Saturday, June 25, 2005

British Nurses Join the Fight to "Make Poverty History"

Thirty thousand children die every day as a result of poverty. But as the Make Poverty History Campaign says, “… it isn't chance or bad luck that keeps people trapped in bitter, unrelenting poverty. It's man-made factors like a glaringly unjust global trade system, a debt burden so great that it suffocates any chance of recovery and insufficient and ineffective aid.”

Back in February Nelson Mandella addressed a rally of more than 20,000 in Trafalgar Square. He declared, "Like slavery and apartheid, poverty is not natural. It is man-made and it can be overcome and eradicated by the actions of human beings."

"The G8 leaders, when they meet in Scotland in July, have already promised to focus on the issue of poverty, especially in Africa. I say to all those leaders: do not look the other way; do not hesitate. Recognize that the world is hungry for action, not words. Act with courage and vision."

"Overcoming poverty is not a gesture of charity. It is an act of justice. It is the protection of a fundamental human right, the right to dignity and a decent life. While poverty persists, there is no true freedom."

"Sometimes it falls upon a generation to be great. You can be that great generation. Let your greatness blossom. Of course the task will not be easy. But not to do this would be a crime against humanity, against which I ask all humanity now to rise up."

"Make Poverty History in 2005. Make History in 2005. Then we can all stand with our heads held high."

From July 6 to 8 as world leaders arrive in Gleneagles, Scotland for a G8 meeting, the Make Poverty History campaign and many others will be on hand to meet them. Already nurses from throughout Great Britain have made their voices heard. In a run up to the G8 meeting nurses gathered inside a giant white wristband - the global symbol of the Make Poverty History campaign - in London's Cavendish Square to show their support for the cause. Dr Beverly Malone, general secretary of the Royal College of Nursing (RCN), is quoted in Community Newswire: "If you want to tackle poverty, then you have to tackle ill health. And to deal with ill health, you've got to have enough nurses and doctors.”

RCN is calling on G8 leaders to help developing countries train and retain their own nurses and doctors so their health services can become self sufficient.

In addition, the RCN says recruitment of health workers by all countries should follow acceptable guidelines so that developing countries are not adversely affected.

Ultimately the RCN wants the G8 to urgently address the exodus of health care workers from developing countries if they are serious about efforts to tackle global poverty.

Dr. Malone says, "Africa simply doesn't have enough health workers to cope with the scale of the challenges before them from malnutrition, high infant and maternal mortality, to fighting malaria and HIV.

"We respect nurses' rights to choose where to work, but need to make a firm commitment to health care systems in developing countries; otherwise millions of lives will continue to be lost in sub-Saharan Africa."

According to the World Bank sub-Saharan Africa currently is short some 600,000 nurses. It says the region needs, “an additional one million health workers by 2015 in order to meet the United Nation's Millennium Development Goals - three of which are directly related to health.”

While the developing world has a huge shortage of nurses, recruiters work to get the ones that are there to come to the more developed countries. In Britain a Code of Practice theoretically prevents the National Health Service (NHS) from recruiting nurses from certain developing nations. In fact, it happens anyway.

Says Dr. Malone, "The RCN wants to prevent back-door recruiting whereby nurses from developing countries start in the UK private and independent sector and then move to the NHS.”We urge the government to stop this practice by extending the Code of Practice to the private and independent sector. We also need to see other developed countries like the United States make a similar commitment to addressing this issue." Sources: Community Newswire, Make Poverty History, Staff Nurse, Royal College of Nursing (UK)

Friday, June 24, 2005

Felon Voting Rights Conflict Hits Federal Court

The following is taken directly from the New Standard. This is an issue you don't hear much about, but it affects millions directly and many more indirectly. And it affected me personally.

Felon Voting Rights Conflict Hits Federal Court
by Michelle Chen (bio)

One of the most controversial state-level issues that arose with the debates over the fairness of recent elections is reaching the higher courts as convicted felons and ex-convicts demand the right to engage in the political system.

New York City , Jun 24 - A veteran of the system, Joseph Hayden began his battle with the law in 1986, when a fistfight led to a death and a felony conviction. A couple of college degrees and nearly two decades later, the Harlem native again had his day in court, this time working with civil rights activists to reclaim what he says the state has unlawfully taken from him: the right to vote.

On Wednesday, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals heard the opening arguments of Hayden and his legal team in a class action suit challenging New York State's ban on voting rights for felons who are incarcerated or on parole or probation. Following a district court's dismissal of the same case last June, the appeals court will now decide whether to mandate that the case be reviewed on the basis of protections under the Voting Rights Act.

Hayden's legal claim was originally filed in 2000 and later taken on by the civil rights groups NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, Community Service Society of New York, and the Center for Law and Social Justice at Medgar Evers College. The case has been expanded to a class action representing disenfranchised parolees and probationers, currently incarcerated prisoners, and the black and Latino communities impacted by high incarceration rates. For the appeal process, the suit was recently consolidated with another case involving Jalil Abdul Muntaqim, a convicted felon who remains incarcerated.

The legal argument for the repeal of New York's felon disenfranchisement laws centers on disenfranchisement's disproportionate impact on minority groups, drawing on the Fifteenth Amendment's ban on race-based voting restrictions, the Fourteenth Amendment's provision of equal protection under law, and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which prohibits racial discrimination in voting procedures.

The civil rights advocacy community is closely watching the developments in the litigation, which parallels similar cases in Florida and Washington and could eventually push the Supreme Court to review the issue.

Speaking outside the courthouse on Wednesday, Hayden remarked that the hearing before federal judges was "confirmation … of all my efforts and energies that I've put into this."

Throughout most of the country, once a felony conviction blots a person's criminal history, the power to cast a ballot vanishes for at least some period of time. Currently, 48 states and Washington, DC bar incarcerated felons from voting. Convicts on parole are denied the right to vote in 35 states, most of which also restrict probationers. In fourteen states, the voting ban continues even after the full sentence is completed, sometimes permanently. Only Vermont and Maine have no felony voting statutes.

According to DEMOS, a progressive policy advocacy group, felony convictions have barred an estimated 4.7 million Americans from the polls for at least some time, and of these, approximately two million are black. The organization reports that nationwide, disenfranchisement laws have permanently stripped one in eight black men of their right to vote. Recent research by the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund indicates that disenfranchisement also disproportionately impacts Latino populations, though to a lesser extent.

Of those currently disenfranchised, less than a quarter are actually in prison. Nearly a third are "ex-felons" who have served their sentences, and the rest are, like Hayden, living in communities on parole or probation.

Though disenfranchisement as a criminal punishment has historical roots in European legal doctrines, opponents say that today's felon disenfranchisement laws are inherited from a history of racist voting restrictions. New York adopted a felon disenfranchisement law in 1894, following a wave of state-level voting restrictions enacted in the wake of the Civil War.

Public interest law groups and civil rights activists charge that felon disenfranchisement guts the political rights of minority groups and epitomizes the inequalities embedded in the criminal justice system. For organizations like the NAACP, the legal question of felon voting rights is a vehicle for challenging what they see as institutional discrimination that corrodes democracy.

Advocates involved in the Hayden case argue that felon disenfranchisement distorts the distribution of political power, not just by stripping largely minority felons of political clout, but also by indirectly inflating the representation of white-majority districts where prisons are located, which can count non-voting inmates as part of their local populations.

Hayden, director of Unlock the Block, a New York-based campaign for felon voting rights, said the case for a link between incarceration and race was irrefutable. "The fact that [there is] racial discrimination in the criminal justice system is a slam dunk," he said. "There's no question about that."

Yet if the case proceeds to trial, the plaintiffs' arguments will also seek to connect disenfranchisement to deeper social problems tied to racial inequality, from failing public schools to racial profiling by police. "We look at the lack of affordable housing and employment, and all the rest of that. I think we can make our case," Hayden said.

Disenfranchisement Seen as Punishment by Some, Oppression by Others
Some of the current political foment can be traced back to the controversy surrounding the narrow sliver of the Florida electorate that tipped the 2000 electoral college vote in favor of George W. Bush. At the time, Florida had a disproportionately black, permanently disenfranchised felon population of approximately 820,000, including more than 600,000 ex-felons, who advocates say would likely have swung the election had they been permitted to vote. The balance of the vote may also have been influenced by flawed government records that erroneously listed thousands of people as convicted felons and, therefore, ineligible to vote.

Cued by the speculation surrounding the 2000 election, sociologists have analyzed disenfranchisement rates alongside historical voting patterns. Researchers from Northwestern University and the University of Minnesota wrote in a report that given the likelihood of a large, liberal-leaning population being disenfranchised by felony convictions, "felon disenfranchisement has provided a small but clear advantage to Republican candidates in every presidential and senatorial election from 1972 to 2000."

