Friday, July 20, 2007

STOP SPIRITUAL EXPLOITATION!

Some time back I read a statement from Cleveland American Indian Movement about the theft of Indian Culture. As a non-Indian person with a great deal of respect for that culture, the statement made a great deal of sense to me and opened my eyes to a few things about the use of Indian spirituality by non-Indians which is anything but uncommon. I'd like to quote that statement as an introduction for the article below:
"Indians" continue to be very popular these days. Many believe they are "honoring" Indians by naming sports teams using Indian mascots, and hawking items, such as medicine wheels, headdresses, Kachina dolls, etc., in Trading Posts and mail order catalogues. Tour agencies offer "Indians" as a major component in many of their excursions in the West. Self-appointed shamans package traditional "Indian" spiritual concepts and ceremonies and sell them as avenues to self-discover and healing. All this may seem to most Americans as quite innocent, insignificant, or even a reflection of admiration for Indian peoples and cultures. NOT SO!

What is usually missing is an understanding of the grave insight and injury these activities inflict on Indian peoples. Wendy Rose, a Hopi writer and poet, comments that "white shamanism" is neither okay, harmless, nor irrelevant-no more than any other form of racist, colonial behavior..." Some people may participate simply as a result of ignorance, a situation that can be corrected by education. However, most of those who profit from these practices refuse to acknowledge their own racism, while trying to convince their Indian or non-Indian critics that they (the critics) don't understand their good intentions. Profiteers also argue that they have the right to use any material from any culture they so choose. This, of course, is only further proof that they have little respect for Indians as real human beings, with feelings, opinions, and beliefs that matter.

Nothing we do happens in a vacuum, but is embedded in complex histories and past and present social relations. The relationship between Indian nations and Euro-American populations is characterized by several centuries of land theft (every one of the 371 treaties made with the U.S. government was broken). Imported diseases and genocidal policies resulted in a nearly 99% reduction of the Indian population in North America by 1900. Well into the 20th century, Indian children were removed from their families for the purpose of "whitemanizing" them in church or government-run boarding schools. Under policies called "sell and starve" by the people (sell he land, starve with inadequate provisions), surviving Indians were incarcerated on reservations which indeed were prison camps run by mostly corrupt government agents under the U.S. War Department. In the U.S. Government Bureau of Indian Affairs and tribal governments created by the U.S. Government Indian Reorganization Act of 1934. Grassroots Indian owners are paid only a fraction of the real value of the leases (of Indian land) and rarely offered resources to develop self-sustaining enterprises on these lands. Instead they are offered meager welfare payments and commodity foods with little nutritional value. This is the context within which the exploitation of Indian spirituality must be seen. As Margo Thunderbird describes it: "they came for our land, for what grew or could be grown, for the resources in it, and for our pure air and clean water. They stole these things from us and in the taking they also stole our free ways and the best of our leaders, killed in battle or assassinated (or imprisoned). And now, after all that, they've come for the very last of our possessions, now they want our pride, our history, and our spiritual traditions. They want to rewrite and remake these things, to claim them for themselves. The lies and theft just never end."

Today there are survivors around the country who are working very hard to improve conditions for Indian people. They are using the courts to reclaim lost lands. They are looking to traditional elders for advice. They are introducing native languages into the schools (for it is the language that makes the ceremony) Above all, they are keeping old ceremonies intact, fiercely guarding them from dilution and commercialization. For a hundred years or more, these ceremonies were practiced underground, in secrecy, by people who risked their lives defying U.S. Governmental laws. That ancient traditions and languages are still alive today is a tribute to those who resisted efforts to colonize their minds and souls, not the self-made shamans of the modern day.

It is time that Euro-Americans stop the exploitation of Indian lands and Indian spiritual practices. Many grassroots spiritual leaders are generously sharing their knowledge and including non-Indians in their ceremonies. Non-Indians need to recognize that these are gifts to be received with proper respect and understanding. Traditional ceremonies and spiritual practices like the Lakota Sacred Pipe Ceremony, the Vision Quest, the Sun Dance, and the Sweat Lodge Ceremony, are precious gifts given to the Indian people by the Creator. These sacred ways have enabled us as Indian People to survive-miraculously-the onslaught of over five centuries of continuous effort by non-Indians and their government to exterminate us by extinguishing all traces of our traditional ways of life. Therefore, we urge all supporters of American Indian People to join us in calling for an immediate end to the cynical, sacrilegious spectacle of non-Indian "wannabes", would-be gurus of the "New Age", and "plastic medicine men" shamelessly exploiting and mocking our traditions by performing bastardized imitations of our ceremonies.

For those who have a true interest, please understand that Indian spirituality cannot be taken in pieces - a little bit here and a little bit there. Traditional spiritual practices involve daily prayer, sacrifice, and suffering-Not just an occasional sweat or smudging. Above all, Indian spiritual leadership is earned after years of learning, healing, gaining ceremonial knowledge, and through the community's recognition of one's contributions to the health and welfare of others. It is not a position one can assume by selling one's services or giving oneself to a name or title.

If non-Indians really want to honor Indian peoples and traditions, there are a number of things they can do. They can: Show respect by informing themselves thoroughly of the conditions faced by Indian people in the past and present: Help ensure that Indian people are consulted on all matters pertaining to Indian cultures and expose self-proclaimed pseudo-experts for what they are: Stop the exploitation of Indian cultures, the stereotyping, the use of Indian logos and mascots, and the appropriation of ceremonies for personal gain: Offer support to grassroots Indian organizations who are currently involved in recovering illegally seized lands, such as the Black Hills, and The Dann family holdings in Nevada: Pressure their congressman to pass legislation beneficial to Indians: Provide material support to Indians to ease their physical struggle for survival: Try to incorporate the most basic of traditional values of Indian cultures into daily living-respect, humility, patience, and the making of relatives (with other humans and all those living on Mother Earth) We are all related...

The following is from
Indian Country Today.

Speaking out on the theft and abuse of spirituality
by: Shadi Rahimi

SAN FRANCISCO - It was a strange sight, at least in East Los Angeles.

While walking her dogs recently at Arroyo Seco Park, Marisol Crisostomo-Romo, 26, said she spotted a van with a tipi on it. Into it piled a group of white children clutching bows and arrows.

They were members of the five-week-long Camp Shi'ini, ''a Native American-themed summer camp'' that is named after ''a Native American word meaning 'Summer People,''' according to its Web site.

The 60-year-old camp divides children into nine ''tribes'' and offers activities ranging from horseback riding (in the tradition of the Navajo, Comanche and Eskimo, its Web site stated) and archery (Mohawk, Seminole and Blackfoot) to fishing (Zuni, Iroquois and Apache).

Crisostomo-Romo, who is Pascua Yaqui, immediately wrote the camp a letter and e-mailed 422 people to do the same, beseeching all those ''offended and disgusted by cultural exploitation and mainstream society's self-entitlement.''

Her anger is echoed across the country by Natives who continue to be frustrated with what they view as misappropriation and abuse of spiritual and cultural practices.

Similar Native-themed camps, nonprofits, centers, programs, workshops, retreats and seminars offered mostly by non-Natives thrive across the country. And the number of non-Native people operating as medicine men and shaman - and often charging for their services - has only grown despite opposition from traditional elders, groups and Native activists.

''We don't charge for ceremonies. People with real sicknesses actually go to these people; we've heard of these people even taking advantage of women,'' said Charlie Sitting Bull, 54. ''That's the danger in people being misinformed. We battle it all the time.''

Sitting Bull is a traditional Oglala Lakota from South Dakota who said he is a direct descendant of Chief Sitting Bull. He began noticing the misuse of Native culture as a teenager, when he first saw a Boy Scout troup ''dressed as Indians,'' he said.

Since then, he has confronted Native and non-Native people falsely claiming to be descendants of Chief Sitting Bull and has worked to stop non-Native people from charging for spiritual teachings. Most recently, Sitting Bull said he prevented a white man from charging to teach Sun Dance songs at a Washington state bookstore, which the man had learned from a legitimate medicine man.

Responding to a request from the medicine man himself, Sitting Bull confronted the white man, telling him he could not hold the workshop, and asking for a written apology. The man was arrogant, but eventually obliged, he said.

A non-Native person practicing Native spirituality presents a similar danger to all Natives as a Native person who practices but ''isn't clean'' - taking drugs or not ''living a good life,'' - Sitting Bull said.

''They actually infect us like a sickness,'' he said, referring to both scenarios.

In 1993, a decree passed at an international gathering of 500 representatives from 40 different tribes and bands of the Lakota, titled the ''Declaration of War Against Exploiters of Lakota Spirituality,'' stated that immediate action be taken to defend Lakota spirituality from ''further contamination, desecration and abuse.''

It detailed what it described as the destruction of sacred traditions, reminding Natives of their highest duty - ''to preserve the purity of our precious traditions for our future generations, so that our children and our children's children will survive and prosper in the sacred manner intended for each of our respective peoples by our Creator.''

Among the ''disgraceful expropriation'' that even then had ''reached epidemic proportions in urban areas throughout the country,'' according to the leaders, were corporations that charge money for sweat lodges and vision quest programs; Sun dances for non-Natives conducted by charlatans; and cult leaders and new age people who imitate Lakota ceremonial ways and mix in non-Native occult practices.

The decree urged traditional people, tribal leaders and governing councils of all other Indian nations to join ''in calling for an immediate end to this rampant exploitation of our respective American Indian sacred traditions.''

The decree was published in a newsletter, in controversial author Ward Churchill's 1994 book ''Indians Are Us? Culture and Genocide in Native North America,'' and online.

Since then, an active stand has been taken by medicine men and traditional practitioners even against ''Native healers that are out of line,'' Sitting Bull said.

Responses to the decree from non-Native people on various Web sites explain why they engage in Native spiritual practices.

''I understand the importance of the statement and feel money is being made by the stealing of the traditionalists,'' Mark Montalban wrote. ''I also feel that ghosts and spirits can enter your life and give purpose and direction.''

But many Native people disagree, arguing that the appropriation of spirituality is not only disrespectful, but also dangerous if practiced incorrectly and by non-Natives.

