Thursday, January 24, 2008


On Monday, Feb. 11, 2008 several groups will come together to protest "the global terrorists Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, University of New Mexico and other war profiteers who are creating an arms race in space." The protest will take place at the Space Technology & Applications International Forum sponsored by the University of New Mexico’s Institute for Space and Nuclear Power Studies.

New Mexico is a major weapons development center for nuclear and space warfare planning.

Are you excited about spending billions of dollars to develop a whole new class of weapons to raid down destruction on us from outer space? I doubt it.

A recent survey found most Americans and Russians agree that their governments should work together to prevent an arms race in space. Large majorities in both countries favor unilateral restraint and a treaty to keep space free of weapons.

The poll of 1,247 Americans and 1,601 Russians developed in conjunction with the Center for International and Security Studies at the University of Maryland (CISSM). Knowledge Networks in the United States and the Levada Center in
Russia conducted the interviews.

Majorities in both the United States (78%) and Russia (67%) say that as long as no other country puts weapons into space, their own governments should also refrain from doing so. Most Russians (72%) and Americans (80%) favor a new treaty banning all weapons in space.

The US poll revealed strong bipartisan consensus: majorities of both Republicans and Democrats believe the US should refrain unilaterally from deploying space weapons. There is also bipartisan backing for a treaty to ban these weapons, though support is higher among Democrats.

And yet our government(s) don't pay any attention to us...once again.

What about those who want to lead us after Bush is gone?
Well, I can tell you this, unfortunately Barack Obama, though he has called for a “worldwide ban on weapons to interfere with satellites and a ban on testing anti-satellite weapons,” does not endorse a ban on nuclear weapons in space as called for by virtually the entire international community. And, though critical of the enormous wastes incurred from Bush’s missile defense program, he has announced his support for the continued development of missile defense capabilities.

Hillary Clinton said in a recent debate she supported the multilateral international ban but committed herself only to constraining testing and deployment of weapons in space "as much as possible, while continuing to protect our satellites from any threats that remain."

In fact of the three Democratic contenders still left it is only John Edwards who has endorsed a multilateral international ban on space weapons with no qualifiers.

As for the GOP, don't even go there.

We live in what is supposed to be a democracy only the government and our elected leaders seldom pay much attention to what we think.

What's worse seldom do we pay much attention to what we think either. Time and again Americans vote for candidates and political partys with whom they disagree on major issues. Time and again Americans vote for someone because they seem likable or something.
We can blame it on the media, the system or whatever. Some of it we have to blame on ourselves.

The case of John Edwards seems to me to illustrate this point clearly. On almost all major issues Edwards is much more attuned with the so called "Democratic base" and is far and away the most progressive major candidate out there. Yet time and again when the votes are counted he finishes third. What is that all about? Admit it, working Americans agree with Edwards on virtually every issue, and yet they vote for someone else. Is that dumb or what? Am I missing something here? The corporate media (whose interests are threatened by Edward's populism as much as the next conglomerate) tells those Americas Edwards can't win. So the PEOPLE insure that and vote for someone else. Give me a break.

I know, I know there are a hoard of reasons why our electoral system is a big flop, but sometimes in the deep dark recesses of my mind I have to think that "we the people" are one of those reasons.

The following is from OpEd

By Bruce K. Gagnon

For many years a peace group in Albuquerque, New Mexico has been teaching and organizing in their community about the Star Wars issue. Led by activists Bob Anderson and Jeanne Pahls, the group called Stop the War Machine, has developed considerable expertise about plans to move the arms race into space.

Kirtland Air Force Base in Albuquerque is a key Star Wars research and development facility. The base hosts the military's Directed Energy and Space Vehicles directorates. The combination of both is called the Phillips Research Site.

The year 2007 marked the 10th anniversary of the Air Force Research Laboratory's consolidation of all air, space, and cyberspace technologies under one umbrella.

In 2007 the Directed Energy program boasted that their scientists and engineers had continued "to improve the nation's ability to use directed energies, such as high-energy lasers, high-powered microwaves and to precisely project these directed energies at the speed of light anywhere, at any time to detect, track, and deter or use lethal force to destroy any threats to the U.S. and the Warfighter."

Translation: The Pentagon is making progress with their testing program to fire lasers from earth to space, through space, and from space to the planet below.

Also in 2007 the directorate claims they "successfully attained full transmitting capacity of 180 antenna elements with a radiating power of 3,600 kilowatts at their Alaska program called high frequency active auroral program (HAARP)." This directed energy project is one that is believed to be testing the capability to lift the earth's ionosphere to manipulate global communications and modify weather.

In their October 26, 2007 Kirtland AFB newspaper called Nucleus, the Air Force bragged that they were "Leading the world in research and development for supremacy in the cosmos.....The use of ground based, airborne, and space-based directed energy weapons will alter current and future defense and warfare concepts."

In addition to Kirtland AFB, Albuquerque is loaded with key aerospace weapons corporations that are making big money by supplying the workforce and technologies for space war. Boeing, Lockheed Martin, and Raytheon now have huge production facilities in the city and even the University of New Mexico has become militarized as many departments at the institution receive funding to help provide basic research for these classified weapons programs. The growing secrecy on a public campus has been a key issue that Stop the War Machine has campaigned against.

On February 11 the Global Network and Stop the War Machine will organize a protest in Albuquerque at the annual meeting of the Space Technology & Applications International Forum. This event brings military, aerospace industry, academia, and NASA together to promote the nuclearization and weaponization of space.

These war making centers are growing all over the U.S. and around the world. It is crucial that we teach others about what is happening in our communities and that we publicly protest this consuming drive to endless war.


