Washington Bureau
Thursday, February 23, 2006
San Francisco Chronycle

Washington -- Congress may huff and puff next week when it starts debating President Bush's latest request for money to finance the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan -- a $72.4 billion plan that will boost total spending on the conflicts to the range of $400 billion -- but quick and overwhelming approval is expected.

Still Bush's use of an emergency budgeting technique that circumvents the normal budgeting and spending process has increasingly angered members of Congress and, critics say, is being used to hide costs of the fighting.

"I think a lot of congressmen on both sides of the aisle are loath to vote against a spending measure that is seen as being for the troops,'' said Brian Katulis, a national security expert at the Center for American Progress in Washington, a think tank that has criticized Bush's Iraq policy and his budgeting for that war.
"Even though there are a lot of misgivings about the president's course, few will vote against it,'' added Katulis.

But some are trying to provoke more of a debate as Congress considers the latest in a growing series of special spending requests for military and reconstruction operations in the two countries. The National Priorities Project this week released a state-by-state, city-by-city breakdown of how much the Iraq fighting will cost if the new supplemental is approved intact.

The figures cite a $40.6 billion cost so far for California residents, including $1.1 billion for San Francisco, $404.1 million for Oakland, $1.6 billion for San Jose and $115.4 million for Berkeley.

"It's important we realize how much the war is costing in budgetary terms. Every dollar we spend on the Iraq war is a dollar we can't spend somewhere else, or not spend,'' said the Massachusetts-based group's research director, Anita Dancs.

"I fear Congress will do the same thing as in the past. It would be appropriate to have a more vibrant debate over all aspects of the money we're spending.''
The Republican-led House and Senate have made clear their unhappiness over the Bush administration's continued use of supplemental appropriations requests to fund the war in Afghanistan, which U.S. forces entered in late 2001 to oust the Taliban government and al Qaeda, and in Iraq, which was invaded in March 2003. The White House sent the first emergency spending request a week after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

Supplemental spending requests are usually designed for emergencies, such as recovery from natural disasters. In addition to its request for more war money, the White House has asked for $19.8 billion to pay for Hurricane Katrina storm recovery.

"The time to treat (the Iraq war) as an emergency is well past. It hides the true costs of that conflict,'' Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Alpine (San Diego County), the House Armed Services Committee chairman, told Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld at a hearing on Friday.

"And last year we were pretty clear on both sides of the aisle in this committee, as well as in the other body, that we think supplemental funding needs to stop ... Congress and the American people must be able to see the full costs of the war, and it must be done through the regular process and not through supplementals.''

The Iraq-Afghanistan request is on top of Bush's plan for a $439 billion Pentagon budget for the coming fiscal year, a 7 percent increase from the current year. In addition to the $72.4 billion special spending request, Bush asked Congress in his proposed $2.8 trillion budget to set aside $50 billion more for Iraqi operations in the coming year.

Rumsfeld rejected the idea that Bush is doing anything unusual.

"The president's budget provides for the basic needs of the department ... It has been a long-standing practice of the Congress and the executive branch to agree that a supplemental is an appropriate way to fund a war. The suggestion that that confuses things or doesn't make everything clear, it strikes me, is just simply not consistent with the facts. The budget's there for all to see,'' he said.

An October 2005 report from the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service points out that Presidents Franklin Roosevelt and Harry Truman used supplemental spending requests to pay for World War II and the Korean War, respectively, at least in the conflicts' initial phases. The same was true for the Vietnam War, and for the 1991 Persian Gulf War against Iraq.

But as the wars dragged on, the report said, some spending was included in regular budgets.

The Senate voted last April that any future spending on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan should be included in regular budgets. But it wasn't binding and the Senate Appropriations Committee plans to start hearings on the latest supplemental in a few weeks. The panel's House counterpart plans its first hearing March 1.

Highlights of the president's latest request include $38 billion for military operations, $8.3 billion for new equipment, $3.7 billion to support Iraqi security forces and $2.2 billion to help Afghan forces. About $3 billion will go to intelligence agencies for classified operations.

In an appearance on Feb. 17 before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Rumsfeld said that putting together the Pentagon's annual budget and getting it approved by Congress is a two-year project that makes it difficult to include accurate costs for the wars. He said he'd be willing to include spending for Iraq and Afghanistan in the normal budget, but warned that he couldn't provide the level of specificity that Congress would find acceptable.

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., disagreed.
"It's got to stop. Your requests have got to be included in the normal budget process, in the normal authorization and appropriations process, because we all know and can estimate that the war in Iraq and Afghanistan is going to cost a certain amount of money,'' he said.
________________________________________

Local costs of war

If Congress approves President Bush's latest spending request to fight the war in Iraq, total costs will hit $315.8 billion. A new study from the National Priorities Project says that translates into a $40.6 billion cost for the people of California and gives this breakdown for selected Bay Area cities, weighted by population and income.

Dollars in millions

Vallejo 147.5 million
Tracy 90.1
Tiburon 23.3
South San Francisco 94.5
Sausalito 16.2
Santa Rosa 189.9
Santa Clara 179.5
San Rafael 86.4
San Bruno 63
San Anselmo 22.3
Richmond 110.8
Palo Alto 113.8
Novato 76.3
Napa 90.1
Mountain View 123.9
Mill Valley 31.2
Martinez 57.1
Larkspur 20.2
Hayward 181
Fremont 393.4
Fairfax 10.8
Daly City 163.1
Corte Madera 18.4
Campbell 64.7
Belvedere 7
Benicia 45.9
Berkeley 115.4
Oakland 404.1
San Jose 1.6 billion
San Francisco $1.1 billion

Source: National Priorities Project at www.nationalpriorities.org/warcitycost

E-privacy group sues AT&T for opening database to NSA

Joshua Pantesco at 6:32 PM ET January 31, 2006

[JURIST] Digital free speech group Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) [advocacy website] has initiated a class-action lawsuit [press release] against AT&T [corporate website] on behalf of California plaintiffs alleging that the company violated their right to privacy as well as several federal statutes when it allowed the National Security Agency (NSA) [official website] to use its infrastructure to wiretap US citizens. A December Los Angeles Times article [text] quoted an official source as saying that AT&T had provided the NSA access to a 300 terabyte database that stores caller information on every domestic call placed in the US through their infrastructure. An EFF staff attorney anticipates that the government will intervene on AT&T's behalf to support the controversial NSA warrantless surveillance program [JURIST news archive]. Read the EFF complaint [text, PDF] and the EFF case backgrounder. CNET has more.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

For homeless women in south county, coalition is last resort

Article Launched: 02/21/2006 12:00 AM PST
By TERRY VAU DELL - Staff Writer, Red Bluff Daily News

OROVILLE -- As she had many times before, the 24-year-old single mother found herself living on the streets, using drugs and sleeping at one house or another.

But this time was different.

While walking to her next crash pad, the young woman accepted a ride above Magalia.
She was driven to a remote site in the woods, brutally beaten and raped.
When David Burke got the call, he learned the young woman had escaped and, after hiding out in the hills for hours, had made her way to a neighboring house and then to a Paradise hospital.

Within hours, police arrested Shawn Stewart for the sexual assault. He is currently awaiting trial.

Using their limited funds, Burke, head of the Greater Oroville Homeless Coalition, bought the victim some food, cold medicine, a toothbrush and other necessities. He got her into a temporary safe house and is now putting together a drug-recovery plan for her.

Burke, a recovered methamphetamine addict who acts now as a local drug court liaison, had worked with the victim in the past and was optimistic when she graduated from the Butte County Proposition 36 drug treatment court a couple years ago.

"She found out you can't do recovery on your own," Burke said.

"She was torn up at first," Burke said of the brutal sexual assault. "She's doing just OK now."