''One can study Native culture all they want, but if it's not Native blood flowing through their veins then they'll never truly understand those ways and how to use them,'' said Anthony Thosh Collins, 25, of the Pima, Osage and Seneca-Cayuga tribes. ''I support the use of our Native culture to help heal this world, but only through the guidance of one of our own qualified elders.''

The movement against non-Natives appropriating and sometimes selling Native spirituality is growing, with younger Natives joining the forefront.

In her letter to Camp Shi'ini, Crisostomo-Romo explained the sacred nature of the face paint and war bonnets displayed on its Web site, saying, ''Non-Natives don't have business messing with these things.''

She suggested the camp instead teach children about modern issues faced by Native people, including the desecration of sacred sites, poverty and substance abuse.

It is important for non-Natives to understand that Natives do not exist only in museums or in Western movies: ''We are a people who have a future and who want the best for our children,'' Crisostomo-Romo said.

''The very notion of trying to recreate a lifestyle of a people that are still in vibrant existence is purely ridiculous,'' she said. ''Native people are not just about bows and arrows, feathers and dream catchers. The depth and beauty of our cultures can never be captured in a summer camp.''

© Indian Country Today

MICHAEL VICK MAKES ME SICK


I've absolutely no sympathy for Michael Vick, none. There is no excuse for the horrible practice of dog fighting or for the people who involve themselves with it. I mean what kind of people get off watching dogs tear each other apart.

A statement released by PETA today (as members and others picketed outside NFL headquarters) reads:

In the wake of Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick's indictment on charges related to dogfighting, all of Vick's corporate sponsors, Falcons CEO Arthur Blank, and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell received a joint letter this morning from hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons, civil rights leader The Rev. Al Sharpton, and PETA President Ingrid E. Newkirk roundly condemning dogfighting and other forms of violence.

Dogs who survive these fights often sustain serious injuries, such as broken bones and crushed cartilage, and many suffer and die from blood loss, shock, dehydration, exhaustion, or infection hours or days after a fight. The statement calls on people not only to condemn an NFL superstar for his alleged participation in this illegal activity but also to work to end dogfighting in our local communities.


The recent media spotlight on dogfighting reminds us of society's callous disregard for the suffering of animals and disrespect for sentient beings. We hope that Michael Vick is not a product of this insensitivity that runs through our society.

Whether through the Hip-Hop Summit Action Network, the National Action Network, or People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), we believe in being agents of social change who responsibly and proactively fight the war against poverty and injustice and against ignorance and cruelty. Our battle must extend to those innocent animals who literally have no voice or choice.

Whether Michael Vick is found guilty of dogfighting or not, he is one person amid a much larger struggle. The real front lines in the war against dogfighting exist in our local communities, and this war is being fought every day by animal protection groups, community leaders, and law enforcement officials.

If anything, the above statement is too damn mild.

Twenty-seven-year-old Michael Vick is a star player with the Atlanta Falcons. Fast on his feet and with a strong arm, Vick is the highest-paid quarterback in the NFL and a favorite with fans.

A grand jury indictment alleges that Vick and three associates were running a kennel for breeding and training dogs for fighting. The indictment alleges that Vick and the men hosted dogfights, crossed state lines to sponsor dogs in fights for prize money, and executed several dogs that did not perform well.

Recently PBS conducted an interview with Wayne Pacelle, the president of the Humane Society of the United States, and Bobby Brown who who wrote and directed "Off the Chain," a 2005 documentary about dogfighting.

Read it and scream:

WAYNE PACELLE, Humane Society of the United States: You know, when the Humane Society of the United States was formed in the 1950s, it was predominantly a rural phenomenon. We've seen in the last 10 to 15 years a real surge in urban dogfighting, with rap culture really driving interest in pit bulls and people kind of treating the dogs as a macho display.

It's very hard, because as you indicated, it's widely criminalized -- 50 states ban the activity -- to get solid numbers. We're estimating, you know, 40,000-plus people involved. So you have the participants, the handlers. Then you have people who are interested in it as spectators, as well.

JEFFREY BROWN: Now, Mr. Brown, you did this documentary. The dogs themselves are specifically trained for this, correct?

BOBBY BROWN, Director, "Off the Chain": That's correct. I mean, the dog has the instinct, fighting instinct. I found that 90 percent of the time, the dog is animal aggressive, not people aggressive. You can walk up to any dog in the backyard and pet the dog. But the dogs are placed on chains in the backyard. And the only socialization that they have is their handler coming in and feeding them.

And the first test that they get is called a game test. It's called "off the chain," which is the documentary is named after, is when they, five, six months into the dog's life, they take the dog off the chain, and they put it on another dog for about five or six minutes. And if the dog wants to fight, they'll put it back on the chain and let it get a little older. If it doesn't want to fight, it doesn't pass the game test, and it's euthanized.

JEFFREY BROWN: You were just telling us before we started here that the longest fight you ever witnessed was two hours and 45 minutes. And these go on a while. What does it feel like? What is it like when it's happening?

BOBBY BROWN: Oh, it's horrifying. You know, the dogs are ripping apart at each other. They're like silent warriors. I mean, there's no sound at all. They're just engaged in a lock, and they bite, and they shake, and they take and engage on another part of the body, and they just stay there and lock for a long time, and they won't let go.

The match that I saw that was two hours and 45 minutes, the dogs actually were so exhausted they fell asleep engaged with one another. And they finally woke up. When one woke up, the other one woke up, and they started fighting again.

WAYNE PACELLE: And, you know, it's almost always pit bulls. They're 50 pounds, usually, sometimes a little less, but they're a mix of endurance and power and speed. And they can kill any other dog in the fight, so they match them against one another.

And as he indicated, it's just a horrific fight. They just keep going; they keep coming at each other. But the sad thing about it is less about the pit bulls but about the people. The people are enjoying this activity and being titillated by the blood-letting.

It is to be noted dogs used in these events often die of blood loss, shock, dehydration, exhaustion, or infection hours or even days after the fight. Other animals are often sacrificed as well. Some owners train their dogs for fights using smaller animals such as cats, rabbits, or small dogs. These "bait" animals are often stolen pets or animals obtained through "free to good home" advertisements.

So yeah, I say Michael Vick has got to go...and go to jail as well.

The following is from the Charleston Daily Mail.

PETA protest urges NFL commissioner to "sack" Vick

While Commissioner Roger Goodell was meeting with officials of the ASPCA, about 50 people urged the NFL to "Sack Vick'' today in a demonstration outside the league's headquarters following the indictment of Michael Vick on dogfighting charges. "Sack Vick!'' chanted the demonstrators, organized by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals as they walked peacefully in front of the Park Avenue building. Many held dogs who had the "Sack Vick'' signs on their backs and one woman brought a pit bull, the breed killed in the dogfighting operation the Atlanta quarterback is accused of sponsoring.

The leaders of the demonstration focused on Goodell's one-year suspension of Tennessee's Adam "Pac-Man'' Jones under the NFL's personal conduct policy, although Jones, a former West Virginia star, has not been convicted of any crime. "We think they should do the same with Michael Vick,'' said Dan Shannon, an assistant director of campaigns for PETA. "We don't think their 'wait and see' attitude goes far enough. If they suspended Pacman Jones, they can suspend Vick.''

The NFL said after Vick was indicted Tuesday, it was watching legal developments in the case. Vick is scheduled to be arraigned Thursday in federal court in Richmond, Va. The NFL said today it agreed "dogfighting is cruel, degrading and illegal. "The alleged activities are very disturbing, and we are extremely disappointed Michael Vick has put himself in this position,'' NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said in a statement. "We are having extensive dialogue with numerous groups and individuals, including the ASPCA, and are reviewing all of our options to deal with this as quickly as possible.''

Sherry Ramsey, a staff attorney for the Humane Society of the United States, said he was disappointed at the league "wait and see attitude'' regarding a possible Vick suspension. "There is a precedent in the Jones suspension,'' she said. Ramsey said her organization wrote to the NFL in May, offering to work with the league help educate players about dogfighting. She said it did not receive a reply. However, two letters written June 21 by the NFL to the Humane Society, provided to The Associated Press by the league, said warnings on animal fighting and animal cruelty are now being included in the annual briefings by the league security staff to players.

Those briefings will take place at all 32 training camps this summer. "We are in total agreement that there is no place for animal cruelty and illegal animal fighting and take very seriously the allegations of dog fighting against Michael Vick,'' Peter Abitante, Goodell's personal assistant, wrote nearly a month before Tuesday's indictments. "We certainly do not condone this activity and will not tolerate cruelty or mistreatment of animals. If Mr. Vick or anyone associated with the NFL is found to have violated state or federal law, the commissioner has stated publicly that he will impose significant discipline under our personal conduct policy.'' Earlier this year, the NFL began working with the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals on programs and public service announcements to educate players and the public on the importance of caring properly for animals.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

ANNOUNCEMENT: STOP SECURITY AND PROSPERITY PARTNERSHIP CONFERENCE


The following comes from http://www.wombles.org.uk/


Canada: Mobilize against the Security & Prosperity Partnership (SPP) meeting


Mobilize and Protest against George Bush, Stephen Harper and Felipe Calderon at the meeting of the Security and Prosperity Partnership (SPP)

AUGUST 19-21, 2007
MONTEBELLO, QUEBEC
(Between Ottawa and Montreal)

Protests are being organized against Bush, Harper, Calderon and the SPP by anti-capitalist social justice activists in Quebec and Ontario, under the framework of the People's Global Action (PGA) Network.

Ottawa and Montreal -- on either side of Montebello on the Highway 148 – will act as organizing hubs for protests, including local protests and actions.

Actions will also take place from August 19-21. An "anti-capitalist camp" will be set up in the area, as early as August 8, for all protesters who want to be in the region early to help plan actions and raise awareness.

More details forthcoming. Visit www.uncampement.net frequently for updates.

A main Day of Action against the SPP will take place on MONDAY, August 20 at 3pm at the Chateau Montebello (or as close as possible to Montebello). We encourage everyone to mobilize to Montebello by 3PM on August 20.

