Saturday, June 10, 2006
The Islamic Courts which have taken contral of Modagishu and other parts of Somalia this week have already shut down movie theaters and video stores to keep the people pure of heart.
Then they decided no one should watch the World Cup. That sparked protests.
The following is from the Sydney Morning Herald.
Protest at World Cup ban in Mogadishu
Militiamen fired into the air to disperse hundreds of Somalis protesting early yesterday against moves by sharia courts to stop them watching the World Cup in the capital Mogadishu.
The soccer tournament had drawn huge crowds to television screens set up under trees and iron-sheeted shacks, providing some escape from the tension that has gripped Mogadishu since Islamists seized control from an alliance of warlords on Monday.
Witnesses said scores of young men set fire to tyres last night in protests that carried on into the early hours of today after Islamist gunmen pulled the plug on makeshift cinemas airing the soccer tournament.
Two people were wounded when militia tried to break up the demonstrations that centred around the main livestock market in an Islamist stronghold in the capital's north, residents said.
"The Islamic militia of the area issued an order to stop them watching films as well as the World Cup this year in Germany," said Elmi Muse, a resident contacted by Reuters.
"It is unacceptable to oppress the people," he added.
Similar moves by Islamist militia to close cinemas and video stores in Mogadishu last November triggered heavy fighting that killed at least 12 people and wounded more than 20.
Leaders of the capital's influential Islamic courts oppose Western and Indian films which they say promote immorality in the mainly Muslim nation of 10 million people.
Some residents fear the latest move to outlaw foreign entertainment is proof the Islamists want to create a Muslim state following their victory against a self-styled anti-terrorism coalition of secular warlords, believed to be backed by Washington.
The Islamic courts have been popular for restoring a semblance of order through sharia law in parts of the anarchic city, carved into fiefdoms by warlords who ousted military ruler Mohamed Siad Barre in 1991.
However, the World Cup ban stirred resentment among locals, already weary of the fighting in Mogadishu that has killed 350 people in three months.
"The residents of this area are very sorry about the way the Islamic militia is behaving towards the people at a time when our society needs peace and stability," said Moallim Hussein Abdi, a teacher.
One teenager was defiant.
"We do not accept the Islamic militia stopping us from watching the World Cup," Ahmed Yusuf, 19, said. "We'll continue demonstrating until they relent."
During the brutal assault by Mexican police on the town of Atenco Alexis Benhumea was shot in the head and critically wounded. Just after 6:30 AM on the morning of the assault he was shot in the head, most likely with a gas pellet. The impact broke his skull open in two places, exposing his brain.
ZNet news reported:
Alexis was carried into a house by his father and two friends for hiding. One of the protestors hiding out in the house made an impromptu bandage for the wound to stop the bleeding. The thick bandage was soaked in blood by the afternoon. Alexis’s father and those hiding out in the house so feared for their lives, and Alexis’ life, that they dared not leave their hiding place. Indeed, just outside the house, state and federal police blocked both ends of the street and constantly patrolled up and down the street.
“I was sure that they would kill him and dump him somewhere if I tried to go out and seek medical help,” said Angel Benhumea, Alexis’ father. “I didn’t think he would make it.”
After coordinating by cellular telephones with friends in Mexico City, correspondents with Indymedia Chiapas and Narco News were able to rent a taxi van (which operate in Mexico like public buses rather than individual taxis) and stage a rescue, taking Alexis and his father to a hospital 40 minutes away, on the eastern border of Mexico City. Alexis arrived alive and survived four hours of intensive brain surgery: hemorrhaging had filled 30 percent of his brain. At the time of writing, Alexis’ condition is still critical, and the extent of brain damage is unknown.
Alexis Benhumea was attacked twice: first with the pellet that broke his skull, and second with the police siege that made it impossible for his family to seek medical attention.
Alexis died this week.
Letter from Subcomandante Marcos to the Family of Alexis Benhumea
Zapatista Army of National Liberation.
June 7, 2006
To the family of Ollin Alexis Benhumea Herna'ndez:
We learned of it in the mid-morning. We knew then that, after more than a
month in the determined trench of strength that Alexis fought from, the
assassination begun on the morning of May 4 had come to its completion.
The Mexican government assassinated a young man. Ollin Alexis, his name; of
the last names Benhumea Herna'ndez. It took more than thirty days to kill his
life. It was a work of death, with which the government kills, this young
compa~ero died in the pre-dawn hours.
When the system collects its cruel bill with the life of a youth like Ollin
Alexis, the death seems like an absurd interruption, like something
senseless and out of place in the middle of the road, blocking it
Two decades of life cut short, taken by a grenade. from a weapon. from a
police officer. from a government. from a system.
Barely an hour beforehand, among those up there above where they fight with
each other to make the booty of our Homeland theirs, one had promised the
mortal fate of Alexis to all the young people of Mexico. along with better
salaries and alibis for the assassins.
Another forgot to offer the enthusiastic applause that he gave when the
streets of Atenco ran with fresh blood and Alexis agonized without being
able to receive the medical attention that would have saved his life.
Another ratified the complicit silence.
And up there, above, they barely battle some stupidities and say that they
"After all is said and done," they think there on high, "who cares about a
youth below and to the left?"
And we respond:
It matters to us.
His death matters and his life matters.
And, carefully, in pain, from his death we make a note in the long list of
things to be done that we will have to collect on someday. From his life and
from his political position we add that decision that we have taken on.
The Mexican government killed Ollin Alexis. It began to kill him in the
morning of May 4 and ended up assassinating him on June 7 of the same year.
It assassinated him because it was afraid, because his solidarity and
presence in San Salvador Atenco, on May 4, 2006, put their legality,
institutions, foreign investiments, "Law and Order," good manners, peace,
tranquility, and stability at risk. Ollin Alexis Benhumea Herna'ndez, UNAM
student, was a threat and that's why they eliminated him. His youth was a
threat. Today the stock markets and flow of investments and the presidential
campaigns and the governments of Fox and of the State of Mexico and of the
town of Texcoco and the PAN and the PRI and the PRD can rest easy because
Ollin Alexis is dead. Those who assassinated him receive decorations,
"Order! An Iron Fist!" bark those who own everything and the hunting dogs
They were afraid of this and so they killed this: 20 years of fresh
existence, a university student with two simultaneous professional majors
(economy and mathematics), an artist with ten years of study in dance, with
a passion for history and for the commitment of those from below, another
youth of La Otra.
There is the photo of Ollin Alexis on Zapatista lands; on his feet,
uplifted, behind Comandante Gustavo (in one of the preparation meetings of
La Otra?), caring, looking, learning with us.
Unknown to many, Ollin Alexis now takes on a name and face for the brutality
of those who don't know how to govern without intimidating, repressing,
raping, imprisoning, assassinating.
This is what this government offers: a killing death for the youth.
And now we are learning to conjugate his name in death, when we wanted and
want to name him in life.
A young woman, co-disciple of Alex and of all of us who are in the big
school of La Otra, wrote him a few days ago with the hope that he would
recover and return to the struggle in a world where life is unjust. "It will
stop being like this because of us," she wrote in her letter.
It's true that Alexis already could not read these lines, but it is also
true that the commitment of many men and women is reflected in those lines:
That Alexis does not lie alone in the night, that he doesn't confront the
darkness of the earth alone.
That the collective voice that, with him, we are building to break the
silence, creates the lightning bolt that, like a tree of light, rises up,
What can we say to you who knew him all his life, who are pained by his
death like no one else?
What will we miss? We will miss it but never like you.
Alexis is no longer with you but we, La Otra, that we are, will be.
According to our way of looking at things, Alexis is not alone, and also,
above, you are not alone.
That's why I ask you to accept the embrace that, collectively, the
Zapatistas offer you, that you receive the salute of our silence as it is,
which is shared pain and rage.
With that indignation we will raise our heads together toward those above
that kill us with the killing death, with disrespect and a void. On our feet
we defy them and we say:
What can you do, damn you, against the air?
What can you do, damn you, against
all that blooms and surges and falls silent and looks
and you are waiting for me to judge you?
