Saturday, March 25, 2006
According to the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women, such trafficking plagues the United States as much as it does underdeveloped nations. Organized prostitution networks have migrated from metropolitan areas to small cities and suburbs. Women trafficked to the United States have been forced to have sex with 400-500 men to pay off $40,000 in debt for their passage.
In 2002, the US Department of State repeated an earlier CIA estimate that each year, about 50,000 women and children are brought against their will to the United States for sexual exploitation.
Traffickers use coercive tactics including deception, fraud, intimidation, isolation, threat and use of physical force, and/or debt bondage to control their victims. Women are typically recruited with promises of good jobs in other countries or provinces, and, lacking better options at home, agree to migrate. Through agents and brokers who arrange the travel and job placements, women are escorted to their destinations and delivered to the employers. Upon reaching their destinations, some women learn that they have been deceived about the nature of the work they will do; most have been lied to about the financial arrangements and conditions of their employment; and all find themselves in coercive and abusive situations from which escape is both difficult and dangerous.
This leads us to a situation in Berkeley where the group Women Against Sexual Slavery called for a boycott of a violence prevention music fest promoted by another women's rights group.
The following article is from Inside Bay Area.
Women's groups clash in Berkeley
By Kristin Bender, STAFF WRITER
Inside Bay Area
BERKELEY — A women's group against sexual slavery asked people to boycott a violence-prevention music and poetry festival Friday because the building where it was held is owned by a convicted sex-slave trafficker and his family.
A handful of picketers from the group Women Against Sexual Slavery showed up in front of the Shattuck Down Low on Friday night as the GirlFest music, poetry and spoken-word festival got under way.
The building where the anti-violence event was held is owned by members of the Lakireddy family, who several years ago were convicted of bringing girls and women from India to the Bay Area for cheap labor and sexual favors.
Having the festival there, the picketers said, was sending a contradictory message.
"When a group like (GirlFest) goes into a venue that is owned by (those involved with) sex slavery, they really aren't being conscious of the exploitation of women. It seems they could have found another venue," Women Against Sexual Slavery member Marcia Poole said.
Diana Russell, a professor emeritus at Mills College in Oakland and the author of a number of books on sexual violence, asked people headed to GirlFest on Friday to boycott.
"This organization is supposed to be anti-slavery and anti-sex trafficking. It's so contradictory that they would be meeting in this particular location," Russell said.
The three-day festival is being held in Berkeley and San Francisco to highlight the need to end increasing violence against women and girls and to raise money for a nonprofit organization that works to end homophobia, discrimination and sexual violence.
"Our mission is a positive one, and it's really sad that they want to bring this negative vibe when our mission is so much more than that," GirlFest organizer Annie Fukushima said.
The owner of the Shattuck Down Low, 2284 Shattuck Ave., is Daniel Cukierman, 32. He is not connected to the Lakireddy family other than being their tenant. The Lakireddy family owns the Shattuck Avenue building.
Cukierman said he is supporting GirlFest and its message and does not see the point of a boycott.
"Everybody I've talked to are kind of confused by a women's rights group protesting another women's rights group. I think they could work together and do a lot more positive things," he said.
Fukushima, a graduate student at the University of California, Berkeley who has organized a GirlFest in Hawaii, said she did not know the building was owned by the Lakireddy family until three weeks ago.
Fukushima said Poole's group could have done more good by working with GirlFest than against it.
"(Sex trafficking and violence against women) are really structural problems," she said. "Going after this one family is not going to end trafficking in general. If you really want to combat this huge phenomenon you need to look at the structural problems, you need to look at policy. I am really sad at this organization — there is so much more that can be done than just going after an anti-violence group."
Lakireddy Bali Reddy and his son, Vijay Lakireddy, were indicted in 2000, accused of having had an Indian man pose as the father of two sisters to bring them into the country on fraudulent temporary work visas. The older sister died in November 1999 of carbon monoxide poisoning after a heater in her Berkeley apartment malfunctioned.
Prosecutors said these girls and others brought here by similar means were used by Reddy as workers at his and his family's businesses, and for his own sexual gratification. Reddy, now 69, is serving 97 months in federal prison.
Vijay Lakireddy pleaded guilty in 2002 to one count of conspiracy to commit visa fraud and was sentenced to two years in prison, which he has served. Prasad Lakireddy pleaded guilty in 2003 to one count of conspiracy to employ unauthorized aliens and was sentenced to one year of home detention, a $20,000 fine and 300 hours of community service.
Reddy's brother and sister-in-law, Jayaprakash and Annapurna Lakireddy, each pleaded guilty to one count of immigration fraud in 2001. He was sentenced to a year and a day in federal prison and released in June. She served six months of home detention and paid a $2,000 fine.
Venkateswara Vemireddy, who had posed as the victims' father, was given probation and deported to India.
A new report by Amnesty International accuses United States law enforcement agencies of widespread homophobia and violence against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. The report, titled "Stonewalled—Still Demanding Respect," was published on Thursday and is based on interviews conducted between 2003 and 2005.
The following is a press release from Amnesty International.
Police target lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in the USA
“Nothing is more unfair than singling out a group and making them criminal when they are not.”
R. Boevingloh, a 60-year-old gay man, February 2004.
R. Boevingloh was walking in a park in St Louis, Missouri, in June 2001 when he made the mistake of greeting an undercover policeman who walked past him. He was arrested, charged with lewd conduct and placed on two years’ probation. “I did nothing wrong,” he told AI, “I did not ‘cruise’ anyone, did not expose myself, did not hurt anyone and was targeted simply for being a gay male in a city park.”
In a new report AI reveals a range of human rights violations perpetrated by law enforcement officials against LGBT people in the USA. Whilst some of these abuses are so violent that they amount to torture, by far the more pervasive are those abuses committed day in and day out, making life intolerable for many members of the LGBT community.
All too often US law enforcement officials share the prejudices prevalent in society, such as homophobia, racism or sexism. When vague laws give police officers the power to decide what is “offensive”, the enforcement of these laws can become a means of punishing LGBT people for perceived transgression of social norms. LGBT people are frequently targeted for selective enforcement of minor public order or morals offences such as “loitering with intent to solicit”, “public lewdness” or “disorderly conduct”. The California Supreme Court, for instance, noted that the State’s prohibition of “lewd conduct” had been selectively enforced against gay men.
Transgender women are particularly at risk of such prejudicial treatment as many police officers assume that they are sex workers. AI has received numerous reports of transgender women being stopped and questioned by police when going about everyday tasks such as shopping. LGBT rights activists in Chicago told AI that police officers see transgender women as easy targets when they need to meet their allotted arrest quota.
It is hardly surprising that when LGBT people are victims of crime, they often prefer not to report the crime than face a dismissive, hostile or abusive response from the police. AI has found a pattern of police failing to respond appropriately to crimes against LGBT individuals. Police lack of understanding, or in more extreme cases hostility, has resulted in some cases in officers arresting the victims of the crime rather than the perpetrators.
In July 2000 a lesbian in St Paul, Minnesota, reported to a police officer than she had been attacked and abused in a supermarket. The officer refused to take action and even threatened to arrest her and her partner. When she told him that her attacker had called them “dykes”, the police officer replied that if they chose that lifestyle they must “expect some people to have a problem with it”.
Discriminatory policing can affect individuals in virtually every sphere of their daily lives. The effect of police targeting of LGBT people can be profound. Transgender woman Rachel Thompson told AI how a violent attack by a police officer changed her life: “That is when I decided to become an activist – abuse can be very inspiring… I will never forget to fear the police. I will always mistrust the system…”
To view the full report go to http://web.amnesty.org/library/Index/ENGAMR510012006
Friday, March 24, 2006
Thousands of people filled the streets of Milwaukee Thursday for what was billed as “A Day without Latinos” to protest efforts in Congress to target undocumented workers.
The title of the demonstration is borrowed from the 2004 mockumentary “A Day Without a Mexican,” which considers what would happen to California if all Latinos there suddenly disappeared.
The protest concept also borrows from “Day of Absence,” a celebrated 1965 play by the black playwright Douglas Turner Ward, in which all black people mysteriously vanish from a Southern town, leaving work to be done by others.
The article below is from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
Thousands march for immigrants
'A Day Without Latinos' seeks to flex political muscle in divisive debate
By MARK JOHNSON and LINDA SPICE
In one of Milwaukee's largest demonstrations in recent years, a mile-long swath of peaceful protesters marched into the city's downtown Thursday chanting, "¡Sí, se puede!" ("Yes, we can!"), carrying Mexican and American flags and signs condemning what they called "anti-immigrant" legislation.
Hundreds of students took the day off school; businesses around southeastern Wisconsin closed; and thousands of workers left their jobs in support of the event billed as "A Day Without Latinos."
Although march organizers put the crowd at 30,000, Milwaukee police estimated that there were between 10,000 and 15,000 marchers, said spokeswoman Anne E. Schwartz. She said there were no arrests.
The march, which culminated in a 90-minute rally in Zeidler Park, followed a similar event two weeks ago in Chicago that drew a crowd of up to 100,000 people.
"This is a historic day," declared Christine Neumann-Ortiz, executive director of Voces de la Frontera, an organization devoted to immigrant and worker rights issues.
