Saturday, April 01, 2006

ACLU: News in the Illegal Domestic Spying Cases

The illegal domestic spying by the US government on its own citizens is an insidious octopus, its slimy tentacles reaching far and wide, groping into peace groups, animal rights groups, Quakers, private lives -- all of them scrutinized under invasive, obsidian eyes.

Recent documents obtained by the ACLU are the FBI Spy Files, which underlines anti-war and peace groups, namely the Thomas Merton Center (TMC). The FBI document I read says that the "..Thomas Merton Center (TMC).... is a left-wing organization advocating, among many political causes, pacifism..."

<<View these documents labelled"FBI Spy Files - Newest Release".

Also read this: ACLU Releases First Concrete Evidence of FBI Spying Based Solely on Groups’ Anti-War Views (3/14/2006)

Excerpted from: The Goverment is Spying on Americans

Documents obtained by the ACLU under the Freedom of Information Act reveal that the FBI is using its Joint Terrorism Task Forces to gather extensive information about peaceful organizations. Recently, President Bush acknowledged giving explicit and secret authorization for warrantless electronic eavesdropping and physical searches by the National Security Agency. Now, there is reason to believe that the Pentagon, too, is illegally gathering and sharing private and protected information.

The actions of the president, his administration, and these agencies are part of a broad pattern of disregard for the rule of law in the name of national security. The ACLU is calling for investigations and full disclosure of records to determine if oaths of office were broken or federal laws violated.

The ACLU has filed a FOIA request to uncover who is being spied on by the Pentagon. News reports have revealed the Pentagon is collecting information in a secret database on peace groups and law-abiding Americans who have attended anti-war protests.

Read more here.

>>Watch the Movie HERE

American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU)

Political Humour

My good friend Wayne from Tennessee sends me all kinds of interesting and often hilarious little tid-bits of political satire and some truth-is-stranger-than-fiction gems he comes across. I'll let you, the reader, decide if the following is truth or fiction or somewhere in-between. Whatever the case, these are funny enough to elicit a few chuckles. :-)

Why the US is in trouble!!

A Washington, DC airport ticket agent offers some examples of why our country is in trouble!

1. I had a New York Senator ask for an aisle seat so that her hair wouldn't get messed up by being near the window.

2. I got a call from a candidate's staffer, who wanted to go to Capetown.

I started to explain the length of the flight and the passport information, then she interrupted me with, "I'm not trying to make you look stupid, but Capetown is in Massachusetts". Without trying to make her look stupid, I calmly explained, "Cape Cod is in Massachusetts, Capetown is in Africa,"

Her response - click.

3. A senior Vermont Congressman called, furious about a Florida package we did. I asked what was wrong with the vacation in Orlando.

He said he was expecting an ocean-view room. I tried to explain that's not possible, since Orlando is in the middle of the state.

He replied, "Don't lie to me, I looked on the map and Florida is a very thin state!"

4. I got a call from a lawmaker's wife who asked, "Is it possible to see England from Canada?"

I said, "No."

She said, "But they look so close on the map."

5. An aide for a cabinet member once called and asked if he could rent a car in Dallas. When I pulled up the reservation, I noticed he had only a 1-hour layover in Dallas.

When I asked him why he wanted to rent a car, he said, "I heard Dallas was a big airport, and we will need a car to drive between gates to save time."

6. An Illinois Congresswoman called last week. She needed to know how it was possible that her flight from Detroit left at 8:30 am and got to Chicago at 8:33 am.

I explained that Michigan was an hour ahead of Illinois, but she couldn't understand the concept of time zones.

Finally, I told her the plane went fast, and she bought that.

7. A New York lawmaker called and asked, "Do airlines put your physical description on your bag so they know whose luggage belongs to whom?"

I said, "No, why do you ask?"

She replied, "Well, when I checked in with the airline, they put a tag on my luggage that said (FAT), and I'm overweight. I think that's very rude!"

After putting her on hold, for a minute, while I looked into it (I was laughing) I came back, and explained the city code for Fresno, CA is (FAT), and the airline was just putting a destination tag on her luggage.

