Friday, June 22, 2007


A joint military exercise Talisman Sabre – involving 7500 Australian Defence Force (ADF) personnel, 20,000 US troops, 125 aircraft and 30 ships – began at the military site, north of Rockhampton, on Monday. The Shoalwater Bay Training Area (SWBTA) purchased by the Australian Government in 1965, is used by the Australian Army, Navy and Air Force for independent and joint exercises. Other countries, particularly New Zealand, Singapore and the U.S.A. also exercise in the area.

There are protests.

The Peace Convergence is a nonviolent gathering in the Shoalwater region on 18 to 24 June 2007. The peak period of the Convergence will be on the weekend: Friday 22 June to Sunday 24 June. The goals of the convergence are:

to nonviolently oppose the war games and the environmental destruction it will cause

to voice our call for an end to the war in Iraq, and Australian involvement with illegal and unjust US-led wars.

Shoalwater Bay (SWB), 70 km north of Rockhampton, Queensland, is a biologically diverse and beautiful coastal treasure of 400,000 hectares, including beaches, harbours and coral islands. Its pristine nature a result of geographic isolation and, in the past, only limited defence use.

Environmental legislation has been altered, removing the usual need for an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIS) for any activity the ADF deems necessary. The EIS is replaced by Public Environmental Reports (PER), commissioned, financed, reviewed and released by the military. The public input and consultation process is controlled by military.

SWAG, a grassroots, non-profit organization dedicated to protecting the natural environment and fostering peace in the Capricorn region which has been active in the last few years responding to developments in Shoalwater Bay and leading local resistance to an increasingly militaristic government and culture puts it like this:

The unique wilderness of Shoalwater Bay is worth protecting. What’s happening there symbolizes much that is wrong in the world. If the forces of the greatest war machine of all time can use a World Heritage standard wilderness area as a bombing range, weapons testing ground and place to simulate urban terrorism, what hope have we got?

The following article is from Marianas Variety

By Gerardo R. Partido

HAGATNA, Guam - ASIA-PACIFIC activists, including one from Guam, are part of a delegation protesting the ongoing U.S.-Australia military exercises being held at the Shoalwater Bay Training Area near central Queensland.

The guest from Guam is Fanai Castro from the Organisation of Peoples for Indigenous Rights, which campaigns for indigenous self-determination and opposes the expansion of U.S. militarization.

From Hawaii, Terri Keko’olani and Leimaile Quitevis represent the Demilitarize Zone Hawaii Aloha, a Hawaiian movement for demilitarization and indigenous rights.

The three international guests arrived in Yeppoon, Rockhampton on Wednesday to add their voices to the protest of over 500 Australians concerned about the Australian-U.S. Talisman Sabre 2007 military exercises.

"Our guests have firsthand experience of the impact of militarization on people’s lives. They bring a timely warning about the real price paid by local people when their home communities become militarized," Dr. Zohl de Ishtar, from the Australian Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies, said in a statement sent to Variety.

Coming from Guam and Hawaii, Ishtar said the three women carry warnings about the social, political, indigenous rights, health and environmental price paid by small communities when their homelands become militarized.

A welcome ceremony was held at the Rockhampton Airport by the Fitzroy Basin Elders and the Peace Convergence, which is protesting the military exercises.

The Guam and Hawaiian visitors responded with chanting and the giving of gifts.

"It is an honor to receive such a welcoming from the indigenous elders, since it is with us indigenous peoples that the atrocities of colonialism first made its mark. In these days, it seems that militarization is the new colonialism," Guam’s Castro said.


South Korea and the U.S. plan to sign a free trade agreement (FTA) later this month before sending it to their respective legislative bodies for ratification.

The Korean Metal Worker's Union (KMWU), the nation's largest single labor union claiming some 143,000 members, has vowed to hold a five-day strike beginning Monday to oppose the trade pact.

The union claims the deal with the U.S. would undermine the job security of all South Korean workers.

The government yesterday threatened the workers if they go on with the strike. "The union leadership as well as other forces leading the illegal strike will suffer consequences if they go ahead with the plan."

Labor Minister Lee Sang-soo hinted yesterday that the government could use the police to block "illegal" labor strikes against the Korea-U.S. free trade agreement.

"Although (the government) tended to refrain from mobilizing law enforcement authorities in the past, this time, we will strictly deal with the strike from the beginning stage," Lee said at a press conference.

Jointing the government in the threat were a variety of business and industry organizations and the Hyundai Corporation.

A Hyundai union member said that union members have become the targets of threats and criticism, even though union leaders say the planned strike against the trade deal is in the interest of workers, farmers and ordinary people. "It is time for us to protect our workplace by ourselves," he added.

The Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU) plans to launch the anti-FTA strike on June 29, while the KMWU plans a week-long partial strike starting this coming Monday.

Last month a joint statement from KMWU and the UAW read:

1. The Korean Metal Workers’ Union (KMWU), representing over 150,000 automotive, shipbuilding, steel, and other metal industry workers in South Korea, and the United Automobile, Aerospace and Agricultural Implement Workers of America (UAW), representing over one million active and retired workers in the United States, stand together in strong opposition to the proposed Korea-U.S. Free Trade Agreement (KORUS FTA).

2. KMWU and UAW firmly call on the Korean National Assembly and the U.S. Congress to reject the KORUS FTA. With the conclusion of the FTA negotiations, many commentators have framed the discussion largely in terms of a worker “zero sum game,” by focusing on how much and how quickly each nation’s tariffs would be reduced. More importantly, the FTA will lead to an acceleration of capital mobility and financial speculation, thereby pitting American workers against Korean workers in unlimited restructuring and driving down wages, employment stability and working conditions.

3. KMWU and UAW have no illusions about the impact of the KORUS FTA on our respective memberships. In Korea, the IMF conditionality regime imposed on our country after the Asian Economic Crisis has demonstrated to us that such policies have acted to destroy jobs through restructuring instead of creating new employment. Neoliberal policies have given corporations free rein to disinvest and cemented the rights of speculative capital while flexibilizing work. At the same time, these policies have created a permanent “irregular” or “temporary” workforce and commercialization or privatization of public goods, thereby deepening social inequality and poverty.

4. In the United States, our experience with the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) has shown us the disastrous consequences of a free trade agreement lacking in strong and enforceable labor and environmental standards. When NAFTA was implemented, U.S. tariffs on cars and most auto parts were eliminated immediately. As a result, auto companies dramatically reduced their production of vehicles and parts in the United States and Canada. At the same time, wages and working conditions for Mexican workers were severely undermined. KMWU and UAW are deeply concerned that this same destructive scenario would occur if the KORUS FTA is adopted.

5. Yet, our respective governments failed to carry out a full evaluation of the likely economic and social impact that the proposed KORUS FTA would have on workers—no assessment was made as to its probable impact on worker rights, employment, wages
and working conditions, public services, including health care and education, and/or cultural diversity. The ILO Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work was once again ignored in this hastily negotiated deal.

