<\body> Stories in America: February 2007

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Walter Reed Soldiers Told to Keep Quiet

Is this the kind of freedom Bush is spreading throughout the Middle East?
Soldiers at Walter Reed Army Medical Center's Medical Hold Unit say they have been told they will wake up at 6 a.m. every morning and have their rooms ready for inspection at 7 a.m., and that they must not speak to the media.

"Some soldiers believe this is a form of punishment for the trouble soldiers caused by talking to the media," one Medical Hold Unit soldier said, speaking on the condition of anonymity.

Soldiers say their sergeant major gathered troops at 6 p.m. Monday to tell them they must follow their chain of command when asking for help with their medical evaluation paperwork, or when they spot mold, mice or other problems in their quarters.

They were also told they would be moving out of Building 18 to Building 14 within the next couple of weeks. Building 14 is a barracks that houses the administrative offices for the Medical Hold Unit and was renovated in 2006. It's also located on the Walter Reed Campus, where reporters must be escorted by public affairs personnel. Building 18 is located just off campus and is easy to access.

The soldiers said they were also told their first sergeant has been relieved of duty, and that all of their platoon sergeants have been moved to other positions at Walter Reed. And 120 permanent-duty soldiers are expected to arrive by mid-March to take control of the Medical Hold Unit, the soldiers said.

As of Tuesday afternoon, Army public affairs did not respond to a request sent Sunday evening to verify the personnel changes.

The Pentagon also clamped down on media coverage of any and all Defense Department medical facilities, to include suspending planned projects by CNN and the Discovery Channel, saying in an e-mail to spokespeople: "It will be in most cases not appropriate to engage the media while this review takes place," referring to an investigation of the problems at Walter Reed.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Surprise: Bush Quietly Cuts Funding for Women's Health

When is $4 million really $2.8 million? One answer is "When you're a woman," as the Labor Department has repeatedly found that women earn about 75 cents for every dollar that men earn for the same work. But this week's answer is "When you are the Office of Women's Health" within the Food and Drug Administration. That office, which was at the center of a politically damaging storm over the emergency contraceptive "Plan B," just had more than one-quarter of this year's $4 million operating budget quietly removed, insiders say.

The office funds research on male-female biological differences to ensure that women receive the most appropriate drug doses and treatments. It also produces heavily requested health information about menopause, pregnancy, birth control, osteoporosis and other topics.

The administration had requested - and Congress had budgeted - $4 million for the office in fiscal 2007, just as they have for several years running.

Last week, however, word came down that the FDA intends to withhold $1.2 million of that, apparently for use elsewhere in the agency. Because the remaining $2.8 million has already been spent or allocated for salaries and started projects, the office must effectively halt further operations for the rest of the year, according to a high-level agency official with knowledge of the budget plan, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the official is not authorized to speak publicly.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Largest Share of the Poor? Female-Headed Families with Children

How many times has Bush used the word 'poverty' in the past six year?
About one in three severely poor people are under age 17, and nearly two out of three are female. Female-headed families with children account for a large share of the severely poor.

According to census data, nearly two of three people in severe poverty are white (10.3 million) and 6.9 million are non-Hispanic whites. Severely poor blacks (4.3 million) are more than three times as likely as non-Hispanic whites to be in deep poverty, while extremely poor Hispanics of any race (3.7 million) are more than twice as likely.

Washington, D.C., the nation's capital, has a higher concentration of severely poor people - 10.8 percent in 2005 - than any of the 50 states, topping even hurricane-ravaged Mississippi and Louisiana, with 9.3 percent and 8.3 percent, respectively. Nearly six of 10 poor District residents are in extreme poverty.

U.S. Economy Leaving Millions in Severe Poverty

The percentage of poor Americans who are living in severe poverty has reached a 32-year high, millions of working Americans are falling closer to the poverty line and the gulf between the nation's "haves" and "have-nots" continues to widen.

A McClatchy Newspapers analysis of 2005 census figures, the latest available, found that nearly 16 million Americans are living in deep or severe poverty. A family of four with two children and an annual income of less than $9,903 - half the federal poverty line - was considered severely poor in 2005. So were individuals who made less than $5,080 a year.

The McClatchy analysis found that the number of severely poor Americans grew by 26 percent from 2000 to 2005. That's 56 percent faster than the overall poverty population grew in the same period. McClatchy's review also found statistically significant increases in the percentage of the population in severe poverty in 65 of 215 large U.S. counties, and similar increases in 28 states. The review also suggested that the rise in severely poor residents isn't confined to large urban counties but extends to suburban and rural areas.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Homeless Veterans

Already, nearly 200,000 veterans—many from the Vietnam War—sleep on the streets every night, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs. But young warriors just back from the Mideast—estimated around 500 to 1,000—are beginning to struggle with homelessness too. Drinking or using drugs to cope with PTSD, they can lose their job and the support of family and friends, and start a downward spiral to the streets. Their tough military mentality can make them less likely to seek help. Advocates say it can take five to eight years for a veteran to exhaust their financial resources and housing options, so they expect the number to rise exponentially in a few years. "Rather than wait for the tsunami, we should be doing something now," says Cheryl Beversdorf, president of the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans.

The problem is mainly a lack of resources, advocates say. There are only about 15,000 beds available in VA-funded shelters or hospitals nationwide, and nearly every one is taken. In some smaller cities there simply aren't many places for a homeless veteran to go. And as affordable housing units shrink nationwide, veterans living on a disability check of, say, $700 a month, (which means a 50-percent disability rating from the VA), are hard-pressed to find a place to live. Most shelters require veterans to participate in a rehabilitation program, but a "fair amount" of veterans just go back to the streets once they leave, says Ed Quill, director of external affairs at Volunteers of America, the nonprofit housing group for veterans that helped Felty.

How Do Wealthy Wall St. Guys Spend Their Wealth?

Only eight percent of the respondents were women:
The richest bankers are the most lavish spenders -- deploying a larger proportion of their take toward homes, cars and luxury goods. Roughly half of the survey's respondents took home bonuses of more than $5 million last year; this group spent 16% on watches and jewelry and socked away about 9%. By comparison, the other half of respondents -- those who received $2 million to $5 million -- spent only about 7% on baubles and put 23% into savings.

And despite the notion that the really rich give more to charity, the rule didn't seem to apply to the bankers in this survey. Respondents gave about 4% to charity. Those receiving bonuses of $5 million or more gave the same proportion as their poorer peers. Says Mr. Prince: "This is not an especially generous group."

Friday, February 23, 2007

Bush's "Friend" In New Orleans' Upper Ninth Ward

We need more journalism like this:
Ethel Williams lost her home on Pauline Street in the New Orleans' Upper Ninth Ward during Hurricane Katrina. After the storm, President Bush visited Williams and promised that the federal government would help her rebuild.

We spoke with Williams last year, when she was angry at the federal government — but not at President Bush. She called the president a friend, saying she was convinced he would keep his word.

But to date, nothing has been done. Williams' house is still gutted and empty.

NPR's David Greene visits with Williams at her daughter's home in New Orleans to see if she still has faith in the president.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

An Iraqi Invitation to Bush and Cheney

This was posted to the McClatchy blog by Sahar:
The wound is now open, left to fester, contaminated by some known and mostly unknown germs.

But now the price to be paid is being dealt out in a different coinage; blood, and human lives; some taken, others destroyed; more yet left in despair over lost loved ones that have been killed, maimed or have simply disappeared.

The price is not paid by those who made the decision and reaped the benefits, but by us. Democracy and freedom for the Iraqi people!

I issue an invitation to Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld. Come; experience first hand the democracy you brought us. Come; partake of the freedom you so generously taught us. Come, I will offer you my home, there is room enough.

