Friday, January 18, 2008

WHO IS DOING WHAT TO WHO


There has been a bit in the news recently about Venezuela backing the FARC guerrillas. Colombia's government has accused Hugo Chavez of meddling in their little war.

Well, turn about is fair play, and the media in Venezuela is reporting now on right wing and druggie paramilitaries wrecking havoc in their country.

You won't see anything about that in the U.S. mainstream media.

As far back as 2004 the Venezuela has been trying to get someone's attention about the Colombian paramilitaries operating on their soil.
Also, in that year, the paras made headlines in Venezuela and around the world, when around 70 Colombian men were arrested outside Caracas, accused of being paramilitaries involved in a right-wing plot against the government of Hugo Chávez.

Anyway this new business follows on the heels of accusations by Venezuela that Colombia's U.S.-backed government is undermining efforts led by President Hugo Chavez to negotiate a prisoners-for-hostages swap with Colombia's largest rebel group.

Venezuela's government took aim at Colombian President Alvaro Uribe, issuing a statement that his government has ignored the plight of hundreds of rebel-held hostages and is obsessed with war.

«The Colombian government has reached the extreme of obstructing and sabotaging the humanitarian missions led by the international community, putting the lives if innocent people at risk,» Venezuela's foreign ministry said in its statement.


The following is from La Prensa Latina.

Colombian Paramilitary in Venezuela

Colombian paramilitary posses, present in Venezuelan rural zones for many years, are also penetrating the cities and control illegal activities in some neighborhoods, denounced local weekly Temas Friday.

In an article headlined "Venezuela: The Invasion Is On" Venezuelan intellectual Luis Brito assured that he had reports that paramilitary groups, mostly known as "paracos", are replacing illegal national gangs in the traffic of people, drugs, gambling and usurious loans.

Colombian gangs with training, organization, military armament and financial support from organized crime, replace thieves, and in the Venezuelan state of Zulia, have replaced national gangs lending money to street sellers.

Brito said that if the phenomenon spreads, another coup in Venezuela is possible, popular sectors will not be able to mobilize, as they did in 2002 to defeat the coup against Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.

He warned of the danger because of the proximity of Colombia, in an election year in the US, a country in which presidents strike at other countries as a sort of campaign propaganda.

HUCKABEE: A PROUD SON OF THE CONFEDERATE STATES OF AMERICA


Okay folks, here is something a little different. The article which follows the introduction is from The Nation. The introduction, however, is not from me, but from One People's Project. Got it. Get it. Who needs me?


From One People's Project:


We knew it was going to happen, but it sucks that we had to be right. Even we wanted Mike Huckabee to be the nice guy he seems to be on the campaign trail. The problem with that is he is also a neo-con, and when you put neo-cons in South Carolina, where you just have to kiss the asses of neo-confederates, what is ugly about you comes out big time. Now the fact that Huckabee was the governor of a state that represents the Confederacy on it's flag should not be enough to indict the guy if it didn't indict Gov. Clinton. Remarks defending the Confederate flag - suggesting violence to do so - just before the Martin Luther King, Jr. Day weekend - oughta do it though. Okay, so he says it's all in the spirit of not allowing others to tell South Carolina what to do. Considering we have heard that in the past not only from South Carolina but from Arkansas when they tried in vain to preserve Jim Crow, that sentiment is going to ring a little hollow. Tell ya what though, Mikey. Since you don't believe in telling South Carolina what to do, we guess that means you won't have much to say when New Jersey burns that flag, eh? This article is accompanied by a video shot in 2000 by DLJ of members of the People's Organization for Progress, NAACP, Anti-Racist Action and others burning a Confederate flag in Newark, NJ. It was burned in response to the controversy brewing at the time in South Carolina keeping the flag they hoisted in protest of the Civil Rights Bill on top of their Statehouse. It is one thing if someone as an individual wants to fly that flag, but it is quite another when it is going to represent everyone, including those who do not want to be associated with it. If Huckabee doesn't see that to be a problem, the closest he will get to the White House next year may be as a tourist.

From The Nation:


Mike Huckabee is a proud Christian fundamentalist.

But that's not the only faith the Republican presidential candidate preaches on the campaign trail.
He is, as well, a proud Confederate fundamentalist who wants there to be no doubt about his commitment to preserving the ugly symbols of slavery's defense.

Huckabee has in recent days been gleefully proposing a violent response to any "outsider" who might suggest that it is time to haul down the flag of treason that was flown by southern extremists who went to war against the United States in order to preserve the practice of human bondage.

Again and again on the campaign trail in South Carolina, the state that led the south into rebellion against the Union, Huckabee has gone out of his way to discuss and defend the "right" of southerners to fly the Confederate flag in official settings.

"You don't like people from outside the state coming in and telling you what to do with your flag," the former governor of Arkansas told a crowd in Myrtle Beach, where he was campaigning in advance of the state's Republican primary on Saturday. "In fact, if somebody came to Arkansas and told us what to do with our flag, we'd tell them what to do with the pole, that's what we'd do."
In Florence, he told his supporters that, "I know what would happen if somebody comes to my state in Arkansas and tells us what to do, it doesn't matter what it is, tell us how to run our schools, tell us how to raise our kids, tell us what to do with our flag -- you want to come tell us what to do with the flag, we'd tell them what to do with the pole."

Exactly when are political reporters going to acknowledge that the candidate they have presented to America as a charming, good-humored "nice guy" is running a "southern-strategy" campaign so extreme in its sensibilities, themes and language that it would have embarrassed George Wallace?

THE LAWSON FILE: HOW TO MAKE A BUCK OFF OF OLD FOLKS


Attention Baby Boomers, your attention please. Big moneyed interests are looking at your aging with glee. They plan to make a buttload of money off you and provide you with less then adequate nursing home care elder care, and assisted living at the same time.

Hell, they're at it right now with your folks and your siblings.

Just prior to Christmas, it was revealed that serious reprimands for dangerous conditions at nursing homes had increased 22 per cent over a six-year period ending in 2006. These citations can run the gamut from not providing patients their necessary meds, to cases of physical and sexual abuse of residents.

Still there are a lot of boomers reaching that age none of us planned on and the millionaires are ready.

The good news: at least, some folks have an eye out on the situation already.

Carlyle Group co founder David Rubenstein had his speech disrupted by protesters today at the Wharton Private Equity Forum in Center City Philadelphia today.

The Philadelphia Inquirer reports Rubinstein's talk to more than 300 investors and students was delayed half an hour when two dozen activists from the Service Employees' International Union (SEIU) heckled the head of the $70 billion-asset investment firm, jostling Park Hyatt Hotel security, shouted and chanted from the balconies at the Park Hyatt in Philadelphia the minute he started speaking, and managed to unfurl banners despite the efforts of security to stop them.

The protest was sparked by Carlyle's take over of the nursing home company Manor Care.

Portfolio.com reports a delegation charged the stage with a megaphone and accused Rubenstein and Carlyle -- which recently acquired Manor Care-- of disregarding patient care and plotting layoffs.

"We take care of your parents and you don't care!" a protester shouted from the balcony.

Manor Care is a Toledo-based chain of 500 nursing homes, which Carlyle bought last month for $6.3 billion. It's one of the most recent of dozens of public companies that have been taken over by private equity firms like Carlyle, which invest money from pension funds, universities and other wealthy investors, and which don't have to report detailed financial results as public companies do.

The union charges that Carlyle is trying to make money through other people's suffering -- and indeed make some people's suffering worse in the pursuit of profits. The union's website dedicated to Carlyle and other private equity big shots states that it is "concerned that Carlyle's business practices may put everyday Americans at risk by endangering public services, imperiling the environment, jeopardizing the health of vulnerable senior citizens, and supporting human rights abuses abroad."

Manor Care workers worry Carlyle will cut spending at the residences in order to make the deal pay, said protester Tricia Miechur, who said she worked at a Manor facility in the Lehigh Valley. Speaking after the group left the hotel, she said coworkers have asked the SEIU to help form a union because they're worried Carlyle can't afford to improve both profits and patient care.

By the way, Rubinstein was a member of the Carter administration, and Carlyle formerly counted ex-President George H.W. Bush, former Defense Secretary Frank Carlucci and other Washington insiders among its top officers, and military contractors among its clients according to the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Now back to the generic problem...or geriatric prolem...anyway our problem.

Private investment groups have been targeting some of the biggest nursing home concerns, in turn affecting the care of millions of patients. In addition to Carlyle’s purchases of HCR Manor Car, Genesis Healthcare Corp. agreed to be bought by private equity in January, and Beverly Enterprises went private in 2005 reports NewsInferno.com.

These guys aren't buying up nursing homes and the like for fun. Such purchases are made for the quick buck, where a new owner will gloss over problems and cut costs in order to improve profitability, then sell for a tidy sum. How do you cut costs? You and I know the answer to that one, don't we?

And yet no one is asking us what we think of all this.

Hmmm.

According to a New York Times investigation, as outlined in NewsInferno.com, facilities owned by private investment firms scored worse than national rates in 12 of the 14 indicators regulators use to track ailments prevalent in nursing homes. Both federal and state regulators told the New York Times that citations for quality-of-care deficiencies, like moldy food and restraining residents for long periods of time, rose at every large nursing home chain that was acquired by a private investment group

What's more, according to data attributed to the US Centers of Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMMS, the authority which regulates nursing homes in the United States), residents of nursing homes held by private equity suffer more from depression, loss of mobility and the loss of ability to bathe, and dress themselves.
Federal and state regulators have said that citations for things such as restraining residents for long periods, and the serving of moldy food have increased at every nursing home owned, and controlled by a private equity firm.