While there are several resources to help homeless women and children in the Chico area, Burke's group is one of a very few in the southern part of the county.
Steve Terry, pastor of the Oroville Rescue Mission, said their records showed 1,770 women, 204 with children, stayed at the mission last year.

The average stay is about 30 days, but one woman has been there four months.
"This is a temporary shelter, but we allow them to stay longer in winter because of the cold," said Terry.

When it opened in the mid-1960s the mission was primarily populated by male hobos, jumping off the train that ran behind the premises.
But increasingly, Terry said, more homeless and impoverished women with children are coming to their doors.

A "quick count" census conducted by the Butte County Behavioral Health Department found 748 men, women and children living on the street on Jan. 31.

But that's an artificially low number. Many of the homeless could not be contacted, including "hundreds who couch surf" with friends for lack of money, according to Carol Zanon, vice-chair and secretary for the Oroville Homeless Coalition.

The grassroots organization, Zanon said, started about four and a half years ago as a "last resort" emergency measure to assist homeless families or those in danger of being evicted.

With the help of local churches, they have assisted about 30 Oroville-area women with children, getting some into apartments by paying their deposits, utilities and first month's rent.

Burke estimates there are about 100 more homeless families in the Oroville area in need of help.

Many of the parents "have drug issues and keep getting shuffled through the system until they lose their children," Burke said. "We're trying to make healthy babies and strong families."

The fledgling organization subsists almost entirely on private donations, much of which come from the group's annual fundraiser, which will take place in April.
Burke said the function couldn't come at a better time.

"We're down to our last $1,300," he noted.

A court liaison for Skyway House, Butte's largest nonprofit alcohol and drug rehabilitation center, Burke has dipped into his own pockets to help get some homeless women into safe houses and drug recovery.

"Most of them have a drug or alcohol dependency illness. If we can get mom stable in recovery, it takes away the insecurity of her child," he observed.
Burke has pulled strings to get several homeless women into treatment.

In some cases, he tapped Proposition 10 money, a state program that funds drug and alcohol treatment for women with children.

In addition to the rape victim, the homeless coalition this month helped provide emergency rent money and funds for substance abuse treatment to a handful of other women living on the street.

Theora, 40, had come out from Oklahoma City with her teenage daughter a couple years ago, lured by the promise of a good-paying job in the U.S. Forest Service.
Though she had two college degrees in forestry conservation and animal science technology, she wasn't able to find any work in Oroville.

"I had no problem finding drugs, though," she noted.

For six months, she lived in a tent in a field off Fifth Avenue, "eating out of trash cans and a Dumpster behind the AM-PM" market.

"Sometimes Pizza Hut would give us food when we knocked on the back door."
Though often hungry, she never lacked for drugs.

"Addicts would show up with drugs; I was a crack smoker. They would give me free smoke if I provided them with a tent to smoke it in," she said.

Understandably, local authorities frowned on the homeless squatters, and would sometimes cut down trees they used to tie down their tarpaulins, forcing them to move from one location to another, Theora said.

She knows all the local "camp" sites: near Bedrock Park along the Feather River, under the Thermalito Bridge, behind a few downtown stores and the open field off Fifth Avenue, where many of the homeless reside.

Ultimately her daughter was placed in foster care, and developed a drug addiction of her own.

Ironically, it was prison that helped turn Theora's life around.

Arrested while returning from a drug buy, she served two years in women's prison even though it was her first drug offense.

While there, she found religion and took advantage of the substance abuse counseling, which entitled her to drug treatment funding when she was paroled.

She's now living in one of Skyway House's "clean and sober living" houses on Bird Street in Oroville. Her daughter, now 18, is in residential drug treatment.
"I'm so happy my daughter is in treatment. She saw what it's done for me and how it changed my life," Theora said.

"There's so many people out there using and don't realize they're addicts ... I think it's awesome that there are people who do care," Theora said of the homeless coalition.

On Thursday, another resident at the Oroville sober living house, 18-year-old Danielle, landed her first job at a local motel.

Raped at age 17 and sleeping at other drug users' homes, she said she had finally had enough of the lifestyle.

"You get tired of being out in the rain," she noted.

Now engaged to be married, with the aid of her future sister-in-law, Danielle was able to "stay clean" for 30 days, qualifying for admittance to the Skyway House clean and sober living house in Oroville.

"I feel good, happy; I haven't felt that way in a long time," she said.

She said she primarily has Burke and the local homeless coalition to thank for her turnaround.

Her message to others living on the street and doing drugs is simple and direct: "While there is help out there, they have got to help themselves."

Terry, pastor of the faith-based Oroville Rescue Mission, agrees.

"There are resources out there to help the homeless, but for some reason many don't avail themselves of it," he said.

While he tries not to judge, It could be the fact that some don't want to abide by the mission's rules, which include a no-alcohol or drug-use policy.

Oroville police routinely hand out cards to homeless people that list local resources, including the Rescue Mission and the Oroville Homeless Coalition.
The mission, which also offers Christian services and drug counseling, tries to discourage people from giving money to panhandlers.

"There is an old proverb: 'You give a man a fish, he'll eat for a day. You teach him how to fish and he'll eat the rest of his life,' " said Terry.

Zanon, a training supervisor for Butte County Children's Services, said there are many reasons families find themselves homeless.

Many women are fleeing domestic violence. Some working parents simply don't make enough to afford rent.

"How can someone who makes $1,300 a month pay $900 in rent, and provide for the other necessities of life for themselves and their family?" Zanon asked.

The organization's long-term goal is to raise enough money to establish a homeless center in Oroville, modeled after the Sabbath House, which provides a safe haven in Chico for women with children.

"What we envision is a shelter for women and children to live at, from where they can work to establish permanency, apply for grants, find a job, locate permanent housing, day care, etc.," noted Zanon.

In the meantime, the homeless coalition is "helping one family at a time in whatever way needed to help families find a clean, safe place to live and work from, maintain their dignity and above all, stay together," she added.

"Oroville police are very supportive. (District Attorney) Mike Ramsey also comes to our meetings," noted Burke.

However, without financial support from the local community, "it's very limited as to what we can do," he added.

Burke, a "proud graduate" of the Prop. 36 court drug treatment program and a married father of one, said he got involved in the homeless coalition to give something back to the community.

"When you're giving back to others in recovery, you keep what you've got," Burke observed.

Pessimism Evident in Latest Poll on Iraq War

http://poll.gallup.com/content/?ci=21553
February 21, 2006
by Jeffrey M. Jones
GALLUP NEWS SERVICE

PRINCETON, NJ -- An update on Americans' views toward the war in Iraq finds some of the more pessimistic views Gallup has measured since the war began. A majority of Americans continue to say the war was a mistake and say that they oppose the war. Fewer than one in three Americans say the United States is winning, the lowest percentage Gallup has measured on that question to date.

The Feb. 9-12 CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll finds 55% of Americans saying the United States made a mistake in sending troops to Iraq, while 42% disagree. On only one other occasion -- last September following Hurricane Katrina -- did more Americans, 59%, say the war was a mistake.

(continued-click on link)

I weep for our errors in Iraq

Gulf Times
Published: Tuesday, 21 February, 2006, 09:15 AM Doha time
By Clare Short

NOT many years ago, I used to say that our troops were some of the best peacekeepers in the world. Having learned their lessons in Northern Ireland, their performance in Bosnia, East Timor, and Sierra Leone – and in leading the establishment of the peace-keeping force in Kabul – was exemplary.

The Department for International Development provided small pockets of funding, and the troops worked in ways that enabled them to get to know the local people. They helped with emergency repairs, set up football clubs, and got involved in other activities. The secret of the troops’ success was that they treated local people with respect. And so – despite all the deceit on the road to war in Iraq – it was easy to believe the claims that life was better in Basra than Baghdad partly because our troops knew how to behave.