It wasn't the first time they've protested and it won't be the last. I'm talking about hundreds of Chinese citizens who are not thrilled with a power plant being built for the Olympics which happens to be in their neighborhood.

Like many Americans these Chinese worry about the affects of high voltage power lines near their homes. Protesters mentioned leukemia. Back in 2005 a study produced by the Childhood Research Group at Oxford University estimated that youngsters living within 200 meters (yards) of such lines were about 70 percent more likely to develop leukemia compared to those who lived beyond 600 meters.

At a similar protest more than a year ago Sun Jintang, one of the protesters said, "We are protesting against the power plant because it is too close to our residential area.

"We are afraid that the power plant will be harmful to the health of the residents."

The closest residential building to the plant is only 10 meters away, he said.

More than 3,000 residents, many of them retirees from the prestigious China Academy of Sciences, have signed a petition to protest the construction plan.

The power substation is one of four being built for the Olympic Games. But the other three stations are all being built on the "Olympic Green," a large park that will house several sports venues and the Olympic Village.

The following is from AFP.

Protesters block road in Beijing: report

Chinese police detained more than 20 people after "scores" of protesters blocked a major Beijing road in a rally against a power station being built for the Olympic Games, state press said Thursday.

The protest took place late Wednesday on the city's fourth ring road, near the site of the August 2008 Games, the Beijing News said.

Law enforcement officials were immediately dispatched to the scene, with 24 police vehicles surrounding the protesters and police detaining more than 20 demonstrators, who were placed under investigation, the paper said.

Traffic along the road was blocked for only about 10 minutes, it added.

Residents who live next to the Olympic Village have for years opposed the construction of a high-voltage power plant next to their housing complex, the paper said.

Their most recent rally was on December 30, 2007, it said.

In recent protests, the demonstrators have said they are worried that the high-voltage power lines leading in and out of the power station could lead to diseases such as leukaemia for over 900 residents living nearby.

The powerlines and towers also clutter up the view and open spaces around their apartment blocks, they said.

Beijing is investing about 40 billion dollars to upgrade its infrastructure for the Games.

Public unrest over such issues is increasingly common throughout China but relatively rare in Beijing, the capital and seat of government authority.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008


Police in San Antonio apparently missed the last decade or so and have busted some volunteers conducting a needle exchange program in their town. This despite the fact that health policy activists in Bexar County had swapped clean needles for dirty ones for years in San Antonio's poor neighborhoods. And despite recent legislation that said they could.

Police Officer Oscar Flores said in his report that he spotted a 2003 Chevrolet van parked at South Hamilton Avenue and Vera Cruz Street just before 4 p.m. Jan. 5, "with several known prostitutes and drug addicts next to the vehicle."

One of the activist, Flores wrote, showed him a typical syringe kit, and said he was "swapping syringes" with people on the street. He produced business cards of a sergeant working in the chief's office and Deputy Chief Ruben Garcia with the Bexar County Sheriff's Office, "stating he was given permission" to exchange syringes.

Bill Day, a co-founder of the nonprofit group Bexar Area Harm Reduction Coalition, and board members Mary Casey and Melissa Lujan were busted by the zealous Texas constables.

Day said, "Our volunteers regard their involvement as a Christian ministry work intended to alleviate egregious suffering and improve the lives of the least among us. The statement and actions of the district attorney have brought all needle exchange activities to a halt. As a result, we can expect transmission of hepatitis and HIV to increase."

Originally the charges were possession of drug paraphernalia which is a class C misdomenaor, but now the DA Susan Reed (pictured here wearing a swell hat) wants to make it a slightly different charge which is a more serious Class A misdemeanor, distribution of paraphernalia, which carries a punishment of up to a year in jail and a $4,000 fine.

The blog Grits for Breakfast says looming over it all is a larger legal question, one that doesn't directly involve Day or his group.

Legislation passed last year authorized local health officials to organize a pilot syringe exchange program in Bexar County. It would be the first legally sanctioned program in Texas.

The program is stalled since the district attorney - Susan Reed again - declared her view that the legislation authorizing it is faulty. Speaking about needle exchange last August Reed told the San Antonio Express-News, “I’m telling [local officials], and I’m telling the police chief, I don’t think they have any kind of criminal immunity. That’s the bottom line. It has nothing to do with whether they do it or don’t do it – other than if you do it you might find yourself in jail.”

Sen. Jeff Wentworth, R-San Antonio and chair of the Senate Jurisprudence Committee commented on Reed's thoughts (if that is what they are). “This prosecutorial interpretation of the new law would create an absurd result,” Wentworth wrote, “in that it suggests the Legislature enacted the pilot program with the intent or awareness that it would place persons associated with the program in the position of committing a criminal offense under the [Texas CSA]."

Did I mention this guy is a Republican?

Both sides await an opinion from the attorney general's office.

Assistant Police Chief David Head said the legislation — if it survives the legal challenge — authorizes only Bexar County's health authority to run a syringe exchange program, not a privately run group like Day's.

Is there no real crime taking place in San Antonio or what?

In 2006 Texas spent more than $24 million toward caring for individuals with hepatitis C; in 2005, the state spent more than $86 million treating people with HIV/AIDS. In 2005, there were approximately 300,000 Texans living with hepatitis C.

But why do anything to try and help out seems to be the position of DA Reed.

By the way, you may have heard of DA Reed before. She played a key role in the controversial execution of a fellow named Ruben Cantu. The 1985 conviction and 1993 execution of Ruben Cantu became the subject of a series of investigative articles by Houston Chronicle reporter Lise Olsen in 2005 and 2006. In those articles, Olsen uncovered evidence that undermined the Cantu conviction. According to Olsen's articles, the jury Forewoman, the then-District Attorney, the trial Judge, the co-defendant, and the surviving victim have all expressed misgivings about the outcome of the Cantu case. The only evidence linking Cantu to the crime was the testimony of Juan Moreno, the surviving victim, but he has since recanted his testimony, claiming he had felt threatened by police.