"We have people from all walks of life. We have teachers. We have doctors. We have professionals. And, best of all, children. We wanted to recognize the workers who left their jobs today. There has been a strong show of solidarity," she said.
The event underscored both the growing political muscle of Latinos, America's fastest-growing minority, and the divisiveness of immigration issues in the post-9-11era.
One of the targets of Thursday's protest was a sweeping federal bill sponsored by U.S. Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) that would keep illegal immigrants in jail until they are processed for deportation, increase penalties for improper entry into the United States, and provide mandatory minimum sentences for illegal immigrants convicted of re-entering the U.S.
Several of the speakers Thursday singled out Sensenbrenner for criticism, including Sheila Cochran of the Milwaukee County Labor Council, who called the bill "wrong-spirited, wrongheaded and just plain wrong."
Xavier Marquez, president of the Racine group Students United for Immigrant Rights, called Sensenbrenner's bill "racist and divisive."
In a statement released later in the day, Sensenbrenner said, "The illegal alien rally held in Milwaukee today was an impressive show of force. But I do not believe that illegal aliens should receive legal government documents such as driver's licenses."
He said many people "have tried to confuse the difference between legal and illegal immigration," and added that putting illegal immigrants on a path toward citizenship "would be a slap in the face to all those who have followed the law and have come to America legally."
As the marchers were gathering, the Milwaukee Common Council voted 11-1 to oppose Sensenbrenner's bill. Instead, they called on Congress to approve an immigration reform bill that would help illegal immigrants attain legal status, expand temporary work visas and tighten border security.
The House passed Sensenbrenner's bill. Both that measure and competing legislation sponsored by U.S. Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.) are awaiting Senate action.
Two Wisconsin measures also drew the ire of speakers at the rally, including a law signed two weeks ago by Gov. Jim Doyle that forces applicants for state driver's licenses to present proof of legal residency. The second measure, if approved and signed by the governor, would deny undocumented immigrants access to school lunches for their children, public medical services and public defenders in court.
A community coalition
The march and rally stitched together a coalition of political leaders, including Mayor Tom Barrett, U.S. Rep. Gwen Moore (D-Wis.) and state Rep. Pedro Colón (D-Milwaukee), as well as labor unions, business groups and religious leaders.
"I am a third-generation Mexican-American. I am not an undocumented immigrant, but I strongly support my undocumented immigrant brothers and sisters in their struggle for justice and their equal rights," said Marquez, the leader of Students United for Immigrant Rights.
"On the Statue of Liberty it says, 'Give me your tired, your hungry, your poor yearning for liberty,' and that's why we're here," said Michael Rosen, president of the local union representing teachers at Milwaukee Area Technical College.
He vowed, "We will not allow George Bush, we will not allow Congressman Sensenbrenner to pit one part of the working class against another part of the working class."
Milwaukee School Board member Jennifer Morales called on all members of the school community "to oppose any law that makes criminals of children." She encouraged school employees to continue to provide services children need, such as food, health care and education.
The march and rally drew many families.
Angel Silva, 13, missed classes at Bruce Guadalupe Middle School to attend the rally with his family, saying, "We're only students. We're not terrorists. We want to get our education and go on to be a good person and live our life well."
His younger brother, Marc Anthony DeLeon, 9, said he opposes the bill "that any immigrant children they can't have lunch at the schools. And we don't think that's right."
The boys' mother, Magdalena DeLeon, 33, of Milwaukee, is a fifth-generation Mexican-American whose family originally immigrated from Jalisco, Mexico. She said she discussed with her children the U.S. Constitution and Declaration of Independence.
"The United States of America was built and established for the freedom of people," she said. "We have to be united as one, liberty and justice for all mankind."
The signs the marchers carried drew heavily on emotion and appealed to values enshrined in the Declaration of Independence and the inscription on the Statue of Liberty.
A large cloth banner said, "Open the doors to citizenship. Immigration is an American experience." A sign showed a photograph of a child wearing a red graduation cap and gown, with the caption, "I'm not a criminal." Another sign said, "You let us fight and die for the country, but we're still not called American."
Several of the speakers were children, including Samantha Pastrana, who led the crowd in the Pledge of Allegiance.
Cecilia Fire Thunder, the controversial President of the Oglala Sioux Tribe, has thrown a monkey wrench into South Dakota's plan to outlaw all abortions.
The following is taken from Indian Country Today.
South Dakota's abortion ban has sweeping implications
© Indian Country Today March 24, 2006. All Rights Reserved
Posted: March 24, 2006
by: David Melmer / Indian Country Today
PIERRE, S.D. - The South Dakota Legislature created a firestorm when it passed a bill that banned abortion with only one exception: to save the life of the mother. It was signed by Gov. Mike Rounds on March 6.
The bill will become law on July 1 unless either a lawsuit or petitioners get the issue on the November ballot. The law will make it a felony for any doctor to perform an abortion unless the procedure is necessary to save the woman's life. It would make no exception for cases of rape or incest.
Currently only one clinic in the state performs abortions: the Planned Parenthood clinic in Sioux Falls at the extreme eastern part of the state. Doctors from Minnesota come to the clinic, said Kate Looby, director of South Dakota's Planned Parenthood.
Looby told the Legislature that she would consider filing a lawsuit to stop the law from taking effect. She is now working to gather signatures on the petition. Some legislators, while debating the bill, were aware that a lawsuit would be imminent and that it eventually would end up at the U.S. Supreme Court. Some comments from the floor of each house reflected an interest in overturning Roe v. Wade.
A fund has been set up to collect donations to help defray the costs of possible litigation; however, if the petition drive collects enough signatures, litigation will be delayed or not considered.
Both sides of the issue claim they are ready to bring the issue to a vote. Polls indicate the bill will be repealed on a statewide vote because it is too extreme.
Banning abortion is an affront to women and denies them the choice over their bodies that the Creator has given them, said Cecilia Fire Thunder, president of the Oglala Sioux Tribe.
''I have very strong opinions of what happened. These are a bunch of white guys determining what a woman should do with her body,'' Fire Thunder said.
Fire Thunder was a nurse and has worked with women who were traumatized by rape.
''When a woman is raped and becomes pregnant she does not have the choice of aborting. How many men at the state house have ever been raped?'' Fire Thunder asked.
American Indian women will be impacted, if the law takes effect, in greater numbers than any other group. According to national statistics, American Indian women are sexually assaulted at a rate 3.5 times higher than all other racial groups. That means there are seven rapes per 1,000 American Indian women.
''It is very important that we have access to safe, legal pregnancy termination services, whether it is emergency contraceptives right after the assault or an abortion service,'' said Charon Asetoyer, director of the Native American Women's Health Education Resource Center located on the Yankton Sioux Reservation.
She said her organization gets asked weekly by women for referrals. She added that her organization refers the women to Planned Parenthood.
American Indian women who live in the western part of South Dakota must either travel the few hundred miles to Sioux Falls or to Nebraska, which in both cases becomes expensive.
''This will force women out of the state and would cost more money and more time and a lot of women may not realize they have that option. It increases the trauma for those who have been sexually assaulted,'' Asetoyer said.
''It's this big myth that Native American women don't terminate pregnancies; they have always terminated pregnancies, do now and will in the future,'' she said.
She said it is the woman's personal business and that it is not to be scrutinized in the political arena.
Fire Thunder echoed that sentiment and added that adequate funding for sex education, including instructions on how to use contraceptives to prevent unwanted pregnancy, should be a priority.
A bill that was defeated in the current session of the state Legislature would have dictated a method of teaching sex education that was based on abstinence only.
''If they are going to outlaw abortions [they should] put more money into sex education and pregnancy prevention. It's fine to tell people to abstain from sex. Adult people in our country expect young people to abstain when they don't abstain,'' she said.
''It's my personal opinion that it's a woman's choice. She makes the decision and the only person she is going to be accountable to is the Creator and the spirit of that child,'' Fire Thunder said.
Both women said they would support a move to build a Planned Parenthood-type clinic on a reservation where the state would not have jurisdiction. Fire Thunder said Pine Ridge would not be the place.
''I think that somewhere on any reservation in South Dakota, somebody has to step up and make that offer and build such a facility,'' Fire Thunder said, adding that she will not be that person.
The anti-abortion bill has been in the works the past few years during legislative sessions. Rounds vetoed the last bill that came up two years ago on a technicality. He signed the bill this year and the latest poll, taken by a national polling company, found his rating had dropped substantially from a 72 percent favorability rating to 58 percent during the month in which the abortion bill was mostly debated.
Seven other bills that would have restricted women's rights were also defeated this year. An informed consent bill would have required a woman who considered an abortion to undergo a mental screening. Asetoyer said that would open the door to discrimination against women.
Past versions of the abortion bill were supported by out-of-state organizations and many critics claim that is the case this year as well.
''This bill was driven by a small group of right-wing, religious coalition groups. They are trying to do this in several states and they targeted South Dakota primarily because it could be swayed.
Fire Thunder drew a parallel with sovereignty of nations by saying that a woman is a sovereign nation.
''The Creator gave every human being [the right] to make choices for yourself. Another person may not think that is the right choice and a lot of people have made bad choices in their lives, but it's their choice,'' Fire Thunder said.
''We have to honor the gift the Creator gave us; one of the greatest gifts is to choose for ourselves.''