6. KMWU and UAW have agreed to coordinate our opposition to the proposed KORUS FTA. We are committed to working together to ensure that this agreement is not adopted or implemented. On this May Day, KMWU and UAW reaffirm our will to succeed and to build upon the gains achieved in the past. Autoworkers have conviction that an alternative world is possible and we will continue to fight together to ensure a better future for all generations to come.

The following is from China's People's Daily.

S. Korean government warns of tough actions on strikers

South Korean government will take tough actions on an auto and metal industry workers' strike against a free trade agreement with the United States scheduled for next week, the daily Korean Herald reported on Thursday.

The ministries of Labor, Justice and Commerce, Industry, and Energy will issue a joint statement to convey the government's firm stance on illegal protests involving a political issue unrelated to interest with union members, calling on the metal workers' union (KMWU) to withdraw the walkout plan, the report said.

The 143,000-member KMWU and its key member, Hyundai Motor Co.'s labor union, on Tuesday announced to conduct a vote to decide whether to stage a partial walkout from next Monday to Friday. South Korean leading business organizations said the strike might seriously damage the auto industry and the national economy.

South Korean unionized workers have been voicing concerns over the recent FTA deal with the United States, saying it could threaten their job security and weaken the Korean auto industry.

They also urged the management at four major automakers to accept the workers' demand for the legalization of industry-level negotiations, which will increase their bargaining power as a group.

Civic organizations and business groups are also calling for the withdrawal of anti-FTA strikes, expressing concerns that the strikes will put a damper on the momentum for economic recovery.

Thursday, June 21, 2007


BEWARE! It will be a wet summer if the sound of the cuckoo is heard today, June 21.

Just a reminder in case you had forgotten.


Student protesters in Seattle brought a school board meeting to a halt. A group of about 70 students protesting military recruitment in their schools marched into the meeting before Acting President Darlene Flynn could even take roll, chanting: "Yo School Board, what's up? We're here to say we've had enough."

Some students covered with fake blood collapsed on the floor, then were carried around the room.

The school board refused to talk to the kids except to demand that they get out.

"It's OK, it's OK. I want to say this is what democracy looks like. But this is not what a school board meeting looks like," said board member Darlene Flynn. Interesting comment.

After an unheeded final warning, board members left behind the rowdy crowd and moved the meeting to a quiet room, angering the students.

"You should be ashamed! You should be ashamed!" the students shouted. The students said recruiters target low-income and minority students.

"I've had recruiters lie to me and my friends," said Shanay Salas, one of the protesting students. "They say you'll never go to combat. They say free college, jobs for life but really these things aren't true."

After the demonstration, the students spoke to the meeting's attendees in support of a proposed policy they wrote that would allow for a district-wide recruitment fair once a semester. Hardly unreasonable.

The following is from Youth Against War and Racism.

Seattle Students Shut Down School Board Demanding Military Recruiters Out of Schools
By Philip Locker, Dylan Simpson, and Marianne Mork

“What do we want? Recruiters out! When do we want it? Now!” chanted over 70 antiwar protestors as we marched into to the Seattle School Board meeting Wednesday night. The spirited protest, called by Youth Against War and Racism (YAWR), demanded the school board finally take real action against military recruitment in our schools. As the local TV news King 5 said, it was “intended to be political high theatre, and it certainly was effective.” Another reporter commented: “it was the most dramatic anti-military recruitment rally to date.”

YAWR is calling for military recruiters to be banned from Seattle public schools. But to stay within the legal paramaters of the “No Child Left Behind” law, we are demanding that all recruiting be done at a district-wide recruitment fair once a semester. This would create equity between the access to students that the military, college, and job recruiters have. Currently, military recruiters have a massive budget and a huge advantage over college and job recruiters. A district-wide recruitment fair would also stop military recruiters from carrying out their predatory tactics within our schools and disproportionate targeting of schools that are predominantly made up of poor and minority students.

Student activist Kristin Ebeling said: “Our public schools should not be military recruitment stations for the Iraq war. Instead of wasting $500 billion on a war for oil and empire, we need money for jobs and education.”

High school students, teachers, parents and community activists rallied outside the school board for an hour. With the start of the meeting the rally moved inside, energetically chanting and sitting in at the front of the room. To bring the reality of the war home, some students enacted a “die-in,” lying across the floor covered in blood, while the school board politicians huddled at the side of the room.

Addressing the board and the whole room, Shanay Salas and Ramy Khalil from YAWR then explained our demands to restrict military recruiters. We urged that the board amend its agenda for 10-15 minutes to discuss our proposed policy. Unfortunately, the board refused to discuss our policy, nor would they start the meeting until we ended the sit-in and moved away from the front of the room.

Board member Darlene Flynn condescendingly lectured the students: “This is what democracy looks like, but it’s not what a school board meeting looks like, and we have to have a school board meeting.” This statement, ironically exposing the undemocratic nature of the board, brought loud jeers from the demonstrators. With the protestors holding their ground, the board hurriedly left and reconvened in a back room closed to the public.

This comes against the background of the board refusing to enforce their own policy to restrict military recruiters that was passed two years ago. After a city-wide student walkout of 800 students on April 18 to protest military recruitment, attending numerous school boards meetings and sub-committee meetings, and still having the board refuse to let us speak, we decided to take matters into our own hands and organize a sit-in. However, the meeting could have easily continued if the school board had simply been willing to grant our modest request to discuss our proposed policy at their meeting for 10-15 minutes.

Since the board refused to listen to the public, we decided to continue the meeting and took public testimony from those who had already signed up to testify. A number of school bus drivers spoke about their struggle to unionize to overcome the terrible wages and conditions they face, which the board is refusing to support. While some members of the audience complained that we had disrupted an official board meeting, an overwhelming majority of the crowd voted to support our decision to continue the meeting in defiance of the board members.

While school board members claim that they cannot implement our policy because it would mean losing $40 million a year in federal funds, the fact is that our policy was carefully constructed to remain within the legal confines of the No Child Left Behind law. By restricting military recruiters to a recruitment fair on equal grounds with college and job recruiters, this policy would have absolutely no effect on federal funding.
(See relevant section of No Child Left Behind and our proposed policy at:

Wednesday’s school board action was a major success in bringing real pressure to bear on the board and raising the issue of military recruitment in the public consciousness. All the local TV news gave very prominent coverage to the protest (see list of links below). But to win we will need to keep up the pressure on the school board and build an organized, active antiwar movement. This fall YAWR is organizing a major student walkout, which we are trying to spread nationally, to show that business as usual will stop until the military is out of Iraq and out of our schools.

Get active with Youth Against War and Racism and the fight against military recruiters! Please come to the next YAWR meeting on Sunday July 1, 4-6pm, at Uptown Espresso (2504 4th Ave and Wall St.) where we will be planning our next steps.

Contact us at: * * (206) 526-7185

We want to thank all the organizations that made this protest possible: Nova High School Peace and Justice, Lake Washington High School Peace Club, Renton High School Youth Against War and Racism, Seattle Central Community College Students Against the War, Team Victory, and Socialist Alternative.

Please donate!
Support YAWR’s need to make leaflets, posters, buttons, and T-shirts by sending donations payable to Youth Against War and Racism to 5032 21st Ave NE, Seattle, WA 98105.

