Friday, January 04, 2008


Residents of Del Rio and Val Verde County in Texas have had it with the non-profit, yet truly corporate management of their local hospital.

For years they were happy with services they were being provided and then along came Community Hospital Corporation (CHC) and everything went to, pardon my use of the word, shit. Patient services declined, employee morale went in the tank, a board which was set up to give locals control seemed ineffective or unconcerned, and the hospital CEO was given near dictatorial powers.

Over the concerns of CHC the Community Hospital Board did hire Dr. Susan Korbel to conduct a research project last fall about the performance of the hospital. In her executive summary report, Korbel described an atmosphere of mistrust between staff members and hospital administrators, and between citizens and the hospital in general.

The report includes court-recording-style transcripts of all comments at two public forums held at Ramada Del Rio Ballroom, Nov. 1 (angry resident pictured here at one such forum). Korbel sub-contracted with Ximenes Associates, San Antonio, a public relations firm with experience in public involvement on controversial projects, to organize and analyze results from the forums.

What came back was an avalanche of angry comments from actual and potential patrons of the hospital. Overwhelmingly the residents of the area found everything about the hospital to have deteriorated badly since CHC showed up.

By the way it wasn't only patrons who were upset. The same report found staff deeply discontented with CHC. As described in a Del Rio Live article in December:

“Testimony revealed, whether true or perceived, the Community Hospital Corporation (CHC) as the hospital administrator, their corporate board [Val Verde Hospital Corporation], and the voter-elected hospital district board have allowed internal issues to seriously hamper their ability to manage the hospital in a manner that promotes collaboration in the work place and trust in the community,” Ximenes stated.

“Time and again, members of the community spoke about CHC’s disrespect toward staff, nurses, and physicians as well as the decline in working conditions. Nurses have been forced to take on twice the number of patients as a result of massive lay-offs or forced resignations. It seems in the past the hospital provided full-time security, employee meals, and regular work schedules requiring very little overtime. According to testimony, currently there is no daytime security on duty, employees are responsible for their own meals and the cafeteria is not open on the weekends, and many employees are working overtime on a regular basis. There is a lot of resentment that locals are losing their jobs to contract nurses, and that the entire organization is losing its local stake in its only hospital.

“Most speakers expressed the belief that CHC does not promote open lines of communication between the management and the employees, nurses, or physicians. Employees are fearful of speaking out against management. They have seen former employees try to improve working conditions only to be terminated without explanation. The administration seems to be taking a ‘hands-off’ approach to employee relations and placing emphasis on acquiring more equipment and building more parking. This approach has resulted in decreased morale and a loss of qualified and respected local physicians, nurses, and staff. Which in turn has resulted in a decrease in the standard of care and a lack of consumer confidence,” Ximenes reported.

Like everyone else physicians laid much of the blame for the hospital’s problems at the feet of Plano-based Community Hospital Corporation which manages operations there.

Now, if you are like me, you have come to be suspect of the notion of "non profit." I've worked in lots of non profits myself. Some were okay and some were little different than for profits paying huge salaries to CEOs, cracking down on employees, and cutting costs and services wherever possible (yet receiving the benefits of being treated like some little community organization struggling to get by).

It's a scam.

And then there are those community boards and advisory committees that often are either so cowed by the big boys or so enamored with their own titles that they forget what they are supposed to be about.

This is not to say that some community boards actually want to represent the community only to discover they have no power. For example the CEO of the hospital we've been discussing has veto power over any decisions of the community board. Finally, at least some board members in Del Rio feel they have lost power – or never had it to begin with.

“I thought I was a representative of y’all and I come to find out you have representation without representation … I find that very disturbing,” said district board member Barbara Plyler, who struggled emotionally to speak in a voice higher than a whisper at a recent forum.

Meanwhile, you and I and the little dog next store get treated like customers at your local big box store...glad to have our money and just as glad to forget about the notion of customer service.

Did I mention that these giant non profits are tax exempt yet get the benefits of our tax dollars?

Too many non profits have become big businesses where all too often our valuable money and other resources are going to support the bloat rather than the so called mission.

It's time that something is done. Laws and regulations need to be changed. Big bad non profits are going to ruin it for the many fine non profits which really are what they say they are.

Think about it the next time you get a heart rending mailing asking for your money. Take the time to check out who is asking for your money and more importantly what they are doing with it.

Somehow, in situations, like that reported on below, communities have to regain control. Isn't that how its supposed to be?

The following story comes from Del Rio Live!(Texas).

Val Verde Regional Medical Center: What citizens are saying

“Burn it down and start over!” exhorted a survey respondent, already personally inflamed. Concerned, sometimes angry citizens of Del Rio and Val Verde County showed pent-up frustrations in the feedback opportunity presented by Dr. Susan Korbel’s research project, commissioned in October 2007 by the Val Verde County Hospital District Board.

Board members voted to hire Korbel, owner/researcher, Core Research, San Antonio, to ascertain observations and beliefs of residents, physicians and Val Verde Regional Medical Center (VVRMC) employees. Wednesday (Dec. 12, 2007), Korbel delivered her summary of findings at an open, thinly-attended public meeting.

The full, published, 223-page report is only now coming to public attention, delayed by internal decisions to require Texas Open Records Act requests for the document funded with taxpayer dollars. LIVE! explored the comments of hospital staff members and physicians in an earlier report, What employees are saying, Dec. 31, 2007.

In her executive summary report, Korbel described an atmosphere of mistrust between staff members and hospital administrators, and between citizens and the hospital in general. Many citizens responded to Korbel’s online or written questionnaire invitations with constructive, albeit aggressive measures to repair problems of patient care and workplace appeal. Others were less demure.

A thoughtful respondent urged, “Ask CHC [Community Hospital Corporation, contractor managing hospital operations] to turn in its keys, disband the corporate board [Val Verde Hospital Corporation], asking some members to lend their business expertise to the district board so a new contractor with proven credentials can be found ASAP.”

Though VVRMC is registered as a non-profit corporation, and, thus, cannot turn away any patient based on inability to pay for services, many respondents expressed suspicions that CHC is very profit-oriented, even to the denigration of proper patient care. “Contracts are to bring a profit for the company. Stop contracting, and take over our hospital,” demanded one commenter, continuing, “I remember the good old days, and I am only 48. I had two kids, appendix surgery, gallbladder, dislocated shoulder – so I have experience. I have seen the decline.”