As the current District Attorney, Susan Reed investigated the claims of wrongful conviction in the Cantu case and concluded that Cantu was justifiably executed in 1993 and that no credible evidence existed to support witnesses' innocence claims. Susan Reed was also the judge who rejected Cantu's appeal in 1988, and set his execution date in 1993.

Where do they find people like her?

The following is from the Houston Chronicle.

San Antonio needle-swap activists facing charges

Police said they will seek drug paraphernalia charges punishable by up to a year in jail for three activists who were caught handing out clean syringes in exchange for dirty ones.

The members of the nonprofit group Bexar Area Harm Reduction Coalition were cited Jan. 5 when a police officer saw them parked at a corner "with several known prostitutes and drug addicts next to the vehicle."

The police confiscated containers of clean syringe kits, while leaving them with the used syringes they'd collected.

An officer cited the three with possession of drug paraphernalia, a Class C misdemeanor punishable by a fine of up to $500. But police now say they will refile the case this week with District Attorney Susan Reed as a Class A misdemeanor, distribution of paraphernalia, which carries a punishment of up to a year in jail and a $4,000 fine.

The defendants are Bill Day, 73, a co-founder of the nonprofit group, and two board members, Mary Casey, 67, and Melissa Lujan, 39.

"These are enormously decent, charitable people, and what's happening with them smacks of persecution," said Neel Lane, an attorney with Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld, which is representing the coalition at no cost.

The citations come as Bexar County health officials wait for a state attorney general's opinion on legislation passed last year authorizing the county to pilot a syringe exchange program.

Reed has warned local officials that the legislation doesn't shield participants from drug paraphernalia laws.

Texas is the only state that doesn't allow syringe exchange programs, which are meant to curb the spread of diseases like hepatitis and HIV among intravenous drug users.

Assistant Police Chief David Head said if the pilot program moves forward, the law would allow only Bexar County's health authority to run a syringe exchange program, and not a private group such as Bexar Area Harm Reduction Coalition.

Head denied Day's claim that he had been given permission by police to exchange syringes.

Day has been open about his group's work. He said the dirty needles are disposed of with the Metropolitan Health District.

The volunteers who work with the needle exchange program see it as a Christian ministry, intended to "improve the lives of the least among us," Day said.


It is (was) that time of the year when all the anti-abortion folks descent on the steps of whatever and wherever.

Last night in Washington the anti-abortion folks came face to face with women supporting abortion rights including some from Code Pink.

This seems to have pissed them off.

The article below is from a religious source which is anti-abortion. It was the only article I could find that mentioned anything about the little confrontation and, I have to admit, it was pretty balanced.

One thing the article mentions which I think is significant is how few pro-choice people showed up. Now, I grant you this isn't supposed to be the day millions turn out as someone from NOW replied.


Where is the dynamic, grass roots, militant women's movement of the 60s and 70s. The women's liberation movement then didn't take crap and as a result it won so much for women that is now taken for granted by about everyone.

Months ago I wrote an article about how we needed a true Black Liberation Movement. Well, let me now add we need a true Women's Liberation Movement, too.

Too much is going on to leave it to what has become the oh so respectable "movements" of today.

Now, I ain't saying there isn't anything going on out there. There some damn fine, militant stuff that exists...but not nearly enough.

Women and African-Americans have seen so much of the gains made earlier rolled back especially these last eight years (but really the last two decades), and, god forbid, one of these nut jobs the GOP has running this year actually wins.

Reproductive rights are one of those rights that you'll really notice when their gone. They deserve to be fought for now just as they were fought for three and four decades ago...and that means on the streets not just in the courts.

Sisterhood IS Powerful!

The following is from .

Anti-War Code Pink Rallies with Pro-Abortion Protesters
Josiah Ryan

In a tense meeting at the steps of the U.S. Supreme Court Tuesday night, pro-life and pro-abortion groups braved freezing winds and sleet to commemorate the 35th anniversary of Roe vs. Wade, the Supreme Court decision that said abortion is a privacy right protected by the Constitution.

Several women from the feminist anti-war group Code Pink were among the group of 50 pro-abortion protesters, the latter of whom comprised members of the National Organization for Women, its Action division, and the Feminist Majority.

"With regard to the war and this issue, it's very much the same thing," Liz Hourican, a Code Pink activist told Cybercast News Service. "This is about basic human rights - standing here and being able to take care of women. Take care of women first. This is my body. I should have the decision over my body."

In addition to the Roe v. Wade anniversary, Tuesday was the annual March for Life, in which tens of thousands of pro-life activists marched along Constitution Avenue in Washington, D.C., and up Capitol Hill to the Supreme Court building.

Hourican further said that the war in Iraq needed to end before the issue of abortion should be tackled. "So if we are really thinking about 'thou shall not kill,' let's close down the war machine first," she said.

When asked if she would join the pro-life cause once the Iraq war was over, Hourican, however, said no. She told Cybercast News Service she would be willing to educate people and work with family planning groups that want to help women.

Code Pink was formed in 2001, during the days leading up to the war in Iraq. A statement on the group's Web site says its goals include ending the war in Iraq, stopping new wars, and promoting "life-affirming activities." The Code Pink women outside the Supreme Court were dressed in bright pink clothing and carried large signs bearing pro-abortion messages.

The activists from Action, the National Organization for Women, and the Feminist Majority, along with the few Code Pink women, gathered at 5 pm outside the Supreme Court to voice their support for Roe v. Wade, frequently chanting pro-abortion comments.