Gee whiz, makes you just long for those golden years, doesn't it?

But then America has always had such a glowing record when it comes to taking care of citizens who have worked hard for decades and can finally work no more.

Capitalism finds a way to make money off you one way or another.

Isn't that so cool?

The following somewhat confusingly written article is from DealBreaker.

The Fracas At Wharton

So how violent was the protest at Wharton's Private Equity and Venture Capital conference
today?

Accounts of the disruption vary, with some claiming that punches were thrown and others saying that it was just scuffling or jostling.

As we first reported this morning, shortly after David Rubenstein of the Carlyle Group had begun his keynote address, protesters from the Service Employees International Union swarmed the room, unfurling banners and shouting slogans, sometimes through a megaphone.

Eyewitness accounts report that around forty protesters were in the room (the Philadelphia Inquirer says only two-dozen), although protestors had been handing out fliers outside the event earlier. Rubenstein was described as “speechless” in the moments after the protests began.

“They looked like they are going to kill the guy [Rubenstein],” a witness said over email as it unfolded. “They are on both balconies and have control of the floor. No sign of security. The speaker is in shock. One thing we now know about the venture crowd; don't count on them in a fire fight. You'd be better off with Donald Duck as a wingman.”

After a short time, a dialogue of sorts—as much as any back-and-forth that involves bullhorns can be described as a “dialogue”—began between the protesters, the audience and Rubenstein, lasting for between ten and fifteen minutes.

"Rubenstein remained on stage and agreed to address questions from a woman with a mega-phone, who said she was a Manor Care employee, and lit into him," George White of the Deal reports.

“A spokesperson of sorts began a rather predictable dialogue with Rubenstein about Carlyle's two-week-old purchase of Manor Care,” one witness said.

"I think a remedial English course would be helpful," Rubenstein said to the female protester.

Some in the audience offered less jocular responses, verbally abusing the protesters.

“One person in the front row called one of our spokespeople a ‘fat cow,’” Jule Eisenhardt of SEIU told DealBreaker.

The situation grew tense as the confrontation continued. Unlike many events in the past that have been subject to similar protests recently undertaken by the SEIU, this one seemed capable of turning violent. Many students in the crowd seemed agitated that the conference was being disrupted.

“The crowd had a large number of students, who are less inhibited than the typical attendees at these conferences,” Eisenhardt said. “They are not that deep in the industry. Usually people just stand back and wait for security.”

Witnesses at the conference reported that the situation turned “violent” and described the situation as “out of control.” There were reports that punches were thrown but Eisenhardt denies these. Witnesses who spoke to DealBreaker did not see any punches. One witness said that after the event he was told by others that there were “fisticuffs” between protesters unfurling a banner from one of the balconies and a group that attempted to stop them.

“There was lots of shouting and jostling but nothing violent,” Eisenhardt says.

Police were summoned to the hotel but did not enter the room, according to Eisenhardt. She tells DealBreaker that no-one was arrested and the protesters left on their own accord as the hotel security presence increased after about 30 minutes.

Private equity has been the target of many protests in the last several months. The SEIU organized a protest in the Hamptons last summer, as DealBook reminds us, “where protesters pretended to be billionaires and expressed mock opposition to raising taxes on private equity fund managers.” Weeks later, a private equity conference at the Waldorf Astoria was disrupted by protesters.

Eisenhardt said that the SEIU had not given the press any advance notice of the protest so that the group could avoid being stopped by security. She explained the purpose of the protest to Dan Primack at PE Hub: “We want to show that private equity has a responsibility to the community, just as any other investment class or industry would have. Right now, Carlyle and Rubenstein are involved in a number of different companies where there are serious questions about how they’re handling that responsibility.”

Thursday, January 17, 2008

WHITE SUPREMACISTS SAY THEY WILL BE COMING WITH GUNS TO JENA


The white supremacists coming to march in Jena, Louisiana on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day say they will be bringing guns with them. Richard Barrett, spokesman and attorney for the Mississippi-based Nationalist Movement, said, "We will be armed." The Nationalists' main speaker, Larry Darby, will be carrying his personal handgun to the event, Barrett said. Barrett added any kind of attempt by law enforcement officers to stop or search vehicles coming into the town for firearms wouldn't be tolerated.

The guy is obviously a fool in addition to a racist.

Meanwhile, the Shreveport Times reports opponents of the racists plans to march in Jena urged people Wednesday to take a stand against racism by opposing the procession.


A group called the January 21st Committee has issued a call for people to come to Jena.

"If we don't speak up and stand up, this horrific message will go unopposed," said Alice Woodward, of the Revolutionary Communist Party (RCP), who spoke for other groups opposed to the white supremacist parade.

"If not us, who? If not now, when?"

Initial signatories to the January 21st Committee call include:

A group of 14 Jena residents Black and white, young and old, including two parents of the Jena Six

Addis Bey Ababa, People’s Hurricane Relief Fund organizer, Atlanta

Animas SDS (the Fort Lewis College [Durango CO] autonomous chapter of Students for a Democratic Society

Medea Benjamin, Cofounder CODEPINK* and Global Exchange*

Black Men 7, Eunice, Louisiana

Herb Boyd, The Black World Today, NY, NY

Reverend Raymond Brown, Community Activist, New Orleans

Marcus Coleman, President-National Action Network, Atlanta chapter* and 37 members and supporters attending the 1st NAN Atlanta meeting of 2008

C3 (Community, Concern, Compassion)/Hands Off Iberville, New Orleans

60 residents of Cabrini Green, Chicago

Carl Dix, Revolutionary Communist Party

Education Not Incarceration (San Francisco Chapter)

Miky Espinal, NY organizer for Health & Hospital Workers Union 1199*

Peggy Hendrix, member of Georgians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty

Idress Stelley Foundation

International Socialist Organization, Madison Campus Branch

Thomas Kleven, Professor of Law, Thurgood Marshall School of Law*

Mayday New Orleans

Michael Novick, Anti-Racist Action, Los Angeles

NU Coalition to Free the Jena 6, Northwestern University, Evanston, IL.

Don Paul, writer, musician, Housing is a Human Right, New Orleans

People Against Racist Terror

Don Rojas, The Black World Today, NY, NY

San Francisco Bayview Free The Jena Six Task Force

San Francisco Village Voice Community Radio, 105.5 FM

San Francisco Bayview Campaign to End the Death Penalty

Sankofa Community Empowerment

Sess 4-5, Nuthin But Fire Records, New Orleans

Adam Shapiro, “Current Events” on WRFG 89.3 FM Atlanta

Cindy Sheehan, Candidate for Congress, California's 8th district, mother of KIA soldier Casey Sheehan

Benetta Standly, Georgia Statewide Organizer, ACLU*

Student Organizers from University of California, PA and Howard University

Debra Sweet, Director, The World Can't Wait – Drive Out the Bush Regime

Everett Taasevigen

“Mzee” Leonard Tate, Millions More Movement Atlanta Chapter

Ms. Beauty Turner, National award-winning Journalist/Activist/Groundbreaking researcher, Founder of Poor People Millennium Movement

McNair Wagner, member Georgia Students for Sustainability

Cornel West

William Winters, Baton Rouge Activist

Alice Woodward and Hank Brown, Jena, LA correspondents for Revolution


The following is from UPI.

Group 'will be armed' for MLK protest

JENA, La., Jan. 17 (UPI) -- Protesters with the Nationalist Movement said they "will be armed" during marches in Louisiana protesting Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

Richard Barrett, a spokesman for the "pro-majority" organization, said "we will be armed" for a protest of Martin Luther King Jr. Day marches that will also support six black Jena, La., teens charged with beating a white classmate, the Alexandria (La.) Town Talk said Thursday.

The remarks are in contrast to statements by the Nationalist Movement's lawyer, Gregory Aymond, who said Friday the group has "no intention" of carrying weapons following a successful lawsuit filed by the organization against the town of Jena regarding rally permit requirements, the newspaper report said.

The ruling, however, didn't address the organization's opposition to a ban on weapons during marches.

A release by the organization said attempts to search vehicles for firearms would be a violation of the court order.

THE LAWSON FILE: THE UNIVERSITY PRESIDENT WHO NEVER HEARD OF FREE SPEECH


So there is the guy at Valdosta State University in southern Georgia, a student, by the name of T. Hayden Barnes (pictured here), and he didn't like his University's plan to build a new parking garage costing $30 million. The $30 million would come from student fees.

So being a student at the Valdosta you'd figure he had the right to do what he did - put up flyers around the university in protest. He also sent out some e-mails including some to the university administration stating his position.

Guess what? Rather than ignore him or set up a meeting with concerned students, Valdosta State University, in Georgia, informed our student "radical", then a sophomore, that he had been “administratively withdrawn” effective May 7, 2007. In a letter apparently slipped under his dorm room door, Ronald Zaccari, the university’s president, wrote that Barnes “present[ed] a clear and present danger to this campus” and referred to the “attached threatening document,” a printout of an image from an album on Barnes’s Facebook profile. The collage featured a picture of a parking garage, a photo of Zaccari, a bulldozer, the words “No Blood for Oil” and the title “S.A.V.E.-Zaccari Memorial Parking Garage,” a reference to a campus environmental group and Barnes’s contention that the president sought to make the structures part of his legacy at the university.


And then, quite amazingly, the University of Georgia system upheld Zaccari's decision.

Now there are two things really wrong about this.