On top of this, we have seen more despicable photos of the mistreatment by the American military of prisoners in Abu Ghraib. Quite apart from anything else, they are a reminder that at no time since the scandal first emerged in 2004 has there been a proper inquiry into it, and that nobody in a position of authority has been held to account.

All this in a week when a UN report called for the closure of Guantanamo Bay, and our courts have told the Government that it should make representations on behalf of the British residents held in Guantanamo Bay who were given asylum in the UK but of whom the Government has washed its hands. We may have to revise that opinion now. The video that has come to light showing the deliberate beatings of young men by British troops – and the decision of the people of Basra to refuse all contact with British forces – suggests that all is not as we were led to believe. Sadly, we can no longer feel the same pride in the performance of our armed forces. And their loss of reputation makes them more vulnerable in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The US defence is that prisoners in Guantanamo Bay are war criminals who will be held for as long as the war lasts. But just as this argument was being propagated, a senior British policeman told us that the war on terror is likely to last for as long as 50 years. Against this backdrop, Labour MPs voted in overwhelming numbers for a system of creeping compulsion in the introduction of ID cards and for the insidious new criminal offence of "glorifying terrorism".

I could weep for the accumulating errors that are being made, and for the violence and bloodshed that are likely to continue to spread across the world for many decades to come.

And it gets worse. The prospect of a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has been thrown away, and the man who is almost certain to become Israel’s next Prime Minister – Ehud Olmert – has made clear that he will implement his predecessor Ariel Sharon’s plan to contain the Palestinian population in a series of Bantustans on just 15% of the land of historical Palestine.

This means the conflict will continue into the indefinite future. No Palestinian leadership could ever accept such a settlement together with the loss of East Jerusalem. The politics of the Middle East will remain poisoned, the anger of the Muslim world undiminished.

The International Crisis Group last week published a study of the insurgency in Iraq, and concluded that it was becoming better organised, less fragmented, more conscious of the need not to alienate Iraqi opinion and that it is increasingly confident it can win. And educated Iraqi families who survived the Iran-Iraq war, the first Gulf War, sanctions, and the evils of the Saddam Hussain regime are leaving in droves because the present situation is unbearable. In Afghanistan, the Taliban is resurgent, and the country has become an anarchic state, with the likely prospect of an endless war paralleling the situation in Colombia. The decision to deploy British troops to one of the most dangerous areas of the country risks increasing loss of British soldiers’ lives in a hopeless, endless war.

Thus the world is in desperate trouble, and British foreign policy is a major part of the problem. At a time when we desperately need international co-operation to deal with the problems of global warming, poverty, population growth and loss of environmental resources, we have growing bitter division, an undermining of the UN, and of international law. People frequently compare the errors of Iraq to the Suez adventure. I’m afraid it is much more serious than that, and on top of this we have the prospect of an attack on Iran to prevent its developing nuclear capacity.

Meanwhile, our constitutional structures are malfunctioning. Deceiving Parliament was always seen as the unforgivable crime in our constitutional arrangements. But there has been no holding of the prime minister to account for his deceit over Iraq, and the main opposition party is busy repairing its relationship with the Bush administration. The traditional Labour Party is in despair, membership collapsing and the recent by-election defeat a sign of things to come. The problem is that no solution is in sight and therefore the people are increasingly contemptuous of the political establishment.

It will get worse before it gets better. There will be no peace until a future American administration understands the trouble they are in and the need for a just settlement in the Middle East. And in the UK, we will not get the change we need unless we achieve a hung parliament which could lead to a change in the electoral system to halt the concentration of unaccountable and incompetent policy-making in No 10. These are gloomy times and we need to face just how bad they are in order to begin to build the movements that will start to put things right. – The Independent


* Clare Short was Britain’s Secretary of State for International Development from 1997 to 2003.

Homeland Security Contracts for Vast New Detention Camps

by Peter Dale Scott
February 6, 2006
Pacific News Service

*Editor's Note: A little-known $385 million contract for Halliburton
subsidiary KBR to build detention facilities for "an emergency influx of
immigrants" is another step down the Bush administration's road toward
martial law, the writer says.*

A Halliburton subsidiary has just received a $385 million contract from the
Department of Homeland Security to provide "temporary detention and
processing capabilities."

The contract -- announced Jan. 24 by the engineering and construction firm
KBR -- calls for preparing for "an emergency influx of immigrants, or to
support the rapid development of new programs" in the event of other
emergencies, such as "a natural disaster." The release offered no details
about where Halliburton was to build these facilities, or when.

To date, some newspapers have worried that open-ended provisions in the
contract could lead to cost overruns, such as have occurred with KBR in
Iraq. A Homeland Security spokesperson has responded that this is a
"contingency contract" and that conceivably no centers might be built. But
almost no paper so far has discussed the possibility that detention centers
could be used to detain American citizens if the Bush administration were to
declare martial law.

For those who follow covert government operations abroad and at home, the
contract evoked ominous memories of Oliver North's controversial Rex-84
"readiness exercise" in 1984. This called for the Federal Emergency
Management Agency (FEMA) to round up and detain 400,000 imaginary
"refugees," in the context of "uncontrolled population movements" over the
Mexican border into the United States. North's activities raised civil
liberties concerns in both Congress and the Justice Department. The concerns
persist.

"Almost certainly this is preparation for a roundup after the next 9/11 for
Mid-Easterners, Muslims and possibly dissenters," says Daniel Ellsberg, a
former military analyst who in 1971 released the Pentagon Papers, the U.S.
military's account of its activities in Vietnam. "They've already done this
on a smaller scale, with the 'special registration' detentions of immigrant
men from Muslim countries, and with Guantanamo."

Plans for detention facilities or camps have a long history, going back to
fears in the 1970s of a national uprising by black militants. As Alonzo
Chardy reported in the Miami Herald on July 5, 1987, an executive order for
continuity of government (COG) had been drafted in 1982 by FEMA head Louis
Giuffrida. The order called for "suspension of the Constitution" and
"declaration of martial law." The martial law portions of the plan were
outlined in a memo by Giuffrida's deputy, John Brinkerhoff.

In 1985, President Reagan signed National Security Decision Directive 188,
one of a series of directives that authorized continued planning for COG by
a private parallel government.

Two books, James Mann's "Rise of the Vulcans" and James Bamford's "A Pretext
for War," have revealed that in the 1980s this parallel structure, operating
outside normal government channels, included the then-head of G. D. Searle
and Co., Donald Rumsfeld, and then-Congressman from Wyoming Dick Cheney.

After 9/11, new martial law plans began to surface similar to those of FEMA
in the 1980s. In January 2002 the Pentagon submitted a proposal for
deploying troops on American streets. One month later John Brinkerhoff, the
author of the 1982 FEMA memo, published an article arguing for the legality
of using U.S. troops for purposes of domestic security.

Then in April 2002, Defense Dept. officials implemented a plan for domestic
U.S. military operations by creating a new U.S. Northern Command
(CINC-NORTHCOM) for the continental United States. Defense Secretary Donald
Rumsfeld called this "the most sweeping set of changes since the unified
command system was set up in 1946."

The NORTHCOM commander, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld announced, is
responsible for "homeland defense and also serves as head of the North
American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD).... He will command U.S. forces
that operate within the United States in support of civil authorities. The
command will provide civil support not only in response to attacks, but for
natural disasters."

John Brinkerhoff later commented on PBS that, "The United States itself is
now for the first time since the War of 1812 a theater of war. That means
that we should apply, in my view, the same kind of command structure in the
United States that we apply in other theaters of war."