Fire Thunder said she hoped that women who were raped would band together and send a powerful voice across the country.
During many of the hearings on the abortion ban bill, many American Indian women were present as witnesses or observers in hearing rooms.
''It is so inspiring to see this groundswell of Native American women to fight for our rights,'' Asetoyer said.
Thursday, March 23, 2006
Baruch Marzel (pictured), the head of the ultra right wing National Jewish Front Party has called on the Israel Defense Forces to assasinate an Israeli peace activist.
Baruch Marzel is an American born right-wing Israeli settler from Hebron. He was a member of Meir Kahane's Kach, which was disqualified by the Israeli Supreme Court from running in the 1988 Israeli elections because its platform was deemed racist, because it advocated the deportation of the Arabs. Following Kahane's assassination in 1990, he moved to lead Kach, one of the splinter groups from the original Kach. In 2003, Marzel joined Herut and became the number two candidate on the party list after Michael Kleiner in the bid to enter the 16th Knesset session. Herut failed to pass the minimum threshold of voters. In 2004 he founded the Jewish National Front Party. Marzel echoed the words of the Right Reverend Pat Robinson following Ariel Sharon's stroke. He stated, "We aren't praying for this evil person. He went against God. He went against the Bible. He betrayed his own country."
On its website the National Jewish Front (Hazit) says, "'HAZIT' declares that Israeli governments over the past 30 years have whetted the appetite of the enemy for Israeli land and their lust for murder. Surrendering parts of the Land of Israel, and the Jewish State's giving up on the accomplishment of its aims, is correctly perceived by the enemy as proof that terror and murder pay off, as Jews run away and close themselves into ghettos, behind concrete walls and separation fences. 'HAZIT' will work in complete opposition to the appeasement and surrender policies of Israeli governments during the last decades. 'HAZIT' will work towards changing basic values, and there will most likely even be a need to reverse them."
Marzel is not the only nut running loose. Michael Kleiner, head of the Herut Party, did manage to get himself and his friends beat up today during a provocation they insighted in the city of Jaffa.
Both articles below are from Ha'aretz.
Marzel urges IDF to assassinate Uri Avnery
By Nadav Shragai
National Jewish Front leader Baruch Marzel, now campaigning for the March 28 Knesset election, said yesterday that the leaders of Kadima are "traitors" and "criminals" and called on the Israel Defense Forces to assassinate the far-left leader of the Gush Shalom movement Uri Avnery.
Speaking yesterday in Jerusalem and Ramle, Marzel said left-wing activists are bringing destruction upon themselves and said they sometimes harm the interests of Israel no less than the country's external enemies.
In response to Avnery's comment that the 2001 assassination of cabinet minister Rehavam Ze'evi was a Palestinian "targeted killing" - a term generally reserved for IDF strikes on militant leaders - Marzel said the IDF needs to target Avnery.
"Traitors sit in Kadima. They betrayed their own principles, Judaism and Zionism," Marzel added.
Peace Now yesterday evening called on Attorney General Menachem Mazuz to examine Marzel's statements on suspicion of incitement.
The far-right extremist also expressed anger at attacks by National Union and the National Religious Party. He said their action increases his chance of not obtaining the minimum number of votes required to enter the Knesset.
Jaffa residents clash with Herut activists urging their emigration
By Yuval Azoulay, Assaf Carmel and Nadav Shragai, Haaretz Correspondents
Herut party activists and Arab residents of Jaffa clashed on Thursday afternoon after the activists arrived in the city in an attempt to convince its Israeli Arab residents to leave the country.
The activists were headed by party chairman and former MK Michael Kleiner.
Police officers who arrived at the scene dispersed those involved in the brawl.
Convening on Yefet Street, Kleiner began reciting his political doctrine as Herut activists urged Jaffa's Arab residents to emigrate, and offered monetary compensation.
"The land was given to the sons of Israel, and not to the sons of Ishmael. Us. This is our country. Not your country," Kleiner declared. "But we aren't talking about a forced evacuation. We won't force anyone to leave. We're talking about voluntary evacuation, in exchange for fair, or perhaps even higher, monetary compensation. Whoever doesn't want it won't take the money and will stay here, but there are many Arab countries in the region."
Within minutes, dozens of Arab residents crowded around Kleiner and the Herut activists, accusing him of being racist and fomenting strife. The activists said that they were beaten, and that Jaffa residents had thrown eggs and bottles at them.
Jewish residents of Jaffa who were in the area at the time of the incident accused Kleiner of threatening the coexistence between Jews and Arabs in Jaffa.
After a Kleiner supporter took out several bills to prove that he was serious about the intention to compensate Arabs willing to emigrate, one of the Arab residents flung the bills in the air. The money scattered and passers-by collected it for themselves.
After a firecracker was set off, Kleiner and his associates fled to their cars and left the area. No one was hurt.
After the incident, Kleiner said his visit to Jaffa constituted "legitimate activity within the framework of Israeli democracy. We respect them, but they don't respect democracy. This is a business proposal; if they want to, they can take it, if they don't, they won't."
"No one can harm residents of Tel Aviv-Jaffa or the good relations between Jews and Arabs in the city," Tel Aviv-Jaffa Mayor Ron Huldai said in response to the incident.
Hunters and protesters are heading for the Gulf of St Lawrence and the north-east coast of Newfoundland, waiting for the Canadian government to give the go-ahead for the cull. It was expected to start this week.
Ministers have already authorised the slaughter of 325,000 baby harp seals, the second highest number ever. It will be the third successive year in which more than 300,000 of the cubs have been clubbed and shot; by the end of the cull, the death toll since 2004 will top a million.
These seals also face disaster from another direction. Scientists, sat another real danger to the seals comes from climate change. Water temperatures off Newfoundland are 4.5C warmer than this time last year and the ice is already beginning to melt.
Shrinking Arctic ice caps are threatening arctic animals. Polar bears find it harder to find the food as icebergs, their "highways" to a seal food supply, shrink away, or as ice that normally forms fails to appear. The giant white bears need the ice to gain access to ringed and barbed seals which live and play away from land among the ice bergs, yet the ice is breaking up two weeks earlier than normal these days, and polar bears are on average between 176 and 187 pounds lighter. Scientists believe it is because they cannot find food. Every day of ice hunting is critical, as the bears must hunt to build enough fat to last through the forced 5 month fast during winter.
Unseasonable warming can also lead to collapses of the snow caves where female seals bear their young. The young as yet have no blubber and die of exposure when cold conditions return. Scientists suspect that declines in seal populations will occur in this manner, and will ultimately lead to further declines in polar bear populations.
And it isn't just in the arctic.
Retreating ice in the Southern Ocean is making it harder for elephant seal mothers to feed their babies, say Australian researchers.
Environmental scientists Dr Clive McMahon and Harry Burton of the Australian Antarctic Division in Tasmania say a warming climate is changing the ecology of the ocean, where the seals forage.
They say this changing ecology, which has led to a drop in available seal food, is interfering with mothers' ability to feed their young to a healthy weight.
And this has contributed to a dramatic decrease in the seal population over recent decades.
Anyway, back to the "cull". The following article is from Ireland On Line. Below that you will find further information and suggestions for actions on the seal cull.
Canadian embassy picketed by seal cull protesters
23/03/2006 - 13:45:29
Animal right activists today stepped up their campaign for a ban on seal hunting by taking their protest to the Canadian Embassy.
Picketing outside the St Stephen’s Green building, demonstrators urged consumers across Ireland to boycott all Canadian seafood until its annual cull is stopped.
Organiser, Limerick-based activist John Carmody of the Animal Rights Action Network (Aran), pleaded with residents to join their appeal.
“We are asking people in Ireland to contact the Canadian officials and voice their disgust in the violent barbaric slaughtering of seals and boycott Canadian seafood,” he said.
“These seals are hacked, picked to death or clubbed or shot and die very slowly. Some have even been skinned alive or choked on their own blood.
“This is the world’s largest slaughtering of any marine mammals, with thousands of seals already killed this year alone.”
Celebrities all over the world have joined the protest against the killing of 325,000 young seals by registered hunters who claim they decimate cod stocks.
John added: “This seal hunt takes place once the fishing season is over and the fur is sold, mainly in south east Asia.
“We hope this is the last year this takes place, but if the Canadian Government doesn’t stop it we know a worldwide boycott will work.
“We have identified that €126,000 worth of Canadian seafood is sold annually in Ireland.
“There has been a huge boycott in America and we now are stepping up our campaign in the UK and Ireland.”
The seal hunt will begin in the Gulf of St Lawrence this week.
Call on Canada's New Prime Minister to End the Seal Slaughter!
With nearly one million seals killed in the past three years alone, Canada’s commercial seal hunt has become the largest, most brutal slaughter of marine mammals on earth.
Each year, Canada allows hundreds of thousands of defenseless baby seals to be cruelly clubbed and shot to death for their fur. The last time this many seals were killed—in the 1950s and 1960s—the harp seal population was reduced by as much as two-thirds.
In 2005, 98.5% of the seals killed were just two months of age or younger. At the time of slaughter, many had not yet eaten their first solid meal or taken their first swim. They literally had no escape from the "hunters."