8. A Senator's aide called to inquire about a trip package to Hawaii. After going over all the cost info, she asked, "Would it be cheaper to fly to California, and then take the train to Hawaii?"

9. I just got off the phone with a freshman Congressman who asked, "How do I know which plane to get on?"

I asked him what exactly he meant, to which he replied, "I was told my flight number is 823, but none of these planes have numbers on them."

10. A lady Senator called and said, "I need to fly to Pepsi-Cola, Florida. Do I have to get on one of those little computer planes?" I asked if she meant fly to Pensacola, Fl. on a commuter plane. She said, "Yeah, whatever, Smarty!"

11. A senior Senator from Massachusetts called and had a question about the documents he needed in order to fly to China.

After a lengthy discussion about passports, I reminded him that he needed a visa.

"Oh, no I don't. I've been to China many times and never had to have one of those."

I double checked and sure enough, his stay required a visa.

When I told him this he said, "Look, I've been to China four times and every time they have accepted my American Express!"

12. A New Mexico Congresswoman called to make reservations, "I want to go from Chicago to Rhino, New York."

I was at a loss for words.

Finally, I said, "Are you sure that's the name of the town?"

"Yes, what flights do you have?" replied the lady.

After some searching, I came back with, "I'm sorry, ma'am, I've looked up every airport code in the country and can't find a Rhino anywhere."

The lady retorted, "Oh, don't be silly! Everyone knows where it is. Check your map!"
So I scoured a map of the state of New York and finally offered, "You don't mean Buffalo, do you?"

The reply?

"Whatever! I knew it was a big animal".

Now you know why Government is in the shape that it's in!

CBC Radio's Outfront Program Special: Jailed Iranian Woman Speaks Out About Her Ordeal

CBC Radio has an original, novel, human interest programme: "Outfront", which features real people with intriguing, compelling, sometimes chilling, often quirky life stories to tell. This coming week will air a special two-part series "Walls Like Snakes", about an Iranian woman who was arrested at the age of 16 in Iran by the Islamic revolutionary government. Marina Nemat was tortured and nearly executed for speaking out against the regime at school and spent 2 years in prison. She had maintained her silence about her ordeal, even to her family. After more than 20 years, Marina has decided to speak out and tell her story.

For more information and programme dates/times, read on:

BROADCAST TIME: Mon - Wed at 8:43 PM (9:13 NT) on CBC Radio One

Coming up on the show...

>> A special two-part series <<

Tuesday, April 4, 2006

** Walls Like Snakes: Part 1 **

At 16, Marina Nemat was arrested by the Islamic revolutionary government in Iran. She was tortured and nearly executed for speaking out against the regime at school. No one in Marina’s family has ever asked her about what happened during her two years in prison. After more than 20 years, Marina has decided to break the silence.

Wednesday, April 5, 2006

** Walls Like Snakes: Part 2 **

Marina Nemat's story continues. After four months in prison in Iran, something happens that even Marina can’t believe. One of the men who tortured her asks for her hand in marriage.

by Marina Nemat
Producer: Carma Jolly
Location: Aurora, Ontario

Outfront is where YOU get to make radio.
Check our web site for information on how to pitch.

You can also listen to some of our past shows:

We'd like to hear your feedback about the show.
Get in touch at:


Remember, we want to hear from you. Outfront is where you get to take the microphone into your own hands and tell your story, your way.

Visit the web site for guidelines on how to pitch.


This week's random thought:

There is nothing like returning to a place that remains unchanged to find the ways in which you yourself have altered.

- Nelson Mandela

Garbage, Garbage Everywhere!

Requests for major landfill expansions in Southwestern Ontario, near Belleville and in Ottawa.

Talk of incineration also in Ottawa, as well as Toronto, Durham Region, and in the Hamilton, Niagara area.

400 truckloads a day of waste to Michigan from Toronto, Peel, Durham and York Regions, as well as recently, Owen Sound. Not to mention from Institutions, Commercial operations and Industry from across S.W. and Central Ontario.

It seems the issue of "waste" and our seeming inability to divert more of it has never been greater.

The Ontario Chapter is extremely active in the promotion of waste diversion.

To learn more please visit


Check out some of the ongoing Campaigns and see how you can get involved!