Though the elected Hospital District Board contracted the Korbel survey, there is also a corporate board, Val Verde Hospital Corporation, set up by Community Hospital Corporation about eight years ago when that organization won the contract to manage VVRMC. The corporate board has one seat reserved for the chief executive officer of CHC (currently CEO/President Mike Williams) who has veto power over any board decision. None of the corporate board members attended any of the forums or presentations by Korbel, and they voted to refuse the district board’s overture to participate in funding the study to learn what people think about VVRMC.

Many respondents showed frustration that their elected representatives claim to have so little say over how to correct management and patient care issues, despite the fact that the Hospital District Board holds the contract with CHC. “Dissolve the contract with Community Health Care [sic, Community Hospital Corporation],” demanded one respondent. “Fire the company that is running the Hospital and let our local board run it,” said another.

One citizen offered an 11-step plan for remediation. The first three steps were, “(1) Terminate the current lease with CHC, (2) Enter into a new operating, management, or consulting contract with a reputable Health provider, insuring that the contract provides that the elected hospital board retains responsibility for and control of the district’s operation and equipment, (3) Ask for the resignation of current Hospital Board President [Bob Boland].”

Korbel cited many responses that demonstrate a continuing erosion of faith in good service and patient care at VVRMC: “Why is the hospital serving fewer patients? The population is not declining, nor have the residents become so healthy that they no longer need hospital care. Mr. Houghton [VVRMC CEO Jack Houghton] has stated that 32% of the potential patients are presently going to San Antonio for medical services. Some residents say that they are taking their relatives across to Mexico for many services, including emergencies. More than one survey response showed a lack of trust in the facility,” Korbel said. She cited one comment as an example: “Believe me when I say it’s common knowledge around town to go to the VVRMC only if you have no other option.”

Korbel described commenters’ feelings about the contract with CHC as “Similar to the ‘elephant in the room,’ – the contract renewal has become an issue that permeates most discussions. On November first, during a conference call with Jack Houghton and Mike Williams, Mr. Williams initiated a discussion about the contract, stating that ‘There are fiscal implications of the termination of the lease’ which require six months notice in July 2009 before the expiration in January 2010.”

Speakers at two public forums held in Ramada Del Rio Ballroom, Nov. 1, had much to say about hospital administrators and what they see as the Val Verde Hospital District Board dragging its feet in dealing effectively with the contract with CHC. Gisela Lenz, signing in as “citizen,” told District Board members present – Bob Boland, John Plumb and Barbara Plyler – “Since our hospital has gone with CHC, a private non-profit management company, things have gotten bad. Doctors, nurses and other hospital employees are not happy with the current corporation … For some reason, hospital employees are not appreciated and our great doctors are treated with the utmost disrespect … We need our county hospital. And if need be, we the taxpayers and the doctors will run it again.”

Shirl Marshall offered observations on employee – specifically nurse – morale. “For some reason we have started treating them like trash,” he said. “We have started treating our nursing staff like they were throwaway children. We give them no respect. We fire them out of hand. We make life so hard on them that they cannot stay there any longer … I go over to the hospital now and I look around and all I see are traveling nurses. It’s not right. I’ve talked a lot – I even talked to some of the traveling nurses. I talked to one of them right out here, at Wal-Mart. She was actually crying. She said, ‘I can’t stand working at that place.’ I asked her what the problem was, and she said, ‘Too much administration, too much administration.’”

Dan Riley, activist interested in hospital issues, commented, “…one of my biggest concerns is the citizens of Val Verde County and employees of this hospital have lost representation through our district board … It [VVRMC] is being operated outside the authority and control of our elected district board members with CHC corporate board exercising controlling authority.” Riley declared, “I feel that [the] hospital board should share some of the accountability along with CHC because there are avenues that our board could have taken to restore authority to this entity.”

One speaker, Darrell Breckenridge, spoke warmly – making no comment on hospital administration – about good service from hospital staff members in the obstetrics/gynecology and day surgery departments. “We have had four grandchildren born at Val Verde Regional. Mothers and babies were professionally cared for … Of a special note and my primary reason for coming today is to praise the day surgery department. I have had several procedures and all have been very comfortable, uneventful and even pleasant,” Breckenridge said.

Linda Ximenes, owner/manager of Ximenes Associates, San Antonio, was subcontracted by Korbel to record and summarize citizen comments offered by the 21 speakers at the forums. Ximenes minced no words in digesting the tone of the two sessions: “Members of the community spoke about the hospital district board’s decision to ‘relinquish’ their power to the CHC corporate board. They expressed feelings of betrayal and misrepresentation.

“The hospital board members were urged to ‘take back their board’ and regain local control. More than once, the voter-elected board was threatened with being ousted if they were not willing to ‘step-up’ to CHC and ‘fix the problem’ … The locally elected board is the voice of the Del Rio community, and they are being held accountable for their decisions that have resulted in a disproportionate power structure that gives CHC ultimate control.”

Ximenes also summarized a potpourri of comments manifest in testimony with enough frequency to be seen as trends by the researchers. Examples include:

“With regard to the corporate structure CHC has established, many community members expressed dissatisfaction with the CHC’s chief executive officer’s [CEO/President Mike Williams, CHC, Plano, Texas] ability to overturn decisions made by the locally appointed corporate board [Val Verde Hospital Corporation]. Some view this as a form of dictatorship that goes against the principal of a publicly owned facility supported by taxpayer dollars.

“Many believe there is a conflict of interest created with legal counsel [Quinton Etzel] representing the hospital [District Board] and the corporation [for unpaid bill collection].

“Furthermore, speakers believe the hospital chief executive officer’s [Jack Houghton] 18-month tenure should have produced some kind of improvement. However, the community seems to equate his tenure with increased mismanagement, displaced authority, and a loss of compassion for the people of Del Rio,” Ximenes wrote.

“In conclusion, the public has been losing trust in the management and administration being provided by the Community Hospital Corporation over many years … The community would like to see local control reestablished, the contract renegotiated or terminated, and most importantly, the standard of care restored.”


The following is from Talk2Action and is written by my friend Bill Berkowitz. I didn't plan to comment on the Iowa caucases, but what the heck, I'll let Bill do it instead.

Can `Huckabee the Viable' blend social conservatism with populism-lite

Far right dubs Huckabee the `Big Government' candidate

By Bill Berkowitz, Talk2Action, January 4, 2008

Owing to his convincing victory in the Iowa Republican Party caucuses, former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee has become "viable." Over the next few weeks expect the mainstream media to both welcome the folksy/friendly Huckabee with open arms, and slice and dice his record and past statements.