Montebello, Quebec is a tourist village between Ottawa and Montreal, on Highway 148, on the Ottawa River. Click here to view a small map, or dowload a more detailed map of the region in .pdf format in the "Galleries" section.

CALLOUT FOR MONTREAL PGA-BLOC AGAINST THE SPP:
http://www.psp-spp.com/?q=en/mob_en

BACKGROUNDER TO THE SPP:
http://www.psp-spp.com/?q=en/aboutthespp

For up-to-date information, subscribe to our announcements list by visiting: https://lists.riseup.net/www/info/psp

Please phone or email for more info, or to get involved with organizing efforts (popular education, mobilization, logistics, transportation, fundraising and more!):

E-MAIL: info@psp-spp.com
WEB: www.psp-spp.com (visit frequently for updates)
TEL: 514-848-7583

See also: http://blocktheempire.blogspot.com/

+++++++++++++++++++

::: TRANSPORTATION: Transportation is being organized from Montreal & Quebec City to Montebello for August 19&20. To offer transport, or to request transport, please contact TransportMontebello@gmail.com

+++++++++++++++++++

::: PLANNING CONSULTA – JULY 21, 2007: A Consulta – open to all delegates of groups who are interested in actively mobilizing against Bush, Harper, Calderon and the SPP -- will be held in MONTREAL on SATURDAY, JULY 21, from NOON-5pm.
(Room R-M 110, UQÀM
315 Ste-Catherine East (corner St-Denis)
métro Berri-UQÀM
MONTREAL)
[more information here]

Write info@psp-spp.com to know more about the consulta.

We strongly encourage all groups to attend this Consulta (ie. preparation meeting), one month before the SPP, so that we can together finalize our plans to protest and disrupt the Bush visit.

Please confirm your attendance (or request housing, for out-of-town delegates) by e-mail at: bloquezlempiremontreal@resist.ca

E-MAIL: info@psp-spp.com
WEB: www.psp-spp.com (visit frequently for updates)
TEL: 514-848-7583

HOMELESS ADVOCATES ARRESTED IN WASHINGTON STATE APARTMENT OCCUPATION


What has accounted for the tremendous rise in homelessness in recent years?

There are a gazillion and one answers to that question.

One of the causes most obviously has been the destruction of low income housing.

A good example of this can be found in the great northwest in Washington state where people from the SHARE/WHEEL community were arrested early Thursday morning after locking themselves in one of the Lora Lake Apartments in Burien, which are slated to be torn down.

The Lora Lake Apartments had been used by the housing authority as a halfway decent place where people with not a whole bunch of money could live. Housing authority vouchers were good there.

The Port of Seattle owns the property which it purchased back in 1988 and has had an agreement with the King County Housing Authority, which rented and operated the apartments until this summer.

This week the Port of Seattle rejected an offer by King County to purchase and preserve 162 of the apartments with rents that are affordable to lower- and moderate-income families.

Such housing units have been destroyed in the tens of thousands across the country in recent years leaving no place for low income people to call home.

But who cares?

Not the Port of Seattle which said in a letter Wednesday that it will move ahead with its plans to demolish the now-vacant Lora Lake Apartments, which they say they bought to make room for Sea-Tac Airport's third runway which someday soon might be under construction.

Homeless advocates point out that the building which contained an apartment they seized this week has more than 160 units and is outside the area where the runway would be built.

"I think it's outrageous," said Bill Block, director of the Committee to End Homelessness in King County. "The idea that because seven years ago they were going to take this down doesn't take into account the tremendous change in the housing market."

The Seattle Times reports the city of Burien wants to put a big-box store on the site, and the Port is hoping for a cargo warehouse.

To hell with people.

The following is from KIRO-TV (Washington).

Nine Arrested At Demolition Protest

BURIEN, Wash. -- Nine people were arrested at an apartment takeover by homeless advocates Thursday. Representatives of Share-Wheel said they were occupying the affordable housing complex to protest its planned demolition.

Sgt. John Urquhart said the nine protesters were booked into the King County jail for trespassing, a gross misdemeanor. King County Sheriff's deputies were called to the Lora Lake Apartments this morning by the property's management company.

Twelve people had taken over a second-floor apartment and were refusing to leave. After deputies announced that anyone who did not leave would be arrested, Urquhard says two people climbed over a balcony, jumped to the ground and walked away.

King County offered to purchase the complex and preserve the 162 apartments for affordable housing. But the offer was rejected by the Port of Seattle. The complex was listed for demolition to make way for the third runway at Sea-Tac, but homeless advocates say the building is outside of the runway's safety zone.

HOSPITAL WORKERS WALK OUT IN TRINIDAD AND TOBAGO


Workers at Trinidad and Tobago's Eric Williams Medical Sciences Complex (EWMSC), Mt Hope have staged another day of protest to demand increases in salaries and better working conditions.

More than 500 protesting workers and supporters kicked up a storm with boisterous chants of “no increments, no betterment.”

Checks at the various wards at the complex’s adult hospital, revealed that patients were receiving medical attention.

Attempts by local journalists to get a comment from management officials at the facility were futile as police guarded the entrances of the administrative building.

The following comes from the Trinidad and Tobago's Newsday.

Mt Hope shuts down

Operations of the Eric Williams Medical Sciences Complex, Mt Hope (EWMSC) were crippled yesterday when hundreds of workers walked of their jobs to protest delays in paying salary increases.

Nurses, patient-care assistants, radiology technicians, dental technicians, drivers, clerical staff and a host of other support staff began their protest at about 10 am, and vowed to continue to stay away unless the North Central Regional Health Authority (NCRHA) and Ministry of Health address their concerns.

Their actions affected patients warded at the women’s hospital, children’s hospital, adult hospital as well as persons seeking medical attention at clinics, pharmacies and the emergency departments. The NCRHA in a statement last evening said the workers action was illegal because they provide an essential service, and ordered that they return to work immediately. The complex is now forced to operate on emergey mode, said the NCRHA although it advised that services will continue.

Earlier Public Services Association representative Yvonne de Peiza said the workers will keep up their protest “for as long as it would take for (management) to get the message and their act together.”

One person who was leaving the Mt Hope facility yesterday after failing to get medical attention stated the public should have been notified about the protest.

But De Peiza said while it was unfortunate that patients had to leave, “we don’t have to notify the public about anything. It is about time the public and the minister understand that the workers are aggrieved for years and we take and we take but if we are aggrieved we can not serve the patients to the best of our ability.”

Apart from delays in salary payments, workers said they have also not received their overtime allowances. They also complained about the circumstances under which workers are fired without proper redress citing the dismissal of six workers as well as the nurse and nursing assistant who were fired over the burning of baby Justin Paul.

One fired nurse said, “Today is to support all members of staff in getting their increments owed and their new salaries.”

De Peiza said staff also experience delays in having their positions made permanent or in getting their promotions approved. She said other public servants got their money since May NCRHA workers had to go through the Public Service Negotiations Committee (PSNC) in the Ministry of Finance. Although approval was given two weeks ago they are still in the dark as to when they are going to get their new salaries, she said.

Health Minister John Rahael yesterday confirmed the PSNC has already approved the salary increases and assured the allocations would be made this month.

“The Ministry has to get an official document from the CPO (Chief Personnel Officer). We are hoping that by tomorrow we should get it. I want to give them the assurance that before the end of this week we will receive the actual letter, so that matter will be resolved, and by the end of this month their new salaries will be reflected in their packages including May and June salaries.”

As for the human resource complaints, Rahael said that the NCRHA board and CEO Charles Mitchell are responsible for these matters.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

SPY SQUIRRELS CAPTURED IN IRAN


AND THIS STORY JUST CROSSING OUR NEWS DESK HERE AT THE OD FROM OUR FRIENDS AT METRO.COM (UK).

Spy-squirrel menace strikes Iran

In further news of the horrifying threat that squirrels pose to humanity, Iran has claimed 14 squirrels found near the nation's borders were spies (see accompanying photo released by Iranian intelligence).

The state-sponsored news agency IRNA said: 'In recent weeks, intelligence operatives have arrested 14 squirrels within Iran's borders.'

'The squirrels were carrying spy gear of foreign agencies, and were stopped before they could act, thanks to the alertness of our intelligence services.'

A WIN FOR THE UNITED FARM WORKERS


The following is from the United Farm Workers.

Victory at Threemile Canyon Farms Dairy

Following four and a half years of struggle, a groundbreaking historic contract was just signed with the United Farm Workers and the Threemile Canyon Farms LLC, Boardman, Oregon.

We want to thank everyone for all the support they gave us in this campaign. This was a tremendous victory for farm workers at the Threemile Canyon Dairy. It is the first UFW contract in the state of Oregon and it is the first time farm workers in this state will be insured family medical benefits, a pension plan, regular wage increases and better working conditions.

Joint Statement from UFW and Three Mile Canyon Farms: THREEMILE CANYON FARMS AND UFW SIGN COLLECTIVE BARGAINING AGREEMENT

THREEMILE CANYON FARMS AND UFW SIGN COLLECTIVE BARGAINING AGREEMENT

(July 16, 2007, Boardman, OR) Threemile Canyon Farms and the United Farm Workers Union (UFW) announced today that they have entered into a collective bargaining agreement covering dairy and farm workers. The agreement, the first of its kind in Oregon, was ratified this week, bringing to an end all labor disputes between the UFW and Threemile Canyon Farms.

“This is an important milestone for Threemile Canyon Farms”, said Marty Myers, the General Manager at Threemile Canyon Farms. “It allows us to continue putting our values into practice in the form of a formal agreement that respects and protects workers. It also brings an end to all disputes and provides a way for all future issues to be solved peacefully. Lastly, it gives us the opportunity to focus on what we do best: producing healthy, high quality food products and bringing them to market in ways that earn the trust of our customers, neighbors and employees”, said Myers.

“Just as we remember our past,” said Arturo Rodriguez, UFW President, “we recognize that this agreement blazes a new agricultural path into the 21st century. The UFW is proud of our members and this new partnership, building respect for farmworkers. We look forward to working with Threemile Canyon Farms and joining in the promotion of their fine agricultural products. This agreement lays the groundwork for a new period in Oregon’s agricultural heritage providing stability for growers and fairness for farm workers. We honor our entire membership, native-born and immigrant, men and women in this is a new era of cooperation and mutual benefit for both the farm and them”.