Support First Student Bus Drivers!
We fully support the struggle of the First Student bus drivers to win a union and decent wages, benefits and conditions. It is an outrage that the school board will not stand on the side of workers’ basic rights. We are calling on antiwar activists, students and workers to come to a rally in support of the First Student bus drivers on Friday June 22, 9am – 12pm, at 130 South Kenyon Street.


The article below is just a follow up story on yesterday's post concerning protests by Polish nurses. See for further information.

The following comes from Reuters Alert (UK).

Polish miners lend support to nurses' protests

Polish miners raised protest banners on Thursday to support hundreds of nurses who are demonstrating at the prime minister's office for more pay in a growing challenge to the conservative government.

State medical workers say they have been left behind by the rapid rise in salaries for other professions, partly the result of a booming economy since Poland joined the European Union in 2004 and of emigration that has led to a tight labour market.

Hundreds of hospitals have been affected by strikes for six weeks and nurses have been protesting outside Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski's office for the past three days.

Public radio said 1,000 miners, many from southern Poland, were expected to join the protest. At this stage, they are not threatening to go on strike themselves.

"It shows we are not alone and that we have a point," said Barbara Wysocka from a hospital in Gdansk on the Polish coast. "Maybe now that they can see that we are not alone, poor women, they will start listening to us."

Kaczynski has offered pay rises of 15 percent per year over the coming three years, but doctors and nurses say their wages were low to start with and those for other workers are rising faster.

Deputy Health Minister Boleslaw Piecha said the government was ready to talk to the nurses, but only after the departure of four who are occupying one of the rooms in the office building. He also accused the opposition of fanning the protest.

"We have seen more politicians in front of cameras than nurses," Piecha said.

Kaczynski has said he would not deviate from "economic realities" in talks with the nurses. Polish wages rose almost 9 percent year-on-year in May and that has raised expectations that interest rates will go up again soon.

Minutes from the central bank monetary policy council's meeting in May, which were released on Thursday, showed rate-setters saw the labour market as the main risk factor for boosting inflation.

"Living on 800-1,000 zlotys ($280-350) a month is just not enough," Wysocka said, adding she would follow the thousands of Poles who have left for Western Europe in search of better pay if nothing changed.


Mulrunji, an Aboriginal man from Palm Island in Queensland, died on November 19, 2004, in a police station less than one hour after being taken into custody for “public nuisance”.

Local Aborigines rose up after the death, destroying the police station and a police barracks was destroyed on Palm Island, which has a dark history since being used as a resettlement site for "disruptive" Aborigines last century.

Snr-Sgt Chris Hurley was charged over the death in custody following a massive public outcry. However, on June 20, 2007, an all white jury took less than four hours to decide on a not guilty verdict to the charges of manslaughter and assault, sanctioning the police’s claim that Mulrunji died as a result of a “complicated fall”.

Mulrunji suffered 4 broken ribs and a liver severed in two before internally bleeding to death in a cell while Hurley went about business as usual. In fact the jury heard gruesome details that Aborigine Mulrunji Doomadgee's liver was "virtually cleaved in two" during a struggle with the officer.

But despite all this Hurley was let off.

Hurley has been immediately reinstated even though he changed his story, and admitted he caused the death of Mulrunji from horrific injuries while Mulrunji was in his care.

As evidence was heard throughout the week following the trial’s start, the family of Mulrunji, Indigenous elders and activists, and other supporters of justice in Townsville held ceremonies outside the courthouse each morning and attended court proceedings.

They got a first hand look at Australian injustice.

Hurley was the first officer to be charged over an Aboriginal death in custody in Queensland, and one of only a few in Australia.

Indigenous activist Murrandoo Yanner is urging Mulrunji's family to take civil action against Hurley.

"Hurley is the white O.J. Simpson so we might have a civil case to bring him to his knees," he told reporters yesterday, referring to the former US football star who was acquitted of murdering his ex-wife and her friend in a criminal court, but later found liable for their deaths in a civil trial.

"I'm not surprised [by the verdict]. I know Townsville well. Honestly [it's] the KKK [Ku Klux Klan] capital of Australia; that's no joke."

The following is from Intercontinetal Cry.

Death of justice in Queensland - Demand Justice for Mulrunji

Sgt Chris Hurley, the Officer who beat Mulrunji (Cameron Doomadgee) in 2004, inflicting injuries so great that the injuries cleaved his liver in two and later died as a result - has been found not guilty.

Media Release - "Death of justice in Queensland"
The acquittal of Snr-Sgt Chris Hurley - despite him admitting he caused Mulrunji's death, despite him changing his story, despite overwhelming medical evidence likening Mulrunji's fatal injuries to a high-speed car crash - is the lowest point in Australia's judicial system for Aboriginal people," said Aboriginal leader and Socialist Alliance Indigenous spokesperson Sam Watson, in response to the not guilty verdict in the manslaughter trial of Hurley.

"The police rallied around their own, fixed their story of 'a complicated accident', and the 12-member non-Indigenous jury agreed," Watson continued. "This jury decision has sanctioned the unlawful death of an Aboriginal person in police custody."

"The fact that the life an Aboriginal person was worth less than four hours consideration by the jury reinforces Townsville - named after one of the last slave owners Robert Towns - as a centre of anti-Aboriginal prejudice."

"We extend our sympathy and love to the family and community on Palm Island - they will need healing time. But around Australia, the Aboriginal community and non-Aboriginal supporters will rally and continue the struggle for justice. We make a promise to the family of Mulrunji and all families who have lost loved-ones in custody - Hurley and all police will be held accountable. There must be justice for all - whether you're born in Brisbane or on Palm Island."

"The Jury verdict ended one process, but the struggle for justice continues," said Watson.

An Indigenous rights demonstration planned to march on State Parliament at 1pm this Friday in protest at council amalgamations, will also take up the ongoing fight for justice for Mulrunji, with a minute silence for the 'death of justice in Queensland.'

Watson and other Aboriginal leaders have called for massive national protests on July 14, NAIDOC day.

"At end of day, all we ever ask is that those who are taken into custody come out alive, but in Queensland, this appears to be an impossible ask."

For information or interviews phone Sam Watson 0401 227 443 or Paul Benedek 0410 629 088

Wednesday, June 20, 2007


I want you to know that I am aware of all that is going on the middle east these days. I just don't report much on it because the rest of the "left" media is already feeding you that news as is the corporate news.

With that in mind I decided to take up all that is going on around the upcoming annual gay pride march in Jerusalem.

Not surprisingly, I suppose, violence broke out early this week when several hundred ultra-Orthodox demonstrators blocked the Sanhedria junction in Jerusalem after a protest rally against this week's Gay Pride march. I mean who could be surprised when at the rally itself the head of the ultra-Orthodox rabbinic court, Rabbi Moshe Sternbuch, said the participants in the gay pride events scheduled for Thursday, as well as the police who secured them, would be "cursed."

