Friday, January 06, 2006


Well, friends it is one of those Fridays where all you get is a reprint(s) from other sources.

From Tikun Olam Blog:

God, I’ve had it with Pat Robertson. Bless his pointy little head and big mouth. Whenever he opens it there’s sure to be dreck spewing out.

People for the American Way carry the transcript and video of the “performance:”
Pat Robertson spouts bile about Ariel Sharon on 700 Club

…I said last year that Israel was entering into the most dangerous periods of its entire existence as a nation. That is intensifying this year with the loss of Sharon. Sharon was personally a very likable person and I am sad to see him in this condition, but I think we need to look at the Bible and the Book of Joel. The prophet Joel makes it very clear that God has enmity against those who “divide my land.” God considers this land to be His. You read the Bible and He says “this is my land” and for any Prime Minister of Israel who decides he is going to carve it up and give it away, God says “no, this is mine.”

I had a wonderful meeting with Yitzhak Rabin in 1974. He was tragically assassinated, it was a terrible thing that happened but nevertheless he was dead.

And now Ariel Sharon who again was a very likable person, a delightful person to be with, I prayed with him personally, but here he’s at the point of death. He was dividing God’s land and I would say woe unto any Prime Minister of Israel who takes a similar course to appease the EU, the United Nations, or the United States of America. God says “this land belongs to me. You’d better leave it alone.”

I almost hate to indulge in theological dispute with Pat Robertson because his entire mindset is so repellent to me. But in this case, since his statements about Sharon were so odious, I cannot allow him to hijack the Jewish prophetic tradition to bolster his despicable arguments. After looking through Joel, I can see several passages that would be especially attractive to the End of Days-Hate the Heathen type of guy Pat is:

I will pour out My spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and daughters shall prophesy; your elders shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions…And I will perform signs in the heavens and on the earth: Blood, fire, and pillars of smoke. The sun shall turn to darkness, and the moon to blood, prior to the coming of the great and awesome day of the Lord. And it shall come to pass that whoever shall call in the name of the Lord shall be delivered, for on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there shall be a deliverance…

For behold, in those days and in that time when I return the captivity of Judah and Jerusalem, I will gather all the nations and I will take them down to the Valley of Jehoshaphat, and I will contend with them there concerning My people and My heritage, Israel, which they scattered among the nations, and My land they divided. And upon My people they cast lots, and they gave a boy for a harlot, and a girl they sold for wine, and they drank. And also, what are you to Me, Tyre and Sidon and all the regions of Philistia? Are you paying Me recompense? And if you are recompensing Me, I will swiftly return your recompense upon your head…And the children of Judah and the children of Jerusalem you have sold to the children of the Jevanim, in order to distance them from their border. Behold I arouse them from the place where you sold them, and I will return your recompense upon your head…Announce this among the nations, prepare war, arouse the mighty men; all the men of war shall approach and ascend. Beat your plowshares into swords and your pruning hooks into spears; the weak one shall say, “I am mighty.” Gather and come, all you nations from around, and they shall gather; there the Lord shall break your mighty men. The nations shall be aroused and shall go up to the Valley of Jehoshaphat, for there I will sit to judge all the nations from around.–Book of Joel, chapters 3-4

We can discuss the actual historical context of the events described here, but that doesn’t interest Pat. He’s not interested in understanding the meaning or context of the Biblical text. He’s merely interested in projecting his own twisted theological/political worldview upon it.

The Book of Joel speaks of great tragedies inflicted upon the land of Israel and its people by its enemies. It exhorts the Israelites to return to their God and repent their sins so those who’ve sold their children into slavery will get their due in misery.

The vision of the nations gathering in the valley of Jehosephat (literally “God judges”) is a classic text in the Christian messianic tradition. Further, the passage I italicized (in bold here) might be read by Robertson as alluding to the Arabs (and certainly the Palestinians) who caused suffering to Israel in the course of numerous wars against the Jewish state; which would of course further his bigoted anti-Muslim agenda. And Pat certainly loves the martial imagery of the Israelites beating their plowshares into spears. He must really love it when he sees the IDF attack Palestinians. It must fulfill his prophetic vision of Israel at perpetual war with its enemies. But “you know who” will of course come along in Pat’s prophetic dream, judging all the nasties in the valley of Jehosephat and thereby put an end to all that. And then there won’t be any Jews or Muslims. We’ll all be subsumed under the one great all-encompassing (or should I say “overwhelming”) religion, Christianity.

Well, excuse me if I say “hold on a minute.”

And of course the passage has nothing to do with the current political situation in Israel-Palestine. While Joel DOES say that the land belongs to God, nowhere does the text say anything remotely like “You better leave it alone.” While Joel DOES say that God will punish those who “divide My land,” He means to punish foreign nations which conquered Israel and NOT an Israeli political leader chosen by his compatriots as Ariel Sharon was. These are Robertson’s falsifications of the text in order to mold it in his own pro-settlement image. Robertson’s fake foray into prophetic channeling bespeaks the dangers of abusing sacred text for one’s own fraudulent purposes. Robertson’s interpretations are absolutely treif (’unkosher’ or ‘forbidden’). They offend me as a Jew who cares about my own religious traditions and their interpretation by others.

Robertson’s press spokesperson further stuck her foot in it in trying to defend his lunacy:

Robertson spokeswoman Angell Watts said of people who criticized the comments: “What they’re basically saying is, ‘How dare Pat Robertson quote the Bible?’”

“This is what the word of God says,” Watts told the AP. “This is nothing new to the Christian community.”

First, Pat didn’t quote the Bible. He merely paraphrased it and badly at that.

Second, he may be faithfully rendering a Christian messianic interpretation of the text. But it is no interpretation that I or the vast majority of Jews would recognize or accept. Third, while his fantastical view of the text may not be new to “the Christian community” (read “evangelicals” as Pat does NOT represent “the Christian community”) it would be new to many of the rest of us (and there are a few in the world who have not yet “seen the light” and “come over” to the Lord).

Be ready for another Pat Robertson “day after” apology along the lines of what he was forced to do after advocating the assassination of Hugo Chavez. Abe Foxman, after denouncing Robertson, will probably make nice and let bygones be bygones. Me, I don’t have to be so nice. Robertson is a spook, a really bad dude. Bad for Jews, bad for Christians, hell, he’s even bad for evangelicals since he makes them look like such loons. Why his fellow preachers don’t ride him out of town on a rail I don’t know.

In short, Ariel Sharon suffered his stroke for many reasons (age, weight, stress level) but not one of them had anything to do with “Dr.” Robertson’s diagnosis. Israeli politics will go on and the peace process (truncated as it has been under Sharon) will continue. Either Ehud Olmert or Amir Peretz will win the upcoming elections and lead Israel that much closer to a lasting peace. Or Bibi Netanyahu will win and take Israel in the other direction. But even if that dreadful outcome occurs, Netanyahu will eventually go the way of the dodo bird and resign as PM. Then the peace process will resume as it has to because the reality of the Middle East doesn’t allow for wild-eyed prophecies of the type spouted by Rev. Pat. Israel and Palestine have both lost enough blood spilled by their sons and daughters. They need no outsiders to egg them on to further futile violence.

“Will no one rid us of this meddlesome priest?” Pat begone. You’ve already done enough damage. Every time you open your mouth you only do more. Can’t someone shut this guy up?

And since we’re quoting prophetic wisdom here, let’s conclude with a latter-day prophet, Bob Dylan, and his Masters of War:

And I hope that you die
And your death’ll come soon
I will follow your casket
In the pale afternoon
And I’ll watch while you’re lowered
Down to your deathbed
And I’ll stand o’er your grave
‘Til I’m sure that you’re dead

Lord help me I know it’s harsh. But I feel we’ve all been long-suffering from the odious spew of this guy long enough. So maybe I don’t wish his death. But what about the Lord sending Pat a bolt of lightning which would shut him up for the rest of his days. Would that be asking too much, Lord?

From Media Matters:

On the January 5 edition of Christian Broadcasting Network's (CBN) The 700 Club, host Pat Robertson suggested that Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's recent stroke was the result of Sharon's policy, which he claimed is "dividing God's land." Robertson admonished: "I would say woe unto any prime minister of Israel who takes a similar course to appease the EU [European Union], the United Nations, or United States of America." Although Robertson professed that "Sharon was personally a very likeable person," he nonetheless declared that "God has enmity against those who, quote, 'divide my land.' " Robertson called the 1995 assassination of former Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin "the same thing." A previous CBN news article, titled "Dividing the Land, Dishonoring God's Covenant," examined Sharon's decision to return control of the Gaza strip to the Palestinian Authority.