(Pablo Neruda, General Song)
With life, with dignity, with memory, we rise up, defy them. They will not
have nor peace nor tranquility.
Vale. Health and rage that brings tomorrows,
>From the Other Mexico City,
Subcomandante Insurgente Marcos
Mexico, June of 2006.
Friday, June 09, 2006
NASA has decided the need to have satellites that can give scientists "critical information" about climate change is not worth it.
We'll all pay the price of their "savings".
Earlier this week in Denver at a major conference Warren Washington, a senior scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, said that Bush appointees are suppressing information about climate change, restricting journalists' access to federal scientists and rewriting agency news releases to stress global warming uncertainties.
I think we knew that.
Washington said in an interview that the climate cover-up is occurring at several federal agencies, including NASA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the U.S. Forest Service. NOAA operates several Boulder laboratories that conduct climate and weather research.
It's always nice for a respectable guy to step forward and point this out for the zillionth time.
Threats from "terrorism" pale when compared to the destruction and dislocation from global warming. A radical change in US and world policy is needed...well, yesterday. Millions should be in the hot streets screaming about this.
But then the vast majority of USers don't worry about anything that doesn't seem to directly affect them right now enough to do anything drastic about it.
Now dealing with gay marriage and taking on them there nasty "illegals", there are some issues our leaders can get into.
But wait. It is true that Bush seems to love "clearing brush." Maybe he figures as it gets hotter and hotter, they'll be more for him to clear.
But then that would assume the guy thinks at all.
And that is far fetched.
Whatever...the day is soon coming when someone standing in the street screaiming, "The end is near," won't be viewed is a loon.
Anyway, below is one more example of an Administration that is either so stupid or so callous it just amazes.
The following is from the Boston Globe.
NASA shelves climate satellites
Environmental science may suffer
NASA is canceling or delaying a number of satellites designed to give scientists critical information on the earth's changing climate and environment.
The space agency has shelved a $200 million satellite mission headed by a Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor that was designed to measure soil moisture -- a key factor in helping scientists understand the impact of global warming and predict droughts and floods. The Deep Space Climate Observatory, intended to observe climate factors such as solar radiation, ozone, clouds, and water vapor more comprehensively than existing satellites, also has been canceled.
And in its 2007 budget, NASA proposes significant delays in a global precipitation measuring mission to help with weather predictions, as well as the launch of a satellite designed to increase the timeliness and accuracy of severe weather forecasts and improve climate models.
The changes come as NASA prioritizes its budget to pay for completion of the International Space Station and the return of astronauts to the moon by 2020 -- a goal set by President Bush that promises a more distant and arguably less practical scientific payoff. Ultimately, scientists say, the delays and cancellations could make hurricane predictions less accurate, create gaps in long-term monitoring of weather, and result in less clarity about the earth's hydrological systems, which play an integral part in climate change.
``Today, when the need for information about the planet is more important than ever, this process of building understanding through increasingly powerful observations . . . is at risk of collapse," said Berrien Moore III, director of the Institute for the Study of Earth, Oceans, and Space at the University of New Hampshire.
Moore is cochairman of a National Research Council committee that will recommend NASA's future earth science agenda later this year. It is unclear, however, whether NASA will follow those recommendations.
``NASA has canceled, scaled back, or delayed all of the planned earth observing missions," he said.
Despite NASA's best-known role as a space agency, one of its key missions is to study the earth. Scientists collect data through ground- and space-based observatories using instruments that can sense heat and through which they can see with exquisite detail from many miles up. In recent years, these missions have increased in importance and visibility as global temperatures rise and scientists rush to better understand the phenomenon and the role of humans in it.
While NASA is proposing similarly deep cuts to other important science programs such as astrobiology -- the search for life in space -- the earth science mission cancellations and delays take on greater significance, some scientists say, given recent allegations by a top NASA researcher and other government scientists that the Bush administration tried to silence their warnings about global warming.
While scientists interviewed for this story said they do not believe the earth science cuts are a deliberate attempt to stall science on climate change, they say it comes at a time when more research, not less, is needed. NASA's earth science budget also has sustained a prior round of cuts during the last two years.
NASA, which projects its budget five years out, intends to cut the overall science budget about $3.1 billion below program projections over that time. In 2004, the overall science budget was projected to grow from about $5.5 billion to about $7 billion in 2008. The new projections provide for $5.38 billion in 2008, and less than the cost of inflation after that, according to a report issued last month by the Space Studies Board, a National Research Council committee charged with analyzing NASA's science program. The exact amount of cuts to earth science programs could not be determined because they are not listed separately in the budget proposal.
A NASA earth science official acknowledged that the proposed earth science cuts are steep, and said the agency is attempting to replace some of the funding. He noted the satellite data are used by other agencies, from the military to the US Department of Agriculture. But given competing priorities, there is little chance all the money will be replaced, he said.
``Right now, we are going through the program carefully looking for efficiencies to restore some of these cuts," Bryant Cramer, acting director of NASA's earth science division, said in an interview. ``We are keenly aware of the shortfall, of the necessary research that should be funded, and we are trying to respond. I can't tell you a solution yet."
Almost every planned earth studying mission, all that have some contribution to understanding global warming, has been affected. The $100 million Deep Space Climate Observatory , already built, was canceled earlier this year. First proposed by then-Vice President Al Gore in the 1990s, the satellite was planned to give researchers a continuous picture of the sunlit surface of the earth and allow the first direct measurements of how much sunlight is absorbed and emitted, key information that could serve as an indicator of global warming.
The Global Precipitation Measurement mission, designed to record rain, snow, and ice fall more accurately, has been delayed 2 1/2 years. It is meant to replace another satellite whose mission was extended last year. Now, scientists do not believe the older satellite will last until the Global Precipitation mission is launched, creating a big gap in data collection for weather prediction and climate modeling.
Another key satellite, the $10 billion National Polar-orbiting Operational Environmental Satellite System, is over budget and has been delayed at least 18 months. And while NASA previously told earth scientists to start developing proposals for other earth-centered missions to be chosen in 2004, no such round of proposals will be analyzed until 2008.
Scientists at area universities say that they are worried most about a proposed 20 percent cut to research and analysis in the earth science budget, which funds smaller-scale projects. Many of these projects analyze data from satellites and help with long-term monitoring of earth systems. The cuts also may have a chilling effect on attracting and retaining university scientists, who realize their research could be only partially funded -- or not at all.
``Missions can be delayed a year or two, but the most urgent issue right now is to restore the cuts to research and analysis," said Ronald G. Prinn, director of the Center for Global Change Science at MIT. ``We need to understand the climate system much better than we do."
NASA's earth science program was fairly robust until about two years ago, when several missions were canceled or delayed -- a situation that has made the current round of cuts all the more painful, scientists said. Last month, a report by the Space Studies Board concluded that the space and earth science program is neither robust nor sustainable.
``There is a widespread sense that earth sciences has been suffering more than its fair share," said Drew Shindell, a physicist at NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies.
Last April a poll, conducted by the Integrated Regional Information Networks, a U.N. news agency covering sub-Saharan Africa, eight countries in central Asia, and Iraq of leaders of Iraqi women's-rights groups found that women were treated better and their civil rights were more secure under deposed President Saddam Hussein than under the current government.
IRIN reports the survey findings as follows: " ... women's basic rights under the Hussein regime were guaranteed in the constitution and more importantly respected, with women often occupying important government positions. Now, although their rights are still enshrined in the national constitution, activists complain that, in practice, they have lost almost all of their rights."
Moreover, leaders of women's groups say that in Iraq's new government, more men in power follow conservative Sharia (to wit, Islamic law) on women's rights and on their role in society. Senar Muhammad, president of the Baghdad-based non-government organization Woman Freedom Organization, is quoted by IRIN as saying, "When we tell the government we need more representation in parliament, they respond by telling us that, if well-qualified women appear one day, they won't be turned down. ... Then they laugh at us."
A view of this fact of life from the ground is given in the article below from The Independent (UK).
For the women of Iraq, the war is just beginning
By Terri Judd in Basra
Published: 08 June 2006
The women of Basra have disappeared. Three years after the US-led invasion of Iraq, women's secular freedoms - once the envy of women across the Middle East - have been snatched away because militant Islam is rising across the country.