According to the report's co-author, Jeff Manza, aside from skewing the electorate, disenfranchisement laws accomplish little. "There's really no criminological reason to disenfranchise," he said, referring to a growing body of scholarship that raises concerns about the social implications of felon voting restrictions. "It doesn't keep people off the streets, it doesn't deter them in any meaningful way … and it certainly doesn't help to rehabilitate them."

But Roger Clegg, general counsel at the conservative think tank Center for Equal Opportunity, thinks that the loss of one's right to vote is a reasonable penalty for those who commit the most serious offenses. He argued that by the nature of their crimes, felons have proven that they cannot be trusted with the same political entitlements as others. "If you're not willing to follow the law," he said, "then you shouldn't demand the right to make the law for other people."

On the other hand, Clegg supports restoration of voting rights on an individual basis if there is evidence that an ex-felon has "turned over a new leaf."

"Somebody who wrote a bad check 50 years ago and has led a crime-free life since then, I think, should have his or her right to vote restored," he said. "But somebody who's in prison now for murdering a policeman should not," he added, referring to the plaintiff Muntaqim, who was convicted of killing a police officer in 1971.

Yet among those pushing for equal voting rights regardless of criminal history is Waverly Jones, the son of the officer who Muntaqim was convicted of killing.

"I've come to feel very proud to stand on this side of the issue," Jones commented after the court hearing yesterday.

He argued, "Voting is not a privilege, it is a fundamental right in any society that desires to serve the interests of its people. And to take it away because you've committed a crime is unjust."

Expressing strong support for the political empowerment of those still incarcerated, like Muntaqim, Jones said, "It will allow them to organize themselves in prison … to vote what is in their best interest. And I think that that will improve the quality of participation in this type of electoral system."

Among States, Reenfranchisement Process Ranges from Arbitrary to Automatic
Even in the absence of a judicial ruling against felony disenfranchisement on constitutional grounds, some states have been moving to repeal or limit disenfranchisement laws.

Last week, Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack issued an executive order to automatically restore voting eligibility for felons who have completed their sentences. That move, to take effect next month, will do away with Iowa's complex case-by-case petition process for voting rights restoration.

In March, the Nebraska legislature replaced its permanent voting ban with a two-year waiting period for reenfranchisement once a felony sentence ends. In Connecticut, the restoration of voting rights for felony probationers enacted in 2002 will reenfranchise approximately 36,000 people upon completion of their sentences, according to the Sentencing Project, an advocacy organization on criminal justice issues.

In many of the states where disenfranchisement continues after a sentence has been served, ex-felons can regain voting rights under certain conditions, but are generally subject to bureaucratic mechanisms that hand out suffrage on an individual basis.

In Florida, for instance, an ex-felon can petition the state Clemency Board for a special "pardon" to restore voting rights. But the disenfranchisement restrictions could be upheld due to an unfavorable background check or a prior conviction for any one of the hundreds of automatically "disqualifying" crimes established by the governor. The board has rejected more than 200,000 applications since 1999, reported the Sentencing Project.

Activists say that such review processes, which typically involve confusing rules, hearings, and arbitrary probes of an individual's lifestyle or employment history, are inherently stacked against the petitioner. In its analysis of ex-felon reenfranchisement procedures, Sentencing Project researchers commented, "In a democracy, individual attributes or character flaws have no bearing on qualifications for voting. There is no more rational justification for employing such a standard to people with felony convictions than there would be for any other citizen."

Civil Rights Litigation Pushes for Broader Representation
Groups involved in the current court battle advocate a wholesale restoration of suffrage, including for those still imprisoned, as a step toward mitigating some of the symptoms of what they view as a fundamentally warped justice system.

Ryan Haygood, assistant counsel at the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, said the legal challenge frames the racial disparities in the disenfranchised population as "just a symptom of the bigger problem." A consequence of draconian law enforcement policies promoted by the so-called War on Drugs, he argued, is that blacks and Hispanics "are losing their voting rights daily and … rather than being brought into the political fold, are being removed from it in striking numbers."

The Department of Justice reported that as of 2004, black and Hispanics, who make up only about 25 percent of the general population, constitute more than 60 percent of the state and federal prison population. In New York, blacks and Hispanics constitute only about 30 percent of total residents, but more than 85 percent of both the state's prison population and the disenfranchised felon population.

While some argue that voting rights for felons would harm the law-abiding, Haygood believes a broad repeal of disenfranchisement laws would actually build up the political clout of underserved communities that "desperately need more votes and more voices" -- with the added benefit of helping former prisoners reintegrate into society through civic engagement.

In Haygood's view, the political inclusion of the formerly disenfranchised could only strengthen the democratic system. He reflected, "You can't actually undermine a democracy by participating in it … The participation in a democracy really affirms the legitimacy of it."

© 2005 The NewStandard.

EZLN: A Letter From Marcos

EZLN - A letter of explanation...and/or, perhaps, farewell - EZLN Friday, Jun 24 2005, 1:15pm
south america / indigenous struggles / press release

A letter from Marcos

To National and International Civil Society:

Señora, señorita, señor, young person, boy, girl:

This is not a letter of farewell. At times it is going to seem as if it is, that it is a farewell, but it is not. It is a letter of explanation. Well, that is what we shall attempt. This was originally going to go out as a communiqué, but we have chosen this form because, for good or for bad, when we have spoken with you we have almost always done so in this most personal tone.

We are the men, women, children and old ones of the Zapatista Army of National Liberation. Perhaps you remember us - we rose up in arms on January 1, 1994, and ever since then we have kept up our war against the forgetting, and we have resisted the war of extermination which the different governments have waged, unsuccessfully, against us. We live in the furthest corner of this country which is called Mexico. In that corner which is called "Indian Peoples." Yes, like that, plural. Because, for reasons we shall not give here, the plural is used in this corner for everything: we suffer, we die, we fight, we resist.

Now, as you know quite well, it so happens that, ever since that dawn of the beginning of '94, we have dedicated our struggle - first with fire and then with the word - our efforts, our life and our death, exclusively to the Indian peoples of Mexico for the recognition of their rights and their culture. It was natural - we zapatistas are overwhelmingly indigenous. Mayan indigenous, to be more precise. But, in addition, the indigenous in this country - despite having been the foundation of this Nation's great transformations - are still the social group which has been the most attacked and the most exploited. If they have shown no mercy against anyone with their military wars and the wars disguised as "political", the wars of usurpation, of conquest, of annihilation, of marginalization, of ignorance - it has been against the indigenous. The war against us has been so intense and brutal that it has become routine to think that the indigenous will only be able to escape from their conditions of marginalization and poverty if they stop being indigenous...or if they are dead. We have been fighting to not die and to not cease being indigenous. We have fought to be - alive and indigenous - part of this nation which has been lifted up over our backs. The Nation for whom we have been the feet (almost always unshod) with which it has walked in its decisive moments. The Nation for whom we have been the arms and hands which have made the earth bear fruit and which have erected the large buildings, edifices, churches and palaces that those who have everything take such pride in. The Nation of which - through word, look and manner, that is, through culture - we are the root.

Are we raining insult upon injury? Perhaps it's because we are in June, the sixth month of the year. Well, we just wanted to point out that the beginning of our uprising was not just a "Here we are", shouted to a Nation that was deaf and dumb because of the authoritarianism above. It was also a "This is what we are and shall continue to be...but now with dignity, with democracy, with justice, with liberty." You know this quite well, because, among other things, you have been accompanying us since then.

Unfortunately, after more than 7 years committed to that path, in April of 2001, politicians from all the parties (primarily the PRI, PAN and PRD) and the self-styled "three branches of the Union" (the presidency, the congress and the courts) formed an alliance in order to deny the Indian peoples of Mexico the constitutional recognition of their rights and culture. And they did so without caring about the great national and international movement which had arisen and joined together for that purpose. The great majority, including the media, were in agreement that that debt should be settled. But the politicians don't care about anything that doesn't get them money, and they rejected the same proposal that they had approved years before when the San Andrés Accords were signed and the Cocopa drafted a proposal for constitutional reform. They did so because they thought that, after a little time had passed, everyone would forget. And perhaps many people forgot, but we did not. We have memory, and it was they: the PRI, the PAN, the PRD, the President of the Republic, the deputies and senators and the justices of the Supreme Court of the Nation. Yes, the Indian peoples continue today in the underbelly of this Nation, and they continue to suffer the same racism they have for 500 years. It doesn't matter what they are saying now, when they are preparing for the elections (in other words, to secure positions that will make them profits): they are not going to do anything for the good of the majority, nor are they going to listen to anything that isn't money.

If we zapatistas pride ourselves on anything it's honoring the word, the honest and principled word. All this time we have been telling you that we will try the path of dialogue and negotiation in order to achieve our demands. We told you that we would make great efforts in the peaceful struggle. We told you that we would focus on the indigenous struggle. And so it has been. We have not deceived you.