It is to be noted that while a few thousand kooks showed up for the rally that was only maybe 5% of what had been expected. It seems to be that Jerusalem's ultra-Orthodox community is reluctant to participate in the protests that the fundamentalist activists have been staging throughout the previous week.

Haaretz says the Edah Haredit has been responsible for nightly demonstrations in Jerusalem's ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods, including the mass rally at Bar-Ilan Street. The organization consists of several ultra-Orthodox and anti-Zionist groups including Satmar, Toldos Aharon and Toldos Avrohom Yitzchok hasidim and Perushim. (I know who these guys are, but you may not. If you are interested do a google search, okay.)

Unlike the majority of the ultra-Orthodox community, the followers of the Edah Haredit boycotted the general elections for the Knesset, and are opposed to any sign of modernity. In less than 12 months, the group has rallied its supporters twice to protest against gay and lesbian events.

In fact, haredi rabbis in Jerusalem yesterday published an official statement in United Torah Judaism's newspaper Yated Ne'eman calling on the strictly-Orthodox public not to hold demonstrations against the parade.

But don't think for a minute this was a sign of tolerance.

In their statement, the rabbis wrote that yeshiva students should not be out on the streets protesting, but rather reciting prayers against the "terrible abomination." Yeshiva heads were responsible for seeing their students refrain from actively protesting, they added.

Dana Olmert, the lesbian daughter of the Prime Minister, insists people should worry more about basic rights, rather than harping on Jerusalem’s holiness. She could care less what the super Orthodox nut cases think.

"The question of ‘Why in Jerusalem?’ is like asking why we need to give people voting rights,” she said in an interview with Army Radio. “The Gay Pride Parade is a political event. It’s an expression of political activism - you don’t ask permission to do it."

She is right, of course.

"People tell us that we don't need an event in Jerusalem, that we could join the march in Tel Aviv, but in Jerusalem it's more an issue of equal rights," says Judy Enteen, whose son is gay. "I strongly believe that this is an issue of human rights and the right for a person to exist as who he/she is. Being gay is not a choice; seven-10 percent of all societies are gay."

"The parade is an opportunity for people to get together and show their support and love for one another," agreed Norman Enteen, 66. "It is also an expression of the kind of society that I want to live in, where the individual's freedom of speech and expression is allowed."

Dutch-born Chana Arnon, who founded an organization which provides support for parents and friends of lesbians and gays 10 years ago, told the Jerusalem Post, "For most people the initial news that the child they have lived with all these years has a different sexual orientation is very often a real shock.When my own son - who is now 43 - told us 20 years ago that he was gay, I was completely surprised. As a parent, it is just not something you expect to hear."

Arnon said that a big problem facing the Jerusalem gay and lesbian community was the challenge in reaching the people who need help.

"Parents in the haredi or Arab communities have a very hard time accepting that a child is gay and seeking help," she said. "But this is a natural phenomenon and happens across the board in every community."

As for Thursday's March for Pride and Tolerance, Arnon said that exactly because of the lack of acceptance by many segments of Jerusalem's population, the event was vital in showing everyone "there are gays in Jerusalem."

"We have a lot of haredi youth connected to the center," she said. "Being gay is a very strong feeling and is not just something that they can't get over. The fact that no one accepts them causes suicide and from that point alone it is important to have a parade and show them they are not alone."

Someone needs to tell the aging haredi Rabbis.

But then again, why bother, they wouldn't care, unless, perhaps, the message was delivered straight from God on Mount Sanai. And that ain't happening anytime soon.

The following is from the Jerusalem Post.

J'lem police brace for parade violence

In a renewed showdown, Jerusalem police are bracing for violence on Thursday over a controversial gay parade through the streets of the city.

The event, which is slated to take place in central Jerusalem on Thursday evening, was approved by police over the vehement opposition of the haredi and religious public who view such a parade as a loathsome abomination and an anathema to core Biblical values.

The annual march, which is being organized by Jerusalem's Gay and Lesbian Center at a cost of NIS 500,000, is slated to run from the city's central King David Street to the nearby Liberty Bell Park.

'Right to parade is like right to vote'
Police said that 7,500 police would be out in force to safeguard the early evening event, which several thousand participants are expected to attend. A haredi counter-protest will take place concurrently in downtown Jerusalem, police said.

The prerogative for issuing permits for public events rests with police, who could have banned the event - or restricted it as they did last year - due to a concern for public safety. After giving their final approval last week, police said they could still reconsider their authorization of the event based on the situation on the ground. Such a move was never required - in part because of the backing the event has from the High Court of Justice.

Executive Director of Jerusalem's Gay and Lesbian Center, Noa Stattath, had warned that the organization would petition Israel's highest court if police nixed the group's proposed parade route.

Last year's parade through the streets of Jerusalem was cancelled following weeks of violent haredi protests, and confined to an enclosed sports stadium to avoid clashes.

The annual local parade, which draws several thousand participants every year, has been the source of repeated debate, with many religious city council members and a not insignificant number of the city's largely traditionalresidents considering such an event inappropriate for a "holy" city. Supporters of the parade counter that freedom of speech enables them to hold the event in Jerusalem, as a symbol of tolerance and pluralism, even if theirs is the view of the minority of residents in the city.

In the week since the police gave the go-ahead for the event, low-level clashes between haredi youths and police have been a nightly occurrence, with haredim pelting police with stones, burning garbage cans and blocking traffic in protest. Nearly 100 people have been arrested over the last week in such protests.

But a major demonstration organized by the extremist Eda Haredit sect against the parade attracted only 10,000 people on Sunday, one-tenth of the number organizers had hoped for, in a sign of the divisions within the haredi community over how to deal with the event.

Meanwhile, 10 far-right activists came to the site of the planned march on Wednesday with two horses in a move meant to symbolize the "bestial march." Also, a 44-year-old haredi man was arrested Wednesday morning while trying to vandalize a gay bar in the city, police said.

The suspect, who was released on bail, said he wanted to blot out an advertisement for the parade on the outside of the city's Shushan Bar.

Meanwhile, a suspicious bag was discovered on a major city street that contained a fake bomb and a note that read: "If you don't cancel the march, this will be a real bomb," Jerusalem police spokesman Shmuel Ben-Ruby said.


Polish riot police used batons to break up a protest by nurses in Warsaw on Wednesday, escalating an already bitter stand-off between the conservative government and health workers demanding better pay. Although the nurses are not on strike, Poland's conservative government is already confronting a go-slow by hospital doctors who are also seeking pay hikes.

The nurses, many dressed in their white hospital uniforms, had remained at the site after Tuesday's rally, where about 10,000 health workers had called for a 30-percent pay raise, following a similar hike last year, and an increase in government health care spending.

At that rally many in the crowd shouted, "We want to work, not to emigrate."

Poland's state-employed medical workers are notoriously poorly-paid, like their counterparts in many former communist bloc countries.

"I'm demonstrating because with 1,100 zlotys (290 euros, 388 dollars) a month, I can't feed my children," Anna Niewczas, a 35-year-old nurse from Radom, south of Warsaw, told AFP.