Across Iraq, a bloody and relentless oppression of women has taken hold. Many women had their heads shaved for refusing to wear a scarf or have been stoned in the street for wearing make-up. Others have been kidnapped and murdered for crimes that are being labelled simply as "inappropriate behaviour". The insurrection against the fragile and barely functioning state has left the country prey to extremists whose notion of freedom does not extend to women.
In the British-occupied south, where Muqtada al-Sadr's Mehdi Army retains a stranglehold, women insist the situation is at its worst. Here they are forced to live behind closed doors only to emerge, concealed behind scarves, hidden behind husbands and fathers. Even wearing a pair of trousers is considered an act of defiance, punishable by death.
One Basra woman, known only as Dr Kefaya, was working in the women and children's hospital unit at the city university when she started receiving threats from extremists. She defied them. Then, one day a man walked into the building and murdered her.
Eman Aziz, one of the first women to speak publicly about the dangers, said:"There were five people on the death list with Dr Kefaya. They were threatened 'If you continue working, you will be killed'."
Many women are too afraid to complain. But, fearful that their rights will be eroded for good, some have taken the courageous step of speaking out.
Dr Kefaya was only one of many professional women murdered in recent months. Speaking to The Independent near Saddam's old palace in the middle of Basra, Mrs Aziz, reeled off the names of other dead friends. Three of her university class have been killed since the invasion. "My friend Sheda and her sister. They were threatened. One day they returned to their house with two other women. They were all shot," she said. Her language is chillingly perfunctory.
"And my friend Lubna, she was with her fiancé. They shot him in the arm and then killed her in front of him," she explained. Then there were the two sisters who worked in the laundry at Basra Palace base. With a shrug, she briefly detailed each life cut short.
Under Saddam, women played little part in political life but businesswomen and academics travelled the country unchallenged while their daughters mixed freely with male students at university.
Now, even the most emancipated woman feels cowed.
A television producer Arij Al-Soltan, 27, now exiled, said: "It is much worse for women in the south. I blame the British for not taking a strong stand."
Sajeda Hanoon Alebadi, 37, who - like Mrs Aziz - has now taken to wearing a headscarf, said: "Women are being assassinated. We know the people behind it are saying we have a fatwa, these are not good women, they should be killed."
Behind the wave of insurgent attacks, the violence against women who dare to challenge the Islamic orthodoxy is growing. Fatwas banning women from driving or being seen out alone are regularly issued.
Infiltrated by militia, the police are unwilling or unable to crack down on the fundamentalists.
Ms Alebadi said: "After the fall of the regime, the religious extremist parties came out on to the streets and threatened women. Although the extremists are in the minority, they control powerful positions, so they control Basra."
To venture on the streets today without a male relative is to risk attack, humiliation or kidnap.
A journalist, Shatta Kareem, said: "I was driving my car one day when someone just crashed into me and drove me off the road. If a woman is seen driving these days it is considered a violation of men's rights."
There is a fear that Islamic law will become enshrined in the new legislation. Ms Aziz said: "In the Muslim religion, if a man dies his money goes to a male member of the family. After the Iran-Iraq war, there were so many widows that Saddam changed the law so it would go to the women and children. Now it has been changed back."
Mrs Alebadi estimated that as many as 70 per cent of women in Basra had been widowed by the constant conflicts. "You see widows on the streets begging at the intersections."
Optimists say the very fact that 25 per cent of Iraq's Provincial Council is composed of women proves women have been empowered since the invasion. But the people of Basra say it is a smokescreen. Any woman who becomes a part of the system, they say, is incapable of engineering any change for the better. Posters around the city promoting the constitution graphically illustrate that view. The faces of the women candidates have been blacked out, the accompanying slogan, "No women in politics," a stark reminder of the opposition they face.
Ms Aziz said: "Women members of the Provincial Council had many dreams but they were told 'With respect, you don't know anything. This is a world of men. Your view is good but not better.' More and more they just agreed to sign whatever they were told. We have got women in power, who are powerless."
Many of the British officers in Basra say they feel "uncomfortable" with the situation but a spokesman for the Foreign Office would only say: "As part of the new government's programme, they do say in their top 10 items to be looked at that women constitute half of society and are nurturers of the other half and, therefore, must take an active role in building the society and the state. Their rights should be respected in all fields."
In the villages around Basra, the shy women who peer round doorways are uncomplaining. For one Marsh Arab, Makir Jafar, the fact she has been given enough education to help her 10-year-old son with his homework is enough. "Life is nice. There is the river. I do not want for anything," she said.
There is a growing fear among educated women, however, that the extreme dangers of daily life will allow the issue of women's oppression to remain unchallenged. In Mrs Kareem's words: "Men have been given a voice. But women will not get their part in building this country."
Greek Police attacked students in central Athens during a student rally yesterday protesting proposed "reforms" in education. There were many arrests and injuries.
Ironically, one of the issues is whether or not to maintain universities as "asylum" sites - under present Greek law, police cannot go onto university grounds to arrest students, a concession granted after the bloody 1974 protests at Athens' Polytechnic University.
Students held rallies in Athens and Thessalonica on Thursday to protest government measures for changes in education. Also taking part in the rallies were trade unionists in a show of solidarity to the students.
The students demand the full withdrawal of all governmental proposals for higher education. They demand free public education for all young people. They also demand the government secure the universal character of the degrees and take action to reduce unemployment for young people.
Students and trade unionists argue according to the Athens News Agency that their social and labor rights are "under attack" by the government measures, such as "through the privatization of public services, the abolition of the eight-hour working day and changes in the social insurance system." They deemed necessary "the joint confrontation of the problems, in accordance with the example set in France."
Students are also unhappy with other reforms being planned by the ruling parties, especially their intention to revise article 16 of the Greek Constitution that establishes the right of every citizen for free, public education. Therefore, private commercial universities will be established and private vocational training institutions will be officially recognized by the state. The students want more money invested in public education.
The protest march Thursday was the second big students demonstration in Athens in recent weeks. During the first one, about 10 days ago, clashes between the demonstrators and riot police also broke out. After the last protest march about 1,000 students from all over the country met in a plenary coordination meeting in Athens and called for a continuation of the actions against the government policy.
Occupations are underway at 219 universities around the country. In addition, 127 technical colleges had been taken over by protesting students. The standoff is likely to lead to this summerÂs exams being postponed.
In the Greek Universities, a report from Anarkismo explains, "...there is a long tradition of the students movement. Though less than in the 70s and 80s, a large number of students is interested in politics. There are organized students elections every year and the participation rates reach 70-80%. There is one students union in every department and assemblies are held a few times every year. Thus, a picture of hundreds of students in a hall debating on local and political issues is not uncommon for Greece. Occupations of universities and protest marches of thousands of students are the most usual actions for the students movement....Despite the fact the groups and organizations of the radical left are powerful in the movement, the assemblies and the open coordination meetings "calls the shots" in the movement. And these groups and organizations of the radical left have strongly supported this development and they take credit for it."
The following is a direct report from Indymedia-Athens on yesterday's action.
Police seriously ATTACKS student's demonstration in ATHENS.
This morning (Thursday) 25.000 students demonstrated in Athens against the new laws that the government is planning to implement in the Greek universities. Also in Thessaloniki a demonstration will be held in the evening, as well as in other Greek cities
This morning 25.000 (Thursday) students demonstrated in Athens against the new laws that the government is planning to implement in the Greek universities. Also in Thessaloniki a demonstration will be held in the evening, as well as in other Greek cities. At the moment approximately 320 out of 350 university schools are occupied all over Greece, while the teachers are on strike for the same reason. Although big unrest in the Greek universities is taking place during the last months the Greek press is continuously ignoring them, or misinforms the public. It's characteristic that today popular Greek TV channel announced only 5.000 students in the demonstration. In today's demonstration the police attacked the students seriously, by throwing tear gases, noise bombs and hitting anyone, even journalists that were trying to film the violent attacks . At least 10 student's are injured, while one of them seriously in the head. Also, at least 10 are arrested. After the violent end of the demonstration thousands of student's from all over Greece were gathered in the Polytechnic school to further organise their struggle. The building was surrounded by police and fascists that were throwing stones inside. The hole scene reminds of what happened in November 74, when the dictatorship in Greece was ended after the student's fights.