Then in response to Hurricane Katrina in Sept. 2005, according to the
Washington Post, White House senior adviser Karl Rove told the governor of
Louisiana, Kathleen Babineaux Blanco, that she should explore legal options
to impose martial law "or as close as we can get." The White House tried
vigorously, but ultimately failed, to compel Gov. Blanco to yield control of
the state National Guard.

Also in September, NORTHCOM conducted its highly classified Granite Shadow
exercise in Washington. As William Arkin reported in the Washington Post,
"Granite Shadow is yet another new Top Secret and compartmented operation
related to the military's extra-legal powers regarding weapons of mass
destruction. It allows for emergency military operations in the United
States without civilian supervision or control."

It is clear that the Bush administration is thinking seriously about martial
law.

Many critics have alleged that FEMA's spectacular failure to respond to
Katrina followed from a deliberate White House policy: of paring back FEMA,
and instead strengthening the military for responses to disasters.

A multimillion program for detention facilities will greatly increase
NORTHCOM's ability to respond to any domestic disorders.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Don't Punish the Palestinians

By Jimmy Carter
Washingtonpost.com
Monday, February 20, 2006; A21

As the results of the recent Palestinian elections are implemented, it's important to understand how the transition process works and also how important to it are actions by Israel and the United States.

Although Hamas won 74 of the 132 parliamentary seats, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas retains the right to propose and veto legislation, with 88 votes required to override his veto. With nine of its elected members remaining in prison, Hamas has only 65 votes, plus whatever third-party support it can attract. Abbas also has the power to select and remove the prime minister, to issue decrees with the force of law when parliament is not in session, and to declare a state of emergency. As commander in chief, he also retains ultimate influence over the National Security Force and Palestinian intelligence.

After the first session of the new legislature, which was Saturday, the members will elect a speaker, two deputies and a secretary. These legislative officials are not permitted to hold any position in the executive branch, so top Hamas leaders may choose to concentrate their influence in the parliament and propose moderates or technocrats for prime minister and cabinet posts. Three weeks are allotted for the prime minister to form the cabinet, and a majority vote of the parliament is required for final approval.

The role of the prime minister was greatly strengthened while Abbas and Ahmed Qureia served in that position under Yasser Arafat, and Abbas has announced that he will not choose a prime minister who does not recognize Israel or adhere to the basic principles of the "road map." This could result in a stalemated process, but my conversations with representatives of both sides indicate that they wish to avoid such an imbroglio. The spokesman for Hamas claimed, "We want a peaceful unity government." If this is a truthful statement, it needs to be given a chance.

During this time of fluidity in the formation of the new government, it is important that Israel and the United States play positive roles. Any tacit or formal collusion between the two powers to disrupt the process by punishing the Palestinian people could be counterproductive and have devastating consequences.

Unfortunately, these steps are already underway and are well known throughout the Palestinian territories and the world. Israel moved yesterday to withhold funds (about $50 million per month) that the Palestinians earn from customs and tax revenue. Perhaps a greater aggravation by the Israelis is their decision to hinder movement of elected Hamas Palestinian Legislative Council members through any of more than a hundred Israeli checkpoints around and throughout the Palestinian territories. This will present significant obstacles to a government's functioning effectively. Abbas informed me after the election that the Palestinian Authority was $900 million in debt and that he would be unable to meet payrolls during February. Knowing that Hamas would inherit a bankrupt government, U.S. officials have announced that all funding for the new government will be withheld, including what is needed to pay salaries for schoolteachers, nurses, social workers, police and maintenance personnel. So far they have not agreed to bypass the Hamas-led government and let humanitarian funds be channeled to Palestinians through United Nations agencies responsible for refugees, health and other human services.

This common commitment to eviscerate the government of elected Hamas officials by punishing private citizens may accomplish this narrow purpose, but the likely results will be to alienate the already oppressed and innocent Palestinians, to incite violence, and to increase the domestic influence and international esteem of Hamas. It will certainly not be an inducement to Hamas or other militants to moderate their policies.

The election of Hamas candidates cannot adversely affect genuine peace talks, since such talks have been nonexistent for over five years. A negotiated agreement is the only path to a permanent two-state solution, providing peace for Israel and justice for the Palestinians. In fact, if Israel is willing to include the Palestinians in the process, Abbas can still play this unique negotiating role as the unchallenged leader of the PLO (not the government that includes Hamas).

It was under this umbrella and not the Palestinian Authority that Arafat negotiated with Israeli leaders to conclude the Oslo peace agreement. Abbas has sought peace talks with Israel since his election a year ago, and there is nothing to prevent direct talks with him, even if Hamas does not soon take the ultimately inevitable steps of renouncing violence and recognizing Israel's right to exist.

It would not violate any political principles to at least give the Palestinians their own money; let humanitarian assistance continue through U.N. and private agencies; encourage Russia, Egypt and other nations to exert maximum influence on Hamas to moderate its negative policies; and support President Abbas in his efforts to ease tension, avoid violence and explore steps toward a lasting peace.

Former president Carter led a team from the Carter Center and the National Democratic Institute that observed last month's Palestinian elections.

Local Green Party preps for convention

BY HEIDI E. RUCKNO
STAFF WRITER
The Citizens Voice News
02/20/2006

The Pennsylvania Green Party will convene in Wilkes-Barre next week to nominate candidates for governor and U.S. Senate.

Nominations will take place next Sunday at the conclusion of the party’s state convention, which will be held at the Genetti Best Western Hotel and Convention Center, Wilkes-Barre.

It will be the first time in the party’s five-year history that a candidate for U.S. Senate will be nominated.

“I’m really excited and flattered that the Northeast was chosen, because I’m proud of my party and I’m proud of Northeastern Pennsylvania,” said Wilkes-Barre political activist Carl Romanelli Jr.

The Pennsylvania Green Party has grown to almost 17,000 members, 432 of them in Luzerne County alone, Romanelli said.

Romanelli and Jay Sweeney, chairman of the Wyoming County Green Party, organized the convention, themed “Peace is Patriotic: A Green Party Plan for American Security.”

The event is open to the public, and the goal is to promote the Green Party and its anti-Iraq war platform.

“You don’t really have to be a registered Green to vote for a Green candidate,” said Sweeney. “We’re trying to make people look outside the envelope.”

In 2004, Sweeney ran for state representative in the 111th Legislative District. He received 2,300 votes in a district with 100 registered Greens.

Among the planned highlights will be a speech by Michael Berg, a peace activist whose son, Nicholas, was kidnapped and beheaded in Iraq. Berg is a Green Party candidate for U.S. Congress in Delaware.

Also slated to speak at the convention is Malik Rahim, a New Orleans resident. Rahim will discuss his experiences during Hurricane Katrina, the government response and his ongoing struggles with racism.

Other scheduled speakers include Kevin Zeese, the 2004 campaign manager for Ralph Nader and a Green Party candidate for U.S. Senate in Maryland, and David Saxton, the Luzerne County Green Party educational coordinator.

In addition to opposing the war, Greens are also fighting for universal health care with the U.S. government as the primary insurer, and the decriminalization of cannabis, Romanelli said.

hruckno@citizensvoice.com

Editorial: How was the Iraq war 'sold'?

A Cap Times editorial
Published: February 20, 2006

Every member of Congress, no matter what their stance on the war in Iraq, should back U.S. Rep. Dennis Kucinich's Resolution of Inquiry demanding all documents pertaining to contracts that the U.S. government has signed with the intent to "sell" the war.

Public relations companies such as the Rendon Group and the Lincoln Group were hired by the administration, and paid tens of millions of dollars from taxpayer funds, to develop and implement a marketing campaign to persuade the American public to support the invasion and occupation of Iraq. It is essential to learn the details of when and how the public debate was warped.