First, you'd be hard pressed to find any Americans out there (even in this day and age) who would tell you they think a college kid in Georgia ought to be thrown out of school for peacefully "protesting" a parking garage.

Second, the misuse of Facebook spots by school administrators of all stripes is getting out of hand and downright intimidating.

Of course, you would think that the president of a university would have heard of something called Free Speech, but then you have to remember that university presidents tend to think of themselves as intellectually above the rest of us and not to be questioned.

So I'm sure in this case Mr. U President would just tell you and me and Joe down the street that we haven't the brains to understand the issues and dangers involved which led him to crack down on this dangerous student.

Well, Mr. President, you've tackled a student who isn't impressed by your credentials or your position.

He's doing what all good Americans do in a case like this...he is going to court. (By the way coincidentally shortly after the suit was filed the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia reversed its earlier ruling against Barnes).

At the crux of what is now a federal lawsuit against Valdosta State, the document informing our student of his expulsion included a printout of an image posted on that Facebook profile as previously mentioned. Inside Higher Ed described the photo's contents:

"The collage featured a picture of a parking garage, a photo of Zaccari, a bulldozer, the words “No Blood for Oil” and the title “S.A.V.E.-Zaccari Memorial Parking Garage,” a reference to a campus environmental group and Barnes’s contention that the president sought to make the structures part of his legacy at the university."

As additional evidence of the threat posed by Barnes, the document referred to a link he posted to his Facebook profile whose accompanying graphic read: “Shoot it. Upload it. Get famous. Project Spotlight is searching for the next big thing. Are you it?” It doesn’t mention that Project Spotlight was an online digital video contest and that “shoot” in that context meant “record.”'

But how could we expect a university president to figure this one out?

Anyway this yutz of of president was also alarmed that Barnes’s Facebook profile stated, at one point, that he was “cleaning out and rearranging his room and thus, his mind, or so he hopes.” Scary stuff (well, to Zaccari anyway). The comments though were merely a status update, commonly used by Facebook members to update their friends on what they’re doing at a particular moment — whether literally or metaphorically.

But wait there is more to this story yet.

The university president did something here that should again concern every damn one of us. He found out that Barnes had availed himself of a counselor at the U. Again from Inside Higher Ed:

“Knowing that Barnes had availed himself of counseling services made available to all students by VSU, Zaccari secretly and repeatedly met with Barnes’s counselor seeking to justify his decision to expel him,” the lawsuit states. “What he learned from both the campus counseling center and from Barnes’s private psychiatrist who was consulted in the matter, however, was that Barnes had never exhibited any violent tendencies and that he did not represent any danger either to himself or to others. Quite to the contrary, despite a background in which he had been forced to cope with some difficult family issues from an early age, Barnes had developed into an engaged student, was a licensed and decorated emergency medical technician, and was politically aware and involved.”


Robert Corn-Revere, Barnes’s attorney and an adjunct scholar at the libertarian Cato Institute said, "“Sometimes there will come along a set of facts where you read it and you think, they couldn't’t possibly have done this. Then you look at it [and realize that] yes, they did.”

Oh, by the way, there is one piece of good news...President Zaccari has since announced his retirement.

The following is from The Red and Black (an independent newspaper serving the University of Georgia community).

Expulsion for protest unfair
By: Chris Chiego

What happens when a college student peacefully criticizes the actions of his university's administration? At Valdosta State University, new details are emerging in an incident that appears to offer a disturbing answer to that question.

After reading about this incident in numerous media sources, I examined publicly available documents to try to uncover an answer. However, what I found only exacerbated my concerns.

In what should be of interest to all University System of Georgia students who value their First Amendment rights, this case reveals major issues with how far freedom of speech extends on university campuses.

The incident began with the most American of traditions: a peaceful, spirited protest by a determined individual.

In a scenario reminiscent of Tate II, a new parking garage costing $30 million was announced for the VSU campus, to be funded with student fees.

T. Hayden Barnes, a VSU student, was angered by the garage and fought back peacefully and legally, sending e-mails to senior administrators and putting up fliers around campus protesting the garage.

Unfortunately for Barnes, his repeated letters roused the ire of VSU President Ronald Zaccari, who at the end of last spring semester personally ordered Barnes to be "administratively withdrawn" - expelled - specifically citing a collage Barnes posted on Facebook, which Zaccari claimed amounted to a "clear and present danger."

This collage includes images of a parking garage, Zaccari, a bulldozer and a sign that says "no blood for oil," among other environmental images. The title of the collage, "S.A.V.E.-Zaccari Memorial Parking Garage," apparently was a reference to Zaccari's desire to leave a legacy when he retired (he did so late last year), but I could not see any of the "clear and present danger" claimed by Zaccari. See for yourself online. (http://thefire.org/index.php/article/8530.html)

When Barnes appealed the decision to expel him to the University System of Georgia's Board of Regents, the same governing body that oversees our University, the regents defended Zaccari, claiming Barnes posed a danger to the safety of campus. To prove this charge, the regents cited two examples from Barnes' Facebook profile in a document submitted to the state Office of Administrative Hearings last fall.

According to this document, while Barnes' Facebook status stated he was "cleaning out and rearranging his room and, thus, his mind," Barnes posted a link to a Web site that included the tagline, "Shoot it. Upload it. Get famous." A reference to school shootings?

No, actually an ad for a photography contest, but apparently considered grounds for action against Barnes, as the regents document links that with the Virginia Tech shootings.

Last week, with the aid of the nonpartisan Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, Barnes filed a lawsuit alleging that his rights to free speech and due process were denied.

FIRE's president, Greg Lukianoff, had harsh words for VSU, decrying VSU's "concerted effort to silence and punish Hayden Barnes" as an "unconscionable attempt to violate his First Amendment rights."

Hopefully new details will emerge soon to clarify what happened at VSU, as taking out-of-context material from students' Facebook profiles to justify expelling them seems absurd.

The regents, which is meeting today, should give Barnes a fair hearing and transparently determine in a timely manner the merits of Barnes' case. Georgia's public university students should not have to worry whether speaking out against their administrators could lead to an untimely departure from college.

- Chris Chiego is a junior from Memphis, Tenn. majoring in international affairs and history.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

TURKEY: MURDER TRIAL RAISES QUESTION OF POLICE COLLUSION AND PROSECUTORIAL INDIFFERENCE


Earth News writes today that one of the accused in the trial for killing three Christians (pictured here) in Turkey has called the suspected leader of the gang that carried out the attack a murderer.. Emre Gunaydin, 19, cut the throats of Tilmann Geske of Germany and Turkish national Necati Aydin, local media reported, citing testimony by defendant Hamit Ceker from Monday.

It was unclear who killed the third victim, Ugur Yuksel, who was also Turkish.

Ceker said that Gunaydin also gloated about having close contacts with the police chief in Malatya, south-eastern Turkey, where the trial is taking place. He testified he wanted to tell the police all the things Günaydın told him before the incident took place but another of the defendents told him that Günaydın was on good terms with the local police chief.

Since the trial opened in November, press reports have emerged alleging police collusion in the murders and accused prosecutors in the central Turkish city of Malatya of seriously mishandling the investigation. The allegations were brought by lawyers representing the families of the victims, based on evidence introduced to the court.

Hurryat reports according to some of the testimony offered up yesterday by one of the suspects in the case, part of the reason for the murders was the shared belief by the young men that "missionary activities in Turkey had reached dangerous levels."

The victims were tied to chairs in the offices of a small Bible- publisher, tortured with knives and then had their throats cut.

Lawyers representing the victims' families objected to the tone of the indictment and investigation, declaring that 16 of the 31 files focused on the religious activities of the Christian victims rather than on the murderers, who tied up, stabbed and slit the throats of Turkish converts Necati Aydin and Ugur Yuksel and German Christian Tilmann Geske.

According to an article on the Turkish Bianet (Independent News Net) the tone of the criminal investigation and biased reporting in the Turkish media marks “a dangerous shift of focus from the presumed perpetrators of a crime to conspiracy theories linking Christian missionaries and PKK [the separatist Kurdish Workers’ Party] activities.”

Zafer Üskül, head of Parliament's Human Rights Committee, talked to the journalists about the trial yesterday. He said, "Murders occurred in Malatya and a fundamental human right was violated. As the head of the Human Rights Committee I need to be informed about this case. One of the essential necessities of state secularism is to guarantee the freedom of religion. The state has to have an equal distance from all belief systems. However, these people were killed because of their beliefs. This is unacceptable," he said. Üskül also stated that Turkish society needed to be more tolerant about religious differences.

The following is from EurasiaNet.

TURKEY: MURDER CASES UNDERSCORE TROUBLES WITH JUDICIAL, POLICE REFORM
Yigal Schleifer: 1/16/08

The brutal murders of three Christians in a Bible publishing house last April in the central Turkish city of Malatya shocked many Turks. The country has continued to be scandalized by reports that have come to light amid the trial of the five people charged in the case. Among the more sordid allegations is that police officers may have colluded in the killings, and that investigators have mismanaged the criminal probe.

The killings of the Christians -- a German and two Turks -- occurred only a few months after the Istanbul murder of Hrant Dink, an outspoken Armenian journalist. Dink’s killing, the first anniversary of which will be commemorated on January 19, has also been surrounded by accusations of police and prosecutorial impropriety. The cases have led to renewed concerns about the continuing influence of rogue nationalist elements in Turkey’s security forces. They have also helped refocus attention on the conduct of the country’s police force and judiciary. Recent reports produced by international human rights groups argue that law-enforcement structures in Turkey are in urgent need of reform.