The key provisions of the contract are listed below:

1. THREEMILE CANYON FARMS AND THE UNITED FARM WORKERS ENTERED INTO A COLLECTIVE BARGAINING AGREEMENT THAT SPECIFICALLY DEFINES EACH PARTIES RIGHTS AND OBLIGATIONS.

2. THE AGREEMENT BRINGS TO AN END ALL LABOR DISPUTES BETWEEN THREEMILE CANYON FARMS AND THE UNITED FARM WORKERS.

3. THE AGREEMENT ESTABLISHES AN ORDERLY AND EFFICIENT METHOD TO RESOLVE ALL LABOR DISPUTES.

4. THE AGREEMENT BRINGS TO AN END THE ABILITY OF EITHER PARTY TO TAKE ANY LABOR ISSUES TO THIRD PARTIES NOT ASSOCIATED WITH THREEMILE CANYON FARMS OR THE UNITED FARM WORKERS.

5. THE AGREEMENT WILL ALLOW WORKERS TO PARTICIPATE IN BOTH A MEDICAL PLAN AND PENSION PLAN SPONSORED BY THE UNITED FARM WORKERS.

6. THE AGREEMENT HAS NOW FORMALIZED THE PROCESS BY WHICH EMPLOYEES CAN ADVANCE WITHIN THE COMPANY.

7. THE AGREEMENT INCLUDES LANGUAGE THAT ENSURES THE EMPLOYEES WILL CONTINUE TO WORK IN A SAFE WORKING ENVIRONMENT.

8. THE AGREEMENT PROVIDES THE EMPLOYEES WITH THE ABILITY TO CONTINUE PARTICIPATING IN TRAINING AT THE COMPANY.

9. THE AGREEMENT CLEARLY APPRISES WORKERS OF THE CODE OF CONDUCT EXPECTED OF THEM WHILE EMPLOYED AT THREEMILE CANYON FARMS.

10. THE AGREEMENT ALLOWS THE COMPANY SUFFICIENT FLEXIBILITY TO ACCOMMODATE THE NEEDS OF ITS WORKFORCE.

11. THE AGREEMENT HAS PROVIDED THE COMPANY THE ABILITY TO MERGE THE DAIRY AND THE FARM, HISTORICALLY TWO SEPARATE AND DISTINCT BUSINESS OPERATIONS, INTO ONE INTEGRATED OPERATION.

[note: Threemile Canyon Farms began operations in 2000 and is located on 93,000 acres of Columbia River Basin land just west of Boardman, about 150 miles east of Portland.]

PRIEST, TORTURER, MURDERER FINALLY ON TRIAL IN ARGENTINA


Christian Federico von Wernich (seen here), who was born in 1938 and who is of German origin, became chaplain of the Buenos Aires Provincial Police in 1976. Despite having been implicated in the testimonies of numerous victims of human rights abuses, the Catholic priest, now 68, has enjoyed the protection of Argentine amnesty laws for decades.

Now, perhaps, his time has run out. Rulings by the Supreme Court of Argentina have finally led to a trial.

The prosecutor in the case has accused Von Wernich of “primary complicity” in torture and murders, having had direct contact with those detained in the Argentine dictatorship’s many detention centers. In the city of Buenos Aires and the surrounding province of Buenos Aires. Von Wernich is accused of participation in seven homicides, 31 cases of torture and 42 abductions at five different detention centers in the Buenos Aires area.

In addition, Von Wernich used his position as a priest to extract information from the prisoners - even violating the sanctity of the confession, one of the Catholic Church's most sacred sacraments - and promising them that their salvation lay in co-operating with the authorities.

The crimes Von Wernich is accused of were committed during the 1976-1983 military dictatorship in Argentina. An estimated 30,000 people were killed during the military junta’s reign of terror. As his trial began, hundreds of human rights activists stood outside the courtroom in the city of La Plata to decry Von Wernich as a murderer.

Already at his trial Von Wernich has been fingered for his part in the torture of late journalist and publisher Jacobo Timerman by the victim's diplomat son.

From 1971 to 1977, Timerman edited and published the left-leaning daily La Opinión. Under his leadership, the paper publicized news and criticisms of the human rights violations of the Argentine government during the darkest hours of the "Dirty War". On 15 April 1977, Timerman was arrested by the military. Thereafter, he was subjected to electric shock torture, beatings, and solitary confinement. These experiences were chronicled in his 1981 book Prisoner Without a Name, Cell Without a Number. Jacobo Timerman was eventually released from custody as a result of an international campaign. He was then ordered out of the country.

EFE reports, appearing Monday at the trial of the Catholic priest, Hector Timerman, currently the Argentine consul in New York, said that while Von Wernich did not approach his father to speak with him because "he knew that he would not convince him," the chaplain did "participate in the torture."

"Before my father was expelled from Argentina, he told me that many times when he was tortured with an electric cattle prod his blindfold slipped from his eyes because of the jolts of electricity and he saw (police chief) Ramon Camps, Dr. Jorge Berges and the priest, Von Wernich," Hector testified.

The diplomat said that Von Wernich sat near Camps to "observe the torture."

Jacobo Timerman (1923-1999) was held in clandestine detention centers known as Coti Martinez and Puesto Vasco - both of which were visited by the priest - and was tortured there for months.

"They tied my father to a bed, they poured water over his body and stuck the cattle prod in his mouth, on his genitals and sometimes in his anus, while they called him 'Jew' and taunted him for being circumcised. He was tortured, humiliated and violated, without any accusation at all being made against him during his entire captivity," the younger Timerman said.

The consul went on to say that his father recalled that 80 percent of the questions his captors put to him "were about whether he was a Jew and a Marxist."

"Von Wernich told Camps that all these people (Jews) had to be killed," he said.

The following is taken from the blog Renegade Eye.

Trial Against Accused Catholic Priest Torturer Begins in Argentina

A much awaited human rights abuse trial is underway in Argentina. The accused is a catholic priest charged with carrying out human rights abuses while working in several clandestine detention centers during the nation's 1976 to 1983 military dictatorship. The priest has been under arrest for 4 years ago while living under a false alias in Chile. This is the latest human rights trial of accused torturer since the landmark conviction of a former police officer for genocide in 2006.


Former Chaplin Christian Von Wernich wore a priest's collar and bullet proof vest as he sat behind reinforced glass in a federal court. The court clerk read charges accusing him of collaborating with state security agents and covering up crimes in seven deaths, 31 cases of torture and 42 cases of illegal imprisonment. He answered basic court questions but refused to testify in the case, “Following the advice of Dr. Jerollini who is my lawyer. I am not going to declare. And I am not going to accept questions.”

At least 120 witnesses are slated to testify against Von Wernich and the court has taken precautions to protect their safety, putting up police fences around the court house and installing metal detectors. In the front row of the court room's audience, representatives from the human rights organization Mothers of Plaza de Mayo sat with their white headscarves listening to the court's accusations.

According to Nora Cortinas, president of the Mothers of Plaza de Mayo – Linea Fundadora, the Catholic Church supported the crimes committed during the dictatorship.

“The heads of the Catholic Church participated in the dictatorship. Many priests were chaplains inside the barracks of the concentration camps. We want to point out that there is a sector from the church that didn't have anything to do with the dictatorship, on the contrary they supported us and reported the crimes committed at the time. But most of the representatives from the church participated in the celebration of death and torture.”

Journalist Horacio Verbisky recently published a book on the Catholic Church's involvement with the military dictatorship. Outside the courthouse, hundreds of human rights advocates rallied, demanding a severe sentence for the Catholic Priest. At one point, Von Wernich interrupted head judge Carlos Rozanski, saying he couldn't hear the accusations against him because protestors could be heard yelling 'Assassin' from outside the courtroom.

Christina Valdez's, whose husband was kidnapped and disappeared in La Plata in 1976, describes how she felt seeing Von Wernich on trial. “Looking at Von Wernich is looking at the face of a murderer. I suppose that all the relatives of the disappeared must feel a similar sensation: a certain impunity because one has to sit and swallow down everything that he or she feels in that moment. You can't yell at the murderer, you can't scream assassin.”

This is only the third human rights trial since Argentina's supreme court struck down amnesty laws in 2005 protecting military personnel who served during the 7-year dictatorship. Human rights organizations worry that judicial roadblocks and an atmosphere of fear may provide former members of the military dictatorship a window to escape conviction.

Nora Cortinas says that Argentines do not wish to live with a justice system of impunity. “What we want is for the trials to speed up a little bit and not be tried on a case by case basis. And that the government takes responsibility to help end the threats against witnesses, judges, and lawyers. So that we can really say that there's justice in this country.”

Von Wernich's trial is expected to go on for two months. Human rights groups are preparing events to demand the safe return Julio Lopez, a key witness who helped convict a former officer for life, but who disappeared nearly a year ago.

BHOPAL GAS VICTIMS SAY "NO WAY" TO GOVERNMENT PLAN


The controversial move by the Madhya Pradesh government to incinerate some waste from the the Union Carbide factory in Bhopal has met with stiff opposition in India (including direct action underway now - see article below). The government's plan is to take the waste to an incinerator in Gujarat.

Opponents of the plan say the incinerator at Ankleshwar is badly equipped and the move will merely shift the health hazards and in no way help dispose the toxic chemical waste. Moreover, the move will rid Dow Chemicals—responsible for the waste’s disposal—of the responsibility, say the groups.

Authorities say the incinerator can handle the waste.

Still groups representing the survivors of the Bhopal tragedy and activists in Gujarat still question the incinerator’s ability to control pollution. They say incineration of the toxic waste will pollute the area the way Union Carbide did, triggering another tragedy. That a national company has undertaken the disposal goes against the ‘polluter pays principle’, they say.