Huckabee's victory was largely attributed to the support he garnered from a brigade of conservative evangelical Christians. According to The Nation's John Nichols, "A CNN survey of Republican caucusgoers Thursday found that six in 10 identified themselves as 'born-again' Christians. Huckabee won the support of 46 percent of them, while just 19 percent backed [former Massachusetts governor Mitt] Romney."

To his credit, Huckabee was successful despite suffering from a shortage of resources; Romney, who finished a disappointing second, outspent Huckabee by a 15-1 margin.

In their post-Iowa wrap-ups, mainstream media pundits recognized both Huckabee's popularity amongst conservative evangelicals, and his populist appeal.

Now it's Huckabee's turn in the spotlight. If you think the hubbub regarding his recent comment about Pakistanis being a threat to America's border security and his blatant use of a well-lit cross in his pre-Christmas campaign television advertisement, or his past comments about quarantining AIDS sufferers, was grist for the mill, imagine what might be coming down the pike.

As he moves on from Iowa, will Huckabee be able to blend a toned-down social conservatism with a populism-lite?

'A candidate with a lot of liberal views' says the Media Research Council

A People for the American Way e-mail dated January 4, maintained that "Huckabee has pledged to support every item on the Radical Right's wish list: a constitutional ban on abortion, a veto of legislation to protect gay and lesbian Americans from discrimination, support for a bill to keep federal courts from intervening when local officials violate the separation of church and state, and most importantly, a far-right Supreme Court."

So why are many on the far right hating on Huckabee? It's not like he's the second coming of John Edwards!

Some of Huckabee's right-wing critics may have righteous political disagreements with him, while others may be concerned that should he snare the nomination, he could not only lose the general elecftion, but bring down a slew of GOP candidates as well.

A post-election report from L. Brent Bozell's Media Research Center characterized Huckabee as "a candidate with a lot of liberal views." Ann Coulter slapped Huckabee around a few weeks back for being soft on just about everything from taxes to immigration to the criminal justice system.

Baldwin's complaint

Huckabee is "a global government elitist [who] wraps his Big Government ambitions around the Cross of Jesus Christ?" Chuck Baldwin declared in a column dated January 4, 2008.

Baldwin, the pastor of Crossroad Baptist Church in Pensacola, Florida, the former State Chairman of the Florida Moral Majority, vice presidential running mate of the Constitution Party's Michael Peroutka in 2004, a radio talk show host and syndicated columnist is one of the former Arkansas governor's most persistent critics.

In his January 4, column titled "We Desperately Need the `Confessing Church'," Baldwin maintains that "Issues such as trade, climate control, health and education--and even war--are the tools globalists use to construct their One World Order":
"Have you wondered why Mike Huckabee is suddenly getting so much favorable attention from the mainstream media (who themselves are controlled by this gaggle of global elite)? To find the answer as to why a professing pro-life, conservative Christian would suddenly become the darling of the media, look no further than the fact that just a couple of months ago, Mr. Huckabee appeared before the globalist-minded Council on Foreign Relations. And when he did, it became abundantly clear that Huckabee was a man globalists could trust.

"By the way, as you read Huckabee's speech, you will find that he is George W. Bush on steroids! This is a man who intends to meddle in the affairs of nations around the world like you can't believe. Talk about entangling alliances: Huckabee intends for our State, Energy, Housing, Education, Justice, Treasury, and Transportation departments to spend untold billions of tax dollars on just about anything and everything, including schools, medical facilities, roads, sewage treatment, water filtration, electricity, and legal and banking systems in countries all over the globe. And that is exactly the kind of man the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) wants in Washington."

Baldwin pointed out that Huckabee has named Richard Haass, President of the CFR "as his advisor on foreign policy." According to Baldwin, Haass "believes that the United States (and every other country) must surrender its sovereignty to international or global entities." Baldwin cites a February 21, 2006, Haass column for the Taipei Times entitled, "State Sovereignty Must be Altered in Globalized Era," which "is nothing more than an explicit solicitation for global government."

While Baldwin claims he has no interest in heading up the Constitution Party's ticket this year, but he has said that he "is always open to God's will." In a column dated August 30, 2007, entitled "Conservative Republicans have only one choice," Baldwin basically endorsed Ron Paul's candidacy:
"Let's cut to the chase: conservative Republicans have only one choice for President in 2008: Congressman Ron Paul of Texas. Unlike the GOP frontrunners, Paul is the real deal."

In mid-December he released a video endorsement of Paul.

On to New Hampshire

According to The Nation's John Nichols:
Huckabee arrived in New Hampshire Friday morning with new literature that drops the religious references used in Iowa and plans for a television advertising campaign that will eschew the crosses and fish that meant so much to his Iowa base.

Huckabee is nothing if not consistent. Sure, he losing the religious trappings that served him well in Iowa, but he's remaining every bit the crassly calculating and cynically manipulative politician that he has proven himself to be from the start of this campaign.

As the campaign rolls along, will Huckabee -- favored by more conservative Christian evangelical leaders than all the others combined -- continue to proclaim to be the most authentic Christian in the field, or will he soften his Christian image? Will he continue to talk about being a fighter for regular folks; a plain-speaking populist with compassion for the least among us or will he harden his position as he has done on such issues as immigration?

Stay tuned.


Are wolves being baited to attack cattle so that they can in turn be killed? You probably never even gave it a thought? Well, environmentalist say it is happening and they want it stopped (see article below).

Here is the deal.

The Mexican Wolf is the rarest, southernmost and most genetically distinct sub-species of the Gray Wolf in North America. It is also one of the smallest sub-species, reaching an overall length no greater than 4.5 feet and a height maximum of about 32 inches.

Until recent times, the Mexican Wolf ranged the Sonoran and Chihuahuan deserts from central Mexico to western Texas, southern New Mexico and central Arizona. By the the turn of the century, reduction of natural prey like deer and elk caused many wolves to begin attacking domestic livestock, which led to intensive efforts by government agencies and individuals to eradicate the Mexican Wolf.

These efforts were very successful, and by the 1950s, the Mexican Wolf had been eliminated from the wild. In 1976, the Mexican Gray Wolf was declared an endangered species and has remained so ever since. Less than 200 Mexican Wolves now survive in zoos and museums due to successful captive breeding programs.