“Torture, ill treatment and killings continue to be met with persistent impunity for the security forces in Turkey,” Amnesty International said in a report released last summer. “The investigation and prosecution of serious human rights violations committed by officers of the police and gendarmerie are flawed and compounded by inconsistent decisions by prosecutors and judges. As a result, justice for the victims of human rights violations is delayed or denied.”

Dink’s murder on an Istanbul sidewalk was quickly followed up by reports that top police officials had been informed months before about a plot by Turkish nationalists to kill him. Meanwhile, a video showing several policemen proudly posing with the murder suspect – a 17-year-old from the Black Sea city of Trabzon – after he was caught soon surfaced after the murder.

In the Malatya case, press reports have indicated that the suspects, also young nationalists, had phone conversations with police officials, and possibly even with a prosecutor from Istanbul, in the months before the murders. Prosecutors have not followed up on these reports. The defendants’ trial began in late November.

According to various media accounts, police in Malatya are purported to have destroyed videotapes recorded in the hospital room of one of the accused, who injured himself during the crime. “The security forces and the judiciary here are protecting each other by not conducting a detailed investigation,” Husnu Ondul, head of the Human Rights Association (IHD), a Turkish watchdog group, told the English-language Today’s Zaman on December 8.

“The common point among all these similar incidents is this protection,” Ondul added.

Says Volkan Aytar, a researcher at the Turkish Economic and Social Studies Foundation (TESEV), an Istanbul-based think-tank: “There is a huge lack of transparency and a huge lack of accountability in the Turkish security services.”

In response to the questions swirling around the Malatya case, Turkish Interior Minister Besir Atalay announced in early December that two senior police officials would be conducting a probe. “Be sure of this: as a ministry, we will increase our transparency,” the minister told reporters.

Observers say that as shocking as the allegations of misdeeds in the Dink and Malatya cases have been, the fact that they are coming to light so quickly in itself represents a kind of step forward. “There have been a lot of political murders and crimes in the past in Turkey, but it was always very difficult to find out who did it,” says Hakan Bakircioglu, a lawyer who is monitoring the Dink murder trial on behalf of the slain journalist’s family.

“These two cases might be the first time we can find the murderers and maybe not catch, but at least touch, the members of state organizations who might be behind the crimes,” Bakircioglu added.

The Turkish police force has already taken some unilateral steps towards reform. Under one program, about 250 police officers over the last decade have been sent to study in the United States and European Union, where they obtained advanced degrees in criminal justice. Upon their return, it was envisioned that this corps of foreign-trained officers would play a key role in fostering a more transparent culture within the broader Turkish police force.

“There is no doubt that there has been an improvement in the last 10 years,” says Onder Aytac, a lecturer at Turkey’s national police academy in Ankara.

“But there is a kind of fighting between the old system and the new system,” he continued. “There are some people in the police force who are trying to go along the old way.”

Turkey’s judiciary, today seen as one of the pillars maintaining Turkey’s secular system, has also made some reform efforts. Over the last few years, more than 9,000 judges and prosecutors have undergone European Union-sponsored training concerning European human rights law. Turkey is a candidate for EU membership and is a member of the Strasbourg-based European Court of Human Rights.

Still, a recent survey of judges and prosecutors conducted by TESEV found that a majority still believe that the interests of the state take precedence over those of the individual. Of those surveyed, 51 percent said they believe human rights could pose a threat to state security. Only 28 percent said they didn’t. Meanwhile, 63 percent said they did not believe that Turkey’s EU-inspired reform process was benefiting the country.

“At the end of the day, we need judiciary reform and police reform,” says TESEV’s Aytar. “If that doesn’t happen, then we will have a very static bureaucracy that will not be able to adapt itself to the realities of a modern Turkey that is on its way to the EU.”


Yigal Schleifer is a freelance journalist based in Istanbul.

THE LAWSON FILE: "FOURRRR, HEADS UP!"




A whole bunch of local residents around Socorro, New Mexico are a little concerned about a proposed training "drop zone" at New Mexico Tech's Energetic Materials Research and Testing Center.

That's a dropping things from planes kind of "drop zone."

They've raised questions about the flight path and elevation restrictions for the involved planes, impacts of noise, the shaking of their homes, possible mistakes, and a variety of environmental issues over the U.S. Air Force plan.

The Air Force apparently never gave any of that much thought themselves.

Those feisty New Mexicans are also less then happy with the fact that up until now no one has seemed the least bit interested in what those who live near the zone or those who live under the flight path of soon to be screaming low flying aircraft might think of the whole thing. In fact, in order to find out anything about they had to do some searching.

For example, old Wesley Burris, who lives near the airport, said he got some information upon requesting it from the center, but no one ever returned requests for further discussion.

"So if they don't have anything to hide, why won't they talk to me?" he said.

Burris said the planes might not interfere with the airport, but they would interfere with him if they fly over his property.

Now you'd think the Air Force might have thought of using White Sands Missile Range (WSMR) as a possible drop zone. WSMR airspace is completely under military control. The north end of WSMR is only about 30 road miles further from Kirtland Air Force Base then the one near Socorro.

But no.

Jim Ruff from Socorro writes with a bit of wit:


"The folks who rattle our windows several times a day, sprinkle 'M' Mountain with depleted uranium, and shoot mysterious rounds across the mountain at night - have yet another idea to keep Socorro interesting. They want to establish a "Drop Zone" for military aircraft on the west side of 'M' Mountain."

According to the environmental assessment, they will run up to 10,800 passes per year over the site, resulting in a "slight" increase in aircraft noise. If you've ever been anywhere near a C-130 (a couple of those "little bitsy" buggers are pictured here) or a HH-60 helicopter, you know how loud they are."

Jim also suggests the Air Force use White Sands.

You'd think the federal government which owns most of the land in the West anyway could help the Air Force find someplace to drop crap from the sky a little further from people's homes, especially people who aren't volunteering for the mission.

I don't know about you, but the thought of military aircraft streaking low over my house day and night wouldn't exactly thrill me either. But then I'm a light sleeper.

What you wanna bet the residents of Socorro who are being impacted by this aren't rich and famous?

It seems to me if your looking for a nice drop zone the area around Mr. Bush's home in either DC or Crawford provide a good space.

The following is from the El Defensor Chieftain Reporter (New Mexico)

Council discusses drop zone issue

Socorro County residents raised many questions about the proposed drop zone for U.S. Air Force training on the Energetic Materials Research and Testing Center range during Monday's City Council meeting.

During the Jan. 7 meeting at City Hall, Mayor Ravi Bhasker said City Clerk Pat Salome would compile a list of questions and give them to center representatives to answer at the next meeting on Monday, Jan. 28.

Last summer, the testing center ran a legal notice of an environmental assessment for the drop zone available to the public. The mile-square area an the northeast edge of the testing range would primarily be available to Kirtland Air Force Base personnel for training in dropping people and supplies from C-130s.

The assessment said other customers might use the drop zone as well.

At the Dec. 17 meeting, Socorroan Loretta Lowman raised questions, and Bhasker agreed to put the issue on the agenda for Monday's meeting.

Monday, Bhasker read a letter from Van Romero, New Mexico Tech Vice President for Research and Economic Development, explaining why center representatives didn't attend.

"New Mexico Tech is eager to respond to the public questions concerning the establishment of a drop zone on university property," Romero wrote.

The letter continued to say that EMRTC had Lowman's written questions and was formulating answers. However, Romero said Tech personnel needed input from the Air Force and couldn't get it before Jan. 7.

After the Dec. 17 meeting, Salome said, Tech representatives came to City Hall to get more information. Salome said he had assumed they would come to Monday's meeting.

However, after the representatives saw the agenda in the newspaper, they said they couldn't address the concerns then.

Salome said people could bring more questions to him after the meeting.

"The sooner we get it to them, the better," he said of the list of queries for Tech.

Salome wanted to have all questions by noon Thursday.

A number of people at Monday's meeting came forward with concerns, some getting enthusiastic applause after they spoke.

Lowman said she couldn't get responses to her inquiries from the testing center. She said procedures exist for stopping the drop zone after the finding of no significant impact.

Lowman's questions included how the action was filed legally and who determined the drop zone and planes would have no significant impact. She also asked why planners didn't evaluate the cumulative impact of all activities at EMRTC, as law required.

"Why didn't they involve us?" Lowman asked, and added that everyone there was a stakeholder.

Lowman questioned where the flight path would be, why it wasn't mapped out in the environmental assessment and why the report said flights over the city would only last a short time if planes wouldn't fly over Socorro. The draft environmental assessment said planes would use existing flight paths.

With the flight pattern for planes making passes over the drop zone being a large rectangle, Lowman questioned how pilots could avoid flying over U.S. 60, 1.6 miles away.

The assessment said no available evidence indicated that distractions from low-flying aircraft would cause more traffic accidents. Lowman said she found a study indicating occurrences outside the car could cause wrecks.

"And when you're distracted on that road, it can be fatal," she said.

In her protest letter, Lowman said airports must post signs warning of low-flying aircraft because of the visual distraction.

"I want to know, isn't this drop zone like a front door?" Lowman asked.

Lowman was concerned about the action opening the way for other activities. She also said environmental justice laws prohibit significant impact on areas with minority and low-income populations, but drop zone planners didn't consider people in the flight path.

Meeting attendee Paul Lopez asked how the drop zone would benefit Socorro and how much it would help.

Socorro resident Jim Ruff said he believed Socorro would see the same or better economic impact from a drop zone at White Sands Missile Range.

Socorro County resident Wes Burris mentioned significant rattling when C-130s fly over an area.