The web site Down to Earth has printed an alternative plan put forth by those opposed to that of the government:

The road map prepared by the ngos calls for a review of all scientific studies conducted at the Bhopal site since 1989. The threats the waste poses to workers, local residents and the environment have to be assessed first, it says. The liabilities of damages caused to workers, residents and environment have to be fixed. This includes judicial action against the consultants and agencies that had used unscientific procedures to measure the effects, and officials and ministers who neglected medical care for people affected by polluted soil and water.

According to the activists, strategies have to be identified to deal with the contaminated soil and the plant. The government can seek technical help from the United Nations Environment Programme for the disposal of the persistent organic pollutants. The waste and contaminated soil have to be kept in suitably labelled containers. Tanks with monitoring systems have to be built within the factory premises, say the activists.

The following is from the Indo-Asian News Service.

Bhopal gas victims protest toxic waste disposal plans

Hundreds of Bhopal gas tragedy victims Wednesday laid siege to the abandoned Union Carbide factory here, opposing the Madhya Pradesh government's plans to send the hazardous waste at the defunct pesticide plant for incineration to Gujarat and to Pithampur near Indore.

Survivors of the 1984 gas leak residing near the plant demanded that US multinational Dow Chemical, which owns Union Carbide, be made to take the toxic waste to the US for final disposal. They also wanted the company to pay for the environmental and health damages caused due to the chemical wastes that contaminate the soil and ground water.

The residents pointed out that rains were now bringing in contaminated water to their localities and that the state government had done nothing to stop the toxic flood.

The deadly gas leak from the Union Carbide pesticide factory in Bhopal on Dec 3, 1984, has killed over 20,000 people so far. An estimated 150,000 people continue to suffer from the toxic effects of the gas, including diminished vision, cancer, respiratory, neurological and gynaecological disorders.

Second generation victims are suffering from growth defects and women from severe menstrual disorders.

However, Dow, which took over Union Carbide in 2001, has rejected the contention that it has inherited Union Carbide's Bhopal liabilities - something the activists don't agree.

Survivors and activists of three groups - Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Stationery Karmachari Sangh, Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Purush Sangharsh Morcha and Bhopal Group for Information and Action (BGIA) - said that waste disposal as proposed by the state government would cause environmental pollution and health damage to residents of Ankleshwar in Gujarat and Pithampur now.

Apart from Dow being legally liable, with an annual sales of $49 billion in 175 countries, activists said the firm was well placed financially and technologically to deal with the hazardous waste problem.

They noted that the 386 tonnes of waste that the government wanted to dispose off through incineration was less than five percent of the toxic waste that requires safe disposal.

The leaders of the three protesting groups said they had documents from the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) that show the government was working on a secret deal with Dow Chemical that would allow the firm to walk away from its liabilities in Bhopal.

They pointed out that Dow Chemical was fined $325,000 by the US Securities and Exchange Commission in February for paying bribes of $200,000 to officials in India from 1996 to 2001.

'Dow Chemical paid thousands of dollars in bribe to get its pesticides approved for the Indian market,' said Rashida Bee, an activist. 'We wonder how much the company is paying the Indian government over the issue of legal liabilities.'

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

CHINA RESPONDS TO SLAVE LABOR SCANDAL


China has responded to accusations of slave labor with some tough action to match its tough talk. Lengthy jail sentences and one sentence of death were handed out to private owners and managers involved. Twenty-four others were found guilty and given prison sentences.

Heng Tinghan, foreman of a small kiln in Hongtong County's Caosheng Village, was convicted on charges of intentional injury and unlawful detention, Shanxi Higher People's Court Vice Director Liu Jimin said. He was given a life sentence.

Zhao Yanbing, a roughneck hired by Heng, was sentenced to death for beating a mentally handicapped worker to death.

Wang Bingbing, the owner of the kiln and the son of a local Party chief, was sentenced to nine years in prison on a charge of unlawful detention. His father, Wang Dongji, Party secretary of Caosheng Village, was fired immediately after the scandal made national headlines.

Heng's kiln enslaved 34 laborers, including nine who were mentally disabled, Liu said. The court heard testimony that 19 workers were injured and one died early this year.

One of Heng's subordinates testified that shifts for the laborers began at 5am and lasted until as late as 11 pm, Xinhua news agency reported earlier. It said Heng supervised the workers and that he ordered his subordinates to beat the "lazy" ones.

Yang Aizhi, whose 16-year-old son went missing on March 8, said she had visited more than 100 brickworks during her search and had learned that children were being forced to haul bricks for no pay and little food. "When the children were too tired to push carts, they were whipped," she said. Her son is still missing.

The Shanghai Daily writes:

The slave-labor scandal erupted last month after hundreds of parents complained that their children were being forced to work in brick kilns in Henan, Shanxi and Shaanxi provinces.

Kiln operators, often acting with protection from local governments, beat, starved and forced laborers to work long hours without pay.

More than 570 people, including 41 children, were rescued from illegal brick kilns in the two provinces, and nearly 160 people were arrested in police operations after the government ordered a nationwide investigation.

More than 35,000 policemen were deployed to check about 7,500 kilns.

Regretfully, China's actions against Party and government officials who were allegedly involved was not nearly so dramatic. Some were sacked from their Party or government posts. Others were given disciplinary warnings for lax supervision and dereliction of duty. The officials punished, reports CCTV, included 12 county level and six city level officials. In the center of the scandal -- Hongtong -- the head of the county government and deputy party secretary, Sun Yanlin was fired from his Party post. Party secretary Gao Hongyuan, and deputy head of the government, Wang Zhenjun were given a serious warning. The commission also advised dismissal of two township officials in Hongtong. Eight other officials are being investigated by the judicial department.

The punishment of the Party officials, "fully demonstrates the provincial Party committee, government, as well as disciplinary and supervision agencies' will to right wrongs and improve work", Yang Senlin, deputy secretary of Shanxi's disciplinary inspection committee, told a press conference in Taiyuan, capital of Shanxi. The move, he said, proves that the authorities are determined "to streamline cadres and protect social justice and the legal rights of the masses".

Shanxi Higher People's Court Vice Director Liu Jimin said said courts began hearings no more than 10 days after prosecutors filed charges. "The brick kiln case is an ugly social phenomenon and a cancer on socialist China," Liu said.

After nearly a month of investigation spanning two cities and eight counties, the provincial inspection and supervision departments found poor supervision, leadership malpractice and wrongdoing, and a few instances where Party cadres engaged in the management of illegal brick kilns, he said.

Y'a think?

No high ranking officials were held accountable, since "other than the direct responsibility of the (owners), the 'black brick kilns' incident cold happen mainly because of lax supervision and dereliction of duty of grass-roots Party and government officials", Liu claimed.

According to Xinhua in an earlier interview, Shanxi Governor Yu Youjun, who during last month's public self-criticism accepted responsibility for the scandal, described certain local officials as "numb" and "indifferent".

The television images of the dazed, filthy workers of the Caosheng village brickworks, some covered in burns and wounds inflicted by their guards, shocked China. Newspapers and websites were deluged with messages demanding that local officials be punished for failing to prevent the scandal, despite the fact that many of the victims had been reported missing by their families.

The following is from China Daily.

China sentenced a man to death and jailed another 28 people for up to life on Tuesday for their roles in a massive slavery and child labour scandal involving scorching brickworks in Shanxi Province.

The owners, managers and thugs at the prison-like kilns which the Chinese media said numbered in the hundreds in the northern province of Shanxi were convicted of charges including forced labour and illegal detention, an official said.

Zhao Yanbing received the death penalty from the Linfen Intermediate People's Court for accidentally killing a worker on a "black brick kiln" in Hongtong county, at the centre of the scandal.

The court also deprived off his political rights.

The slave labor scandal erupted last month after hundreds of parents complained their children were being forced to work in brick kilns in Henan, Shanxi and Shaanxi provinces.

Zhao, who was hired to supervise workers in the kiln, was found guilty of manslaughter by the court, according to a press conference by Vice President Liu Jimin of Shanxi Provincial Higher People's Court on Tuesday in Taiyuan, provincial capital.

Zhao had previously admitted to beating a mentally handicapped man to death for not working fast enough last November.

Foreman Heng Tinghan was given life imprisonment for intentionally injuring workers and for illegal detention. Following his arrest last month, Heng famously said about his role in the scandal, "I felt it was a fairly small thing."

The boss of the kiln, Wang Bingbing, the son of a local Communist Party village chief, was sentenced to nine years in prison for illegal detention.

Twenty-six other employees were given prison sentences. Six taskmasters, convicted of forcing workers to work in brick kilns owned by Wang in Caosheng Village, from March to late May this year, have been sentenced to jail terms ranging from 18 months to three years.

The workers had been forced to work overtime without payment. During the period, 18 workers were injured, one seriously, in unspeakable working conditions.

A total of 29 brick kiln bosses, foremen, supervisors or taskmasters, tried by courts in different cities and counties of Shanxi in seven separate cases, have been given different jail terms so far, the court statement concluded.

Sentences of a further 12 people involved in five cases are expected to be made public in a couple of days, the court spokesman said.

95 Officials Punished

China has punished dozens of officials for allowing slave-like exploitation of workers and children in brick kilns, but announced criminal investigations against only six.

Reports that hundreds of farmers, teenagers and some children had been forced or lured to work in kilns and mines in the northern province of Shanxi sparked nationwide outrage last month.

They endured prison-like confinement and brutal beatings, local media reported. TV news showed released workers with emaciated bodies and festering wounds, and China's leaders promised to punish those involved.

Shanxi authorities on Monday announced the results of their investigation. The focus was on low-ranking officials who received administrative punishments, and investigators said they had not found evidence of corruption or collusion.

Almost all of the 95 punished were from eight counties in the Shanxi cities of Linfen and Yuncheng. They were sacked, demoted, expelled from the Communist Party or merely received warnings, Xinhua news agency said.

The deputy party chief who also served as government head of Hongtong county, at the centre of the scandal, would be fired, said Yang Senlin, a top discipline official with the Communist Party's Shanxi province office.

Six Hongtong officials were being probed by judicial departments and faced possible criminal charges, Yang said.

"Other than the direct responsibility of the (owners), the 'black brick kilns' incident happened mainly because of lax supervision and dereliction of duty of grassroots party and government officials," Yang said.

