Saturday, August 12, 2006
"Shrine visits aren't generally big news these days. But when the shrine is Yasukuni, notorious for having 14 class-A war criminals among its revered spirits, and when the visitor is Junichiro Koizumi, prime minister of Japan, the world takes note." So writes the Guardian and a group of protesters showed that to be true last night in Tokyo.
Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi suggested again on Thursday that he intends to visit Tokyo's Yasukuni Shrine, where war dead including Class-A war criminal are enshrined, on the Aug. 15 anniversary of Japan's World War II surrender.
Koizumi has gone to the shrine each year since taking office in 2001 but never on Aug. 15. Those visits have infuriated Japan's Asian neighbors, especially China and South Korea, who suffered atrocities from Japanese aggression before and during WWII.
In June, the Tokyo High Court on Wednesday rejected a damages claim filed by religious leaders and kin of Japanese and South Koreans war dead, over visits to the Yasukuni Shrine by Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi and Tokyo Governor Shintaro Ishihara.
Last week,China expressed concern over reports that Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Shinzo Abe visited the Yasukuni Shrine in April, Foreign Ministry spokesman said.
"We hope that the Japanese side will make similar efforts along with the Chinese side to push Sino-Japanese ties back to the track of normal development at an early date," spokesman Qin Gang said while asked for comments.
"It is a common aspiration of the two peoples and conforms with the fundamental interest of the two countries for Japanese leaders to stop visiting the Yasukuni Shrine, where World War II criminals were worshiped, and take tangible action to eliminate political obstacles hindering the normal development of Sino-Japanese relations," Qin said.
According to a memorandum, written by late Imperial Household Agency Grand Steward Tomohiko Tomita, the late Japanese Emperor Hirohito also expressed strongly his displeasure in 1988 over Yasukuni Shrine's decision in the late 1970s to include Class-A war criminals of World War II into its honor list. The families of some of those honored with their names on the shrine have asked their relatives names be removed.
In fact Japan Times reports relatives of war dead honored at Yasukuni Shrine submitted to the Osaka District Court on Friday the first-ever lawsuit filed directly against the Shinto institution, demanding that their relatives' names be struck from its rolls.
Nine plaintiffs, including Ryuken Sugawara, 66, a Buddhist monk from Shimane Prefecture, and Yang Yuan-huang, 51, from Taiwan, claim the enshrinement of the war dead without the permission of surviving relatives infringes on their right to decide how to mourn their loved ones.
The following is from China's People's Daily.
Candlelight protest held in Tokyo against Koizumi's Yasukuni visit
A group of people from China, South Korea and Japan held a candlelight demonstration on Friday evening in Tokyo, calling on Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi to refrain from paying visit to the war-linked Yasukuni Shrine before stepping down next month.
The demonstration, called "Let's light a candle of peace," was participated by representatives from China's Taiwan Province, 8 South Korean lawmakers and more than 100 Japanese civil group members.
Led by the South Korean lawmakers with a big banner in their hands, the demonstration started at eight o'clock from Hibiya Park, and marched to Chiyoda Ku's Kasumigaseki district, where most of Japanese central government ministries are located.
The demonstrators chanted slogans criticizing Koizumi's shrine visit and demanding the "return of spirits from Yasukuni of the Taiwanese aboriginals and the South Korean bereaved" who have been enshrined there.
The organizing committee of the protest held a meeting in the afternoon.
South Korean lawmaker Kim Hee Sun said Koizumi's visits to the Yasukuni Shrine, which honors Class-A war criminals of World War II, carried Japan's attempt to legitimize its colonial rule on the Korean Peninsular, and the purpose of the candlelight demonstration is to send a strong appeal against the shrine visit by Japanese politicians and to call on permanent peace in Asia.
Japan should reflect on its past aggression so that it will be able to truly reconcile with all victims and contribute to deep- rooted peace, Kim said.
Hundreds of thousands of aboriginals in Taiwan have suffered from Japanese militarism, said Chen Mingzhong, a representative from Taiwan, who added that the forced enshrinement of the aboriginals in Taiwan in the Yasukuni, which honors Japanese war dead, is a blasphemy of their dignity, and people in Taiwan strongly demand the return of the spirits of their ancestors.
The representatives of the candlelight protest handed in a petition to the Cabinet Office in the afternoon, calling for the stop of shrine visit by Japanese leaders.
Several Japanese civil groups gathered in front of the prime minister's official residence, urging the Japanese government to set up a correct view of history and to commit itself to building a peaceful Asia.
The candlelight demonstration will last through Monday. Fifty aboriginals from Taiwan and 170 South Korean people will join the protest from Saturday.
Friday, August 11, 2006
The Israeli mainstream peace group, Peace Now, has called for an end to the fighting and has condemned the plans of the Ohlmert government to expand the war. Until now, the group supported the decision to fight Hizbullah citing broad support for the war among the Israeli public and the fact that Israel "had no choice."
Peace Now Secretary-General, Yariv Oppenheimer, said yesterday however, "Instead of sending the Israel Defense Forces deep into Lebanon, Olmert has to send (Foreign Minister Tzipi) Livni to the Security Council to seal a political arrangement," Oppenheimer said.
"The cabinet's decision proves that the government has lost direction and entered deep inside Lebanon. I, who at first supported the operation, think the government is not doing enough to bring the war to an end, and is embarking on a dangerous and unnecessary adventure," he added.
Oppenheimer said: "The government is ignoring the political options available. Now is the time for the Israeli government to react positively to [Lebanese] Prime Minister [Fuad] Siniora's plan to send Lebanese troops to the border with Israel."
Meretz (an Israeli dovish social democratic party) also declared that it will be joining the protest outside the Ministry of Defense. Former MK Yael Dayan and writer David Grossman will attend the protest.
Meretz chairman Yossi Beilin called the cabinet's decision "a tragic mistake" and said that Israel was on the verge of "a war of attrition on the ground."
"This decision (to expand the war) will become a death trap for IDF soldiers," said Zehava Gal-On (Meretz). "The cabinet decision will reduce the possibility of a cease-fire agreement."
The following comes from Haaretz (Israel).
Anti-war protest draws mainstream leftist groups
By Mazal Mualem
Hundreds of people demonstrated against the continued fighting in Lebanon yesterday, in a protest that for the first time included mainstream leftist groups among its organizers.
Until now, the only anti-war demonstrations had been organized by the radical left. However, both the Meretz party and the Peace Now organization helped to organize yesterday's protest opposite the Defense Ministry in Tel Aviv.
Meretz chairman Yossi Beilin, whose party had hitherto supported the war, said that Wednesday's cabinet decision to expand the ground operation "was the straw that broke the camel's back."
Peace Now chairman Yariv Oppenheimer agreed. "The cabinet's decision led us to the conclusion that a different voice must be heard," he said.
Organizers stressed that most of the people who attended yesterday's event, which urged the government to stop the fighting and embark on a diplomatic initiative instead, had supported the war prior to Wednesday's cabinet decision.
Nevertheless, they encountered angry reactions from passing drivers and pedestrians, including cries of "Traitor!" and "May a missile fall on you!"
Former MK Yael Dayan, one of the organizers, said that she and her colleagues intended to continue their protest activities. She predicted that if the fighting did not end soon, the next demonstration, slated to take place opposite the Prime Minister's Residence in Jerusalem, would be much larger.
Cabrini Green residents marched to Chicago's City Hall Thursday to protest a police shooting that seriously injured a 14-year-old boy.
The group marched one-and-a-half miles from Cabrini-Green to the mayor's office. Since Ellis Woodland was shot Monday near the housing complex, several community members have wanted to know what witnesses told officers--particularly if the boy was surrendering his own weapon when he was shot.
David Russell, 42, who grew up in Cabrini-Green, stated for example, he saw the boy "leaning over to drop the gun" when officers opened fire.
"My nephew was going to put the gun down, and that's when they started to fire shots," the boy's uncle told NBC5 News. "They should have taken more precautions. They need to take more caution with these young teens and realize that everyone young isn't a threat to them."
"He only 14 years old," Valerie Strong, Woodland's aunt told Channel 7 News. "Now they want to shut us up, we're not going to be quiet; we're going to stand here until justice is served."
Woodland's 7th grade teacher, Monique Redeaux, 23, said she was drawn to the march because she believed officials were attacking the character of a soft-spoken pupil who made good grades.
"Ellis would be waiting for me an hour before I arrived at school, and he would help me carry my bags up the stairs," the Dvorak Elementary School teacher said. "He said he woke up early and didn't like to wait around the house, so he came early."
"Another black man has been shot down by the police," said Fred Hampton Jr. "Excessive force is putting it mildly. Our babies aren't even immune to this."
The tension started Monday night. Relatives lashed out at police while at Children's Memorial Hospital where Woodland is recovering. There is extra police security there now, and the boy's mother has remained at his bedside.
"It wasn't justified because they didn't have to shoot him that many times. So I don't feel that's justifiable to me," said Lillian Strong, Woodland's mother.