All the help which you have so generously contributed to this noble cause and through those means has been for that and for nothing else. We have used nothing for anything else. All the humanitarian help and aid which we have received from Mexico and from throughout the world has been used only for improving the living conditions of the zapatista indigenous communities and in peaceful initiatives for the recognition of indigenous rights and culture. Nothing of what was received has been used for the acquisition of arms or for any war preparations. Not only because we haven't needed it (the EZLN has maintained its military capacity intact since 1994), but above all because it wouldn't have been honest to tell you that your help was for one thing and to use it for another. Not one centavo of the help received for peace with justice and dignity has been used for war. We have not needed help for making war. For peace, yes.

We have, of course, used our word to refer to (and in some cases to express our solidarity with) other struggles in Mexico and the world, but just that far. And many times, knowing that we could do more, we had to contain ourselves, because our efforts - as we had told you - were exclusively by and for the indigenous.

It has not been easy. Do you remember the March of the1,111? The Consulta of 5000 in 1999? The March of the Color of the Earth in 2001? Well, imagine then what we felt when we saw and heard the injustices and the hatred directed against campesinos, workers, students, teachers, working persons, homosexuals and lesbians, young people, women, old ones, children. Imagine what our heart felt.

We were touched by a pain, a fury, an indignation which we already knew because it has been, and is, ours. But now we were touched by it in the other. And we heard the "we" which inspires us wanting to become larger, to make itself more collective, more national. But no, we had said just the indigenous, and we had to honor that. I believe it's because of our way - in other words, that we would prefer to die before we would betray our word.

Now we are consulting with our heart in order to see if we are going to say and do something else. If the majority says yes, then we are going to do everything possible to honor it. Everything, even dying if it's necessary. We do not want to appear dramatic. We are only saying it in order to make it clear how far we are willing to go.. In other words, not "until they give us a position, an amount of money, a promise, a candidacy."

Perhaps some may remember how, six months ago, we started with the "what is missing is missing." Then fine, as is obvious, the hour has arrived to decide whether we are going to proceed to find what is missing. Not to find, to build. Yes, to build "something else."

In some of the communiqués of the past few days, we let you know that we have entered into an internal consulta. We shall soon have the results, and we will inform you of them. Meanwhile then, we are taking the opportunity to write you. We have always spoken to you with sincerity, and also to those who are our heart and guardian, our Votan Zapata, the zapatista communities, our collective command.

It will be a difficult and hard decision, just as our life and our struggle have been. For four years we have been preparing the conditions in order to present our peoples with doors and windows so that, when the moment comes, everyone had all the ingredients in place for choosing which window to peer through and which door to open. And that is our way. In other words, the EZLN leadership does not lead, rather it seeks paths, steps, company, direction, pace, destination. Several. And then they present the peoples with those paths, and they analyze with them what would happen if we follow one or the other course. Because, depending on the path we travel, there are things which will be good and things which will be bad. And then they - the zapatista communities - speak their thoughts and decide, after discussing and by majority, where we are all going. And then they give the order, and then the EZLN leadership has to organize the work or prepare what is needed to walk that path. Of course the EZLN leadership doesn't just look at what happens only to them, but they have to be bound to the peoples and to touch their hearts and to make themselves, as they say, the same thing. Then it becomes all our gazes, all our ear, all our thoughts, all our heart. But what if, for whatever reason, the leadership does not look, or hear, or think, or feel like all of us. Or some parts aren't seen or something else isn't heard or other thoughts aren't thought or felt. Well, then, that is why everyone is consulted. That is why everyone is asked. That is why agreement is taken among everyone. If the majority says no, then the leadership has to seek another way, and to present another way to the peoples in order to propose until we collectively reach a decision. In other words, the people govern.

Now the collective which we are will make a decision. They are weighing the pros and cons. They are carefully making the calculations, what is lost and what is gained. And, seeing that there is not a little to be lost, it will be decided whether it is worth it.

Perhaps, in some people's scales, there will be much weight given to what we have achieved. Perhaps, in other people's scales, there will be more weight given to the indignation and shame caused by seeing our earth and skies destroyed by the stupid avarice of Power. In any event, we cannot remain passive, just contemplating, as a gang of ruffians strips our Patria of everything that gives it and everyone existence: dignity.

Ah, well, many turns now. We are writing you for what may be the last time in order to give you back your promised word of support. It is not little that we have achieved in the indigenous struggle, and that has been - as we have told you in public and in private - because of your help. We believe you can be proud, without any shame, of all the good that we zapatistas, along with you, have built up to this point. And know that it has been an honor, undeserved in any light, that people like you have walked at our side.

Now we shall decide whether we are going to do something else, and we will make the results public at the proper time. We are now making clear - in order to end the speculations - that this "other thing" does not entail any offensive military action on our part. We are not, on our part, planning nor discussing reinitiating offensive military combat. Ever since February-March of 1994 our entire military presence has been, and is, defensive. The government should say whether, on its part, there are any offensive war preparations, whether by the federal forces or by their paramilitaries. And the PRI and the PRD should say if they are planning any attack against us with the paramilitaries they are supporting in Chiapas.

If it is the decision of the zapatista majority, those who have helped us up to now in the exclusively indigenous struggle can, without any shame or regret, distance themselves from the "other thing" to which Comandante Tacho referred in the San Cristóbal de Las Casas plaza in January of 2003, two and a half years ago. In addition, there is a communiqué which establishes, from here out, that release and which can be presented in a job application, curriculum vitae, coffee klatch, editorial office, roundtable, grandstand, forum, stage, book jacket, footnote, colloquium, candidacy, book of regrets or newspaper column and which, in addition, has the advantage of being able to be exhibited as defense evidence in any court (don't laugh, there's a precedent: in 1994, some indigenous detained by the bad government - and who weren't zapatistas - were released by a judge, validating a letter from the CCRI-CG in which it released those persons from what the EZLN had done. In other words, as the lawyers say, "there is legal precedent").

But those who find in their heart an echo, even if it is small, of our new word and who feel themselves called by the path, step, pace, company and destination which we have chosen, may perhaps decide to renew their help (or to participate directly)...knowing that it will be "another thing". Like that, without tricks, without deceit, without hypocrisy, without lies.

We thank the women. All the girls, teenagers, young women, señoritas, señoras and old ones (and those who were changing from one to the other of those calendars throughout these 12 years) who helped us, who accompanied us and who, not a few times, made our pain and our steps their own. To all of them, Mexicans and from other countries, who helped us and who walked with us. In everything we did you were the huge majority. Perhaps because we share along with you, although each in their own way and place, discrimination, contempt...and death.

We thank the national indigenous movement, which did not sell itself for government posts, for travel allowances, for the flattery that the powerful classify as "fit for indigenous and animals." The one which listened to our word and gave us theirs. The one which opened its heart, its home, to us. The one which resisted and resists with dignity, raising very high the color we are of the earth.

We thank the young men and women of Mexico and of the world. Those who were boys, girls or teenagers that '94 and who nobly grew up without holding back their eyes or their ears. Those who reached youth or, despite the pages torn from the calendar, remained there, extending the hand of their rebellion to our dark hand. Those who chose to come and share days, weeks, months, years, our dignified poverty, our struggle, our hope and our foolish endeavor.

We thank the homosexuals, lesbians, transsexuals, transgender persons and "everyone in their own way." Those who shared with us their struggle for respect for difference, knowing that it is not a defect to be hidden. Those who demonstrated that courage has nothing to do with testosterone and who, time and again, gave us some of the most beautiful lessons of dignity and nobility we have received.

We thank the intellectuals, artists and scientists, from Mexico and the world, who helped us in the struggle for the indigenous. Few movements or organizations can pride themselves on having had the backing (always critical, and we thank them for that) of so much intelligence, ingenuity and creativity. You already know that we always listened to you with respect and attention, even when we didn't share your points of view and that something of the light you shone helped to illuminate our dark paths.

We thank the honest workers of the press and the decent media who showed, truthfully and to the entire world, what they saw and heard, and who respected, without distorting, our voice and path. We extend you our solidarity in these hard moments you are going through in the exercise of your profession, where you are risking your lives, you are attacked and, like us, you find no justice.

And, so that no one is missed, we thank everyone who, honestly and sincerely, helped us.

I said, at the beginning of this letter, that it was not a farewell. Well, it so happens that for some people it is. Although for others it will be what is, in reality, a promise...Because what is missing can now be seen...

Vale. Salud and, from heart to heart, thank you for everything.

In the name of all the zapatistas of the EZLN.
From the mountains of the Mexican Southeast.
Subcomandante Insurgente Marcos
Mexico, in the sixth month of the year 2005.

PS - You can see now that we aren't thinking about playing football. Or not thinking only about that. Because some day we will play against the Internazionale of Milan. We, or what is left of us.