A few yards away, the Silent No More Awareness Campaign - a pro-life group comprised of women who have had abortions but now regret having done so - watched the pro-abortion demonstrators. The group's co-founder, Janet Morana, told Cybercast News Service that the difference in numbers between her group and the pro-abortion activists was significant.

"They are supposed to be so happy," said Morana. "Their signs say 'the 35th year anniversary of Roe,' and they are happy and celebrating. Well, if they are so happy, where are they?" in reference to the relatively few protesters.

But Melody Drnach, vice president of the Action arm of the National Organization of Women, said her organization works at the grassroots level.

"We only expected a couple dozen," she said. "If we want to organize a march, we bring out a million people. This is not traditionally a day we bring out the masses. Our members are in their local communities stressing the importance of protecting women's rights at a local level."

Hourican speculated that the difference in numbers was because religious universities had had bussed students in from around the country. "I saw thousands of busses today," she said. "My young women are all working. They are going to school. I would say when your school is bussing you in that it is easier than my friends who have to pay for their college."

Organizers outside the Supreme Court said that, by and large, courtesy was exercised by activists from both the opposing camps. However, protesters did shout at each other and occasionally crossed lines.

A human-ring formed by pro-abortion activists was encircled by pro-life activists, and several people even penetrated the circle with large signs bearing pro-life messages.

Drnach called that "bad manners," adding that one of the pro-life men had tried to knock a sign out of one of her protesters' hands. Morana complained that the pro-abortion group was trying to shout over the people in her rally. "I just wish they would listen," Morana said.


The following story below out of Boston is one I'd expect to be seeing replayed more and more. In that city when they came to take a woman's house away due to a bank foreclosure activists, family and friends surrounded the place and physically would not let it happen. The subprime mortgage lender backed down at the 11th hour today and postponed for now the foreclosure eviction.

What is going on across the country with these foreclosures is a crime. The crime, of course, is the predatory lending policies that led folks into the situation to begin with. Policies like the issuance of subprime loans have led to millions of American families losing their homes in the past decade."

Under a subprime loan, customers with low credit ratings are offered mortgages in return for high interest rates. Proponents have advocated subprime financing as a way for low-income residents to own their first home. It's a scam

One of the authors of a two year old study by the University of North Carolina's Center for Community Capitalism entitled, "The Impact of Predatory Loan Terms on Subprime Foreclosures: The Special Case of Prepayment Penalties and Balloon Payments" stated back in 2005, "The study demonstrates that subprime prepayment penalties and balloon payments place Americans at substantially greater risk of losing their homes. Given the significant financial and emotional costs associated with foreclosure on families and neighborhoods, policymakers should take note." Predatory lending is based on "deceptive and in some cases illegal practices to coerce borrowers into unfavorable mortgage agreements," according to the report. "Data suggest that low-income, elderly, and minority borrowers may be especially vulnerable to this type of lending because of their greater susceptibility to 'push marketing,' high-pressure sales pitches, lack of experience with mortgage lending, and urgent need for credit," states the study.

How many reports of mortgage brokers fudging applicants’ incomes on forms or ignoring them entirely—and rushing through approvals on loans that have little prospect of getting paid back have we now read about?

As the Freedom Socialist Newspaper explains, "Enticements include artificially low introductory "teaser" interest rates, "option" payment plans that can be lower than the monthly interest (never mind the principle on the loan) and often result in a borrower owing more on the mortgage than the house is worth, and getting prohibitive penalties for paying off loans early. Such terms can make it nearly impossible for people with Adjustable Rate Mortgages (ARMs) to refinance."

For borrowers, these sub-prime loans seem affordable at first, but then quickly become more than a household can bear.

We didn't need the study to know that. The banks and lending institutions were only too well aware. Mortgage loan companies and banks have made hundred of billions of dollars in profit by preying on people who would otherwise be shut out of the market.

Where was the government that is supposed to protect the people while all this has been going on?

The absence of lending policy regulations pushed forward by those famous "anti-government" conservatives encouraged the predatory lending practices that have left millions of Americans facing foreclosure.

The Daily Press in Newport News Virginia put it thus:
"The current sub-prime mortgage mess is simply the latest wreck on the highway. Banks have been left to their own devices, unchecked by government watchdogs or pesky regulations. Interest rates on millions of mortgages are set to accelerate in 2008. Defaults of $1 trillion are predicted –– affecting not only large institutions such as pension funds, hedge funds and universities but also countless average Americans. Hand-wringing time? Just consider these recent events:

• Moody's and other such agencies have threatened to downgrade the ratings of securities that are based on mortgages that allow accelerated payment.

• To avoid bankruptcy after its stock plummeted because of record-high foreclosures, Countrywide Financial is being acquired by Bank of America.

• Money managers including Bear Stearns and investment bankers Citigroup, Merrill Lynch and Washington Mutual are under investigation for fraud.

• Of the nearly 3 million sub-prime adjustable-rate loans surveyed by the Mortgage Bankers Association, a record 18.81 percent are past due.

What clearer evidence do we need that markets do not regulate themselves? Yet the government response has been mostly timid.

The Fed's recent rules allow action against predatory lenders only on showing a "pattern and practice" of unlawful conduct; disclosures of "yield-spread premiums" –– kickbacks –– can still remain buried in a mountain of loan documents. Prepayment penalties make it nearly impossible for good-faith borrowers to get out from under bad loans. The Bush administration's voluntary mortgage-rate "freeze" will reach fewer than 25 percent of borrowers."

And while the mortagage crisis caused by predatory lending practices does affect people of all colors, there is most certainly a racial aspect involved here as well.

“It’s the ugly geographic pattern that we’ve seen before,” said Paul Collier, the director of litigation for Harvard Law School’s clinical program. “Sub-prime lending is narrowly focused on neighborhoods of color.”