Want to get involved?
Check out the volunteer opportunities:
and fill out our on-line volunteer interest form.

The following are ways you can contribute to the Sierra Club of Canada!

::: Donations :::

You can make a lobbying donation to the Ontario Chapter online.

If you'd like to make a charitable donation to the Sierra Club of Canada Foundation, or if you'd like to make a donation as a gift, please call the Ontario Chapter Office at 416-960-9606.

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Every member makes us that much more influential!

The best support of all is to renew your membership when the time comes. If your membership has lapsed, or you have yet to join, you can join online at:

Also please consider buying a gift membership.
To purchase a gift membership, or to join by phone, please
call the national office toll free at 1-888-810-4204
locally at (613) 241-4611.

Or use this form:

::: Rebate-a-Cause :::

You can purchase products from various businesses online at:
15% of all proceeds will go to the Sierra Club of Canada - Ontario Chapter if you select us as the partner charity.

If you have any questions, please contact the Chapter Office
at or at 416-960-9606.

ESCARPMENT TELECOM - Save the Planet with every long distance call!

Want to donate to the Sierra Club of Canada and protect the Niagara Escarpment at the same time? You can donate every time you make a long distance call, by subscribing to Escarpment Telecom!

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Read up on the Ontario Chapter of the Sierra Club of Canada with The O-ZONE

We are part of North America's most effective grassroots conservation group. You'll receive one email per week with Sierra Club news, opportunities, invitations to meetings, outings, get-togethers and more.

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Sierra Club of Canada, Ontario Chapter
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ph: (416) 960-9606 fax: (416) 960-0020
Visit our Web Site:

Sierra Club of Ontario Calling All Anti-Nuke Liberals

Let's Keep the Lights on without more nasty Nukes!

The Ontario Chapter is actively participating in the planning for our province's electricity future. We are asking all Club members to speak up in favour of a clean and green energy future that is lead by smart, electricity conservation, improved energy efficiency, better building code standards, & substantial growth in renewable power for Ontario.

We are especially looking for Liberal party members to encourage the anti-nuclear voices within the Ontario Liberal Party to speak up! Whether it be at the riding association level, at party fundraisers, or during meet and greets with MPPs, please help prevent Premier McGuinty from repeating the nuclear mistakes of the past.

Contact if you want to help!
For more info:

Toronto Earth Day Spring Festival April 22

The Toronto Group of the Sierra Club of Canada presents:
The Earth Day Spring Festival
Saturday April 22, 2006, 10:30am - 4:00pm.
at Budapest Park in Parkdale Toronto

The Earth Day Spring Festival is an event in celebration of Toronto Green Space, specifically the Parkdale waterfront. Councillor Sylvia Watson will kick off the event with a waterfront clean up of Budapest Park and the day will continue with a tented eco-fair featuring local green businesses and organizations, family entertainment, refreshments, and workshops.

We currently need volunteers to help promote the event and to help out on Earth Day itself. Saturday, April 8th, 2006 we will be postering the west side of Toronto and Saturday, April 22nd, 2006 we'll need people to help at the waterfront clean up, set up and tear down/clean up of site. If you are interested and available on either of these days, please e-mail:, attn: Sasha.

Ottawa Aread Wildlife Festival

Billings Bridge Wildlife Festival

Ottawa Group of the Sierra Club of Canada will be at the Billings Bridge Plaza Wildlife Festival on April 7th, 8th, and 9th. Come by to find out more about the Club and the local activities it is involved.

Volunteers are required to staff tables as well.

For more information, click here.

Help Stop Global Warming, Save the Polar Bears

Stop Global Warming, save the Polar Bears!

How many Polar Bears does it take to change a lightbulb?

Well, if we don't start changing lightbulbs to compact fluorescents - and take some other simple measures to help stop the earth from getting warmer, there aren't going to be any Polar Bears. They depend on great sheets of ice - or floes- which are melting because of emissions from the fossils fuels we burn. Their habitat, the Arctic, is warming almost twice as fast as the rest of the world, with significant impacts apparent right now. Scientists say that average winter temperatures have increased as much as 7 degrees Fahrenheit in the past 50 years. The Polar Bears are drowning in increasing numbers because the ice floes that they depend on for survival are getting fewer and farther between.