"The taxpayers of this country have a right to know whether or not their tax dollars were, or are, being used to manipulate the news, falsify intelligence or mislead the public," argues Kucinich, an Ohio Democrat who has been an outspoken critic of the war.

The congressman's Resolution of Inquiry is the appropriate vehicle to provide the needed oversight. A rare House procedure used to obtain documents from the Executive Branch, the resolution which must be acted upon by the House within 14 legislative days can, if it receives sufficient bipartisan support in the Congress, provide an appropriate and effective tool for holding the president, the vice president and other members of the administration to account.

That will only happen, however, if members of Congress back Kucinich's resolution.

U.S. Reps. Tammy Baldwin, D-Madison; Ron Kind, D-La Crosse; Paul Ryan, R-Janesville, and other members of the Wisconsin delegation have a responsibility to do so.

U.S. church alliance denounces Iraq war

Saturday, February 18, 2006 · Last updated 10:05 a.m. PT
By BRIAN MURPHY
AP RELIGION WRITER

PORTO ALEGRE, Brazil -- A coalition of American churches sharply denounced the U.S.-led war in Iraq on Saturday, accusing Washington of "raining down terror" and apologizing to other nations for "the violence, degradation and poverty our nation has sown."

The statement, issued at the largest gathering of Christian churches in nearly a decade, also warned the United States was pushing the world toward environmental catastrophe with a "culture of consumption" and its refusal to back international accords seeking to battle global warming.

"We lament with special anguish the war in Iraq, launched in deception and violating global norms of justice and human rights," said the statement from representatives of the 34 U.S. members of World Council of Churches. "We mourn all who have died or been injured in this war. We acknowledge with shame abuses carried out in our name."

The World Council of Churches includes more than 350 mainstream Protestant, Anglican and Orthodox churches; the Roman Catholic Church is not a member. The U.S. groups in the WCC include the Episcopal Church, the Presbyterian Church (USA), the United Methodist Church, several Orthodox churches and Baptist denominations, among others.

The statement is part of widening religious pressure on the Bush administration, which still counts on the support of evangelical churches and other conservative denominations but is widely unpopular with liberal-minded Protestant congregations.

The Very Rev. Leonid Kishkovsky, the moderator for the U.S. group of WCC members, said the letter was backed by the leaders of the churches but was not cleared by lower-level bodies. He predicted friction within congregations about the tone of the message.

"There is much internal anguish and there is division," said Kishkovsky, ecumenical officer of the Orthodox Church of America. "I believe church leaders and communities are wrestling with the moral questions that this letter is addressing."

On Friday, the U.S. National Council of Churches - which includes many WCC members - released a letter appealing to Washington to close the Guantanamo Bay detention facility and saying reports of alleged torture violated "the fundamental Christian belief in the dignity of the human person."

The two-page statement from the WCC group came at the midpoint of a 10-day meeting of more than 4,000 religious leaders, scholars and activists discussing trends and goals for major Christian denominations for the coming decades. The WCC's last global assembly was in 1998 in Zimbabwe - just four months after al-Qaida staged twin bombings at U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.

"Our country responded (to the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks) by seeking to reclaim a privileged and secure place in the world, raining down terror on the truly vulnerable among our global neighbors ... entering into imperial projects that seek to dominate and control for the sake of national interests," said the statement. "Nations have been demonized and God has been enlisted in national agendas that are nothing short of idolatrous."

The Rev. Sharon Watkins, president of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), worried that some may interpret the statement as undermining U.S. troops in Iraq.

"We honor their courage and sense of duty, but ... we, as people of faith, have to say to our brothers and sisters, `We are so profoundly sorry,'" Watkins said.

The message also accused U.S. officials of ignoring warnings about climate change and treating the world's "finite resources as if they are private possessions." It went on to criticize U.S. domestic policies for refusing to confront racism and poverty.

"Hurricane Katrina revealed to the world those left behind in our own nation by the rupture of our social contract," said the statement.

The churches said they had "grown heavy with guilt" for not doing enough to speak out against the Iraq war and other issues. The statement asked forgiveness for a world that's "grown weary from the violence, degradation and poverty our nation has sown."

Report: Pentagon ignored repeated warnings on torture and abuse

By Tom Regan | csmonitor.com

Two years before the Abu Ghraib scandal became public, the Navy's general counsel warned the Pentagon that ignoring international agreements on torture and the treatment of detainees would invite abuse by US forces.

The Associated Press reports that Alberto Mora summarized his longstanding concerns in a secret memo to senior Pentagon officials dated July 7, 2004, writing that "legal theories granting the president the right to authorize abuse in spite of the Geneva Conventions were unlawful, dangerous and erroneous."

The 22-page memo was obtained by The New Yorker magazine for its Feb. 27 issue. A spokeswoman for the Department of Defense said she had not read the issue.

Mora said Navy intelligence officers reported in 2002 that military-intelligence interrogators at the US prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, were engaging in escalating levels of physical and psychological abuse rumored to have been authorized at a high level in Washington.

"I was appalled by the whole thing," Mora told the magazine. "It was clearly abusive and it was clearly contrary to everything we were ever taught about American values."

When the news first broke about Abu Ghraib, Mr. Mora told The New Yorker that he felt "stunned" and "dismayed" that what he had warned against had broken out in a different location. Mora's memo also shows "a different narrative" from the one put forward by the Bush administration.

Top Administration officials have stressed that the interrogation policy was reviewed and sanctioned by government lawyers; last November, President Bush said, “Any activity we conduct is within the law. We do not torture.” Mora’s memo, however, shows that almost from the start of the Administration’s war on terror the White House, the Justice Department, and the Department of Defense, intent upon having greater flexibility, charted a legally questionable course despite sustained objections from some of its own lawyers.

Mora's concerns were first reported in June 2005 by ABC News. At that time notes from meetings showed that Mora, a lifelong Republican who was a Bush political appointee and a strong supporter of Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld (Mora was in the Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001), had warned his superiors that they might be breaking the law.

During a January 2003 meeting involving top Pentagon lawyer William Haynes and other officials, the memo shows that Mora warned that "use of coercive techniques … has military, legal, and political implication … has international implication … and exposes us to liability and criminal prosecution." Mora's deep concerns about interrogations at Guantanamo have been known, but not his warning that top officials could go to prison.

In another meeting held March 8, 2003, the group of top Pentagon lawyers concluded – according to the memo – "we need a presidential letter approving the use of the controversial interrogation to cover those who may be called upon to use them." No such letter was issued.

The New York Times details Mora's fight to change the interrogation techniques that had been approved by Mr. Rumsfeld. He was able to change the first set of "coercive techniques that Mr. Rumsfeld approved for interrogators at Guantánamo Bay on Dec. 2, 2002," but only after he threatened to issue a formal memorandum on his opposition to the methods. But he was unable to affect the second set of techniques approved by Rumsfeld.

In a break from standard practice, former Pentagon lawyers said, the final draft of the report on interrogation techniques was not circulated to most of the lawyers, including Mr. Mora, who had contributed to it. Several of them said they learned that a final version had been issued only after the Abu Ghraib scandal broke.

Mora retired on Dec. 31 after four years as the Navy's general counsel. He is currently a general counsel for Wal-Mart.

On Friday, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld again rejected calls from UN Secretary General Kofi Annan and other international leaders to close the Guantánamo Bay prison. He also denied accusations of torture and abuse.

"He's just flat wrong. We shouldn't close Guantanamo," Rumsfeld said of Annan. "We have several hundred terrorists, bad people, people who if they went back out on the field would try to kill Americans. ... To close that place and pretend that really there's no problem just isn't realistic."

Rumsfeld was speaking to the Council on Foreign Relations in New York, a day after a report by five United Nations special envoys called for closing the prison at the US naval base in Cuba. The report accused the United States of violating bans on torture and arbitrary detention and the right to a fair trial.