Lemitar resident Richard Epstein asked why the environmental assessment didn't consider the effect on migratory bird patterns.

Epstein also said the U.S. Air Force sent requests to develop a drop zone to places besides Tech's testing center. He asked what those places were and why they didn't respond.

Resident Joy Miler said the city owned "M" Mountain, and the public had access until they allowed the explosives and weapons testing.

"We don't want to give any more of our city away," she said.

Socorro resident Thomas Guerges asked where the noise level measurements taken locally were. He said the mountain could reflect and thereby amplify sound.

"Is there any real schedule for the mission?" Guerges continued.

The environmental assessment said up to 20 percent of missions would happen at night.

Guerges wanted to know if flight paths would be different at night or in bad weather. He also questioned whether the people who prepared the assessment had adequate scientific background.

HOSTAGE SAGA CONTINUES WAY DOWN UNDER


The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society reports its ship Steve Irwin is in full pursuit of five vessels of the Japanese whaling fleet including the Japanese supply vessel Oriental Bluebird which is holding two of the group hostage on board.

The two men taken hostage had boarded the Yushin Maru (pictured doing its dirty work here) to deliver a message to the Japanese captain that the whalers were in violation of international conservation law by targeting endangered species in an established whale sanctuary in violation of a global moratorium on commercial whaling. They also notified the captain that Australia had just passed a court ruling barring Japanese whalers from the Australian Antarctic Economic Exclusion Zone.


Greenpeace says it is following another vessel in the same fleet, the Nisshin Maru, in its vessel the Esperanza.

Captain Paul Watson of the Sea Shepherd's ship the Steve Irwin says he believes the men are being treated well.

"I had initial concerns but I think there's too many people watching the situation for them to be mistreated now," he said.

The entire whaling fleet is on the run. According to the Sea Shepherd no whales have been able to be slaughtered for the last four days and it does not look as if the whaling operations are going to begin again for another week at least, and not at all if the vessels are prevented from regrouping. Crew members from the Sea Shepherd ship 'Steve Irwin' point out they have a "good supply of fuel and can remain in the area for some time and will continue to police the illegal whaling operations by the Japanese fleet".

Dr Pete Hay from the University of Technology in Australia believes the majority of Australians will support the actions of the protesters.

"There is so much support in this country for ending Japanese whaling that that in itself makes these sorts of in-your-face, provocative acts acceptable in a way that wouldn't have been the case if the community was more divided."

The area in which the Japanese fleet are hunting has been designated as the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary, designed to help whale populations recover after the devastating commercial whaling of the last century.

The following is from Radio New Zealand.

Sea Shepherd demands unconditional release of activists

The founder of the anti-whaling organisation, Sea Shepherd, says it will only accept the unconditional return of its two crew members being held on a Japanese whaling ship.

The men - one Australian and one British - were detained after boarding the Japanese vessel on Tuesday in protest at the hunting of whales in the Southern Ocean.

As a condition for releasing the two, the captain of the Yushin Maru No.2 is requesting the Sea Shepherd not interfere with its whaling operations and keep its boat at least 10 nautical miles away.

However, Sea Shepherd founder, Paul Watson, told Summer Report on Thursday the requests are unacceptable.

"What we have here is the Japanese holding hostages and making demands. That's extortion, that's the activities of a terrorist organisation," he said.

"Now they're threatening to take them back to Japan and put them on trial for piracy of all things."

Mr Watson says the Yushin Maru No.2 has not killed any whales for a week and every day they are not killing whales is a victory.

Japan intends to kill 935 minke whales and 50 fin whales in the Southern Ocean this summer, despite international criticism. Japan's Foreign Ministry says the annual hunt is not breaking international law.

Contact
A Japanese government spokesperson says the Yushin Maru No.2 has been trying to contact Sea Shepherd, but has had no response. He says they want to arrange the handover of the two men as requested by the Australian government.

A spokesman for the pro-whaling Institute of Cetacean Research, Glen Inwood, says it is considering legal action against the two activists.

Mr Inwood says the organisation has not established when the pair will be returned, but their release will not prejudice any possible future legal action. He says boarding vessels belonging to other flagged states is illegal.

Call for NZ involvement
The Green Party is calling on the Government to send a frigate to the Southern Whale Sanctuary in the Antarctic.

Conservation spokesperson Metiria Turei says the detention of the two protesters is an unprecedented situation, which could escalate.

Ms Turei says sending a frigate would demonstrate New Zealand's commitment to the integrity of the Whale Sanctuary.

However, the New Zealand Government says it has no plans to send a frigate to the Southern Ocean.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

"I'VE BEEN TO THE MOUNTAINTOP"


Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered this speech in support of the striking sanitation workers at Mason Temple in Memphis, TN on April 3, 1968 — the day before he was assassinated.

"I've Been to the Mountaintop" by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Thank you very kindly, my friends. As I listened to Ralph Abernathy in his eloquent and generous introduction and then thought about myself, I wondered who he was talking about. It's always good to have your closest friend and associate say something good about you. And Ralph is the best friend that I have in the world.

I'm delighted to see each of you here tonight in spite of a storm warning. You reveal that you are determined to go on anyhow. Something is happening in Memphis, something is happening in our world.

As you know, if I were standing at the beginning of time, with the possibility of general and panoramic view of the whole human history up to now, and the Almighty said to me, "Martin Luther King, which age would you like to live in?" — I would take my mental flight by Egypt through, or rather across the Red Sea, through the wilderness on toward the promised land. And in spite of its magnificence, I wouldn't stop there. I would move on by Greece, and take my mind to Mount Olympus. And I would see Plato, Aristotle, Socrates, Euripides and Aristophanes assembled around the Parthenon as they discussed the great and eternal issues of reality.

But I wouldn't stop there. I would go on, even to the great heyday of the Roman Empire. And I would see developments around there, through various emperors and leaders. But I wouldn't stop there. I would even come up to the day of the Renaissance, and get a quick picture of all that the Renaissance did for the cultural and esthetic life of man. But I wouldn't stop there. I would even go by the way that the man for whom I'm named had his habitat. And I would watch Martin Luther as he tacked his ninety-five theses on the door at the church in Wittenberg.

But I wouldn't stop there. I would come on up even to 1863, and watch a vacillating president by the name of Abraham Lincoln finally come to the conclusion that he had to sign the Emancipation Proclamation. But I wouldn't stop there. I would even come up to the early thirties, and see a man grappling with the problems of the bankruptcy of his nation. And come with an eloquent cry that we have nothing to fear but fear itself.

But I wouldn't stop there. Strangely enough, I would turn to the Almighty, and say, "If you allow me to live just a few years in the second half of the twentieth century, I will be happy." Now that's a strange statement to make, because the world is all messed up. The nation is sick. Trouble is in the land. Confusion all around. That's a strange statement. But I know, somehow, that only when it is dark enough, can you see the stars. And I see God working in this period of the twentieth century in a away that men, in some strange way, are responding — something is happening in our world. The masses of people are rising up. And wherever they are assembled today, whether they are in Johannesburg, South Africa; Nairobi, Kenya; Accra, Ghana; New York City; Atlanta, Georgia; Jackson, Mississippi; or Memphis, Tennessee — the cry is always the same — "We want to be free."

And another reason that I'm happy to live in this period is that we have been forced to a point where we're going to have to grapple with the problems that men have been trying to grapple with through history, but the demand didn't force them to do it. Survival demands that we grapple with them. Men, for years now, have been talking about war and peace. But now, no longer can they just talk about it. It is no longer a choice between violence and nonviolence in this world; it's nonviolence or nonexistence.

That is where we are today. And also in the human rights revolution, if something isn't done, and in a hurry, to bring the colored peoples of the world out of their long years of poverty, their long years of hurt and neglect, the whole world is doomed. Now, I'm just happy that God has allowed me to live in this period, to see what is unfolding. And I'm happy that He's allowed me to be in Memphis.

I can remember, I can remember when Negroes were just going around as Ralph has said, so often, scratching where they didn't itch, and laughing when they were not tickled. But that day is all over. We mean business now, and we are determined to gain our rightful place in God's world.

And that's all this whole thing is about. We aren't engaged in any negative protest and in any negative arguments with anybody. We are saying that we are determined to be men. We are determined to be people. We are saying that we are God's children. And that we don't have to live like we are forced to live.

Now, what does all of this mean in this great period of history? It means that we've got to stay together. We've got to stay together and maintain unity. You know, whenever Pharaoh wanted to prolong the period of slavery in Egypt, he had a favorite, favorite formula for doing it. What was that? He kept the salves fighting among themselves. But whenever the slaves get together, something happens in Pharaoh's court, and he cannot hold the slaves in slavery. When the slaves get together, that's the beginning of getting out of slavery. Now let us maintain unity.

Secondly, let us keep the issues where they are. The issue is injustice. The issue is the refusal of Memphis to be fair and honest in its dealings with its public servants, who happen to be sanitation workers. Now, we've got to keep attention on that. That's always the problem with a little violence. You know what happened the other day, and the press dealt only with the window-breaking. I read the articles. They very seldom got around to mentioning the fact that one thousand, three hundred sanitation workers were on strike, and that Memphis is not being fair to them, and that Mayor Loeb is in dire need of a doctor. They didn't get around to that.

Now we're going to march again, and we've got to march again, in order to put the issue where it is supposed to be. And force everybody to see that there are thirteen hundred of God's children here suffering, sometimes going hungry, going through dark and dreary nights wondering how this thing is going to come out. That's the issue. And we've got to say to the nation: we know it's coming out. For when people get caught up with that which is right and they are willing to sacrifice for it, there is no stopping point short of victory.