Ellis was taken to Children's Memorial Hospital with gunshot wounds in his abdomen and thigh. William Woodland, 33, of Cabrini-Green, the older brother of Ellis, said the teen underwent surgery Thursday morning and afterward was breathing on his own, but not talking or eating.
"He should survive . . . he's a tough kid," his brother said.
Superintendent Philip Cline says Ellis Woodland had what turned out to be a B-B pistol, but it looked like a genuine handgun. At a Tuesday afternoon news conference, police officials passed out detailed photographs of the boys' BB guns and projected large images of them on a screen to demonstrate how closely they resemble firearms.
The marchers also were critical of other issues with the Police Department, particularly what they said was a pattern of harassment and brutality against poor African-Americans.
Being accused of trespassing in your own place, or told that your water bottle really is filled with liquor. Looking suspicious and getting knocked to the ground for it.
Simply feeling you don't belong in the neighborhood anymore.
These are the complaints of the hundreds of Cabrini-Green residents who marched yesterday, reports the Chicago Sun Times.
"It's crap, man. I was brought up here,'' said Jimmie Blossom, 63, who has since moved out of the neighborhood but visits regularly. "I know they want the neighborhood. . . . It's prime property. They are trying to get the poor people out of here. . . . I got a right to live, too. My God, I got a right to live. I might not have money ... education. But nobody can put me down and kick me in my side."
Protesters also expressed anger Thursday at recent development in the Near North area that has not included refurbishing the Cabrini-Green public housing complex -- making some feel unwanted.
"They don't care about the poor people in Cabrini-Green," said Paul McKinley, 41, a longtime resident of the community. "The city has done so much construction to make other parts of the area better, why not rebuild Cabrini-Green for everyone? I think the city doesn't value our lives."
At the march, when Thomas Strong, Ellis' uncle, questioned why no one from the police department had come to speak to them about what happened, one woman shouted: "Because he's black, and he lives in Cabrini-Green!"
"This a community that is fed up,'' said Dierdre Brewster, a community activist who organized the march. "It's obvious."
The following comes from the Chicago Defender.
Cabrini-Green youth take their message to city hall: ‘Stop shooting our children’
by Demetrius Patterson, Chicago Defender
It didn't amass to a large citywide coalition as predicted, but hundreds of youth from Cabrini-Green did manage to stun downtown Chicago Thursday and its financial district with a loud protest of the multiple shooting of a 14-year-old boy by police on Monday.
Ellis Woodland Jr. was shot several times by Chicago police after allegedly refusing to drop a BB gun from his hands that police said looked like a real semi-automatic weapon.
About 350 people, mainly adolescents and teenagers, marched from the Cabrini-Green Housing Project down LaSalle Street to the doors of City Hall where they were met by approximately 50 Chicago police officers on foot, bicycles and four-wheel motor vehicles.
The marchers, led by Willie J.R. Fleming, chairman of the Hip-Hop Congress of Cabrini-Green, and Deidre Brewster, were met halfway inside the downtown Loop area by mayoral candidate William "Dock" Walls, Fred Hampton Jr. and Derrick Harris, head of the North Lawndale Accountability Commission, among others.
The situation became tense between protesters and policemen when the agitated crowd was initially denied entrance into City Hall to speak with Mayor Richard M. Daley.
"We are taxpaying citizens. We have a right to go in and address the mayor," someone shouted out as a sea of blue and white police shirts blocked the entrance of the locked City Hall doors.
Initially, Chicago Police Assistant Deputy Supt. Charles L. Williams told Fleming and the group of protestors that only 20 people could go up to the fifth floor and protest in front of the mayor's office.
Just an hour earlier, however, about 40 to 45 people protested on the fifth floor in front of the mayor's office demanding that Daley sign the Big Box Ordinance into law, which would require large retailers to pay its workers a living wage.
"The Chicago Police are violating our civil and human rights," Fleming shouted over a bullhorn when the police refused to budge.
With that statement, the crowd started chanting "No more Emmett Till…"
Throughout the protest the Chicago police remained calm and polite, except for one white officer demanding that an African American journalist move from behind him because "I don't feel safe," the officer told the journalist - although the journalist was clearly standing next to the police officer with credentials exposed.
Fleming claimed that the group was denied access to City Hall because Daley didn't want to hear the truth about the shooting of Woodland Jr. Fleming said witnesses to the incident were in the crowd and wanted to address Daley directly.
Lance Lewis, spokesman for the mayor, gradually raised the number of people who could come into the building to 30, then to 40, but the disgruntled crowd wasn't having it.
"All or nothing," someone shouted from the crowd.
"I cannot allow 300 people up to the fifth floor," said a frustrated Lewis.
The protestors, joined by a core of young drummers, walked away from City Hall and began to march down LaSalle Street to the financial district.
Two white women, who had just walked pass the crowd turned around with fear in their eyes, and one shouted, "Oh God, here they come right behind us, let's move."
Police made no arrests. They stopped traffic and directed non-protesting pedestrians off of the sidewalks into the streets to get pass the protestors.
In one incident, a white pedestrian in a suit somehow had his briefcase and files knocked unto the sidewalk. Words were exchanged between him and some African American youth. But police rushed over to the scene and helped the man pick up his belongings and urged the agitated protestors to move on.
Protestors claimed that they were late in their estimated arrival time to City Hall because they were initially blocked from leaving Cabrini-Green. They also claimed several people were arrested.
Williams told the Defender that those statements weren't true.
"We made no arrests there," Williams said. "We did observe an individual who was driving a vehicle with revoked license plates. We did issue three traffic citations for that."
Williams said the high number of police were out to control the protest crowd, and also because of heightened alert due to the national international airplanes terrorist alert.
"How many white children have been shot by Chicago police in the last 20 years," Harris asked. "This has become a culture. This has become their m.o. This is their way of relating, and it clearly has become a problem with the African American community. I mean it's absolutely unconscionable."
Walls told the Defender that the protest is now just an unfortunate but necessary occurrence.
"This is just one of many marches that we have on a regular basis against police brutality and the shooting of young people in our community," Walls told the Defender. "So this is just par for the course.
"Even if it happened (the shooting or Woodland Jr.) the way the police said it happened, taking their extreme case, four times shooting a young man is excessive force. I'm sure a 14-year-old boy, upon getting hit by the first bullet, if he was lifting that gun, dropped that gun quickly and fell to the ground or probably was in the process of falling to the ground."
Walls said that under the Daley and Chicago Police Supt. Philip Cline's watch that "they have gone from arresting (Black) men and torturing them to shooting them down in the street."
Walls said he want the few policemen with the mentality of shoot-to-kill to stand down and be more sensitive to the fact that "these youth are people's children." He said the shootings of youth by police seem to be happening in the African American and Latino communities almost exclusively.
After marching to the financial district and back to City Hall, the police finally let Woodland Jr.'s family members and protest leaders into City Hall, totaling about 30 people.
There would be no meeting with Daley, however, as extra police covered the mayor's office entrance and even refused to allow media to stand behind the ropes to face the protestors and film them as they did during the Big Box protest.
Angry protest leaders vowed to show up unannounced at City Hall and find a way to vote Daley out of office.
"We are going to continue to come back until justice is served," Brewster told the Defender. "Until they stop treating the victim like he is a criminal. Until they stop treating the victim's parents like they are criminals."
The following piece written by long time friend Bill Berkowitz is taken from Working for Change.
FOIA at forty: Public service or potential threat?
Bill Berkowitz - WorkingForChange
08.10.06 - Although the Air Force Research Laboratory million dollar grant given to Jeffrey Addicott, a professor at St. Mary's University School of Law in San Antonio, to devise new ways to limit making information available to the public via the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) is not likely to destroy the act completely, if adopted it could further weaken the forty year-old act.
According to an early-July report in USA Today, Addicott said he will use the research grant "to produce a national 'model statute' that state legislatures and Congress could adopt to ensure that potentially dangerous information 'stays out of the hands of the bad guys.'"
The grant, the USA Today report acknowledged, is for "research aimed at rolling back the amount of sensitive data available to the press and public through freedom-of-information requests."
"There's the public's right to know, but how much?" Addicott, a former legal adviser in the Army's Special Forces, told the newspaper. "There's a strong feeling that the law needs to balance that with the need to protect the well-being of the nation. ... There's too much stuff that's easy to get that shouldn't be," he said.
"It's a little peculiar that Jeffrey Addicott received the grant given that the Air Force has a wide range of urgent needs," Steven Aftergood, the Director of the Federation of American Scientists' Project on Government Secrecy and editor of Secrecy News, told me in a telephone interview from his Washington D.C. office.
"We are after all at war. I would have thought they it had more compelling uses for a million dollars than an academic study of how to limit the FOIA. While I'm interested in the fact that the grant was made, there's a long distance between someone writing a report and proposing legislation and actually having that legislation enacted.
The announcement of the Air Force's grant came around the 40th anniversary -- July 4, 1966 -- of President Lyndon Johnson's signing the Freedom of Information Act into law.