Investigators had found no evidence of official corruption that many Chinese media reports alleged, Yang said.

"After about one month of serious investigation, we haven't found problems of this kind," he told a news conference in provincial capital Taiyuan.

Yang said the punishments were unusually harsh. But there was no high-ranking officials among those punished.

According to the Chinese laws and regulations, the county and township party organizations and governments are directly responsible for the management and administration of rural brick kilns and rural labor. So the county and township officials were directly accountable to such happenings, Yang said.

However, Yang added, the city Party committees and governments in the areas should also shoulder some responsibility, and the Linfen and Yuncheng Party committees and governments have been reprimanded by the provincial Party committee and government, and requested to make profound self-crtiticism.

Police have detained more than 130 people, mostly owners of the brickworks, which Chinese media said numbered in the hundreds, and thugs working for them, and more than 500 workers had been released, state media have said.

Dozens went on trial earlier this month, but no rulings have been announced.

Yang said several officials had been punished in connection with six child labourers freed from five brick kilns. Chinese media have said the number of children confined to the scorching kilns could have been as many as 1,000.

HAVEN'T THE FEDS ANYTHING BETTER TO DO


Healing Nations is a medical marijuana dispensaries or cooperatives within the City of Corona. Earlier this afternoon it was raided by federal agents. News at this time is sketchy.

Last August during a hearing of the City Council/Corona Redevelopment Agency/Corona Public Financing Authority/Corona Public Improvement Corporation/Corona Utility
Authority the following testimony concerning the dispensary was heard from local residents and was recorded in the minutes:


DOROTHY CARLSON spoke in support of the Healing Nations Collective indicating that medical marijuana was used commonly dating back to Queen Victoria. She stated she relies on medical marijuana to control her health problems. It offers her pain control that she cannot find with the strongest medications. She asked the Council to keep the collective open.

GEORGE BIANCHI indicated he was a pharmacist. He discussed the availability of marijuana pills that are very expensive and not effective for people who have problems that are not relieved by medical pharmacy prescriptions. He spoke in support of the Healing Nations Collective and urged Council to keep the dispensary open.

SUMMER GLENNEY Co-coordinator of Inland Empire Patient Advocates spoke in support of
including patients and advocates in the decision making process and allow a task force to help write the regulations. She stated the Healing Nations Collective is run in a professional manner. She asked the Council to allow them to remain open during the moratorium.

DANIEL BRISON, JR. encouraged Council to allow the Healing Nations Collective to remain open during the moratorium as an example. He stated the Healing Nations Collective is “not a corner liquor store where booze and cigarettes accompany candy and cookies.” He encouraged the Council to move forward and use “common sense and compassion.”

CODY DONNELLY voiced her concern that she has become reliant on the Healing Nations
Collective for her medicine. She stated she did not want “another man-made substance going into her and killing her liver when she doesn’t even drink.” She pleaded with Council to “leave her alone and allow her to obtain her meds.”

JOHN BECKMAN stated he relies on medical marijuana for the pain he suffers from a previous hand injury. He stated medical marijuana dispensaries are allowed by law. He encouraged the Council to keep the Healing Nations Collective open during the moratorium as it is a great help to a lot of people.

RYAN SPINUZZI urged Council to extend the moratorium as he suffers from various chronic conditions and is reliant on medical marijuana to ease his pain. He pointed out that medical marijuana patients are “not potheads.” He encouraged Council to set up a task force to study this issue.

GEORGE AGATOP presented his view that this is an election year and the Council may be afraid to make an unpopular decision. He encouraged Council to hire a pollster to determine what Corona residents really feel about medical marijuana. He stated Martin Luther King, Jr. had to fight against Federal and State law. He was “not popular but he had the guts to fight on and history is judging him favorably.” Mr. Agatop stated if the Council vote against the medical marijuana collectives, ten or twenty years from now history may judge them unfavorably.

KEN ANDERSEN stated the previous speakers have made a lot of good points. He stated a
medical marijuana collective will not bring the City down. It will be good for the City and will bring tax revenues. He encouraged Council to form a task force with citizens and patient advocates to further study this issue.

Marijuana's use remains illegal under federal law.

Last December the Superior Court of Riverside County issued an injunction closing Healing Nations Collective (HNC), and then immediately prevented its enforcement and allowed the Collective to remain open pending appeal.

The following is from the Press Enterprise (California)

Raid on Corona dispensary

About 25 people held signs and screamed in protest outside a Corona marijuana dispensary raided by federal agents and Corona police this morning.

The mostly young protesters gathered outside the Healing Nations facility on West Grand Avenue. They watched as agents form the Drug Enforcement Agency loaded boxes into a van and left around 9:30 a.m.

Marie Vasquera, a 21-year-old Riverside resident who works at the dispensary, said agents served owner Ronald Naulls a federal warrant around 6:30 a.m. Another employee, 35-year-old Shaun Bonner, said Naulls was being questioned at his Corona home.

DEA spokeswoman Sarah Pullen said she could not comment on the raid because the operation was still ongoing. She said federal agents were raiding several dispensaries in Southern California this morning.

A press conference is planned for 2 p.m. today in Los Angeles concerning the raids.

GREEK ANARCHIST GETS TWENTY FIVE YEARS


The Greek paper Kathimerini is reporting a group of about 20 people threw petrol bombs and rocks at a building that belongs to the Economy and Finance Ministry, near Syntagma Square in central Athens, late on Sunday. Nobody was injured in the attack but the building, which houses the General Secretariat for Investment and Development, suffered extensive damage. No arrests were made but police are linking the incident to a recent spate of arson attacks by self-styled anarchists carried out in support of alleged bank robber Yiannis Dimitrakis (seen here) who was convicted yesterday.

During his trial Yiannis Dimitrakis testified that the raid on a bank in central Athens in which he took part last year was a “social robbery” and a strike against “the extortionate banking system.” He insisted that he shot only once, into the air, during the robbery. Three people were injured as the police and the so-called “Robbers in Black” exchanged shots in crowded streets in the city center. Dimitrakis, was seriously injured when shot by the cops 3 times.

The 29-year-old said that the raid on the branch of National Bank on Solonos Street last January was the first in which he had taken part. He claimed he participated so he could raise money for the anarchist movement and so he would not have to work again.

In a lengthy (but worth reading) letter from prison on June 5, Dimitrakis wrote:


Comrades,

This letter is my first attempt to communicate and comment on the events that took place and I experienced due to my participation in the bank robbery of the National Bank of Greece that took place in the centre of Athens on January 16th. Before I go on to enlarge upon the actual events, I'd like to say a few things in regards to my motives that lay behind my choice in taking such action and what it means to me.

For me, present-day society is a wagon following a pre-defined course that leads straight towards its complete dehumanization. The role of its passengers, its wheels and its horses- in other words of its driving force- is played out by ourselves, the people. The wagon's driver has the cruel face of capitalism and its co-driver is a faceless and vague state. The path the wagon follows is of course not strewn with rose petals and flowers but with blood and human bodies. With individuals or groups of people that wanted to either resist and change its frantic course or to stand as an obstacle in front of it. The list of those is long: insubordinates, rebels, leftists, anti-authoritarians and anarchists fill many bloody pages in this journey's storybook. Somewhere in between the last two groups is where I place myself.

So, to the degree of consciousness that my world-view and perception offers me, what I can easily discern is that present-day society relies only on violence, oppression and exploitation. A society which aims at the loss of human dignity in every way, by all means. This is something that is experienced and received by each and every one of us in their everyday life, either by being forced to deal with state institutions either at our work-place and from those who manage and profit from our work. Employment, work: words whose true meaning is wage slavery, enslavement. Work and its surplus-value are the pillars of today's economic system while the individuals that carry it through and the circumstances under which this takes place confirms that people are treated as expendable goods, as modern slaves. We see workers that are rotting away from illnesses that are due to their long-term exposure to hazardous substances, that die either by fall or by explosion in the capitalist temples they are building, losing their urge, their liveliness, their spontaneity all that characterizes a would-be free person. Working exhausting hours and employed in two or three jobs simultaneously just for a few crumbs. When to cover their most basic needs a person is obliged to mortgage to those cold-hearted oppressors that are otherwise known as banks and under the burden of this financial responsibility start showing signs of subservience and submission whereas in the case that they cannot in the end cope and are led to bankruptcy and in the end commit suicide or are publicly ridiculed by the mass media as one more human wreckage, leads us to one conclusion.

The state and capital in order to continue existing manufacture modern-day helots who can easily be compared to the Spartan ones. A system which at the alter of profit sacrifices human lives inconsiderably and with audacity. As I've already mentioned one of the main partners in this crime are banks which are nothing less than legitimate loan-sharks and are partly to blame for the plundering that's taking place at the expense of peoples' work.

Taking all the above into consideration we can understand Maki in Brecht's ... When he asks 'what is a bank robbery compared to the establishment of a bank?' But also taking me into consideration who wanting to resist on a personal level- as on a mass level all that know me personally know that I have participated as much as I could- to my future yoke, to determine myself the conditions and quality of my life, to put in to practice my refusal to 'work' and also to play the role of yet another productive unit, of yet another wheel in the wagon, wanting to attack the monstrosity that is called a bank (however at the same time having no illusions that I'll inflict any major blows to this economic institution), choosing to mark a course of dignity in my life I decided to rob a bank. An act which I consider, amongst many others, as revolutionary and which claims deservingly its own place as such.

In all honesty I must admit that the money I was going to acquire through the robbery was going to have me as the end-recipient. At the same time, however, as an anarchist and as a person who wishes to show their solidarity through deeds I'd be one of the first to actively and with joy help in contributing to monetary needs, which might come up in this scene which I belong. Finally, what I'd like to point out here is that all which I have mentioned up to now does not in any way mean that I support a notion that whoever is an anarchist should be a bank robber or that whoever works is enslaved.