You can do something about it. You can get others to join the Stop Global Warming Virtual March.

Stop Global Warming

Friday, March 31, 2006

Support The Underground Railroad for Iraqi Women / MADRE: "Honor Crimes"

During the time of slavery in the US, many enslaved African Americans relied on a secret network of courageous individuals to help them make their way to “freedom”; they called it the Underground Railroad. Women like Harriet Tubman, compelled by their commitment to justice, bravely risked their lives so that others could escape slavery.

Iraqi women threatened with honor killings need allies and an escape route in much the same way. Women fleeing violence need help with things like airplane tickets, bus fare, or gasoline, and funds to meet survival needs like food and medicine. And they need to know that there is a network of women in Iraq actually equipped to help them.

MADRE and our partner, the Organization for Women's Freedom in Iraq (OWFI) are using the model of the Underground Railroad from the US slave experience to create The Underground Railroad for Iraqi Women. It aims to provide an escape route for women in Iraq who fear for their lives.

Support from MADRE members has already helped to open five shelters in Iraq. Now we need your help to ensure that women who need an escape route will have one—the Underground Railroad will be a reality with your help. Please donate generously, the situation is urgent.

If you would like to make a donation under $25, or prefer to donate offline for any reason, please use this printable donation form that you can send by mail, or call us at (212) 627-0444.

Demanding Human Rights for Women and Families Around the World


"Honor Crimes"
A MADRE Position Paper

Human rights abuses committed against women—most often by male relatives—in the name of "family honor" are called "honor crimes." They include battery, torture, mutilation, rape, forced marriage, imprisonment within the home, and even murder. These crimes are intended to "protect the family honor" by preventing and punishing women’s violations of community norms for behavior, particularly sexual behavior. Women who have been abducted, arrested, or raped are often blamed for shaming their families and may also be targeted for "honor killing." The underlying purpose of "honor crimes" is to maintain men’s power in families and communities by denying women basis—and internationally recognized—rights to make autonomous decisions about issues such as marriage, divorce, and whether and with whom to have sex.

"Honor crimes" are sometimes assumed to be sanctioned by Islam since they occur most commonly in the Middle East. But while perpetrators of "honor crimes" often cite religious justification for their acts, these crimes are not rooted in any religious text. "Honor crimes" originated in customary law that pre-dates Islam and Christianity. They span communities, religions, and countries, including Argentina, Bangladesh, Brazil, Ecuador, Egypt, Guatemala, India, Iran, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Pakistan, Palestine, Peru, Syria, Turkey, and Venezuela.

In some countries, "honor crimes" passed from customary law into formal legal systems and penal codes enacted by European colonialists. "Honor crimes" are often treated like so-called "crimes of passion" in Western jurisprudence in that sentencing is based not on the crime, but on the feelings of the perpetrator. For example, in 1999, a Texas judge sentenced a man to four months in prison for murdering his wife and wounding her lover in front of their 10-year-old child.1 As in an "honor killing," adultery was viewed as a mitigating factor in the case. But while individualistic societies such as the US tend to locate honor in the individual, communities that condone "honor killings" locate honor in the family, tribe, or clan. "Honor killings" are therefore often carried out with public support—sometimes even by those who are grief-stricken by the woman’s death.

Like "crime of passion" the term "honor killing" communicates the perspective of the perpetrator, and thereby carries an implicit justification. Some women’s rights advocates therefore prefer the terms "femicide," "shame killings," or "so-called honor killings."

"Honor crimes" are a recognized form of violence against women in international human rights law2, violating women’s rights to life and security of the person; freedom from torture and cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment; and the right to equality before the law and equal protection of the law. "Honor crimes" also violate rights guaranteed to women by the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), such as the right to freely choose one’s spouse and the right to equality in marriage. CEDAW’s General Recommendation Number 19 defines gender-based violence as a form of discrimination against women and makes explicit reference to "honor crimes." CEDAW obligates States to protect women from gender-based violence, including violence committed by family members and to prevent, investigate, and punish acts of violence against women. The Convention also requires States to disqualify "honor" as a legal defense for acts of violence against women. The UN Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women echoes these obligations and states that, "States should condemn violence against women and should not invoke any custom, tradition or religious consideration to avoid their obligations with respect to its elimination" (Article 4).