According to Valerie Rawlston Wilson of the Urban League, home equity accounts for nearly 90 percent of black homeowners' total net worth. So as the housing market collapses, much of the trumpeted new wealth that has accumulated in black communities in recent decades will go with it.

Black Agenda Report points out a recent study, titled "Foreclosed: State of the Dream 2008," shows definitively that banks and other lending institutions trapped Blacks and Latinos in predatory lending schemes as a matter of policy. "Even a surface check of the demographics shows," the study says, "that, in city after city, a solid majority of subprime loan recipients were people of color." The very scope of the crime proves that the lending crisis is not the product of Black "culture," but the result of calculated policies, near-uniformly carried out by virtually all of the nation's mortgage lending institutions. This is institutional racism writ large, and indisputable.
And whatever plans (good or bad) are put forth by Presidential candidates, local governments, and Congress don't solve the situation for folks on the ground right now.

Only People Power can do that. Working class homeowners need to organize community committees to demand an end to foreclosures and zero tolerance to throwing families out of their homes. People need to do exactly what was done in Boston and stand in the way of the "law" and the lenders as they attempt to take away their neighbor's home.

It's time folks that we stand up and stay "Screw this crap." It isn't working folks who ought to be paying for this mess. Make those truly responsible, those who have made millions off our backs for so long now, pay for the hole they've dug and put so many working Americans in.

The following is from WBCV (Boston)

Mother Works To Save Dorchester Home

BOSTON -- A Dorchester mother fighting to keep her home received a reprieve Wednesday from an eviction deadline with the support of many local groups.

NewsCenter 5's Gail Huff reported that protesters created a human barricade around the front door at 26 Semont Road.

They refused to let a constable physically force Melanie Griffiths-Evans and her three teenage children from their Dorchester home. U.S. Bank foreclosed on the home in 2007.

Community activists, friends and family waited for the constable to show up at 9 a.m. Labor union leaders were also there to lend support.

"These banks, the way they are doing it right now, are vicious, and they could take your house right out from under you," said Ed Childs, of the Dining Services Union.

By 9:30 a.m., the constable did not show up at the home. Instead, he called Griffiths-Evans and said that he would not be coming Wednesday.

"In the future, I just hope that they'd be willing to negotiate. My intent was that they see me as a family, as people, and not as an account number. I think we've accomplished that," she said.

Inell Mendes is renter, and the bank has taken over her building, too.

"We really don't know what is going on. We are just waiting," she said.

"There's lots of absentee buildings being foreclosed, and the first the tenants hear about it is when they get an eviction notice from the bank. Probably at least 750 properties will be foreclosed in 2008, and so that is probably 1,500 plus families facing eviction," housing activist Steve Mecham said.

Copyright 2008 by

Tuesday, January 22, 2008


Here we go again. In the new Afghanistan a college student, Sayed Perwiz Kambakhsh (pictured here), has been sentenced to die for passing around a paper he got off the Internet that some say "humiliated" Islam.

The trial was held behind closed doors and without any lawyer defending him. His brother, fellow journalist Sayed Yaqub Ibrahimi, told Reporters Without Borders: "I saw my brother leave the court. He was very anxious. All the family was, too."

Prior to the court's ruling the Council of Mullahs had said Kambakhsh should be sentenced to death. The court was listening.

It isn't the end of the world to have your religion subject to criticism or even humiliated. It happens to all religions everywhere, thank god, and too often the clerics and clergy get bent all out of shape.

Usually you don't get sentenced to death, but...

Rhimullah Samandar, the head of the Kabul-based National Journalists Union of Afghanistan, said twenty-three year old student had been sentenced to death under Article 130 of the Afghan constitution. That article says that if no law exists regarding an issue, a court's decision should be in accord with Hanafi jurisprudence. Hanafi is an orthodox school of Sunni Muslim jurisprudence followed in southern and central Asia.

Samandar called for Afghan President Karzai to intervene.

"We completely condemn this trial," Samandar said. "It goes against the freedom of speech and the freedom of the press."

Reporters Without Borders said, "The calls for the death penalty for Kambakhsh highlight the growing influence of fundamentalist groups on intellectual debated. The blasphemy charges are an ill-disguised attempt to hide the desire of the local authorities to restrict press freedom."

At a news conference yesterday, Hafizullah Khaliqyar, the deputy provincial prosecutor in charge of the case, threatened to imprison all journalists who support Kambakhsh, adding that "Kambakhsh has confessed to the crime and must be punished."

Meanwhile, about 600 children under five die every day in Afghanistan due to pneumonia, poor nutrition, diarrhoea and other preventable diseases, according to the State of the World's Children 2008 report released by the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) on 22 January.

Entitled Child Survival, the UNICEF report ranks Afghanistan as having the third highest infant mortality rate, after Sierra Leone and Angola. The country is ranked second in the world in terms of its maternal mortality rate with about 1,600 deaths per every 100,000 live births.

The following is from Canoe (Canada).

Afghan journalism student sentenced to death for paper 'against Islam'
By Amir Shah

KABUL, Afghanistan - An Afghan court on Tuesday sentenced a 23-year-old journalism student to death for distributing a paper he printed off the Internet that three judges said violated the tenets of Islam.

The three-judge panel sentenced Sayad Parwez Kambaksh to death for distributing a paper that humiliated Islam, said Fazel Wahab, the chief judge in the northern province of Balkh.

Wahab did not preside over the trial.

Kambaksh's family and the head of a journalists group denounced the verdict and said Kambaksh was not represented by a lawyer at trial. Members of a clerics council had been pushing for Kambaksh to be punished.