For Background details

Thursday, June 23, 2005

California Grand Jury Action Update

More on the Grand Jury action going on out in California can be reported now.

About 100 activists gathered to show solidarity to those called to testify gathered outside the Federal Building in San Francisco yesterday. Four persons were scheduled to appear before the San Francixco Grand Jury and all four had previously made it clear that they would not cooperate with the Grand Jury. Nadia Winstead (see below) one of those called read a statement on her intentions and about the abusive Grand Jury system.

Of the four who were to appear, three had their dates continued while the court heard arguments to quash their subpoenas.

One person appeared but took the Fifth and was excused…for now.

Six others are scheduled to appear in July.

Ben Rosenfeld, a lawyer who is representing the group on behalf of the National Lawyers Guild, told the demonstrators that the secret proceedings are nothing more than a star chamber used to conduct an illegal fishing expedition. "If the government really believes that these people have been harboring Mr. San Diego (the alleged target of the investigation), then what they're doing is asking them to incriminate themselves in front of the grand jury," he said. "But I don't think they really believe that. This is political. It's a government shakedown."

Another grand jury in San Francisco has been “investigating” an attack on an Ingleside police station that occurred more than 30 years ago.

In Southern California, at least nine people have been called to testify before a San Diego federal grand jury investigating a 2003 arson fire that destroyed an apartment complex that was under construction there. Three of them were scheduled to testify yesterday. They asked for but were denied a continuance in order to seek legal guidance. The San Francisco Chronicle reports, Michael Cardenas, a software engineer who says he does not consider himself an animal rights or environmental activist but was part of a coalition of groups that organized a series of "Revolution Summer" events in 2003, including a speech given by a well-known Earth Liberation Front (ELF) activist hours after the apartment fire was set, said he invoked his Fifth Amendment right not to answer the grand jury's questions.

Other San Diego environmental and animal rights activists connected to the lecture that evening in Hillcrest confirmed yesterday that they have been called before the federal grand jury. "The FBI are using this as an excuse to harass and intimidate activists who are trying to create a better world," said Cardenas.

According to the San Diego Tribune, the early morning fire Aug. 1, 2003, destroyed the nearly completed La Jolla Crossroads complex of 1,800 apartments and condominiums in University City. The loss was estimated at $50 million. The radical environmental group Earth Liberation Front – known as ELF – claimed responsibility, leaving a banner on the site saying, "If you build it, we will burn it

"The questions aren't focused on investigating the fire," said David Agranoff, who helped organize the lecture about acts of environmental protest by activist Rodney Coronado, who served a 57-month prison term after being convicted of torching a Michigan animal-testing laboratory. "The questions all seem to be very McCarthyist-like questions about the lecture," Agranoff said. "Who was there? What was said. . . .? What's wrong with a lecture?"

He added that he knows nothing about the University City fire.

Activists say a beleaguered San Diego FBI, faltering under revelations of serious intelligence failures in relation to the September 11 attacks, is rounding up a diverse group of community organizers and is compelling them to testify before a grand jury as a side show and an attack on any legitimate protest.

Among those called to appear before the Grand Jury in San Diego, for instance, are Colleen Dietzel an ocean beach resident who runs the Green Store, a place where community members come to purchase environmentally friendly products and learn about environmental issues and Elise Casby, a member of the voting reform organization VOTERR.

A press conference will be held in San Diego Tuesday, June 28th on the steps of the federal building at 12 noon. A community forum has also been planned to show support for those who have been targeted by the FBI and to discuss federal grand juries and government repression. Online donations are being accepted for the defense committee at Sources: FBI, San Diego Union Tribune, San Francisco Chronicle

Statement of Grand Jury Resister Nadia Winstead

Nadia Winstead's Statement of Resistance, June 22, 2005

My name is Nadia Winstead, I was served with a subpoena on May 24th 2005 by federal agents to appear before a grand jury in San Francisco. I refuse to participate in these grand jury proceedings. They represent a violation of my constitutional rights and are nothing more than government sponsored harassment.

Throughout history the US government has targeted movements that challenge the status quo. This grand jury is yet another example of the government applying pressure on activists who dare to use their first amendment rights. During the abolitionist period, anti-slavery activists were called before grand juries in efforts to intimidate and destroy their movement. Time and time again grand juries have been used as a tool to silence the voices of change.

Today animal advocates, prisoner support activists and members of the greater progressive community are the targets. People who promote compassion and challenge industries that profit from both human oppression and animal slavery are being subject to the wrath of the State. We are being targeted because our views, and our willingness to express them, pose a threat to corporate profiteers.

The federal government is willing to use every trick in the book to silence our dissent, but we will not be silenced.

I refuse to participate in their modern day witch hunt. I will not cooperate with this grand jury or any other in the future.

Workers Deserve Respect

Tempe is a city which boasts of its commitment to diversity. It has an openly gay mayor and provides domestic partner benefits for its employees.

However, all is not well.

The case of nine Latino city employees against the city of Tempe, Arizona is on its way to the jury. The current and former employees have alleged blatant racism on the job including, according to the Arizona Republic degrading jokes, salty slurs, promotion pass-overs and harsher discipline than their Anglo co-workers. The federal trial has lasted six weeks.

Many city workers have testified at the trial. Raul Travino said he overheard a Tempe Public Works supervisor advise someone not to hire Mexicans because they were lazy. Pedro Amaya told the jury his boss said he would get promoted because he was born “on the wrong side of the border.

"This is a problem that should have been stopped years ago. Certainly it should have been stopped in the 1980s," said Stephen Montoya, an attorney representing the plaintiffs told the East Valley Tribune.

The case was first filed in 2002 and the charges have already leaded to the resignation of the former City Manager and other local officials. Investigations by the state Attorney General's Office and the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission both found evidence of racial discrimination. They also found that women and employees with disabilities were treated unfairly.

Lawyers for the city say after those reports the city cleaned itself up. They claim the workers are just a group of politically savy, “well paid” workers. The city makes the strange argument that the workers complained about racial discrimination only as they mounted a campaign to overturn the city's "no U-turn" policy. They say the policy upset Hispanic street sweepers and that is the real reason for the charges being made.

Montoya asked then why no witnesses ever accused his clients of being "liars." He asked why the city continuously referred to diversity audits but never entered the actual audit results as evidence. He called the city "cowardly" for never apologizing for the perceived wrongs. "We all know the concept; even a dog knows the difference between when it's stumbled over and when it's kicked," Montoya said. "Saying you're sorry means a lot."

Montoya says his clients are vulnerable workers who hold humble jobs and do necessary work. He says, "They deserved respect. They didn't get it." Sources: Arizona Republic, East Valley Tribune, Arizona Central

Good Riddance to Bad Rubbish

With any luck Edgar Ray Killen will die in a Mississippi prison. The old Klansman got 60 years today.

He will be held in a cell by himself, separated from other prisoners under an administrative protection status reserved for those at risk of retaliation from other inmates.

"It's kind of a race issue, in that our (prison) population is 70 percent black," Mississippi Department of Corrections Commissioner Chris Epps said.

Does anyone get the irony of that statement?

Killen will be allowed out his cell only for an hour a day on weekdays, to shower or exercise, Epps said.

The state has been patting itself on the back for bringing the case to a conclusion.And it only took 41 years!

How many white racist murderers of civil rights activists have been allowed to live their lives in freedom, while Mississippi's prison population "is 70% black?"

No News Is Bad News

In that bastion of Asian democracy known as Nepal more than 200 journalists took to the street yesterday to demand the restoration of press freedom. Good luck!

The Federation of Nepalese Journalists (FNJ) has staged a series of demonstrations and marches as it demands all manner of restrictions which have been placed on the media since the King’s takeover of pretty much of everything be lifted.

The journalists rallying in Kathmandu carried a large banner which read “Total press freedom for peace and democracy.” Addressing the gathering after half-an-hour long silent demonstration, president of FNJ Bishnu Nisthuri said the movement launched by the journalists won’t stop until press freedom and democracy was restored in the country.

Demonstrations were not limited to Kathmandu. The Kathmandu Post reports that in Kavre police interrupted a poetry recital program on press freedom by protesting journalists and arrested 10 journalists. Rallys also occurred in Chitwan, Nawalparasi, Sindhuli, and Bara.

As the rallies were going on the FNJ issued a statement demanding action be taken against two Royal Nepalese Army (RNA) officers for "pressurizing and threatening" Kishore Shrestha, editor of Jana Astha weekly who it says had been threatened for refusing to reveal the source of a news story which the weekly had recently published.

Less then two weeks ago nearly 100 journalists were arrested protesting against the King. At that march police physically assaulted demonstrators. Sources: Peace Journalism, Kantipur On Line, Kathmandu Post, Nepal News, Digital Divide Network

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Red alert in Chiapas is precautionary - a consulta is in progress

If you click on the title (above), you will go to a site with lots of links to the various articles and communiques mentioned below.