We aren't going to let any mace stop us. We are masters in our nonviolent movement in disarming police forces; they don't know what to do, I've seen them so often. I remember in Birmingham, Alabama, when we were in that majestic struggle there we would move out of the 16th Street Baptist Church day after day; by the hundreds we would move out. And Bull Connor would tell them to send the dogs forth and they did come; but we just went before the dogs singing, "Ain't gonna let nobody turn me round." Bull Connor next would say, "Turn the fire hoses on." And as I said to you the other night, Bull Connor didn't know history. He knew a kind of physics that somehow didn't relate to the transphysics that we knew about. And that was the fact that there was a certain kind of fire that no water could put out. And we went before the fire hoses; we had known water. If we were Baptist or some other denomination, we had been immersed. If we were Methodist, and some others, we had been sprinkled, but we knew water.

That couldn't stop us. And we just went on before the dogs and we would look at them; and we'd go on before the water hoses and we would look at it, and we'd just go on singing "Over my head I see freedom in the air." And then we would be thrown in the paddy wagons, and sometimes we were stacked in there like sardines in a can. And they would throw us in, and old Bull would say, "Take them off," and they did; and we would just go in the paddy wagon singing, "We Shall Overcome." And every now and then we'd get in the jail, and we'd see the jailers looking through the windows being moved by our prayers, and being moved by our words and our songs. And there was a power there which Bull Connor couldn't adjust to; and so we ended up transforming Bull into a steer, and we won our struggle in Birmingham.

Now we've got to go on to Memphis just like that. I call upon you to be with us Monday. Now about injunctions: We have an injunction and we're going into court tomorrow morning to fight this illegal, unconstitutional injunction. All we say to America is, "Be true to what you said on paper." If I lived in China or even Russia, or any totalitarian country, maybe I could understand the denial of certain basic First Amendment privileges, because they hadn't committed themselves to that over there. But somewhere I read of the freedom of assembly. Somewhere I read of the freedom of speech. Somewhere I read of the freedom of the press. Somewhere I read that the greatness of America is the right to protest for right. And so just as I say, we aren't going to let any injunction turn us around. We are going on.

We need all of you. And you know what's beautiful tome, is to see all of these ministers of the Gospel. It's a marvelous picture. Who is it that is supposed to articulate the longings and aspirations of the people more than the preacher? Somehow the preacher must be an Amos, and say, "Let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream." Somehow, the preacher must say with Jesus, "The spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to deal with the problems of the poor."

And I want to commend the preachers, under the leadership of these noble men: James Lawson, one who has been in this struggle for many years; he's been to jail for struggling; but he's still going on, fighting for the rights of his people. Rev. Ralph Jackson, Billy Kiles; I could just go right on down the list, but time will not permit. But I want to thank them all. And I want you to thank them, because so often, preachers aren't concerned about anything but themselves. And I'm always happy to see a relevant ministry.

It's all right to talk about "long white robes over yonder," in all of its symbolism. But ultimately people want some suits and dresses and shoes to wear down here. It's all right to talk about "streets flowing with milk and honey," but God has commanded us to be concerned about the slums down here, and his children who can't eat three square meals a day. It's all right to talk about the new Jerusalem, but one day, God's preachers must talk about the New York, the new Atlanta, the new Philadelphia, the new Los Angeles, the new Memphis, Tennessee. This is what we have to do.

Now the other thing we'll have to do is this: Always anchor our external direct action with the power of economic withdrawal. Now, we are poor people, individually, we are poor when you compare us with white society in America. We are poor. Never stop and forget that collectively, that means all of us together, collectively we are richer than all the nations in the world, with the exception of nine. Did you ever think about that? After you leave the United States, Soviet Russia, Great Britain, West Germany, France, and I could name the others, the Negro collectively is richer than most nations of the world. We have an annual income of more than thirty billion dollars a year, which is more than all of the exports of the United States, and more than the national budget of Canada. Did you know that? That's power right there, if we know how to pool it.

We don't have to argue with anybody. We don't have to curse and go around acting bad with our words. We don't need any bricks and bottles, we don't need any Molotov cocktails, we just need to go around to these stores, and to these massive industries in our country, and say, "God sent us by here, to say to you that you're not treating his children right. And we've come by here to ask you to make the first item on your agenda fair treatment, where God's children are concerned. Now, if you are not prepared to do that, we do have an agenda that we must follow. And our agenda calls for withdrawing economic support from you."

And so, as a result of this, we are asking you tonight, to go out and tell your neighbors not to buy Coca-Cola in Memphis. Go by and tell them not to buy Sealtest milk. Tell them not to buy—what is the other bread?—Wonder Bread. And what is the other bread company, Jesse? Tell them not to buy Hart's bread. As Jesse Jackson has said, up to now, only the garbage men have been feeling pain; now we must kind of redistribute the pain. We are choosing these companies because they haven't been fair in their hiring policies; and we are choosing them because they can begin the process of saying, they are going to support the needs and the rights of these men who are on strike. And then they can move on downtown and tell Mayor Loeb to do what is right.

But not only that, we've got to strengthen black institutions. I call upon you to take your money out of the banks downtown and deposit your money in Tri-State Bank—we want a "bank-in" movement in Memphis. So go by the savings and loan association. I'm not asking you something we don't do ourselves at SCLC. Judge Hooks and others will tell you that we have an account here in the savings and loan association from the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. We're just telling you to follow what we're doing. Put your money there. You have six or seven black insurance companies in Memphis. Take out your insurance there. We want to have an "insurance-in."

Now these are some practical things we can do. We begin the process of building a greater economic base. And at the same time, we are putting pressure where it really hurts. I ask you to follow through here.

Now, let me say as I move to my conclusion that we've got to give ourselves to this struggle until the end. Nothing would be more tragic than to stop at this point, in Memphis. We've got to see it through. And when we have our march, you need to be there. Be concerned about your brother. You may not be on strike. But either we go up together, or we go down together.

Let us develop a kind of dangerous unselfishness. One day a man came to Jesus; and he wanted to raise some questions about some vital matters in life. At points, he wanted to trick Jesus, and show him that he knew a little more than Jesus knew, and through this, throw him off base. Now that question could have easily ended up in a philosophical and theological debate. But Jesus immediately pulled that question from mid-air, and placed it on a dangerous curve between Jerusalem and Jericho. And he talked about a certain man, who fell among thieves. You remember that a Levite and a priest passed by on the other side. They didn't stop to help him. And finally a man of another race came by. He got down from his beast, decided not to be compassionate by proxy. But with him, administering first aid, and helped the man in need. Jesus ended up saying, this was the good man, this was the great man, because he had the capacity to project the "I" into the "thou," and to be concerned about his brother. Now you know, we use our imagination a great deal to try to determine why the priest and the Levite didn't stop. At times we say they were busy going to church meetings—an ecclesiastical gathering—and they had to get on down to Jerusalem so they wouldn't be late for their meeting. At other times we would speculate that there was a religious law that "One who was engaged in religious ceremonials was not to touch a human body twenty-four hours before the ceremony." And every now and then we begin to wonder whether maybe they were not going down to Jerusalem, or down to Jericho, rather to organize a "Jericho Road Improvement Association." That's a possibility. Maybe they felt that it was better to deal with the problem from the causal root, rather than to get bogged down with an individual effort.

But I'm going to tell you what my imagination tells me. It's possible that these men were afraid. You see, the Jericho road is a dangerous road. I remember when Mrs. King and I were first in Jerusalem. We rented a car and drove from Jerusalem down to Jericho. And as soon as we got on that road, I said to my wife, "I can see why Jesus used this as a setting for his parable." It's a winding, meandering road. It's really conducive for ambushing. You start out in Jerusalem, which is about 1200 miles, or rather 1200 feet above sea level. And by the time you get down to Jericho, fifteen or twenty minutes later, you're about 2200 feet below sea level. That's a dangerous road. In the days of Jesus it came to be known as the "Bloody Pass." And you know, it's possible that the priest and the Levite looked over that man on the ground and wondered if the robbers were still around. Or it's possible that they felt that the man on the ground was merely faking. And he was acting like he had been robbed and hurt, in order to seize them over there, lure them there for quick and easy seizure. And so the first question that the Levite asked was, "If I stop to help this man, what will happen to me?" But then the Good Samaritan came by. And he reversed the question: "If I do not stop to help this man, what will happen to him?"

That's the question before you tonight. Not, "If I stop to help the sanitation workers, what will happen to all of the hours that I usually spend in my office every day and every week as a pastor?" The question is not, "If I stop to help this man in need, what will happen to me?" "If I do not stop to help the sanitation workers, what will happen to them?" That's the question.

Let us rise up tonight with a greater readiness. Let us stand with a greater determination. And let us move on in these powerful days, these days of challenge to make America what it ought to be. We have an opportunity to make America a better nation. And I want to thank God, once more, for allowing me to be here with you.

You know, several years ago, I was in New York City autographing the first book that I had written. And while sitting there autographing books, a demented black woman came up. The only question I heard from her was, "Are you Martin Luther King?"

And I was looking down writing, and I said yes. And the next minute I felt something beating on my chest. Before I knew it I had been stabbed by this demented woman. I was rushed to Harlem Hospital. It was a dark Saturday afternoon. And that blade had gone through, and the X-rays revealed that the tip of the blade was on the edge of my aorta, the main artery. And once that's punctured, you drown in your own blood—that's the end of you.