The case now goes to the first of two appeals courts. Kambaksh, who has been jailed since October, will remain in custody during appeal.

Wahab said he didn't have the details of the paper that Kambaksh circulated, other than that it was against Islam.

Kambaksh discussed the paper with his teacher and classmates at Balkh University. Several students complained to the government.

Kambaksh's brother, Yacoubi Brahimi, described Tuesday's proceeding as a "secret trial," saying the family did not know it had been scheduled.

Some have accused Kambaksh of writing the paper in question, but Brahimi said that his brother had simply printed it off the Internet.

Wahab said only President Hamid Karzai can forgive Kambaksh because he had confessed to violating the tenets of Islam.


Those of you who read the Oread Daily on a regular basis (there must be one or two of you, at least) know that I am not an anti-gun person. I think there are good reasons in this day and age for citizens to own guns, even to carry them. I actually believe that if guns are outlawed only the people who really have a legitimate need for them won't have them. Also, there are so many guns out there right now, ain't nobody getting them back...and any government that could or would even try kinda scares me anyway.

And yes, guns kill people, but really without the finger of a killer on the trigger they don't much.

Okay, that takes us to the article below which details a debate in Virginia going on over closing the loophole that allows people to buy guns of all makes and kinds at gun shows from unlicensed dealers with no background check.

Now, I have never been able to figure out why people need assault rifles and the like. You can defend yourself with a lot less then that. And if you are a hunter, which I don't think you should be (although it is your right) you don't need an assault rifle to take down a deer.

I believe that most everyday run of the mill Americans, even though who own guns, have no problem with background checks which might keep weapons out of the hands of people with mental problems or legal backgrounds which mitigate against their ownership (something by the way which I think should be amended. I don't think everyone with any sort of criminal record at any time in their lives should be banned from gun ownership, but some do).

Now the argument against background checks at gun shows is that they might delay the purchase of a gun by a day. A day!!! I mean there aren't many times you need a gun in the next couple of hours. I would in fact be a little concerned about someone who needed a firearm like right now. If you happen to be facing some immediate threat, I'd suggest hiding out, calling the cops, or maybe a friend.

I think most Americans agree with me. There is a reasonable middle ground in the whole gun debate.

I've been criticized by rabid anti-gun control advocates for advocating that. They say everyone has the right under the Constitution to a gun right now and it shouldn't be up to the likes of me to say they don't.

My answer to them is "nuts to you." There are a hell of a lot of things that I don't think the likes of you should advocate that limit my rights in one way or another and that sure as hell don't stop you or your representatives from doing just that. I call upon you to make the argument on why someone can't wait for a background check to get a weapon. Don't give me the slippery slope argument, just answer the question.

One other thing, folks. I've been to gun shows in my life. There aren't just guns for sale. Drop by some of them and check out some of the "political" literature, bumper stickers and the like available next to the guns. One of the reasons why I think you should have a gun is because the people who put out and are pushing that far right wing (and sometimes racist) stuff have them.

The following is from the Danville Register & Bee (Danville, Virginia).

Targeting gun laws

People on both sides of the gun control debate clashed Monday as families and friends of Virginia Tech shooting victims and survivors of the tragedy flooded the Capitol in support of legislation designed to prevent criminals and the mentally ill from buying firearms at gun shows.

Tensions escalated as about 100 supporters of a bill that would close the so-called gun show loophole lay on the Capitol lawn to honor victims of gun violence. About 200 opponents surrounded the group holding signs that read, “Here Lie Disarmed Victims,” both sides jostled for turf and one gun-rights advocate fired questions at a survivor of the April 16 shootings.

“Today, united with the families of our fellow Virginians whose loved ones have been lost forever, we fight back for change!” protest organizer Abigail Spangler told supporters, many wearing ribbons in Tech’s colors of maroon and orange.

At issue was legislation that would require unlicensed sellers at gun shows to run criminal background checks on buyers. Such checks now are required only of federally licensed gun dealers.

Seung-Hui Cho, who killed 32 people at Tech before committing suicide, passed a background check and bought one gun from a store and a second online despite having been deemed mentally defective by a Virginia court. Gov. Timothy M. Kaine has since signed an executive order requiring that anyone ordered by a court to get mental health treatment be added to a state police database of people barred from buying guns.

Colin Goddard, who survived despite being shot four times by Cho, was taken aback when a member of the Firearms Coalition approached him and said students could have stopped the rampage if they had been allowed to carry handguns on campus.

“I would have stopped him,” Jeff Knox, director of operations for the Manassas-based group told Goddard. “Because when I went to school, I carried a gun. It was legal, I did it.”

Goddard responded quickly.

“I feel sorry for you - the fact that you feel you need to protect yourself in every situation,” the Virginia Tech senior said. “You’re afraid of crazy situations happening. I’ve lived through this and I know that I can’t continue in my life afraid of things. Things are gonna happen out of my control.

“There are people within our society who we deem capable and correct, our police forces who are supposed to protect us - and I put my full trust in them.”

Goddard and fellow survivor Lily Habtu, both strong supporters of closing the loophole, watched the lie-in but did not join those on the ground.

“I was one of the people who were lying down when this happened,” Goddard said. “So I’ve done my lying down.”

Earlier in the day, families and friends of the Tech shooting victims packed the Senate Courts of Justice Committee’s public hearing on the gun show loophole legislation. Bill supporters outnumbered by about 3-1 opponents sporting buttons reading “Guns Save Lives.”

Sen. Henry Marsh of Richmond, the committee chairman and sponsor of the bill, said the panel would vote on the measure Wednesday. He said he wanted to give the public a couple more days to be heard on the issue. Similar legislation was killed quickly and with little explanation Friday by a House committee with a long history of resisting gun control.