France's News 24 reported although the security forces cleared the street itself, the nurses managed to continue camping on a nearby verge, where they were ringed by police. Local residents turned out to support the protesters and gave them coffee.

"The police pushed us brutally onto the grass," said Zofia Kolanko, a nurse from the southern city of Krakow who had spent the night on the street.

"We're going to carry on camping here until the government representatives come out to talk to us. Up to now they've been ignoring us," she added.

"The government isn't going to solve this problem with police batons," said Juliusz Piotrowski, a doctor from Warsaw's Banacha University

The following is from EUX-TV (Netherlands).

Police force protesting nurses off street in Poland

Police used force Wednesday to break up a roadblock by some fifty Polish nurses in front of the prime minister's chancellery in Warsaw aimed at securing wage hikes in Poland's chronically underfunded public health sector, Poland's TVN24 news channel reported.

Two protesting nurses were rushed to hospital by ambulance after the police intervention. One woman reportedly suffered a heart attack.

"I can't believe my eyes - these nurses were treated like football hooligans, there could have quite simply been talks," Civic Platform opposition MP Elzbieta Radziszewska told TVN24.

The protesting nurses were vastly outnumbered by police dressed in riot gear.

"Road blocks are illegal. We spoke with the nurses all night, we met their requests but this didn't change the situation," Warsaw police spokesman Mariusz Sokolowski told TVN24. He denied heavy force was used to remove the nurses camped out on a central Warsaw street in front of government buildings.

Doctors and nurses in Poland's chronically underfunded health sector are demanding wage hikes, which the government has said are impossible to meet in this fiscal year.

The protestors have appealed to Poland's First Lady Maria Kaczynska to facilitate negotiations with the government lead by her brother-in-law conservative Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski.

Several hundred medical workers marched through the Polish capital Warsaw Tuesday in protest of low wages in the public health sector. Physicians and nurses have also been staging a go-slow protest job action in hospitals and clinics for nearly a month.


Numerous genocide survivors who were able to bear witnesses in judicial proceedings treating the 1994 Rwanda genocide have been killed under "mysterious" or not so mysterious circumstances. The latest is Habib Ganafa Hakizumwami who was murdered last Friday.

Back in January Human Rights Watch said Rwandan police and judicial authorities needed to ensure prompt and effective law enforcement to deal with recent killings of participants in the justice system for genocide known as gacaca.

At the same time the Hirondelle News Agency wrote, "Policies of tolerance and reconciliation have led to less and less punishment for criminals and now some people are not afraid of killing." Hirondelle is an Arusha-based news service specializing in reporting United Nations trials of Rwandan genocide suspects.

Genocide survivors are likely to be wiped out if the Rwandan government does not step up security for genocide survivors and brings to justice murderers intent on destroying evidence in genocide trials, Hirondelle quoted Ibuka (Remember) spokesperson Benoit Kaboyi as saying.

The following is from New Times (Kigali)

65-Yr-Old Genocide Survivor Murdered
By Daniel Sabiiti

A sixty five-year-old man identified as Habib Ganafa Hakizumwami was murdered last Friday by unidentified persons in Ruvumera village, Gahogo cell, Nyamabuye sector.

Gafana was attacked at 8.30pm as he returned home from the trade exposition in Muhanga.

His body had deep cuts with a tooth and eyes removed by the alleged killers.

According to residents, Gafana was strangled to death and later his body dumped in Nyabisindu, a kilometer away from his home. The corpse was found near two homes in the middle of the road and none of the residents alerted local authorities until 3.p.m on Saturday.

Police said five people have been arrested in relation to the murder and investigations are still going on. Uwimana, the deceased's daughter, claims the killing is related to fears that the old man and his wife could give information to Gacaca court. The couple witnessed the horrible acts during the 1994 Genocide and many residents have been attacking their family.

"My father survived the Genocide and had a lot of information on the killings in this area. He survived then, but the killers have been skeptical as to when he would leak the information," Uwimana said.

Uwimana added, "Gafana was not killed by unknown people because at the time we separated (in the expo) some young men had been following us and wanted to take him away from me but I refused. The old man insisted that he would walk himself back home but was attacked and killed 30 minutes."

The Association of Genocide Survivors (IBUKA-Muhanga) has protested over Gafana's death and continued cold-blood killings and torture of Genocide survivors.

"We regret such acts of intended killings of survivors that have been evident in the last three years. This is an act of intimidation and IBUKA will not succumb to the blood-thirsty people," Eugene Karangwa, Ibuka-Muhanga president stated

Terrified residents in Muhanga said that such killings or attacks are on the increase in the area. Before Gafana's killings, 23-year-old Yvette Uwizeyesu, was stabbed thrice by a young man only identified as Arisen. Jean Damascene Nyandwi, survived drug addicts at Gitarama Taxi Park when residents came to his rescue.

Eight-year-old Issa Nsenginyunva, was murdered by unidentified persons in Gasenyi Village in January and two young men, Justin Hakizimana, 39 and Emmanuel, 25, were shot dead in May by unidentified armed thugs in Ruvumera Cell.


The big business of higher education has taken a whack at the labor movement in Kansas City. The University of Missouri at Kansas City (UMKC) shut down the Institute for Labor Studies for no good reason except that it wanted to do it. The Institute has been operating since 1985 and an exceptional reputation amongst local labor and working class activists. Judy Ancel (pictured here), the Institute director, is a long time activist in the Kansas City area and is herself highly respected.

On a personal note, I've known Judy for years and I can say that she has never wavered in her promotion of the rights and struggles of workers and the working class in the US and around the world. If I was a betting man, I'd wager this is the reason for her termination and the shutting down of the Institute.

As Kansas City's alternative newspaper The Pitch pointed out:

Through Ancel’s institute (she’s the only employee), students at Longview and the Kansas City, St. Louis and Columbia campuses of the University of Missouri system could earn a certificate in labor studies. The institute is responsible for the Heartland Radio Forum, a staple for KKFI 90.1 listeners since 1989. Ancel trained future union leaders, taught high school students how to survive in the work force and held conferences on the effects of immigration, globalization and free trade on the local community.

University officials claim the elimination of the program is a cost cutting measure only. However, the Institute is primarily a state funded program. UMKC and Longview Community College each contribute only $15,000 to the program. Meanwhile, students in the program contribute through their student fees and UMKC tuition.

Ancel told the Pitch,"“The weird thing about this is they’ll lose more money than they’ll save. But because the curators mandated these cuts off the top, it doesn’t matter. They [the provost and the chancellor] don’t have to account for the bottom line. It ends up destroying a program that serves a key mission of UMKC as an urban and land-grant institution.”

Although some supporters think her termination may be the result of her open criticism of University supporter Wal-Mart (The Pitch points out Ancel helped organize the Roll Back Wal-Mart conference in January 2006. Local Wal-Mart managers marched with Ancel at a large protest downtown following the conference), Judy herself isn't interested in conspiracy theories. She told the Pitch,

“I don’t have any reason to think that’s why this is happening. I think the actions of the university speak for themselves. We have one labor educator in a small program to serve the needs of working people, while at the same time the School of Business has about 47 full- and part-time faculty. We don’t begrudge them what they’ve got. We just think there should be balance.”