Documents from that year, discovered at the Lyndon Baines Johnson Library and Museum in Austin, Texas, by the National Security Archive at George Washington University -- a group whose researchers make more than 1,500 requests for government records on U.S. national security and foreign policy under the FOIA every year -- revealed that President Johnson had serious doubts about how much and what types of information should be made available through the FOIA.
According to the AP's Ted Bridis, Johnson "submitted a signing statement [along with the bill] that some researchers believe was intended to undercut the measure's purpose of forcing government to disclose records except in narrow cases. Draft language from Johnson's statement arguing that 'democracy works best when the people know what their government is doing,' was changed with a handwritten scrawl to read: 'Democracy works best when the people have all the info that the security of the nation will permit.'
"This sentence was eliminated entirely with the same handwritten markings: 'Government officials should not be able to pull curtains of secrecy around decisions which can be revealed without injury to the public interest.'
"Another scratched sentence on the document said the decisions, policies and mistakes of public officials 'are always subjected to the scrutiny and judgment of the people.'"
"The law's staunchest advocates think its principles are imperiled, threatened by what they describe as the Bush administration's penchant for secrecy and concerns about revealing strategies to terrorists," the Associated Press recently pointed out.
"This is the worst of times for the Freedom of Information Act in many ways," Paul McMasters of the First Amendment Center, which studies issues of free speech, press and religion, told the AP.
In an op-ed piece for the Baltimore Sun, David O. Stewart, president of the Freedom to Write Fund of the Washington Independent Writers, wrote that "The problems with the FOIA could not be more current as radio talk shows thump The New York Times for having the temerity to inform Americans about what their government is doing."
Stewart pointed out how difficult it is to "strike" a "balance between disclosure and secrecy â€¦ particularly when more than 4 million FOIA requests are submitted every year. The Defense Department alone has 500 FOIA offices. Yet there are many symptoms that the current policies fundamentally skew toward secrecy in a manner that can only injure the public interest."
According to Stewart, a "secret" federally-run "program... ha[s] spirited out of the National Archives more than 25,000 previously disclosed records and reclassified them as 'secret.' These included a 1951 assessment of agrarian reform in Guatemala and a 1948 memo on balloon drops of leaflets into Communist countries."
In addition, "The CIA has demanded that the National Security Archive... pay the search costs for more than 40 requests, which would run into hundreds of thousands of dollars." And, Stewart pointed out, "The entire government continues to function under former Attorney General John Ashcroft's 2001 directive that encouraged agencies to deny information requested under the FOIA, assuring them of Justice Department support in defending such denials."
"The government ignores almost all FOIA requests coming from activists such as myself," Scott Silver, the executive director of Wild Wilderness, an Oregon-based grassroots environmental group, told me in a recent email. "They do not even acknowledge receipt -- not of the original request or of follow up requests asking why the first request was never acted upon. Those who sue the government when it breaks the law may get a little bit better cooperation --- but even that seems to be changing."
A new book by Stephen Gidiere entitled "The Federal Information Manual: How the Federal Government Collects, Manages and Discloses Information Under FOIA and other statutes," published this spring by the American Bar Association, documented the up-tick in government secrecy. According to The Birmingham News, "in 2005 alone, the executive branch decided 14.2 million times to classify information as secret, nearly double the number of secrets created in 1998."
Gidiere, an environmental and public records lawyer for Balch & Bingham, acknowledged that in the post-9/11 climate it is understandable that the Bush Administration would be more vigilant about information accessible through the FOIA, but, he told The Birmingham News, "Good government requires a balance between secrecy and openness."
"The federal government spent $7.2 billion on designating and protecting its secrets in 2004, up from $5.6 billion in 2002. In contrast, the federal government spent only $300 million on issues related to the FOIA," Gidiere said. "Much of this increase can understandably be attributed to the Iraq and Afghanistan wars and our increased military and intelligence operations since 9/11," Gidiere added. "However, Congress and the federal courts should not give the president an automatic free pass anytime he mentions national security."
Gidiere also pointed out that "In 1998, the government classified information 7.2 million times. By 2005, it was 14.2 million. The war on terror is about protecting our freedom. But we are giving up some of our privacy and freedom to win the war - most notably, the freedom of information."
"People want information from the federal government, and they want it fast - instantaneously, in some cases," said Gidiere, who spent years researching and 18 months writing his book. "But now, there are more hurdles to cross that prevent or delay local officials, journalists, corporations and individuals from getting the information they want. It's easy to understand why the public and many in Congress are calling for reforms."
"Overall, the Freedom of Information Act remains a vital tool but a troubled one: vital because it is not merely a policy, it is a law that gives individuals access to government information," Secrecy News' Steven Aftergood pointed out. "It is troubled because backlogs are growing, secrecy claims are rising, and response times are getting longer -- when you can get them."
The Air Force grant to Jeffrey Addicott "tells us what we essentially already knew; that at this time, this administration views the FOIA not as a public service, but as a potential threat. Those of us who value freedom of information had better take steps to defend it."
(c) 2006 Working Assets Online. All rights reserved
Thursday, August 10, 2006
The Awa Indians in Colombia held a news conference to mark World Indigenous Day. It began with a moment of silence for five of the tribe, killed by masked gunmen 570 kilometers southwest of Bogota.
"It hurts my soul to have to inform you of the death of my people," Doris Puchana, leader of the Awa Indian tribe, told journalists at the Bogota news conference.
One of the victims was Jesus Moran, a traditional Awa leader at Chaguichimbuza.
The United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) Wednesday condemned the massacre of the five. Roberto Meier, Colombia's representative of the UNHCR, described the killing as "brutal murder."
Doris Puchana, who took over the leadership of the Awa from Moran, also condemned the killings, saying "my soul aches because these are my people, in my care."
Luis Evelis Andrade, president of the National Indigenous Colombians Association, called for an investigation into the massacre to figure out how such events could occur in a heavily militarized area.
Fabio Trujillo, interior minister for Narino, told media that the Awas appeared to have been killed on suspicion of aiding the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).
Some 23,000 Indians were displaced from their ancestral homelands last year by violence stemming from Colombia's four-decade-old conflict and another 5,731 cases have been reported this year, according to Colombia's Indigenous Organization, an advocacy group.
The displacement has threatened to decimate several of Colombia's 80 indigenous communities, the U.N. said.
Amongst those communites is the Nuvak.
Until 1988 the outside world knew nothing of the existence of the Nukak, a small tribe of nomadic hunter-gatherers who have lived in the vast rainforests of south-east Colombia for centuries.
Les than two decades later, the arrival of the civil war in their corner of the Amazon Basin has forced more than half of the Nukak community of some 500 to flee their ancestral lands. The last big exodus came in April, when 77 Nukak sought sanctuary in the town of San José de Guaviare. Their situation is dire: they cannot return to their lands, but their culture will disappear if they stay put.
"We have warned repeatedly that indigenous groups in Colombia are at risk of violence and even of extinction amid the ongoing conflict. This is a tragedy not only for them but for the whole of humanity" said Roberto Meier, UNHCR's representative in Colombia.
Indigenous culture is closely linked to the community's ancestral lands, and forced displacement leads to the loss of traditions, culture and language. To avoid this fate, many communities try desperately to stay on their lands despite the threats and violence.
The Bari are one such people – they have refused to move from their land near the border with Venezuela despite the heavy presence of irregular troops and the great risk of violence. Concern is also growing about Embera communities caught up in fighting sweeping Chocó department near the border with Panama.
"Our worry is great," one indigenous leader forced into exile told UNHCR recently. "We see that our culture is dying, we fear that our young people will lose the traditions of their ancestors and we do not see how the problem will end. It did not start yesterday, but today the violence is worse. What are we going to do? As long as the armed groups are on our territory, we cannot go back."
The following is from China's People's Daily.
L. American indigenous people protest marginalization
Indigenous people in Latin America on Wednesday marked International Day of Indigenous People by expressing anger at their marginalization and grief over the suffering they have had to endure.
In Colombia, five members of the indigenous community, the Awa, were killed by nine heavily-armed paramilitaries in the rural Colombian area of Barbacoas early on Wednesday who burst into a house in the village of Altaquer in the southwestern region of Narino, which borders Ecuador.
One of the victims was Jesus Moran, the traditional Awa leader at Chaguichimbuza.
"Wednesday is nothing more than a day of mourning," said a statement from the National Organization of Indigenous Colombians, which added that 32 indigenous people had been murdered since January.
In Guatemala, the National Coordination of Rural Organizations organized a demonstration to protest what they described as government marginalization of the Maya, who make up 42 percent of the country's population.
The demonstration also called for agricultural reforms and an end to racial prejudice.
In Argentina, more than 1,000 indigenous people in the northeast region of Jujuy blocked the highways leading to Bolivia and Chile, demanding that the government return their land.
However, in some parts of Latin America there were signs of progress for indigenous people.