Thursday, June 08, 2006
Folks, until the folks who run this blogger service fix whatever problems they are having, the Oread Daily will have to suspend service. It is currently taking hours just to get one article posted (if it can be done at all). Hopefully Blogger.com will get their act together soon.
The OD will be back whenever that happens....
The OD will be back whenever that happens....
A Jordanian woman whose wedding was devastated last year by a suicide bombing claimed by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi on Thursday upon learning of his death, ""He got what he deserved. He was punished for what he did to Arab and Muslim people."
I know that we will be hearing all about this from President Bush who will no doubt tell us, as he always does, that this represents "a real turning point." That I doubt. Col. Derek Harvey, a former top military intelligence officer in Iraq, told an Army meeting at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas., last summer although Zarqawi and other foreigners in Iraq have conducted deadly bombing attacks, they remain "a very small part of the actual numbers. Our ... focus on Zarqawi has enlarged his caricature, if you will -- made him more important than he really is, in some ways."
But anyway who cares what Bush thinks.
The truth is that regardless of his importance Abu Musab al-Zarqawi was a brutal thug who seemed to personally enjoy his savagery. This is a guy who is believed to have personally beheaded Eugene Armstrong in September 2004. A guy who declared Shi'a Muslims "infidels" and said to kill them all.
This is a guy who will not be missed.
Wednesday, June 07, 2006
The University of California-Santa Cruz (UCSC) has plenty of money to pay big wigs and no money apparently to pay janitors and other campus workers.
Concerns about how UCSC rewards top-ranked employees began last fall after news reports that executives were getting millions in bonuses, housing allowances and other perks while UC was hiking student fees, saying it had no choice due to state funding cutbacks.
Some have had enough.
"We want someone to take responsibility," said Lisa Gustafson of the Coalition of University Employees, a clerical workers union. "We got people working 40 hours a week living in garages."
Gustafson is not alone in her outrage.
The article below comes from the Santa Cruz Sentinel.
UCSC protesters confront chancellor
A campus protest Tuesday advocating higher wages for custodians culminated with a standoff in the parking lot outside Chancellor Denise Denton's office where students blocked Denton in her car for about five minutes while performing a skit about racism, according to student witnesses.
"The chancellor said she was going to resolve this problem for quite some time," said Julian Posades, who represents campus employees, with the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 3288.
In a final push before the close of the school year, about 60 UC Santa Cruz students and employees marched to again press Denton to boost pay for low-wage workers, many of whom are Latino they pointed out.
A campus spokesman could not be reached Tuesday.
On Monday, about 30 custodians protested outside the Chancellor's office, demanding a raise by June 5, according to Posades.
They were met by a Denton spokesman who said any raise would have to wait until at least September when new state funds are made available, said Posades.
The spokesman said Denton would search for other revenue sources in the meantime, according to Posades, who represents campus employees with the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 3288.
Average pay for those who clean public areas in campus buildings, is about $11 an hour, according to the AFSCME Local 3288, which represents 550 UCSC workers including custodians. The maximum wage for a custodian at UCSC is $13.47 per hour, while the maximum at California State University, Monterey Bay, is $15.40. At Cabrillo College, it tops $17, according to an independent report provided by the union.
The UC system has come under scrutiny after reports in the San Francisco Chronicle that officials quietly approved millions in bonuses, stipends, relocation packages and other cash compensation to high-level administrators during the last year despite facing a budget crisis.
The Pentagon on Tuesday unveiled its most comprehensive guidance to date for medical professionals in dealing with detainees, but rights activists denounced it for allowing broad use of prisoners' health data to guide interrogations.
The directive allows a detainee's medical information to be disclosed for several reasons other than medical treatment, including "lawful law enforcement, intelligence or national security-related activity", which includes interrogations.
The following is a press release from Physicians for Human Rights.
Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) mobilizes the health professions to advance the health and dignity of all people by protecting human rights. As a founding member of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines, PHR shared the 1997 Nobel Peace Prize.
Physicians for Human Rights Denounces New Pentagon Instructions on Medical Support for Interrogation
June 6, 2006
Contact: Nathaniel Raymond
Senior Communications Strategist
Cell: (617) 413-6407
Phone: (617) 301-4232
Physicians for Human Rights (PHR), a health professional organization that has served as a leading voice against torture and abuse of detainees in US custody, today denounced new Defense Department guidelines on the role of health personnel in interrogations, calling them “an assault on medical ethics, the professional integrity of military health personnel, the Geneva Conventions, and on US military tradition and discipline.”
"The DoD directive released today by Assistant Secretary of Health Affairs, William Winkenwerder, Jr., puts doctors and other health professionals in the untenable position of assisting in the infliction of harm,” said Leonard Rubenstein, Executive Director of Physicians for Human Rights. “This policy takes the United States further away from the most basic medical ethical and legal standards”
These new guidelines directly involve certain military health personnel, particularly mental health professionals, in the interrogation of detainees, making them active parts of the Behavioral Science Consulting Teams (known as “BSCTs”). “Military medical leadership ought to protect the ethical commitments and honor of our dedicated military health personnel,” said Brigadier General Stephen N. Xenakis, MD (USA—RET), an Advisor to Physicians for Human Rights. “Instead, they are subverting the essence of the Hippocratic Oath and compromising the integrity of the health professions as a whole.”
"The Pentagon policy also explicitly allows clinical information from medical records to be used in interrogation, in violation of core ethical principles protecting the confidentiality of information provided by patients to their health care providers,” said Rubenstein.
Rubenstein noted that the guidelines conflict directly with new policies issued last month by the American Psychiatric Association (APA) and World Medical Association (WMA), which prohibit psychiatrists and physicians, respectively, from directly supporting individual interrogations in any way. The WMA amended part of the Declaration of Tokyo, setting forth medical ethics regarding prisoners and detainees, to provide that “physicians should be particularly careful to ensure the confidentiality of all personal medical information” and that “[t]he physician shall not use nor allow to be used, as far as he or she can, medical knowledge or skills, or health information specific to individuals, to facilitate or otherwise aid any interrogation, legal or illegal, of those individuals.” The American Medical Association is a member organization of the WMA.
"The WMA and APA position recognizes that even lawful interrogation is an inherently adversarial and coercive process,” Rubenstein said, “and that there can be no ethical role for a health professional in the inevitable, ensuing infliction of stress and harm to a subject’s health and dignity. The only way to protect the health professional’s essential function as healer is to protect them from the interrogation process altogether, as the WMA and APA have done.”
The threat to health professional ethics extends even further, Rubenstein explained. The Pentagon guidelines do not follow universally recognized standards of medical ethics to guide the conduct of the BSCTs or any other health personnel, nor do they require the BSCTs to comply with international humanitarian and human rights law endorsed or ratified by the United States, such as the Geneva Conventions or the Convention Against Torture. Instead, BSCT health professionals are authorized to engage in any interrogation-related activity that complies with “applicable” US law.
"The problem with that standard,” Rubenstein warns, “is that the Bush Administration has interpreted US law on psychological torture in a way that violates the Convention Against Torture, as was recently reported by the UN Committee Against Torture. The Administration has further denied the applicability of the Geneva Conventions to many detainees and, according to news reports, has sought to delete the most basic tenets of the Conventions from the sections of the revised Army Field Manual that govern interrogations. What’s more, the Administration has sought to undermine the enforcement of the ‘McCain Amendment,’ passed by Congress last year to reaffirm the absolute ban on cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment by all US personnel. The net result is that health personnel participation in psychological forms of torture are not prohibited by these guidelines because they do not violate the Administration’s interpretations of US law.”
The Pentagon directive also instructs health professionals to violate ethical standards regarding hunger strikes, Rubenstein added, by instructing them to force-feed detainees who protest against their conditions of confinement by denying nutrition. Earlier this year, PHR and 250 leading doctors from around the world condemned the brutal force feeding methods used by military personnel in a campaign to break the will of hunger strikers at Guantanamo Bay.