I had a brother. He was killed; coinage for your democracy. (11 Aug, 2005 – 52 yrs)

I had a son. He was killed; coinage for your freedom. (3 Dec, 2005 – 18 yrs)

I had a nephew. He was killed; coinage to ease your inflated ego. (12 Feb, 2007 – 30 yrs)

Come, there is room enough in my home to accommodate you; but there is no room in my heart to accommodate your lame excuses.

Come, all those who participated in wounding our hearts; come; there are more than half a million places vacant of their occupants, we will accommodate you.

There is room enough.

Violating Iraqi Women

This was written by Yifat Susskind, communications director of MADRE, an international women's human rights organization. She is the author of a new report on violence against women in U.S.-occupied Iraq.
The international news media is flooded with images of a woman in a pink headscarf recounting a shattering experience of rape by members of the Iraqi National Police. Most of the media coverage has focused on her taboo-breaking decision to speak publicly about the assault, but has missed two crucial points for understanding—and combating—sexual violence by Iraqi police recruits.

As Iraqi women’s organizations have documented, sexualized torture is a routine horror in Iraqi jails. While this woman may be the first Iraqi rape survivor to appear on television, she is hardly the first to accuse the Iraqi National Police of sexual assault. At least nine Iraqi organizations as well as Amnesty International, the U.N. Assistance Mission in Iraq and the Brussels Tribunal have documented the sexualized torture of Iraqi women while in police custody. These include Women’s Will, Occupation Watch, the Women’s Rights Association , the Iraqi League, the Iraqi National Association of Human Rights, the Human Rights’ Voice of Freedom, the Association of Muslim Scholars, the Iraqi Islamic Party and the Iraqi National Media and Culture Organization.

According to Iraqi human rights advocate and writer Haifa Zangana, the first question asked of female detainees in Iraq is, “Are you Sunni or Shia?” The second is, “Are you a virgin?”

Next week, MADRE , an international women’s human rights organization, will release a report that documents the widespread use of rape and other forms of torture against female detainees in Iraq by U.S. and Iraqi forces. The report includes testimonies collected by the Organization of Women’s Freedom in Iraq (OWFI) of numerous rape survivors. Since November 2005, OWFI has conducted a Women’s Prison Watch project and has found that “torture and rape are common procedure of investigation in police stations run by the militias affiliated with the government, mostly the Mahdi and Badr militias,” according to their summer 2006 report.

These are the same sectarian Shiite militias that have been prosecuting Iraq’s civil war, the same militias that stepped into the power vacuum created by the U.S. overthrow of Saddam Hussein in 2003 and the same militias that have been systematically attacking Iraqi women in their bid to establish an Islamist theocracy. As the occupying power in Iraq, the U.S. was obligated under the Geneva Conventions to provide security to Iraqi civilians, including protection from sex-based violence. But the U.S. military, preoccupied with battling the Iraqi insurgency, simply ignored the reign of terror that Islamist militias were imposing on women, including a campaign of assassinations, rapes, acid attacks and public beatings targeting women perceived to pose a challenge to the project of turning Iraq into a theocracy.

By 2005, the U.S. was actively aiding the militias. As the “cakewalk” envisioned by U.S. war planners quickly devolved into the quagmire is the Iraq War, the U.S. began to cultivate Shiite militias to help battle the Sunni-led insurgency. According to Newsweek, the plan was dubbed the “Salvador Option,” recalling the use of militias by the U.S. to bolster right-wing regimes in 1980s Central America. Today, the Mahdi Army controls the police forces of Baghdad and Basra , Iraq’s two largest cities. The Badr Brigade is headquartered in Iraq’s Ministry of Interior, which directs the country’s police, intelligence and paramilitary units. And the United Nations special investigator on torture is reporting that torture in Iraq is worse now than under Saddam Hussein.

It’s no surprise that we’re hearing allegations of rape against the Iraqi National Police, considering who trained them. DynCorp, the private contractor that the Bush Administration hired to prepare Iraq’s new police force for duty, has an ugly record of violence against women. The company was contracted by the federal government in the 1990s to train police in the Balkans. Human Rights Watch reports that DynCorp employees were found to have systematically committed sex crimes against women, including “owning” young women as slaves . One DynCorp site supervisor videotaped himself raping two women. Despite evidence, the contractors never faced criminal charges.

Contrary to its rhetoric and its international legal obligations, the Bush Administration has refused to protect women’s rights in Iraq. In fact, it has decisively traded women’s rights for cooperation from the Islamists it has helped boost to power. Torture of women in detention is one symptom of this broader crisis.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Iraq Vets Call for Investigation at Walter Reed

Let's hope the national media continues to follow this issue and the public begins to demand more from the Bush administration. This is criminal.
The nation's first and largest non-partisan organization representing veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, IAVA, today called on members of Congress to review the actions of the Army and the Department of Defense at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C., amid press reports that injured troops were returning from war only to face squalid living conditions and inadequate medical and mental health care at the facility.

Paul Rieckhoff, Executive Director of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, said the organization's veteran membership was relieved that these problems have now captured the attention of members of Congress, but cautioned that more must be done to ensure that the problems do not persist once the glare of media attention fades away.

"Unfortunately, the Army and the Department of Defense saw no need to fix these problems until they were embarrassed by media reports," Rieckhoff said. "We hear a lot of talk about the need to support our troops, but conditions at Walter Reed show us that the talk does not match the reality."

Over the past several days, the Washington Post has exposed the horrendous conditions that recovering troops face as outpatients at Walter Reed: bureaucratic delays, overworked case managers and appalling living conditions, including black mold, cheap mattresses, rodents and cockroaches. Severely injured veterans are being shortchanged on disability payments they are owed, and mental health needs are not properly diagnosed.

Rieckhoff said veterans were pleased that Senators Barack Obama (D-IL) and Claire McCaskill (D-MO) quickly drafted legislation that would improve the quality of care at the facility and increase oversight, and he called on other members of the Senate and House to sign on: "We commend Senators McCaskill and Obama for taking the lead on this issue. The items they have proposed, including improving the ratio of caseworkers to recovering veterans and establishing timelines for repairing substandard facilities, will go a long way towards fixing the inexcusable problems at Walter Reed. We hope we can count on other lawmakers to support this bill and stand with veterans in the coming days."

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

The Rape of Sabine, an Iraqi Woman

This is from Riverbend, the woman behind Baghdad Burning. The pain in her writing is palpable:

"It’s over. You lost. You lost the day your tanks rolled into Baghdad to the cheers of your imported, American-trained monkeys. You lost every single family whose home your soldiers violated. You lost every sane, red-blooded Iraqi when the Abu Ghraib pictures came out and verified your atrocities behind prison walls as well as the ones we see in our streets. You lost when you brought murderers, looters, gangsters and militia heads to power and hailed them as Iraq’s first democratic government. You lost when a gruesome execution was dubbed your biggest accomplishment. You lost the respect and reputation you once had. You lost more than 3000 troops. That is what you lost America. I hope the oil, at least, made it worthwhile."
It takes a lot to get the energy and resolution to blog lately. I guess it’s mainly because just thinking about the state of Iraq leaves me drained and depressed. But I had to write tonight.

As I write this, Oprah is on Channel 4 (one of the MBC channels we get on Nilesat), showing Americans how to get out of debt. Her guest speaker is telling a studio full of American women who seem to have over-shopped that they could probably do with fewer designer products. As they talk about increasing incomes and fortunes, Sabrine Al-Janabi, a young Iraqi woman, is on Al Jazeera telling how Iraqi security forces abducted her from her home and raped her. You can only see her eyes, her voice is hoarse and it keeps breaking as she speaks. In the end she tells the reporter that she can’t talk about it anymore and she covers her eyes with shame.