Mexican President Vicente Fox attended a ceremony in the northern state of San Luis Potosi, where indigenous people have the right to administer justice in accordance with traditional practices.
In Bolivia, the country's first indigenous president, Evo Morales, is leading a project that includes giving land to indigenous people.
The land reform was officially launched on July 3. The project includes measures to find new markets for the crops traditionally grown by Bolivia's indigenous peoples.
However, non-governmental organizations said more than 50 million of the continent's indigenous people lived in poverty and international bodies and social activists were far from finding any solutions, including the efforts spurred by the International Day of Indigenous People, which began in 1994.
Mexico's indigenous people continue to report the highest infant mortality rates, the lowest salaries, the worst access to basic education and health services, and the greatest prejudice against their culture.
Wednesday, August 09, 2006
Along with a bunch of fellow nurses, Carol Koelly, reports the Chicago Tribune, plopped down around noon Tuesday in the middle of a busy downtown Chicago street, joined her union colleagues in loud chants, and then waited to be carted off by police.
"We are standing up for our patients," shouted Koelly, of San Bernardino, Calif., who came to Chicago to participate in the rally by unionized nurses and other union members outside the offices of the American Hospital Association.
The demonstrators had planned to rally inside the office building where the Hospital Association is housed. But on arrival, they found it closed and moved their protest to Franklin just north of Madison in front the building.
"We made our point," said Rose Ann DeMoro, executive director of the California Nurses Association, the parent organization for the National Nurses Organizing Committee, which represents Cook County's nurses.
DeMoro, whose organization had arranged the rally, vowed to hold similar demonstrations across the U.S. "We are going to escalate," she declared.
At issue is an imminent decision by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), which the Bush Administration has stacked with management attorneys and members who are hostile to unions, on a series of pending cases. The AHA, joined by the national Chamber of Commerce and other corporate interests, want to eliminate the rights of nurses and other lead employees who assign and delegate work to others to form and join unions.
For nurses, the decision could unfairly strip the ability of RNs to advocate for their patients, without the threat of retaliation, and their colleagues, threatening patient safety and prompting chaos in hospitals across the country.
In a statement issued before the action, RNs Working Together, a coalition of 11 AFL-CIO affiliates that represent over 200,000 registered nurses, said:
"Nurses will not stand by and allow their union rights go up in smoke. It is imperative that hospitals and the NLRB acknowledge the importance of nurses as patient advocates and continue to recognize their right to union protection. Nurses can't truly speak up for their patients if they fear jeopardizing their jobs, which is why they need a union behind them."
The action was sponsored by the California Nurses Association/National Nurses Organizing Committee (CNA/NNOC). Other participating organizations included the Massachusetts Nurses Association, Chicago Jobs With Justice, Maine State Nurses Association/NNOC, United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers, Nurses Professional Organization- Kentucky/NNOC, Physicians for a National Health Program, Communication Workers of America District 4, United Steel Workers District 7, and Pennsylvania Assn. of Staff Nurses and Allied Professionals.
The article below is from the Chicago Sun Times.
Nurses sit in to protest feared labor rulings
Worry over pending federal labor board rulings that unions contend could strip millions of workers of their rights to organize prompted nurses and union representatives to stage a protest rally and sit-in in the Loop on Tuesday.
The unions are worried that the National Labor Relations Board might soon broaden the definition of a supervisor. Such action would strip affected workers of their existing contract protections and deny them their right to organize, the AFL-CIO and other labor groups stress.
Roughly 200 nurses marched and rallied in front of the American Hospital Association's office downtown in a demonstration organized by the California Nurses Association/National Nurses Organizing Committee, which represents Cook County nurses.
The union was protesting public comment filed by the association with the labor board supporting making "charge nurses," those responsible for scheduling and dividing duties of other nurses, supervisors. That would affect tens of thousands of RNs, who work as charge nurses, and jeopardize patient care, union representatives contend.
Chanting "AHA Shame on You" and "Patients Not Profits," workers marched from Daley Plaza to the building housing the hospital association on North Franklin, and temporarily blocked a portion of the street with the sit-in.
"Patients won't have advocates to stand up for them," because without contract protections, speaking out could place nurses' jobs in jeopardy, said Dianna Dosie, an RN at Stroger Hospital who participated in the protest.
"They are trying to force charge nurses to be part of management," she said. "But we don't have the power like management. We don't hire and fire. They could fire me on the spot."
Nurses need to be able to continue to speak out about patient care in a way that's unencumbered, said CNA/NNOC Executive Director Rose Ann DeMoro.
The association said in its brief to the labor board: "In the health care field, labor and management generally share a common goal -- promoting patient welfare. In times of labor strife, however, health care workers, like any other employees, will represent their own interests."
When charge nurses are allowed to unionize, they're more likely to align with unionized nurses during labor disputes, and they're less likely to monitor and discipline the nurses in their bargaining unit, the association wrote in the brief filed nearly three years ago.
". . . Hospitals recognize that health care workers strive everyday to provide the best care possible," the association said in a released statement Tuesday. ". . . All hospitals are committed to becoming employers of choice and working diligently to maintain safe, effective care for everyone."
The Chicago rally was one of a series of protests and demonstrations that have taken place across the country in recent weeks, with support from the AFL-CIO, to raise awareness on the pending rulings and criticize what unions have labeled a pro-employer labor board.
The Economic Policy Institute, a liberal think tank, has said workers in 35 occupations ranging from computer systems analysts, to private guards, police officers and RNs could be stripped of their contract protections and prohibited from organizing, depending on the ruling.
Labor groups believe rulings are imminent.
Daniel Parker, a spokesman for the NLRB, said he could not say when the board will act, but he noted the board will be guided by recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions in making its rulings.
About 200,000 Bangladeshi, Ethiopian, Filipino, Nepali and Sri Lankan workers are still thought to be in Lebanon. The International Organisation for Migration (IOM) says it expects to move at least 750 people a day over the next five days unless the security situation deteriorates further. The organisation says it has evacuated more than 4,000 foreign nationals from Beirut since 20 July.
With little sign of the conflict in Lebanon ending soon, IOM has seen increasing numbers of migrants seeking evacuation assistance every day.
"I thought it would end but it never did," Chamina Nroshini, a Sri Lankan who has worked for two years in Lebanon as a house maid for $100 a month told Reuters Alert.
At least half of those being helped are escaping without their papers or salaries from employers who don't want to let them go. Many more are still trying to get away.
Yesterday, in its largest convoy to date, 943 Ethiopians, Sri Lankans, Nepalese and Filipinos were evacuated by IOM to Syria. Today, a further 775 Filipinos, Sri Lankans, Cameroonians and Vietnamese are being assisted. More than 8,000 migrants without papers and/or means will have been helped by IOM to escape the conflict in Lebanonby the end of Friday. IOM is also providing food, shelter, medical and return assistance to their home countries.
"We have seen significant increase in the numbers of migrants turning up at embassies in the past few days wanting to be evacuated. Yesterday, we were expecting to evacuate 250 Ethiopians and had made plans accordingly, but more than 600 people turned up. We managed to evacuate 409 Ethiopians in the end," said Vincent Houver, IOM's evacuation coordinator in Lebanon.
"With such large numbers of people being helped on a daily basis, we expect our funds to run out very soon," added Houver. "We need additional funds not only to help the thousands who can still reach Beirut, but also people in the south who are as yet, inaccessible."
"We need at least another $15 million to help another 10,000," IOM's Jean Philippe Chauzy told Reuters. "As long as bombing continues, people will want to leave."
Meanwhile, operations are becoming increasingly difficult. With roads into Beirut and other strategic infrastructure north of the capital being regularly bombed, IOM is being forced to adjust its evacuation routes every day. The security situation is also making it harder to find transport providers.
Many of the evacuees are low paid, female domestic workers, some of whom have no travel documents and very little money, according to Chauzy.
Sri Lankan ambassdor Amanul Farouque said at least three immigrant workers had arrived at his embassy with broken legs having tried to climb from balconies. "Sometimes the employers locked them up. They tried to escape using sheets from the window," he said.
A bomb hit the house where Kay Irangali had worked as a maid in the southern city of Sidon. "The home owner said: 'You go to Sri Lanka, we're going to America,'" she said.
For further information, please contact:
Jean Philippe Chauzy in Beirut
Tel: + 41 79 285 4366
Tel: + 41 22 717 9486
Mobile: + 41 79 217 3374
The following article comes from The Age (Australia).
Lebanon's domestic workers clamour to escape
Ms Kalyani, 40, and two equally terrified fellow maids were desperate to return to their native Sri Lanka but their employer withheld their passports and between $US500 and $US800 in back wages.
He paid an agency $US1000 to bring each of them to Lebanon, and insisted that war or no war the maids should honour their contracts.
Finally, a week ago, the women had had enough. A 2.30am escape bid was aborted when Israel started bombing again.
Two days later they were given their passports, but not their back wages, and they paid $US400 for a taxi to Beirut.