Last year, The HSUS documented the commercial seal hunt firsthand. What we saw was shocking: conscious baby seals stabbed with boathooks and dragged across the ice, wounded
See The HSUS Animal Channel's slide show on the seal hunt.
seal pups left to choke on their own blood for more than an hour, and conscious seals sliced open and skinned as they struggled. An independent veterinary study conducted in 2001 found much of the same; it concluded that 42% of the seals examined had likely been skinned alive while conscious.
The overwhelming majority of Canadians, Americans, and Europeans oppose the commercial seal hunt, and many of us are willing to use our consumer power to help stop it. To pressure the Canadian government and fishing industry to take action, The HSUS and our ProtectSeals network are asking consumers to boycott Canadian seafood products until the seal hunt has been ended for good.
Sing a petition to the Canadian Prime Minister by clicking http://www.thepetitionsite.com/takeaction/566342047?z00m=76043&z00m=76043#body
Wednesday, March 22, 2006
King Mohammed VI of Morocco arrived in the Western Sahara on Monday. The unwelcome visit followed the commemoration of the 30th anniversary of the Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic, declared by the Polisario Liberation Front. The King's trip is allegedly aimed at building support for his so-called autonomy plan. During his last visit to the area in 2002, the Moroccan monarch said that his country would "not give up one inch of its Saharan territory, which is inalienable and indivisible".
The Sahara Press Agency reporting on one response says that Saharawi students at the University o Marrakech organised marches on Tuesday evening to denounce the visit of Mohamed VI to the occupied capital of the Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic, El Aaiun, and advocated the exercise by the Saharawi people of their right to self-determination and independence.
During the peaceful marches the Saharawi students raised pictures of the Saharawi human rights activist and political prisoners in addition to placards on which it was written: "We reject the visit of Mohamed VI to El Aaiun and ask for the right of the Saharawi people to exercise their inalienable right to self-determination and independence", the same source indicated.
They also called to the "immediate withdrawal of the Moroccan repressive machine from the occupied territories of the Western Sahara and the unconditional release of all the Saharawi political prisoners", imprisoned in the Moroccan prisons, the same source added.
The Moroccan repressive forces, composed of CMI, police and GUS immediately intervened to disperse the demonstrators an proceeded to the sealing of all the streets leading to the place of the demonstration
SPA also reports that Saharawi students of the secondary school of the occupied city of El Aaiun refused on Tuesday to be forcibly transported in Moroccan military trucks to attend, against their will, to the "royal activities" in the occupied capital of the Saharawi Republic, in a signal of denunciation to the visit of Mohamed VI to the Western Sahara and advocating the right of their people to the self-determination and independence, reported SPS’s correspondent on the ground.
Demonstrators raised the flags of the Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic and chanted in favour of the independence of the Western Sahara, refusing to answer this appeal to attend "these activities."
SPA reports, they also faced the Moroccan settlers stopping them from crossing the Saharawi popular neighbourhood "Giratoria", raising the flags of the Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic and distributing tracts rejecting the visit of the king of Morocco, Mohamed VI, to the Western Sahara.
The Moroccan forces of occupation violently intervened so as to protect and support the settlers, who failed to enter the Giratoria, according to SPA.
Many people, especially youth have been arrested.
Khalil Sidi M'Hamed, Minister of the Occupied Territories and Communities, called Tuesday on the Moroccan and Saharawi civil citizens in he Western Sahara to "dissociate from these reprehensible practices", underlining that the two people, Saharawi an Moroccan, "are victims to the same Moroccan Government".
The Saharawi official also asked the UN to intervene so as to "protect the Saharawi civil citizens, who are victims to these abuses and to grant them the respect of their fundamental freedoms until the decolonisation of their territory".
The first statement below comes from Western Sahara On Line. The second article is some good background on the whole crappy situation regarding the Western Sahara and is from the Norwegian Support Committee for Western Sahara.
Moroccon King Just Not Welcome!!!
Many media and international news agencies as well as reliable reports emanating from the Saharawi occupied territories have recently been reporting that, on the eve of the forthcoming visit to be conducted by the Moroccan King to the occupied Western Sahara, the Moroccan authorities have intensified their military and security presence in the Territory. Thousands of Moroccan soldiers, police forces, gendarmerie and different security corps have been deployed throughout the occupied territories. Barriers and checkpoints have been erected, and security units have been deployed to patrol the key areas. Besides, houses on main streets as well as university campuses were broken in and evacuated. All these measures aim at terrorising and violating the human rights of Saharawi citizens not only in the occupied territories but also in Southern Morocco and in Moroccan universities where Saharawi students study.
How To Be Ignored
Depressing lessons in realpolitik from the Western Sahara.
By Carne Ross
Posted Tuesday, March 21, 2006, at 6:59 AM ET
TINDOUF, Algeria—If any part of you wants to believe that the world is fundamentally just, that wrongs are eventually righted, and that those of us in the West are fair and righteous in the way we treat other countries and cultures, consider the story of the people of Western Sahara. Their history proves that you can have right wholly on your side, international law emphatically in support of your cause, be on the agenda of the U.N. Security Council for decades, and still be ignored.
In 1975, Morocco invaded the former Spanish colony of the Western Sahara. A long and inconclusive guerrilla war followed. The Polisario Front, which represents the people of the Western Sahara known as the Sahrawis, was supported by Algeria. Morocco was supported by France, the United States, and other major powers.
At the cease-fire in 1991, Morocco declared that it would accept a U.N.-supervised referendum on the status of the territory, as an earlier ruling of the International Court of Justice required. At last, the Sahrawis would decide their own future. The United Nations set up a commission to run the referendum. The U.N. Security Council passed scores of resolutions over the years that followed supporting a referendum. But thanks to perpetual obstruction by Morocco, the vote never took place. The United Nations' commission to run the referendum—called MINURSO—still exists, at a cost of nearly $50 million a year. Today, there seems less chance than ever that there will be a vote.
When Morocco first invaded, hundreds of thousands of Sahrawis were driven from the territory. The Polisario Front set up refugee camps in the far southwestern corner of Algeria near the town of Tindouf. Home to some 150,000 refugees, the camps' orderliness and the industry of the inhabitants is striking. The rows of huts and tents are tidy; women and children attend classes. But visitors cannot escape the deep sense of despair and frustration. There are middle-aged people who were born here but have never seen their homeland. Recently the camps, which lie deep in the western reaches of the Sahara desert, were devastated by floods ( see this map). To the rest of the world, out of sight is out of mind.
Geography is one reason the Western Sahara is ignored. The suffering of the Sahrawis lies a long, awkward, and expensive journey away, in a country—Algeria—that most Western countries have long warned against visiting because of its own bloody civil war. Reaching the occupied territory itself is even more difficult, thanks to restrictions placed by the Moroccan authorities, who are no doubt reluctant to publicize the recent wave of Sahrawi demonstrations and consequent arrests (described in a recent Amnesty International report). They have also blocked access to Web sites—such as www.arso.org—that cover events in the territory.
"Where's the story?" editors demand of journalists seeking the expensive plane fare to visit Tindouf. And where indeed is the story, except in the tedious, endless denial of justice to an entire population. With no bombs, only occasional killings (a Sahrawi demonstrator was recently beaten to death by the Moroccan police), and an appalling lack of diplomatic action, the story, though rich in tragedy, lacks the immediate drama required to propel it to the front pages.
The attention we give to blood and destruction also helps keep the story off the news agenda. Since the 1991 cease-fire, the Polisario have forsworn violence as a means to further their cause. The Polisario's leaders know that if they were to resume guerrilla action, the Moroccans would be quick to cry terrorism in order to turn their powerful allies against them. Eager for the simplicity of "us" against the "terrorists," the world's press would almost certainly play along. But the paradox of an ugly world is here very evident: Without bloodshed, no one pays any attention to the Polisario. For all the celebration of the nonviolence of Mandela or Gandhi or King, in the real world pacifism has brought the Polisario virtually nothing.
If you talk to diplomats covering Western Sahara, almost all will admit that right is on the Sahrawis' side. The U.N. special envoy recently told the Security Council that the law clearly favors the Sahrawis. But this means nothing, when, in terms of realpolitik, Morocco has all the countries that matter in its camp. Morocco is a loyal U.S. ally in the war against terrorism (including, allegedly, torturing suspects at Washington's behest). It is equally staunch in fighting illegal immigration into Europe. Morocco is the jumping-off point for many African would-be emigrants, who desperately try to cross the Mediterranean or battle their way into the Spanish enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla. To demonstrate its helpfulness, Morocco has begun to dump the migrants it captures into the minefields beyond the fortified sand barrier known as " the berm" that protects its occupation in the Western Sahara. Some have died.
At the United Nations, there is much hand-wringing about finding a "mutually acceptable" solution to the "dispute," which is, in reality, an occupation. But nothing is done. Morocco has sat tight, watched U.N. envoys come and go, and successfully fooled the world into thinking it a "reforming" Arab government. Meanwhile, it suppresses democracy at home and remains in illegal occupation of someone else's land. It has exploited the mineral wealth of the territory and is now in the process of selling— illegally—rights to fish the Western Sahara's waters to the European Union, which is happy to preach about justice and international law in places where it costs nothing to do so.