She might just be the bravest Iraqi woman ever. Everyone knows American forces and Iraqi security forces are raping women (and men), but this is possibly the first woman who publicly comes out and tells about it using her actual name. Hearing her tell her story physically makes my heart ache. Some people will call her a liar. Others (including pro-war Iraqis) will call her a prostitute- shame on you in advance.

I wonder what excuse they used when they took her. It’s most likely she’s one of the thousands of people they round up under the general headline of ‘terrorist suspect’. She might have been one of those subtitles you read on CNN or BBC or Arabiya, “13 insurgents captured by Iraqi security forces.” The men who raped her are those same security forces Bush and Condi are so proud of- you know- the ones the Americans trained. It’s a chapter right out of the book that documents American occupation in Iraq: the chapter that will tell the story of 14-year-old Abeer who was raped, killed and burned with her little sister and parents.

They abducted her from her house in an area in southern Baghdad called Hai Al Amil. No- it wasn’t a gang. It was Iraqi peace keeping or security forces- the ones trained by Americans? You know them. She was brutally gang-raped and is now telling the story. Half her face is covered for security reasons or reasons of privacy. I translated what she said below.

Sabrine continuing:

“One of them, he said… I told him, ‘Please- by your father and mother- let me go.’ He said, ‘No, no- by my mother’s soul I’ll let you go- but on one condition, you give me one single thing.’ I said, ‘What?’ He said, ‘[I want] to rape you.’ I told him, ‘No- I can’t.’ So he took me to a room with a weapon… It had a weapon, a Klashnikov, a small bed [Unclear], he sat me on it. So [the officer came] and told him, ‘Leave her to me.’ I swore to him on the Quran, I told him, ‘By the light of the Prophet I don’t do such things…’ He said, ‘You don’t do such things?’ I said, ‘Yes’.

[Crying] He picked up a black hose, like a pipe. He hit me on the thigh. [Crying] I told him, ‘What do you want from me? Do you want me to tell you rape me? But I can’t… I’m not one of those ***** [Prostitutes] I don’t do such things.’ So he said to me, ‘We take what we want and what we don’t want we kill. That’s that.’ [Sobbing] I can’t anymore… please, I can’t finish.”

I look at this woman and I can’t feel anything but rage. What did we gain? I know that looking at her, foreigners will never be able to relate. They’ll feel pity and maybe some anger, but she’s one of us. She’s not a girl in jeans and a t-shirt so there will only be a vague sort of sympathy. Poor third-world countries- that is what their womenfolk tolerate. Just know that we never had to tolerate this before. There was a time when Iraqis were safe in the streets. That time is long gone. We consoled ourselves after the war with the fact that we at least had a modicum of safety in our homes. Homes are sacred, aren’t they? That is gone too.

She’s just one of tens, possibly hundreds, of Iraqi women who are violated in their own homes and in Iraqi prisons. She looks like cousins I have. She looks like friends. She looks like a neighbor I sometimes used to pause to gossip with in the street. Every Iraqi who looks at her will see a cousin, a friend, a sister, a mother, an aunt…

Humanitarian organizations are warning that three Iraqi women are to be executed next month. The women are Wassan Talib, Zainab Fadhil and Liqa Omar Muhammad. They are being accused of 'terrorism', i.e. having ties to the Iraqi resistance. It could mean they are relatives of people suspected of being in the resistance. Or it could mean they were simply in the wrong place at the wrong time. One of them gave birth in the prison. I wonder what kind of torture they've endured. Let no one say Iraqi women didn't get at least SOME equality under the American occupation- we are now equally as likely to get executed.

And yet, as the situation continues to deteriorate both for Iraqis inside and outside of Iraq, and for Americans inside Iraq, Americans in America are still debating on the state of the war and occupation- are they winning or losing? Is it better or worse.

Let me clear it up for any moron with lingering doubts: It’s worse. It’s over. You lost. You lost the day your tanks rolled into Baghdad to the cheers of your imported, American-trained monkeys. You lost every single family whose home your soldiers violated. You lost every sane, red-blooded Iraqi when the Abu Ghraib pictures came out and verified your atrocities behind prison walls as well as the ones we see in our streets. You lost when you brought murderers, looters, gangsters and militia heads to power and hailed them as Iraq’s first democratic government. You lost when a gruesome execution was dubbed your biggest accomplishment. You lost the respect and reputation you once had. You lost more than 3000 troops. That is what you lost America. I hope the oil, at least, made it worthwhile.

How Bush's Budget is Impacting Soldiers He Pretends to Support

President Bush is requesting $87 billion dollars for the Department of Veterans Affairs, the largest request for the VA in history (this is separate from the $647 billion military budget). But veterans groups and many Democrats say it’s not enough during wartime. It could cost the VA at least $350 billion to provide disability compensation and health care to Afghanistan and Iraq veterans, according to a Harvard University researcher's conservative estimate. Those costs could climb as high as $663 billion, if many troops remain at war much longer and health care costs inflate.

More than 1.4 million U.S. military members have served in Iraq and Afghanistan in more than five years of combat. Of those troops, at least 24,527 have been wounded in action, according to the Department of Defense. An additional 28,000 or so have been injured or become so ill that they had to be evacuated from the war theater. And let’s not forget about the aging population from the Vietnam War.

Last year, the VA received more than 806,000 claims. The average processing time is 177 days.

The VA expects to treat about 5.8 million patients next year, including 236,000 vets from Iraq and Afghanistan.

Randy Pleva, president of Paralyzed Veterans of America said, "It is unconscionable that this Administration would push veterans away from a health care system recognized as a world leader."

In some cases, the administration is pushing veterans to their death.

Last week, the Boston Globe ran an article about Jonathan Schulze, a 25-year-old Iraq vet who returned home from Iraq two years ago. It took him that long to stop drinking and seek help from the VA. He told a counselor he was suicidal, but he was told that the clinician who prescreened cases like his was unavailable. Go home and wait for a phone call. He received a call the next day and was told he was 26th on the list.

Four days later, he wrapped an extension cord around his neck, tied it to a beam in the basement, and hanged himself.

The case is currently under investigation by the VA.

Monday, February 19, 2007

U.S. Releases Another Innocent Man Who Was Tortured and Jailed for 2 Years

Laith al-Ani, with his daughter, Al Budur, was recently released by the American military in Iraq after spending more than two years in detention facilities. He was never charged with a crime. (Bryan Denton, NYT)

What did this innocent man receive for two years of hell? $25. This quote says it all: “The United States through its actions made people hate the Americans much more than before.”
The American detention camps in Iraq now hold 15,500 prisoners, more than at any time since the war began. The camps are filled with people like Mr. Ani who are being held without charge and without access to tribunals where their cases are reviewed, the Times examination published last December found.

Mr. Ani, a women’s clothing merchant, said he was detained in 2004 after American soldiers who were searching for weapons in his six-family apartment building found an Iraqi military uniform in the basement. His joy upon being released in January was short-lived. Days later, he said, a Shiite militia ransacked his home in Baghdad, looking to kill him. He hid, going from house to house, until he could move his family out of Iraq.

Now he is among the estimated 1.5 million Iraqis who have taken refuge in neighboring Syria and Jordan, where sectarian rifts are springing up.

Livestock Causes 18 Percent of Global Greenhouse Emissions

Here's another reason to go vegetarian or cut back on your meat consumption:
The growth of factory farms, their proximity to congested cities in the developing world, and the globalized poultry trade are all culprits behind the spread of avian flu, while livestock wastes damage the climate at a rate that surpasses emissions from cars and SUVs. These preliminary findings on avian flu and meat production, from the upcoming Worldwatch Institute report Vital Signs 2007–2008, were released today by research associate Danielle Nierenberg at the annual conference of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) in San Francisco.