Ancel was five years away from retirement. Her position is not eligible for tenure.

You can register a protest with an email to Chancellor Guy Bailey at

The following article is from today's Kansas City Star.

UMKC cancels Institute for Labor Studies

The Institute for Labor Studies will be the first University of Missouri-Kansas City program eliminated in budget cuts ordered earlier this month by curators of the four-campus system.

“This is going to hurt every labor union in Kansas City,” said Jim Stoufer, president of the Greater Kansas City Community Action Program Council, the political action arm of the United Auto Workers local representing about 40,000 people here.

The institute has offered a six-course certificate in labor studies for people who want to be union leaders or organizers, or run for a union office.

“We will lose a valuable resource we have for training and education, and I imagine there will be a backlash against UMKC from labor if this happens,” Stoufer said.

But UMKC Chancellor Guy Bailey said Tuesday that the university has already decided it will not help fund the institute another year.

University of Missouri curators at their May 31 meeting in Columbia asked the chancellors of each of the four campuses — Kansas City, Columbia, St. Louis and Rolla — to cut spending by 1 percent each year for the next three years to help fund salary increases for faculty.

Bailey said then that cutting nearly $2 million from his budget would mean eliminating some university centers and institutes and perhaps some staff jobs.

With the elimination of the institute, the only labor-education and worker-training program of its kind in the Kansas City area, Judith Ancel could be out of a job.

“I feel enormously disappointed,” said Ancel, who has run the institute since 1985 and is its only full-time staff member. “To destroy this labor education program is really depriving our citizens, most of whom are working people, of a dialogue that is not biased.”

Ancel said she learned the institute was being cut when she received a copy of a letter sent last month to the president of Longview Community College. The letter was sent to inform Longview that UMKC would no longer continue the program, which the two campuses help pay for.

UMKC and Longview each contribute about $15,000 to the institute’s $107,000 budget, Ancel said. The UM System puts in $42,900; the rest, about $34,000, comes from tuition and fees.

Bailey said he thought the certificate program “should be offered without the administrative structure of the institute” through the university’s continued education program. And he suggested that perhaps the UMKC Department of Economics would hire Ancel as a member of it faculty.

“But that would be up to them,” Bailey said.

The institute offers some credit and noncredit courses to students on all four system campuses, using video hookups. About 400 students across the state have enrolled in courses over the last five years. And at 6 p.m. every Thursday, the institute produces the Heartland Labor Forum radio broadcast on KKFI radio.

“We teach the nuts and bolts of labor law, collective bargaining and labor history,” Ancel said.

Stoufer said if the program is eliminated “it will leave a big vacancy. It is just frustrating.”

Bailey said other university centers and institutes may be eliminated in the near future. Members of the Faculty Senate and the university budget committee will review the programs and help university administrators decide which will go. Bailey told them not to touch any degree-granting programs.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007


A Japanese vessel berthed in Danang in central Vietnam Friday with over 1,000 people on board who will attend an ongoing local festival and a peace forum. The forum also dealt with some "left over" details from the U.S. war in Vietnam.

The Peace Boat passengers declared their support of a law suit filed concerning the use of agent orange and its aftermath in Vietnam.

Lawyers representing approximately three million Vietnamese plaintiffs appealed the dismissal of their civil lawsuit to the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit [official website] Monday. The plaintiffs argued that more than 30 American chemical companies should be held liable for billions of dollars in compensatory damages and environmental cleanup costs for producing and supplying defoliants like Agent Orange [VA backgrounder], which were sprayed in Vietnam during the war to destroy forest cover and render crops unusable. The plaintiffs argued that the companies were aware that defoliants, which often contained dioxin - a known teratogen and suspected carcinogen, was harmful but continued to supply the approximately 18 million gallons used by the US military in Vietnam. The chemical companies argued that the defoliants were not intended to injure people and therefore not subject to prohibitions against the use of poisons in international rules of war. The defendants also said that a favorable ruling for the plaintiffs could hinder the United States' ability to wage war, citing the current use of depleted uranium used by the US military in munitions and armor plating.

The 2005 district court ruling dismissed the plaintiff's lawsuit on the grounds that dioxin could not be considered a banned poison under the international rules of war and that the plaintiffs failed to proved Agent Orange caused their injuries. In 1984, chemical manufacturers reached a private settlement with over 10,000 US war veterans.

U.S. warplanes dumped about 18 million gallons (70 million liters) of the defoliant on Vietnamese forests between 1962 and 1971 to destroy Vietnamese sources of food and cover. The plaintiffs seek damages from dioxin poisoning which decades later they say has caused cancer, deformities and organ dysfunction.

Jonathan Moore, the lawyer for the Vietnamese plaintiffs, said the chemical companies knew that the "agent orange" herbicide containing dioxin was harmful but did nothing.

"They knew how it was going to be used and they had reason to believe the effect would be disastrous and they did it anyway," Moore told the panel of three judges for the U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals. "We are now seeing years later the fruit of that terrible poisonous product."

About 4.8 million Vietnamese people were exposed to the dioxin and more than three million of them have suffered physically as a result.

"Besides the three million reported victims, we still don’t know who will be the last victims of Agent Orange," said Tran Xuan Thu, vice president of the Viet Nam Association for Victims of Agent Orange/Dioxin (VAVA) before heading the Vietnamese delegation to the United States.

Before the hearing, the Vietnamese plaintiffs and supporters held a rally. Among them was Nguyen Van Quy, a former member of the North Vietnamese army exposed to "agent orange" who is at the end stage of multiple cancers and has two children with birth defects.

"We need to tell the American citizens of the bad impact and consequences of 'agent orange' to many generations in Vietnam," said Quy, who traveled to New York from Haiphong, Vietnam.

Peace Boat’s passengers comprise mainly Japanese youths in addition to 20 members of the Global Partnership for the Prevention of Armed Conflict (GPPAC) belonging to 14 nations.

Peace Boat is a Japan-based international non-governmental and non-profit organization that works to promote peace, human rights, equal and sustainable development and respect for the environment.

The following is from the Vietnam News Service.

Peace Boat passengers lend support to dioxin victims

DA NANG — Passengers on the Peace Boat that visited Da Nang on Saturday voiced their support for the lawsuit filed by Vietnamese victims of Agent Orange against 37 US companies that manufactured the toxic defoliant sprayed by US army during the war in Viet Nam.

A delegation from the Peace Boat led by captain Yoshioka Tatsuyta joined a conference on legacies of war – Agent Orange and its aftermath, which was jointly organised by the Da Nang Association of Agent Orange Victims, the Peace Boat, and the Global Partnership for the Prevention of Armed Conflict (GPPAC) last week.

The conference, which is part of the GPPAC Asia Pacific Inter-regional Forum Activities in Viet Nam, was held to show support for the lawsuit.

Some 20 GPPAC members from around the world attended the forum, where they watched documentaries on veterans and their descendants who had been affected by the war.

