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September 29, 2005

Palestine - Israel Summit Postponed

It is really interesting to hear an explanation for the postponement of this summit from chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Eraket.

Eraket told reporters: "The meeting will not take place on October 2, but only once the preparations for this summit have been completed."

"We don't want to meet just for the sake of meeting. We want a well-prepared meeting with an extensive agenda focusing on all the current issues," Erakat added.

From "Israeli-Palestinian summit postponed; Abbas to hold talks in US," by AFX News Limited on Forbes.com

Erakat also mentioned hoping that the U.S. or another member of the Quartet "could play a role ... to begin the de-escalation of this process." I assume he's referring to Israel bombing Palestine and selectively murdering Palestinians and moving settlers into East Jerusalem and other Palestinian territory. And yes, Hamas setting off explosives at a rally which they say was accidental...

Posted by cj at 7:17 PM | Comments (0)

September 28, 2005

More on Ian Fishback and Systemic Use of Torture by US Military

The NYT wrote an article about Captain Fishback, including the not surprising news that the Army is more interested in hunting down the two anonymous sources for the Human Rights Watch report than in changing its abhorrent practices.

"Officer Criticizes Detainee Abuse Inquiry," by Eric Schmitt in the NYT

The Human Rights Watch Report on Torture in Iraq that started this mainstream media blip.

WaPo published Fishback's letter to John McCain
, which they say they obtained by neither Fishback nor McCain. (Note to self: all correspondence is apparently fair game for newspapers to reprint.)

"Mr. Flanigan's Answers," the WaPo editorial re Fishback's revelations and the larger problem of rampant abuse by the US military and elected officials. Note that Congress could have held the administration accountable when the Abu Ghraib scandal came to light, but chose instead to accept this so-called war on terror as an excuse to torture prisoners and disregard the Geneva Conventions and morality in general. They already confirmed Gonzales as attorney general, despite the fact that as chief White House counsel, he is primarily responsible for this administration's b.s. waffling on the definition of torture. Now, his former deputy is about to be confirmed as his new deputy - Timothy Flanigan is Shrub's nominee for deputy attorney general, having first served as Gonzales's deputy White House counsel.

Posted by cj at 8:12 AM | Comments (2)

September 26, 2005

Govt Officials Probably In Collusion with Serial Killings of Women in Ciudad Juarez

It is disturbing to know that more than 350 women and girls have been brutally murdered along the Mexican-U.S. border, including at least 90 who were raped and killed in similar ways.

Worse is the evidence of police collusion either in the murders or at least cover-up of the murders. Torturing suspects into giving false confessions is rampant.

The state prosecutor and state police chief resigned recently. The new state prosecutor, Patricia González, doesn't actually believe the state deliberately messed up the investigations; but at least she's bringing in an Argentine forensics team to help re-evaluate the murders.

More info: "In Mexico's Murders, Fury Is Aimed at Officials," by Ginger Thompson in the LAT

Posted by cj at 8:15 AM | Comments (0)

The Rich Continue to Get Richer...

Anyone else scared about their winter heating bill? I'm sure my gas bill will go up, and since my pay doesn't rise and fall with energy prices, I'm sure it'll squeeze some fun out of my holiday season.

But never fear, because as the masses get poorer, the rich get richer.

Rita damaged oil facilities much less than expected, and oil prices fell on Sunday. Inside, the WSJ claims, "Consensus earnings estimates have actually risen since Hurricane Katrina. Most of that is because energy companies are raking in so much cash. But even outside of energy, profit expectations for the next few months haven't fallen that much."
From Today's Papers, by Bidisha Banerjee in Slate

Posted by cj at 7:58 AM | Comments (0)

September 24, 2005

Murkiness Surrounds Resignation of FDA Commissioner

Piece of crap Commissioner Lester M. Crawford resigned yesterday via email, just two months after officially being named head of the Food and Drug Administration. He ain't resigning because of his extramarital relationship with a woman who worked in his office. He ain't resigning because of his disgusting abuse of reproductive rights by pulling administrative wool over the ability of women to get Plan B, the morning after pill, from pharmacists without a prescription. No, he's resigning because of a scandal that has not been made public yet.