Senior Chinese officials slam Communist Party censorship

posted February 15, 2006 at 11:00 a.m.
By Arthur Bright | csmonitor.com

The heat over China's media censorship was turned up Tuesday after a baker's dozen of senior Chinese officials warned that preventing freedom of expression would "sow the seeds of disaster for political and social transition."

Reuters reports that 13 scholars and ex-officials released a letter to the Chinese government, condemning its decision to shut down "Freezing Point," an investigative section of the China Youth Daily. They called the closure a "historic incident" in the struggle between Communist Party controls and media freedoms, and expressed concern over what such censorship would mean for China.

"History demonstrates that only a totalitarian system needs news censorship, out of the delusion that it can keep the public locked in ignorance," they said in a public letter signed February 2 but issued on Tuesday....

They said China's elaborate restrictions on information could have dire consequences for China's political evolution.

"Depriving the public of freedom of expression so nobody dares speak out will sow the seeds of disaster for political and [social] transition."

The BBC notes that the letter "is all the more surprising because of who it comes from." Among the letter's signatories are Li Rui, a former secretary and biographer of Chairman Mao; Hu Jiwei, a former editor in chief of the People's Daily; Zhu Houze, a former propaganda boss; and Li Pu, a former deputy chief of the official Xinhua News Agency.

The government's decision to shut down Freezing Point came in response to an article written by professor Yuan Weishi, Al Jazeera reports. In the piece, Mr. Yuan questioned the official Chinese line on the 19th-century Opium Wars and the 1900 Boxer Rebellion.

Yuan told Aljazeera.net: "Since 1949 Chinese historians have said that the Boxer Rebellion has been an important event in the forming of modern China."

Referring to a Marxist based historiography that has portrayed the rebellion as a struggle against colonialism, Yuan says that from his research, "the Boxers were simply an army bent on destruction".

Yuan suggested Chinese textbooks were factually incorrect and fostered prejudice and resentment among young Chinese.

In a statement, officials said the article had "seriously contradicted news propaganda discipline; seriously damaged the national feelings of the Chinese people ... and it created a bad social influence".

The Times of London writes that Li Datong, the editor of Freezing Point, is encouraged by the letter condemning the publication's closure.

[Datong] told The Times: "This is very significant. It is a an expression of public opinion." He said the Communist Youth League, which is responsible for his newspaper, had refused to file a complaint to the party’s central disciplinary inspection commission. He now plans to approach the party centre, directly challenging the authority of Hu Jintao, the Communist Party chief and state President, who is believed to have approved the suspension personally.

The Chinese government responded to the letter's criticism, as well as to other recent criticism of its Internet censorship policies, in a China Daily article, reports the BBC. Liu Zhengrong, deputy chief of the Internet Affairs Bureau of the State Council Information Office, said that China's Internet controls are similar to that of the US and Europe.

"After studying internet legislation in the West, I've found we basically have identical legislative objectives and principles," Mr Liu was quoted as telling the state-run China Daily newspaper on Tuesday.

"It is unfair and smacks of double standards when (foreigners) criticise China for deleting illegal and harmful messages, while it is legal for US websites to do so," he said.

He also said that only a "very few" foreign websites were blocked, and that was mostly because they contained pornography or terrorist information.

The BBC News website continues to be blocked in China.

Mr. Liu added that "no one in China has been arrested simply because he or she said something on the internet." The BBC noted, however, that Li Zhi, who was sentenced to eight years in jail for "subversion," and four others jailed in 2003 "were posting opinions on the Internet and calling for political change" according to human rights groups.

The shuttering of Freezing Point and subsequent criticism from senior Chinese officials are only part of the latest wave of concern over China's media censorship. The Los Angeles Times reports that the a US House of Representatives panel is scheduled to meet today to examine US Internet firms' cooperation with Chinese censorship efforts.

The U.S. Congress' Subcommittee on Global Human Rights, Africa and International Operations is holding a hearing today on "The Internet in China: A Tool for Freedom or Suppression?" Executives from Google, Yahoo Inc., Microsoft Corp. and Cisco Systems Inc. are scheduled to testify, along with representatives from Reporters Without Borders.

Google, Yahoo, and Microsoft all censor Internet searches in China in accordance with China's propaganda guidelines. In addition, Microsoft has removed blogs that published material upsetting to China, and Yahoo was accused by watchdog group Reporters Without Borders of aiding Chinese officials in capturing Li Zhi in 2003.

The Boston Globe reports that an American diplomat will "express growing US concern about Internet censorship in China" in a visit to China this week.

The Christian Science Monitor notes that while US lawmakers want to end American firms' compliance with Chinese censors, Yahoo may be able to continue thanks to financial manuevering.

A deal in October may insulate the Internet giant. Because it gave up a majority stake of its China service to a Chinese company, Yahoo argues that decisions about cooperating with Chinese officials lie with that company, which has obligations to obey Beijing, not Washington.

However, The Guardian reports that for all China's efforts to censor the Internet, it may be unable to maintain its controls due to the sheer numbers of Web users within its borders.

The number of internet users in China has surged from 620,000 in 1997 to 110 million. It is estimated that there are between 5m and 10m blogs. Censors say they have had to change tactics.

"It is becoming more difficult to block and monitor web traffic so we need to switch to guidance," said an official responsible for internet surveillance. "Strict management didn't work. It is like trying to control a flood. Guiding is more effective than blocking."

Even with an estimated 30,000 internet police, he said it was difficult to monitor bulletin boards. "The technology hasn't reached a level that will allow us to control them. And we must also consider the trend of democratisation, which cannot be stopped," he said.

The offical adds, "China is very big. If you want to control such a large country, mere politics is not enough. You must control minds. You need to win the battle for ideas."

Web Poll: 54% pick Swann over Rendell

Article Last Updated: 02/20/2006 11:07 AM EST
by the York Dispatch


Fifty-four percent of readers responding to the York Dispatch Web Poll last week picked Republican candidate Lynn Swann over incumbent Democrat Ed Rendell for governor of Pennsylvania.

With eight months remaining to the November general election, 46 percent of readers responding to last week's poll indicated they wanted Rendell to remain in office.

The battle for Pennsylvanians' votes promises to be hard-fought with a relative political novice squaring off against a proven vote-getter who also was an aggressive prosecutor and a popular mayor of Philadelphia.

The York Dispatch will run this popularity poll monthly until the election.

S. Florida debates Patriot Act amid worries about government spying on citizens

By William E. Gibson
Washington Bureau Chief
Posted February 20 2006

WASHINGTON � While police groups in Florida urge swift congressional renewal of the USA Patriot Act, some peace advocates have joined critics across the country who say the anti-terrorism law abuses civil liberties and stifles dissent.

The Senate swept aside a filibuster attempt last week to clear the way for passage of the act, probably on March 1. The House is expected to add its approval quickly.

Recent disclosures of domestic eavesdropping have clouded the debate over the Patriot Act. Forged in the fearful aftermath of the 2001 terrorist attacks, the act has become a test of how to secure the nation while preserving individual liberties.

"I hope whatever they [members of Congress] pass is a good balance been privacy and public safety," said David Murrell, executive director of the Florida Police Benevolent Association in Tallahassee, one of several police groups that support renewal of the act.

"We are still a democratic society and should not operate like a totalitarian government. Maybe it [the original act] did go too far, as far as individual liberties and the right to privacy is concerned. But we all know it's a new world. Threats are out there, and things like the Patriot Act are needed to address a new situation."

Some dissenting groups in Florida are convinced that government agents have infiltrated and spied upon them. The groups contend that the act reflects a pattern of repression designed to intimidate critics of the Bush administration.