Robertson's comment was first reported by JTA, an international news service that covers "issues of concern to the Jewish people," and Joshua Micah Marshall's Talking Points Memo weblog, which links to the JTA website.

From the January 5 edition of CBN's The 700 Club:

ROBERTSON: I have said last year that Israel was entering into the most dangerous period of its entire existence as a nation. That is intensifying this year with the loss of Sharon. Sharon was personally a very likeable person. I am sad to see him in this condition. But I think we need to look at the Bible and the Book of Joel. The prophet Joel makes it very clear that God has enmity against those who, quote, "divide my land." God considers this land to be his. You read the Bible, he says, "This is my land." And for any prime minister of Israel who decides he going carve it up and give it away, God says, "No. This is mine." And the same thing -- I had a wonderful meeting with Yitzhak Rabin in 1974. He was tragically assassinated, and it was terrible thing that happened, but nevertheless, he was dead. And now Ariel Sharon, who was again a very likeable person, a delightful person to be with. I prayed with him personally. But here he is at the point of death. He was dividing God's land, and I would say woe unto any prime minister of Israel who takes a similar course to appease the EU, the United Nations or United States of America. God said, "This land belongs to me, you better leave it alone."

From CBS:
Rage Over Robertson's Wrath Remark
NORFOLK, Va., Jan. 5, 2006

(CBS/AP) Televangelist Pat Robertson is under fire for some stinging remarks about Ariel Sharon. On his TV show, Robertson suggested Sharon's stroke was God's way of punishing him for Israel's new policy of withdrawing from the West Bank and Gaza.

Religious leaders denounced the remarks as "un-Christian."

Speaking Thursday on his TV program "The 700 Club," Robertson said, "God considers this land to be his. You read the Bible and he says 'This is my land,' and for any prime minister of Israel who decides he is going to carve it up and give it away, God says, 'No, this is mine.'"

Sharon, who ordered Israel's withdrawal from Gaza last year, suffered a severe stroke on Wednesday.

In his broadcast, Robertson called Sharon "a very tender-hearted man and a good friend" and said he had personally prayed with him about a year ago. He said he was sad to see Sharon in this condition.

He also said, however, that in the Bible, the prophet Joel "makes it very clear that God has enmity against those who 'divide my land."'

Sharon "was dividing God's land and I would say woe unto any prime minister of Israel who takes a similar course to appease the EU (European Union), the United Nations, or the United States of America," Robertson said.

In discussing what he said was God's insistence that Israel not be divided, Robertson also referred to the 1995 assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, who had sought to achieve peace by giving land to the Palestinians. "It was a terrible thing that happened, but nevertheless he was dead," he said.

Anti-Defamation League director Abraham H. Foxman called Robertson's remarks "un-Christian and a perversion of religion" and urged Christian leaders to "distance themselves" from the televangelist.

People For the American Way Foundation, which monitors "The 700 Club," also criticized Robertson's comments, calling them "an implicit reference to recent steps the prime minister has taken to advance the Israeli-Palestinian peace process."

"Once again, Pat Robertson leaves us speechless with his insensitivity and arrogance," the group's president, Ralph G. Neas, said in a statement.

The Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, said a religious leader "should not be making callous political points while a man is struggling for his life."

"Pat Robertson has a political agenda for the entire world, and he seems to think God is ready to take out any world leader who stands in the way of that agenda," Lynn said in a statement.

But Robertson spokeswoman Angell Watts refused to back down, saying of critics who challenged his remarks, "What they're basically saying is, `How dare Pat Robertson quote the Bible?"'

"This is what the word of God says," Watts said. "This is nothing new to the Christian community."

It's not the first time Robertson's remarks have stirred controversy. In August, he suggested on "The 700 Club" that American agents should assassinate Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, who has long been at odds with U.S. foreign policy. Robertson later apologized, saying he "spoke in frustration."

And in November, he warned residents of a rural Pennsylvania town that disaster may strike there because they voted to oust school board members who favored teaching intelligent design.

"If there is a disaster in your area, don't turn to God," he told residents of Dover, Pa. "You just rejected him from your city."

Thursday, January 05, 2006


Police in Bangladesh have killed two persons who were protesting frequent power outages in the northwestern part of the country.

Some 50 people also were injured in the violence late Wednesday in the rural town of Kanshat in Chapainawabganj district, about 230 kilometers northwest of the capital Dhaka, said the area’s police chief Shamsul Alam Khan.

Police claim they opened fire when about 3,000 people attacked a state-run electricity office, threw stones at police and vandalized residential apartments of the power officials.

The protesters rallied outside the electricity office complaining that frequent power outages were hampering irrigation and small industries that depend on electricity.

Following the shooting, Paramilitary troopers of Bangladesh Rifles and police were deployed in the village fearing fresh violence.

Only 35 percent of Bangladesh’s 140 million people have access to electricity, according to the World Bank. Sources: Khaleej Times, Evening Echo, New Kerala


From CRI

Urbano Lazzaro, a resistance fighter credited with arresting fascist leader Benito Mussolini at the end of World War II, has died at age 81, officials said Wednesday.

Lazzaro died Tuesday after being hospitalized in Vercelli, a town between Milan and Turin, officials at St. Andrea hospital said, refusing to be identified further because they were not authorized to give the information.

Lazzaro, known to his comrades as "Partisan Bill," fought with a resistance group in northern Italy and is known as the man who captured Mussolini in the dying days of the war, Italy's National Partisan Association said.

In April 1945, with Nazi forces in full retreat and Italians rising up against the fascist puppet state of Salo, Mussolini fled north in a German convoy.

Lazzaro was among a group of resistance fighters who stopped the retreating convoy near Dongo, on the shores of Lake Como. On the lookout for fleeing fascists, the partisans searched the trucks and Lazzaro recognized "Il Duce" disguised as a German soldier.

Mussolini and his mistress, Claretta Petacci, were executed after a summary trial, although the details of the ruler's demise are often a matter of debate in Italy.

Lazzaro eventually wrote books on those final hours, challenging the official story by claiming that Mussolini was killed by mistake during an escape attempt, news reports have said.

After the war, Lazzaro married and had three daughters who survive him, the ANSA news agency said. He divided his time between San Germano, near Vercelli, and Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

A funeral will be held Thursday in San Germano, ANSA said.


The people of China have figured it out.

Now if only government and business leaders could.

According to a study released by the China Environmental Culture Promotion Association 79.4% of Chinese surveyed approved of putting environmental protection ahead of economic growth.

Carried out like a Gallup poll, the survey covered 3,777 people in the 18-64 age bracket in eight cities, five towns and seven villages. All have lived in local areas for more than two years.

"The survey shows the public feel the urgency of environmental problems. That's a very encouraging development," an official with the association told Xinhua.

The respondents rank air pollution caused by industrial pollution as their top environmental concern, followed by garbage treatment and sewage treatment.

The public recommends two approaches to addressing environmental problems according to the survey: rigid law enforcement and more vigorous publicity efforts.

The Chinese people have expressed themselves in ways other then a simple survey.

There have been protests and violent uprisings.

In one recent incident, villagers in Zhejiang province grew so exasperated by contamination from nearby chemical plants that they overturned and smashed dozens of vehicles and beat up police officers who arrived to quell what was essentially an environmental riot. "We had to do it. We can't grow our vegetables here anymore," said Li Sanye, a 60-year-old farmer. "Young women are giving birth to stillborn babies."

A snap shot look at China’s environmental problems tells a lot.

--BAD AIR: China is the world's second-largest producer of greenhouse gases, after the United States. Two-thirds of its cities have poor-quality air, often due to coal dust from power plants. Auto exhaust is also a factor, and it will get worse: China expects to have 140 million automobiles plying its roads by 2020, seven times more than it has today.

--BAD WATER: More than 30,000 children die each year in China from diarrhea that's due to contaminated water. Of China's seven biggest rivers, only the Pearl and the Yangtze are rated good in terms of water quality; the others are rated poor or dangerous. Forty percent of the raw sewage in the boom industrial city of Shenzhen, which has 10 million people, is flushed directly into city waterways.