A government official said the resignation was related to the fact that Dr. Crawford had not fully disclosed information about his finances to the Senate before his confirmation. The official spoke on condition of anonymity, citing Dr. Crawford's privacy. [...]

Ira Loss, senior health analyst at Washington Analysis, which studies federal issues for investors, said he had been told by someone in the White House that Dr. Crawford had been asked to resign for a reason not yet known to the public.

"Something new has arisen that has led to this," Mr. Loss said. It was not the controversy over the morning-after pill, he said, because Dr. Crawford "did what they wanted on Plan B."

From: "Leader of the F.D.A. Steps Down After a Short, Turbulent Tenure," by Robert Pear and Andrew Pollack in NYT

Posted by cj at 1:20 PM | Comments (0)

Abuse Rampant by US Soldiers in Iraq

Human Rights Watch released a 30 page report based on interviews with three members of the Army's 82nd Airborne Division, documenting rampant abuse of prisoners in Camp Mercury - a holding place before transfer to Abu Ghraib - and other places. Prisoners were humiliated, beaten, bones broken, for the amusement of bored soldiers and to increase their usefulness during intelligence briefings.

The three soldiers came forward after 17 months trying to get someone within the Army to open an investigation. One soldier, Captain Ian Fishback came forward and spoke with aides to two Republican Senators, chairman of the Armed Services Committe Jack Warner and senior member of that committee John McCain.

In one incident, the Human Rights Watch report states, an off-duty cook broke a detainee's leg with a metal baseball bat. Detainees were also stacked, fully clothed, in human pyramids and forced to hold five-gallon water jugs with arms outstretched or do jumping jacks until they passed out, the report says. "We would give them blows to the head, chest, legs and stomach, and pull them down, kick dirt on them," one sergeant told Human Rights Watch researchers during one of four interviews in July and August. "This happened every day."
From: "3 in 82nd Airborne Say Beating Iraqi Prisoners Was Routine," by Eric Schmitt in NYT

I believe that even though these men came forward to shed light on this situation, that should not keep them from being prosecuted by an international court. If a criminal admits a "regular" crime, he does not get off without punsihment, correct?

We must also stop expecting the criminals in charge of this country to uphold the law. They have no respect for international law or human rights; they must be held accountable by the citizens in the U.S. and the world.

More info: "More Iraqis Tortured, Officer Says: The 82nd Airborne is accused of abuses in 2003 and early 2004. A criminal inquiry begins." by Richard A. Serrano in the LAT

Posted by cj at 12:35 PM | Comments (0)

September 22, 2005

If You Make War, You Can Play With Billions of Taxpayer Dollars

This Just In: No one, not the DOD, not the Congress, knows how much money is being spent on the illegal wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The GAO reports that defense spending is overstated. And no one seems to mind that no one knows the exact figures.

Only a Republican government could get away with misstating billions of dollars. Only a public completely asleep in a fascist system could relegate this to page A23 of one major newspaper.

"Defense Spending Is Overstated, GAO Report Says," by Ann Scott Tyson in today's WaPo

flagged by Today's Papers by Eric Umansky in Slate (owned by the WaPo company)

Posted by cj at 8:03 AM | Comments (0)

September 20, 2005

Another Crony on Her Way to a Major Political Appointment

Shrub nominated Julie Myers to head the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency, part of the Department of Homeland Security. Problem is, this well-connected woman (her uncle is departing Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers and one of her previous stints was workin for Ken Starr) doesn't have enough managerial or immigration experience for the job.

Oh well. Shrub and his cronies want her, so it looks like the Senate's going to roll over and accept her.

more info: "Immigration Nominee's Credentials Questioned," by Dan Eggen and Spencer S. Hsu in today's WaPo

Posted by cj at 8:00 AM | Comments (0)

One Crook Indicted, Many More to Go

The head of the entire USG's procurement system, David H. Safavian, resigned Friday and was arrested yesterday "accused of lying and obstructing a criminal investigation into Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff's dealings with the federal government."