The EZLN declared a Red Alert in Chiapas at the start of the week taking a number of steps including closing down the Caracoles and the Good Government offices, evacuating the civilian delegates who make up the zapatista structures of regional self management and creating a clear distinction between the military side of the organisation and the civilian healthcare side. This looked a lot like preparation for war but a communique released the following day revealed that the red alert was just a precautionary measure to allow a consulta to take place. brought you news and analysis of this situation as it developed. Here we carry the Zapatista communiques and background materials and links that help explain who the Zapatistas are, what they stand for and what are the causes of the conflict in Chiapas.

Zapatista Consultas are long processes that involve every community in discussions that frame questions that all will then vote on. The first article below written before the red alert perhaps gives some clues as to why this process is taking place. The articles 'What is it that is different about the Zapatistas?' includes an outline of the consulta process in more detail.

Zapatista's - 11 years on, a retreat and a consolidation
What has been happening in Chiapas in recent years?
This article was for publication in Red and Black Revolution, Autumn 2005. News has just come through through of a Zapatista communique that appears to be a preparation for a return to war. At this stage it is not clear what is about to happen so I am releasing the article as I think it provides a useful background of events in the last couple of years and the sort of reasons why the Zapatistas might have decided to return to armed struggle.

EZLN communique - The reasons for the Red Alert
EZLN reveal that the reason for the Red Alert is to allow a consulta to take place on the future direction of the organisation. During a previous consulta the army attacked them so this is a precautionary measure.

EZLN communique -Zapatista Red Alert declared in Chiapas
Zapatistas preparing to go underground once more, requesting peace observers to leave the communities, closing carocols and Goood Government Councils. This appears to be preparation for war!

EZLN communique - Zapatistas can survive a decapatation attack
Communique from EZLN saying that they have put the structures in place which would allow the organisation to survice even if the government or its paramilitaries eliminate "some or all of its publicly known current leadership."

What is it that is different about the Zapatistas?
The EZLN (Zapatista National Liberation Army) came briefly to the worlds attention when they seized several towns in Chiapas on New Years day in 1994. Since then most of the support the Zapatistas have received is strongly based on the idea that the Zapatistas are different. Different not just from the neoliberal world order they oppose but, more fundamentally, different from the armed revolutionary groups that exist and have existed elsewhere in the world. This study on the Zapatistas written by an Irish anarchist in 2001 explains why they are different in more detail.

What is happening with the Zapatistas?
The following piece explains in some detail what is happening with the building of the Caracols ('Good Governement Councils') in Chiapas. It looks in detail at the areas of education, health, economy and justice.

Indigenous Autonomy and Revolutionary Resistance
A text from the now defunct Mexican anarchist group Amor y Rabia (Mexico) that analysis the indigenous basis of the Zapatistas

British Forces Questioned in Northern Ireland and Cyprus

Last week the Oread Daily reported on a mission of the South Armagh Demilitarization Committee (SADC) to the European Parliament to discuss the on going British occupation in Northern Ireland. It can now be reported that according to Sinn Fein News key European Parliamentary leaders may visit south Armagh to view the occupation close up.

The meeting with the European MEPs took place at a conference entitled Military Bases in Europe hosted by the Intergroup on Peace Initiatives. The Intergroup on Peace Initiatives acts as a forum where MEPs of different political groups can discuss peace & conflict issues, and further the political debate on these issues. The Intergroup works on issues and initiatives which will bring peace, disarmament and peaceful conflict resolution a step nearer and act as a driving force for parliamentary political initiatives on the European Union’s policies relating to peace and disarmament.

Damian McGenity of SADC said that the MEPs were given DVDs about the British Occupation and its negative effects. "The president of the Intergroup was amazed at the level of militarization in south Armagh,” he said.

Crossmaglen-based councillor Terry Hearty said, "We have established contacts with MEPs from a number of European countries and apprised them of the plight of the people of this area …A number of MEPs have expressed an interest in visiting the area and we anticipate even greater interest as the more MEPs become aware of the situation here.”

Hearty also commented on contacts his group made with a similar organization from Cyprus. "We have also been fortunate in establishing contact with the Cyprus Peace Council who are engaged in a similar campaign to remove a British occupation force from their island," Hearty told Sinn Fein News.

On Cyprus the British maintain what are known as Sovereign Base Areas (SBAs). A British garrison force is stationed at the bases, and they contain a British listening post, and the only fully fledged RAF station in the Mediterranean), RAF Akrotiri. In total, some 3,500 British personnel are based in Cyprus

The bases have been used extensively as support for the War in Iraq.

As in south Armagh, a huge antenna array built on the British occupied area has been the scene of much controversy. The giant antenna systems comprise a huge spy installation, part of a world system of monitoring and guiding missiles, aiming at the countries of the Middle East region and farther away. Workers Democracy says the system is, “a menace to the health of the people in the area due to the emission of electromagnetic radiation, which may cause various forms of cancer. They say it is also having a disastrous impact on the Akrotiri Wetland, "one of the most important ecosystems of the Eastern Mediterranean.”

Many cypriots believe the antenna systems to be a menace to the health of the people in the area due to the emission of electromagnetic radiation, which may cause various forms of cancer.

British experts claim that there are no adverse repercussions to the environment. Contradicting the British reports the Cyprus Broadcasting Corporation, is another study conducted by two Greek experts, who warned that the operation of the antenna would have serious repercussions on the evnironment because it will cause a "break-down of the delicate structure of the area."

The Cyprus government has declared opposition in the past to the antennas, but has taken no steps to stop them from construction or use. The Government says that due to the Treaty of Establishment and its obligations stemming from it that "it cannot afford not to respect".

The Greek Cypriot party Workers Democracy asks, “Does the Treaty though allow the British imperialists - in defiance of the people's sentiments - to threaten the health of the people and the environment of the island and does it permit them to spy the peoples and the anti-imperialist movements of the region?”

Several demonstrations and protests haven taken place against the spy post, with the most memorable incident occuring when MP Marios Matsakis chained himself to one of the antenna.

Sources: HR-Net, Cyprus Broadcasting Corporation, Wikipedia, Sinn Fein News, Workers Democracy, Quaker Council for European Affairs, Ireland Information Guide

To the People of Mexico and To the Peoples of the World:


Communiqué from the Clandestine Revolutionary Indigenous Committee –
Command of the Zapatista Army of National Liberation.


June 19, 2005

To the People of Mexico:
To the Peoples of the World:

Brothers and Sisters:

As of today, the Zapatista Army of National Liberation has declared,
throughout all rebel
territory, a


Based on this, we are informing you:

First - That at this time the closure is being carried out of the
Caracoles and the Good
Government Offices which are located in the zapatista communities of
Oventik, La
Realidad, Morelia and Roberto Barrios, as well as all the headquarters
of the authorities of
the different Rebel Zapatista Autonomous Municipalities.

Second - That also being carried out is the evacuation of the members
of the different
Good Government Juntas and the autonomous authorities, in order to
place them in
shelter. Now, and for an indefinite time period, they will be carrying
out their work in a
clandestine and nomadic manner. Both the projects as well as the
government will continue functioning, although under different
circumstances than they
have been up until now.

Third - That basic community health services will continue functioning
in the different
Caracoles. Civilians will be in charge of these services, and the
CCRI-CG of the EZLN is
distancing them from any of our future actions, and we are demanding
that they be
treated as civilians and with respect for their life, liberty and goods
by government forces.

Fourth - That there has been a call-up of all members of our EZLN who
have been
engaged in social work in the zapatista communities and those of our
regular troops who
have been in their barracks. In a similar fashion, all broadcasts by
Radio Insurgente, "The
Voice of Those Without Voice", in FM and in short wave, have been
suspended for an
indefinite period of time.

Fifth - That, simultaneous with the publication of this communiqué,
national and
international civil societies who are working in peace camps and in
community projects are
being urged to leave rebel territory. Or, if they decide freely of
their own volition, they
remain on their own and at their own risk, gathered in the caracoles.
In the case of minors,
their departure is obligatory.

Sixth - That the EZLN announces the closing of the Zapatista
Information Centre (CIZ), not
without first thanking the civil societies who have participated in it,
from the time of its
creation until today. The CCRI-CG of the EZLN formally releases these
persons from any
responsibility for the future actions of the EZLN.

Seventh - That the EZLN releases from responsibility for any of our
future actions all
persons and civil, political, cultural, citizens and non-governmental
solidarity committees and support groups who have been close to us
since 1994. We
thank all of those who have, sincerely and honestly, throughout these
almost 12 years,
supported the civil and peaceful struggle of the zapatista indigenous
for the constitutional
recognition of indigenous rights and culture.


From the Mountains of the Mexican Southeast.
By the Clandestine Revolutionary Indigenous Committee – General Command
of the
Zapatista Army of National Liberation.