According to the Environmental News Service (ENN), “Across China, entire rivers run foul or have dried up altogether. Nearly a third of cities don't treat their sewage, flushing it into waterways. Some 300 million of China's 1.3 billion people drink water that is too contaminated to be consumed safely. In rural China, sooty air depresses crop yields, and desert quickly encroaches on grasslands to the west. Filth and grime cover all but a few corners of the country.”

Pan Yue, a vice minister of the State Environmental Protection Administration told Der Spiegel not long ago, "Acid rain is falling on one-third of the Chinese territory (and) half the water in our seven largest rivers is completely useless," Pan went on. "One-third of the urban population is breathing polluted air. ... Finally, five of the 10 most polluted cities worldwide are in China."

Recognizing that there is a problem (and that the problem can lead to unrest) the central government has begun to talk about environmental protection and has taken some action. It's enacting fuel-efficiency requirements for cars and shutting down mammoth dam-building and other projects.

President Hu Jintao has urged local officials to seek sustainable "green" development. But he's offered no acknowledgment that environmental constraints may hinder his goal of expanding China's economy fourfold by 2020.

By some accounts, on paper China now has world-class laws on environmental protection.

However, those laws don’t mean much when provincial and local officials, feeling the pressure for economic growth, shield polluters and ignore environmental laws.

"The policies from the top are not carried out at the bottom," charged Niu Yuchang, a peasant organizer in Beijing who hears many environmental complaints. "The (local) officials care only about development. They don't care about water or air pollution."

Most of China's cities have a local environmental-protection bureau, but powerful city officials sometimes bully the civil servants who run them.

"It is so embarrassing that some of them even have to write anonymous letters to us to denounce local environmental problems," said Wang Jirong, the vice minister of the State Environmental Protection Administration (SEPA), a national watchdog that some consider toothless.

In fact, SEPA lacks both funds to carry out its own programs and administrative power to enforce its regulations. In the absence of adequate funding, it is forced to rely on foreign donations and foreign investments for many of its programs. Even its main environmental outreach and educational offices are located in the Sino-Japanese Friendship Centre for Environmental Protection, a building donated to SEPA by the Japanese government.

And it isn't easy to be an environmentalist in China. The grassroots environmental movement is still hampered by restrictive laws and government surveillance of organizing activities, especially at the provincial level.

The environmental movement in China received a setback in late October of 2005 with the arrest of Hangzhou activist Tan Kai, founder of the monitoring group Green Watch. Kai and five other members of the group were brought in for questioning after opening a bank account for the not-yet-registered organization, according to the New York-based organization Human Rights in China.

On November 11, 2005 Hongzhou City Administration of Civil Affairs published a notice banning the organization.

Tai was eventually charged with "Disclosing State Secrets." But only recently, did his family receive official notification of his arrest. The family and many supporters say the charges are a sham.

Because the case involves "state secrets," his father Tan Xiaolong had to request permission from the Hangzhou Municipal Public Security Bureau for legal representation for his son. The request was denied. In response to the rejection, Tan Xiaolong has applied for a review of the decision from the Bureau. At present, he and the attorneys are still not allowed to visit Tan Kai.

The Epoch Times reports that after the disastrous Songari River pollution incident, caused by the explosion of a chemical processing plant in Jilin Province in November, members of the organization wrote a letter to the National People's Congress requesting acknowledgement of the organization, and the release of its founder Tan Kai.

On November 15, "Green Watch" and several of its members received two documents from the government: "Decision Banning Illegal Non-Government Organization - Hongzhou City Government Administration Civil Affairs Office" and a "Notice of Fine." Ren Weiren and Gao Haibing refused to acknowledge the fine or to sign the document.

"Green Watch" was founded by six Zhejiang residents, including Tan Kai and Lai Jin Biao, after a water pollution “incident” occurred in Huashui Town, Dongyang City, Zhejiang Province. Sources: Epoch Times, World Watch Institute, Xinhua, ENN

Wednesday, January 04, 2006


Once again President Bush comes on television and asks us to pray for those lost in the Sago Mine in West Virginia, to pray for their families, etc. ad. nausium.

Nice thought from a man who has done nothing but fight regulations concerning mine safety, who guts the agency which is supposed to protect miners, who appoints mine company cronies to key posts in Mine Safety and Health Administration.

What has happened in West Virginia should not be a surprise to a nation which votes for people who push deregulation of industries everywhere.

Soon the news will drift away and as with everything else, the deaths of these men will be history. America will go about its business.

Bush will smile his awful smile…and the people will forget.

Anyway, below are some comments of interest:

From Confined Space (News and Commentary on Workplace Health & Safety, Labor and Politics)
Behind the Mine Disaster

First, in case you're not keeping up with the news, the situation looks increasingly desperate for the 13 miners trapped underground by yesterday's explosion. Air samples from a hole drilled into the main show carbon monoxide levels more than three times the maximum acceptable level for breathing indicating that there was (or still is) a fire burning. Unless the miners managed to barricade themselves in an areas with fresh air, experts are increasingly pessimistic about their chances of survival.

According to the Mine Safety and Health Administration, the Sago Mine had been cited over 200 times in the past year. Because the Mine Safety and Health Act require every mine to be inspected four times a year, numerous citations are not uncommon. The troubling thing is that both citations and injuries have gone up significantly since last year. The mine's injury rate is three times the industry average and it has been plagued by a dozen roof falls in the last half of last year.

Although there were plenty of injuries, to a certain extent the miners' luck held out -- until yesterday:

Government documents also show a high rate of injuries and accidents at Sago. Although no miners were reported killed at the mine since at least 1995, 42 workers and contractors were injured in accidents since 2000, records show. The average number of working days lost because of accidents in the past five years was nearly double the national average for underground coal mines, MSHA documents show.
Some serious accidents caused no injuries. For example, in the past year, large sections of the mine's rocky roof collapsed on at least 20 occasions -- but not when workers were in the affected tunnels. Some of the collapsed sections were rocky slabs of up to 100 feet long. The most recent roof collapse occurred on Dec. 5, less than a month before Monday's explosion.

Former Mine Safety and Health Administrator Davitt McAteer observed that:

"When the numbers are going in the wrong direction, management has not been doing its job. It's not the worst mine record, but when you've got three times the national accident rate, something is wrong."

Meanwhile, in the spirit of taking full responsibility, International Coal Group Inc., which owns the Sago mine, is blaming the explosion on an act of God:

"It's a horrible freak accident," [International Coal Group Chairman Wilbur] Ross said in an interview yesterday. "Apparently a lightning bolt struck the mine."

Yeah, and apparently there are monkeys flying out of your ass. Experts are quite skeptical about the lightning theory. McAteer thinks that while it is possible that lightning may have ignited the explosion, he isn't aware of any other such instances. There are several other causes that are more likely. First, even if lightning did strike the mine and somehow find its way underground, the lightning would only be the ignition source. An explosion also needs fuel. There are two likely fuel sources in mines: methane gas and coal dust. The Sago mine reportedly had low levels of methane, although a rise in the barometric pressure can cause methane to be liberated faster. For this reason, MSHA has a system of winter alerts.

Coal dust is a more likely problem. A small explosion that kicks up a cloud of coal dust can generate a much larger secondary explosion. The mine was cited by MSHA 21 times last year for an "accumulation of combustible materials." Dry winter air also makes coal dust explosions more likely.

Finally, McAteer notes that the mine had just been started up after being shut down for the holidays. Startups after idle periods are problems.

Meanwhile, back here in the nation's capital, the President Bush announced that the miners are in his prayers.

May God bless those who are trapped below the earth and may God bless those who are concerned about those trapped below the earth.
Well, that just about covers everyone.

The explosion even headlined Presidential Press Spokesman Scott McClellan's daily press briefing:

Good afternoon everyone, and welcome back; Happy New Year. I want to begin with just an update on the situation in Upshur County, West Virginia, and the coal miners who have been trapped there.

The President continues to be kept informed about the situation. He was briefed this morning. He has reached out to the governor, as well. We are praying and hoping for the best. The miners and their families are in our thoughts and prayers. The federal government is actively helping in the rescue.

OK, that's all well and fine. I'm happy that the President is so concerned and I look forward to a significant increase in MSHA's budget. But the President and Scotty should also be aware that in addition to this extremely tragic event involving the lives of these 13 men and those who love them, 15 workers die in workplace accidents every day in this country. Take a look at the last Weekly Toll that lists only 75 of the approximate 200 workplace deaths over the past two weeks. Why are these souls any different or less worthy of the President's prayers than the 12 West Virginia miners?