Let me be clear - this crook has been in charge of procurement including disaster relief in the Gulf Region and no one bothered to get rid of him until his egregious actions were brought to light by a task force including the IRS, the Interior Department and the Justice Department's fraud and public integrity units.

Thank goodness there are still some honest public servants working for the USG. Too bad they have to report to a bunch of Thieves and Liars.

More info:
"Bush Official Arrested in Corruption Probe," by R. Jeffrey Smith and Susan Schmidt in today's WaPo

Posted by cj at 7:51 AM | Comments (0)

September 19, 2005

Bono and Debt Relief

We all know Bono is the rock star with a cause; the best of the many rock stars with causes. He got Jesse Helms to cry and corralled a bunch of conservative Republicans to promise debt relief which really hasn't happened, and an AIDS project, which actually does more harm than good. But at least he's using his fame for a good cause, right?

Well...I suppose. But what does that say about the state of the world? We live in the era of global capitalism. So why do we leave the most important jobs in developed countries to volunteers? Why do we say "we don't have enough teachers, let's get volunteers to do two year stints"? Why do we say "we want to teach American values and the American way of life to the world, let's send volunteers through a program created by Kennedy called Peace Corps"? When we send volunteers to kill foreigners, they get paid. When we send them to build a well, they get close to nothing.

I am sick of living in this pseudo-volunteer culture. The only people who have enough time and resources to do this volunteering are mega-rich actors and singers and children of the upper middle class. Enough already! I went to school with plenty of investment bankers and management consultants. What I want to do with my life is no less important than what they're doing - and I expect to get paid for it. Not popcorn salary and not "volunteer some more so we know you're really committed to the cause" but real greenbacks to pay off all the debt I've accumulated trying to survive in this capitalist society.

I'm not calling for an overthrow of the economic system - I still think that is a fantasy. But until people get real and face the fact that in a capitalist society work should be honored and PAID, we will never live in the world we wish to see.

That doesn't mean I'm going to stop all of my volunteer work for WILPF. It just means that sooner, rather than later, I need to find paid work in "the movement." Otherwise, I might as well turn my little black box back on and find another escapist fantasy to keep me numb from reality.

More on that Irish bloke: "The Statesman," by James Traub in Sunday's NYT Magazine

Posted by cj at 9:13 PM | Comments (1)

September 18, 2005

Foolish Tunnel Plans in SoCal

First, a precursor: I'm so sick of people dismissing the LA area out of hand. I love my hometown. I grew up in Northridge, in like, the San Fernando Valley, which is part of Los Angeles (as in the mayor of Northridge is the mayor of LA).

But I gotta say that as an adult I am happy to not deal with the traffic. I have sought out places with good public trans systems. The most extensive is DC. While that system is great, you really can't eat or drink on it which is a negative. Plus, it's difficult to figure out what the fares are, since it varies depending on where you get on and off. Boston was rather good, as long as you live in the city. And it was relatively cheap - plus I had an employer who would pay for my metro card, which was a huge plus. And Chicago is fairly decent - the El takes me to work everyday, and the buses seem to work well too. I wish they would update the tracks and the El trains, and put more money into public trans so they could stop threatening rate hikes every time they have to put together an annual budget.

Back to the article that started this rant - public officials in Southern California are thinking of building TUNNELS through the fault-ridden San Gabriel Mountains and underneath Cleveland National Forest (because apparently protecting a forest only means a few feet down from the surface), and underground in South Pasadena and Pasadena. Gotta say the LAT article would've been easier to read if (a)it coherently moved from one project to another and (b)was accompanied by simple maps of the proposed tunnel areas.

Come on people - stop with the single passenger solutions and get a lot more mass transit systems up NOW!