The American Medical Association has also clarified that medical ethics generally prohibit force feeding hunger strikers. In a March 10, 2006 statement, the AMA said that the Association “has shared with U.S. military officials its position on hunger strikes or feeding individuals against their will. Specifically, the AMA endorses the World Medical Association's Declaration of Tokyo, which states:
‘Where a prisoner refuses nourishment and is considered by the physician as capable of forming an unimpaired and rational judgment concerning the consequences of such a voluntary refusal of nourishment, he or she shall not be fed artificially. The decision as to the capacity of the prisoner to form such a judgment should be confirmed by at least one other independent physician.'"
"The new Pentagon directive flies in the face of these established ethical guidelines, Rubenstein said, “and open the door to painful and abusive force-feeding methods intended to discourage detainees from calling attention to inhumane conditions of confinement through this form of protest. It is beyond ironic for the Pentagon to justify its unethical force-feeding policy by claiming concern about the health and well-being of detainees.”
Tuesday, June 06, 2006
Several dozen people staged a rare demonstration outside the Russian embassy in Yerevan, Armenia on Monday to condemn and protest against the continuing racially motivated killings of Armenians and other dark-skinned residents of Russia. They accused Moscow of connivance and even complicity in the xenophobic violence widely blamed on tens of thousands of neo-Nazi skinheads operating across Russia. They also denounced the Armenian government’s reluctance to bring the Kremlin to task over the killings.
The protest was sparked by the fatal stabbing of a Russian citizen of Armenian descent by a group of rampaging youths on a train in a Moscow suburb. Artur Sardarian, 19. Sardarian’s violent death came in the wake of an uproar caused by the killing of another young Armenian. The 17-year-old Vigen Abramiants was stabbed to death on a Moscow subway platform on April 22. It is reported that there have been at least six ethnic Armenian killed in a similar fasion in Russia this year.
Russian human rights organizations say a total of at least 15 people from the Caucasus, Central Asia and Africa have lost their lives in racist attacks since January.
The following comes from A1+ (Armenia)
RALLY IN ARMENIA OPPOSITE THE RUSSIAN EMBASSY
10 NGOs together with about 50 citizens organized a rally of protest opposite the Russian Embassy with posters saying “STOP”. They condemned the activities of the racist groupings in Russia, in particular the skinheads and demanded the RF authorities to resort to strict measures to arrest and punish the murderers.
“What is taking place in Russia against Armenian is intolerable. The Russian authorities do not carry out the necessary investigations in order to punish the organizers of the murders. We think that the idleness of the Russian authorities is a way of encouraging,” Arsen Kharatyan, member of the initiative group «For the Development of Science» complains.
Head of the Armenian Helsinki Committee Avetiq Ishkhanyan who joint the rally said, «I am sure that if the Armenian authorities had a stricter attitude towards the events, there wouldn't be such a continuation. If they sent a serious note to the Russian authorities after the desecration of the Armenian cemetery in Krasnodar, I think something would be done in that direction».
The participants of the rally handed their statement to the Russian Ambassador after which headed for the RA Foreign Ministry saying that their complaint is not only against the Russian authorities.
«One of the aims of the action is to invite the attention of the Armenian authorities to the matter. We must send lawyers from Armenia to Russia to follow the trial, as it was done in Hungary», Avetiq Ishkhanyan thinks.
I find some of the ideas below somewhat much, but in today's times, well, who can say for sure. Anyway, the following was sent to me just now by an Oread Daily reader whose comment that came with it was, "I gotta’ say 'Prob’ly not.' But ...I wouldn’t be too shocked ……. I just don’t think that even this crew can be THAT abysmally stupid!."
The article is taken from Prison Planet.com.
Former CIA Analyst Says Iran Strike Set For June Or July
McGovern: Staged terror attacks across Europe, US "probable" in order to justify invasion
Paul Joseph Watson/Prison Planet.com | June 1 2006
Former CIA analyst and Presidential advisor Ray McGovern, fresh from his heated public confrontation with Donald Rumsfeld, fears that staged terror attacks across Europe and the US are probable in order to justify the Bush administration's plan to launch a military strike against Iran, which he thinks will take place in June or July.
Appearing on The Alex Jones Show, McGovern was asked about the timetable for war in Iran and said that behind the diplomatic smokescreen, the final chess pieces were being moved into position.
"There is already one carrier task force there in the Gulf, two are steaming toward it at the last report I have at least - they will all be there in another week or so."
"The propaganda has been laid, the aircraft carriers are in place, it doesn't take much to fly the bombers out of British and US bases - cruse missiles are at the ready, Israel is egging us on," said McGovern.
McGovern said Iran's likely response to a US air strike would be threefold - mobilizing worldwide terrorist cells that would make Al-Qaeda look like a girls netball team - utilizing its cruise missile arsenal to attack US ships and sending fighters into Iraq to attack US forces.
"The Iranians can easily send three divisions of revolutionary guard troops right over....the long border with Iraq," said McGovern, stating that the local Sunni population of Iraq would welcome such an invasion.
The turmoil caused by such an action would lead the US to tap its so-called 'mini-nuke' arsenal said McGovern, opening a new Pandora's box of chaos.
McGovern highlighted President Bush's all time record low approval ratings as a reason for launching an attack on Iran to again whip up false patriotic fervour.
"I can see Karl Rove saying, 'look what you need to do is become a war president again, get us involved with something pretty big here and then strut around and say you can't vote for a bunch of Democrats to pull the rug out from under me while there's a war going on'."
McGovern drew a comparison with the concillatory cold war stance of Russia and JFK's decision to respond in a similar manner, and the Iranian President's letter which was immediately dismissed by the Bush administration. JFK's approach saved the US from potential nuclear anihalation while Bush's actions put the US in severe danger as Russia and China give ominous mixed signals on what their response to a US strike on Iran will be.
McGovern lambasted Bush's inner circle as uniformly lacking any real military experience and characterized them as a cabal already hell-bent on war.
McGovern entertained the notion that western governments and intelligence hierarchies could potentially stage terror attacks in Europe and the US either before or after an invasion of Iran.
"That's altogether possible," said McGovern.
"I would say even probable because they need some proximate cause, some casus belli to justify really unleashing things on Iran....I would put very little past this crew - their record of dissembling and disingenuousness is unparalleled."
McGovern said that Rove, Cheney and Rumsfeld, fearing impeachment and Enron-style criminal proceedings, are urging President Bush to launch a war in order to create a climate unconducive to lengthy investigations and impeachment proceedings.
Asked to cite specifically when we should expect to see an attack launched, McGovern said, "I think we all agree that an attack is likely before the election and we all agree that it has to do largely with the election - as for timing I see a likelihood that it could come as early as late June or early July, most of my colleagues predict August, September, maybe an October surprise even."
"My thinking is that for it to be October that would be so crass and so transparent that even this crowd would shy away from making it so obvious," said McGovern.
McGovern is set to appear along with a host of other respected and credible whistleblowers at the American Scholars Symposium at the end of this month.
The recent events in Somalia have been nothing if not confusing. On the one hand you've got the US backed war lord militias who have been like a plague on Somalia for years. On the other hand you have the Islamic Courts and their militias. Now, the Islamic forces have been a somewhat stabilizing force in the face of the deadly chaos of the war lords. But their talk of an Islamic Republic is disturbing.
While the reason for the US backing of the war lords has supposedly been the Islamic forces alleged connections with al queda, my concern is rather with the startling similarity to what is happening in Somalia and what led to the Taliban rule in Afghanistan. Chaos and war lordism leading to harsh fascist like Islamic rule.
Chaos or barbarism.
The people of Somalia certainly deserve a better choice. However, in the George Bush like world of "you are either with us or against us" such a choice seems unlikely.
I can't really know if the Islamic Courts are the second coming of the Taliban and their hideous fundamentalist fascist rule, but if that is the case, I would hope that progressives of all stripes have learned by now that WE don't have to choose between George Bush and the rule of fascist (Islamic or otherwise). WE must be about opposing both.