At least 15 nations have restricted or banned free-range and backyard production of birds in an attempt to deal with avian flu on the ground, a move that may ultimately do more harm than good, according to Nierenberg. “Many of the world’s estimated 800 million urban farmers, who raise crops and animals for food, transportation, and income in back yards and on rooftops, have been targeted unfairly by the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Health Organization,” she told participants at the AAAS event. “The socioeconomic importance of livestock to the world’s poor cannot be overstated.”

In 2006, global meat production increased 2.5 percent to an estimated 276 million tons. Sixty percent of this production occurred in the developing world, where half of all meat is now consumed thanks to rising incomes and exploding urbanization.

Intensive animal farming is not only deleterious to human health and economies; it is also responsible for a great deal of ecological destruction. The growing numbers of livestock are responsible for 18 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions (as measured in carbon dioxide equivalent). They account for 37 percent of emissions of methane, which has more than 20 times the global warming potential of carbon dioxide, and 65 percent of emissions of nitrous oxide, another powerful greenhouse gas, most of which comes from manure.

Iraqis Are Now Begging for Food

"Look at us begging for food despite the fortunes we have," 60-year-old Um Muthanna from Baghdad told IPS. Standing at a vegetable market in central Baghdad where vegetable supplies are not what they used to be, Um Mahmood despaired for Iraq.

"A country with two great rivers should have been the biggest exporter in the world, but now we beg for food from those who participated in killing us."

This Week's Radio Show

Your Call airs from 10:00-11:00 am PST on 91.7 FM in San Francisco

Monday: A conversation with Chris Abani, author of "The Virgin of Flames"
At the ripe age of 16, Nigerian born Chris Abani penned his first book, a political thriller about Neo-Nazis taking over Nigeria. When a coup threatened to topple the country two years later, the Nigerian government threw Abani in jail. On his third trip to jail, he was given a death sentence, tortured, and held in solitary confinement. He now lives in Los Angeles.

Tuesday - Bush's Budget: Who wins? Who loses?
Bush's $2.9 trillion budget includes $647 BILLION for the military. Proposed U.S. military spending is larger than military spending by all of the other nations in the world combined. The budget also calls for the elimination or sharp reduction of 141 programs, including the preventative care block grant, which helps states provide health care to low-income people, and the Commodity Supplemental Food Program, a federal program that provides a monthly box of food to poor seniors, pregnant women, infants, and children.
Guests: Deborah Weinstein, executive director of the Coalition on Human Needs, Robert Borosage, co-director, Campaign for America's Future, a group that's working to revitalize a progressive agenda, and Marguerite Nowak, education and advocacy coordinator with the SF Food Bank.

Wednesday - A conversation about the upcoming documentary, Hip-Hop: Beyond Beats and Rhymes - it airs on Tuesday night on PBS
"Get an in-depth look at machismo in rap music and hip-hop culture—where creative genius, poetic beauty and mad beats collide with misogyny, violence and homophobia."
Guests: Byron Hurt, the filmmaker, Jeff Chang, author of "Can't Stop Won't Stop," and a woman !

Thursday: A Katrina update. What's happening in New Orleans?

Friday - How did the media cover the week's news?

Sunday, February 18, 2007

AWOL Soldier's Parents: Supporting the Troops Means Stopping the War

This poor family hasn't heard from their son in six months, so they've set up a website and a blog expressing their support in case he decides to make online contact. Their other son is leaving for Iraq in two weeks.
Lance Hering's parents gave their first television interview since learning their son disappeare to avoid returning to duty as a Marine in Iraq. It's been about six months since Lance Cpl. Lance Hering ran away.

His parents chased one lead that turned up empty, but in the meantime Lance's disappearance has triggered a response inside of them.

The Hering's claim they have not had any contact with their son. They've tried to get back a normal routine, but there's son's decision to run has changed them. It's provoked a passion inside of them they could not have predicted.

"We emotionally mail Lance love a million times a day," Lloyd Hering, Lance's father, said.

The Hering's hold onto hope, that their son is somewhere safe.

"No, no we have heard absolutely nothing since the moment that he left," the father said.

The Boulder County Sheriff has warrants for Lance's arrest. The Marines consider him Absent Without Official Leave (AWOL).

Six months ago, a massive search effort ensued. Lance enlisted a friend to help stage his disappearance in Eldorado Canyon to avoid returning to duty as a Marine. Surveillance video from a local bus station showed Lance purchasing a ticket. His parents have seen the video, and recall very different reactions.

"The first thing I thought was yeah, my son's alive, yeah you're alive, Lance," Lloyd said.

"I saw a sad lonely son going somewhere away, with nothing, with nothing," Ellyne Hering, Lance's mother, said.

A lead led Lloyd to a small town in Iowa. Strangers there remembered his son.

"He bought some clothes in a department store," Lloyd said. "Bought some food in a couple of convenient stores, and stayed warm one cold morning in the library, and kept very much to himself."

The last report he got was of Lance walking on a road out of town. His disappearance weighs heavy on the Herings.

"I started to think about, of course, post-traumatic stress," Ellyne said.

"We didn't have any warning of it, and I don't know if he had any warning of it," Lloyd said. "He was still thinking and talking like a career Marine when we went to visit his grandmother the night before he disappeared."

Lance's decision to run lit a fire inside his parents. They started talking about the war. Lloyd said he and Ellyne realized that supporting the troops meant stopping the war.

Lloyd and Ellyne have traveled to Washington, D.C. twice to urge Congress to stop funding the war. Ellyne writes postcards as part of a nationwide campaign to stop special appropriations for Iraq.

This is all very personal for the Herings.

"Not everyone knows that our other son, Brendan, of whom we are also very proud of, is an officer in the U.S. Air Force," Lloyd said. "And in about two weeks, he's going to deploy to Iraq."

Iraq changed one son, and triggered a passionate voice inside each of them. Lance's parents hope one day their son will decide it's time to come home.

"He has to come home when he's strong enough to be able to face it all," Ellyne said.

"We're here to help him whenever he decides to come back," Lloyd said. "He'll get legal help, financial help, counseling help, and all the love that we can provide anytime he comes back."

This coming week Colorado's Congressional delegates will be home on recess. Lloyd and Ellyne hope to meet with some of them to talk about stopping to fund the war.

At this point Ed Perlmutter, John Salazar and Mark Udall basically said they're waiting on the bill's wording before making up their mind.

Post-traumatic stress disorder is something hundreds of military men and women are dealing with once returning from Iraq.

Republicans Fear Iraq Debate

The "liberal" media on TV is continuously saying the Senate blocked the debate on Iraq war. First, it's an occupation. Second, Republicans blocked the debate. The quality of mainstream journalism in this country continues to decline.
Following is the record of the 56 to 34 vote by which the Senate failed to advance a nonbinding resolution to condemn President Bush's troop buildup in Iraq. Sixty votes were needed to pass the motion.