More info:
"With Traffic at a Crawl, Planners Talk of Tunnels," by Dan Weikel, Jeffrey L. Rabin and Daryl Kelley in the LAT

Posted by cj at 5:54 PM | Comments (0)

September 15, 2005

Why Is the Only "Good" Govt Agency the Dept of War?

Shrub is on teevee telling us that in times of emergency, we must cede authority to the federal government, especially the military since they are the only ones who can get stuff done on a moment's notice.

There's something fucked up about a country where the only people capable of working quickly and efficiently are the people whose primary job is to kill other people.

Reconstructing a region of the country should not be done by religious groups or private, religious charities (like Habitat for Humanity). If we are to truly create a just, democratic society, we must create a government capable of building affordable housing, providing healthcare services, and giving free education and childcare. It will take the entire country to rebuild the Gulf Region; not "entrepeneurs," churches, and the Red Cross.

Otherwise, we should just leave it to Halliburton and Bechtel...they've already gotten no-bid contracts for work in the region.

Posted by cj at 8:22 PM | Comments (0)

September 4, 2005

The Only Way to Get By...a Devil's Brew...

I've been watching t.v. since 9:30 this morning and before that was reading the NYT. I watched the first half hour of "This Week" on ABC and the full hour of "Meet the Press," on NBC. Then I switched to CNN. And read some online articles.

And I cleaned up my apartment while watching. And I got disturbed, and started doing laundry - to escape the t.v. I couldn't turn off. I turned it off for about half an hour, but felt an impossible urge to turn it back on. Finally, after doing most of my laundry, I found sweet relief - a bottle of Duvel, the Devil's brew, a high alcohol content beer.

CNN is still on. I read an article that said Brian Williams is doing an excellent job on NBC, so I might tune into that in twenty minutes to see if he's on...but for the most part, I've been disapointed with all t.v. coverage other than CNN.

I'm brought back to the L.A. Earthquake - my one touch with a natural catastrophe. That devastation was nothing compared to this, but it was enough to convince me (despite having three grandparents killed from it) to begin smoking. Now I pray for the elderly left stranded in nursing homes. I know I'm incoherent, but the only thing that's keeping me from going loony is the Duvel I just drank.

"Storm Exposed Disarray at the Top," by Susan B. Glasser and Josh White in WaPo exposes the horror of the slow death of FEMA and criminal negligence of the USG.

"World Reaction: How Could This Be Happening in the United States?" by Kevin Sullivan in WaPo

"What Happens to a Race Deferred?" by Jason DeParle in NYT

"In Texas: 240,000 Evacuees Strain Capacity," by Lisa Rein and Dan Balz in WaPo

Posted by cj at 5:05 PM | Comments (0)

September 3, 2005

Chief Justice Rehnquist Died

May he rest in peace.

Please pray even harder for the country - this is terrible news on so many levels.

Posted by cj at 10:06 PM | Comments (0)

The Criminal Destruction of New Orleans

Join me in demanding that the federal government lead the effort to supply food, water, and shelter for the survivors of this disaster. I think it is disgusting that with all the billions of money wasted on pointless wars and "homeland security," for some reason Americans cannot act together via our government to fund the relief effort.

I'm also disturbed by all the white celebrities getting on tv to let us know that New Orleans is color blind. Sela Ward just made that statement on CNN. Apparently, she has not been watching CNN and cannot see how the disaster is disproportionately affecting poor, black people. Yes, there are still poor white people waiting to be evacuated from New Orleans and elsewhere. But they are not immediately met with suscipicion by their rescuers. The color of their skin will make it easier for them to rebuild their lives. If my fellow white Americans cannot admit that racism and classism are systemic problems in America, how will we ever dismantle it?

A good friend and sister WILPFer sent me the following two articles.

If you ain't got no money in America, you're on your own. People were told to go to the Superdome, but they have no food, no water there. And before they could get in, people had to stand in line for 4-5 hours in the rain because everybody was being searched one by one at the entrance.