In March 1997, the U.S. Secretary of the Interior authorized the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to begin reintroducing Mexican Wolves into the Blue Range area of Arizona. The overall objective of this program is to reestablish 100 Mexican Wolves in the Apache and Gila National Forests of of Arizona and New Mexico by 2005

The government’s Mexican gray wolf reintroduction rulebook says that a rancher cannot shoot a wolf simply because she threatens his livestock. But if a single wolf kills three cows or sheep or other domestic animals in a single year, then federal officers may kill or capture the wolf.

High Country News reports angry ranchers say they have no intention of letting Mexican wolves again roam the landscape to prey on livestock, horses and pets, and maybe even their friends and family. They say environmentalists are using the wolf as a terrorist tactic to force ranchers off public lands they have controlled for decades through grazing leases.

According to the The High Country News a local rancher near Socorros, New Mexico baited a Mexican gray wolf from the Durango pack on the Adobe Ranch.

In its Dec. 24 issue, The High Country News published an article quoting Adobe Ranch employee Mike Miller as saying he “branded a cow less than a half-mile from the wolves’ den,” on June 21, 2007.

The odor of burnt flesh could conceivably attract a wolf to the cow, allowing it to be shot in the act of killing it.

High Country News contributing editor John Dougherty, stated that the Durango pack wolf already had two kills, and that a third confirmed kill would require federal wildlife managers to remove the wolf from the wild, or killed if caught in the act of predation.

Elizabeth Slown in the U.S. Fish and Wildlife office in Albuquerque said the matter is being taken seriously.

“It is a federal offense. You can’t purposely attract wolves in order to harm them,” she is quoted in Small Town News Services. “But in terms of legality, he is innocent until proven guilty.”

Slown quoted from the Fish and Wildlife Service’s final rule governing the re-introduction of the Mexican gray wolf.

“The rule is pretty clear. It says you cannot attract a wolf and then harass it, and any harassment must not cause bodily injury or death to the wolf,” she said. “Harassment permitted by this rule is to scare wolves away from the immediate area and is limited to approaching wolves and discharging firearms in proximity to, but not in the direction of wolves, throwing objects in the general direction of, but not at wolves, or making any loud noise in proximity to wolves.”

Slown said according to latest figures the loss of cattle to wolves is 2.3 percent “of the cattle loss experienced nationwide for all predator and non-predator purposes.”

Slown also noted that private citizens are given broad authority in certain circumstances.

And that is a problem according to environmentalist who say the authorities are more concerned with pacifying ranchers, who collectively lose a handful of cattle each year to wolves, than ensuring the successful reintroduction of one of the rarest mammals in North America.

The following is taken from the Albuquerque Journal.

Conservationists Want Probe Into Reports of Wolf Baiting

SILVER CITY — Conservation groups want the Interior secretary to order an investigation by the inspector general into allegations that a Mexican gray wolf was baited into killing a cow so the wolf in turn could be killed.

Representatives of 15 conservationist and environmental groups, in a letter dated Thursday to Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne, said an investigation should be launched into the possibility the wolf was killed through abuse of government-provided telemetry radio receivers and by ranchers taking advantage of a rule that requires removal of any wolf that kills three head of livestock within a year.

Kempthorne's office could not immediately comment until officials had seen the letter.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has been looking into a December report in High Country News — an online, independent biweekly news magazine — that quoted an employee of Adobe-Slash Ranch in Catron County, Mike Miller, as saying, "We would sacrifice a calf to get a third strike.'' The article alleged ranch hands branded cattle near the wolf's den.

Miller denied the allegations in the article, written by contributing editor John Dougherty. High Country News editor Jonathan Thompson said the magazine stands by its story.

The conservation groups also asked for an investigation by law enforcement, with prosecution if warranted.

They also asked that radio telemetry receivers "that may be used to facilitate illegal baiting'' be taken away. Telemetry receivers let ranchers know where certain radio-collared wolves are.

"The high rate of wolf poaching and suspicious disappearances strongly suggests that the federal take of wolves, the telemetry receivers and other substantial steps taken by the (Fish and Wildlife) Service to conciliate the livestock industry have not resulted in reducing illegal take — they may have contributed to the opposite result,'' the letter said.

The letter also asked Kempthorne to order any trapped wolves that might have been baited to be released back into the wild.

In the letter to Kempthorne, the groups ask that investigators determine when Fish and Wildlife became aware of the possibility of baiting on the Adobe-Slash Ranch, whether wolves removed from the wild for livestock kills after the agency became aware of the allegations and whether the agency took steps to ensure telemetry equipment and codes were not available to those who might use them to illegally take wolves.

The groups, in separate letters Thursday to Southwest Regional Forester Corbin Newman and Bureau of Land Management New Mexico State Director Linda Rundell, requested the cancellation of grazing and outfitting permits for anyone found to have baited wolves.

After the allegations surfaced last month, representatives of environmental organizations in New Mexico and Arizona called for the Catron County ranch's grazing leases to be suspended.

The groups also want Kempthorne to review the three-strikes rule to see whether it encourages wolf baiting so wolves can be removed. Wolves that fall under the three-strikes rule are removed from the wild either by shooting or through capture and permanent captivity.


Israeli and Palestinian activists attempted to block a highway today in protest of a system which disallows Palestinians use of certain roads. In fact, 312 KM of West Bank roads are currently forbidden for Palestinian use.

Today demonstration also was in response to an effort by Israeli settlers to build on land which is owned by Palestinians in and around Bil'in village.

The protest today took place on Road 443 (see adjoining map). The protesters were met with police force.

Road 443 is one of the main throughways of the West Bank . Its overall length is 25.5KM, 14 of which run through the heart of the West Bank. Since the year 2000 Palestinians have not been allowed use of the road. Approximately 40,000 Israeli citizens travel on it on a daily basis. Most of them are not settlers and probably don't even realize the significance of the road and that Palestinians are denied its use.

The Association of Civil Rights in Israel says the prohibition on Palestinian use of the road is "an extreme and grave example" of what it calls "the State of Israel's publicly declared policy of separation and [illegal] discrimination on the basis of ethnic origin in territories under its control."

The Independent (UK) reports Israel argues that the prohibition is needed to guarantee the Israeli users of the road security. But the Israeli human rights organisation, Btselem, while recognising Israel's duty to keep its citizens safe, says the blanket prohibition "appears to be based on extraneous reasons, the most important being Israel's desire to annex, de facto, the area along which the road runs." It adds: "If Israel were only interested in protecting the lives of Israelis using the road, without annexing the area, it could limit or even prohibit the travel of Israelis on the road, and build other roads and provide other means of transportation to connect Jerusalem and Tel Aviv."

The following is from IEMC News.