Several law enforcement officers spoke in favor of the bill, but senators seemed most captivated by the testimony of Tech families.

“The heartache for these families will never, ever end,” said Lori Haas, whose daughter Emily survived two bullets fired into her head.

Opponents of the bill noted that Cho did not buy his weapon at a gun show, but supporters said that doesn’t matter. The idea, they said, is to be proactive and reduce the possibility of similar tragedies in the future.

“You can no longer say you have not been forewarned,” said Joseph Samaha of Annandale, whose daughter Reema was among those killed. “By voting ‘no’ you are doomed to relive history.”

Gun-rights advocates said the bill would be burdensome for law-abiding citizens and gun show promoters. Philip Van Cleave of the Virginia Citizens Defense League, responding to claims that a criminal background check takes no more than five minutes, said he recently bought from a federally licensed dealer at a gun show and had to wait until the next day to get his gun.

That brought a sarcastic “Awwww” from the audience and a sharp response from Senate Majority Leader Richard L. Saslaw, D-Fairfax.

“How onerous do you think this deal has been for that family sitting there,” Saslaw said, referring to one of the Tech families sitting behind Van Cleave.

Among those from law enforcement supporting the bill was Gerald Massengill, the former state police superintendent who headed the panel appointed by Kaine to investigate the shootings. The panel unanimously recommended closing the loophole.

“There’s another Cho out there,” Massengill said. “Where is that Cho ... going to get his weapon? I don’t know. But I know where he can go get it easily, with no questions asked.”

Habtu, 22, who was critically injured by bullets to her head and arm in the Tech shootings, said the issue is not about taking guns away from law-abiding citizens; it is about keeping weapons away from people like Cho.

“I’m still suffering now, and I still have a long way to go. I haven’t even begun my healing process,” she said after the lie-in. “So knowing all this, I do not want another person, another family, to go through this.”


Join a week of protest in February for student activists jailed in Iran.

Since December dozens of student leaders and activists have been rounded up by the Ministry of Information of the Islamic regime of Iran. A good many of the detainees are being held in the notorious Evin Prison, and the whereabouts of the rest is unknown.

Numerous fabricated charges have been leveled at the students. The Ministry of Information has stated:
"The rioters had obtained bows and arrows and stones and made sonic hand grenades... The detainees had in their possession a significant amount of alcoholic drinks and illegal and immoral literature containing insults to the sacred". The Rajanews website, linked to president Ahmadinejad, has said: "Following extensive nationwide investigations of the universities by the security organisations, the core of the communists who had connections with aboard has been identified and arrested. The communist cell's plan was to create riots in the universities on 7th December by obtaining incendiary devices such as Molotov Cocktail and hand grenades to cause mayhem and disturbance".

Maryam Namazie writes:

"Although references to 'alcohol, banned literature, insulting sanctities, link to opposition groups abroad', etc. only demonstrates the depth of the oppressive nature of this regime, the mention of 'obtaining incendiary devices such as Molotov Cocktail and hand grenades' are dangerous security codes which have been used in the past to execute thousands of dissidents or to impose long-term prison sentences. The news of torture of students is most worrying. The world must react to this atrocity."

The following is from the website of human rights activist Maryam Namaazie.

Join a week of protest calling for the release of jailed students in Iran

During the past month-and-a-half a large number of university students have been arrested at universities or towns throughout Iran for the "crime" of defending human rights and humanist values through organising or taking part in December 7th (Student Day) actions. They are currently held in prisons, suffering various forms of abusive treatment. During this period, some of their families have been permitted only one short visit with their children. The families have also been under constant, intense emotional stress, while at the same time protesting the detention of their sons and daughters and demanding their immediate release.

Despite all the efforts made to free the jailed students, a large group of them are still held in solitary cells under inhuman conditions, and some of them have not yet been allowed any visitation with their families – not even a phone call.

We hereby appeal to people, institutions and organisations inside and outside Iran to continue their efforts and participate in the International Week of Action for the Release of Jailed Students in Iran during February 2 to February 9, 2008. Actively demonstrate your opposition to the students' incarceration and abuse. Celebrating National Students’ Day (December 7) is a right, and all imprisoned students must be released immediately and unconditionally.

Please send your letters of support here.

For more information, click here.

Signed by:
A group of parents of jailed students; groups of students at Allaame University, Polytechnic, Chamraan University (Ahvaz), Baahonar University (Shiraz), University of Mashad.

The names of the students:
1- Ali Salem (Masters of Polymers – Polytechnic)
2- Mohsen Ghamin (Polytechnic University)
3- Roozbe Saf-Shekan (Tehran University)
4- Yaser Pir Hayati -sadra– (Shahed University)
5- Milad Omrani
6- Anooshe Azadbar (Tehran University)
7- Elnaz Jamshidi (Communications, Azad University, Central Tehran)
8- Mehdi Gerayloo (Geophysics, Tehran)
9- Nader Ahsani (Mazandaran University)
10-Sayid Habibi (ex-member of the Central Council of Advare Tahkim Vahdat)
11- Behrooz Karimi-zade (Tehran University)
12- Keyvan Amiri Elyasi (Masters, Industry, Sharif Technical University)
13- Nasim SoltanBeygi (Communications faculty, Alame)
14- Mahsa Mohebbi
15- Okhtay Hosseni (Azad University)
16- Sayid Agham Ali
17- Behzad Bagheri (Tehran University)
18- Ali Kalayi
19- Amir Mehrzad
20- Hadi Salari (Rjaee University)
21- Farshid Farhadi Ahangaran(Rjaee University)
22- Amir Aghayi (Rajaee University)
23- Soroosh Hashempoor (Chamran University)
24- Mehdi Alahyari (Sharif University)
25- Bahram Shojaee (Tehran Azad University)
26- Abed Tavanche
27- Saeed Aqakhani
28- Peyman Piran
29- Majid Ashrafnejad (Rjaee University)
30- Mohammad Salehe Iuman
31- Sohrab Karimi
32- Farshad Dostipor
33- Javad Alizade
34- Morteza Eslahchi
35- Anahita Hoseini
36- Soroosh Sabet
37- Mohammad Porabdolah
38- Amin Ghazaee
39- Soroosh Dashtestani
40- Bijan Sabagh
41- Bita Samimi Zad
42- Kaveh Abaseian
43- Morteza Khedmatlou
44- Mosi Shirvani
45- Yaser Goli
46- Hana Abdi
47- Ronak Saffarzadeh
48- Sabah Nasri
49- Hedayat Ghazali
50- Ahmad Ghasaban
51- Ehsan Mansori
52- Majid Tavakoli