There they joined tens of thousands of other domestic workers from Sri Lanka, the Philippines, Bangladesh and Ethiopia who are clamouring to flee the war zone, but who lack the resources and often the documents to escape. Two Filipinos are known to have died so far, and many other expatriate workers are missing.
On Monday, after five days sleeping rough outside the Sri Lankan embassy, Ms Kalyani and her friends were able to board buses organised by the United Nations International Organisation for Migrants.
"I'm happy to go now, but I'm not happy about the money," said Chandrawati Makura Malmaduwa, 45. "Our madam was all right, but the master had a bad heart. It hurts to work so hard and not get paid for it."
The whole block around Sri Lanka's embassy has become a temporary refugee camp with thousands of women sleeping in the open or bedding down in basements at the embassy and neighbouring buildings.
Despite their ordeal, most seem to be in remarkably good spirits, chatting and laughing as they share food and water, a few of the youngest even playing tag among their sleeping elders. Others hug and weep as names are called out for places on buses, separating friends who had met in Lebanon and who might never meet again.
Dayalatee Kulasiri, 60, said she had been in Lebanon for 23 years without a visit home.
"I don't want to go back," she said. "There's no money there and I have no children there. I never got married. If they would stop bombing I'd like Lebanon very much."
So far the UN has repatriated more than 5700 foreign domestic workers, taking them by bus to Syria, then flying them home in chartered planes from Damascus.
"The technical term we used for them is 'stranded migrants in distress'," UN official Jean-Philippe Chauzy said.
"You have people like this the world over, people who have been left out on a limb, but this is high profile, there's lots of media around, so this time there's enough money to address it. The European Union has given €11 million ($A18.5 million)."
Most well-off Lebanese families like to have at least one foreign servant, and the market is supplied by agencies who have brought in about 80,000 Sri Lankans, 30,000 Filipinos, 10,000 Bengalis and a large but unknown number of Ethiopians. For these women — virtually all are female — repatriation will be a relief but not a blessing.
"The whole idea of being in Lebanon for these women is to make money," Mr Chauzy said. "They are earning $US150 or $US200 a month maximum and they are sending back more than half of that salary to their homes. When that source of income evaporates, that's also going to cause problems for their country of origin."
Sri Lankan ambassador Farouque Amanul said: "The majority are owed money but they don't care about the money now. They just want to go home.
"Some Lebanese people are very understanding, though. They drive their maids here to help them to leave."
Activists who stormed a leading American software manufacturer in Londonderry, Northern Ireland earlier today, are still occupying the premises. Nine people forced their way into the Raytheon offices in the Springtown industrial estate, when it opened its doors first thing this morning, while 20 other activists staged a protest outside with placards.
The Derry protesters are now surrounded by a large number of members of the PSNI. Two PSNI negotiators, flown by helicopter from Belfast, have been sent into and are talking with the protesters.
The protesters are saying they will only end their protest when Raytheon issue a statement committing themselves to closing their operations in Derry.
Civil rights campaigner Eamonn McCann, today told the BBC: "It's a major supplier of high-tech equipment to Israel and other western forces.
"We see it as a direct relevance to what is happening in the Middle East and we wanted to dramatise our opposition to it."
In a statement, The Irish Anti-War Movement (IAWM) said in part:
"Members of the Derry Anti-War Coalition, who are affiliated to the IAWM, began an occupation of the factory this morning in protest at the production of missile components there, currently being used in the Israeli assault on Lebanon. The Raytheon factory produces components for Guided Missile Units (GBU) such as Patriots, Mavericks, Sidewinders and Sparrows, all of which are used by Israel and paid for with US taxpayer’s money.
It is tragic that the Raytheon factory was held up at the time of its opening as an example of the “peace-dividend” for the north, when its function is exporting death and destruction to innocent people in Lebanon, Israel and beyond.
The Derry anti-War protesters are absolutely right to demand that Raytheon pull out of their city and out of this country. The Irish people have a witnessed first hand the brutality and conflict brought by colonialism and empire. We should be playing no part in inflicting that suffering on others. Given the carnage we are now witnessing in Lebanon and Gaza there is simply no excuse for such weapons of death being produced in this country."
The following is from the Belfast Telegraph.
Computers damaged in arms firm anti-war demo
Anti-war protesters today stormed American arms manufacturer Raytheon's Londonderry base, with nine people barricading themselves into the building and wrecking equipment.
The protesters were soon locked in a tense stand-off with upwards of 50 police, after some inflicted considerable damage, especially to computers.
According to the protesters, the computer system was "completely disabled".
Amid chaotic scenes at the Buncrana Road site, thousands of documents and dozens of computers were burned and thrown from windows by members of a group that entered at 8am.
Among those who entered to protest against the world's largest missiles manufacturer was veteran civil rights campaigner and Belfast Telegraph columnist Eamonn McCann.
An American flag was also set alight and a glass door smashed as debris rained down from a second floor window and littered the area outside.
A banner was unfurled from inside the building, reading: "Raytheon has been decommissioned".
A dozen more people protesting over the deaths of Lebanese civilians remained outside, with placards bearing anti-war and anti-Raytheon slogans.
Speaking from inside, as dozens of uniformed police gathered, Mr McCann said: "The people of Derry cannot go on feeling shock and horror as they watch TV screens and do nothing,
"I certainly would not welcome an arrest and prosecution, who would? But judgment has to be made. People felt they had no option but to take this form of direct action."
Around 50 police were on the premises both inside and out as the protest developed. There were minor scuffles as they tried to prevent people leaving the scene without being searched and a cordon was erected around the building, with the protesters pushed back and informed that the area was a crime scene.
A spokeman for Raytheon said this morning that the company is not making any comment "on this particular occasion".
Tuesday, August 08, 2006
The following is taken from Anarkismo.
Event - Sunday, Aug 27 2006
Sacco and Vanzetti Memorial Parade!
The First Annual, Sacco and Vanzetti Memorial Parade! Boston, Ma. Sunday, August 27th, 2006, 1pm. Stand up against the oppression of immigrants and anarchists.
Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti were two Italian immigrants who came to the United States in 1908 in search of a better life in a free society. After years of working hard at modest jobs for little pay, they were wrongfully accused of murder and robbery, arrested, imprisoned, and executed. Though they had evidence to prove thier innocence, they were the victims of a witch hunt because they were anarchists and immigrants. Sacco and Vanzetti died because they lived in a country and time where immigrants and radicals faced brutal political repression.
If we look around, the same is true today. Just this year, the United States attempted to make all 12 million undocumented immigrants, currently residing and working in the United States into felons, along with all those who support them or offer them humanitarian aid. The government continues their attacks on immigrant rights, sending troops to the Mexican border, and making it harder and harder for immigrants to hold jobs and support their families. Starting last winter, the same government cracked down on anarchists and other radicals working to stop the destruction of the environment. Since then, the FBI has violently arrested over 20 activists across the country, and over 40 people were indicted to Grand Juries where their constitutional rights are suspended.
This August we will come together to remember the tragic history of Boston’s past and to mourn victims of state repression. More importantly, however, we will celebrate the creation of a united movement that will stand firmly together to resist political, racial, sexual, social, environmental and economic oppression. We will have conversations and educate each other about the injustices we suffer and the dreams we hold dear to our hearts. We will work together to secure the rights, freedoms, and livelihoods of all people, as well as stand firm against the continued destruction of the environment.
Therefore, we are calling all of those individuals, organizations, unions, and communities concerned with political repression and dedicated to freedom and liberty, to the first annual Sacco and Vanzetti Memorial Parade. Join us in Boston, Ma, on Sunday, August 27th, at 1 pm at the field outside of the Stony Brook T-Stop on the Orange Line. There we will share food, art, music, literature, stories, and speeches, before taking off on a festive parade towards the Forest Hills Cemetery, where Sacco and Vanzetti were cremated.
If you are interested in helping to organize this event, we would love all participation and input! Here is a lists of ways you can participate (though other ideas are welcome)
-distributing fliers in your neighborhood, at your local café, community center, library or bookstore
-helping with translations (fliers, pamphlets and speeches)
-participate in educational street theatre in the week leading up to the parade
-help us make (or create your own) art, music, food, literature, puppets, costumes etc for the parade
-talk to your fellow workers, your local union, your neighbors, your local immigration centers etc. about these issues and invite them to the parade.
To get involved, or for more information, please email Jake at
Hope to see you at the parade!
In love and solidarity,
When a majority of Bolivians elected Evo Morales as president in December of 2005, they did so in hope that an indigenous Aymaran President could move the small Andean country beyond paralyzing street protests over critically unequal distribution of wealth and resources to government-led initiatives to achieve far-reaching change. Morales seemed to be off to a good start when on May 1st he made international news headlines by partially nationalizing the nation’s natural gas industry. This month, another campaign promise made by Morales and his party, the Movement Toward Socialism (MAS) is being actualized as a newly elected constituent assembly convenes, for the sixth time in Bolivia’s history, to rewrite the country’s constitution.