Four injured in Bil'in weekly demonstration

The inhabitants of Bil'in village, located near the central west bank city of Ramallah, conducted their weekly non violent demonstration against the illegal wall that is being constructed by Israel on the village land. They were joined by international and Israeli supporters.

Shortly after the Friday prayers, the protesters left the village and headed towards the land but were stopped by a razor wire blockade installed by the Israeli troops. As soon as the protest reached the blockade, soldiers showered the protesters with tear gas, rubber coated metal bullets and stun grenades. Four protesters were injured and taken to a nearby medical centre.

On Wednesday, a group of Israeli settlers tried to build a new settlement outpost on land owned by Bil'in villagers. Farmers from the village and their families got to their lands and tried to stop the settlers from installing the outpost. The armed settlers attacked the unarmed farmers and injured three of them. On Friday, Israeli troops removed the settlement outpost.

Also near Ramallah on Friday, Palestinians from the villages which surround the city, protested at the settlers road known as road 443 with international and Israeli supporters. The army attacked the protest with sound bombs, tear gas and rubber coated bullets and injured seven people.

Road 443 is a settler road that cuts through several villages located near Ramallah and the army do not allow the local residents to use it to get to the city. Only the illegal settlers living in the illegal settlements around Ramallah are permitted to use it to get to the occupied city of Jerusalem.

Thursday, January 03, 2008


It's a small matter on the scale of things for some. It's life and death for others.

Residents of an East El Paso neighborhood have complained for a long time about the like of lightening in the area. They finally won that battle back in April. Well, sort of.

Even though the city approved more street lights and even though more street lights were installed, some never got turned on.

The neighborhood complained and got the usual run around from the electric company.

They're on now, but too late to save the life of Hortencia Navarro, 77, who was struck by a car on the dark street and killed the night after Christmas. Eighty-five-year-old Jose Gonzalez was seriously injured.

Apparently that got the electric company's attention and they got the lights on the next day.

This is not some isolated issue, but is symptomatic of the failure of city leaders and the like to take neighborhood complaints seriously. They've got "bigger" things on their minds.

But it is important to the citizens of these neighborhoods.

Take the 9500 block of Montwood Drive also in East El Paso. According to residents, at nighttime, it's an accident waiting to happen.

"You can't see that there's a curve coming up. We live here and... it creeps up on us. People that don't live by here, that rarely come by here, you know, the curve's going to catch up on them. There's no light or anything for them to see," Alfredo Lopez, of east El Paso told the local TV news.

"It's getting worse and worse. We don't have any lighting at all. Traffic is too fast, you know, and we need something to be done by the city and they haven't done anything," added Vidal Santivanez, of east El Paso.

Maybe they need to get somebody killed?

And you wonder why people get ticked off about tax increases and property tax assessments. You know its not always because people don't want to pay taxes, often its because they'd like to see their tax money being spent on their basic needs. Street lights and public safety are the responsibility of the local government. So is the death of a 77 year old woman.

The following is from the El Paso Times.

Lack of lights blamed for fatality

Residents of an East El Paso neighborhood believe a pedestrian fatality last week may have been prevented if a section of Pendale Drive had better lighting and measures to help slow traffic.

Dark roadways were a concern for the Las Palmas Neighborhood Association when it won approval in April 2007 from the city to have 18 residential street lights, worth $23,800, added in their area.

The project included a light at the intersection of Pendale Drive and Cedar Oak Drive, said Las Palmas Neighborhood Association president Laura Rivera.

But Rivera said the light and several others installed in the neighborhood had not been turned on and for weeks her group had asked the El Paso Electric Co. why those lights remained dark.

Eastridge/Mid-Valley city Rep. "Steve Ortega got the guy from the electric company on the phone with me and the guy kept telling us they were on," she said. "But they were not on yet and we told him they were not on."

At about 9:30 p.m. on Dec. 26, Hortencia Navarro, 77, was struck and killed by a vehicle as she tried to cross Pendale Drive near Jennifer Drive. Jose Gonzalez, an 85-year-old man walking with Navarro, was treated at Thomason Hospital for a broken leg.

Police investigators said the pair did not use a crosswalk. Speed and alcohol were not factors in the collision and the driver of the vehicle was not charged in the incident.

The following evening, Rivera said, the street light at the intersection of Pendale Drive and Cedar Oak Drive illuminated the roadway.

"I felt very angry about that," she said, adding that Pendale continues to be a hazardous roadway.

El Paso Electric Co. officials said the light at Pendale Drive and Cedar Oak Drive was first turned on Aug. 30.

Teresa Souza, spokeswoman for the utility, said El Paso Electric did not receive reports from customers that the light was out.

But one day after the accident, the light was changed, Souza said. She could not explain what prompted the change.

Several more neighborhood associations in East El Paso said improving lighting on residential streets should be a greater priority for the city.

Edgemere Boulevard and Rich Beem Drive in far East El Paso are dangerously dark streets that are unsafe for pedestrians and need attention, said Colleen Lewis, president of Las Tierras Neighborhood Association.

"Lighting is such an issue all over the Tierras and something should be done about it soon," she said. "To me, (street) lighting is a necessity and not an option or a luxury."

Lewis said improved lighting could make residents feel safe from the threat of vehicle burglars and thefts and would help boost the number of pedestrians in the neighborhood.

The Cielo Vista Neighborhood Association made better illumination of Hawkins Boulevard a focus in 2007 and received $50,000 worth of conduits and base structures for additional street lighting.

Residents expect to see those lights on in 2008.

Rivera believes additional lighting and perhaps a traffic signal or stop sign at the intersection of Pendale Drive and Cedar Oak Drive could improve the roadway, which has a posted speed limit of 30 miles per hour and leads many motorists to Interstate 10.

Now, just three street lights illuminate the curved .8 miles of Pendale Drive that runs from George Dieter Drive and Rojas Drive.

Still, other street lights that have been installed in the Las Palmas neighborhood remain off, Rivas said.


Satendar Singh died on July 5, 2007 as a result of a severe brain injury he received after a vicious assault four days earlier. The individuals who perpetrated the attack hurled racially, ethnic and sexually charged slurs at Singh and his friends. Two men were later arrested. One, Alex Shevchenko, is currently on trial in Sacramento, California.