Akaka (Hawaii), Baucus (Mont.), Bayh (Ind.), Biden (Del.), Bingaman (N.M.), Boxer (Calif.), Brown (Ohio), Byrd (W.Va.), Cantwell (Wash.), Cardin (Md.), Carper (Del.), Casey (Pa.), Clinton (N.Y.), Conrad (N.D.), Dodd (Conn.), Dorgan (N.D.), Durbin (Ill.), Feingold (Wis.), Feinstein (Calif.), Harkin (Iowa), Inouye (Hawaii), Kennedy (Mass.), Kerry (Mass.), Klobuchar (Minn.), Kohl (Wis.), Landrieu (La.), Lautenberg (N.J.), Leahy (Vt.), Levin (Mich.), Lincoln (Ark.), McCaskill (Mo.), Menendez (N.J.), Mikulski (Md.), Murray (Wash.), Nelson (Fla.), Nelson (Neb.), Obama (Ill.), Pryor (Ark.), Reed (R.I.), Reid (Nev.), Rockefeller (W.Va.), Salazar (Colo.), Schumer (N.Y.), Stabenow (Mich.), Tester (Mont.), Webb (Va.), Whitehouse (R.I.), Wyden (Ore.).


Coleman (Minn.), Collins (Maine); Hagel (Neb.); Smith (Ore.); Snowe (Maine); Specter (Pa.); Warner (Va.).


Sanders (Vt.).


Alexander (Tenn.), Allard (Colo.), Brownback (Kan.), Bunning (Ky.), Burr (N.C.), Chambliss (Ga.), Coburn (Okla.), Cornyn (Tex.), Craig (Idaho), Crapo (Idaho), DeMint (S.C.), Dole (N.C.), Domenici (N.M.), Enzi (Wyo.), Graham (S.C.), Grassley (Iowa), Gregg (N.H.), Hutchison (Tex.), Inhofe (Okla.), Isakson (Ga.), Lott (Miss.), Lugar (Ind.), Martinez (Fla.), McConnell (Ky.), Roberts (Kan.), Sessions (Ala.), Shelby (Ala.), Stevens (Alaska), Sununu (N.H.), Thomas (Wyo.), Thune (S.D.), Vitter (La.), Voinovich (Ohio).


Lieberman (Conn.).


Johnson (S.D.).


Bennett (Utah), Bond (Mo.), Cochran (Miss.), Corker (Tenn.), Ensign (Nev.), Hatch (Utah), Kyl (Ariz.), McCain (Ariz.), Murkowski (Alaska).

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Must See Documentary: 9/11: Press for Truth

This documentary is based on Paul Thompson's book, "The Complete 9/11 Timeline." This is a must see documentary.
“We felt the country was at risk from terrorists and from incompetence…and maybe worse.”
—Lorie Van Auken, September 11th Widow

Following the attacks of September 11th, a small group of grieving families waged a tenacious battle against those who sought to bury the truth about the event—including, to their amazement, President Bush. In ‘9/11 PRESS FOR TRUTH’, six of them, including three of the famous “Jersey Girls”, tell for the first time the powerful story of how they took on the greatest powers in Washington—and won!—compelling an investigation, only to subsequently watch the 9/11 Commission fail in answering most of their questions.

Adapting Paul Thompson’s definitive Complete 9/11 Timeline (published by HarperCollins as ‘The Terror Timeline’), the filmmakers collaborate with documentary veterans Globalvision (‘WMD: Weapons of Mass Deception’, ‘Beyond JFK’) to stitch together rare overlooked news clips, buried stories, and government press conferences, revealing a pattern of official lies, deception and spin. As a result, a very different picture of 9/11 emerges, one that raises new and more pressing questions.

What actions were taken by top government officials who received dozens of specific warnings before the attack? Was Osama Bin Laden and his top al Qaeda leadership allowed to escape U.S. forces in Afghanistan? And what has been the reason for the deliberate obscuring of evidence for state sponsorship? Perhaps the most important one of all: Why, five years later, are so many of the families’ questions still unanswered?

Friday, February 16, 2007

How Bush's Budget Impacts People in Need

Because Iraq and Iran are dominating the headlines, Bush's budget hasn't been receiving much attention. This is from the Coalition on Human Needs:
The Bush Administration’s FY 2008 budget would make its tax cuts permanent.
Between FY 2008 and FY 2017, these tax cuts will hand $739 billion to millionaires alone,
and will total $3.4 trillion in lost revenue, according to the Center on Budget and Policy
Priorities. In order to pay for these tax breaks for the non-needy and to increase
funding for the military, the budget cuts vital services for the poor, near-poor, and
middle class. A budget that puts first things first would invest in these services. The
Bush budget does the opposite.

The choices in the Bush budget are clear. In FY 2008, spending for education, housing,
the environment, and all the other programs requiring annual appropriations will total
nearly $392 billion in the Bush budget, $13 billion below the cost of keeping up with
inflation. The examples below show the results of such a squeeze: hundreds of
thousands of children losing health coverage and child care; hundreds of thousands of
low-income seniors losing modest packages of food aid and housing assistance. In the
President’s proposal for FY 2008, special education, vocational education, and higher
education are all cut below FY 2006 levels. These are just a few of the failures to invest
in giving people a chance to build better lives for themselves. On the other hand, in FY
2008, people with incomes of a million or more will receive $55 billion from the tax cuts
enacted since 2001, according to the Senate Budget Committee.

The Coalition on Human Needs, working with the Emergency Campaign for America’s
Priorities (ECAP), is calling upon Congress to move substantially towards meeting the
nation’s needs by providing $450 billion for domestic annually appropriated programs
(domestic discretionary programs, including homeland security) in its Budget
Resolution for FY 2008. That would help us to invest in education and training, public
health, child care, housing, and much more. Is $58 billion above the President’s figure
unaffordable? Most of it could be paid for by eliminating next year’s tax cut for
millionaires. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities points out that the
discretionary cuts will escalate in the next five years under the President’s proposal. In
2012, domestic discretionary programs will be cut by $34 billion, while millionaires will
receive $73 billion in tax breaks. These are the wrong choices.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Farmworkers Win Sexual Harassment Suit

From Wal-Mart to Wall Street, sexual harassment is just as pervasive as ever:
One of Florida's largest fruit and vegetable wholesalers has agreed to pay $215,000 to settle allegations of sexual harassment in one of the few such lawsuits ever brought on behalf of farmworker women in the United States.

The lawsuit, initiated by Southern Poverty Law Center attorney Mónica Ramírez Guerrero, alleged five Haitian women working at Gargiulo Inc.'s tomato packinghouse in Immokalee were subjected to repeated, unwelcome sexual advances by their supervisor and then faced retaliation after they complained. The retaliation included the firing of three of the women.

"Our clients are very pleased and relieved that we were able to reach an agreement," said Ramírez Guerrero. "While they were being harassed they did not know that laws existed to protect them. Due to the fact that they are immigrants and farmworkers, our clients thought it would be impossible to achieve justice. They believe that this settlement will help other women who are experiencing sexual harassment, so that they do not feel helpless."

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Military Says No to Gays, Yes to Felons

The Army is so desperate, it's accepting recruits with criminal records, including some with felony convictions. Meantime, gays still can't openly serve (yes, many want to).
The Army and Marine Corps are letting in more recruits with criminal records, including some with felony convictions, reflecting the increased pressure of five years of war and its mounting casualties.

The number of felony waivers granted by the Army grew from 411 in 2003 to 901 in 2006, according to the Pentagon, or about one in 10 of the moral waivers approved that year. Other misdemeanors, which could be petty theft, writing a bad check or some assaults, jumped from about 2,700 to more than 6,000 in 2006. The minor crimes represented more than three-quarters of the moral waivers granted by the Army in 2006, up from more than half in 2003.

The data was obtained through a federal information request and released by the California-based Michael D. Palm Center, a think tank that studies military issues.

"The fact that the military has allowed more than 100,000 people with such troubled pasts to join its ranks over the past three years illustrates the problem we're having meeting our military needs in this time of war," said Aaron Belkin, director of the center.