Granma reports that during his opening remarks at Bolivia's Constituent Assembly’s (CA) inauguration, President Morales said, “We’re not talking about a simple reform, we’re talking about re-founding Bolivia.”
Morales, speaking in Spanish, Aymara and Guaraní, said that “the great day has arrived” to fight for the rights of the indigenous peoples.
He said the country’s natural resources, historically plundered, should be returned to the state and never again privatized, and that personally, he does not even support their exploitation through temporal concessions.
Morales noted that majority of the Assembly members are from modest backgrounds; many live in humble shacks, in villages without electricity. He warned the international community that if economic and social conditions for indigenous people are not improved, the country’s development will not be possible.
“I feel that Bolivia’s new history is beginning here, a history where there is equality and not discrimination,” he said.
As tens of thousands of Bolivian Indians looked on, President Evo Morales inaugurated the assembly to rewrite the country's constitution, hoping to empower the poor indigenous majority and cement his leftist reforms.
Although the new Assembly, elected to "re-found" Bolivia, is in recess until August 16, Morales said he would return to work, to focus on health, education, housing and employment in favor of the poorest people.
The following article is taken from today's Toronto Star.
Peaceful revolution is taking shape
A rare interview with Evo Morales as he begins a profound transformation of his country, by Judy Rebick
Sucre, Bolivia — On Sunday, Aug. 6, President Evo Morales opened a Constituent Assembly here that in his words will re-found Bolivia on an entirely new basis. After weeks of negotiations with smaller parties, the Movement towards Socialism (MAS), Morales's party, now has the two-thirds majority necessary to control the Assembly.
In a rare interview with him recently, he explained his vision for the Assembly: "First of all, we must finish with the colonial state. Second, finish with the neo-liberal model. Our democracy has to non-violently guarantee the cultural revolution (of the majority indigenous peoples). It is culture that will change all of the structures of the state. We have to finish with the colonial state."
Peasants, indigenous people and youth are already pouring into the streets of Bolivia's official capital, Sucre, in response to Morales's call. Members of the Assembly were elected on July 2. Sunday morning will see a massive procession of all the different indigenous cultures of Bolivia, many in their traditional dress.
The Assembly is not only symbolic of a re-founding of the country with the indigenous majority finally in power but it promises to take some fundamental measures to change the country. The main opposition party is already protesting that Morales intends to use the Assembly as a way around the Senate where he doesn't have a majority.
A peaceful revolution is happening in Bolivia, one of the poorest countries in the world. The indigenous majority has taken over the government and is beginning a profound transformation of the country. Their plan is based on the values and culture they have fought to maintain for more than 500 years against colonization, marginalization and discrimination.
The Quechua and Aymara people as well as smaller nations of indigenous people make up an estimated 70 per cent of the population of Bolivia, yet the minority mestizo (mixed race) elite have always ruled. In May 2006, a party representing this indigenous, mostly peasant or campesino majority came to power in a landslide victory. The Americas' first indigenous president won an unprecedented 54 per cent of the vote in a field of eight candidates.
I met recently with Evo Morales, the leader and the symbol of what could be the most dramatic transformation of a country in recent history. The only comparison that even comes close is South Africa when the black majority took power in May 1994 under the leadership of Nelson Mandela.
Evo, as everyone here calls him, first outlined his vision: "The indigenous communities have historically lived in community, in collectivity, in harmony not only with each other as human beings but with mother earth and nature. We have to recover that. If we think about our goals in life as equality and justice, if we think of humanity, then the model of the West, industrialization and neo-liberalism, is destroying the planet earth, which for me is the great Pachamama (the supreme goddess of the Aymara and Quechua religions). And it's heading towards destroying humanity. It really can do that. And from Bolivia we can make a modest contribution to defend life, to save humanity. That's our responsibility."
While Morales talks about the coming to power of the indigenous majority as a 500-year struggle, he explains the key moments in the process took place over the last 20 years.
"After they imposed the neo-liberal model, the battle was the campesino indigenous movement against this neo-liberal model. And the fight can be summed up in two ways: for power and territory. We needed to recuperate political power in order to recover the territory, including all natural resources."
And there have been massive and successful struggles against various aspects of neo-liberalism since the early 1990s: from the famous water wars against the privatization of water in Cochabamba in 1992 to the fight, led by Morales, to protect the traditional growing of coca against U.S. attempts to eradicate it, to the brutal gas wars of 2003 where people in the El Alto just outside La Paz fought to stop the sell-off of natural gas and won at the cost of 70 dead and 200 wounded.
Morales explains that the Bolivians made a commitment in November 1992 at the Continental Indigenous Summit to move from resistance to the taking of power.
The Movement towards Socialism (MAS) led by Morales is not a political party in the classical sense. It is what people here call a political instrument of the social organizations. All the indigenous campesino organizations got together and formed a political organization that could contest elections. While these organizations started the MAS, they were joined by various elements of the middle class, including intellectuals and elements of the urban Left.
And you can see it everywhere. Most of the ministers and deputy ministers are themselves indigenous leaders of the social movements. Government offices are filled morning to night with campesinos who have come from the country to see their minister, usually without an appointment.
With typical modesty Morales says: "I've learned in my first months in government that it's impossible in six months to resolve everything. But we've made some important steps in the social issues as well as in structural ways." Here are some of the major steps:
The most dramatic move so far is what they call the nationalization of the hydrocarbon industry. Though rich in mineral resources with the second largest reserves of gas in South America, Bolivia is poor. People here say too many of their resources were stolen or sold to foreigners at fire sale prices, hoarded by a small group of rich Bolivians or wasted through massive corruption. In May, Morales signed a decree placing the energy sector under state control and with typical finesse, gave foreign energy firms six months in which to sell at least 51 per cent of their holdings to the state or leave the country. The economic plan of his government is to use these resources to develop small-scale industry and create jobs.
Next came the agrarian revolution. The new plan is to redistribute 20 million hectares to landless campesinos. They began with state owned land, which is already being redistributed. Their next step is to recover unproductive privately owned land that was illegally obtained. The only private land they intend to expropriate is where there is no other option to provide land to indigenous people and here the state will pay compensation. Perhaps the most radical element of the land reform is that land is being distributed to traditional communities, not to individuals.
Morales explains: "Where I was born there isn't private property. Where I was born there is no individual property. This is the collectivity, this is the community. We live in community and that is really living."
While most of the leadership of the MAS is male, there have been some important steps towards gender equality. Twenty-five per cent of the cabinet is women, including the ministers of health, the interior and justice, who is a former domestic worker.
The new president of the Constituent Assembly is an indigenous campesino woman. The indigenous women's organization is proposing to the Assembly that all elected and appointed officials be 50 per cent female.
Morales is big on symbolic change, too. For example, the first act of his government was to reduce the salaries of all elected officials as well as state managers by 50 per cent. They used the money saved to hire 3,000 new teachers. At the same time, they increased the minimum wage by 50 per cent. Other changes include a massive literacy campaign and the provision of free health care with the help of thousands of Cuban doctors.
But probably the biggest symbol of the MAS government is the coca leaf. In the office where I met him hangs a portrait of Che Guevara made out of coca leaves.
Morales: "The idea that coca is cocaine is totally false. For example, you can have coca in pie. We campesinos, we would like to benefit from the coca leaf but in legal ways not in illegal ways. And we are hoping that little by little we can achieve justice. The coca leaf cannot continue to be hidden, imprisoned in its own house. It's important to liberate it and undertake a process to do this."
The opposition to the government is mostly centred in the Santa Cruz area among the wealthy landowners. So far its most powerful expression was a majority regional vote for autonomy in the referendum held at the same time as the constitutional assembly elections. Oddly for Canadians, the desire for autonomy is not based on cultural specificity but rather on keeping control of resources.
Morales's popularity is growing. A recent poll makes him by far the most popular leader in South America with 81 per cent support. Observers comment that a big part of the growth of his popularity among the middle class is his honesty and commitment to combat corruption.
Morales still lives in his old neighbourhood in a poor barrio, never wears a suit and works from 5 a.m. to past midnight every day. "He gives us hope," a young teacher told me. "For the first time, we have hope."
A small group of Israeli anarchists blocked the entrance to an Israeli air base today. The group carried signs which read "stop killing of civilians", "stop the war crimes". The group called for an immediate cease fire and for the release of all prisoners and war prisoners. One of the protesters, Jonathan Polak, who was arrested during that activity told YNET that the the action at the air force base is because: "this base is responsible for war crimes - airplanes that take of this base drop bombs on civilians." He added "according to law we must stop these war crime - otherwise we will be regarded as accomplices to these crimes".
If only the planes bombing civilians and the rockets targetting civilians could be so easily stopped. However, anyone trying to stop either is on the right track.
The following is an article from Haaretz (Israel).