Many, including the Oread Daily, have warned of the activities and teachings of the Christian group "Watchmen on the Walls" who have helped to create an atmosphere which leads to exactly the crime for which Shevchenko is on trial. Writes the group "Campaign for America's Future":

"...the Watchmen on the Walls themselves are associated with a wide range of violent gay-bashing embodied by street thuggery and hate crimes, which reminds a lot of people of the Brownshirts who paved the way for Nazi rule in Germany, as well as Italy's Blackshirted squadristi. Even more disturbingly, they -- and conferences like the one in Lynnwood -- represent a coalescence of American fundamentalist Christians and international street thugs motivated by a theocratic thirst for power."

These Watchmen believe that Christian society is besieged by the “homosexual movement,” by those who follow “the father of lies” who hold closely guarded secrets that they keep from the rest of the world, and whose actions have the moral equivalence of throwing innocent children into the furnaces of Nazi Germany. At least that's the message that came out of a recent meeting of the group in Riga, Latvia, home of Alexey Ledyaev’s New Generation church. Ledyaev is one of the Watchmen’s founders, along with holocaust revisionist Scott Lively and Seattle-area pastor Kenneth Hutcherson.

Jim Burroway wrote on the web site Box Turtle Bulletin, "...Pastor Alexey Ledyaev opened the conference on Wednesday evening, November 14, with a strident sermon on the weapons of spiritual warfare. While he described these “weapons” as spiritual in nature, the war metaphors were pushed to their most militant limits as he whipped the crowd into a frenzy." The good Pastor told the gathered Watchmen:

"Liberalism is penetrating into our brain, but we must return to the fundamental things and name things as they are. If God names it evil, then we must name it evil. When you tell the truth, strength comes to you."

…We’re in the war and we’re in it because of trophies — human souls."

Today our home is being ravaged before our eyes. Our weapons are being taken away. We were strong when we had those weapons."

They are trying to wash our brains and explain that Bible is obsolete, that the form of the traditional family is obsolete. Today homosexualists boldly enter the schools with the bold slogan “Your kids are our kids. We will re-educate them.” Sexually immature kids are being seduced and taught about traditional and non-traditional sex. They are forced to cross-dress in order to feel which orientation is inside them. They are being told that if you are born as a boy, it doesn’t necessarily mean you will become a man. If you were born as a girl, it doesn’t necessarily mean you will become a woman. It’s all happening now."

The devil is ravaging our home and I want to ask our Church: where are we? We are told to surrender our weapons and be silent - but we are refusing to take this dictation down. Because we have another commander-in-chief and he tells us to act!"

The "Watchmen" ironically describe themselves on their website as an "International Christian Movement for Human Rights". That's a good one.

We always hear that "good" Muslims need to take on "bad" Muslims, I think its time to add that "good" Christians need to take on "bad" Christians.

And these "Watchmen" are some damn bad Christians.

For an earlier OD article on the "Watchmen" go to .

The following article was taken from the Christian Science Monitor.

Christian extremism raises alarm
A trial resumes today for a Slavic man charged with killing a gay man in Sacramento, Calif.
By Ben Arnoldy Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor
Sacramento, Calif.

A hate-crime trial reconvenes Friday in a case that's dividing Sacramento and drawing attention from organizations that monitor extremists.

Alex Shevchenko has been arraigned for a hate crime tied to the assault and eventual death of Satender Singh in July. According to prosecutors, Mr. Shevchenko and Andrey Vusik taunted Mr. Singh in a park because they thought he was gay. Mr. Vusik eventually threw a punch that toppled Singh, dashing his head, they charge.

Gay leaders in Sacramento say the incident followed several years of escalating tensions with some Slavic immigrants.

"The gut feeling of the [gay] community is that preaching among the local Russian evangelical community is breeding hate and that something would happen. And Satender was the something that happened," says Ed Bennett, a gay Democratic activist.

While Slavic leaders say their community is being unfairly scapegoated for legitimate political protests and deeply held religious beliefs, some monitors warn that an emerging group called the Watchmen on the Walls may be fomenting a dangerous atmosphere within the ranks of Slavic immigrants here.

"This group has engaged in extremely vicious antigay propaganda, and oftentimes it is that kind of propaganda that is taken by hate criminals as permission to go ahead and attack," says Mark Potok, editor of the Southern Poverty Law Center's "Intelligence Report," which tracks hate crimes nationwide.

The international Watchman on the Walls emerged within the past couple of years, forged by two longtime antigay activists – Scott Lively and Kenneth Hutcherson of the US – and two newer Slavic leaders, one in Sacramento and one in the Baltic nation of Latvia.

Mr. Lively has a following among some Slavic protesters here with his controversial book, "The Pink Swastika," which argues that homosexuals played a formative role in Nazism.

The Watchmen is a Christian movement that doesn't teach hate or seek out violent followers, says Mr. Hutcherson, who is a pastor in Washington State. "God's word does not allow us to hate. It tells us to stand up for righteousness and call a sin a sin," he says. He rejects, however, the idea of loving the sinner while hating the sin. "The Bible says when a sinner will not separate himself from a sin then he is condemned with it. The one thing I'm trying to do is get heterosexuals out of the closet. We are the majority," he says.

Videos of Watchmen conferences abroad suggest some leaders are less modulated, and their audience less against violence. One video shows Lively giving a version of Singh's killing different from reported facts, including the notion that Singh was undressing in front of children. The audience cheered twice as Lively recounted the punch and the death of Singh – a reaction Lively rebuked, saying: "We don't want homosexuals to be killed. We want them to be saved."

"What sets them apart is the rhetoric that they use," says Jim Burroway, editor of the Box Turtle Bulletin, which monitors gay hate groups. "They use the imagery of war, of us being in a war against them, of militancy. They really do speak the rhetoric of theocracy," he says.

Monitors like Mr. Burroway and Mr. Potok claim no direct connection between the Watchmen and Singh's death.

"As things stand right now, we certainly aren't contending that the Watchmen on the Walls are behind the killing," says Potok. But talk can have consequences, he adds, and Watchmen views are spread in Sacramento by two founders: Alexey Ledyaev, a pastor from Latvia, and Vlad Kusakin, host of a Russian-language radio show.

Confrontations between the gay and Slavic communities have erupted only within the past few years. Some menacing protesters now wear Watchmen T-shirts, says Nate Feldman, a gay activist who's gathering film footage of the protesters. Mr. Feldman says that during the 2006 pride parade in Sacramento he was spat on and shoved by a group of antigay demonstrators.

Other gays and lesbians tell of protests held outside private homes or protesters recognizing them and rattling off their names and addresses. This holiday season, protesters sang Christmas carols outside major retailers while displaying and handing out antigay messages.