At this point I would draw your attention to the article found on an excellent blog site. The article is entitled "Above and Below: Them, Them, and Us." To read it go to http://threewayfight.blogspot.com/2005/06/above-and-below-them-them-and-us.html
Meanwhile, the following comes from Radio Netherlands.
Somalia, the new Afghanistan?
by Koert Lindijer*
A coalition of militias with links to Islamic courts has taken control of the Somalian capital, Mogadishu. They have driven out the Alliance for the Restoration of Peace and Counter-Terrorism, a group of warlords backed by the United States. This constitutes a serious blow to the Americans, and leaves Somalia in danger of falling into the hands of Islamic fundamentalists.
The battle for the Somalian capital has been raging for more than ten years and only now has one group managed to gain control. Initially the fighting was between militias formed on the basis of clan loyalties. Each one controlled a part of the city. In recent years, however, the influence of the warlords has been waning and the Islamic courts have stepped into the resulting power vacuum.
The capture of Mogadishu is a real setback for the United States. US secret agents have been active in Somalia since the 9/11 attacks, and Washington is concerned that the chaos in Somalia provides an ideal breeding ground for international terrorism. The 1998 bombings of the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania were prepared in Mogadishu, as was the attack on an Israeli hotel in Mombasa in late 2002.
Early this year, the then-head of the CIA, Porter Goss, paid a visit to Kenya and apparently also to Somalia. Allegedly, the CIA met the Somalian warlords near Isaley landing strip and handed them hundreds of thousands of dollars plus a list of the names of wanted terrorists. Officially, Washington denies giving the warlords any assistance in their struggle against the Islamic courts. However, last month, in a letter to the Kenyan newspaper The Daily Nation, US ambassador William Bellamy wrote:
"It is true the US has encouraged a variety of groups in Somalia, in all corners of the country, and among all clans, to oppose the al-Qaeda presence and reject the Somali militants who shelter and protect these terrorists."
The United States also has 1500 troops based in neighbouring Djibouti, charged with keeping an eye on terrorists in the Horn of Africa.
The Islamic courts were created five years ago and are not based strictly on clan lines. They administer Shari'a law and provide social services including education in a country with no state infrastructure. Some observers believe the recent hostilities show that the courts are coordinating their actions more than before and may be receiving more support from abroad.
So, has Somalia fallen into the hands of fundamentalists and will it soon have a regime comparable to the Taliban in Afghanistan? ThatÂs what is feared in many Western capitals. So far the Islamic courts only hold the city of Mogadishu; outside the capital the country is still split into a multitude of clan-based mini-states where clan elders and businessmen played the leading role.
Traditionally, Somalis have embraced a moderate form of Islam, but 16 years of civil war have made the populace more conservative. After years of terror caused by warlords and politicians, many Somalis have turned to religion for stability, and fundamentalist Islamic beliefs are gaining influence.
The Islamic courts are home to all kinds of believers, including extremists and militants who are prepared to assist international terrorists. Early last year, the 11 Islamic courts in Mogadishu were said to be capable of raising a force of between 1,500 and 5,000 fighters. The Union of Islamic Courts was created two years ago by Sharif Sheikh Ahmed. He claims there are no al-Qaeda supporters in Mogadishu. However, some courts have taken a fundamentalist stance, banning cinemas and video shops.
Adan Hashi Ayro, military leader of the Ifka Halane court, gained a reputation as an extremist last year, when his fighters dug up the graves of Italian colonists in an old cemetery and dumped the remains on the beach. His militia is also said to be responsible for the deaths of several foreigners.
In late May Human Rights Watch said Sudanese "Janjaweed" militias along with local Chadian recruits massacred more than 100 people in a cluster of villages in eastern Chad. It seems that was just the tip of the iceberg.
The recent militia attacks in Chad seem to be part of a wider pattern of cross-border violence over the past year, during which time the Sudanese state of West Darfur, which borders Chad for more than 500 kilometers, has become increasingly volatile.
For example, janjaweed militia from Sudan attacked the village of Djawara in April. Villagers in Djawara reported that a few days before the attack, Janjaweed "emissaries" warned that an attack was imminent and many women and children were sent to a nearby village. Arrows found among the bullet casings in Djawara suggest that local villagers fought their attackers with primitive weapons. Members of a village self-defense group confirmed that they fought back when their village was attacked, mostly with bows and arrows and machetes, although a few had automatic weapons. After a brief skirmish, the village self-defense group collapsed, and 75 villagers were shot or hacked to death.
Osman (not his real name), 20-year-old villager from Djawara, described his experience in that attack this way to investigators from Human Rights Watch:
"When people were hit by bullets during the attack and were falling on the ground, I saw eight or 10 people rushing at them and finishing them off with machetes. I saw that more than 10 times. Sometimes it was five or eight or 10 people rushing at them. People who did that were mixed [wore mixed clothing], military outfits or civilian clothes. There was a lot of noise during the attack: gunshots, yells.... The assailants yelled things like: 'Right here! right there! They are escaping that way!' or 'We have to kill them!' or 'Djaoub al nubia!' [Kill the Nuba!]."
The following news comes from the UN News Service
UN Refugee Agency 'Extremely Concerned' At Attacks By Janjaweed Militia
The United Nations refugee agency today voiced "extreme concern" at continuing attacks by janjaweed militia from Sudan into eastern Chad and the potential for more displacement of locals in an area where 50,000 people are already estimated to have been uprooted.
"We urge authorities in Chad and Sudan to reinforce security in border regions to prevent further attacks and displacement, and call for more international engagement in dealing with the very serious issue of spreading instability and insecurity," UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) spokesman Ron Redmond told a news briefing in Geneva.
The ongoing insecurity also poses a threat to 213,000 refugees from Sudan's strife-torn Darfur region in a dozen UNHCR-administered camps in this remote border area, he said. Just this Saturday, armed militiamen stole 350 head of cattle from a village in the Goz Beida region.
"No casualties were reported, but this is just one recent example of escalating violence which is causing increasing displacement and sometimes death," Mr. Redmond said in the latest expression of concern at the spill-over of violence from Darfur, where three years of fighting between the Government, pro-Government militias like the janjaweed, and rebels have killed scores of thousands of people and uprooted 2 million more.
The attacks against Chadians by the janjaweed, who have have been accused of committing atrocities in Darfur, appear to have become more systematic and deadly over the past three months and there is no sign that this pattern will stop, he added.
Some 50,000 people are estimated to have fled their homes in recent months after dozens of janjaweed attacks. In some cases, they flee out of fear of impending attacks, and many have been displaced several times. Mr. Redmond cited several attacks since March, in which large numbers of local inhabitants were reportedly killed, including the massacre of more than 100 people in one attack alone in April on the village of Djawara.
UNHCR teams have interviewed many of the displaced, who said that on several occasions, they recognized Chadians from other tribes taking part in attacks together with the Sudanese janjaweed militia, alleging that those Chadians had concluded agreements with the militia to avoid attacks on their own properties and livestock.
The arrival of additional displaced people in Chadian villages and towns often strains already limited resources, including water. For example Goz Beida, with 6,000 local inhabitants, hosts 14,000 Sudanese refugees in Djabal camp and is now trying to cope with an additional 11,000 displaced Chadians. UNHCR has started relocating some of these people to other villages.
Monday, June 05, 2006
I confess that I missed the stories about the Colorado Rockies and their love of Jesus. Where was I when this was happening?
You should remember, however, as you read the following articles that the Boston Red Sox claim they have the largest group of evangelical Christians on any team in Major League Baseball (well, actually they made the claim last year...there have been some trades).
The first article comes from The Nation (well, what do you expect of those godless commies). The second article comes from Fox Sports.
The Rockies Pitch Religion
In Colorado, there stands a holy shrine called Coors Field. On this site, named for the holiest of beers, a team plays that has been chosen by Jesus Christ himself to play .500 baseball in the National League West. And if you don't believe me, just ask the manager, the general manager and the team's owner.
In a remarkable article from Wednesday's USA Today, the Colorado Rockies went public with the news that the organization has been explicitly looking for players with "character." And according to the Tribe of Coors, "character" means accepting Jesus Christ as your personal lord and savior. "We're nervous, to be honest with you," Rockies general manager Dan O'Dowd said. "It's the first time we ever talked about these issues publicly. The last thing we want to do is offend anyone because of our beliefs." When people are nervous that they will offend you with their beliefs, it's usually because their beliefs are offensive.