Police arrest 12 protesters blocking air force base in north
By Eli Ashkenazi, Haaretz Correspondent
Afula police on Tuesday arrested 12 left-wing activists who blocked the entrance to an Israel Air Force base in the north during a demonstration against the Israel Defense Forces operation in Lebanon and the government's policy in the offensive.
Police said the activists, who were members of the group Anarchists Against the Fence, had assembled illegally at the base.
Some 40 demonstrated participated in the protests, blocking the road at the entrance to the base and denouncing the "criminal policies of the Israeli government."
Police said they would ask the Nazareth Magistrate's Court to extend the remands of some of the detained protesters.
According to police, the protesters denounced IAF pilots as "murderers."
Protesters said it was the obligation of all people to oppose war crimes in every way possible. They said, "citizens in the north are also hostages in this war on behalf of the general who are not capable of saying, 'we were wrong, enough is enough.'"
Despite a series of highly-publicized breakdowns in cleanups of toxic sites, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection has been moving to water down groundwater cleanup standards, reduce oversight of private industry cleanup consultants, and limit enforcement. The changes in groundwater standards would allow the state to declare that polluted sites do not have to be cleaned up, in many cases by loosening the applicable cleanup standards ten-fold for toxic chemicals such as chromium, vinyl chloride and petroleum.
But that isn't all. New Jersey is doing what it can to ensure that no one knows what is happening.
The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protectionhas told its employees to keep any “potentially sensitive information confidential” and refrain from disclosing agency data to any outside parties “until it is ready for public distribution."
And now some of the state's children are paying the price for all this.
The following is a press release from Public Employees for Environmental Responsibity (PEER).
MERCURY-LADEN DAY-CARE CENTER IN NEW JERSEY IS NO ANOMALY
Lax State Brownfield Laws Make Tragedy an “Accident Waiting to Happen”
Washington, DC — The discovery of toxic mercury vapors in a day-care center built on the site of a former thermometer factory last week is just the latest in a series of toxic scandals to rock New Jersey. A weak state law and political pressure to quickly re-develop old toxic sites, called brownfields, make such events “an accident waiting to happen,” according to Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER).
More than 30 children, ranging in ages from 8 months to 3 years, were exposed to toxic mercury vapors at the Kiddie Kollege day-care center in Franklinville, New Jersey. The state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and the Department of Health issued a joint closure order for the center on July 28th following indoor air sampling which detected mercury vapors.
The reason that the state conducted the air sampling is not clear. Contrary to earlier public statements by DEP, the sampling was not “random” and must have been prompted by a complaint or a file review at DEP indicating that this site had slipped through bureaucratic cracks. The day-care center is housed in an abandoned thermometer manufacturing plant operated by the now-bankrupt Accutherm Corp.
The mercury-tainted day-care center is only the latest in a series of recent embarrassing state pollution breakdowns. This spring, PEER exposed a scheme by the state to purchase land and build a high school on a highly contaminated former Manhattan Project site in Union City with DEP approval. The former uranium processing facility is one of as many as 200 contaminated sites that DEP had expedited for school construction. In prior months, there have been several other toxic scandals.
“What is going on in New Jersey is both unbelievable and to be expected from its deliberately anemic toxic cleanup laws,” stated New Jersey PEER Director Bill Wolfe, a former DEP analyst. “There are likely hundreds more ticking toxic time bombs out there that have been re-developed with DEP’s blessings.”
The Kiddie Kollege day-care site was under a 1995 DEP cleanup order. Rather than enforcing state cleanup requirements, DEP referred the site to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which completed its review in 1996. In drinking water and groundwater sampling done between 1999 and 2002, DEP found extensive mercury groundwater contamination at over 18 wells in Franklin Township (location of the Accutherm facility) with unknown sources.
Ultimately, the site apparently was taken off the DEP's “Known Contaminated Sites List” which requires that DEP issue a “No Further Action” letter which certifies complete cleanup of a site. DEP is refusing to release records concerning the site, citing an ongoing investigation by the state Attorney General.
“It is vital that any investigation look beyond the circumstances leading up to the closure of the Kiddie Kollege day-care center,” Wolfe added, arguing that the entire state toxic cleanup program needs a serious overhaul. “”If this case does not fuel meaningful reforms, I do not know what will.”
Monday, August 07, 2006
I've been looking for a good way to say what the author of the article below put thusly:
"Israel has no moral right to call itself a victim, nor does Hezbollah have the moral right to call themselves freedom fighters.
Both parties to this dispute are engaging in fundamental lies which are killing innocent civilians every day."
The following is from the Palestine Chronicle.
Is Israel Any Safer Now?
In the narrative which has transpired following the escalation of events the past three weeks, Israel has continued to make the claim to its domestic audience that they would be safer as a result of the IDF military response. In a country which has mandatory military service, its citizens have largely supported the war effort. Except for a few demonstrations in Haifa, Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, the broader public largely endorsed the actions of the Israeli government.
To say that Condolleeza Rice's visits to the region were embarrassing for the United States would be a profound understatement. Not even the Israeli public took her presence here or her apparent calls for a ceasefire seriously.
Many in Israel were saying things like, "Hezbollah started this, now we will finish it. We have lived like this for too long." The Israelis, in this narrative, are portrayed as the victims without looking at the occupation as one of the root causes of the conflict or one of the primary sources of tension. Even if ending the occupation will not stop Israel's most vehement critics, it would at least assuage those who are moderate critics which would be willing to support a fair, negotiated, two-state solution.
Though Hezbollah has been slowly using up its supply of Katyusha rockets, it is still an organization which will endure far in to the future even if it takes major blows in the coming weeks. It is not a movement which requires Hassan Nasrallah as a leader.
As Israeli television showed edited musical montage moments of the war with sensational background music for effects, some Arabic channels ran propaganda videos for Hezbollah. This disconnected dual narrative, distorted by the war and designed for mass consumption, shows the depth of the disdain for each nation's aspirations and its complete disregard for the innocent civilians that stand in the way of its ideology.
Hezbollah says, "End the occupation or the rockets will keep flying."
Israel responds, "Until the rockets stop flying, we won't stop the offensive.'
Discussions on prisoner exchanges have neared completion several times only to be undone by more violence.
This region is headed to a 100 year war which began with the Second Intifada and the events of September 11th. There is little evidence to suggest that there is the restraint or leadership capacity amongst those who have interests in the region to avert this course of action. Additionally, the continual series of traumas inflicted upon the region will have devastating long term implications that will be a barrier to peace. If anything, there will be increased intransigence in the coming years and hawkishness from Israel even if it is not the wisest course of action.
The Israeli military has made the calculation that largely pre-emptive wars carried out in a mass way are the most effective strategy to maintain Israeli hegemony in the region. By acting pre-emptively, they maintain their relative military strength to continue its policies domestically and within the West Bank and Gaza Strip. The European Union and the United States actively endorse Israeli strategy with a few exceptions.
Israel, as long it maintains the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza, will have little moral authority in international affairs. Without a moral position, Israel will be hard pressed to maintain the present course of its policy in the mid and long-term or maintain the support of the Western powers for long-term strategic reasons.
As television images showing the human cost of this unnecessary war begin to resonate around the world, Israel or Hezbollah will not have a moral position to justify the effects of their war on innocent civilians. No amount of 'public relations' or 'political messaging' will gloss over the very real effects of this war.
This completely unnecessary escalation will lead to more pressure on both Israel and Hezbollah to alter their policies. Neither party to this dispute has the right to continue in this direction without international opprobrium leveled at them, nor do they have the right to live in a bubble. Israel has no moral right to call itself a victim, nor does Hezbollah have the moral right to call themselves freedom fighters.
Both parties to this dispute are engaging in fundamental lies which are killing innocent civilians every day. As well, it must be understood that Israel's military strength backed up by the United States, is causing a disproportionate number of deaths in Lebanon, the West Bank and Gaza. The US must bear some responsibility for the exercise of its foreign policy in the region.
There are wiser courses of action which Israel and the US could follow which would not lead to the same outcomes which occur with such frequency. Breaking this vicious circle means not responding in such an overwhelmingly aggressive manner as in Iraq and Lebanon. Militia movements and rogue states constantly try to draw military responses from their opposition. It is one of their most effective tactics. To be drawn in to such campaigns, is to not understand the law of diminishing returns and the relative inefficiency of such actions towards meeting strategic ends.
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That Indian land dispute up in Canada is still going on and in fact got a bit tense today. For earlier articles and background put "Caledonia" in the search box at the top of this page and click on "search this blog" and you'll find a plethora of OD articles.
The following is from the CBC.
Rocks, golf balls fly as Ontario land-claims dispute reignites
About 100 people from the southern Ontario community of Caledonia exchanged fire — golf balls and rocks — with native protesters early Monday near the site of a five-month occupation over a land dispute.
A small group of residents gathered just after midnight to exchange verbal jabs with the protesters, an Ontario Provincial Police spokesman told the Canadian Press. But when the number of locals started to grow, the projectiles began to fly, said Const. Denis Harwood.
"We had two sides lined up and they were escalating to the point where things were starting to be thrown at each other," he said.