Slavic leaders estimate that their Sacramento community numbers around 100,000. They are mainly ethnic Ukranians, Moldovans, and Russians – many of whom gained entrance to the US as Christian asylum seekers after the Soviet Union collapsed. The Russians tend to be Baptist, the Ukranians, Pentecostal.

Many grew up persecuted in the Soviet Union, watching as school officials slighted their children's progress. Some now feel that US educators look down on their Christian children, say Slavic leaders.

Several Slavic leaders including Roman Romaso, executive director of the Slavic Assistance Center, say the street protesters are a small minority.

"As much as I know Watchmen on the Walls I don't agree with them because they call out people in the street and some are not acting adequately," says Mr. Romaso. "My understanding of how to fight is to work with the legislature and build coalitions."

One gay Russian-speaker – who requests anonymity for personal safety – expresses dismay that the death of Singh hasn't galvanized more moderate Slavic voices. The "mythologizing" of gays as the enemy continues in the local Russian-language media, he says.

"It's all about gays and their agenda. Gays are some evil group that is so organized. I didn't know that I belonged to this very powerful group of people," he says. He acknowledges that having Russian-speakers come out of the closet would help change views. "But who is going to do that? I would expose myself to so much hate from people who don't know me."

Wednesday, January 02, 2008


I bet you don't read this story anywhere but here today.

In Egypt, Ain Shams University employees confronted the University President Ahmad Zaki Badr, the son of the notorious former Interior Minister General Zaki Badr, on the campus of the Faculty of Agriculture in Shoubra. The employees were demanding job security, as they have been either on temporary contracts or without contracts at all for years.

The protesters prevented the University President from leaving campus till the afternoon.

FYI - Ain Shams University (pictured here) was established in 1950. It is the third oldest university in Egypt. The university has more than 180,000 students, 5,000 staff members, 4,000 assistant staff and more than 100 centers and special units.

The following is from Almasry Alyoum (Egypt).

Temporary Workers Scuffle with Head of Ain Shams University

The faculty of agriculture at Ain Shams University was the scene for scuffles and exchange of verbal abuse that erupted between the university head Ahmed Zaki Badr and temporary workers protesting against forcing them to sign new contracts that slash their monthly salaries form LE 300 to 105.

The confrontation began when Badr arranged a meeting with picketing workers at a lecture hall at the faculty in Shobra.

Badr, who is the son of the former interior minister, began the meeting by scolding workers and reminding them of how they went through hardships and bore humiliations to be hired as laborers even though they were university graduates.

In an angry reaction to Badr's words, the workers attacked him and some managed to scuffle with him while shouting angry protests. The scuffle did not come to an end except after the security managed to pull Badr from the angry crowd and shelter him in the safety of their offices.

One of Badr's aides, meanwhile, assaulted a woman who was with the protestors by pushing her to the ground. The woman was transferred to the Nasser Health Institute amid reports she was dead. Health sources told al-Masry al-Youm, however, that she was alive and that she later returned to where the workers were picketing.

In the student hostel, workers continued to picket in protest to the new contract, following suit with their colleagues at the faculty of agriculture. Protesting workers threatened to take their protest to the People's Assembly, where they said they


Do you know whether or not you are a home grown terrorist? You're probably pretty certain you're not. But wait a minute, there is this bill which already passed the House with bipartisan support and is expected to similarly pass the Senate which may define your thoughts a little more harshly then you think...harshly enough to qualify you for that terror thing.

Known sweetly as “Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act of 2007” many believe comes dangerously close to making having the wrong thoughts a crime of terror.

The Senate soon will be taking up the Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act of 2007. Proposed by DEMOCRAT Rep. Jane Harman, of Los Angeles, Calif., the bill amends the existing Homeland Security Act to include individuals born, raised or based in the United States.

Like you and all right thinking Americans I've thought the Homeland Securities Act needed toughening up...not.

The primary objections to the Bill relate to its broad definitions of violent radicalization, homegrown terrorism and ideologically based violence. Sec. 899A defines:

"Violent radicalization" as promoting an "extremist belief system" aimed at facilitating violence "to advance political, religious, or social change"

Ideological violence as "use, or planned use, or threatened use of force or violence" to promote beliefs

Homegrown terrorism as use or planned use of force to "intimidate or coerce the United States government, the civilian population or any segment thereof in furtherance of political or social objectives"

This broad definition could be interpreted to include rallies, sit-ins, protest marches and other traditional forms of dissent.

In fact, the ACLU and others concerned with civil liberties believe that the Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act of 2007's (I just love to keep saying that - its so 1984) quite vague definitions, broad mandate and minimal oversight could lead to ethnic profiling and censorship based on personal beliefs.

Least you right wingers think well that ACLU crowd is just a bunch of crazy commies anyway, so what do I care. Think again, abortion protesters and those who are not happy with, I don't know, say taxes or gun laws could find themselves in a wee bit of trouble, right along anti-war protesters and animal rights campaigners.

And remember, my American friends, that since the government has pretty well established its right to listen in on you, follow your Internet travels, point cameras your way, you might want to watch your mouth, fingertips, and your friends...if you know what I mean.

But never fear, Sec. 899F of the bill requires that Homeland Security "not violate the constitutional rights, civil rights, or civil liberties of United States citizens or lawful permanent residents." It also would require operations to be conducted with racial neutrality and to be audited by Homeland Security's Civil Rights and Civil Liberties Officer.

I know I feel better already.

Is this the America that you folks in the "Greatest Generation" fought for in World War II?

I don't think so.

This is more like the America that the likes of J. Edgar Hoover, Joe McCarthy (pictured above), and Dick Nixon longed for. The same one Bush and Cheney dream of at night.

Apparently they are not alone.

Only 6 members of the House opposed the original bill that passed there.

Has anyone heard mention of this in any Presidential debates?

The mainstream media has been mostly AWOL on the issue. However, a commentary printed in the Baltimore Sun state the Bill:
"... tramples constitutional rights by creating a commission with sweeping investigative power and a mandate to propose laws prohibiting whatever the commission labels “homegrown terrorism.”

The proposed commission is a menace through its power to hold hearings, take testimony and administer oaths, an authority granted to even individual members of the commission - little Joe McCarthys - who will tour the country to hold their own private hearings. An aura of authority will automatically accompany this congressionally authorized mandate to expose native terrorism."

Ms. Harman’s proposal includes an absurd attack on the Internet, criticizing it for providing Americans with “access to broad and constant streams of terrorist-related propaganda,” and legalizes an insidious infiltration of targeted organizations. The misnamed “Center of Excellence,” which would function after the commission is disbanded in 18 months, gives the semblance of intellectual research to what is otherwise the suppression of dissent."