One reason: Most of the these workers died one at a time, hardly even noticed by their local newspapers, much less the President of the United States. Nevertheless, they should be no less deserving of the nation's attention, resources or commitment.

The fact is that President Bush has not requested budgets for OSHA or MSHA that even keep up with the rate of inflation and mandatory pay increases over the past several years while penalties for OSHA or MSHA violations remain laughably low. The highest penalty of the more than 200 citations received last year by the Sago mine was $878. But that was the exception. Most of the others were $250 or $60. At that rate, it's hardly a good business decision to even bother fixing anything. And the administration has shut down any new worker protection standards in OSHA and MSHA.

It's not hard to imagine why this state of affairs exists in an administration dominated by energy interests. As James Ridgeway points out in the Village Voice, out of $2.3 million in coal company contributions to federal candidates during the 2004 election cycle, 90 percent went to Republican candidates, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

So, Mr. President, until you can put some real money down on the table, and appoint some people who aren't afraid to rock the boat to protect workers' lives, save me your crocodile tears. These miners and millions of other workers who go to work every morning fearing they may not come home alive at night are literally putting their lives on the line to support their families.

They deserve better.

From Think Progress Blog
Administration Neglected Coal Mining Safety

Bloomberg reveals:

Federal authorities issued 21 citations last year for a build-up of combustible materials at the West Virginia mine where 12 men died, according to U.S. Labor Department statistics.

The mining explosion should call attention to the Bush administration’s inadequate enforcement of federal mining safety regulations. Mining safety in the U.S. has improved dramatically since the Mining Safety and Health Act was signed in 1977. By the time that President Clinton signed the International Labor Organization’s Convention 176 concerning safety and health in mines, mining deaths dropped from 425 in 1970 to 85 in 2000.

Phil Smith, the communications director for the United Mine Workers of America, said that while citations were issued, the fines assessed for safety violations are too small to force large corporations to make improvements. “The problem with the current laws is enforcement.” According to an AFL-CIO analysis, the Bush administration cut 170 positions from federal Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) and has not proposed a single new mine-safety standard or rule during its tenure.

And there’s a reason for that. The Washington Post reported that West Virginia coal firms raised $275,000 for Bush.

Last September, Bush rewarded the coal industry by placing coal industry veteran Richard Stickler in charge of MSHA. Stickler spent about 30 years as a coal company manager with Beth Energy. Mines managed by Stickler were marked by worker injury rates that were double the national average, according to government data cited by the United Mine Workers union.

From World Socialist Website
Twelve of 13 miners found dead after false rescue report
By Jerry Isaacs

State officials in West Virginia have confirmed that 12 miners were killed in the massive explosion that ripped through the Sago Mine on Monday morning.

The horrifying news came only hours after the miners’ families had been told, and CNN prominently reported, that all but one of the miners had been found alive and were being pulled up to safety.

Jubilation erupted in the mining community when the initial rescue report came through. CNN broadcast scenes of what it claimed to be ambulance vehicles ferrying survivors to local hospitals for treatment.

However, within three hours the families were told that 12 miners were dead, and that the one survivor had sustained serious injuries.

Ben Hatfield, president of the International Coal Group, stated: “The initial report from the rescue team to the command center indicated multiple survivors. That information spread like wildfire, because it had come from the command center. It quickly got out of control.”

The false reports of survival served only to intensify the anguish felt by the families when the later reports of the miners’ deaths emerged.

The disaster began with an explosion early Monday morning, as the first shift of miners entered the mine, which had been closed Sunday for the New Year holiday.

President Bush issued a perfunctory statement on Tuesday, saying the nation was praying for the men and pledging federal help in the effort to bring them out alive. “May God bless those who are trapped below the earth,” he said.

The hypocrisy of Bush’s remarks is highlighted by the role of his administration in gutting mine safety inspections and promoting the downsizing, deregulation and unlimited profiteering that have contributed to this tragedy.

A number of those in the grim vigil outside the Sago Mine have remarked bitterly over the fact that workers in the impoverished Appalachian coal fields are forced to risk life and limb every day simply to earn enough to support their families.

There have been 149 fatalities in mine accidents nationwide and 38 in West Virginia in the last five years, including 27 miners who died in underground accidents in West Virginia. Despite the dangerous conditions, economic desperation continues to drive workers into the occupation.

Samantha Lewis, whose 28-year-old husband, David, is among those trapped, said he worked the mines so he could be home every night to take care of their three daughters while she worked on a master’s degree in health-care administration. “This was a good way to make a living until we could find something else,” Lewis said. “It’s just a way of life. Unless you’re a coal miner or you have a college degree, you don’t make any money.”

Mac Davis, a former miner who awaited word of a loved one trapped in the mine, said one reason he quit mining was the relaxed attitude toward safety in many mines, especially in the recent coal boom. “If they don’t do something, there’s going to be a lot more accidents like this,” he told the Charleston Gazette.

Daniel Meredith, the son-in-law of one of the trapped miners, said the 61-year-old miner planned to retire this year. “Every day he would come home and pray for who was going in,” said Meredith, who stood outside the mining complex.

More than four decades after Michael Harrington highlighted the desperate conditions in Appalachia in his work, The Other America, West Virginia continues to be one of the most impoverished states in America. The state has the lowest median income in the US and the sixth highest percentage of poverty (17 percent). In Upshur County, where the Sago Mine is located, more than 20 percent of the population lives below the US government’s official poverty level.

Far from being an exception to the rule, the Sago Mine and its ownership epitomize the type of operation that has come to dominate the coal fields. The mine, located near Buckhannon, West Virginia has a recent history of roof falls and serious safety violations, according to the US Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA), and an injury rate three times that of similar-sized underground mines across the country.
In the last year alone, the mine’s owner, International Coal Group (ICG), was issued 205 citations, including 46 during the most recent inspection of the Sago Mine from early October to late December 2005. According to the Washington Post, inspectors listed 96 citations as “serious and substantial,” i.e., those MSHA believes could cause an accident serious enough to injure or kill a miner. These included violations of approved roof control and mine ventilation plans intended to prevent the buildup of explosive methane gas.

The Post noted in an editorial that the mine was forced to suspend operations 16 times in 2005 after failing to comply with safety rules.

The number of citations increased sharply after ICG took over the mine from the bankrupt Anker Energy and reopened it in 2004. ICG is owned by billionaire New York financier Wilbur Ross, who has invested $4.5 billion during the last five years to buy up—in many cases at bargain basement prices—steel, textile, coal, automotive, rail and financial companies in the US, UK, France, China, Germany, Japan and Korea.

Ross, who is rated 278th on Forbes magazine’s list of the 400 richest Americans, specializes in acquiring steel mills and mines held by bankrupt companies and making them profitable by wiping out jobs, dumping pension obligations and renegotiating labor contracts to drive up productivity and cut labor costs. Fortune magazine recently called Ross, “The Bankruptcy King,” while BusinessWeek said Ross supervised a “growing empire of the damned.”

Many of ICG’s top executives, including CEO Bennett Hatfield, gained their experience at Massey Energy Company, which became the fourth largest coal company in America by spearheading the ruthless union-busting campaigns of the 1980s against the miners’ union. Massey was also a generous election contributor to Bush, who has, in turn, championed coal production and the deregulation of the mining industry.

Ross is only one player among dozens of speculators and asset strippers active in the wave of acquisitions and mergers sweeping the coal industry. In order to avoid the high cost of developing unproven mines and cash in on rising coal prices, these operators are increasing their share of the market by buying out smaller companies and destroying the hard won gains of coal miners. Inevitably, safety is sacrificed.

In their efforts to defend the mine’s safety record, company officials unintentionally acknowledged the fact that safety standards have declined throughout the industry. Gene Kitts, ICG vice president of mining services, said, “The mine has some history of roof conditions, roof falls and such, but it’s not unlike most other mines.”

If coal mining fatalities have fallen in recent years it is not primarily because of qualitative improvements in safety, but because the number of working miners has plunged to historic lows. West Virginia, the second largest coal producing state in the US, once had 120,000 mining jobs. It now has 15,000.

For more than a century, West Virginia was identified with the militant struggles of the miners. The fight against unsafe conditions, such as Black Lung Disease, was central to these struggles. After the 1968 explosion and death of 78 miners at Consolidated Coal’s Farmington, West Virginia mine (just 50 miles from the site of the Sago Mine) a decade of a powerful rank-and-file struggles erupted against the coal bosses and the pro-company Tony Boyle leadership of the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA). This culminated in the miners’ defiance of the President Jimmy Carter’s strike-breaking Taft-Hartley injunction during the national strike of 1977-78.