This is the ultimate and depressing lesson of the Western Sahara. Whatever anyone tells you about "values" such as democracy or rights being the organizing principles of Western diplomacy, the world is still run according to the dismal calculus of "interests" and realpolitik. Morocco is with us, so the Sahrawis can go to hell. And, frankly, hell is a pretty accurate description of those refugee camps in the Sahara.
Carne Ross is a former British diplomat and director of Independent Diplomat, a nonprofit group that is advising the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic, the government-in-exile of the Sahrawi people.
Just because I knew you would want to know I print the following from the Austin American Statesman. HOWEVER, PLEASE NOTE I DO NOT IN ANY WAY SHAPE OR FORM CONDONE THE EATING OF CHICKENS...
Austinite wins Pillsbury Bake-Off
Anna Ginsberg won $1 million for chicken and stuffing recipe
By Kitty Crider
AMERICAN-STATESMAN STAFF FOOD EDITOR
Wednesday, March 22, 2006
ORLANDO — Austinite Anna Ginsberg is $1 million richer this morning, as the winner of the 42nd Pillsbury Bake-Off. Her original recipe for Baked Chicken and Spinach Stuffing beat out 98 other finalists from all over the country for the grand prize announced today, which will be awarded as a $50,000 a year annuity for 20 years.
Ginsberg, a stay-at-home mother of a 4-year-old daughter, creatively combined spinach with frozen homestyle waffle sticks, fresh sage and pecans for the stuffing and then used waffle syrup in the peach glaze for the savory chicken dish.
Judge Martha Holmberg, food editor of the Oregonian and former food editor of Fine Cooking magazine, said of the recipe, "It's not a lot of work but feels restauranty in the good sense of the word. The waffle fingers had a nice texture and it was a good way to get spinach and vegetables in there. It's a complete dinner." (Ginsburg's recipe is below.)
Recipes were judged on appearance, appeal, creativity and taste and had to win one of the Bake-Off's six categories before they could compete for the grand prize. Ginsberg's recipe won the Cooking for Two category. Each of the other five category winners earned $10,000 plus GE Profile ovens with Trivection.
All Bake-Off recipes had to include at least two of more than 60 qualifying products from Pillsbury, General Mills, Progresso, Green Giant, Yoplait, Old El Paso and more. Ginsberg used Green Giant frozen spinach and Pillsbury Dunkables waffle sticks.
In addition to the $1 million, Ginsberg, as grand prize winner, will receive $10,000 worth of GE Profile stainless steel kitchen appliances.
Confetti rained down on Ginsberg, à la Vince Young style, as she was announced the grand-prize winner. She grabbed her head with her hands in disbelief. "It's like I haven't woken up yet," she said of the early-morning announcement. She said she made the recipe up for dinner one night, for herself because she likes stuffing. "I thought it was creative and it tastes so good. I ran upstairs and typed it up."
She plans to use the money for her daughter's education and a trip to London. And she has a dream of owning a coffeehouse, with a playscape for kids, where she bakes cookies every day.
Competition cooking is not new to Ginsberg, who began entering recipe contests two years ago and has been a finalist or winner in 15 national ones. Last year her wins included $10,000 in a California raisin contest and $5,000 in Cooking Light. In 2004, she was a Bake-Off finalist and, as such, received a trip to Hollywood, an Advantium oven and a $1,000 supermarket shopping spree. But even though her recipe did not place that year, it whetted her appetite to try again. Rarely entering single recipes in contests, she estimates that she has submitted 300 original creations in two dozen contests in the past couple of years. She was elusive on how many she entered in the Bake-Off but told reporters it was between 1 and 100, hinting the higher end.
While the money is nice, recipe contests are "more of a creative outlet for me," the 35-year-old University of Texas advertising graduate told the American-Statesman last year in a profile for the newspaper after the Cooking Light win.
Ginsberg was not the only Austin resident competing in the Bake-Off. Jennifer Mohn was a finalist in Orlando with a roasted tomato-corn chowder with cilantro pesto. As a finalist, she won an expense-paid trip to the competition at the Gaylord Palms Resort, a $1,700 value.
Judges for the Bake-Off were nine newspaper or magazine food writers (including this writer), dietitians, and cookbook authors, including Angela Shelf Medearis, an Austin radio food show host.
Baked Chicken and Spinach Stuffing
9 Pillsbury® Dunkables® frozen homestyle waffle sticks with 3 syrup cups (from 1 lb 1.3-oz box)
2 tablespoons peach preserves
1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
2 bone-in skin-on chicken breasts (1 lb)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 tablespoon butter or margarine
1/2 cup chopped onion (1 medium)
1/4 cup chicken broth
1/2 teaspoon poultry seasoning
1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh sage
1 1/2 cups Green Giant® frozen cut leaf spinach (from 1-lb bag), thawed, squeezed to drain well
1 tablespoon beaten egg white
1 tablespoon chopped pecans
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Spray 9-inch glass pie plate or 8-inch square pan with cooking spray. In small bowl, mix contents of syrup cups from waffles, the preserves and Worcestershire sauce. Place chicken, skin side up, in pie plate; sprinkle with salt and pepper. Spoon syrup mixture over chicken. Bake uncovered 25 minutes.
Meanwhile, toast waffle sticks as directed on box. Cool slightly, about 2 minutes. Cut waffles into 3/4-inch cubes; set aside. Spray 1-quart casserole with cooking spray (or use 9x5-inch nonstick loaf pan; do not spray). In 10-inch nonstick skillet, melt butter over medium heat. Add onion; cook and stir 2 minutes or until tender. Stir in waffle pieces and broth, breaking up and moistening waffle pieces. Sprinkle with poultry seasoning and sage. Remove from heat; stir in spinach. Cool about 5 minutes. Stir in egg white and pecans.
Spoon stuffing into casserole; place in oven with chicken. Bake uncovered 15 to 25 minutes or until juice of chicken is clear when thickest part is cut to bone (170 degrees) and stuffing is thoroughly heated. Serve chicken with stuffing, spooning remaining sauce in pan over chicken.
This follow up on the situation in Ecuador is from the Spanish News Agency EFE.
Protests convulse Ecuador
Quito, Mar 22 (EFE).- Soldiers in armored personnel carriers and on bulldozers deployed in six provinces of central Ecuador on Wednesday to remove barricades blocking highways and enforce a rights-suspending state-of-emergency imposed to quell protests against a free-trade treaty with the United States.
The government decreed the military deployment Tuesday in response to the widespread demonstrations by supporters of the Andean nation's Indian federation, which has denounced and defied the measure, creating a climate of uncertainty over the country's immediate political future.
The outcome of the confrontation between the powerful Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities, or Conaie, which is spearheading the protests, and the weak and unstable administration of President Alfredo Palacio is difficult to predict and its political repercussions uncertain.
In Cotopaxi province, where demonstrators urged on by area mayors had blocked roads to press demands for infrastructure funding, the protests subsided after the government on Tuesday evening delivered some $42 million to local authorities.
On Monday night and early Tuesday, Indians in that region, who have also demanded the termination of the Ecuadorian government's contract with U.S. oil company Occidental Petroleum, citing alleged breach of contract, kept some roads blocked while the army removed barricades in other areas.
Conaie has decided to continue blockading many roads in the Andean highland region, although some of the federation's members told EFE on a road south of Quito that they would avoid clashing with security forces.
Gilberto Talahua, coordinator of the Pachakutik Movement, Conaie's political arm and the Indians' loudest institutional voice, also told EFE that the indigenous protest would continue and be further bolstered with the support of other social sectors that have offered to back their cause.
Talahua referred to Palacio as a "coward" and said that the state-of-emergency decree, which restricts certain constitutional rights including freedom of assembly, shows the government's "inability" to solve problems.
It also shows Palacio's "intolerance of his own people," he said.
"We Indians are not going to back down and alongside us are several other social sectors; our struggle is for the country, not our individual interests," said Talahua, who added that "all cowardly, mendacious and corrupt governments do these kinds of actions, which we don't fear anymore." On Tuesday, Interior Minister Felipe Vega, the fifth to occupy this post in Palacio's 11 months in office, announced the state of emergency in a press conference. The measure left the provinces of Tungurahua, Imbabura, Chimborazo, Cotopaxi, Cañar and part of Pichincha under military control.
According to Vega, who was sworn in Monday after his predecessor resigned last week, the goal of the state of emergency is to "guarantee freedom of transit" within the national territory, as is provided for in the constitution, and put an end to the supply shortages - especially of food and fuel - that have begun to affect central Ecuador.
Vega noted that no arrest warrants have been issued with any Indian leaders, but added that it was necessary to have "a country at peace in order to work" and defended the free-trade negotiations with the United States.
The Indians, for their part, have said they will not halt their protests until the government calls off the talks on a free-trade deal, which they say would be ruinous for the nation's poor people and benefit only the wealthy and powerful, especially the United States. Talks are set to resume Thursday in Washington.
"The pressure Palacio must be receiving (in favor of the free-trade pact) surely is coming from the business leaders, the multinationals, the U.S. embassy," said Talahua, who again denounced the state of emergency and the "attitude of a weak government, which props itself up with these kinds of measures."
As some of you know, Japan beat Cuba 10-6 to win the first ever World Baseball Classic (WBC).
I have to tell you I didn't know what to expect from the WBC, but as a life long lover of the game, the Classic, in my opinion, was a great success. The joy of the fans from around the world seen in the stands was absolutely contagious, as was the excitement of the players themselves.