"I don't think the Patriot Act has protected us at all. It has circumvented our civil rights and made it more dangerous to be an American citizen because of your politics," said Richard Hersh of Boca Raton, leader of The Truth Project Inc., a Palm Beach County group that tries to counter military recruitment in high schools. "Spies can go in anywhere and report back to a highly politicized government about the activities of citizens when they are simply exercising their constitutional rights."

Hersh's group was one of many listed as a "credible threat" in the Pentagon's Talon program, according to documents reported in December by NBC News. Talon, which is separate from the National Security Agency's controversial eavesdropping, rounds up reports of suspicious activity to try to prevent another terrorist strike.

Other anti-war groups say they, too, have been infiltrated and monitored despite having no ties to terrorists.

"They know these groups forwards and backwards. Yet they keep sending in agents, keep wiretapping, keep holding vigils on us constantly," said Raymond Del Papa of Fort Lauderdale, an organizer for the Broward Anti-War Coalition. "I think it [the act] should be repealed. The government has crossed a line."

Aware of such concerns, some members of Congress tried to overhaul the act when it came due for reauthorization last year. The House and Senate rejected major changes, but several Republican senators negotiated with the White House to make revisions to secure final passage.

Sen. Russell Feingold, D-Wis., waged a lonely filibuster to demand further changes this week but was rebuffed on a 96-3 vote. Procedural delays, however, postponed a final vote until early next month.

Most critics acknowledge the value of breaking down bureaucratic walls between agencies that track suspected terrorists. And many investigators say some limits are appropriate to preserve civil liberties. In Brevard County along Florida's Space Coast, both sides have reached an accord, at least on how to handle demonstrations.

The Brevard Sheriff's Office had been monitoring groups opposed to "the militarization of space," prompting critics to fear political intimidation. Faced with potentially expensive litigation, the sheriff's office devised new policies and a training program, with input from the local American Civil Liberties Union.

"A surprising but welcome relationship was built," said Kevin Aplin of the Brevard ACLU.

"We don't monitor protests now unless we know ahead of time there's good information that there's going to be illegal acts," said Bruce Parker, director of homeland security in Brevard. "Even if we go to that protest, if no illegal acts occur, we don't keep the file. It keeps the people legally protesting from feeling like they are being somehow intimidated, which we do not want to do.

"We are just trying to protect everybody's rights, and we feel like we have hit a compromise that will do that for the people who wish to voice their opinion and also protect the citizens here."

William E. Gibson can be reached at wgibson@sun-sentinel.com or 202-824-8256 in Washington.

Time to impeach Bush

By BONNIE ERBE
Scripps Howard News Service
20-FEB-06

Those blasphemously "liberal" media outlets have once again deprived the American public of widespread coverage of nothing less than startling poll results. The non-partisan polling firm Zogby International last month found that by a margin of 52 percent to 43 percent, Americans want Congress to consider impeaching President Bush "if he wiretapped American citizens without a judge's approval."

Well, there's no "if" about it anymore. The president approved warrantless wiretaps in 2002. Two years later, during a campaign appearance in Buffalo, N.Y. he volunteered he'd done nothing of the kind. That's called breaking the law and lying about it.

Yes, the poll results have been reported on a few Web sites. But they have not exactly been trumpeted by the Blow Hard Boys on the Fox News Channel, nor even "front-paged" on the New York Times. Nor have they appeared as the lead story on any of the evening newscasts. From the right to the left, this poll has been ignored _ as has a recent Gallup poll showing a majority of Americans consider the Bush presidency to be a failure. Why? Because it's seen as risky.

Media inattention to the growing American pro-impeachment sentiment is not a partisan issue. Reasonable, honest Republicans such as Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., have criticized Bush's wiretapping "sans" court approval as a violation of the law and basic civil liberties.

Former Rep. Bob Barr, R-Ga., now a conservative TV commentator, also sees the president's actions as law-breaking. Conservative legal analyst Bruce Fein, who worked in the Reagan Justice Department, wrote in The Washington Times that Bush should face "possible impeachment" if the practice is not stopped.

Personally, I do not find illegal wiretapping to be the worst offense committed against our nation by this president. I'd rate purposefully destructive federal overspending as the most egregious transgression. Did you happen to notice last week Treasury Secretary John Snow "informed Congress that he would begin borrowing from the federal employees' retirement fund to avoid exceeding the nation's statutory debt limit of $8.184 trillion"? That, as reported by my Scripps Howard colleague, Dale McFeatters.

I'd rate "tricking" Americans into a costly, deadly, unwinnable war in Iraq and alienating most other nations as second. I'd rate wanton disregard for science and the promotion of so-called junk science _ to wit, global warming is a gossamer concept _ as an excuse for environmental destruction as third. Abramoff-related partisan corruption and the outing of CIA agent Plame would figure in there somewhere. And somewhere lower down the list would come warrantless wiretaps.

But grassroots passion for impeachment prompted by this president's circumvention of Congress and the Constitution is what's driving growing public support. And America's transition from "Bush fan" to "Bush foe" is being ignored by the mainstream media.

Surprisingly, the media did anything but ignore the Republican-led impeachment movement against former President Clinton, even when the public was decidedly more supportive of that president than it is of the current one

In December 1998, after the House voted to send articles of impeachment to the U.S. Senate, 59 percent of Americans told Washington Post/ABC News pollsters they disapproved of the House action. A minority of 40 percent said they favored it. And that followed months and months of nonstop, primetime, mainstream media coverage of Clinton's lie. If anything, the constant chorus of conservative calls for Clinton's ouster coupled with unending coverage of same should have pushed the public into a more solidly pro-impeachment stand. It did not. But the media did not relent. (For the record, I wrote at the time that Clinton should step down.)

Of course, U.S. leadership is rearranged now. Clinton, a Democrat, faced an opposition-led Congress. Even if congressional minority party Democrats could muster the backbone to make a unified call for impeachment hearings, they lack the votes to succeed in either chamber. At least Republicans succeeded in the Republican-controlled House against Clinton, although they ultimately lost in the Republican-controlled Senate.

Where are the oft-denounced "liberal" media on this issue? Truth is, the "liberal" media is and always was a figment of extreme (not mainstream) conservative rhetoric. The corporate media stays where it almost always has been _ to the right of center and shying away from risky topics.

(Bonnie Erbe is a TV host and writes this column for Scripps Howard News Service. E-mail bonnieerbe(at)CompuServe.com.)

Internal EPA E-mail Show Continued Media Screening

by NewStandard Staff

Feb. 20 – In an internal memo last week, a key Environmental Protection Agency media-relations officer reiterated an agency policy barring employees from talking to members of the media without first clearing it with her office.

The reminder, which came in the form of an e-mail message dated February 9, was sent by the EPA Office of Research and Development’s news director, Ann Brown, and continues a trend dating back to at least the 1990s.

In October 2003, former EPA enforcement head John Peter Suarez issued a four-page memo directing employees to keep mum about enforcement actions and citing an on-again, off-again Agency prohibition against speaking with so-called third parties, including reporters and even legislators.

A year later, Inside EPA reported on another internal directive from Region VI administrator Bharat Mathur laying out specific procedures for dealing with media inquires. According to the memo, all media and Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests were to be routed through the public-affairs office.

Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) obtained and released the most recent EPA media memo, along with a statement charging the EPA with forcing researchers to "check whether facts comport with management policy." PEER, a progressive organization representing local, state and federal resource professionals, contends that scientists are muzzled when their findings go against official positions.

There are several well-documented cases of such manipulation, most recently at NASA, where scientists and press officers maintain that press releases dealing with climate issues have slowed to a trickle and in some cases been altered by political appointees, the New York Times reported last week.