As Rockies chairman and CEO Charlie Monfort said, "We had to go to hell and back to know where the Holy Grail is. We went through a tough time and took a lot of arrows."
Club president Keli McGregor chimed in, "Who knows where we go from here? The ability to handle success will be a big part of the story, too. [Note to McGregor: You're in fourth place.] There will be distractions. There will be things that can change people. But we truly do have something going on here. And [God's] using us in a powerful way."
Well, someone is using somebody, but it ain't God. San Francisco Giants first baseman-outfielder Mark Sweeney, who spent 2003 and 2004 with the Rockies, said, "You wonder if some people are going along with it just to keep their jobs. Look, I pray every day. I have faith. It's always been part of my life. But I don't want something forced on me. Do they really have to check to see whether I have a Playboy in my locker?"
Then there is manager Clint Hurdle and GM O'Dowd. Hurdle, who has guided the team to a Philistine 302-376 record since 2002, as well as fourth or fifth place finishes every year, was rewarded with a 2007 contract extension in the off-season. Hurdle also claims he became a Christian three years ago and says, "We're not going to hide it. We're not going to deny it. This is who we are."
O'Dowd, who also received a contract extension, believes that their 27-26 2006 record has resulted from the active intervention of the Almighty. "You look at things that have happened to us this year. You look at some of the moves we made and didn't make. You look at some of the games we're winning. Those aren't just a coincidence. God has definitely had a hand in this." Or maybe the management that prays together gets paid together.
O'Dowd and company bend over backward in the article to say they are "tolerant" of other views on the club, but that's contradicted by statements like this from CEO Monfort: "I don't want to offend anyone, but I think character-wise we're stronger than anyone in baseball. Christians, and what they've endured, are some of the strongest people in baseball. I believe God sends signs, and we're seeing those." Assumedly, Shawn Green (Jew), Ichiro Suzuki (Shinto) or any of the godless players from Cuba don't have the "character" Monfort is looking for.
Also, there are only two African-American players on the Rockies active roster. Is this because Monfort doesn't think black players have character? Does the organization endorse the statement of its stadium's namesake, William Coors, who told a group of black businessmen in 1984 that Africans "lack the intellectual capacity to succeed, and it's taking them down the tubes"? These are admittedly difficult questions. But these are the questions that need to be posed when the wafting odor of discrimination clouds the air.
Then there are the fans. I spoke with journalist Tom Krattenmaker, who has studied the connection between religion and sports. Krattenmaker said, "I have concerns about what this Christianization of the Rockies means for the community that supports the team in and around Denver--a community in which evangelical Christians are probably a minority, albeit a large and influential one. Taxpayers and ticket-buyers in a religiously diverse community have a right not to see their team--a quasi-public resource--used for the purpose of advancing a specific form of religion. Have the Colorado Rockies become a faith-based organization? This can be particularly problematic when the religion in question is one that makes exclusive claims and sometimes denigrates the validity of other belief systems."
You might think MLB Commissioner Bud Selig would have something stirring to say about this issue. But Selig, who hasn't actually registered a pulse since 1994, only said meekly, "They have to do what they feel is right."
It's not surprising that Selig would play it soft. First and foremost, Bud's First Commandment is "Thou Shalt Not Criticize the Owners. Second, Selig and Major League Baseball this year are experimenting for the first time with Faith Days at the Park. As if last season's Military Appreciation Nights weren't enough, the New York Times reported yesterday that this summer "religious promotions will hit Major League Baseball. The Atlanta Braves are planning three Faith Days this season, the Arizona Diamondbacks one. The Florida Marlins have tentatively scheduled a Faith Night for September." These religious promotions are attractive to owners because they leverage a market of evangelical Christians who are accustomed to mass worship in stadiums at events staged by sports-driven proselytizers like Promise Keepers and Athletes in Action.
As part of the MLB promotion, the Times reports, "local churches will get discounted tickets to family-friendly evenings of music and sports with a Christian theme. And in return, they mobilize their vast infrastructure of e-mail and phone lists, youth programs and chaperones, and of course their bus fleets, to help fill the stands."
At one of the Faith Days in Atlanta, the team will sell special vouchers. After the game, the stands will be cleared and then only those with the specially purchased vouchers will be re-admitted. Those lucky chosen "will be treated to an hour and a half of Christian music and a testimonial from the ace pitcher John Smoltz." Smoltz is the player who in 2004 opined on gay marriage to the Associated Press, saying, "What's next? Marrying an animal?" Good times for the whole family.
The Rockies right now are a noxious reflection of a time in US history when generals speak of crusades and the President recounts his personal conversations with Yahweh. ("You're doing a heckuva job, Goddy!")
If Monfort, O'Dowd and Hurdle want to pray on their own time, more power to them. But the ballpark isn't a church. Smoltz isn't a preacher. And fans aren't a flock. Instead of using their position of commercial power to field a God Squad, the Rockies might want to think about getting some decent players. There was once this guy named Babe Ruth. Not too much for the religion, and his character was less than sterling. But I hear he could play some decent ball.
Our Pray or the Highway: The Rockies' "Christian" Baseball Team
The Colorado Rockies, as it turns out, are jumping on the “Christian” bandwagon. In a USA today article yesterday, team officials describe "prayer services" many times a week for players and execs. Rockies CEO Charlie Monfort strongly suggests that "Christians" have better character than non-"Christians" and that God is helping the Rockies on the scoreboard as a result:
I don't want to offend anyone, but I think character-wise we're stronger than anyone in baseball. Christians, and what they've endured, are some of the strongest people in baseball. I believe God sends signs, and we're seeing those.
Monfort may have not checked the standings however, seeing that the Rockies are only 1 game over .500. The question they Monfort should ask himself is, "What god are the Cardinals praying to, and do we have to offer Todd Helton as a human sacrifice?" Also, what exactly have Christians endured lately, especially in the United States? That whole Romans/Lions thing was 1800 years ago.
The other puzzling thing is this concept of "Christians." What type of Christians is he talking about? I have a feeling it's not Greek Orthodox or Coptic Christians. Catholics? No chance, those booze-hounds serve wine in Church. Whenever I've spoken to an Evangelical about this issue they make it very clear that Catholics are not considered Christians in their eyes, which is strange seeing that they had a big part in this Christianity thing at one point.
No, we're talking about the Fundamentalist/Born Again/Evangelical style of Christianity that is usually led by one loosely qualified individual who may or may not work out of a crystal cathedral. One thing is for sure, though: he thinks you're going straight to Hell.
However, sometimes these "prayer groups" are led by no one in particular. This leads to the kind of bizzaro metaphor that Monfort also uses in the article:
We had to go to hell and back to know where the Holy Grail is. We went through a tough time and took a lot of arrows.
This sounds like a sequel to the Da Vinci code in the making. So what does the Rockies Christian-friendly policy mean for the players? It means they fake it or they're (mercifully) elsewhere. Mark Sweeney (sounds like one of those non-Christian Catholics to me) formerly of the Rockies, now with San Francisco was less than impressed with the Rockies new pray-to-win policy:
Look, I pray every day; I have faith. It's always been part of my life. But I don't want something forced on me. Do they really have to check to see whether I have a Playboy in my locker?
Jerry Reinsdorf, the Jewish owner of the World Champion Chicago White Sox also expressed doubts that the Christian=Character strategy is sound baseball policy:
I do believe character is very important. But only to a point. Does this mean ... Babe Ruth could never have played there?
Babe Ruth, as you probably know, was a beer swilling, volume-sex Catholic.
In an era of turning back the clock on rights and privileges due to religious zealotry, this kind of workplace religious pressure should be anything but applauded. Also the notion that Evangelical Christians are somehow of higher moral character than those practicing other religions can be easily refuted. Our President, also a "Christian", has killed, tortured and imprisoned thousands, not to mention ignoring the cries of his own countrymen hit by Katrina. I think God might prefer sex and beer.