Subcomandante Insurgente Marcos

Mexico, in the sixth month of the year 2005.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Iraqi Labor Leaders Speak Out Across US

Those Iraqi labor leaders mentioned last week in the OD are continuing their tour across the US seeking help from US workers and unions.

In Pittsburg they joined with counterparts from the United Steelworkers to decry working conditions in Iraq and to call for international support. Falah Awan, president of the Federation of Workers Councils and Unions of Iraq (FWCUI) said Iraqi workers are fired at will and have no control over their working hours. He said women and children are being exploited in the Iraqi economy and that the government of Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari is doing nothing about it. He said those in power, “…don't respect any human value in this society."

According to the Pittsburgh Business Times Amjad Ali Aljawhry, a FWCUI representative who lives in exile in Canada said Iraq’s economy is in shambles with unemployment, “…as high as 70 percent.” He added that workers in his country have no health or safety standards.

In Chicago, Amjad Ali Aljawhry told listeners, “After 27 months of occupation, “…our federation stands for immediate withdrawal of troops immediately.” He added, “Since day one of occupation Iraqi people have not seen one single moment of peace.” He told of the desperate living conditions of a people suffering from ethnic divisions, insurgent suicide bombers and with regards to the democracy the Bush Administration has proclaimed, “…we (have) never seen anything promised.”

Falah Awan shared similar sentiments when he explained “…the occupying troops have installed a government based on ethnic and religious divisions...”

Awani said it was bad under Saddam Hussein whom he in no way defended. However, he charged, “… the U.S. occupation set corruption free. As a result, poor and unsafe living conditions are the consequences. More than half of the country’s population – Iraqi women and children – cannot leave their homes without a male, family member escorting them. He adds, “This is the democracy we’ve been promised.”

Awan explained that he feels it is the workers of Iraq who must eventually restore civil society.

In Los Angeles Hassan Juma'a Awad and Faleh Abbood Umara spoke to labor leaders and activists at the Harry Bridges Institute & Community Labor Center in San Pedro. The Daily Breeze reports Umara, 48, general secretary of the oil union said, "I ask you to help us pressure your administration to remove its forces in Iraq so we can rebuild our country. If they mention the security situation, I say that we are brothers in Iraq. And brothers can fight, but brothers can reconcile."

Umara said people face extreme dangers just trying to get to work. He said it's common for American troops to shoot at Iraqi cars for driving too close. "It's like the occupation forces are the people of the land and we're the foreigners," Umara said. "If you complain, you may end up in Abu Ghraib, and you don't know what will happen to you there."

Awad dismissed the idea of an impending civil war between Shiites and minority Sunnis.” Who is talking about war?" Awad said. "I am 53 years old, and I didn't hear about Sunni and Shiite (divisions) before the occupation forces entered. I am Shiite, but I'm married to a Sunni woman."

The two men expressed concerns over the attacks on labor in the new Iraq and the push for privatization of state owned industries. "My understanding is that unions don't get their legitimacy from the government. Unions rely only on the workers," Awad, 53, said with a defiant tone. "We decided to organize ourselves without relying on the laws."

In San Jose on Sunday Hassan Juma'a Awad Al Asade, chief of the General Union of Oil Employees executive branch said, ``The American administration claims it is bringing democracy and freedom and human rights to Iraq,. This is the third year of occupation and we see no improvement in our situation.'' He told the San Jose Mercury News that while most Iraqis were glad to see Saddam out, they now viewed the Americans as occupiers.

Peace activists and union members attended a presentation at the headquarters of the Service Employees International Union Local 715 in San Jose.

Both Awad and Abbood Umara spoke out in San Jose against U.S. efforts to privatize all Iraqi businesses except for the oil industry. Among other things, workers fear privatization would drive high unemployment even higher.

``Privatization is a kind word but the substance of it is to transfer public property to private property,'' said Juma'a Awad Al Asade. ``People with wealth and capital will go up, and the rest of the classes will go down and there will be elimination of the middle class.''

The touring labor leaders have had harsh words for insurgents who they say are targeting union leaders. In fact, New Standard says, “Rebels have reportedly killed at least ten unionists, including Ali Hassan Abd, a member of the Oil and Gas Union, and Hadi Salih, international secretary of the Iraqi Federation of Trade Unions.” There are also numerous reports of insurgents harassing workers trying to organize themselves and others while several labor leaders have been kidnapped. The insurgents accuse the union leaders of collaboration with the occupation and an illegitimate Iraqi government. Sources: San Jose Mercury News, Pittsburg Business Times, Scoop (NZ), Daily Breeze (Torrance, CA), New Standard

Basque Youth Face Repression

A trial of members of Basque youth organizations has ended with 24 prison sentences and 4 acquittals. The youth were sentenced to between 2 1/2 and 3 1/2 years in prison. The court declared them to be members of an illegal organization, but not a terrorist one. The prosecution had claimed they were members of ETA and therefore terrorists.

Many of the defendants have already served three to four years in jail awaiting their day in court.

Before finding the youths guilty, the 4th Chamber of the Spanish National Criminal Court first declared their organizations illegal. Interesting way to do things!

The court also ordered that the organizations be disbanded.

According to Berria, those charged in the case denounced the accusations saying they had been targets of repression, “…just because they are young, and have been punished for organizing themselves and engaging in a struggle.”

During a recent demonstration Aiboa Casares, who had been remanded in custody for three years in connection with the Haika-Segi court cases, told those gathered, “We are supposed to be the sons and daughters of democracy, but the reality is quite different.” She added that for the last 25 years young people had endured the ZEN plan [of the Spanish police], the “Y” groups setup [groups allegedly supporting ETA] , outlawing and mass trials. She felt that young people were “the target of repression”, because they played an important role in any revolutionary process. “Right now over 300 young people are waiting to go on trial, waiting for test cases, brutal demands from public prosecutors… the special court [Spanish National Criminal Court] has been turned into an instrument for deciding the future of young people”.

The trial was merely the latest in the assault on the Basque Nationalist Left. For several years now newspapers, political parties, radio stations, cultural associations, and schools have been shut down by the Spanish state, while hundreds have been jailed, thousands driven into exile, and millions of Euros worth of assets seized. Always Spain claims the targets are members of ETA and therefore terrorists.

Many of those charged and/or convicted are held far away from their homes, sometimes on the Canary Islands, so that visits are difficult.

Revolution reports that Basque prisoners are commonly tortured. Spanish law allows prisoners suspected of terrorism to be held five days with no outside communication or lawyer. Reports of beatings, electric shock, suffocation with plastic bags, threats of rape and the like are common. Revolution says, “The number of incidents reported, including cases of attempted suicide by prisoners, has led even the United Nations to recognize that the Spanish government is violating the conditions it agreed to in the Convention against Torture.”

The largely youth organizations which have been targeted are not underground terrorists cells or urban guerrillas. Despite the state ban they have tens of thousands of members and operate in the open. Their goals are independence and socialism, the rights of young people, against the precarious employment which affects up to half of the young people in the Spanish state, against drug addiction, in defense of women’s' rights and occupied houses, for Basque language and culture.

Said one young person at a recent rally, “We are fighting because we want to be free young people in a free country.” Sources: Berria, EITB 24, World Revolution

The Forcast is For More Hot and Stormy Weather

While the Bush Administration moves from dithering to outright fraud when it comes to climate change, the world just continues to warm up and the results are becoming unmistakable. Examples abound:

• Kevin Trenberth head of the Climate Analysis Section at the National Center for Atmospheric Research has just published a paper "Uncertainty in Hurricanes and Global Warming” in which he writes, "Trends in human-influenced environmental changes are now evident in hurricane regions." He says while it in unclear on how such changes may effect the number of hurricanes it is clear such changes will lead to an increase in intensity. "Computer models also suggest a shift in hurricane intensities toward extreme hurricanes," says Trenberth.

• Severe drought is drying up drinking water for cities and towns across Australia and threaten to shut down major population centers. Scientists report that global warming is changing rainfall patterns in Australia causing a long term drop in annual rainfall and increasing weather extremes. Goulburn, population 25,000, southwest of Australia's biggest city, Sydney will soon become the first town to simply run out of water. Reuters Alert reports, “The worst drought in 100 years is forcing Australians to close the tap on profligate water use and turn treated waste, most of which flows into the sea, into drinking water.”

• The Ottawa Sun is reporting that Canada’s eastern Arctic, one of the last places to resist global warming, is now succumbing to it. “The glaciers are retreating. The pack ice is growing thin. Freezing rain causes problems at a time the snow should be falling. Now in the Baffin Island region the winter comes later and leaves earlier, ocean currents are more powerful causing the ice to appear solid on the surface, while it really hides a thick layer of fresh water even in the salt water of Frosbisher Bay. Just about everywhere in Nunavut, everybody has a story to tell that documents the warming. Simon Nattaq, one of the best hunters of Iqaluit says, “The ice is no longer like before. You cannot trust it.” He should know he fell through that ice and ended up losing both of his legs.