But while international law calls on States to protect women, states themselves are often complicit in "honor crimes." For example, Iraqi law does not recognize "honor killing" as murder. Instead, it offers vastly reduced sentences for the rape, mutilation, and killing of women on the grounds of "honor." Moreover, in many communities, local or tribal leaders who condone "honor crimes," rather than government, are the true authorities. For example, in Pakistan, "honor killing" has been declared illegal thanks to women’s advocacy efforts, but the law is rarely enforced.

"Honor crimes" are often described as an ancient and unchanging facet of "culture." Like all human behavior, "honor crimes" do have a cultural dimension, but like culture itself, "honor crimes" are shaped by social factors such as poverty and migration, government policies, and institutional discourses that change—and can be changed—in ways that can either help combat or promote "honor crimes."

Consider Iraq, where US actions have caused a sharp rise in "honor crimes." The US destroyed the Iraqi state, leaving people more reliant on conservative tribal authorities to settle disputes and mete out "justice," including "honor killings." The occupation has empowered extreme social conservatives, who exploited both the power vacuum created by the invasion and a climate of rising poverty, violence, and insecurity to impose a reactionary social agenda, including support for "honor crimes." Although the US is obligated as the occupying power to protect Iraqis’ human rights, including the prevention and prosecution of "honor crimes," it has not done so. In fact, the US appointed reactionary leaders who condone "honor crimes" to the Iraqi Governing Council in 2003. Meanwhile, the US has refused to protect or support progressive Iraqi political currents working to combat "honor crimes" (such as MADRE’s partner, the Organization for Women’s Freedom in Iraq) because these women also oppose US occupation.

Since the US bombing of Afghanistan in 2001, the Bush Administration has resurrected the hackneyed colonial notion that Western intervention is intended to "save" Muslim women from their oppressive societies. Few Muslim women believe this (the line is really intended for people in the US). Women in Muslim countries know that their work against "honor crimes"—and for women’s rights generally—has always been undermined by European colonialism and, more recently, by US intervention. That’s because foreign rulers prefer to see conservative, repressive local leaders for whom "honor crimes" are a facet of the status quo that maintains their power. These people have proven to be reliable junior partners in the project of controlling colonized and occupied peoples.

The fact that the US has used women’s rights as a rallying point for its wars is sometimes used to fuel the claim that women’s rights is "foreign" to the Middle East and a tool of Western domination. We hear that claim from conservatives in Muslim countries who oppose women’s rights. We also hear it from some in the US who worry that advocating Middle Eastern women’s rights imposes "American values" on those countries. But that view ignores more than a century of Arab women’s political struggle, organizing, jurisprudence, and scholarship aimed at securing rights within their societies.

The assumption that women’s rights is a "Western" concern is not only historically untrue, it’s also overblown. After all, the intellectual foundations of civilization—writing, mathematics, and science—are "Eastern." Are these pursuits therefore "foreign" and inappropriate in the West? Human rights, feminism, literature, and science are all aspects of our common human heritage. We should be suspicious whenever one is said to "belong"—or not belong—to a given people, especially when that designation is used to maintain abusive power structures and deny people rights.

At the same time, we need to recognize that in the US, any discussion of "honor crimes" occurs in a climate of extreme hostility towards Muslim countries; often these discussions are little more than racist diatribes. That’s why strategies against "honor crimes" need to also combat anti-Arab racism and recognize the ways that sexism and racism have been conscripted into the US "war on terror." Perhaps most importantly, combating "honor crimes" requires listening to and supporting the leadership of women in Muslim countries—women who are struggling for rights within their countries and for their countries’ right to freedom from US intervention.
End Notes

2. "The Status of Women in Iraq: An Assessment of Iraq's De Jure and De Facto Compliance with International Legal Standards," American Bar Association Iraq Legal Development Project, July 2005, p. 32.