Pham Lenh, 62, a former soldier of Battalion No 2 of the Sai Gon Regime’s Paratrooper Division, said his three children who are AO victims have received Government help and support.

Marte Hellema, a GPPAC member from the Netherlands, said it was the first time she saw the suffering of Agent Orange victims in Viet Nam.

She said US veterans exposed to Agent Orange were compensated US$180 million while Vietnamese dioxin victims received nothing. "It’s unjust!" she said.

"We stand side by side with you because the fight for justice is still ahead," said Yoshioka.

The chairwoman of Da Nang Association of Agent Orange Victims, Nguyen Thi Van Lan, said millions of Vietnamese people had been affected by dioxin.

"Our main concern is that the cause for congenital malformation is the effect of dioxin."

A survey among 174,198 AO victims reveals that there are 169,193 children (the first generation) and 5,005 grandchildren (the second generation) affected.

Lan said the Vietnamese Government had implemented social policies to support those who joined in the war and their affected children.

The conference wrapped up after delegates signed their names on a document calling for support for Vietnamese AO victims.

Showing loyalty
An online chorus programme to support Agent Orange/dioxin (AO) victims was performed on Sunday, one day before the Vietnamese AO/dioxin lawsuit before the US Court of Appeals in New York.

The special show, organised by the Viet Nam Association of Victims of Agent Orange/Dioxin (VAVA) and website, was launched with the song "Why did you die?" written by the late Thanh Truc in 1985 and performed by My Le with translations in English, Chinese, French, Japanese and Russian.

As many as 157,682 people took part in the one-hour show and append online signatures to a petition at in support of the victims, said Nguyen Ngoc Long, the website’s editor, including many from the US, UK, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Japan and the Republic of Korea.

Two chorus shows will also be held at Hoa Binh village and Youth Cultural Palace in HCM City and a fund-raising CD will also be released.


KESQ (California) reports hundreds of Coachella Valley residents lined up in the streets Monday night. They gathered to protest the lack of immigration reform which is stalled out in the US Senate right now.

Supporters of local activist group Comite Latino lined several stretches of Highway 111.

Several hundred people gathered from Cathedral City to Mecca.

"We pay taxes, we pay everything, we're an honest people!" activists chanted last night. "We're not criminals! We're not criminals! We are working people! We love to stay in the United States!"

Formed in January 2006, to battle an enforcement-only immigration bill supported by Rep. Mary Bono, Comité Latino is a grassroots organization pressing for amnesty for the estimated 12 million undocumented immigrants living in the United States.

The group has organized several protests valleywide including last year’s May 1 boycott of work and spending and a march to make Coachella a sanctuary city.

“I hope it’s the last time we have to protest for this,” Cardona said.

Last year in February, Comité Latino organized a similar event where hundreds of protesters across the valley formed human chains in a show of solidarity against HR 4437, which criminalized those who help the undocumented.

The Coachella Valley is an irrigated agricultural and recreational desert valley in southern California, United States (U.S.), east of Los Angeles.

The following is taken from the Desert Sun.

Hundreds gather to protest immigration plan, Iraq war

Seven-year-old Roberto held a "We are American" sign Monday night with his 4-year-old sister.

They don't fully understand the immigration debate being waged in Congress and coffee shops around the nation, but they stood along Highway 111 in Palm Desert to support their father, an undocumented immigrant.

"They need us, and I need them," said Roberto Sr., a Rancho Mirage resident. "That's the way it's supposed to be. We're a family."

Had immigration agents arrested Roberto in the May raids, godparents would raise his three U.S.-born children.

Waving American flags and chanting words of support for Mexico, more than 250 people across the valley protested immigration reform, the war in Iraq and high gas prices Monday.

A revised immigration bill could be considered this week in the U.S. Senate, requiring improvements to border security and employment verification programs.

The new plan also would seek to eventually phase out the temporary guest-worker program.

The new bill includes a proposal by Republican senators from Arizona and South Carolina to create a $4.4 billion fund, paid for by fees and fines collected from undocumented immigrants, solely to finance border security.

This immigration bill, which is expected to face some opposition, will be up for debate later this week, officials said.

Meanwhile, in the Coachella Valley on Monday night, passersby honked their horns while some yelled "Viva Mexico" in support of those protesting.

"We're not going to stop until we get what we want. Everybody deserves a right to have a better future," said Sylvia Cardona, a member of Comité Latino, the group that organized the event.

Formed in January 2006, the group has organized several marches, including a similar event in February last year where hundreds of people formed a human chain to protest a House resolution that would have made it a crime to aid undocumented immigrants.

Participants also held signs that read "Stop the war in Iraq."

At dusk, a handful of protesters turned on flashlights - a symbolic act meant to encourage the estimated 12 million undocumented immigrants living in the United States to leave the shadows and come into the light.

About 233,000 undocumented immigrants live in Riverside County.

No one knows for sure how many live in the Coachella Valley.

"I think everybody has a right to live here legally," said Julio Macuixtle, who teaches elementary school in the Coachella Valley Unified School District. "They come for work. They enrich the culture of the United States. We need to give them a chance."

But not everyone agrees.

"The root of the problem is in Mexico. It's not here," said John Elias, a missionary whose grandmother emigrated from Mexico. "They export all the poor people here."

The way Elias sees it, the undocumented should protest for reform in the zocalos (or town squares) south of the border.

"They don't care about citizenship. All they care about is mobility."


Of all the doctors in the United States, George Bush somehow found Dr. James Holsinger as just the guy to be Surgeon General. I guess I shouldn't be surprised, but I must admit that every time that I think I've seen it all, along comes the Prez to again prove me wrong.

Anyway, Bill Berkowitz has written an incisive little ditty that pretty much takes apart this lottery pick.

The following is written by Bill Berkowitz and is taken from
Media Transparency.

Surgeon General to be...or not to be?

Dr. James Holsinger's nomination to be surgeon general colored by questionable deaths at a VA hospital where he was Chief Medical Officer, along with his record of homophobia and involvement in a questionable Kentucky land deal

While the George W. Bush administration didn't invent cronyism -- handing over administration jobs to friends, funders and longtime supporters -- it certainly has put its own unique stamp on the concept. When the history of the Bush Administration is written, "cronyism" will be writ large with Bush's paean to former FEMA chief Michael Brown, "Brownie, you're doing a heck of a job," leading the way. The hiring -- and ultimate firing -- of "Brownie," however, is only one example of how the uninformed, the unprepared, the prejudiced, and the unqualified have made their way to administration posts.

And that's just about where President Bush's nomination of Dr. James Holsinger to be surgeon general comes in.

Most of the early stories about Holsinger have talked about his controversial history of anti-gay remarks, decisions and communications, particularly through his work with the United Methodist Church. A deeper look, however, reveals a controversial tenure as chief medical officer for the Department of Veterans Affairs and a Kentucky real estate deal gone sour.