Over the last quarter of century, however, the UMWA has betrayed one strike after another, from the 1984-85 AT Massey strike to the 1989-90 Pittston strike, and pursued a policy of labor-management collaboration that has led to the destruction of tens of thousands of jobs and a historic reversal in the position of miners and their families.

During the 1974 national coal strike, there were 120,000 active UMWA coal miners. Today there are no more than 30,000-40,000, although the UMWA refuses to release official figures.

A measure of its indifference towards the miners is the failure of the UMWA even to post a statement on its web site about the Sago mine disaster, and union spokesmen failed to return calls from the World Socialist Web Site.

For its part, the Bush administration has gutted safety and health conditions in the mines. As it has in other regulatory agencies, the White House has stacked the Mine Safety and Health Administration with representatives of corporate interests, reduced funds and manpower to enforce regulations, and scrapped critical safety and health regulations.

Bush named former Massey Energy official Stanley Suboleski to the MSHA review commission that decides all legal matters under the federal Mine Act. The current MSHA chief is Richard Sickler, a former manager of Beth Energy mines.

Last month, a federal law judge threw out all eight MSHA citations against Jim Walters Resources that were the result of an investigation into the 2001 explosions at the company’s Alabama mine, where 13 miners were killed. The judge, who said MSHA failed to prove its allegations, reduced the fines for the miners’ deaths to $3,000. In the eyes of the court, the life of a miner was worth no more than $230!

Bush’s policies are not unique—rather they are the culmination of policies that have been carried out by both big business parties, at the national as well as the state level. The Democrats, who have controlled the governor’s office in the state capital of Charleston for 21 of the last 25 years, have overseen the destruction of working conditions and living standards in the state, while pandering to the same corporate interests as the Republicans.

From the Village Voice
Mine Safety a Matter of Politics
Lax enforcement from Washington is no accident
by James Ridgeway

WASHINGTON, D.C.—The Upshur County coal mine where 13 miners were trapped, just outside Tallmansville, West Virginia, has had a rash of safety problems. The Charleston (West Virginia) Gazette reports the Sago Mine had a "history of roof falls and serious safety violations."

Sago management claims the explosion underground resulted from a lightning strike, but there is skepticism about whether lighting could have followed a circuitous path into the mine. Five of the 13 trapped workers are 50 years of age or older, and one of them is 61.

Skepticism about the lightning explanation grew after company officials admitted they had called federal and state mine-safety personnel before calling 911.
These accidents and violations recorded in government records took place at a time when the coal industry was ramping up to handle the energy crisis, and when critics claim health and safety standards have been downgraded.

The Upshur dig is nonunion. In 2004, the Sago Mine reported an injury rate three times that of similar-sized small mines nationwide, the Gazette said. Last year, the Anker West Virginia Mining Co., which then was running the mine, paid $24,000 for 200 alleged violations. In the last six months of 2005, the Sago Mine reported a dozen accidental roof falls, according to the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration. Three of those accidents occurred after International Coal Group finished buying the mine and ramped up production.

Janet Keating, co-director of the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition, based in West Virginia, said in an interview, "Partly the problem is that the current administration is pro-coal and pro-energy. It gets so much funding from campaign contributions from these industries."

Out of $2.3 million in contributions to federal candidates during the 2004 election cycle, coal companies put up $2.3 million with 90 percent going to Republican candidates, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

So, Keating said, politicians toe the coal industry line, claiming on the one hand that coal production is one of the most regulated industries in the country, while on the other making it impossible for regulators to enforce those regulations. "Doesn't matter if it's surface or underground," she said. "Federal and state agencies do not have enough funding. Mandates come down from the top."

Asked about the lightning theory by the Daily Mail, Davitt McAteer, top mine safety official in the Clinton administration, said, "It's possible. I can remember 10 instances of having seals blown out because of heavy thunderstorms through southern Alabama," he said. "I have read and known about lightning hitting a radio antenna or something and jumping to a metal pipe and it goes down and looks for an exit and can't find one and then it knocks out seals."

He added, "I have not known of one to cause the type of explosion we're talking about here."

Tuesday, January 03, 2006


Today, hospitals in the United States are short almost 150,000 nurses. If more people don't enter the nursing profession, the nation may be short as many as 600,000 RNs just in time for the baby boomers to hit their 70s and 80s.

And this is ill news for those who are in my generation. For let’s face it, without nurses there is no healthcare system. Without nurses, there is no healthcare.

The contemporary nursing shortage, writes Suzanne Gordon, is influenced not only by poor hospital pay and working conditions. It's also a result of traditional stereotypes of the profession. Which is where Hollywood comes in.

Gordon is the author of “Nursing Against the Odds: How Health Care Cost Cutting, Media Stereotypes, and Medical Hubris Undermine Nurses and Patient Care” and a slew of other books about nurses and nursing care.

Gordon writes in the Mercury News that America's 2 million nurses rarely, if ever, make it into the picture in a way that does justice to the life-saving role they play in real-life hospitals. To make matters worse, when RN characters do appear, they are routinely portrayed as mere handmaidens of physicians -- and often ones lacking in self-confidence, competence or professionalism.

A typical example being ``Nurse Betty'' -- the dunce played by Renée Zellweger, who wants to be a nurse so she can fulfill her soap opera fantasy of finding a doctor husband. Or the Ben Stiller character -- a male nurse who's the butt of a series of jokes -- in ``Meet the Parents.''

The more sympathetic characters, RNs with any gumption are invariably portrayed as those who want to become doctors themselves. In ``Living Out Loud,'' for example, a home-care nurse played by Holly Hunter recovers from a shattering divorce (from a physician husband) by going to medical school. Similarly, on ``ER,'' a strong nurse characters ends up becoming a doctor.

Perhaps the worst offender when it comes to nursing is, however, ``Grey's Anatomy.'' While it's been applauded for showcasing racial and gender diversity among surgeons in a fictional Seattle teaching hospital, it seems to be not only colorblind but blind to the way it explicitly denigrates nurses.

And unfortunately numerous surveys show that Americans believe what they see in these movies and on these shows. As a 2002 study by the Kaiser Family Foundation documented, when it comes to health care, a lot of TV viewers tend to confuse fact and fiction.

With this sort of thing in mind, The Center for Nursing Advocacy and the American Journal of Nursing have announced this year's annual list of the best and worst media portrayals of nurses. Media recognized by the "Golden Lamp Awards" include such well-known television hits as ABC's "Grey's Anatomy, (mentioned above)" which was singled out for especially poor performance.

The Golden Lamp Awards highlight media portrayals from around the world that the Center believes deserve attention, for better or worse.

"Most of the best depictions of nursing appeared in the print press," said Center Executive Director Sandy Summers, who cited work by journalist Suzanne Gordon and the Boston Globe as exceptional. Summers also praised the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services for changing the name of its annual minority health campaign from "Take a Loved One to the Doctor Day" to "Take a Loved One for a Check-Up Day" in order not to exclude nurses.

Many of the worst depictions were on television. NBC's "ER," which showed some improvement overall, appeared on both the best and worst lists. But ABC's "Grey's Anatomy" and Fox's "House" ranked low all year. According to Summers, "these shows portrayed nurses as mute servants, while heroic physicians provided all important care -- much of which nurses do in real life. Worse yet, the physician characters made vicious anti-nurse slurs that were never rebutted." Summers said that "Grey's Anatomy" had positive physician characters indignantly deliver lines like "Did you just call me a nurse?" and "You're the pig who called Meredith a nurse...I hate you on principle." Summers also noted that the physician characters on "House" consider nurses to be unskilled "nurse-maids" who are good for handling stool and patients who have fallen down. In one scene, she said, the lead physician summoned nurses for the latter task by calling out, "clean-up on aisle three!"

Summers noted that some of the best accounts of nursing were created by nurses themselves, or by journalists who consulted nursing experts. "This points to the importance of nurses speaking out strongly and frequently about their profession." She added that this year the Center has seen an impressive number of nurses across the world advocating in the media for their patients and themselves.

Diana Mason, RN, PhD, editor-in-chief of the American Journal of Nursing said, "Research shows that the media greatly affects the public's views and actions toward health care. We applaud the efforts of The Center for Nursing Advocacy in helping the profession to overcome these inaccurate and unfair perceptions."