Bush's Remarks an Insult to Women

Bush's touting of his administration's commitment to women, and how his democracy-bringing in the Middle East has improved the lives of women in Afghanistan and Iraq is insulting to women, according to Lucinda Marshall in this article. She writes that there has been a horrific escalation of sexual violence against women in Iraq since the U.S. invasion. Also, no mention was made of the administration's refusal to fund family planning programs that would provide condoms to protect women before they got AIDS in Africa. The Prez's track record in the U.S. has not been anything to crow about either. His budget proposal proceeded to cut $20 million in VAWA funding and provided no funding for new programs created by the legislation that would assist victims of domestic violence.

All in all, the President's glowing remarks on International Women's Day are far removed from reality and an affront to women everywhere.
President Bush's Ken-Doll Performance an Insult to Women
March 30, 2006
By Lucinda Marshall
ZNet Commentary

President Bush used the occasion of International Women's Day to tout his administration's commitment to women. He spoke in glowing terms of how bringing democracy to the Middle East had improved the lives of women in Afghanistan and Iraq. Both the President and Mrs. Bush (this was a day for women after all) talked enthusiastically about girls going to school and women participating in government in both countries.

Neither however mentioned the continuing pandemic of sexual violence against women that was highlighted in the State Department's report on Afghanistan's continuing poor record on human rights that was released the following day. Nor was anything said about the continuing low literacy rates for women in Afghanistan (less than 20%) or that 50% of marriages in that country take place before girls reach the age of sixteen.

It was far too dangerous for women to gather in Baghdad to celebrate IWD as they did last year and there has been an horrific escalation of sexual violence against women in Iraq since the U.S. invasion. The undemocratic imprisonment of women in Iraq and Afghanistan in violation of the Geneva Convention and the denial of visas for Iraqi women who were invited by Code Pink to come to the U.S. to talk about conditions in Iraq did not figure in the President's remarks.

The illusory accomplishments on behalf of women achieved by the Bush Administration is of course not limited to Afghanistan and Iraq. The first couple also talked about anti-viral drugs being provided to women with HIV in Africa. No mention was made of the administration's refusal to fund family planning programs that would provide condoms to protect women before they got HIV/AIDS. Nor was mention made of any steps being taken to help the hundreds of thousands of women who die every year from the complications of childbirth or of anything being done to help the 700 million women in the world who live in unsanitary conditions without adequate and safe food and water.

The President took great pains to recognize the women in his cabinet and his administration as well as Republican Congresswoman who was present. He also paid tribute to the women leading governments in Germany, Chile, the Philippines and Liberia. But the reality is that women are still overwhelmingly under-represented in government both here and throughout the world. Mentioning that women are the heads of state in four countries doesn 't seem quite so impressive when you consider that there are 193 countries in the world. In our own country, women hold only 24.7% of state leadership and only eight states having female governors. The House of Representatives currently has 61 women and there are 13 female senators.

But what was most obviously missing from the President's remarks was any mention whatsoever of what his administration is doing for women in this country. The reason for this omission is not hard to comprehend, he just doesn't have much to brag about. As Ms. Magazine Money Editor Martha Burk points out, Bush's budget proposal says it all. After signing the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) with great hoopla, President Bush's budget proposal proceeded to cut $20 million in VAWA funding and provided no funding for new programs created by the legislation that would assist victims of domestic violence. The food program run by the Agriculture Department that provides nutrition for pregnant women and babies would be cut and Medicare benefit reductions of $29 billion would hit women the hardest. Ironically, as Burk notes, there is still plenty of money for marriage promotion and erectile dysfunction drugs.

The reality is that this administration has significantly jeopardized the lives of women both here and around the world. President Bush's fawning attempt to frame himself as a champion of women is not only delusional, his remarks on International Women's Day were an affront to women everywhere.


Lucinda Marshall is a feminist artist, writer and activist. She is the Founder of the Feminist Peace Network, Her work has been published in numerous publications in the U.S. and abroad including, Awakened Woman, Alternet, Dissident Voice, Off Our Backs, The Progressive, Rain and Thunder, Z Magazine , Common Dreams and Information Clearinghouse.