Here is how White House spokesperson Emily Lawrimore described him: "Dr. Holsinger has dedicated his life to the care of others and public service and his respect for all is evidenced by his actions and his career. On numerous occasions, he has taken up the banner for under represented populations and he will continue to be a strong advocate for these groups and all Americans. Dr. Holsinger is a highly respected, well-qualified physician and educator. His impressive medical background, which includes leading one of the Nation's largest healthcare systems, decades of service in the armed forces, along with his commitment to combating childhood obesity, will serve him well as Surgeon General. We urge the Senate for a swift confirmation."

When the Bush Book of Cronies is written, will Holsinger receive a full chapter or merely a passing mention?

Holsinger and homosexuality
Cynthia B. Astle of the United Methodist Nexus points out that Holsinger "rose to national prominence" in the United Methodist Church "through his membership on the 1989-92 churchwide Committee to Study Homosexuality." Astle notes that Holsinger "resigned from the committee shortly before the 1992 General Conference in Louisville, KY, because he said the committee's report was 'skewed toward liberal interpretations' of homosexual orientation and behavior. At the time, Holsinger declined the committee's invitation to be included in a minority report on the subject."

According to reporter Max Blumenthal, in a 1991 paper written by Holsinger titled "The Pathophysiology of Male Homosexuality" he "describes homosexual sex in sickeningly lurid language. 'Fist fornication,' 'sphincter injuries,' 'lacerations,' 'perforations' and 'deaths seen in connection with anal eroticism,' are some of the terms Holsinger concocted to describe acts with which he suggests at least medical familiarity ..."

During the course of a recent editorial calling Holsinger an "outstanding choice," the Louisville Courier-Journal pointed out that his "paper on gay sex is ... problematic. In addition to being needlessly cruel, his remarks ran against mainstream medical and psychological thought -- that sexual orientation is an innate (and, thus, in a sense 'natural') quality."

Holly Babin, a spokeswoman for the Department of Heath and Human Services -- the agency that evidently will take the lead on trying to get Holsinger confirmed -- put her spin on the paper: "That paper was a survey of scientific peer-reviewed studies that he was asked to compile by the United Methodist Church, it's not that he was saying 'this is what I believe,'" Babin said. "It's a reflection of the available scientific data from the 1980s. It should be noted that in 1991, homosexuals were banned from the military and several years before that, homosexuality and Haitian nationality were considered risk factors for HIV/AIDS. Over the last 20 years, a clearer understanding of these issues has been achieved."

But as Astle points out, this wasn't an isolated incident:

... Holsinger has consistently supported forces in the denomination opposed to the acceptance of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people. He has served previously on the board of the Indianapolis-based Confessing Movement within The United Methodist Church, a 15-year-old unofficial organization dedicated to "preserving the apostolic faith", according to a statement on its web site. Current Confessing Movement board members include Asbury Seminary chancellor Dr. Maxie Dunnam and layman David W. Stanley, also a director of the Institute on Religion and Democracy.
... . During Holsinger's term on the Judicial Council, the church's "supreme court" has ruled consistently against acceptance of homosexual people. In 2005, the council upheld the defrocking of Rev. Beth Stroud, a lesbian, affirming the church's prohibition against ordaining GLBT people. Also that year, the Judicial Council set off a wave of debate in the church by siding with a Virginia pastor who refused membership to an openly gay man in Decision 1032. Several annual conferences this year have adopted resolutions challenging the views expressed in Decision 1032.

Holsinger tries to pocket the money from hospital sale
According to the blog Assembled Reflections, Holsinger, who is president of the United Methodist Church's Judicial Council, also serves as chairman of the Good Samaritan Foundation, "a philanthropic organization dedicated to serving the health care needs of Kentucky's poor and disadvantaged," which claims on its website to have "no political, religious, institutional, or other affiliations."

Assembled Reflections has a different take:

The Good Samaritan Hospital has a historic link to the Kentucky Conference of the United Methodist Church, and until Dr. Holsinger's tenure as chairman the Foundation reported to the Kentucky Annual Conference. When the hospital was sold, the Foundation's board placed the money--around $20 million--into a fund it controls. Now Dr. Holsinger maintains that the Foundation is an independent entity with no ties to Kentucky United Methodism. Fayette Circuit Judge Gary Payne disagreed, ruling that the hospital belonged to the Church and so does the fund.
The Good Samaritan Foundation, under Dr. Holsinger's leadership, has appealed ... . [and] has chosen to take the argument to the public square and portray the Church negatively. Dr. Holsinger is quoted as saying the Church is "only interested in the Foundation's money, not its cause." Note the wording here--"the Foundation's money." The Conference owns a hospital, that hospital is sold, yet the proceeds generated belong to the Foundation and not to the Conference? The fact that Holsinger's cause is worthy does not make the money his.

Déjà vu all over again
On November 22, 1991, the New York Times reported that congressional investigator Mary Ann Curran testified before a House subcommittee "that she found shoddy care at veterans hospitals, including several cases in which incompetence and neglect led to the deaths of patients." Curran, a health-care investigator for the General Accounting Office, told the House Government Operations Subcommittee on Human Resources and Intergovernmental Relations that "We discovered several cases of patients who had died because of errors made by unsupervised interns or residents."

Curran visited six hospitals and studied the records of another 30 facilities in her investigation.

Holsinger, chief medical director of the department, testifying before the same committee, admitted that the VA was "obviously not perfect." He said: "Our system is obviously not perfect; no health care system is. Our patients are older, sicker and more complex than the average patient."

At a briefing prior to the hearing, Holsinger denied that there were systemic problems in the VA medical system.

"However, three months later," Cynthia Astle noted, "the government ruled that the unit Holsinger directed was responsible for six of 15 documented deaths at a North Chicago veterans' hospital. Veterans' Affairs subsequently negotiated confidential settlements with the patients' families."

Up from Kansas
Born in Kansas City, Kansas, Holsinger has a Ph.D. in anatomy and a medical degree from Duke University, along with a master's degree in hospital management from the University of South Carolina. He also has a master's degree in biblical studies from multidenominational Asbury Theological Seminary in Wilmore, Kentury.

According to Astle, while Holsinger was "trained in general surgery and cardiology, and [was] described in President Bush's announcement as a cardiologist, [he] has no national board certification in any speciality, according to the web site of the American Board of Medical Specialities:

Holsinger currently holds the Wethington Chair in Health Sciences and serves as professor of preventive medicine at the University of Kentucky College of Public Health. Prior to his current UK post, Holsinger led the Commonwealth of Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services from 2003 to 2005. Before that, he was chancellor of UK's A.B. Chandler Medical Center for nine years, and directed the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Lexington, KY, from 1993 to 1994. Altogether, Holsinger served with the Veterans Administration, renamed the Department of Veterans Affairs in 1989, from 1969 through 1994. He rose to chief medical director and undersecretary of health for the agency under President George H.W. Bush. Holsinger retired from the Army Reserve Medical Corps in 1993 with the rank of major general. reports that Holsinger has contributed more than $17,000 to Republican Party candidates and causes.

Thus far, a date has not yet been set for Holsinger's confirmation hearing before the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, chaired by Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-MA). If confirmed, Holsinger would succeed Richard H. Carmona, who resigned at the end of his term in July 2006.

It will be up to that committee to determine whether Holsinger moves on to the full Senate for a vote.