The 2005 Golden Lamp Awards cover material released one year before December 1, 2005. In the list below, television episodes are identified by original U.S. air dates.

2005 Golden Lamp Awards--Best media depictions of nursing

1. Suzanne Gordon, Journalist and Nursing Advocate. Nursing Against the Odds: How Health Care Cost-Cutting, Media Stereotypes, and Medical Hubris Undermine Nursing and Patient Care; April 2005; Newspaper op-ed pieces: "Nurse understaffing harms patients," Boston Globe, May 12, 2005; "Micromanaging healthcare," Boston Globe, Aug. 31, 2005; "America's shortage of nurses gets no help from Hollywood," San Jose Mercury News, Sept. 28, 2005.

2. "Critical Care: The Making of an ICU Nurse," Scott Allen (reporting), Michele McDonald (photographs), Boston Globe, October 23-26, 2005. Award shared with Georgia Peirce of Massachusetts General Hospital, who persuaded the Globe to do this chronicle of the eight-month training of a new intensive care nurse by a relentless 20-year veteran.

3. "Number of Philippine Nurses Emigrating Skyrockets," Michael Sullivan, Morning Edition, National Public Radio, Feb. 3, 2005.

4. All nurses worldwide who advocate through the media for better health.

5. "Aging and Infirmity Are Twinned No Longer," Jane Brody, The New York Times, Jan. 25, 2005.

6. "What assets do we value most?", Corinne LaBossiere, The Globe and Mail (Toronto), Sept. 26, 2005.

7. "New Orleans Hospitals Trying to Make Do," Adam Nossiter, Associated Press, Aug. 31, 2005.

8. "Nursing Shortage: It's Also in Press and Other Media," Sheila Gibbons, Women's eNews, March 30, 2005.

9. Two episodes of "ER," "The Man With No Name," written by David Zabel, Oct. 6, 2005, and "Blame It on the Rain," written by R. Scott Gemmill, Oct. 13, 2005; Executive Producers John Wells, Michael Crichton, MD, Christopher Chulack, and David Zabel, NBC.

10. "No school nurses left behind," Laurie Udesky, Salon, Sept. 29, 2005, and "School nurse praised for quick thinking," Norman Miller, MetroWest Daily News (Framingham, MA), Sept. 2, 2005.

2005 Golden Lamp Awards: Honorable Mention

1. "Nurses Care for the Niger's Malnourished," Nafi Diouf, Associated Press / The Guardian (U.K.), July 29, 2005.

2. "A doctor's 'conviction' violates the law," Don Lowery, Savannah Morning News, July 30, 2005.

3. "Plainfield site credits midwives as part of low caesarian rate," Stefanie Matteson, Courier News (New Jersey), Mar. 28, 2005.

4. "Code White: Nurse Needed," Linda H. Lamb, The State (Columbia, SC), Feb. 27-Mar. 1, 2005.

5. "Crisis as SA steadily loses qualified nursing: Fewer showing interest in the profession," The Star (South Africa), Bruce Ventner, Jan. 14, 2005.

6. "Flying solo, nurse is enough," Nicole Brodeur, The Seattle Times, May 3, 2005.

7. "Faces of Caring: Nurses at Work" various artists, presented by the American Journal of Nursing, New York University, May 2005.

8. "Jenny's cure for the men reluctant to find help," Nigel Gould, The Belfast Telegraph, May 25, 2005.

9. "Angels and heroes: A tale that needed to be told: Exhibit explores history of Canadian nurses," Shannon Proudfoot, The Ottawa Citizen, June 18, 2005.

Best Attempts to Remedy Negative Media Portrayals of Nursing 2005

1. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the Office of Minority Health, and Assistant Secretary Garth Graham, MD, MPH, and John I. West, Public Affairs Specialist, for changing the name of HHS's annual "Take a Loved One to the Doctor Day" campaign to "Take a Loved One for a Checkup Day," in response to a Center for Nursing Advocacy campaign, July 2005.

2. "Jeopardy!", Producers Harry Friedman, Lisa Finneran, Rocky Schmidt, Gary Johnson and Billy Wisse, for placing a clue in the June 23, 2005 episode about these Awards, in an effort to make amends for a prior clue minimizing the practice role of nurse practitioners.

3. The Gillette Company, Eric Kraus, VP of Corporate Communications, for agreeing to pull a "naughty nurse" television ad for TAG Body Spray, in response to a Center campaign, Oct. 2005.

4. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., Helen Reichenberger, Advertising Manager, for agreeing to work with the Center to modify a print advertisement for its scrubs that suggested that nurses are intellectually inferior to surgeons, Apr. 2005.

5. NBC News, the "Today" show, Executive Producer Jim Bell, and Producer Eric Ortner, for agreeing to work with nursing organizations to improve coverage of nursing issues after airing a damaging segment disparaging nurse practitioner (NP) care at "quick clinics," Nov. 2005.

6. Good Housekeeping and Health Editor Toni Hope, for agreeing to work with the Center for Nursing Advocacy and nurses in general to improve future nursing portrayals, following a "health tips" feature that showed disrespect for nursing in several ways, Nov. 2005.

7. Diversified Designs, Inc. and President Greg Likins, for agreeing to pull a print ad for CompuCaddy computer stands that showed an unhinged nurse--"Helen Wheels," a stereotypical battleaxe nurse--who was furious because the prior shift had left the computer battery uncharged, July 2005.

8. Boston Medical Group (BMG), which runs clinics specializing in the treatment of erectile dysfunction (ED), for ending radio ads assuring potential patients that they would not need to discuss their ED with nurses, March 2005.

9. Gene Weingarten, humorist for The Washington Post, for efforts to make amends following a "Below the Beltway" column in which he used the "naughty nurse" stereotype, May 2005.

10. Tickle, and Brittany Olsen, of the "interpersonal media company" owned by Monster, for grudgingly agreeing to remove from its web site "Who's Your Inner Nurse?", an employment suitability test that included damaging stereotypes, February 2005.

Ten Worst Portrayals of Nursing in the Media 2005

1. Six episodes of "Grey's Anatomy": "A Hard Day's Night," written by Shonda Rhimes, Mar. 27, 2005; "The First Cut Is the Deepest," written by Shonda Rhimes, Apr. 3, 2005; "Winning a Battle, Losing the War," written by Shonda Rhimes, Apr. 10, 2005; "If Tomorrow Never Comes," written by Krista Vernoff, May 1, 2005; "Bring the Pain," written by Shonda Rhimes, Oct. 23, 2005; "Something to Talk About," written by Stacy McKee, Nov. 6, 2005; Executive Producers Shonda Rhimes, Mark Gordon, Betsy Beers, Jim Parriott, ABC.

2. Five episodes of "House": "Three Stories," written by David Shore, May 17, 2005; "The Honeymoon," written by Lawrence Kaplow & John Mankiewicz, May 24, 2005; "Daddy's Boy," written by Thomas L. Moran, Nov. 8, 2005; "Spin," written by Sara Hess, Nov. 15, 2005; "The Mistake," written by Peter Blake, Nov. 29, 2005; Executive Producers David Shore, Paul Attanasio, Katie Jacobs, and Bryan Singer, Fox.

3. Two episodes of "Inconceivable": "Pilot," Sept. 23, 2005, and "Secrets and Thighs," Sept. 30, 2005, both written by Oliver Goldstick and Marco Pennette; Executive Producers Oliver Goldstick, Marco Pennette, Mike Tollin, Brian Robbins, Joe Davola, NBC.

4. Three episodes of "ER": "Middleman," written by Lisa Zwerling, MD, Feb. 3, 2005; "Alone in a Crowd," written by Dee Johnson, Feb. 17, 2005; "Ruby Redux," written by Lydia Woodward and Lisa Zwerling, MD, Apr. 28; Executive Producers John Wells, Michael Crichton, MD, Christopher Chulack, Dee Johnson, NBC.

5. Two episodes of "Scrubs": "My Ocardial Infarction," written by Mark Stegemann, Jan. 18, 2005, and "My Quarantine," written by Tad Quill, Feb. 8, 2005; Executive Producer Bill Lawrence, NBC.

6. Two prominent Hollywood movies: "Million Dollar Baby," screenplay by Paul Haggis based upon stories by F.X. Toole, directed by Clint Eastwood; and "Meet the Fockers," screenplay by Jim Herzfeld and John Hamburg, story by Jim Herzfeld and Mark Hyman, directed by Jay Roach.