Thousands of anti-government protesters took to the streets in the Philippine capital on Tuesday as policemen and soldiers went on high alert amid fears of violence.

The demonstrators marched towards the Malacanang presidential palace to demand President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo's ouster seven years after she was propelled to the top post by a military-backed mass uprising. They accused Arroyo of massive corruption, human rights abuses and failure to uplift the lives of the country's impoverished millions.

The bulk of the protesters were farmers who marched to Manila from nearby provinces. The group of several thousand farmers, activists and supporters left the Quezon Memorial Circle before dawn and set off for the small bridge in Manila near Malacanang Palace where 21 years ago, 13 peasants and activists were killed in what is now known as the Mendiola massacre (see collage pictured here).

The group was allowed to carry out its protest at a small school instead of on the bridge after thousands of "unarmed" Manila police backed by elite SWAT teams and riot police on stand-by refused to allow them access to it.

Farmers and militants said the event should be "considered a success, as more important than getting to the bridge, the message for genuine agrarian reform echoes clear and across the globe, people remembered the tragic events of 21 years ago."

Also, reports hundreds of farmers in Iloilo, Cebu and Davao held protest actions on Tuesday to mark the 21st anniversary of the Mendiola massacre, in which 13 people were killed when security forces opened fire at protesters marching to Malacañang to demand agrarian reform.

In Iloilo City, protesters led by the Paghugpong sang mga Mangunguma sa Panay kag Guimaras (Pamanggas, United Farmers of Panay and Guimaras) marched along the main streets before holding a rally at the grounds of the Iloilo provincial capitol.

In Cebu, around 600 farmers and fishermen marched from Minglanilla town to Cebu City calling for genuine agrarian reform.

In Davao City, hundreds of farmers staged a rally in front of the Department of Agrarian Reform office.

Speakers at the Iloilo City protest took turns denouncing the government's Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP), which they said failed to address the farmers' clamor for land and government support to boost production.

What follows is from the Manila Bulletin.

Farmers end march to Mendiola

Around 800 peasants from Southern Tagalog (Region 4) ended yesterday their week-long march to Mendiola in Manila to commemorate the 21st anniversary of the "Mendiola Massacre" where 13 peasants were killed, seven of them from Laguna, in 1987.

The protesters, led by Katipunan ng mga Samahang Magbubukid sa Timog Katagalugan (KasamaTK), said they will continue the struggle for land that was the battlecry of peasants during the Mendiola Massacre.

"We remember the martyrs of the Mendiola massacre by giving them the highest tribute. They inspire us to be steadfast in our struggle for land despite threats and harassment from a fascist government," Orly Marcellana, secretary-general of Kasama-TK, said.

The peasants started their protest march on Jan. 16 in Nasugbu, Batangas. The peasants were able to pass through police blockades at the boundary of Alfonso and Tagaytay and at Pala-pala, Dasmariñas, Cavite.

Police also blocked the protesters at the boundary of Bacoor, Cavite, and Zapote, preventing two contingents from converging. The protesters endured rain and 10 hours of the blockade which lasted until 12 midnight before police allowed the protesters to converge.

The protesters exposed the continued landlessness of peasants under the "bogus" Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program. They called on communities they passed to support the Genuine Agrarian Reform Bill (House Bill 3059) filed by Rep. Crispin Beltran of Anakpawis.

The Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) yesterday vowed to finally work in earnest to improve tenure or leasehold arrangements for farmers and better conditions for farm workers on lands covered by the CARP that have not been acquired by the department.

Agrarian Reform Secretary Nasser C. Pangandaman said that under the Land Tenure Improvement Program (LTIP), the new arrangements and conditions are aimed at improving the living conditions of the farmers and farm workers under fair arrangements with the landowners.

Pangandaman’s action was not applauded by thousands of farmers who had earlier picketed the DAR office in Quezon City and expressed indignation at the failure of the department to implement the CARP in large estates in Laguna, Quezon, Batangas, and Negros Occidental, especially in Hacienda Bacan, which is owned by the family of the First Gentleman, Atty. Jose Miguel "Mike" T. Arroyo, the President’s husband.

Members of the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) claimed that land conversions, chronic absence of support services, and the run-down conditions of irrigation systems, along with farm-to-market roads that have not been built, all conspired to condemn peasants and farm workers to miserable lives.

Militant farmers want CARP to be scrapped and in its place a new scheme must be implemented that would distribute land to landless peasants for free, with government absorbing the cost, arguing that tenants had long paid their landowners through unequal sharing of produce and exploitative relations that force them to provide unpaid labor to landlords.

KMP claimed that up to 80 percent of peasants in Southern Luzon and other regions have not been covered by CARP and in many areas under the program, up to 35 percent of farmers had to sell their land or have them foreclosed by banks since they could pay amortizations.