• In Siberia global warming is on the verge of giving itself a “big boost by freeing gigantic amounts of carbon that have been on ice in Siberia's vast peat lands”, scientists warn. The Discovery Channel reports that global warming will likely be exacerbated by the release of carbon into streams from the thawing Siberian peat lands thus adding a huge load of carbon to the atmosheere and in turn ramping up the greenhouse effect. "If you were to stand in the middle of one of these streams, it actually looks like tea," said Siberian carbon researcher Karen Frey, of the University of California at Los Angeles. Its possible that some streams will see as much as a 700-percent increase in dissolved organic carbon being released as the permafrost thaws, Frey told the Discovery Channel. The carbon being released is ancient and has been locked away and out of circulation for eons. The thaw of that carbon is just like burning fossil fuels.

• Off the West Coast of Scotland where White-beaked dolphins have been seen for as long as anyone can remember, the sightings have become rare. These cold water dolphins are being replaced by warm water ones. This change has been accompanied by an increase in water temperatures around the UK of up to 0.4oC per decade since 1981 says the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society. Colin MacLeod, part of a team of researchers from the University of Aberdeen, the Scottish Agricultural College in Inverness and the National Museums of Scotland in Edinburgh who have been examining trends in strandings of whales and dolphins since 1948 says, “The disappearance of white-beaked dolphins from the West Coast of Scotland should be a wake-up call for both the general public and politicians alike. It shows that climate change is not something that will only affect the future of people living in far off corners of the world, but is already affecting Scotland’s wildlife.” Mark Simmonds, Director of Science at the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society adds, “Climate change is the greatest threat to all living things and, as this latest research shows, the whales and dolphins are not immune from this… We need to do everything in our power to stop this.”

Meanwhile, a coalition of British aid and environmental groups warns that any efforts to alleviate poverty in Africa will fail unless climate change is reversed. Their report, "Africa - Up In Smoke?", says that African poverty and climate change are inseparably linked.

Tony Juniper, the executive director of Friends of the Earth, said in the Independent: "Policies to end poverty in Africa are conceived as if the threat of climatic disruption did not exist." Nicola Saltman of the World Wide Fund for Nature added: "All the aid we pour into Africa will be inconsequential if we don't tackle climate change."

While environmental groups have long pointed to global climate change as being linked to poverty, the recognition of the overriding importance of climate change is new to many aid groups.

Archbishop Desmond Tutu says in the foreword to the new report: "It is important to understand that Africa and climate change are intrinsically linked, as climate change will affect the welfare of Africans for years to come." Western countries have a moral obligation to act over global warming, he says, as these wealthy countries have emitted more than their fair share of greenhouse gases.

The report makes clear what climate change will or has already meant to the African continent. It says,

“…the 14 African countries already subject to water stress or water scarcity will be joined by a further 11 nations in the next 25 years. Rainfall is predicted to decline in the Horn of Africa and some parts of the south by as much as 10 per cent by 2050, while the land may warm by as much as 1.6C, all of which is likely to affect the crop harvests for hundreds of millions of people.”

“The sea level around the coast of Africa is projected to rise by 25cm by 2050, and the west coast, currently affected by storm surges and at risk from extreme storm events, erosion and inundation, is likely to suffer even more. East Africa's coastal zone will also be affected: climatic variation and sea-level rise may decrease coral reefs along the continental shelf, reducing their buffer effects and increasing the likelihood of coastal erosion.”

The report makes clear, "Minor enhancements of debt relief pale into insignificance compared to the negative impacts of global warming. Many places in Africa are overwhelmingly dependent on rain-fed agriculture and so they are vulnerable to even the early phases of climate change: any slight exaggeration of peaks and troughs of climatic extremes hits them instantly.”

As the temperatures rise, sea levels rise as well and the moisture in the soil evaporates. Rainfall will become more erratic, but like hurricanes mentioned earlier storms will (and already are) become more intense. Downpours will wash away crops, drying lowland areas will force farmers to move to areas higher up now covered with forests. The farmers will cut down the trees and more soil erosion will result. And on it will go.

And like the arctic, there are stories to be told in Africa as well.

Jack Karanga told the Independent about a hailstorm he remembers from a couple years ago that shredded the crop in the tea plantations around his home in the Kenyan highlands. His wife and three children went hungry that year. "I normally work six days a week, from 7am till 3pm picking tea," he said. "On a good day, I pick 30kg and get paid 3.50 shillings a kilogram. Even that Ksh105 (75p) is not enough to pay school fees and buy my children clothes, but when the ice fell from the sky, I only had work for two days a week. It was a hard time."

There will be more hard times! Sources: TerraDaily, Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society, Ottawa Sun, Discovery Channel, Reuters Alert Net, The Independent (UK), Los Angeles Times

Monday, June 20, 2005


Solidarité Sans Frontières has begun a week long march on Ottawa to protest Canadian immigration laws and the Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB). "The march is a manifestation of our status as non-status, as refugees," said Saritha, one of the representatives of the group at a recent press conference. "It is to force a public debate that Canadian and Québec society needs today."

In recent months, the IRB has come under attack for its lack of a full appeals system and its deficiency of qualified judges. Some of the judges have even been described as political appointees and largely ignorant of immigrants' realities.

"Racism has become a modus operandi [inside the IRB]," one of the SSF representatives told the Link.

With the march, the SSF is "demanding an exhaustive [status-granting] system to all non-status people," said Tatiana Gomez, one of the planned marchers.

Meanwhile, The Ecumenical Association of Portuguese and Hispanic Churches is vowing to open church doors as sanctuary for vulnerable "underground" residents if immigration officials don't stop their stepped-up enforcement effort.

"There is a cry that the ecumenical community has heard and we cannot stand by as passive observers," Rev. Elias Morales of North Park Presbyterian Church told the Toronto Star. "We hope (Immigration) Minister Joe Volpe will listen to us, work with us and find ways to help these people. We hope we don't have to get into the sanctuary situation. But that will be our last resort." The coalition claims that over the past six weeks it has been getting dozens of calls a day from community members facing removals and deportations. As many as 30 people are being picked up daily by officials at construction sites, in homes and off the street.


June 18, 2005 -- The NO ONE IS ILLEGAL MARCH ON OTTAWA began today in Montreal.
A spirited and diverse demonstration of up to 1000 people (at the high point), marched through downtown Montreal, and north to two mainly immigrant neighborhoods: Parc Extension and Cote-des-Neiges.

The demonstration was opened by Kahntinehta, a Mohawk elder from Kahnawake Mohawk territory. She was followed by remarks by members of the Behlouli family (Smail, Nacera, Yasmine, Kenza and Kahiina), who have been active members of both the Action Committee of Non-Status Algerians and Solidarity Across Borders, who will be marching as a family the entire route to Ottawa. Dorothy Dubé, a non-status Zimbabwean refugee who took sanctuary in a Montreal-area church in 2002, also addressed demo participants.

Throughout the demonstration, many directly affected migrants addressed by-standers and the crowd, including representatives of migrant communities from the Congo and Iran, and individuals facing deportation to Egypt and Palestine. As well, members of the South Asian Women's Community Center (SAWCC), the Immigrant Workers Center (based in Cote-des-Neiges) and the Migrant Workers Support Center (defending the interested of seasonal farmworkers in Quebec, mainly from Latin America).

Today's demonstration ended in Kent Park, with a neighbourhood festival, including an open-air concert with local acts Syncop, Nomadic Massive and Muzion.
The march continues tomorrow to the village of Ste-Anne-de-Bellevue, on the tip of the island of Montreal. On Monday, marchers will leave the island, and be welcomed in the evening on the Mohawk territory of Kanehsatake.


Solidarity Across Borders is a Montreal-area coalition initiated by several groups active in defending the rights of migrants, immigrants and refugees. The majority of groups within Solidarity Across Borders are self-organized committees of persons directly affected by repressive anti-immigrant and 'anti-terrorist' laws and regulations in Fortress North America. We have been together since the summer of 2003, and have organized demonstrations and cultural events, produced a newspaper, and supported each other’s day-to-day campaign work. We have mobilized in opposition to the detention and deportation of migrants, against security certificates, and for the regularization of all non-status persons living in Canada.

In addition to the specific demands of each group comprising Solidarity Across Borders, the network maintains four principal demands:
1) The regularization of all non-status persons ;
2) An end to deportations ;
3) An end to the detention of migrants, immigrants and refugees ;
4) The abolition of security certificates.