7. Two episodes of "Six Feet Under": "Ecotone," written by Nancy Oliver, July 31, 2005, and "Everyone's Waiting," written by Alan Ball, Aug. 16, 2005; Executive Producers Alan Ball, Robert Greenblatt, David Janollari, Alan Poul, Bruce Eric Kaplan, Rick Cleveland, HBO.

8. Naughty nurses on parade: 50 models dressed as "naughty nurses" at stock market launch by Corporation Dermoestetica (Spain), July 2005; photo by Gregg Segal, "Get Well Soon," Outside (U.S.), Mar. 2005; and Gianna, cover photo, Ralph (Australia), Aug. 2005.

9. Doctoring Disaster and War: "Doctors Emerging As Heroes of Katrina," Marilynn Marchione, Associated Press, Sept. 9, 2005; "For Many Tsunami Survivors, Battered Bodies, Few Choices," Jane Perlez, The New York Times, Jan. 6, 2005; "Span of War," Joseph Shapiro, Morning Edition, National Public Radio, Mar. 8-10, 2005.

10. Global health "heroes": "Saving One Life at a Time," Philip Elmer-DeWitt, Sciences Editor, TIME, Nov. 7, 2005; "Developing Countries See Health Care 'Brain Drain,'" Brenda Wilson, Morning Edition, National Public Radio, Nov. 3, 2005.

11. The nurse in pop music: "XXL" (music and video), Keith Anderson, written by Keith Anderson and Bob DiPiero, video directed by Trey Fanjoy, from album "Three Chord Country and American Rock & Roll," May 2005; and "The Nurse," White Stripes, written by Jack White, from album "Get Behind Me Satan," June 2005.

Special "Worst Portrayal" Awards 2005
"Let Them Eat Cake" Awards 2005

1. Dr. Edward Hill and the Board of Directors of the American Medical Association, for their continuing refusal even to respond to more than 3,700 letters--over 1500 of them original--protesting Dr. Hill's comments on a Nov. 14, 2005 segment of NBC's "Today" Show about nurse practitioner (NP)-staffed "quick clinics."

2. Virgin Mobile Canada and Internet video maker JibJab, for their specific refusals to take any action to lessen or make amends for the damage caused by their use of "naughty nurse" imagery to promote their products.

"Just Joking" Award 2005

• A group of medical students at the University of Alberta, for the "Nurses' Song" they wrote and sang at their irreverent May 2005 "MedShow." Lyrics called nurses "whores" and "bitches" whose "incompetence" and persistence in "telling doctors what they ought to try" threatened to "make our patients die."

"Every Helpful Person or Thing Is a Nurse" Awards 2005

1. "For Surgery, an Automated Helping Hand," Marc Santora, The New York Times, Jan. 18, 2005; "Hard-wired nurse helps docs," Robert Schapiro, New York Daily News, June 17, 2005; for suggesting that robots could do the jobs of nurses.

2. "She wouldn't wake up...I shook her hard," Pete Donohoe, New York Daily News, Aug. 22, 2005 for suggesting that any minimally trained person could do the job of a nurse.
Sources: Center for Nursing Advocacy, San Jose Mercury News, WCVB (Boston)


Leaders of major political parties, human rights activists and even business leaders in Nepal have accused the government of deliberately forcing the Maoist rebels to return to war, urging the rebels, at the same time, to shun violence against civilians.

Standing Committee member of the Communist Party of Nepal (United Marxist Leninist), Jhalanath Khanal, said the government’s irresponsible behavior had pushed the country back to violence. “We don’t support violence, but the State would be responsible for whatever may happen now,” he added.

Former government official Surya Bahadur Sen Oli agreed and held Nepal’s autocratic King responsible for the Maoists breaking truce.

A Nepali Congress (NC) spokesman Krishna Prasad Sitaula said in Kathmandu on Tuesday “We can’t support violence," adding, "We urge the Maoists to stick to the 12-point understanding and to ensure that no citizen suffers on account of them,” said NC.

He, however, said that the Maoist decision against further prolonging the one-way truce would not affect the implementation of the 12-point understanding with the political parties. “Their struggle is against the State, so innocent people should not suffer on account of them.”

He said the seven parties would continue their efforts towards peace, although the State did not show any concern during those four months of their one-way ceasefire.

Noted human rights activist, Subodh Raj Pyakurel, said, the “irresponsible behavior” of the state was mainly responsible for the breaking off of ceasefire. “The Ministers and other people always stood against the peace process and compelled them (the Maoists) to return to war.”

“We still urge Maoists not to adopt the path of violence and respect people’s human rights and right to live,” he added.

In his first reaction, Vice President of Nepal Bar Association, Sher Bahadur KC, “We condemn the government’s passivity for not reciprocating the ceasefire.”

Chairman of the Hotel Association of Nepal (HAN), Narendra Bajracharya, termed the latest development as “unfortunate” it will harm the tourism industry in the country.

“We had urged the government to reciprocate the truce but it did not oblige, which is very unfortunate for the country,” he said. The executive committee of HAN is meeting on Wednesday to review the situation.

In a press statement announcing the end of the four month unilateral ceasefire observed by the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist), Party leader Pushpa Kamal Dahal (also known as Prachanda) on Monday said the Party was compelled to call off the ceasefire "as the government continued its military operation even during the period of unilateral ceasefire." Pranchanda did, however, express his commitment to assist the ongoing movement of seven opposition alliance as per the 12-point agreement between his party and the seven political parties.

The statement further said that though national and international communities took the unilateral ceasefire positively, the government continued its blatant action against the party.

The statement said that the government killed many Party members during the three month long unilateral ceasefire continuing such acts during the extension of the cease fire and that the Royal Nepalese Army (RNA) continued land and aerial attacks during the ceasefire.

In fact, the government failed to reciprocate the ceasefire despite repeated appeals from various national and international bodies including the UN and the European Union.

Pranchanda said the rebels would resume hostilities against government forces but would not target civilians, a move welcomed by a leading human rights organization.

"We hope that the Maoists will act without harming civilians while waging war against the state," said Kundan Aryal, general secretary of the Informal Sector Service Centre, one of the leading human rights organizations.

On Tuesday evening a bomb exploded near a local government office in the western tourist town of Pokhara, the fourth explosion since the end of the ceasefire. Police said there were no injuries and minimal damage.

There were similar minor explosions Monday evening in Pokhara and in Butwal and Bhairahawa, two small towns southwest of the capital, but no reports of damage or injuries.

The king has announced a "road map to democracy" under which municipal elections next month will be followed by national elections sometime before April 2007.

Opposition politicians have branded the road map a whitewash. They and the Maoists have said they will boycott the polls on February 8.

The rebels and the opposition parties want to hold constituent assembly elections that would frame a new constitution and define the future role of the monarchy.

CPN-UML General Secretary Madhav Kumar Nepal said the political parties are all set for a "final fight" to establish republican democracy, adding, there is no other alternative.

"The King has invited this situation. He has done so by blurring the line between democracy and autocracy," UML Nepal said at the party office. "All the affection for the palace is now gone as it has snatched away people's rights," he added.

Nepal came down heavily on the ruling establishment for trying to lengthen its tenure by purporting to fight against terrorism. "They (the ruling establishment) want violence to continue so that they can import arms and ammunition in the name of terrorism," he said. Sources: NewsLineNepal, AFP, Himalayan Times, KOL (Nepal), Nepal News, Nepal Travel Advisory Blog

Monday, January 02, 2006


Wondering who and what the Pentagon is concerned about these days?

Osama Bin Laden you answer. Bioweapons attacks, maybe.

Try Kiss Ins.

According to recent press reports, Pentagon officials have been spying on what they call "suspicious" meetings by civilian groups, including student groups opposed to the military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" ban on lesbian, gay and bisexual military personnel.

A February protest at New York University was one of the events under government surveillance according to numerous sources.

NBC reports that the NYU law school’s gay advocacy group, OUTlaw, was classified as “potentially violent” by the Pentagon

“I was shocked to read that OUTLaw was classified as a threat and investigated,” OUTLaw Co-chair Rebecca Fisher said. “Since we still don’t know how the Pentagon went about investigating us, I’m wondering how far they went in invading our personal privacy to make their determination. Did they read our e-mail? Monitor our meetings?”

NBC also reported that a “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” protest at University of California Santa Cruz was labeled as a “credible threat” of terrorism by the Pentagon. The protest, conducted near military recruiters, included a gay kiss-in.