Taking Care of the Troops Could Cost $663 Billion

Bush wants another tax cut for the wealthy and the troops he pretends to support can't get adequate healthcare:
It could cost the VA at least $350 billion to provide disability compensation and health care to Afghanistan and Iraq veterans, according to a Harvard University researcher's conservative estimate. Those costs could climb as high as $663 billion, if many troops remain at war much longer and health care costs inflate.

"We're running up a bill that we'll be paying for the next 50 years," said Steve Robinson, director of veterans affairs for Veterans for America, a national veterans advocacy organization.

The nation has committed $427 billion to war costs, not including VA expenses. Pending budget requests would raise the total to $662 billion.

It's not just the long-term taxpayer cost of VA benefits that worries veterans advocates.

The VA in the past few years has had health care funding shortfalls. Veterans groups worry that escalating costs could lead the agency to ration resources by delaying or limiting access to health care and by taking longer to process disability claims.

The VA's ability to provide high-quality, timely mental health care already is showing signs of strain.

Told to Wait, Another Marine Dies

This is a travesty:
Last week, it was 10 below zero with the windchill factor in the farming town of Stewart . Before his shift at a nearby dairy plant, Jonathan's father crunched through dry, drifting snow toward the St. Paul's Lutheran Church cemetery to visit his son's grave .

Dead flowers from the funeral and a small American flag that marked the grave were disappearing beneath the drifting snow.

"This never should have happened," said James, tears welling behind a pair of sunglasses.

"This country should have taken better care of one of its sons. They owed that to Jon."

Iraq Veterans: Supporting the Troops is Inconsistent with the Bush Administration

This is from Jon Soltz, co-founder of VoteVets.org. The Democrats are doing a horrible job of publicizing this issue:
In recent weeks, VoteVets.org, the leading political group of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans, has made the case in powerful TV ads, press conferences, and visits to Capitol Hill, that you cannot support the President's proposed escalation of the war, and support the troops.

Now, in its latest budget proposal, the Bush administration proposes fixing its fiscal mess on the back of veterans. After a slight increase to the budget for veterans care next year, the Administration proposes making cuts in 2009 and 2010, before freezing funding levels. Those cuts would come precisely at the time we're likely to see the US start to end its involvement in the civil war in Iraq. The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), which is already terribly overburdened, would be facing a tsunami of new veterans, with a diminished ability to deal with them.

According to the Associated Press, the number of veterans coming home from Iraq and Afghanistan is expected to rise by 26 percent by this year alone. This is happening while a number of VA centers are closing due to budget cuts, and lines for care are becoming almost prohibitively long. Imagine what will happen when the rest of the troops come home, seeking care, and the VA has less money to deal with them.

One of the founding principles of VoteVets.org is support for mandatory full funding for veterans care. A formula would be used to determine financial need for the agency, and no one, not even the President, would be able to deny veterans those funds. Under the former leadership in Congress, legislation sponsored by Senators Tom Daschle and Patty Murray that would install such formulas was voted down. The new leadership must make mandatory funding a priority, so veterans are not victims of budgetary games.

In the meantime, every member of Congress, regardless of party, should deny the cuts that President Bush wants to make for veterans care. Those who don't vote that way have no right to say they support the troops, and we veterans at VoteVets.org will make sure their constituents know it.

With this new budget coupled with the proposal to escalate the war, it all boils down to this: You're either with the President, or you're with the troops. Which side are you on, Congress?

Monday, February 12, 2007

This Week's Radio Show

Here's what's on this week's radio show. Your Call airs from 10:00-11:00 am on 91.7 FM. You can also listen to live and archived shows online.

Monday: Should California move its presidential primary to February 5? We'll have a debate with two progressives: Rick Jacobs, founder of the Courage Campaign, and Paul Hogarth, managing editor of BeyondChron.org
If we move the primary, it will cost taxpayers $80 million. Those in favor of the move say it’ll make California a significant player in the selection of the presidential nominees and force candidates to address issues we care about. Those opposed say it’ll virtually guarantee that the well-funded, well established candidate will win and it’ll cause lower voter turnout in the June election. A week's worth of TV ads will cost candidates $5 million.

Tuesday - A conversation with Amy Stewart, author of "Flower Confidential: The Good, the Bad, and the Beautiful in the Business of Flowers"
FACTS: We consume an average of 10 million cut flowers per day in the United States. That amounts to 4 billion stems for a grand total of $6.2 billion dollars per year. The majority of those flowers are grown in South Amerian factories where workers make $5 a day and inhale toxic chemicals.

Wednesday - A conversation with Ralph Nader - he's out with a new memoir and a documentary about his life debuts in Bay Area theaters next month - it's really good - Many things we take for granted including seat belts, airbags, product labeling, no nukes, even the free ticket you get after being bumped from an overbooked flight are largely due to the efforts of Ralph Nader and his citizen groups.
Watch the trailer here.

Thursday: A conversation with Iraqis (the people who are missing from the "debate" our government is currently having) - What is everyday life like? Do they have electricity and clean water? What do they think of Bush's plan to increase troops? What are their solutions?

Friday - How did the media cover the week's news?

Update on Suzanne Swift

This is from Sara Rich, mother of Suzanne Swift, the young woman who refused to return to Iraq after she accused her superiors of raping and sexually harassing her. Read about Suzanne and her case here:
Ft Lewis, good bye and good riddance.

Suzanne is heading to her AIT training in Virginia at Ft. Lee today. Let's hope the folks there are more humane and helpful. In my opinion if you are not part of the solution, then you are part of the problem. It is the neanderthal mentality of people in uniform at Ft. Lewis that perpetuate and support military sexual violence. The command there allowed this to happen to Suzanne and then made it worse for her by putting her in prison and stripping her of all her rank.

A photographer from the New York Times magazine came out to take pictures for a huge piece coming out in a few weeks. Ft Lewis command threatened Suzanne with another court martial if she went through with it and then took away her off base privileges. Finally, after having to fight with them AGAIN, they agreed to allow her off base for the photographer, who flew in from out of town, as long as she was ESCORTED! Don't they know if she was going to run again, she would have done it a long time ago. I had to call a Colonel to get the escorts to respond to Suzanne, then they returned her calls and she made the photo shoot. We will let you know when the NYTM hits the press and then we are planning some major action in DC against military sexual violence.

Once again, we will not stop until there is justice for Suzanne and the thousands of other men and women who have been sexually abused in the military.

Sara Rich, M.S.W

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Occupation Project Grannies Arrested

Spine: Photo by Shirley Lin Kinoshita

Thanks, grannies:
On February 8, about 25 people crowded into the office of Representative Mike Honda (D) Campbell/San Jose, California. A dozen members of the Raging Grannies Action League and the San Jose Raging Grannies, served tea and cookies with HR 508 icing then sang “Go Tell Your Congressman to Get a Spine” to the tune of “God Bless America”. While performing the Grannies displayed a spine which cracked a smile on even the most stoney-faced office staff members.

Raging Grannies Action League member Ruthie Priest and local activist Doug MacKenzie stayed behind after closing hours at 5:00pm and were arrested and cited for trespassing.

But before that at 4:45pm, the Grannies sang this song to the staff of the Representative to the tune of Chatanooga ChooChoo.

Pardon Us Mike
We here to serve you tea and cookies
You need to be strong
Do what’s right— not what’s wrong
There’s gonna be
A granny sittin’ in your office
You’re still our guy
But we are here and here’s why
She won’t be— leavin’ when you close the door at quarter to five
CO-sponsor 508 to keep our soldiers alive
We’re bringin’ you nutrition
So Stop the escalation
Cut off funding and save the nation
We won’t be— serving up these cookies for so awfully long
the press will be reportin’
Mike you gotta be strong
So stop the escalation
Gotta save the nation
Bring our troops home now and make us Proud!