One resident, a protester and an OPP officer were hit during the exchange, but none were reported injured. Vehicles and property were also damaged, police said.
There have been periodic confrontations between local residents and the protesters since a small group from the Six Nations from the Grand River Territory reserve moved onto a construction site near Caledonia on Feb. 28.
They have argued that the land belongs to them as a result of an 18th-century treaty and should not be used for a housing development.
Harwood said the latest altercation was sparked by minor incidents during the previous day.
Police said some Six Nations youth cut the middle out of a Canadian flag and began taunting residents, who retaliated by putting up hand-made signs that offended some of the protesters.
The conflict over the land has attracted attention across the country.
At one point, protesters erected three roadblocks blocking traffic around Caledonia. They have since been removed.
The Ontario government has since purchased the housing site from the original developer, Henco Industries.
The provincial government is still trying to negotiate a peaceful end to the standoff.
In case you thought there just couldn't be any more trouble spots left in the world, think again.
Turkey and France are engaged in a diplomatic tussle over Cyprus. France has been discussing a new "military cooperation" agreements with Cyprus.
In fact, military cooperation between France and Southern Cyprus was decided on last week at a meeting in Nicosia between French Defense Minister Michele Alliot-Marie and South Cypriot leader Tasos Papadopoulos. A message asking permission to build a French military base on the island was reportedly delivered by the French minister of defense to Papadopouos from French President Jacques Chirac.
Details of the agreement between the two countries will be worked out in the coming month, with ministers and leaders from the two countries expected to sign a formal treaty sometime during September in Paris. Until now, Southern Cyprus has only ever had a military cooperation agreement with Greece.
Why is France interested?
----The ability to provide logistical support for future operations in the Middle East, such as sending troops in to held along the border between Lebanon and Israel.
----Distance from the threat of groups like Hizbollah, while maintaining proximity to all Middle Eastern countries.
----The ability to become a more active participant in the turbulent developments of the eastern Mediterranean.
----The permission to use other military and air bases in Southern Cyprus.
And what will Southern or Greek Cyprus gain?
----Despite the military embargo implemented against Southern Cyprus, the Southern Cypriot army will be able to gain advanced technology weapons from the French.
----The French army will provide military training for the Southern Cypriot army.
----France is expected to support Southern Cyprus in its quest to join in certain international organizations that it has thus far been barred from.
This would be the first real agreement ever signed between Southern Cyprus and any country but Greece.
Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Namik Tan said last week, ''Greek Cypriot administration can not make commitments on behalf of the whole island of Cyprus.''
''As you know, security issues in Cyprus are based on international agreements. On the other hand, the Greek Cypriot administration can not make commitments on behalf of the whole island of Cyprus. We hope that all parties will act responsibly in this very sensitive issue (of military cooperation),'' stressed Tan.
The following article is from the Turkish Daily News.
Turkey in quiet diplomacy on French military talks with Greek Cyprus
Turkey has told France that Greek Cyprus is not authorized under international agreements to make treaty commitments on behalf of the entire island, in a quiet diplomacy aimed at warding off possible tension with Paris on yet another Cyprus-related rift.
Diplomatic sources said Turkey has expressed its position to France, cautioning Paris that security issues are regulated by international agreements and that these agreements do not allow the Greek Cypriot administration to sign agreements of any sort with another country on behalf of the entire island.
But the same sources also warned against talk of a crisis between Ankara and Paris at this stage since French-Greek Cypriot talks are still continuing and that terms of the military cooperation agreement are yet to be defined.
For France, the agreement is meant to “formalize” an existing military cooperation with Greek Cyprus, not to introduce new elements of cooperation.
“There is no clear consensus yet. We don't know what the agreement will look like in the end,” said one source, adding that the recent reports in the Greek Cypriot press suggesting that the agreement would involve cooperation in a number of areas, including use by the French of the Andreas Papandreou air base in Paphos, are “exaggerated.”
The Greek Cypriot reports have said the proposed military cooperation agreement is set to include use of military facilities, technical support and education and training of Cypriot national guardsmen in France, as well as joint military exercises.
Reacting to the reports, Foreign Ministry spokesman Namık Tan said last week that the security issues involving military matters are regulated by international agreements. He also said that the Greek Cypriot administration is not allowed to make commitments on any issue on behalf of the entire island.
“We hope the parties concerned will act in a manner heeding the sensitivity of the matter,” Tan then said.
Turkey has guarantorship rights under the 1960 Treaty of Guarantee. It does not recognize the Greek Cypriot administration and recognizes the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (KKTC), which lacks international recognition, in the north of the island.
Greek Cypriot newspapers commented that the agreement was motivated by a French desire to play greater role in the Middle East by acquiring a base near the region and to deepen its military ties with the island as part of its strategy to develop a strong European military network.
According to the reports, details of the proposed agreement were discussed during a visit to Greek Cyprus last month by French Defense Minister Michele Alliot-Marie, who observed the evacuation of French nationals from Lebanon by warships of the French navy.
French military helicopters have used the Paphos base for Lebanon evacuation flights, in addition to the facilities of the nearby British Akrotiri base. France is already cooperating with the British bases on the island and works with their naval and special task forces
But the agreement, independent of its specific terms, may still stir tension between Ankara and Paris. If signed, the agreement will be the first such deal the Greek Cypriots sign with a country other than Greece.
Relations between Turkey and France were strained last year when Paris made recognition of the Greek Cypriot administration a condition for opening accession negotiations with European Union candidate Turkey.
Any tension in ties over the proposed military deal with Greek Cyprus may further complicate relations in autumn, when both the agreement is expected to be finalized and Turkey is set to come under EU pressure to open its ports and airports to traffic from member Greek Cyprus.
Sunday, August 06, 2006
Bombs fell, rockets flew, people died. Another day...
The article below on the demonstration yesterday in Tel Aviv is from Gush Shalom. Oddly enough, its about all I could find except for this brief mention in an article in Haaretz.
"More than 5,000 people marched in Tel Aviv on Saturday evening, to protest the ongoing Israel Defense Forces operation in Lebanon. Demonstrators set off from Dizengoff Street and marched along King George Street, which was closed to traffic, calling for an end to the conflict and the withdrawal of Israeli troops from Lebanon, and denouncing Defense Minister Amir Peretz.
Two people, including a minor, were arrested. The demonstration also saw a confrontation with a several right-wing counter-protesters, who tore down some of the placards used in the rally."
"Bring the Soldiers Home!
"It will not End - Until we Talk!"
The biggest demonstration against the war held in Israel until now took place today (5.8.06) in the heart of downtown Tel-Aviv, an area that is considered especially right-wing.
Close to 10 thousand demonstrators from all over the country, among them many Arab citizens, marched from Ben-Zion Boulevard, along King George Street, to Magen David Square. There, at the entrance to the Carmel market, a stage was set up. The thousands that did not find place in the square flowed over into Nahlat Binyamin and the other neighboring streets.
When the demonstrators were still waiting for the start, a salvo of eggs was thrown at them from the balcony of a building. The perpetrators fled before the police could reach them.
More serious was another act of sabotage. It had been decided to carry a mass of black flags. One of the activists brought the flags to the assembly point before the demonstrators arrived. Suddenly a car stopped, three youngsters got out, seized the flags by force and disappeared. The demonstration had to take place without them.
During the march, the demonstrators shouted (in Hebrew): "Jews and Arabs / refuse to be enemies!" - "We shall not die nor kill / in the service of the USA!" - "Children want to live / in Beirut and Haifa!" - "Peretz, Peretz resign / peace is more important!" - "A million refugees / that's a war crime!" - "Olmert, Peretz and Ramon / Get out of Lebanon!"
The two most popular stickers were Gush Shalom's "Bring the Soldiers Home" and the Israeli-Palestinian Bereaved Families' Forum's "It will not End Until we Talk!"
Some conspicuous posters: "We shall all lose!" - "Occupation and War are a disaster!" - "Just Peace = Security!" - "39 Years are enough - End the Occupation!" - "There is no military solution!" - "Cease-fire NOW!" - "Stop the war! Stop the massacre!"
All peace organizations took part. Besides Gush Shalom, participants included the Women's Coalition for Peace, Ta'ayush, Anarchists Against Walls, Yesh Gvul, the Israeli-Palestinian Forum of Bereaved Families, feminists, many parents with their children, veteran and young peace activists as well the political parties Hadash, Balad and the United Arab List.
A sign of the ferment in the political system was provided by members of Meretz, who took part in spite their party's pro-war position. They were led by former MKs Naomi Hazan abd Ya'el Dayan.
Dayan's speech caused an incident, when she sent greetings to the soldiers fighting in Lebanon. Her words aroused heated protests, and some activists tried to storm the stage, but were held back by their friends.
Among the speakers were the secretary of the Arab Citizens' Monitoring Committee, a representative of the Russian immigrants, a conscientious objector about enter prison, a peace activist whose housed has been hit by a rocket, and others.