It was just dang cool.
One thing we learned from the WBC was that the rest of the world is playing baseball the way it used to be played in the US - and we learned that style is a path to good ballplaying. The major leagues used to pitch, catch, run, bunt, and concentrate on moving runners. We used to value speed. We used to focus on sound execution in all phases of the game. The US major leagues now place an almost complete emphasis on power hitting and power pitching. Tape measure home runs and speed gun clocked pitches are the symbols of the current US game.
It turns out it doesn't have to be that way.
The two teams in the finals, Japan and Cuba, played the way we used to play. The most successful team in the tournament by record, Korea (6-1), played that way as well.
The success of the 2005 Chicago White Sox, after a shift in emphasis to pitching and defense, could signal a change in the style of play in the US...maybe.
Anyway, the WBC was great fun and it was great for baseball. I look forward to the 2009 games.
The following is from Prensa Latina.
Cuba Baseball Win Aids Katrina Loss
Havana, Mar 22 (Prensa Latina) In a welcoming ceremony for Cuban baseball players coming in second place at the World Baseball Classic (WBC), President Fidel Castro reiterated the island will donate the prize money to US victims of Hurricane Katrina.
"We are ready to donate that money to Hurricane Katrina victims," he said. The US had refused a Cuban offer to send for free a team of disaster physicians immediately after the storm.
Members of Cuban baseball team attending the WBC return this Wednesday to their respective provinces, a day after arriving in Havana, where the people gave them a huge warm welcome.
The Cuban team finished second in this tournament, defeated by Japan 10-6 in the final game, but beat powerful teams from Panama, Venezuela, Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic.
Fidel Castro also slammed Washington´s economic blockade on Cuba for almost 50 years, which bars the island from having income originating in the US.
Initially, the Bush Administration had banned the Cuban team from attending the Classic under the argument it would obtain proceeds from the tournament and that was against the blockade.
Then, the Cuban Baseball Federation responded that it would donate any earnings to the victims of Hurricane Katrina, thus neutralizing Bush´s claim.
The Cuban president expressed thanks for support from other countries like Panama, Puerto Rico, Venezuela and Dominican Republic. He also thanked the tournament´s organizers for having invited Cuba.
Fidel also praised "the position of Cuban baseball players, who stayed cool in the face of provocations by a small counterrevolutionary group," in San Juan, capital of Puerto Rico.
In another moment of his speech, the Cuban leader stated that the WBC achieved a victory over the unfair exclusion of this sport in the 2012 London Olympic Games, by showing that it is indeed a world sport.
Fidel Castro said the same amount of money the baseball team did not receive for their performance in the WBC will be earmarked by this government to the Cuban Baseball Federation to continue developing this sport in the island.
The leader closed by saying that none of baseballers or their relatives will want for anything to have a comfortable decent life.
The Euskadi Ta Askatasuna (ETA)has declared a permanent ceasfire in their armed struggle for an independent Basque nation. In response, Spain's Socialist prime minister called on the entire nation Wednesday to set aside political differences and work together for lasting peace.
Zapatero's call for unity came shortly after the head of the conservative opposition Popular Party, Mariano Rajoy, urged the government "not to pay any political price" in eventual negotiations with the separatist organization.
The Zapatero government, however, already has the go-ahead from the Spanish parliament to start a dialogue with ETA provided that the group announced an abandonment of arms. That was passed in the chamber on May 17th last year, but with the opposition of the Partido Popular.
The chance of dialogue has been expected for some time since the Zapatero government came to power and the Prime Minister’s repeated insistence that now was the time for talks, given that two years had passed without a fatality caused by ETA. A bombing and disruption campaign with smaller devices has continued however. As Zapatero put it, now was the ‘best time in many years to start to see the start of the end of violence’.
Following is the ETA statement in full and then comments from Sinn Fein's Gerry Adams reported in Sinn Fein News.
Message from Euskadi Ta Askatasuna to the Basque People.
Euskadi Ta Askatasuna has decided to declare a permanent ceasefire from March 24th 2006.
The objective of this decision is to encourage a democratic process in Euskal Herria in order to build a new framework in which the rights as a people which correspond to us can be recognised and looking to the future assuring us the possibility of the development of all political options.
At the end of this process the Basque citizens must have the word and decision on their future.
The Spanish and French states must recognise the results of such a democratic process, without any type of limitations. The decisions which the Basque citizens take on our future must be respected.
We make a call to all the agents to act with responsibility, and be conscious of the step taken by ETA.
ETA makes a call to the Spanish and French authorities to respond to this new situation in a positive manner, leaving repression to one side.
Finally, we make a call to all the men and women of the Basque country to get involved in this process, and to fight for the rights which as a patria correspond to us.
ETA expresses its wish and will that the process now started reaches its end, and in that we a real democratic situation is achieved for Euskal Herria, overcoming the conflict of many long years and constructing a peace based on justice.
We reaffirm our intention to carry on taking steps in the future in line with this wish.
The end of conflict, here and now is possible. This is the wish and the will of ETA.
Euskal Herrian, 2006 ko martxoan
Euskadi Ta Askatsasuna
Gerry Adams welcomes ETA Ceasefire
The Basque independence group, ETA announced a permanent ceasefire today. Euskadi Ta Askatsasuna said in it's video statement that the "end of conflict, here and now is possible".
Sinn Fein has been in dialogue with all of the Basque political parties and in particular Batasuna. Gerry Adams has also written to the Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Zapatero.
Speaking after the announcement Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams said:
"Sinn Féin's objective has been to promote conflict resolution and to assist in whatever way we can the development of a peace process. I welcome today's news from the Basque Country.
"ETA's announcement provides all sides to the conflict with an opportunity of historic proportions. Today's announcement gives a considerable boost to the development of a conflict resolution process.
"It is incumbent on all sides to the conflict to grasp this opportunity, and to do everything in their power to make political progress a reality.
"Sinn Fein believes that the key to progress is an inclusive process of dialogue in which all of the participants are treated on the basis of equality. All possibilities must be on the agenda for discussion.
"There is a particular onus and responsibility on the Spanish government to respond positively and creatively.
"The Spanish government should immediately intervene to stop the political trials against Batasuna leaders, including Arnaldo Otegi."
Tuesday, March 21, 2006
REMEMBER WHEN ORAL ROBERTS WENT UP IN HIS TOWER AND TALKED TO GOD...AND TALKED OLD FOLKS OUT OF THEIR MONEY...THOSE WERE THE DAYS...
Oral Roberts University was not about to be upstaged by upstart Liberty University. Hell, no. ORU had them there gays arrested, too. Can't have the sodomites hanging out near the campus. That would be BAD NEWS for ORU.
KOTV in Okalahoma reports the following:
Gay Protesters Arrested At ORU Campus
A group of traveling protesters took their message about gays to the Oral Roberts campus in Tulsa on Monday. Their goal was to talk to ORU students about the school's administration who they say practice religion based oppression.
News on 6 reporter Jennifer Loren was there as several of the protesters were arrested. Protester Jacob Reitan: “We're here to say at ORU end religion based discrimination once and for all!"
More than 30 protesters called "Soulforce Equality Riders" stood in the cold across the street from Oral Roberts University. On the other side, a cluster of Tulsa Police waited for them to make their move.
Tulsa Police Sgt Kim Presley: "They were notified prior to arriving here by an officer as well as personnel of Oral Roberts University that if they showed up on private property they would be arrested."
The Soulforce Equality Riders are on a 2 month nationwide bus tour, making stops at religious and military colleges.
They say they're trying to walk onto these campuses to talk with students about religion-based discrimination going on in their schools. Protester Rachel Powell: "We have students on this campus that we know are gay and are closeted. We have students who are straight and want to support those who are gay and closeted, but can't less they be set under investigation."
The group targeted ORU as a good place to protest because of the university’s “Code of Honor Pledge.” In it, ORU students pledge not to engage in unscriptural sexual acts including homosexual activity.
Rachel Powell: "Heterosexual people can fall in love on this campus, date hold hands. Homosexual people can not."
ORU responded in a written statement. In it they say they do not discriminate, "anyone who is willing to sign and abide by the code of honor is welcome to attend ORU." But they made it clear the protesters were not welcome.
Every one who tried to walk on campus was arrested and taken away from the school. Tulsa Police cited the protesters with misdemeanor trespassing. They could face fines and will be scheduled for a court appearance.
Indian protesters have been demanding that the government of Ecuador abandon its Free Trade Agreement talks with the USA, contending that a trade pact will damage their livelihoods and way of life.
Indians, who make up an estimated 30 percent of Ecuador‘s total population of 13 million, fear a trade deal with the United States will disrupt their agricultural traditions and push them out of their comminutes.
Indians throughout the Andes harvest potatoes, corn and other products for consumption in their hamlets. As part of the communal tradition, surplus harvest is sold in local markets.
"This trade deal will starve us to death," said Maria Sillo, a mother of three who plants vegetables and makes about $15 a week selling her produce in a nearby market is quoted as saying in Australia's Leading The Charge. "We prefer to die fighting this deal than to starve to death," she added.
This is the second week of indigenous mobilizations against the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with the United States, which has included marches and road blocks in various provinces.