Early last year, the Natural Resources Defense Council published a report charging the White House with working to bury research critical of perchlorate, a toxic rocket fuel, at the behest of defense contractors, as TNS reported. Using FOIA requests and other resources, NRDC and fellow environmental advocates uncovered evidence of defense industry lobbyists and Pentagon and White House officials’ manipulating a National Academies of Science panel report on the dangers of perchlorate, despite a trove of information showing that the chemical easily seeps into ground water and can cause severe damage to the thyroid gland.

In June of the same year, a federal climate official revealed to the Times that a political appointee who previously worked as an oil lobbyist was editing official reports on global warming to downplay the impact of scientists’ findings.

In addition to PEER, several government-watchdog and whistleblower organizations have raised alarm over possible government manipulation of science for political purposes.

Last summer, the American Civil Liberties Union released a report charging that the Bush administration has grown increasingly secretive about government science since the September 11 attacks, moving to classify research information and in some cases practicing "outright censorship and prescreening of scientific articles before publication."

Federally Funded "Border Militia" Proposed

LAST UPDATE: 10/5/2005 10:12:15 PM
Posted By: Jim Forsyth
WOAI San Antonio News
This story is available on your cell phone at mobile.woai.com.

Watch this story...

Several border area Congressmen said Tuesday they're preparing to introduce a measure calling for a federally funded, sworn border militia to patrol the country's borders and assist the U.S. Border Patrol, the Office of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and other federal border security agencies, 1200 WOAI news reported today.

U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Texas) says the proposal calls for the federal government to spend $100 million over several years to hire, train, and equip 'reserve deputies,' who would patrol the border under the authority of border county sheriffs.

Cuellar said the measure is in response to the activities of the Minutemen and other civilian groups which have recently encamped in border areas of Texas and Arizona, and claimed to be helping report illegal immigrant activity.

"These people would be trained, they would be sworn, they would be inside the law enforcement chain of command, and this would be a lot different than the Minutemen, who are out there on their own, and we don't know who they are or what their motives are," Cuellar said.

Other members of Congress who Cuellar says have signed on as co sponsors include Republicans John Culbertson and Henry Bonilla, both of Texas. he said he expects to obtain additional co-sponsors before the measure is introduced, which he expects to occur before the end of October.

Cuellar says the members of the militia would be 'reserve deputies.' He says they could be retired law enforcement officers, or part time officers who work on an as needed basis at the command of local officials.

"Those sheriffs would work arm in arm with the Border Patrol to provide security along the border."

Cuellar says how the reserve officers would be deployed, what their duties would be, and whether they would be armed would be up to the local officials and would be handled according to the laws in place in each jurisdiction.

He says the militia would have a decided advantage over the Minutemen, whom Cuellar said he 'doesn't want' in Texas. Cuellar said most of the Minutemen are untrained volunteers from out of the area, and the reserve deputies would have to be residents of the county where they would be deputized.

"They know the trails," he said. "They know the area because they have been doing this kind of work for a long time."

Cuellar unveiled his proposal at a time when several hundred Minutemen volunteers are engaged in a border watch operation in Brooks County, in rural south Texas.

March 18: From London to Baghdad

Saturday 18 March will be a unique day of protest against the US / UK occupation in Iraq. The protests already planned in over 40 towns and cities across the world will be joined by mass demonstrations in Baghdad and in Basra, all calling for "Troops Out of Iraq".

The Iraqis marching in Baghdad and Basra will be uniting with protestors in Amsterdam, Ankara, Athens, Amsterdam, Barcelona, Boston, Copenhagen, Denver, Dublin, Geneva, Helsinki, Istanbul, Jakarta, Karachi, Lisbon, Ljubljana, London, Madrid, Managua, Manila, Melbourne, Memphis, Minneapolis, Montreal, New York, Odense, Oklahoma, Ottawa, Seoul, Stockholm, Sydney, Tarragona, Toronto, Vancouver, Vienna, Warsaw, and many other towns and cities.

Latino Director at Pittsburgh City Theater

City Theatre Invites
the Latino Community to Help Us Welcome
Diane Rodriguez

Sunday, February 26
5:30 to 7:30 pm
cocktails and hors d'oeuvres
(courtesy of Pittsburgh Steak Company)
City Theatre's Gordon Lounge
1300 Bingham Street
(one block off Carson Street on the South Side)

Diane Rodriguez will be on the South Side for the next few weeks
directing City Theatre's production of Pyretown. Diane is currently
Associate Producer/Director of New Play Production at the Mark Taper
Forum in Los Angeles, where she commissioned and developed new works by
Nilo Cruz, Jose Cruz Gonzalez, Octavio Solis, Oliver Mayer, Ricardo
Bracho, Alina Troyano, Marga Gomez, Rogelio Martinez, Michael John
Garces, Evelina Fernandez, and Cherrie Moraga, among others. Diane
recently directed Nilo Cruz's Hortensia and the Museum of Dreams at
Victory Gardens in Chicago and will direct Dan Guerrero's Gaytino at the
Kirk Douglas Theatre/Center Theatre Group. She was nominated for Best
Director in Arizona for her productions of John Leguizamo's Spic O Rama
and for Bordertown by Culture Clash. Diane began her career at El
Teatro Campesino, a company instrumental in the Chicano civil rights
movement. She has been recognized by United States Congress, the State
of California, and the City of Los Angeles for her contributions to
theatre and the Latino Community.

This event is complimentary but reservations are necessary by Feb. 23 to attend.
For more info call the City Theater at 412.431.4400 ext. 283

Minutemen in Philadelphia

HATE GROUP TO MEET IN PHILADELPHIA SUBURBS!

The Minutemen Project, a Conservative anti-immigration group with strong
links to, and overlapping membership with, violent white supremacist and
neo-Nazi organizations has announced plans to hold a recruitment meeting in
Valley Forge, PA on Saturday, February 25, 2005.

The meeting, scheduled to take place at the Valley Forge Convention Center
(1160 First Avenue, King of Prussia, PA, 19406), is set to feature Chris
Simcox, co-founder of the Minutemen Project, as the main speaker. Simcox is
the gun-toting founder of the group, which since April has been arming
itself, wandering the U.S.-Mexican border in search of "illegal immigrants",
and detaining individuals at gunpoint.

Minutemen have openly discussed setting up sniper posts near the border,
with the goal of shooting anyone attempting to cross.

Contrary to its claims, the Minutemen Project does not promote a policy of
immigration reform. Instead, they promote a program of hate and intolerance;
an extremist policy of stopping all non-white immigration into this country.
They are a xenophobic group that blames immigration for everything that they
are unhappy with. Last fall, the Minutemen were claiming that illegal
immigrants were responsible for the sudden rise in gas prices in the United
States.

The Minutemen have well-established ties to known white supremacist groups.
Minutemen co-founder Jim Gilchrist has been involved with the neo-Nazi
affiliated Council of Conservative Citizens for a number of years. In
addition, members of the infamous National Alliance have claimed membership
in the Minutemen Project and were identified participating in border
"patrols" last spring and summer with the group. Over the years, the
National Alliance has been tied to numerous violent crimes, such as the
assassination of a Jewish radio host in Denver, and several high-profile
robberies. The National Alliance has the dubious distinction of claiming
Timothy McVeigh - the man responsible for the Oklahoma City bombing - as a
supporter.

On July 30th 2005, the Minutemen front group, Save Our State, held an
anti-immigrant rally in California. Numerous members of white supremacist
groups attended this rally, and were caught on film carrying flags
emblazoned with Nazi swastikas and Confederate insignia. They were also seen
repeatedly giving Nazi salutes. One of the neo-Nazis who had been holding a
swastika flag was also photographed holding a "Save Our State" banner. So
much for plausible deniability!

We call upon everyone who is concerned about this meeting to call and email
the Valley Forge Convention Center Sales Office and demand that it be canceled.

Philadelphia Residents Against Racism