Friday, February 09, 2007

A Day in the Life of Women Around the Globe

An Ultra Orthodox Jewish man rides a bus in Jerusalem. Naomi Ragen, an Orthodox Jew and a feminist author, is at the forefront of a lawsuit filed last week against the transport ministry and the Egged Bus Cooperative, which operates most public bus lines, demanding an end to the firm's 30 sex-segregated bus lines that relegate women to the back of the vehicle.(AFP/File/Gali Tibbon)

An Indonesian woman hangs clothing to dry at a neighborhood destroyed by floodwaters in Jakarta, Indonesia, Friday, Feb. 9, 2007. Tens of thousands of people remained camped out in shelters or under bridges in Indonesia's flood-hit capital on Friday, as authorities said they would spray the city with disinfectant to prevent the spread of disease. (AP Photo/Dita Alangkara)

woman walks towards an Iraqi soldier standing guard on a road in Baghdad February 9, 2007. REUTERS/Mahmoud Raouf Mahmoud (IRAQ)

Palestinians carry a woman wounded by a falling stone, during clashes between Israeli forces and Palestinian demonstrators in the narrow alleyways of east Jerusalem's Old City, Friday, Feb. 9, 2007. Hundreds of angry Muslim worshippers threw stones at police and scuffled with them Friday in an eruption of outrage over contentious Israeli renovation work at a disputed holy site in Old City. (AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti)

A Jordanian woman shouts anti-Israeli slogans during a demonstration against the Israeli construction work outside the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in east Jerusalem's Old City, in Amman, Jordan, Friday, Feb. 9, 2007. Around 2,000 demonstrators marched after the Friday prayers to express outrage over Israeli renovation work near Islam's third-holiest shrine. (AP Photo/Nader Daoud)

A Haitian woman cries next to her husband who was killed during a gunfight between U.N. peacekeepers and gang members in the volatile neighborhood of Cite-Soleil in Port-au-Prince February 9, 2007. Hundreds of U.N. soldiers stormed a slum neighborhood in Haiti's capital on Friday to try to wrest control from a criminal gang, prompting a gunfight that killed one person and wounded several others, including two peacekeepers. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz (HAITI)

Another Mushroom Cloud Explodes

Intelligence provided by former undersecretary of defense Douglas J. Feith to buttress the White House case for invading Iraq included "reporting of dubious quality or reliability" that supported the political views of senior administration officials rather than the conclusions of the intelligence community, according to a report by the Pentagon's inspector general.

Women cry outside their home which was destroyed in a car bomb attack in Baghdad February 5, 2007. (Thaier al-Sudani/Reuters)

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Vets Speak Out Against the Troop Increase

VoteVets.org's Jon Soltz, at center, with House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, left, Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Rep. John Murtha, right, head of the defense appropriations subcommittee, said yesterday, "We need a vote that tells the president that his strategy is not working." (By Nikki Kahn -- The Washington Post)

Democrats would like to make these statements, but can't? As people are dying and the Bush administration continues lying? Pathetic. Let's hope the national media stops giving the microphone to the so-called "experts" who got it wrong from the start and gives it to these veterans instead:
When Iraq war veteran Jon Soltz accused Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) of "aiding the enemy," the Democratic senators gathered around him yesterday did not wince. Nor did Democrats object when Soltz, the chairman of a group called VoteVets.org, called President Bush and Vice President Cheney "draft dodgers."

In the United States Congress, where decorum usually holds sway, Soltz and his small band of veterans are saying things many Democrats would like to express but can't. And as the politics heat up over the Iraq war, Democratic leaders increasingly are being drawn to Soltz and his angry soldiers.

Soltz said the group is pro-military and not a front for the Democrats. "I'm a conservative," said Soltz, who volunteered on Kerry's 2004 presidential campaign. "I don't think 20,000 more troops is Democratic, I don't think 20,000 troops is Republican. I think it's stupid."

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Citizens Occupy the Offices of Politicians Who Refuse to End the Occupation

Once again, the 'liberal media' is ignoring this very important campaign called "The Occupation Project: A Campaign to Sustained Nonviolent Civil Disobedience to End the Iraq War."

Midge writes about being arrested in Sen. John McCain's office:
I was arrested yesterday, Monday February 5th, along with 10 others in the first of many action of a sustained campaign to end the Iraq War called “The Occupation Project”

Senator McCain was targeted yesterday because he is a staunch supporter of the ongoing occupation of Iraq. The message brought to McCain’s Capitol Hill office by Voices For Creative Non-Violence, CodePINK, Veterans For Peace was “Stop Funding the War!” Two time Nobel Peace Prize nominee Kathy Kelly was among those arrested. There were also coordinated actions at McCain’s offices in his homestate of Arizona, as well as other demonstrations nationwide including sit-ins at Barrak Obama’s and Dick Durbin’s offices in Chicago which resulted in 8 additional arrests.

We got a little news coverage including just one paragraph in an AP article about the demise of the Senate’s non-binding resolution denouncing Bush’s “troop surge.” However, that very article was edited in some publications, including my hometown paper The Springfield News-Leader, which cut the article short without mention of the McCain protests.

Here is what the AP reported which was left out by the News-Leader: Republicans and Democrats carried out their clash as 10 members of “Code Pink,” an anti-war group, were arrested and charged with disorderly conduct during a protest in front of McCain’s office in a building across the street from the Capitol. “They were absolutely compliant, peaceful,” Sgt. Kimberly Schneider said of the protesters.

If you live Southwest Missouri, email the Springfield News-Leader and ask them “Why did you edit out news reported by the AP?” I mean, how Orwellian is that? Is this 1984 or what?

Oh well, I heard that CNN Headline News showed footage of the arrests, and the action did get very good coverage by Amy Goodman on Democracy Now.

Peace & Freedom,

Missing Cash in Iraq - Bush Admin Sent 363 Tons of $100 Bills to Iraq

The committee calculated that the $12 billion in cash, most of it in the stacks of $100 bills, weighed 363 tons and had to been flown in on wooden pallets aboard giant C-130 military cargo planes. "Who in their right mind would send 360 tons of cash into a war zone?" Mr. Waxman said. "That’s exactly what our government did."

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

International Peace Conference Focuses on Abu Ghraib

A Malaysian Muslim woman walks past banners at an international anti-war meeting of 'Expose War Crimes, Criminalise War' International Conference and Exhibition in Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia, Tuesday, Feb. 6, 2007. An Iraqi man who claims he was abused by American captors in Abu Ghraib prison urged the international community Tuesday to help stop what he called massive human rights violations by the U.S. in Iraq, at the international anti-war meeting in Malaysia . (AP Photo/Vincent Thian)

With a backdrop of photo 'Man in the Hood' tortured victims at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, Ali Shalal Qaissi, an Iraqi man allegedly abused by American troops in the notorious Abu Ghraib prison, speaks during an international anti-war meeting of 'Expose War Crimes, Criminalise War' International Conference and Exhibition in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Tuesday, Feb. 6, 2007. Ali Shalal Qaissi told more than 1,000 peace activists at an international anti-war meeting in Malaysia that he suffered 'brutal methods of torture,' including electrocution, in the prison outside Baghdad between October 2003 and March 2004. (AP Photo/Vincent Thian)

Monday, February 05, 2007

Support for Lt. Ehren Watada

Vetnam veteran Ken Schwilk of Lacey voices his support for Lt. Ehren Watada during a rally near the entrance for Fort Lewis on Monday. Scott Eklund/Seattle Post-Intelligencer

A group calling themselves the Tacoma Puppetistas, dressed as (right to left) President Bush, Donald Rumsfeld, Dick Cheney and Condoleeza Rice supported Lt. Ehren Watada during a rally near the entrance to Fort Lewis on Monday.
Scott Eklund/Seattle Post-Intelligencer

Tina Bean, Iraq veteran, marches in support for Ehren Watada near the entrance for Fort Lewis on Monday. Scott Eklund/Seattle Post-Intelligence

This is How the Bush Administration Supports the Troops

What a disgrace. Conservatives and "pro-family" groups wasted so much precious time and money on trying to amend the constitution to ban gay marriage. Those resources could have been spent on something worthy, like actually supporting the troops they claim to care so much about:
Goodrum said it was only after he went to fill a prescription and learned he no longer had insurance that he found out the Army was charging him with desertion. What followed were weeks in lockdown at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, months of legal wrangling and $40,000 in legal fees that Goodrum said culminated in the Army retiring him at the rank of captain and letting him retain his insurance.