In the current political context, as the Canadian state rushes to 'harmonize' its immigration policies with the United States in order to 'secure' Fortress North America and perpetuate the so-called War on Terror, immigrants and refugees are particularly vulnerable to racist and anti-poor processes of criminalization & subsequent deportation perpetrated by Canada Immigration and Canada's police forces.
SAB calls on you to take a stand and fight for justice ;

MARCH TO OTTAWA: Demand Regularization for all non status migrants NOW!
Recently, Solidarity Across Borders has decided to take a major step in our organizing efforts: We will be organizing a one-week march to Ottawa from Montreal! This march will take place between June 18-25, 2005 . We will begin the march through downtown Montreal on June 18, marching thru some of Montreal’s immigrant neighborhoods into the West Island of Montreal. By day 2, we expect to be marching out of the Island, and onto the highway that will take us to Ottawa over the course of seven days. We invite you to join us.

The groups comprising Solidarity Across Borders are: The Coalition Against the Deportation ofPalestinian Refugees, The Human Rights Action Committee, The Action Committee of Non-Status Algerians, Action Colombienne, The Catholic Congolese Community of Montreal, The No One is Illegal Collective (Montreal), The Justice Coalition for Adil Charkaoui, The Immigrant Workers Center, The Support Committee for Basque Political Prisoners, South Asian Women's Community Center, Filipino Women of Quebec (PINAY), L'Association Vwa Zanset (Haïti), The Support Center for Migrant Agricultural workers, as well as individual refugees and non-status persons.

Please contact us at (514) 859-9023 or

German Police Attack Anti-Nazis

German police as usual arrested the anti-nazis and let the nazis go about their business. About 65 left wing demonstrators were arrested and attacked with water canons as during clashes in the western German town of Braunschweig. About 2500 anti-nazis were attacked by police as they sought to block a march by a bunch of nazis. According to an independnet observer there were about 300 nazis on hand. That same observer reports the anti-nazis had considerable support from passer bys.

A separate far-right rally in the village of Halbe drew 100 followers of the nazi like BNP and close to 1000 protesters. Some 1,000 police officers kept the two sides apart in the town of Halbe, about 70 kilometers (45 miles) southeast of Berlin, and no violence was reported. Sources: IMC, Sunday Times (Malta), Haaretz, Deutche Welle, Dow Jones Newswire

Liberation Theology: It's Still Out There

How often do you see articles about theology in the Oread Daily?

Well, today I ran across this notice about a conference meeting this week in Venezuela to analyze Liberation Theology and it piqued my interest. According to Prensa Latina, the “1st Latin American and Caribbean Ecumenical Meeting on Spirituality and Faith's Political Dimension is to build a new theology based on ethical dignity and spirituality in the liberation processes of the region.” The meeting is sponsored by the Bolivarian Congress of the Peoples and hosts some of Liberation Theology’s guiding lights including New York Episcopalian parish priest Luis Barrios, Salvadorian Lutherans Maria Isabel Villegas and Ricardo Cornejo, Dominican catholic priest Rogelio Cruz and Cubans Sergio Arce, Presbyterian theologian and Gabriel Coderch, Catholic cleric. Among the goals of the meeting are to “unmask religious hierarchies associated to dominant powers, and counteract media manipulation of religion.”

To tell the truth, I mostly remember Liberation Theology from my days working within the Latin American and Central American solidarity movements of the 80s. I’ve thought about it from time to time since, but hadn’t heard much. Memories from that time evoke in the words of free lance writer José Orozco, “…that mix of romance and tragedy that is so Latin American -- passionate priests and oppressed peasants dreaming of, and working for, better social conditions only to die at the hands of right-wing death squads.”

Rather than ignore earthly misery, Liberation Theology seeks social as much as spiritual well-being. Basing itself solidly on the Bible, Liberation Theology endorses the "preferential option for the poor." It's not, Liberation Theologists say, that Jesus Christ doesn't care for the rich, but he has his priorities.

Many say the birth of Liberation Theology was at a Latin American Catholic Church council in Medellin in 1968. Father Pedro Trigo, Venezuela's most important liberation theologian told Religioscope, after the tenants of Liberation Theology garnered the support of Latin American Church leaders in Medellin priests felt, “If the highest authority of the Catholic Church in Latin America meets and concludes that, then I'm not off base. I'm not going astray from Christianity by doing this. On the contrary, I'm realizing Christianity. If you're holed up in the church, it's you that isn't fulfilling Christianity."

Father Carlos Bazarra, the author of What is Liberation Theology?, claims that "the Bible has a very strong socialist dimension." Besides being charitable, Jesus cut a subversive figure, inspiring many a socialist through the years. However you slice it, poor people just seem to need religion more.

Liberation Theology, then, met a need among the region's poor. "It awoke in Latin America and Venezuela a tremendous joy and enthusiasm," said Father Trigo. "People were very happy seeing priests coming to their level, having a voice in their church, organizing themselves-that was a wonderful thing for them that gave them great hope."

But, of course, not all Church leaders were so enamored with this new bent on Catholic teaching. At a conference in Puebla, Mexico in 1979, powerful Latin American Bishops lashed out at Liberation Theology. "Bishops saw it as aggressive," according to Father Bazarra. "Liberation theologians weren't allowed in the Assembly, so they had to talk to the bishops in the hallways to try to influence them a bit."

Trigo claims that while Puebla made no mention of Liberation Theology, and while it lost institutional ground it wasn’t eliminated by a long shot. "By this time, there had been a lot of martyrs," said Trigo. "So they said, 'Oh, that's a sign that it's good. The fact that a lot of powerful people have withdrawn their support we take as a sign of faithfulness to Jesus Christ.' That was Puebla."

The Vatican itself tried to distance itself from the whole issue. It is, of more than passing interest to note that then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, today's Pope Benedict XVI, attacked Liberation Theology for mixing Marxist elements with Catholic doctrine.

The election of Pope Benedict XVI was harshly criticized by Brazilian theologian Leonardo Boff and Argentine priest Luis Farinello, both proponents of Liberation Theology. Speaking on Argentina's Radio Mitre, Boff slammed, the German-born former cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, as "a hard man with no compassion". Farinello, a popular priest in poor areas around Buenos Aires and a former candidate for a congressional seat, said "fear has won out" among the cardinals charged with electing a pope.

Despite Vatican big wigs, Liberation Theology, though, is still out there, and not just in Latin America – and not just a practice Catholic priests and nuns.

The discussion of Liberation Theology is not uncommon within the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Botswana for instance, where Bishop-elect Cosmos Moenga delights in telling stories about his experiences in El Salvador where he did research for doctrinal studies. He says he remembers being told there by a young priest, “Here we don’t preach liberation theology; we live it”.

“The ills of today’s society result from its materialistic nature that dictates that to be regarded as a person of some standing you have to drive a Mercedes, Audi or BMW,” Moenga says. “We must correct the ills first. We must provide meaningful employment so that young women can find decent jobs and stop prostituting themselves to men who later kill them in a fit of jealousy.”

And Moenga asks some very specific and timely questions about his own country. Some of these are why Botswana has the “largest airbase in Africa” and why Voice of America broadcasts from here to the rest of the continent. Almost immediately, he provides answers to his own questions.

“We are not only dealing with the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP),” he says, “but with the powers behind the BDP. Botswana is of strategic value. That’s why they can’t set this country free. They have much to lose. Then there are the diamonds, which they get almost for free.”

“They” - of course - are the imperial powers.

Moenga is also highly critical of his country’s constitution and ruling party. He says they promote and institutionalize institutionalizes ethnic inequality. He suggests a constitutional assembly - which would be representative of the country’s different interest groups and demography - to write a new constitution.

“No person is apolitical,” Moenga tells Mmegi. “It is the nature of human beings to be engaged in politics. I believe that the priest has to be in politics on the side of justice and truth,” he says. “In Botswana, there is so much injustice and it is wrong for a pastor to join an oppressive regime. No prophet was ever on the side of an oppressive regime.”

In Moenga’s book, to be neutral in an environment where injustice obtains is to support injustice.

And I can’t argue with that. Sources: Prensa Latina, Religioscope, Mmegi, AFP

Che CDs

I've had several people ask how to get these and the truth be known, I don't know. I've been looking and I'll keep looking. I got the info from some Italian news outlet. It says through Cuban National Radio, but not sure what that means or how to order.

Sunday, June 19, 2005

The Perfect Gift

I know it’s too late for Father’s Day, but here is that perfect gift for someone you love. The voice of Ernesto Rafael Guevara de la Serna, known to most of us simply as Che, can now be heard on a collection of five compact discs. The CDs have been put on sale by national Cuban radio for what would have been Che’s 77th birthday. The first copies were consigned to his widow Aleida March and daughter Aleida Guevara, who live in Cuba. It is reported that, “the CD’s also contain unedited pieces by Cuban and foreign singers, poems of Mario Benedetti, Nicolas Guillen and Thiago de Mello and a direct testimony on the guerrilla in Bolivia of retired General Harry 'Pombo' Villegas”.

These CD’s are most likely not available from…