Going on now to recount the chain of events that took place, I take as a starting point the scene where I'm lying on the ground seriously injured by the cops' fire and I have to let myself be taken into the states' 'warm' embrace. The welcoming is to, say the least, impressive as an image, as most people saw, but also exemplary towards anyone who is considering acting in a similar way: A pack of hunters in blue uniforms and me in the role of the injured game being surrounded and receiving 'friendly' kicks- which later I found out where part of the framework to disarm me- and comments like 'we fucked you' or 'you're not such a big shot now, you fucker?!' amongst other brave words. Finally, being handcuffed from behind despite the fact that I couldn't move or breathe having received bullets in my lungs, liver and elbow completes the picture. I refer to these events without the slightest trace of bitterness, complaining or disappointment, as I didn't expect any better treatment from my enemies in the case that I did fall into their hands. In any case, a similar attitude has been displayed to less 'dangerous' villains and as a mere example I' d like to remind you of images such as the arrest of protesters and immigrants or the pogroms at gypsy camps just to name a few. I do refer to these events, however, as, in a tragic and insane way, these are the people who at my trial will come forward as the ones who defend and honor human life and dignity, while I'll have the role of the immoral, hardened, violent and heartless criminal.

For the time that I was kept at Athens General Hospital I literally experienced the violation of every human right as an arrestee and later as a prisoner. There were early signs regarding how I was going to be treated when at my parents first visit to see me at the ICU (Intensive Care Unit). While there are very strict rules about the number of visitors- even in the case of relatives- an armed to the teeth police officer barges in and places himself in a corner which as a consequence destroyed any concept of at least sharing a private moment with my family, as from the drug-treatment I was receiving I couldn't even open my mouth, much less hold a conversation. Following this incident and at an unsuspected time, while in a hazy condition from the heavy drug treatment I was undertaking due to the pains I had from my wounds and swimming in a sea of tubes that were coming out of my body, I realized that a guard was now permanently positioned inside the room and right next to me. This situation really irritated me and didn't allow me to rest and I made it known to him. Strangely enough he then left the room and instead stood right in front of it. Of course when the doctors and the head of the ICU came to examine me I reported this incident and truly astounded and irritated by the event they got rid of the cop, wondering who had let him in.

Here, a big thank you needs to be given from my behalf to all those people, from the doctors to the nurses, who paid me attention and who irrelevant of their own political beliefs took care of me as best as they could. Some of these people also resisted as much as they could to the different pressures put on them by the prosecuting authorities, either in regards to my guarding or my transport and exit from the ICU.

On the third or fourth day of my hospital treatment I was informed that prosecutor Diotis was coming to see me later that afternoon. I must confess that to start with I wasn't sure whether in my condition I would be up to facing him. The head of the ICU, however, assured me that he would be by my side for the duration of the interrogation and made it known to me that due to my condition I had a right to stop the process at whatever moment, something that I was unaware of. So when Diotis arrived escorted by a security police chief and another person whose official role I can't remember, but was probably the interrogator, and as soon as each of them had spoken to me to me for a couple of minutes I signaled to my doctor that I wanted them to leave. On his way out Diotis told me that in any case they were going to find who else was with me and that to talk now would just make it easier for me. Of course his words fell on deaf ears. The second time he came I was given a chance to understand who Diotis really is when in a lively exchange of words with the head of the ICU a very strange phrase slipped his mouth. Having finished his monologue and having delivered me the arrest warrant and the list of accusations I was facing he asks me to sign. My doctor immediately intervenes and explains to him that I am incapable of doing such a thing at the moment and asks him to leave as my strength was deserting me. Then Diotis, to both our surprise, answers: ' Of course I respect the boy's condition and I don't intend to give him a hard time, because if I did I could just pull on his tubes a little and put his pressure up to 50'. I realized at that moment what would have happened in that room if the doctors weren't people with willpower and values but simply pawns. I would have, no doubt, discovered the 'famous' interrogation methods that prosecutor Diotis has used in the past.

After this incident the conditions of my detention really worsened. Two armed guards were permanently placed inside the ICU and pressures were put on the head of the department for me to be admitted out earlier, which was achieved. I was then transferred to an especially laid out room in the Eye Clinic with the excuse that they would be able to guard me more efficiently. In this new space in which I was placed I was sleeping with two undercover cops by my side. Another two cops were permanently stationed in front of the open door of the room while one character kept trooping in and out every half hour to check up on things, another 5-6 cops were in the waiting room and an unknown number of individuals in the corridor outside.

The result of all this was for me not to able to sleep for 3-4 days and to feel like a monkey in the zoo as every jumped-up cop came in looking at me up and down and discussing me on his mobile phone or with his collegues. I was at the end of my tether and so made a complaint to the head of security about it all who replied that I was a prisoner now and that they'll be the ones to judge how I should be guarded and that they're protecting me from myself meaning, if you can believe, that they were watching over me so I didn't commit suicide. Other amazing scenes that took place included me, still bed-ridden, relieving myself in front of them while they watched undisturbed, or me being handcuffed to the bed inside the ICU, again with the excuse of preventing me from committing suicide and other such incidents. Like the attempt to kidnap me from the Eye Clinic and to transport me to the hospital at Korydallos prisons while I still had stitches in from the surgical incisions, falsely claiming that the doctors had given their permission and which in the end was, for the time being, avoided due to my parents notifying the doctors.

I believe the sole purpose of all this was to humiliate me, to make me lose all sense of self-respect and to generally make me realize the fact that I was a captive in their hands and I no longer had any rights. These situations drove me to think of the hospital and prisons at Korydallos as a haven of mental tranquility.

In the mean time, while I was waiting to be transferred to Korydallos prisons, we all saw an orchestrated attempt by the prosecuting authorities to manufacture culprits with their only indication being that they belonged to my friendly environment or to the anarchist scene. I am now sure that the taking in of people to be interrogated, the making public of names and the issuing of arrest warrants were triggered by the police finding some of my personal photos, calls to and from my mobile or whatever document proved I had a friendly relationship with these individuals. I want to express my solidarity to all of them.

According to the police and journalist scenarios we form an, unknown at least to me, 'gang in black' which consists of 10-15 individuals, anti-authoritarians and anarchists (which leaves open an option of the authorities involving other individuals) and this gang has committed another 6 bank robberies, goes on holidays in expensive resorts, has close ties to Passaris and so on. As far as the money that had been gathered by various comrades to cover needs of the anarchist scene and which I kept in a bank deposit box, it was labeled as the product of robberies.

As an outcome of all the above, I ended up defending myself in front of the interrogator for 7 bank robberies, for attempted homicide and for money laundering plus being put under the anti-terrorist law.

That the state and its underdogs have as a standard tactic for years now to tarnish peoples' reputation, to inflate briefs, to manufacture culprits, to organize trials that are judicial parodies and generally in all kinds of ways to demonstrate their hate and vengefulness towards whoever resists is well known. One question however forms when taking into serious consideration all the above. What kind of treatment and what kind of methods will the state use in the case of the arrest or voluntary coming forward of the three comrades in order to get a confession out of them and to send them to trial but also how will a 'fair trial' be secured for whoever goes through with this procedure?

Finally I have one thing to say to all those who are planning our physical, ethical and political annihilation, once and for all: no matter what dirty and unethical means they use, no matter how much they hunt us down and imprison us they will never crush us and tame us. Because those who are just are those who revolt not those who snitch and bow their heads down.

I also want to say a big thank you to all those who have chosen, chose or will chose to give me their support and solidarity, by whatever means, even though the nature of my case is, I believe, very difficult.

The following report is from AFP.

'Anarchist' bank robber gets jail time

A self-proclaimed anarchist bank robber arrested after a shoot-out in Athens city centre in 2006 was jailed for 25 years on Tuesday.

To jeers from dozens of young anarchists and amid a heavy police presence, an Athens criminal court found 28-year-old Iannis Dimitrakis guilty of armed robbery, attempted homicide and membership of a criminal organisation.

But he was cleared of six bank robberies carried out by a gang known as the "robbers in black", which police suspected he had taken part in.

Dimitrakis was part of a gang of four who had just robbed a shopping centre in central Athens when police intervened.

He was wounded in a shoot-out with police and captured, while his accomplices got away.

During the trial, he admitted his involvement in the robbery but cited his anarchist convictions by way of justification.

In recent months, groups of young people have staged a series of demonstrations in solidarity with Dimitrakis in both Athens and Salonica. There have also been molotov cocktail attacks on public buildings.

Inmates at the top security Malandrino prison also mutinied last April in protest at what they said was a beating handed out to Dimitrakis by prison guards.

WHEN NAZIS ATTACK


Former inmates of the Buchenwald concentration camp in the east of Germany warned Sunday against downplaying the dangers of fascism at about the same time that nazis went on a shooting spree in Mecklenburg.

"In 1945, we never dreamed that today in Germany there would again be right-wing forces that would be allowed to demonstrate in our cities," former inmate Ottomar Rothmann said.

The next day Horst Moeller, director of the Institute of Contemporary History in Munich, said Adolf Hitler's anti-Semitic book Mein Kampf should be reprinted and go back on sale in German bookshops. He softened his statement by saying it should come with footnotes explaining page by page how Hitler was wrong. Copyright issues have kept it off the shelves since World War II, but in 2015 it will enter the public domain. Then, anyone will be allowed to print it -- including neo-Nazis.

About a month ago a group of actors were beaten up by neo-Nazis in the eastern German city of Halberstadt. They have accused the police of being slow to respond.

The theater group of 14 actors were on their way to a pub after a debut performance on Friday when they were attacked and beaten up by eight far-right youths. Several of the victims had teeth knocked out and required medical treatment for broken noses, injured ribs and jaws and eye injuries.

Police failed to arrest the 22-year-old main assailant even though he returned to the scene while the victims were being questioned, a regional government official said. "The man was checked by police but released before they found out about his prior convictions," Rüdiger Erben, interior ministry secretary for the state of Saxony-Anhalt, told Mitteldeutsche Zeitung newspaper.

Perhaps, just as shocking as the attack itself is the fact that a number of people witnessed the attack and did nothing to help.

The theater group had just finished a performance of the "Rocky Horror Picture Show" and one of the actors had a punk hairstyle in keeping with his role. That appears to have been enough to provoke the neo-Nazis they came across, newspaper reports said.