It came out in the New York Times the next morning, that if I had sneezed, I would have died. Well, about four days later, they allowed me, after the operation, after my chest had been opened, and the blade had been taken out, to move around in the wheel chair in the hospital. They allowed me to read some of the mail that came in, and from all over the states, and the world, kind letters came in. I read a few, but one of them I will never forget. I had received one from the President and the Vice-President. I've forgotten what those telegrams said. I'd received a visit and a letter from the Governor of New York, but I've forgotten what the letter said. But there was another letter that came from a little girl, a young girl who was a student at the White Plains High School. And I looked at that letter, and I'll never forget it. It said simply, "Dear Dr. King: I am a ninth-grade student at the White Plains High School." She said, "While it should not matter, I would like to mention that I am a white girl. I read in the paper of your misfortune, and of your suffering. And I read that if you had sneezed, you would have died. And I'm simply writing you to say that I'm so happy that you didn't sneeze."

And I want to say tonight, I want to say that I am happy that I didn't sneeze. Because if I had sneezed, I wouldn't have been around here in 1960, when students all over the South started sitting-in at lunch counters. And I knew that as they were sitting in, they were really standing up for the best in the American dream. And taking the whole nation back to those great wells of democracy which were dug deep by the Founding Fathers in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. If I had sneezed, I wouldn't have been around in 1962, when Negroes in Albany, Georgia, decided to straighten their backs up. And whenever men and women straighten their backs up, they are going somewhere, because a man can't ride your back unless it is bent. If I had sneezed, I wouldn't have been here in 1963, when the black people of Birmingham, Alabama, aroused the conscience of this nation, and brought into being the Civil Rights Bill. If I had sneezed, I wouldn't have had a chance later that year, in August, to try to tell America about a dream that I had had. If I had sneezed, I wouldn't have been down in Selma, Alabama, been in Memphis to see the community rally around those brothers and sisters who are suffering. I'm so happy that I didn't sneeze.

And they were telling me, now it doesn't matter now. It really doesn't matter what happens now. I left Atlanta this morning, and as we got started on the plane, there were six of us, the pilot said over the public address system, "We are sorry for the delay, but we have Dr. Martin Luther King on the plane. And to be sure that all of the bags were checked, and to be sure that nothing would be wrong with the plane, we had to check out everything carefully. And we've had the plane protected and guarded all night."

And then I got to Memphis. And some began to say the threats, or talk about the threats that were out. What would happen to me from some of our sick white brothers?

Well, I don't know what will happen now. We've got some difficult days ahead. But it doesn't matter with me now. Because I've been to the mountaintop. And I don't mind. Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I'm not concerned about that now. I just want to do God's will. And He's allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I've looked over. And I've seen the promised land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land. And I'm happy, tonight. I'm not worried about anything. I'm not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.

THE LAWSON FILE: THE RESIDENTS OF EAST ST. LOUIS AND THEIR MAYOR FIGHT FOR THEIR HOSPITAL

East St. Louis, Illinois is one of the poorest cities in the USA.

Although poor, residents there think for some reason they deserve to be able to make it to the hospital. They have this odd notion they deserve to live.

They're upset that Southern Illinois Healthcare has proposed closing Kenneth Hall Regional Hospital and merging it with Touchette Regional Hospital in Centreville into one new hospital. The merger would leave East St. Louis without a full-scale hospital.

So 700 people traveled to Springfield, Illinois by bus to attend a state hearing concerning the future of their hospital. More than 30,000 signatures have been collected by East St. Louis city leaders, clergy and other organizers against the merger. The Illinois state health facility planning board however decided to put off the meeting until April they said because their staff needed more time. This is the second time they've postponed the meeting for the same reason. Seven hundred poor folks got back on their buses and headed home without being heard.

That's kind of how it works when your poor, hardworking, but poor. Who cares about your time and energy? Who cares about you at all?

Well, apparently the mayor of East St. Louis cares some. Mayor Alvin L. Parks Jr. (pictured above) organized the bus trip to show the state that residents are opposed to Kenneth Hall Regional Hospital being merged with Touchette Regional Hospital in Centreville. Mayor Parks has been involved in the fight from the beginning and he deserves some credit for it.

Also supporting the drive to keep the hospital open is Service Employees International Union Local 2000. The union points out all hospitals must have a Certificate of Need for the communities they serve. Kenneth Hall's Certificate of Need is based on an East St. Louis population of 31,542 persons and a surrounding area of Brooklyn, Allorton, Dupont, and Sauget. The Hospital's intention to move to Sauget, which has a population of 247 persons, means that they will be setting up in an area which has a much reduced need for their services.

Moving Kenneth Hall Hospital, the union adds, will cause the loss of many lives because of the distance patients will have to travel, and will also mean the loss of approximately 300 jobs.

The question is will those with the power to do something listen to the people of East St. Louis and the workers at the hospital or to the owners of the hospital?

The following is from KSDX News (St. Louis).

Despite Busloads From East St. Louis, State Board Delays Hospital

KSDK - The Illinois state health facility planning board has delayed a decision on the merger of two local hospitals.

More than 700 East St. Louis residents and city leaders boarded 22 buses early Tuesday morning to head to Springfield to protest the merger of Kenneth Hall Regional Hospital and Touchette Regional Hospital in Centerville. Officials set up 18 different pickup points for people who wanted to make the trip.

But shortly after the hearing began in Springfield, IL, state officials announced they were postponing it until April 8 because hospital officials had filed paperwork too late. Staff members want to have more time to look at the documents.

East St. Louis officials say they plan to organize a similar protest effort for the April hearing. But they won't be able to speak. Only written testimony for city leaders will be accepted before the hearing.

For many in East St. Louis there's concern that losing Kenneth Hall could mean some people won't have a place to go for medical treatment, and ultimately there's concern some people will lose their lives. City leaders say Kenneth Hall is the only place some can walk to or easily take metro link or other public transit to.

Under the current merger plan, Kenneth Hall would continue offering emergency room services and outpatient mental health services, but city leaders say as many as 300 jobs could be lost. For many patients at the hospital the biggest concern is doctors leaving.

POPE SCARED OFF BY THREATS OF LOUD MUSIC


The pope has been forced to cancel a visit to a university in Rome because of what the Vatican says are fears for his safety. After some 50 students at the University of Rome La Sapienza briefly occupied the rector’s office today to protest the pope’s scheduled appearance at the university, the Vatican announced that Benedict would not be coming.

The students belonging to the Network for Self-Education said the reason for the occupation was "...the rector has not yet given instructions for free access during the visit of Benedict XVI. We believe that it is not acceptable that they should close the entire area of the university - an actual red zone not allowing students to gain access to their faculty."

The controversy began after 67 professors at the university signed a letter saying the pope should not be allowed to give the inauguration speech for the academic year. The signatories include distinguished physicists such as Andrea Frova, author of a study of Galileo's persecution by the Church, and Carlo Maiani, the recently appointed head of the Italian National Council for Research.

The letter said scientists felt "offended and humiliated" by a statement made in 1990 by the then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger as Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith - the modern descendant of the Inquisition - suggesting that the trial of Galileo for heresy because of his support for the Copernican system was justified in the context of the time.

The scientists said they hoped the visit by the Pope on Thursday would be cancelled out of respect for the "secular nature of science" and the fact that the university was open to "students of every belief and ideology".

On Monday student protesters at the university began a planned four days of demonstrations. A variety of outside groups, including labor unions and the Italian Movement of Transsexuals, had also planned to protest Benedict’s appearance on Thursday.

PR Inside.com reports banners have been strung from university buildings and posters plastered on walls objecting to the visit. «Science is secular,» read one banner hanging from the geology department building. «No pope» read another slogan on a poster.

What about those safety fears?

Students had threatened to blast dance music at the pontiff, and also to dress up as nuns. Pretty scary stuff.

But then as a cardinal, Benedict once attacked rock and pop music as the "work of the devil."

And nuns, well, what Pontiff wouldn't be afraid?

The following is from the Euro News.

Pope pulls out of university visit after protests

The Vatican has cancelled a planned visit by Pope Benedict to Rome's most prestigious university, following protests by students and staff.

It is an unprecedented move since the former Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger took over the Roman Catholic Church in April, 2005.

He was due to speak at La Sapienza University on Thursday at a ceremony launching the 2008 academic year.

But, defending higher education as secular, some there demanded his invitation be withdrawn.

Students occupied the offices of the chancellor as more than 60 professors wrote to the university, saying they were offended and humiliated by some of the Pope's views.

Critics claim that in a speech he gave nearly twenty years ago, the Pontiff condoned the Church's heresy trial against the astronomer Galileo.

Professor Marcello Cini has been at the forefront of the protest.

"We are getting a bit too close to those states in which citizens are given orders about what to do by a religious authority," he said.

Protesters are in a minority at the university, But feelings on both sides are strong.

One student argued the institution was secular.
"The Pope has nothing to say to us," he said.

But another wondered whether a visit from a Rabbi or an Imam would have triggered the same reaction. She said there was no harm because the Pope would have been speaking in a church, not a law class, and what is more, he was invited.

"THE UGLY FRUIT OF BUSH'S VISIT": NINETEEN PALESTINIANS DEAD AS ISRAELI ARMY CARRIES OUT OFFENSIVE INTO GAZA


Palestinian sources reported that the Israeli army military offensive in the eastern part of the Gaza Strip that started on Tuesday at dawn has come to an end, leaving 19Palestinians dead and at least 50 injured.

Al Qassam brigade, the armed wing of Hamas, announced that among those killed were 13resistance fighters. The brigade statement added that Hussam al Zahar, son of the prominent Hamas leader Dr Mahmoud Al Zahar, was among those killed in the attack.