Social organizations, political institutions, movements and independent activists from Dominican Republic and other countries are holding an alternative summit to the one by the Organization of American States (O.A.S.) which started yesterday.
The "First Alternative Summit of the Nations" is taking place in the Santo Domingo Autonomous University’s (UASD) "Pedro Mir" library, organized by, among other entities, the Alternative Social Forum, the church San Romero of the Américas, the Woman and Health Collective, the Dominican Popular Movement, the Continental Bolivarian Coordinator, Dominican Republic chapter and the New Patriot Revolutionary Movement.
In addition, the Puerto Rican-Chicago Cultural Center; the April Brigade; Expanded Front of Popular Struggle; the Popular Unity Council, and the Dominican Workers Party.
The OAS Summit comes as the organization itself remains relatively ineffectual. Perhaps the biggest problem the OAS faces, according to some analysts, is that it is still very much controlled by Washington at a time when the administration of US President George W. Bush remains caught up with Iraq, the "war on terrorism" and Iran. Indeed, the OAS has been described as an institution with 33 mice and one very large cat."
And the "large cat" could care less about the institution as a whole at the moment.
US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice had been expected to attend the meeting. But in what is sure to be seen as evidence of US inattention, Deputy Secretary of State Robert Zoellick will go instead. Rice is focusing on other issues, a senior State Department official said.
Another US official said Thomas Shannon, the top US diplomat for Latin America, had also canceled plans to attend.
Anyway, The following comes from Dominican Today. The second and somewhat related article comes from Granma.
Dominican security keeps protesters from O.A.S. Summit
SANTO DOMINGO. - At mid-morning heavily-armed security forces, trained dogs and water cannons prevented representatives from more than 30 social and political organizations and other people from reaching the place where the Summit was taking place to submit a document, elaborated after the staging of "an alternative" Summit in the campus of the Santo Domingo Autonomous University.
In their document, which was received by an O.A.S. representative several blocks from the Dominican Foreign Ministry, where the Assembly is taking place, the demonstrators demand the inclusion in the agenda of talks of its 36th General Assembly, points including the elimination of the foreign debt as well as the sovereignty of the different nations and peoples over their petroleum, gas, coal mines, water, maritime, fauna, flora and conservation of the biodiversity.
They also demand the withdrawal of bases and troops of the United States and other world powers from Latin American and the Caribbean, and that the United States government change its attitude towards immigrants and respect their rights.
Venezuela to seek OAS resolution on extradition of United States terrorists
Granma (Havana): Venezuela is to present a resolution on the extradition of "terrorists" ... an implicit allusion to the case of Luis Posada Carriles, currently detained in the United States ... to the General Assembly of the OAS, in session until Tuesday in the Dominican Republic.
The text calls on "all member states to bring to trial and, in due case, extradite… any individual who participates in the planning, preparation, commission or financing of acts of terrorism," according to a draft published this Sunday in Santo Domingo, the venue of the OAS Summit.
The resolution also calls on countries in the hemisphere to "take the corresponding measures… to ensure that the conditions of refugee or asylum seeker are not recognized in the cases of persons concerning whom there are founded motives to consider that they have committed a terrorist crime."
The text drafted by Venezuela also asks for "actions to strengthen hemispheric legal cooperation in extradition matters" and calls on countries of the region to "ensure that no person received after being extradited is subjected to serious violations of their human rights."
Venezuelan justice is demanding the extradition of Posada Carriles ... who confronts migratory charges in the United States ... for the 1976 sabotage of a Cubana Aviation passenger plane, which was plotted in Venezuela, but which the United States has still not granted.
Twenty-five years ago today I remember very clearly sitting at the ratty, broken down front desk of the Westport Free Health Clinic where I was working reading the pages of the CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Review (MMWR). The MMWR held a strange fascination for me, for some reason. Anyway, on that day there was this article on a few cases of Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia in five previously healthy young men in Los Angeles. The young men were all gay. Soon there were similar reports in New York and San Francisco.
No one knew what was happening at the time, what was causing this deadly and spreading outbreak.
In time we would find out.
The Free Clinic, housed in a dilapidated three story house (see picture), was one of the first places in the Midwest to respond. In those days, for whatever reason, no one seemed to monitor what the clinic was doing all that closely, maybe because we received no federal or state money and operated with an all volunteer staff (augmented by four of us who were paid a pretty nominal salary to keep the place going).
In those early days, in Kansas City like so many other places it was the gay community which jumped first into the fight. It was volunteers from Kansas City's gay community which pretty much self organized the clinic's response to AIDS and they did it without any money to speak of. There were a few of us who were straight but we were the odd minority, that's for sure. It was amazing really. No red tape, no big federal grants,just people trying to help others.
Eventually, money came.
The old hippie like free clinic transformed itself into the Kansas City Free Health Clinic which today boasts of a multi million dollar budget(a bit more than the forty some thousand we worked with back in the early 80s). The "Community response" to AIDS has been replaced by an entire "AIDS Service Industry."
But the money which provided a plethora of services also took something away.
I'll never forget those times and I'll never forget some of the guys I met then who are now gone. They were heroes and they were just guys.
Sorry for this little bit of nostalgia, but what are ya gonna do.
Sunday, June 04, 2006
A huge mob of bigots clashed with gay and lesbian activists during the second annual GayFest march in the Romanian capital. The mob threw eggs, stones and bottles at the marchers.
Many of the marchers blew whistles and sang patriotic songs, shouting "Homophobia has to go".
Riot police stepped in and arrested dozens of the violent homophobes, using batons and teargas to hold them at bay.
Earlier in the day, a right-wing Christian group, the New Right, staged a march devoted to family values and faith in response to the gay pride march.
The "New Right" (Noua Dreaptă) is one of several groupings that evoke the legacy of the fascist Iron Guard of the 30's and 40's. The group's beliefs include militant nationalism and strong Orthodox religious convictions. The group attacks all the traditional targets of the nazi like Iron Guard. For example the party has distributed leaflets entitled "Stop the Gypsyisation of Romania." The leaflets appealed to the citizens of Romania to not "passively assist the propagation of the Gypsy phenomenon." It also has singled out ethnic Hungarians for physical and verbal assault. It has aligned itself with a wide variety of European anti-Semitic organizations as well.
The stated ultimate political aim of Noua Dreaptă is to restore Greater Romania, which represented Romania at its greatest geographic expanse before World War II. The group also states it is strongly opposed to the principles of representative democracy, which it sees as an "inadequate" form of government.
The following report is from 365 Gay.
Brawls, Arrests Mar Romanian Gay Pride
(Bucharest) A gay pride march through central Bucharest turned into a riot on Saturday with police resorting to tear gas to gain control of more than a thousand protestors bent on disrupting the parade.
Ten people were injured and more than 50 arrested before police were able to maintain order.
Several hundred gays set out on the pride march but they were badly outnumbered by protestors - many of them from the Romanian Orthodox Church.
Before the parade began a church leader egged on the faithful.
Bishop Ciprian Campineanu told a televised rally that the Bucharest march was "an outrage to morality and to the family".
Nuns and priests were among the crowd that lined the streets hurling eggs and bottles at the gay marchers as they passed by.
Extreme nationalists had warned there would be trouble if the parade went on. To show support for Romania's largely closeted LGBT community dozens of from across Europe marched in solidarity.
As protestors became more rowdy police attempted to use their batons hold back the the crowd but scuffles broke out with police and demonstrators broke through the police line pummeling gays.
As the situation grew worse tear gas canisters were hurled into the crowd of protesters to disperse them.
Although homosexuality is no longer a crime in Romania most gays are closeted.
While gay pride in Romania was marred by violence, the LGBT community in Poland has won a major victory.
Authorities in Warsaw have given the go-ahead for a pride parade next weekend. But they also gave a permit for a parade to the ultra-Catholic Polish Youth organization to hold a counter march.
For the past several years gays were denied parade permits. The mayor of Warsaw at the time, Lech Kaczynski - now Poland's president - said he was against "against propagating gay orientation".
Last year more than 2,500 people ignored Kaczynski's pride ban and march anyway. They met by members of Catholic Polish Youth who hurled eggs at the marchers.