The premier of Saxony-Anhalt, Wolfgang Böhmer, said he was appalled by the case.

"It's a sad fact that far-right extremists are becoming increasingly brutal. If people are attacked and injured just because of their appearance it's an appalling crime," Böhmer said.


I find it interesting that search though I might, I located no further information or news on the attack highlighted in the Spiegel article below outside of one local German paper which also seemed to be the source for much of the Spiegel article.


Hello?

The following is from Spiegel (Germany).

Neo-Nazi Shooting Spree

A gang of right-wing extremists invaded a beach in Eastern Germany on Sunday, shouting racist abuse at day-trippers, making the banned Hitler salute and shooting a submachine gun into the air.

Neo-Nazis have become a lasting problem in some parts of Eastern Germany.
It was a perfect afternoon to go to the lake. Finally, after weeks of cold and rain, Germany on the weekend was bathed in warm sunlight. A Sunday at the water was just the thing.

But day-trippers relaxing by the Krakower See in the Eastern German state of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania got a bit more than they bargained for on Sunday. A horde of right-wing extremists arrived on the scene shouting racist slogans, making the banned Hitler salute -- and shooting a submachine gun into the air. Beach bathers were terrified by the seeming invasion.

According to the police, six men and one woman drove to the lake in a pick-up truck where they yelled racists slogans and verbally abused the families bathing there, most of whom were ethnic Germans who had moved to Germany from Eastern Europe following the collapse of communism. Such immigrants, many of whom speak only poor German despite their background, are often targeted by right-wing radicals.

The extremists some of whom were drunk, then shot a submachine gun into the air at least 17 times, according to the police. The ordeal only came to an end when a few of the men at the beach succeeded in overpowering the neo-Nazis and holding them down until the police arrived.

The seven suspects, who range in age from 21 to 29, were charged with breaking firearms law and making the banned Hitler salute.

The state of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania is something of a stronghold for the extreme right. Germany's far-right National Democratic Party (NPD) won 7.3 percent in elections there in September 2006, crossing the 5 percent threshold and securing six seats in the state legislature. And there has been a number of incidents of neo-Nazis insulting or attacking holiday-makers in the state in recent years.

Monday, July 16, 2007

ISRAEL'S BEDOUIN WON'T PUT UP WITH "IT" FOREVER


Approximately 130,000 Bedouin live in the Negev. They are the indigenous inhabitants of the Negev. Before 1948, Bedouin were for generations the only residents of the Negev, a land mass that makes up some 60 percent of present-day Israel, but comprises less than 10 percent of the total population.

Although the Bedouin have never represented a threat to the state of Israel,they have been treated none to kindly, to say the least, ever since its creation anyway.

As aptly put by the progressive Jewish weblog "Jew School",

"...the Bedouin have from the beginning, been shuffled about, forcibly resettled - multiple times- have failed (despite court orders) to receive water and power in their new placements, have a substandard educational system, and so on. The policy of settling nomads is one that was favored by colonialist powers of previous eras - the world has since then come to see its results in all the places where it has occurred. Must we continue such policies in the modern state of Israel? Must we continue to take away the little in property and dignity that the Bedouin have left? Must we harm those who have done us NO harm whatsoever? Who, in fact, serve in the army? Are we so short of enemies that we need create more?"


Today, residents of the Bedouin village of Umm el-Khiram, together with thousands of others whose homes have been bulldozed into rubble over the past six months, have launched a tent camp protest in Jerusalem's Wohl Rose Garden, opposite the Knesset.

Dvorah Brous, a founder of Bustan, a non-government organization devoted to the humane and ecologically-sound development of the Negev, including coexistence between Jews and Bedouin based on principles of fairness and mutual consideration, told The Jerusalem Post that the Bedouin protest, organized by the Regional Council of Unrecognized Villages in the Negev, would be a protest of the "internal refugees." Brous added that the protest would not only look backwards towards those whose homes have already been destroyed, but to a future where many more stand to lose them, including 70 families who have been told they must leave their homes to make way for the infrastructure of the civilian section of an airport near Arad.

The Regional Council points out the indigenous Bedouin Arabs are a unique community of the Palestinian people that has lived in the Negev for centuries. In 1948, they formed 98% of the population of the Naqab. However, after the establishment of Israel, only a small fraction of the population was left in the Naqab, Israeli forces having expelled the rest to Jordan and Egypt. The Israeli authorities have refused to recognize the Bedouins' traditional tenure rights. Dispossessed of the lands they have owned for centuries, today the 160,000 Bedouins are the most disadvantaged citizens in Israel. Almost half of the Bedouin community of indigenous citizens live in seven failing government-planned townships or “concentrations” (rekuzim), as Israeli planners calls them. The remainder lives in at least 45 villages that the State of Israel still refuses to recognize. These villages do not appear on any official maps of Israel and, without recognition, are denied basic services such as running water, electricity, garbage collection, etc.

Berkeley Rabbi David Seidenberg writes:

The government policy for all of these decades has been leading to this one struggle to uproot these people. The government towns established to resettle the Bedouin are full of unemployment and crime, designed with no other purpose than to concentrate the Bedouin so they take up as little land as possible, cutting them off from any possibility of living a traditional life. The government has refused to give these citizens the services, rights or protections given to others so that it can eventually take away their land. Im tirtsu: Don’t let this nightmare of a “dream” become a reality!

The Regional Council for the Unrecognized Villages in its call for the demonstration wrote:

According to Olmert’s government, Israel’s policies toward the
Bedouin is changing: a new evacuation-compensation plan will be
established, in which the Bedouins will be offered extended
compensation for evacuation from most of their ancestral villages. In
order to “soften” the Bedouins, the government has decided to
implement mass demolitions. They believe the Bedouins will accept the
offered compensation and will be willing to leave their ancestral
villages. We are witnessing the beginning of this policy: Israel has
demolished 110 Bedouin homes since the beginning of 2007. More than
600 children have been made homeless by the Israeli government, while
their parents have no “legal” alternatives for creating them a home.

Was it not enough harm to leave these villages in the state of
Non-Recognition for the 60 years since the establishment of The
State? Must the government choose to continue with its destructive
policies towards the Bedouin community and by violent means take away
the little they have left?

We call upon the Israeli government to treat their Bedouin citizens
with fairness and dialogue, not with violence. The tactics of the
government to pressure the Bedouin out of their homes will bring
about only frustration and misery.

The government of Israel claims that there are not enough lands to
allow the continuation of the villages, therefore they must implement
this policy of concentration. If so, how is there sufficient space
for 60 new single-family ranches in the Negev, each consisting of
hundreds of acres, but there is not sufficient space to leave 80,000
(Arab) citizens in their historical villages? The unrecognized
villages consist of 14% of the Negev population, and live on less
than 1.8% of the Negev land — they are not the “squatters” as the
government portrays them.

Families who have ben left homeless by the government demolitions
will live in a refugee camp by the Knesset, starting tomorrow,
Monday, July 16th. We will begin the camp with a demonstration by the
Knesset.

Come join us in our demonstration! Do not allow the continuation of
the destructive policies towards the Bedouin community in the Negev!

For more information: Yeela Raanan, the RCUV.

yallylivnat@gmail.com +972 54 7487005

The Regional Council for the Unrecognized Villages in the Negev
tel: 972-8-6283043
fax: 972-8-6283315


Seven years ago Raed Abu Elkian, 27, finished serving in the Israeli army as a Bedouin tracker. Late last week he led a group of 35 Israelis and visitors from abroad to the edge of a road skirting the southern part of the unrecognized Bedouin village of Umm el-Khiram, where, on June 25, police demolished nine permanent homes and 20 other buildings.

"When [the government] comes with such a large [police force]," he told the group, " it shows me it is weak. It does not believe in anything. But I have faith. I will rebuild my home. I am stronger than the government."

Elkian warned that the Bedouin could not be ignored forever. "The Arab Bedouin minority is the strongest people in the world because no one else suffers like it," he said. "But I believe that someday the situation will explode, worse than it did during the [Palestinian] intifada. Everything has a limit."

The following is from Haaretz (Israel).


More than 800 protest Bedouin house demolitions in front of Knesset
By Mijal Grinberg, Haaretz Correspondent

More than 800 people protested in front of the Knesset on Monday against the government practice of demolishing Bedouin homes in the Negev.

The protestors came in 17 buses from southern Israel, and called on the government to "stop destroying homes."

After the demonstration, in the afternoon, the Bedouin began constructing what they called a "refugee camp" in the Wohl Rose Garden across from the Knesset, which is to house both the Bedouin who have had their homes destroyed and those whose homes are slated for demolition.

The encampment will be made up of three tents ? one for women, one for men and one for families. Some 30 people are expected to spend Monday night in the camp.

The Arab MKs and Dov Hanin (Hadash) visited the site. The organizers are demanding the government halt the demolitions and launch a dialogue with the Bedouin population in order to reach a joint land agreement on the unrecognized village.

The Bedouin claim ownership to some 800,000 dunams of land, or 6 percent of the territory of the Negev desert in southern Israel. To this day, Israel refuses to recognize the claims, and an estimated 75,000 Bedouin live in villages unrecognized by the government, which do not enjoy public funding or services.

Eleven unrecognized villages have received state recognition in the past several years, but 36 more have no legal status, and the homes in these villages are subject to demolition. In 2007, the government had 110 homes destroyed.

One community slated for demolition is A-Sira, which has organized to submit petitions against the move to the High Court of Justice. The government claims that A-Sira, near the Nevatim junction in the Negev, sits on land acquired in the 1980s through Israel's peace deal in Egypt, which saw an exchange of territories between the two countries.

However, the Bedouin of the village never received compensation for this land, and demolition orders for some of their homes were issued in 2006. Orders for the rest were issued this month.

The Israel Lands Administration says that the residents were offered plots in the permanent Bedouin settlement of Hura, but the this claim was met with surprise by the residents themselves. According to the Interior Ministry, the residents were asked to evacuate the premises two decades ago, after the land was expropriated in 1982 to hold future army bases. The families, however, say the order came just last year.