Zahar accused Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas of complicity in his son's death. "This is the hope of Abu Mazen and his colleagues, the collaborators with Israel and the spies of America," Zahar said, referring to Abbas by his nickname. Hamas, he vowed, will respond to Tuesday's raid "in the appropriate way. We will defend ourselves by all means."

Debka File reports following the Israeli attack Hamas then bombarded Israeli communities with heavy missile, rocket and heavy machine gun barrages from Gaza during the day: 25 missiles, mostly at Sderot, a Katyusha rocket at southern Ashkelon, heavy machine fire, for the first time in the conflict, at the homes of Kibbutz Alumim and 16 mortar rounds. Property was heavily damaged in several places. Carlos Andres Chavez, 20, a volunteer from Ecuador, was shot in the back by a sniper while working in the potato fields of Israeli Ein Hashlosha kibbutz farm. The sniper attack presented Israeli farmers working in their fields with a deadly new threat.

Emergency medical services have declared top-level alert in a wide radius of towns and communities within range of the Gaza Strip ready for further escalation.

However, Tuesday's violence was merely the beginning, said Mahmoud al-Zahar.

Hamas also called for a general strike in Gaza and the West Bank on Wednesday to protest the heavy number of deaths.

The exiled leader of Hamas Khaled Mashaal, in an interview with The Associated Press in Damascus where he lives, accused President Bush of inciting Israeli leaders.

"This crime is the ugly fruit of Bush's visit to the region. He has incited the Zionists and has exerted pressure on the Palestinian side to become more hardline against Palestinian dialogue," he said during the interview in his office.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas denounced the raids as "a massacre" which would not be forgotten by the Palestinians.

"There was a massacre today against our people, and we say to the world that our people will not remain silent against such crimes," he said.

Israeli President Shimon Peres told Haaretz as long as Gaza militants continue to fire rockets into the Jewish state, "we are left without a choice but to answer and stop it."

David baker, an official in the Prime Minister's Office, said of the attacks, "These measures will continue until these attacks cease and as to enable our citizens to live in peace in quiet and not to fall victim to incessant Palestinian terror."

Haaretz reports Dr. Moaiya Hassanain of the Gaza Health Ministry said many of the dead and wounded in Gaza lost limbs.

Because of the high number of casualties, Hassanain questioned whether Israeli Defense Force (IDF) troops were using tank-fired flechette shells, an anti-personnel weapon that throws out thousands of metal darts

The IDF had no immediate comment on whether such munitions were used.

The following report is from Maan News Agency.

Death toll in Gaza rises to 19 after new Israeli raid on Gaza City

The death toll in the Gaza Strip on Tuesday has risen to 19 after two Palestinians were killed in an Israeli raid into northern Gaza City on Tuesday evening.

Just hours after the Israeli withdrawal from the Zeitoun neighbourhood of Gaza City, eyewitnesses said an Israeli rocket attack near the agricultural school left two people dead and several others injured.

Mu'awiyah Hassanein, the head of ambulance and emergency services in the Palestinian Health Ministry, said the injured were transferred to Beit Hanoun Hospital for treatment.

Earlier in the day Israeli tank fire killed 17 Palestinians, including five civilians and the son of senior Hamas leader Mahmoud Zahhar, in the Zeitoun neighborhood of Gaza City within four hours on Tuesday, witnesses and medics said. 13 of the dead are thought to be members of Hamas' Al-Qassam Brigades.

An estimated 50 Palestinians were injured.

Eyewitnesses said that Palestinian fighters exchanged fire with Israeli tanks and armored vehicles as they slowly pushed towards the eastern Gaza City neighborhoods of Ash-Shuja'iyya and Zeitoun.

Witnesses also said that Israeli bulldozers destroyed farmers' groves in the area.

Separately, witnesses said that Israeli military vehicles invaded the industrial zone near the Erez border crossing in the northern Gaza Strip.

Civilian deaths

The Gaza-Based Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) said that five Palestinian civilians were killed by what they called "indiscriminant" tank fire. According to PCHR, three farmers were killed: sixty-six-year-old As’ad Eissa Radwan Tafesh, twenty-two-year-old Marwan Sameer Ouda, and fifty-year-old Sa’id Mustafa al-Sammouni.

A Thirty-five-year-old car trader named Ayman Fadel Malaka, and a nineteen-year-old student named Abdul Salam Atiya Abu Laban, were also killed by Israeli fire, PCHR said.

Palestinian medics at Ash-Shifa hospital identified some of the dead resistance fighters: Rami Farahat, Ahid Ashur, Muhamad Abu Laban Badwan Auda, Khalil Mudallal, Mustafa Salim, Mustafa Yahya Silmi, and Khamis Abu Sawaween.

Zahhar reacts

Mahmoud Zahhar is one of Hamas' founders and served as Palestinan foreign minister from 2006 to 2007. In September 2003, Zahhar's other son Khaled was killed in an Israeli airstrike that completely destroyed Zahhar's home in Zeitoun.

"This is one of the results of the Bush visit. He encouraged the Israelis to kill our people," Zahhar told reporters.

"What is going on in Gaza today is a shame for all of those who cooperated with [US President George W.] Bush, the criminal, and with the Zionists," Zahar said. "I am talking about all kings, presidents and ministers," he said, in an apparent criticism of Arab leaders who met with Bush.

"We are telling them, today they are killing our sons, tomorrow they are going to kill yours."

PA condemns attack

The official spokesperson of the Palestinian Presidency, Nabil Abu Rdainah, condemned the Israeli attack in the name of the Palestinian Authority (PA), calling the incursion "brutal" and "a criminal act." He said that such attacks will weaken the position of Palestinian negotiators in talks with Israeli officials. He called on the Israeli government to stop impeding the peace process.

Meanwhile Hamas' armed wing, the Al-Qassam Brigades claimed responsibility for shooting and killing a person in the Israeli kibbutz of Ein Hashlosha east of Al-Qarara in in the southern Gaza Strip.

Monday, January 14, 2008

GRAND JURY FISHING EXPEDITION PROTESTED


As Newsday reports the case of three young Puerto Rican activists and artists ordered to appear before a Brooklyn federal grand jury has stirred up protests around the country and provoked outrage among supporters of the movement to grant independence to the U.S. territory.

The FBI/NYPD Anti-Terrorism Task Force (Joint Terrorist Task Force) has been visiting Puerto Ricans and serving them with Grand Jury subpoenas. In one case they claimed to be investigating the “extremist group: The Welfare Poets”.

Last Thursday night, hundreds of pro-independence members of a score of organizations protested in front of US facilities in Puerto Rico to condemn the subpoenas sent to artist Tania Frontera, moviemaker Julio Pabon and social worker Christopher Torres, who are accused of having alleged links with the EPB-Macheteros.

"The true reason for persecution against the EPB-Macheteros and pro-independence fighters in general is that we are a force capable of educating and organizing the people," the group said.

"We don't know why this investigation is taking place," said Ana Lopez, a professor of Caribbean history at Hostos Community College in the Bronx who helped organize a rally in New York last Friday. "All we know is that its purpose is to harass and intimidate hard-working Puerto Rican people."

“They may just be rounding up people without any connection,” said Councilwoman Melissa Mark-Viverito about the Brooklyn grand jury. “We are concerned with these tactics of using grand jury intimidation and harassing” those who support or oppose movements that are legal and constitutionally protected, said Mark-Viverito. She said that she was unaware of any possible connection between these individuals and any insurgent groups.

The Latin America Solidarity Coalition, a grassroots U.S.-based association of Latin American groups, said that it “condemns the FBI harassment of Puerto Rican independence activists.”

“These FBI visits and the subsequent serving of these subpoenas are designed to put those who refuse to cooperate with this ‘fishing expedition’ in jail, and to intimidate the Puerto Rican community as a whole,” the coalition said in a statement.

On Friday 11 lawyers for the three Puerto Ricans with subpoenas to testify before the federal grand jury in New York that morning announced that the date had been postponed until sometime in February.
The Popular Boricua Army (EPB)-Macheteros is a pro-independence group whose leader, Filiberto Ojeda Rios, was killed by agents of the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in Puerto Rico in September 2005. Puerto Rico's Justice Department has tried ever since to obtain FBI records of the incident and the identities of the agents involved, but has been rebuffed and is suing the agency in federal court.

The following is from the
Brooklyn Eagle.

Protesters Rally Against Grand Jury Inquiry in Brooklyn

They yelled out in Spanish; they yelled out in English. Salsa music blared through speakers, and one man sounded a conch shell. The two women pictured above, calling themselves “Raging Grannies,” were among the 100 or so people who gathered outside of Brooklyn Federal Court in protest on Friday. “It is our right as colonial people to say no and fight back!” one of the organizers, who refused to give her name, screamed into the microphone. “Get in the picket line and say no to the grand jury!”

The protesters were there on a drizzly Friday morning to rally against the grand jury inquiry into three Puerto Ricans who are allegedly tied to the freedom movement in Puerto Rico. As reported in Friday’s Brooklyn Daily Eagle, it is unclear how connected the three individuals are, if at all, to the pro-independence movement, but that the FBI and Department of Justice appear to be investigating a rebel group called the Macheteros (“the Machete Wielders”), who were once responsible for the second biggest cash robbery in U.S. history. Two years ago, FBI agents killed the rebel group’s leader, Filiberto Ojeda Rios, in a shootout. “FBI out of Puerto Rico! USA out of Puerto Rico!” the crowd screamed in unison.