Despite violent repression by the police forces, the indigenous movement has warned Alredo Palacio, president of that country, that if he persists in signing the FTA there will be a popular uprising.
After centuries of discrimination by an elite, Indians organized to help overthrow President Jamil Mahuad in 2000. The movement has lost some momentum due to internal bickering but is still one of the most powerful voices for indigenous people in the Americas.
The following comes to us from Prensa Latina.
Indigenous Wrath for Ecuador FTA
Quito, Mar 21 (Prensa Latina) Faced with brutal police, the indigenous movement intensified its protests and announced new rallies for Tuesday in Quito and across Ecuador.
Monday, Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador (CONAIE) head Luis Macas said that actions against the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with the US have been boosted because of the Executive´s silence and police violence.
He warned that new communities are joining demonstrations and roadblocks and the electoral date could change if the national mobilization calls for a Constituent Assembly.
Likewise, he denounced that police repression has resulted in 30 wounded people, 100 arrested and 300 others, including minors, with symptoms of asphyxia from the excessive use of tear gases.
In addition, Macas called for the international community´s attention over the escalating crackdown on natives opposing the destructive FTA and favoring expiration of the contract with Oxy US oil company.
Amid this situation, the transport union has been threatening a national strike as 4,000 trucks are stopped due to roadblocks.
Here is an interesting little article that piqued (is that word) my interest.
The article comes from The Nation (Thailand).
Disease sparks chemical attack fear
International health officials descend on Nan after 147 stricken after merit-making feast
A serious disease outbreak in the northern province of Nan yesterday had Army weapons specialists and US disease investigators on full alert.
Almost 150 people in the province have been stricken with botulism, a rare yet lethal bacterial disease that could potentially be used as a biological weapon.
Health authorities have sought international assistance treating the patients.
Military biological-weapons experts have been flown into Nan, as have World Health Organisation disease specialists, said Thai Disease Control Department chief Thawat Suntharacharn.
Since March 4, 143 villagers in Nan's Ban Luang district have been diagnosed as suffering from botulism, a disease caused by toxins produced by several members of a group of bacteria known as Clostridium botulinum.
All of the patients reported having eaten dishes containing preserved bamboo shoots from the same batch at a merit-making feast in their village last week. Shortly after eating the shoots they began to suffer similar symptoms, including vomiting, diarrhoea, difficulty swallowing, dry mouths and muscle weakness, Nan chief health officer Dr Pisit Sriprasert said on Sunday. Of the 143, 33 are currently breathing with the aid of respirators, he said.
"This bacterium is among three strains that can be used as a biological warfare agent - the others are anthrax and smallpox," said Thawat. Fears of a biological attack arose because of the number of people falling ill at one time.
Thawat said there were just a few cases of botulism reported each year in Thailand, and that was why there were no stockpiles of anti-toxin serums used to treat the disease.
Just 20 doses of the anti-toxin serum arrived on Sunday from the UK, but another 10 doses from Canada and 50 from the US arrived yesterday, he said.
And while that amount of serum should suffice to initially treat the patients, Thawat said it was vital more was procured for patients that remained in a critical condition. Thawat said the bill to treat the patients could top Bt10.5 million.
Officials said that of the 70 cans of bamboo shoots in the batch thought likely to have caused the outbreak, 68 had been sold earlier. The contents of just two of the tins likely infected the 143 patients at the merit-making feast.
Monday, March 20, 2006
I can only assume from the remarks below made by Police Chief Neil Merritt that in the city of Lockport anyway, police brutality is procedure.
The following report is from the Buffalo (New York) News.
Lockport police see no evil
By NANCY A. FISCHER
NEWS NIAGARA BUREAU
LOCKPORT - The city Police Department doesn't plan to change the way it operates in the wake of recent court cases in which defendants used police brutality claims as a successful defense.
"We will continue to do things how they've been done, and if it comes to a lawsuit against the city, we will address it," Mayor Michael W. Tucker said late last week.
Priscilla McDowell, 49, of Center Street, was cleared of disorderly conduct charges Feb. 10 after 15 minutes of deliberations by a City Court jury. Two others arrested with McDowell during a street disturbance July 17 pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct in court appearances last week. More serious charges were dropped against one of those defendants, and both of them were sentenced to no jail time as part of a plea bargain.
McDowell accused officers of taking her to the ground without provocation during her arrest on Church Street. Her attorney, E. Earl Key, showed the jury pictures of burn marks he called consistent with Taser burns. But police have denied using a Taser on McDowell.
Key said McDowell is now considering a civil lawsuit against the city on several grounds, including false arrest, malicious prosecution, excessive use of force and battery.
"We have had no negotiations so far," Key said Friday. "The trial was stressful for Mrs. McDowell. She had a rapid heart beat and needs some time to relax."
Key also said he feels the jury's verdict sent a message. "I think the not guilty verdict told the police something," he said. "They won't look at themselves in the mirror and see that maybe they are doing something wrong. Now I've got witnesses lining up. People complaining about past cases. Change is not going to happen unless it comes from the top down."
Police Chief Neil Merritt and Detective Capt. Larry Eggert on Friday said the situation last July was handled properly.
"One minor thing was addressed," Merritt said, "but it did not affect the people arrested. All procedures were followed, and it was handled professionally."
Merritt was asked about Officer Todd Chenez's string of obscenities caught on a police car tape and used by the defense.
"We absolutely tell officers they are not allowed to swear," he said. "If they do, they are sanctioned."
Merritt said he thought that officers who were disappointed with the verdict realize "that this is part of the job."
"They or I have no desire to change the way we do business," he said. "What they have been doing is very good police work. This was an issue in a certain locale. It was not a citywide issue and is not a big issue in general."
How many deaths before President Bush wakes up? You and I know the answer. He will never wake up. The war in Iraq goes on with no plan. Thousands of Americans and Iraqis are killed by the idiots on various sides. Meanwhile:
The illegal prisons go on.
The torture goes on.
The spying on Americans goes on.
The harrassment of Arab Americans goes on.
It all goes on...and on...and on
All in the name of democracy.
Strange but true...
Anyway the following is from an ABC affiliate in San Francisco - KGO TV.
War Protesters Demonstrate In San Francisco17 People Arrested
Mar. 20 - Seventeen anti-war protesters were arrested by San Francisco police this morning after blocking an intersection at Market and Montgomery streets.
Nine females and eight males were taken into custody after they allegedly stood in the street around 8:15 a.m. today, according to police spokesman Sgt. Neville Gittens.
Gittens said the protesters were told to not to block the intersection and were placed under arrest after failing to adhere to the police orders. It took about 30 minutes before the intersection was cleared.
Members of the group Act Against Torture organized the protest, which was set to begin at 7 a.m. outside U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein's office. The protest was scheduled to mark the third anniversary of the start of the war in Iraq.
According to Berkeley resident Kate Raphael, an organizer with Act Against Torture, there were about 300 protesters at the demonstration, many of which were donning orange prison suits to signify "what this war is doing to us as well as everybody around the world."
When the demonstrators blocking the intersection were arrested, Raphael said, "it was really kind of chilling in a way to watch those already in prison suits being led away . . . it really had the effect we were hoping to have."
The grassroots group, organized predominantly through word of mouth, chose to hold its protest in front of Feinstein's office to make the senator aware of people's feelings of disempowerment and hope that she "live up to her legislative responsibility to promote policies of justice and human rights," Raphael said.
"People aren't quite getting that we really have the obligation to stop our government from doing what their doing . . . We believe that people need to do more than just be against it," Raphael said.
There were minor traffic implications, but traffic was diverted a block or two in each direction in preparation of the demonstration, according to Gittens.
The intersection is cleared at this time.
Elephants in Midtown Mark
Return of the Cruelest Show on Earth
Ringling. Bros. Circus will be marching with their elephant captives to Madison Square Garden tonight! Take action!
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals will be organizing a demonstration in defense of the animals at 9:45PM tonight. Please attend! Advocates will gather at the tunnel exit on 37th St. Contact Ian from PETA at 757-943-0296 if you are able to assist.
Keep the heat on! Our friends over at NYC Animal Rights will be organizing a demonstration against Ringling. Bros. on opening night this Thursday. For details, contact Santos Lopez by clicking here.
Stay tuned for a MAJOR announcement related to this issue in the weeks to come. With your help, we will bring an end to this injustice!
Thanks for your compassion.
League of Humane Voters of New York City
Sunday, March 19, 2006
The following report is from the British anti-fascist magazine Searchlight
BNP union unmasked
Searchlight can exclusively reveal that the British National Party has launched a trade union. “Solidarity – The Union for British Workers” was registered with the trade unions Certification Office shortly before Christmas. Solidarity claims that it will be a normal trade union defending the interests of any British worker, but in reality it will be simply a front for the BNP. Given the BNP’s views on trade unionism and industrial relations, Solidarity will be little more than a scab union.
The creation of a trade union signals a dramatic departure for the fascist party. After years of encouraging members to infiltrate existing unions in the hope of seeking confrontation with officials, the BNP is now setting up an alternative structure.
According to documents lodged with the Certification Office, which regulates matters concerning trade unions, Solidarity aims to “improve the relations between employers and employees throughout all industries served by the union”.
It will also strive: “to protect, assist and promote the working and living conditions of the citizens of the British Isles”.