I can understand the chaos that happened after the tsunami, because they had no warning, but here there was plenty of warning. In the three days before the hurricane hit, we knew it was coming and everyone could have been evacuated.

We have Amtrak here that could have carried everybody out of town. There were enough school buses that could have evacuated 20,000 people easily, but they just let them be flooded. My son watched 40 buses go underwater - they just wouldn't move them, afraid they'd be stolen.

People who could afford to leave were so afraid someone would steal what they own that they just let it all be flooded. They could have let a family without a vehicle borrow their extra car, but instead they left it behind to be destroyed.

There are gangs of white vigilantes near here riding around in pickup trucks, all of them armed, and any young Black they see who they figure doesn't belong in their community, they shoot him. I tell them, "Stop! You're going to start a riot."

from "'This is criminal': Malik Rahim reports from New Orleans," by Malik Rahim, a veteran of the Black Panther Party and recent Green Party candidate for the New Orleans City Council; posted on San Francisco Bay View
As for the rescue operation, the free-marketeers like to say that relief to the more unfortunate among us should be left to private charity. It was a favorite preachment of President Ronald Reagan that "private charity can do the job." And for the first few days that indeed seemed to be the policy with the disaster caused by Hurricane Katrina.

The federal government was nowhere in sight but the Red Cross went into action. Its message: "Don't send food or blankets; send money." Meanwhile Pat Robertson and the Christian Broadcasting Network---taking a moment off from God's work of pushing John Roberts nomination to the Supreme Court---called for donations and announced "Operation Blessing" which consisted of a highly-publicized but totally inadequate shipment of canned goods and bibles.

By Day Three even the myopic media began to realize the immense failure of the rescue operation. People were dying because relief had not arrived. The authorities seemed more concerned with the looting than with rescuing people. It was property before people, just like the free marketeers always want.

from "How the Free Market Killed New Orleans," by Michael Parenti on Znet Commentary

Posted by cj at 7:55 PM | Comments (0)

Hospitals Being Evacuated, Nursing Homes Full of Dead Victims

The evacuations came in the nick of time for several hospitals, where doctors had been working by flashlight and helping patients breathe with manual ventilators, waiting helplessly for news from the outside. Some staff members were so hungry and dehydrated that they were reported to be feeding themselves intravenous sugar solutions.

Although helicopters had delivered food and water to some hospitals, it was limited and rationed.

from "Grim Triage for Ailing and Dying at a Makeshift Airport Hospital," by Felicity Barringer and Donald G. McNeil, Jr. in NYT
With the major hospitals nearly emptied, emergency services turned their attention to nursing homes, rehabilitation centers and other critically stranded facilities. But the news was not good. Dispatchers at Acadian received word from Coast Guard divers that there were no survivors at a nursing home in St. Bernard Parish. Rescue workers found only bodies.

"We got another nursing home call, in New Orleans, where we were told there were 30 patients, and when we got there, there were 30 in body bags lined up outside," said Kevin Smith, spokesman for Acadian in Lafayette.

from "At the Hospitals: 'There Was Real Heroism,' Workers Rescue, Tend to Thousands," by Dafna Linzer and Peter Slevin in WaPo

Posted by cj at 9:14 AM | Comments (0)

Castro Offered Medical Personnel and Supplies to Aid Hurricane Victims

From a member of WILPF, I received this statement of Fidel Castro, President of Cuba:

PRESIDENT FIDEL CASTRO REITERATES MEDICAL CARE OFFER TO THE AMERICAN PEOPLE IN HIS REMARKS DURING THE TV ROUND TABLE.

Our country is ready to send, in the small hours of morning, 100
clinicians and specialists in Comprehensive General Medicine, who at
dawn tomorrow, Saturday, could be in Houston International Airport,
Texas, the closest to the region struck by the tragedy, in order to be
transferred by air, sea or river to the isolated shelters, facilities
and neighborhoods in the city of New Orleans, where the population and
families are that require emergency medical care or first aid.