While its purpose is to prevent terrorism, the bill doesn’t criminalize any specific conduct or contain penalties. But the commission’s findings will be cited by those who see a terrorist under every bed and who will demand enactment of criminal penalties that further restrict free speech and other civil liberties. Action contrary to the commission’s findings will be interpreted as a sign of treason at worst or a lack of patriotism at the least."

While Ms. Harman denies that her proposal creates “thought police,” it defines “homegrown terrorism” as “planned” or “threatened” use of force to coerce the government or the people in the promotion of “political or social objectives.” That means that no force need actually have occurred as long as the government charges that the individual or group thought about doing it."

Those of you who remember, as I well do, those grand jury conspiracy indictments of hippies, pinkos, and commie swine which spread across the country in the 60s and 70s chew on this one for a while. How would you like to be charged with conspiracy to have thought about doing something? I mean back then, at least in theory, you had to do one overt act, it didn't have to be much and it didn't have to be illegal, but still one actual something in the real world which supposedly furthered said conspiracy. This bill gets rid of even that small hurdle. I can see it now. The indictment reads:
Overt Act Number One - On or about March 15, 2009, (your name), thought something ought to be done about this lousy (substitute your issue)...

In the words of Paul Harvey..."Good Day"

The following guest commentary was printed in the Lawrence Journal World (Kansas).

Bill a threat to civil liberties
By Mike Hoeflich

January 2, 2008

As the media daily reports government abuses of individual civil and constitutional rights in the name of the “war against terrorism,” and as the now Democratic-controlled Congress continues to hold public hearings on the worst of these abuses, a new threat to the civil liberties of Americans quietly wends its way through the halls of Congress.

On April 19, 2007, Rep. Jane Harmon, Democrat of California, introduced H.R. 1955 onto the floor of the House of Representatives. On Oct. 24, 2007, this bill, named the “Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act of 2007” was passed by a bipartisan majority by the House. Its Senate counterpart, S.1959, introduced by Sen. Susan Collins, Republican of Maine, is now in committee awaiting action. While it is good to see that Congress is still capable of bipartisan activity, one might have hoped that this cooperation would not have extended to this bill.

H.R. 1955 and S. 1959 are designed to establish a new “National Commission on the Prevention of Violent Radicalization and Ideologically Based Violence.” This commission is given broad powers to investigate “homegrown terrorism, ideologically based violence, and violent radicalization” anywhere in the United States. The definitions provided for these activities are frighteningly broad and include both violence against individuals and property as well as coming quite close to creating what some in the media have referred to as “thought crimes.”

Section 899A(2), for instance, defines “violent radicalization” as “the process of adopting or promoting an extremist belief system for the purpose of facilitating ideologically base violence to advance political, religious, or social change.” Sec. 899A(4) includes the “planned use” of “force or violence” within the scope of the commission’s charge. Thus, a group that wishes to promote political, religious, or social change, even though it takes no actions at all, would still be deemed “homegrown terrorists” by this proposed law.

As I read the broad language of this proposed legislation it could easily result in the serious violation of Americans’ First Amendment rights. For instance, would a church group that contemplated a anti-abortion protest that might involve property damage, such as painting graffiti on a clinic’s walls, be deemed a “homegrown terrorist” group? Would an animal rights group that proposed spilling paint on fur coats equally be a “terrorist group?”

What about a student anti-war protest that led to a fistfight between protesters and anti-protest groups? Would these groups also be terrorist groups? This legislation is frighteningly close to that which established the House Un-American Activities Committee, the committee that became the vehicle for Sen. Joseph McCarthy’s reign of terror against freedom of speech and association.

The legislation also calls for establishing “centers of excellence” at universities in the United States, places where the Homeland Security and the new commission could hire faculty experts in such fields as law, sociology, anthropology and other social sciences to work to identify those ideologies that should be considered terroristic. Is this what we want academia to be spending its time doing?

H.R. 1955 passed the House by an overwhelming bipartisan majority. It is very likely to have a similar fate in the Senate and become law unless the American people rise up in protest and tell their senators that they will not tolerate a new era of “McCarthyism.” The time to act is now before it is too late.

— Mike Hoeflich, a distinguished professor in the Kansas University School of Law, writes a regular column for the Journal-World.


Worried about your privacy being violated in the so-called War on Terror, so are a whole lot of Germans. Yesterday a buttload of Germans took to the street as part of the fight there against legislation that will further destroy the right to privacy there.

The marches in several German cities were in support of a complaint filed Monday against the creation of a vast telecommunications database as part of anti-terror measures to which 35,000 people signed on.

A new German law, which goes into effect Tuesday, requires telecommunications firms to keep detailed records for six months of telephone calls and Internet use including the date and time of use and who contacted whom.

Data from mobile phones are also to include the location of the callers.

Of course, as we all know, this intrusion into the lives of everybody isn't happening in Germany alone.

“Parliaments throughout the world have enacted legislation intended to comprehensively increase government’s reach into the private life of nearly all citizens and residents,” the Washington-based Electronic Privacy Information Center and the London-based Privacy International said in the report. It called “the fundamental right of privacy fragile and exposed.”

Among the 47 nations ranked in terms of privacy protection, the US and the UK came in near the bottom, in the “black” category, which denotes “endemic surveillance” and also includes Russia, China and Singapore, according to the report. Greece was the top-ranked country, followed by Canada, Romania and Hungary.

The following is from Earth Times.

Germans protest data mining law

Protests coincided with the filing of a lawsuit supported by thousands in Germany in opposition to a new law allowing the retention of telecommunication data.

Protesters rallied in several German cities to support a lawsuit backed by more than 30,000 Germans filed to fight legislation that permits the storing of Internet data and telephone records for up to six months as part of wider counter-terrorism efforts, Deutsche Welle said Wednesday.

Advocates in Hamburg marked "the death of privacy" and the Working Party on Data Retention said the law was "obviously unconstitutional" and struck "at the foundation of our constitutional state."

The law is part of a widespread EU move in response to the Madrid train bombings in March 2004 that killed 191 people. Investigators tracked down the people behind the attacks using mobile telephone data.

The new law permits Internet providers and phone companies to store dialed numbers, dates and length of conversations, IP addresses and e-mail addresses. Security officials may, with a court order, gain access to that information but not to the content of the communications.

Copyright 2008 by United Press International