It all seems above board at first appearance but a closer look at the registration form makes its true agenda more apparent. Solidarity will also, its documents claim, “resist and oppose all forms of institutional union corruption” and “promote freedom within and without the Trades Union movement, protecting and promoting freedom of belief, thought and speech, irrespective of political and religious affiliation or creed”.
It also intends to set up a Political Fund and “print, publish, issue and circulate” literature that “may seem conducive to the … objects of Solidarity”. It will also seek to “aid and join with any organisation, federation, political representative or body … having for their object, or one of their objects, the promotion of the interests of workers or the furtherance of the political objectives enshrined within the Political Fund”.
There is no reference in the documents to BNP involvement but let there be no mistake about it, this is a BNP front.
The “President” of the union is Clive Potter, a long-time BNP activist from Leicester, who was expelled from Unison for improper conduct. Other BNP activists involved in the project include Jay Lee, who was recently booted out of Aslef, and John Walker, the BNP’s national treasurer, who has had his own troubles with the T&G.
The establishment of Solidarity appears to be a natural continuation of the party’s turn to working-class politics which began in 2000 and quickened over the past two years. Although the BNP has achieved its best election results in areas beset by racial friction, mostly in East Lancashire and West Yorkshire, it has won growing support in more traditional Labour areas where race is much less of an issue. The decline of traditional industries in South Yorkshire, the Potteries and the North East over the past 20 years has been matched by rising disillusionment with the Labour Party and an increase in support for the BNP.
The majority of space in the BNP’s newspaper, The Voice of Freedom, is now devoted to issues around migrant workers, the decline of British manufacturing, outsourcing and the impact of cheap imports. In the October edition, nine of the 16 pages were wholly or largely given to “industrial” issues. Most articles rile against the collapse of British economy as a result of a Government whose internationalist agenda is selling out British workers and a trade union movement which is more concerned with political correctness, stifling free speech and appeasing minority groups. The BNP, it claims, is now the only party standing up for the British worker.
An early intervention into working-class communities was the campaign for a Miners’ Memorial Day, launched by the BNP a year ago. Though initially a paper campaign, purely in response to the Holocaust Memorial Day, John Kitching, a Durham resident, took it further. The BNP has circulated a petition, badges and a leaflet in the former mining communities in the North East and Yorkshire. The campaign received backing from a number of trades councils and even the North East NUM before people realised it was a BNP front.
The BNP loves to hate the trade union movement. A few years ago it encouraged members to join unions in an attempt to seek confrontation with union officials (and publicity) in the hope of securing financial payouts when members were illegally expelled. But few BNP members carried out this work and the strategy became redundant when the law was changed to allow unions to expel fascists.
The BNP has always insisted that it is pro-union and objects only to those run by “the Marxist left”, but its concept of trade unionism is markedly different from the usual meaning. The BNP does not really believe in independent unions, indeed it has said that in a BNP Britain there would be no need for them because employers and employees would be involved in the same organisations.
It should also be remembered where the BNP’s real allegiance lies. During the 1984-85 miners’ strike the BNP called for the Army to be used against the NUM. One Yorkshire BNP candidate even funded scab miners.
A time to complain
Solidarity operates in name but so far not in reality. For it to be a proper trade union it will have to obtain a certificate of independence. This is a long and complicated process and one that will cost the BNP several thousand pounds.
The certificate of independence attests that the union is completely separate from employers and employers’ organisations and that it will operate solely in the interests of its members. Without a certificate it is highly unlikely that Solidarity could represent any of its members in an industrial tribunal, court proceedings or even in negotiations with employers.
In deciding whether a union is independent, the Certification Office will look at whether the union was formed with employer encouragement, the membership base of the union, its organisation and structure, and in particular how the rule book works in practice. The office would also look at its negotiating record and funding sources.
The certification process would involve a lengthy investigation and include a visit to the union’s headquarters, and scrutiny of the executive committee’s minutes and details of recognition by, and negotiations with, employers. Any member of the public has a right to express an objection.
As a trade union must have a record of activity before it can show that it is independent, Solidarity is unlikely to be able to proceed to this stage quickly, if at all.
The certification office can also deregister any union if it believes that the organisation is no longer functioning as a union.
Although obtaining a certificate of independence is clearly some way off, the BNP already has plans to use Solidarity as a political tool. Potter is currently looking into ways to establish a political fund, as a means to divert money to the BNP, and a public launch of the union would seek to cause maximum embarrassment to the TUC and its affiliates.
Searchlight’s exposure of Solidarity and its clear role as a front for the BNP will hopefully encourage a more thorough investigation by the Certification Office and complaints from trade unions. More importantly, however, the birth of Solidarity should remind the union movement of the need to oppose the BNP and highlight the incompatibility of racist politics with the ethos of trade unionism, which is based on solidarity and unity.
Since this article was written, Patrick Harrington has replaced Clive Potter as president of Solidarity. Harrington, a railway worker who was expelled from the RMT union, was one of the National Front "political soldiers" in the late 1980s alongside Nick Griffin, now leader of the BNP.
Since 1990 Harrington has run a group called Third Way, a group of about 20 members whose activities are largely confined to the internet. Third Way claims to be "beyond" left and right and has recently been seeking to initiate alliances with various other single-issue protest groups. Harrington's involvement in Solidarity is no doubt intended to provide a means for Harrington to increase his profile and an excuse for the BNP to claim that Solidarity is not a BNP front.
© Searchlight Magazine 2006
To no one's surprise the New York Times is reporting today that abuse of prisoners in Iraq did not start with Abu Ghraib and it did not end with Abu Ghraib either.
The following report is from Islam On Line.
Prisoners Abused Before, After Abu Ghraib: Report
CAIRO, March 19, 2006 (IslamOnline.net) – Iraqi detainees were repeatedly abused by an elite US Special Operations force unit before and after the outbreak of the Abu Ghraib abuse scandal, revealed a leading US newspaper Sunday, March 19.
Soldiers of a US military unit known as Task Force 6-26 used to beat prisoners with rifle butts, yelled and spit in their faces at Camp Nama, a former Iraqi military base near Baghdad, The New York Times said.
"The reality is, there were no rules there," a Pentagon official told the daily.
Located at Baghdad International Airport, the camp was the first stop for many detainees suspected of involving in "insurgency" – a US term describing resistance operations - on their way to the Abu Ghraib prison a few miles away.
Detainees were flown into the camp almost daily by unmarked helicopters, said former task force members on condition of anonymity.
Detainees were kept in what was known as Motel 6, a group of crudely built plywood shacks that reeked of urine and excrement, just beyond the screening rooms, where ousted Iraqi president Saddam Hussein was given medical exam after his capture, the paper said.
Jailers often blared rap music or rock and roll at deafening decibels over a loudspeaker to unnerve their subjects.
The revelation is a grim reminder of the abuses of Iraqi detainees at the notorious Abu Ghraib prison by US jailers.
In February, an Australian television station broadcast new images of Abu Ghraib abuses.
The latest grainy photographs and video images showed prisoners, some bleeding or hooded, bound to beds and doors, sometimes with a smiling American guard beside them.
In a windowless, jet-black garage-size room – known as the Black Room at the camp, detainees were also used by US soldiers for target practice in a game of jailer paintball, according to Defense Department personnel who served with the unit or briefed on its operations.
High-value detainees were questioned in the Black Room, nearly bare but for several 18-inch hooks that jutted from the ceiling.
Pentagon specialists further told the Times that said that prisoners at the camp were barred from access to lawyers or relatives, and confined for weeks without charges.
A March 6 report by Amnesty International said that tens of thousands of detainees have been "arbitrarily" held by US-led forces in Iraq without charge or trial and have been denied the right to challenge their detention.
Human Rights Watch revealed in September of last year that US troops routinely subjected Iraqi detainees to severe beatings and other cruel and inhumane treatment as a "way of sport" or just to "relieve stress."
The US daily cited the abuse of an 18-year-old Iraqi by US soldiers at the camp.
The teen was arrested in early 2004 with his entire family at their home in Baghdad on suspicion of selling cars to members of Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi, the presumed Al-Qaeda operative in Iraq.
Task force soldiers beat him repeatedly with a rifle butt and punched him in the head and kidneys, said a Defense Department specialist briefed on the incident.
Some complaints of abuses by the unit soldiers were ignored or played down, said the daily.
"It's under control," one unit commander told a Defense Department official who complained about mistreatment at Camp Nama in the spring of 2004.
Task Force 6-26 was a creation of the Pentagon's post-Sept. 11 campaign against terrorism.
Originally known as Task Force 121, it was formed in the summer of 2003, when the military merged two existing Special Operations units, one hunting Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in and around Afghanistan, and the other tracking the toppled Iraqi leader, Saddam Hussein.
The task force had a bad record of abusing Iraqi prisoners. At least 11 members have been removed from the unit, according to new figures the Special Operations Command provided in response to questions from the Times.
The US military said earlier this month it plans to shut down the notorious prison and transfer prisoners to other jails in Iraq.
Amnesty International played down the move, saying it was "little more than a new paint job" and a "change of scenery."
Several US dailies revealed that US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and former top US commander in Iraq, Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, gave free reign to US officers in charge of Abu Ghraib to adopt various torture and abuse tactics used at the notorious Guantanamo detention camp.