These Cuban personnel would be carrying backpacks with 24 kilograms of
medications, known to be essential in such situations to save lives, as
well as basic diagnosis kits. They would be prepared to work alone or in
groups of two or more, depending on the circumstances, for as long as
necessary.

Likewise, Cuba is ready to send via Houston, or any other airport of
your choosing, 500 additional specialists in Comprehensive General
Medicine, with the same equipment, who could be at their destination
point at noon or in the afternoon of tomorrow, Saturday, September 3.

A third group of 500 specialists in Comprehensive General Medicine could
be arriving in the morning of Sunday, September 4. Thus, the 1100 said
medical doctors, with the resources described tantamount to 26.4 tons of
medications and diagnosis kits, would be caring for the neediest persons
in the aftermath of hurricane Katrina.

These medical doctors have the necessary international experience and
elementary knowledge of the English language that would allow them to
communicate with the patients.

We stand ready waiting for the US authorities' response.
September 2, 2005
18:00 hs

A Google News Search only gave one news sources confirming the above information:
"Cuba Willing to Send Immediate Medical Help to US, Says Fidel Castro," in Prensa Latina, the Latin American News Agency

I do not know the origins of the above press release, only that it was emailed to me by a trusted source.

Posted by cj at 5:54 AM | Comments (0)

September 1, 2005

More Katrina Coverage You Might Have Missed

Did you know that rapes have occurred in refugee areas?
"Superdome: Haven Quickly Becomes an Ordeal," by Joseph Treaster in NYT
"Trapped in an Arena of Suffering," by Scott Gold in LAT

Did you know that New Orleans is probably the largest Superfund site in the U.S.?

"This is the worst case," Hugh B. Kaufman, a senior policy analyst at the Environmental Protection Agency, said of the toxic stew that contaminates New Orleans. "There is not enough money in the gross national product of the United States to dispose of the amount of hazardous material in the area."
From "Extraordinary Problems, Difficult Solutions" by Guy Gugliotta and Peter Whoriskey in WaPo

I am terribly saddened by the events that have taken place recently. I realize that while a natural disaster occurred, its severity and aftermath are human creations. That is, human pollution has created global warming that caused the marshlands around New Orleans to be submerged; U.S. government officials chose not to fund modernization of the levees surrounding New Orleans; the U.S. government chose not to evacuate the poorest citizens of New Orleans out of the city before the hurricane hit; the U.S. government chooses to spend more money occupying Iraq and Afghanistan and arming the Israeli military than it chooses to spend on FEMA and disaster relief.

It takes a lot of nerve for the president to stand before the citizens of these United States and tell us that we need to dig into our own pockets to pay for disaster relief when somehow our government coffers are big enough to pay for an illegal war across the world. I am scared to go to a gas station - fearing the cost of gas - and grateful that I am able to take public transportation to and from work. I am scared to see what my next energy bills will be for my studio apartment, and grateful that I use fans instead of an energy-sucking air conditioner. I am scared for the safety and well-being of my fellow Americans throughout the Gulf region, and I pray for their survival and eventual return to a safe life (perhaps in other cities).

I pray for peace with justice for us in the United States and for everyone on Earth.

Posted by cj at 10:40 PM | Comments (0)

The Deplorable State of Emergency Help for Hurricane Refugees

I am watching PBS News Hour in horror. The people most severely affected by the evacuation of New Orleans are the poorest. FEMA and the Red Cross are not getting aid there as fast enough. They do not have the resources to do it and seem to have more bureaucrats than food, water, and shelter. The Bush administration should be ashamed of gutting FEMA's budget, of gutting the Army Corp of Engineer's buget for modernizing New Orleans' levee system, and of waiting until after the hurricane hit to start getting aid to the disaster area.

Interesting Reads:
"Lost in the Flood - Why no mention of race or class in TV's Katrina coverage?" by Jack Shafer in Slate

"Destroying FEMA," by Eric Holdeman in WaPo

Posted by cj at 6:24 PM | Comments (0)