“While it is alarming, it is not surprising given the Bush administration’s attitude toward secrecy,” said Deb Abbott, director of the Lionel Cantu Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, Intersex Resource Center at UC Santa Cruz. “It is really disturbing that not only our group, but other gay groups appear to be the focus.”

"Every high school civics class is taught that the United States does not spy on its own citizens," said John Marble, spokesman for the National Stonewall Democrats. "The fact that gay student groups are being spied on shows just how loopy the Bush administration is. They are acting like the Nixon administration."

Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN) condemned the Pentagon surveillance and monitoring. "The Pentagon is supposed to defend the Constitution, not turn it upside down," said SLDN executive director C. Dixon Osburn. "Students have a first amendment right to protest and Americans have a right to expect that their government will respect our constitutional right to privacy. To suggest that a gay kiss-in is a 'credible threat' is absurd, homophobic and irrational. To suggest the Constitution does not apply to groups with views differing with Pentagon policy is chilling."

SLDN announced it plans to submit a Freedom of Information Act request to learn if it or other LGBT organizations have also been monitored by the Pentagon. To date, only a small portion of DoD's total database of information has been made public. Sources: Windy City Times, SLDN, Washington Blade, L News, Americablog,


The death toll among Sudanese refugees after violent clashes with Egyptian security forces outside UN refugee agency offices last week in Cairo has increased to 27, a Sudanese diplomatic source said Monday.

The dead include 12 children, eight women and seven men, a spokesman for the Sudanese embassy in Cairo told AFP. The toll rose after more people died of their injuries in hospitals across the city.

Egyptian authorities said they acted in consultation with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and with Sudanese diplomats in Cairo.

A Sudanese official said today Egyptian authorities are preparing to deport some 600 Sudanese, part of a group of nearly 2,000 people detained after police forcibly broke up the protest in Cairo. "The targeted number of Sudanese who will be flown home ... is around 600," Major General Beshir Ahmed Beshir, who chairs a committee formed to receive the deportees, told AFP.

Human rights groups have expressed concern for the safety of those being returned, many of who lost their documents when Egyptian security forces stormed the park where they had been protesting for three months.

More than 44 Egyptian MPs, most of them Muslim Brotherhood deputies but also some from opposition political parties and independents, issued calls for a government investigation into the deadly violence.

"Is it the role of the police force to kill people and confront them with such force?" asked Taymur Abdul Ghani, a Brotherhood MP.

The refugees, including women and children, had been staging a public sit-in for the past three months protesting their treatment by the UNHCR and were demanding relocation to a third country.

The protesters were demanding that the UN's refugee agency move them to another country, citing racism and a lack of jobs, education and healthcare in Egypt since they fled violence in Sudan.

"We want to move to a country that treats us like human beings, where we can live in freedom ... Ask anyone — we can’t send our children to school. The one job we’re allowed to do here is be a cleaner," said Fawzia Adam, from western Sudan.

She added, "The Egyptian government will never help. The UN just stood by. If there’s no solution we will all have to just kill ourselves. This is the final solution, so that world knows it’s impossible to live like this," she added.

In 2004, the UNHCR changed its policy on Sudanese refugees due to an ongoing peace process and improved conditions in Sudan, leading to disgruntlement among Egypt's Sudanese refugee community.

Between 1994 and 2004, 31,000 Sudanese were given refugee status and more than half were resettled. Now, however, the vast majority of asylum seekers are provided with basic services and renewable six-month visas, but are denied refugee status.

The lack of refugee status precludes the possibility of resettlement and had led to a perception among Sudanese refugees that their rights have been infringed.

According to the Egyptian Organization for Human Rights (EOHR), refugee children are unable to get public elementary-school education, while their parents are discriminated against when looking for work. "The EOHR calls upon the People's Assembly to draft a bill on refugee protection in Egypt and to amend the Unified Labor Law of 2003 so that a refugee can find a job easily without being discriminated against," read a statement from the rights group.

The EOHR statement added that the Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, ratified by Egypt in 1981, should be implemented through legislation consistent with the Egyptian constitution, which guarantees the rights of refuges.

Human rights groups are calling for an independent investigation into violent police attack.

"Egyptian Security Forces should immediately investigate these deaths and unjustified violent incidents," read a statement from the Egyptian Organization for Human Rights (EOHR). The police used "excessive force" in breaking up a three-month long peaceful demonstration, it noted, urging that all those responsible be brought to trial.

EOHR also said UNHCR bears part of the blame. The group said the UNHCR has become so bureaucratic that it let the plight of the refugees drag on for too long. EOHR said it was the UNHCR's responsibility to guarantee refugee safety in the first place and suggested that the UN agency had abandoned the Sudanese leaving them open to the possibility of forced eviction from Egypt.

The Arab Network for Human rights Information, Egyptian Anti-Globalization Group (AGEG), El Nadim Centre and the Centre for Socialist Studies said they are joining forces to set up an independent fact finding task force and persuade the Sudanese refugees to file suit in Egypt against "the crimes committed against them and the violations they suffered at the hands of the Egyptian government and the UNHCR".

The groups have also demanded that they be allowed to visit the camps where the refugees are now held, to provide them necessary legal and medical aid.

Other groups like Human Rights Watch (HRW) chose to focus on the Egyptian government in their reaction to the killings. They failed to cite either the UN or the Sudanese government as having any responsibility in the massacre.

"The high loss of life suggests the police acted with extreme brutality," said Joe Stork, deputy director of HRW's Middle East division. "A police force acting responsibly would not have allowed such a tragedy to occur."

HRW said that the evident planning of the police operation to clear the park in Mohandiseen district meant that the police acted on the basis of a high-level policy decision.

Like the Arab and Middle Eastern groups, the New York-based organization has called for a local investigation that looked at all levels of the police command, including the role of Egypt's interior minister Habib al-Adli.

"The blood is still on the sidewalks, and already the government is blaming the Sudanese refugees and migrants... An independent investigation is absolutely necessary to assess responsibility and punish those responsible," Stroke said in a statement. Sources: IPS, IRIN, AFP,, Sudan Tribune


Subcomandante Marcos, the leader of the Zapatista National Liberation Army, or EZLN, on Sunday began a motorcycle tour of Mexico.

Wearing black ski masks, hundreds of Zapatistas from Mayan villages gathered in the jungle valley of La Garrucha, the starting point for the tour and exactly 12 years after the guerillas seized towns in a brief but bloody uprising.

Marcos is traveling together with other EZLN members, who are riding in a gray sport utility vehicle bearing the slogan "Security, the other campaign: EZLN" on its side. They are being followed by a caravan of dozens of other vehicles.

The aim of the motorcycle tour is to seek allies among the "genuine" left, put the indigenous cause on the campaign agenda, and design an alternative political proposal, opposed to free-market "neoliberal" policies, in assemblies with grassroots and civil society groups.

The tour will parallel the formal presidential campaign leading up to the July 2 election to replace conservative President Vicente Fox.

Former assistant bishop of Chiapas Raúl Vera said the tour to be undertaken by the Zapatistas is "a symbol of the search for justice and peace in the midst of the extravagance of the election campaign." The EZLN initiative, aimed at rallying grassroots support, stands out because it emerges from "the indigenous world, from among the victims of government deception and of the deaf ear turned by the authorities to their requests and demands," said Vera.

Mexico's indigenous people, who number around 10 million out of a total population of nearly 107 million, remain steeped in poverty, especially in Chiapas, the country's poorest state.

In brief remarks made in the town of Ocosingo, where he stopped to await the arrival of the larger caravan, Marcos said that he was happy to be making his tour through Mexico, which he added would last for six months.

The Zapatista leader, who is keeping in contact with his support unit by radio, has christened his black motorcycle with the EZLN initials on it "Sombraluz," which means "Shadow light" in Spanish.

On this tour, which he began on the 12th anniversary of the rise of the EZLN in the southern state of Chiapas, he has adopted the nickname "Delegado Zero," or "Delegate Zero."

Under the theme "the other campaign", EZLN delegates, led by Marcos, will visit all of Mexico's 32 states, where they will hold "assemblies" with their supporters and groups that share similar aims.

Marcos has asked other armed guerrilla groups to let him travel without problems during his six-month tour of Mexico.

“Although there are differences and disagreements between our organizations, we know that you share with us and with millions of Mexicans the struggle to radically transform the system,” Marcos said in a statement published by the press last Tuesday. Sources: Dominican Today, El Universal (Mexico), IPS, Redneck’s Revenge blog