But feeling betrayed by the Army - once his "family," he said - contributed to his depression and other mental problems.

Now, four years later, he's made progress, he said, thanks to hard work and psychotherapy. He's learned to talk to himself, remind himself he's in Knoxville, not in Iraq. He tries to be more social, not isolate himself. He's sleeping better. He avoids watching the news.

Still, he worries about his fellow veterans; everyone who returns from Iraq, he said, has at least "a touch of PTSD," even if it's just during the first few months of readjustment.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Bush's New Plan in Action

Iraqis inspect destruction at the site where a suicide bomber blew up his Mercedes truck in central Baghdad's Al-Sadriya district. At least 37 people died in bombings and shootings in the Iraqi capital a day after a massive blast tore through a Baghdad market, killing 130 people in the second worst attack since the March 2003 invasion.(AFP/Ali al-Saadi)

American Soldiers: The People Back Home are Shielded from the Killings

"To be honest, it's going to be like this for a long time to come, no matter what we do," said Hardy, 25, of Atlanta. "I think some people in America don't want to know about all this violence, about all the killings. The people back home are shielded from it; they get it sugar-coated."

While senior military officials and the Bush administration say the president's decision to send more American troops to pacify Baghdad will succeed, many of the soldiers who're already there say it's a lost cause.

"What is victory supposed to look like? Every time we turn around and go in a new area there's somebody new waiting to kill us," said Sgt. 1st Class Herbert Gill, 29, of Pulaski, Tenn., as his Humvee rumbled down a dark Baghdad highway one evening last week. "Sunnis and Shiites have been fighting for thousands of years, and we're not going to change that overnight."

"Once more raids start happening, they'll (insurgents) melt away," said Gill, who serves with the 1st Infantry Division in east Baghdad. "And then two or three months later, when we leave and say it was a success, they'll come back."

Soldiers interviewed across east Baghdad, home to more than half the city's 8 million people, said the violence is so out of control that while a surge of 21,500 more American troops may momentarily suppress it, the notion that U.S. forces can bring lasting security to Iraq is misguided.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

The State of the Media Today

Find 30 minutes over the next few days to watch this.

Friday, February 02, 2007

DOD Paid $5500 for Deep-Fat Fryer and $1000 for Popcorn Popper

"In 2005, a retired army reserve officer complained to the Pentagon's fraud hot line that the Defense Department had overpaid for kitchen appliances, shelling out $1,000 for popcorn makers and toasters and $5,500 for a deep-fat fryer that cost other government agencies $1,919. Although he provided a four-page spreadsheet showing 135 cases of higher prices, the Defense Department dismissed his tip without checking with him."
--David Isenberg, research fellow at the Independent Institute -- Budgeting for Empire

So this is where our money is being spent.

Say what you will about the Democrats. They are holding hearings on everything from global warming and censoring scientific research to wiretapping and Iraq spending. The White House is FINALLY being held accountable for their BS. They'll keep feeding the 'war machine' for as long as they can, but at least the info is on record.

Gotta love Fiscal Conservatives:

"The levels of deceit and ignorance are so high that we cannot even begin to understand how bad overall American fiscal irresponsibility is," said Mr. Isenberg.

Please read this and forward it on. The final spending report is scheduled to be released next week. On February 6, Rep. Henry Waxman plans to hold hearings on Iraq contracts. The committee has asked executives from Halliburton to testify. Waxman presided over the most famous hearings in '94 when the 7 tobacco CEOs said they didn't add nicotone to their cigarettes.

Here are a few highlights from the Independent's new Budgeting for Empire report:
Front line equipment is wearing out--and there is no budget to replace it. "Senior marine officials admitted that if the war in Iraq ended tomorrow... it would cost $12.8 billion to reequip ... vehicles and gear lost in combat and through wear and tear. That outlay would take up a significant portion of the corps' yearly budget...."
The Army's plan to boost combat power is built on the unlikely assumption that "no new major demand will arise for U.S. soldiers at home or abroad"--yet the U.S. military is spread thin around the world, and the political climate is volatile.

The final tally for earmarks--spending inserted in a bill to benefit a specific Member of Congress-- in the 2006 Defense Appropriations bill are expected to top $12.2 billion. This is a record high.
In 2005, the Defense Department paid $1,000 for popcorn makers and toasters and $5,500 for a deep-fat fryer. When a retired Army officer with evidence of the problem came forward, he was dismissed without any investigation.

The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan cost even more than the public thinks because of accounting "tricks" and questionable budget rules used by both the executive and legislative branches, such as excluding the costs of the war from regular budget appropriations.
Nearly two decades after the fall of the Berlin Wall, and despite Defense Secretary Rumsfeld's proclaimed mission of transforming the military, every single Cold War weapon system that was previously in the procurement pipeline remains.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Dad Takes Son's Coffin to Times Square

Carlos Arrendondo, 46, of Boston adjusts the military uniform of his son during a one-man anti-war protest at Times Square in New York, January 31, 2007. (Finbarr O'Reilly/Reuters)

The American people should see the reality of Bush's botched war on a daily basis. Rest in Peace, Alexander Arredondo.
A grieving father took his personal protest against the Iraq war to Times Square on Wednesday -- a pick-up truck carrying an empty flag-draped coffin and a picture of his son's open casket and funeral.

Carlos Arredondo, 46, said he has traveled the United States for more than 18 months in what he calls a tour of "public mourning" to honor his 20-year-old son Alexander who was killed fighting insurgents in Iraq on August 25, 2004.

"I feel better by making my mourning public, my statement public," Arredondo said. "People complain (to the police) because the message is powerful. I don't want to hurt anybody's feelings, but I'm sorry -- that's what's going on."

Next to the coffin is a pair of the dead soldier's army boots and his identification tags, while taped to the outside of the truck is a letter written by Arredondo's son from Iraq. Also on display is his uniform and medals.

"I'm not here to preach, but the message is clear. My family has already paid the ultimate sacrifice. We have already been in Iraq long enough," said Arredondo, who moved to America from Costa Rica in 1980 and became a U.S. citizen last month.

Arredondo arrived in Times Square late on Tuesday and spent a below freezing night sleeping in his truck. Although he has parked in a no standing zone, Arredondo said New York police were allowing him to stay until Thursday.

"This war shouldn't be happening, they should have ended this a long time ago," said Felix Barbosa, 40, a building manager from Brooklyn who stopped to look at Arredondo's protest. "This makes me sad, it hurts just looking at it."

More than 3,000 U.S. soldiers have been killed in Iraq since the U.S.-led invasion in March 2003, along with tens of thousands of Iraqi civilians.

What Have We Done to Iraq?

The destroyed center of Ramadi, in Anbar Province, the site Tuesday of some of the heaviest fighting between American forces and insurgents.