Plea in DeLay Case Snares Close Confidant

The third significant plea deal in the Abramoff/DeLay bribery scandal was announced today and Tom C. Rudy, DeLay's former deputy chief of staff, names Ed Buckham, DeLay's former chief of staff, as being a central player in the scandal.

Read this Truthout report by William Rivers Pitt here.

Paradox of the Perfect Girl

While overachieving girls are knocking on the front doors of America's best colleges, admission officers are letting their slacker brothers slip in the back door.
The cultural implications of gender-based college admissions is no less complicated. Britz writes, "We have told today's young women that the world is their oyster; the problem is, so many of them believed us that the standards for admission to today's most selective colleges are stiffer for women than men. How's that for an unintended consequence of the women's liberation movement?"

Read this article by Courtney E. Martin here.

VIDEO SPECIAL | Katrina Plus Seven Months

A Film by Chris Hume

The latest video in the Hurricane Katrina series by Chris Hume. It has been seven months since New Orleans was nearly wiped out by the storm, and Chris Hume is revisiting some of the people he met the first time, when the city was still flooded and under martial law. Also, a coalition of Iraq war veterans and Katrina survivors march to New Orleans from Mobile, Alabama, to speak out against the occupation of Iraq and to help rebuild the Gulf Coast.


US Cuts All Contact with Hamas-Led Government

The United States has suspended all contact with the Palestinian government led by Hamas.
Read about it at here.

Biggest Gas Hogs / Global Warming Might Sink America's Coasts / Consumers Demand Greater Fuel Efficiency / More Enviro News

See which are the meanest, thirstiest gas-guzzling cars on the road deserving to be on the "Gas Hog Dishonour Roll" and which are the sippers. Read updates on global warming and America's vanishing coastlines in this weekly update from


March 29, 2006: In the market for the worst possible fuel economy from your vehicle? Look no farther than this astonishing "dishonor roll" of the biggest gas hogs on the road today that are helping to keep America addicted to foreign oil ...

Global warming is no longer something that can be ignored: Time magazine's new cover story warns that Americans should "be very worried" about climate change dangers ...

And a new study warns that much of New York City, Florida and other coastal regions around the globe could be underwater by 2100...

Now that gas prices are on the rise again, more and more Americans are focusing on fuel efficiency as a key vehicle purchase consideration.

Want some help finding a gas-sipping car? Environmental Defense has some helpful tips for you to consider ...

If you aren't upset already you will be: You will want to go out and vote against someone when you read this New York Times story about how Congress is lavishing billions of dollars on special considerations for the profit-bloated oil industry ...

Three Earthquakes Level Iranian Villages

According to one scientist, at least 12 quakes were recorded, with their epicentres 210 miles southwest of Tehran.

From the Associated Press via the Orlando Sentinel:

TEHRAN, Iran -- Earthquakes and aftershocks rattled western Iran one after another, flattening villages and sending frightened homeowners into the streets. By Friday morning 70 people were dead, 1,200 wounded, and thousands homeless.

The death toll would have been much higher, residents said, but police used loudspeakers to tell townspeople to sleep outside after a 4.7-magnitude quake struck Thursday evening.

Hours later, around 11 p.m., a 5.1-magnitude quake struck Boroujerd and Doroud, the Iranian Seismological Center said, followed by a 6.1-magnitude quake just before 5 a.m., according to the U.S. Geological Society. Aftershocks continued throughout the day.

Read full article here.

Impeachment Movement Gains Momentum

The Washington Post ran a front-page story about impeaching President Bush, quoting two attorneys from the Center for Constitutional Rights.

And in more news from CCR:
That’s not all. This Sunday, C-SPAN 2 is broadcasting a panel discussion on the CCR impeachment book that we recently convened. You can see me and several other CCR attorneys outlining the case for impeachment this Sunday, April 2 at 4pm (Eastern Time) on the BookTV segment of CSPAN 2.

Please consider taking a moment to spread the word about this important movement to hold the President accountable and protect our democracy. Forward this email so others can see the Washington Post story and consider watching our event on Sunday at 4pm.

Of course, today the Senate Judiciary Committee is also considering a resolution to censure President Bush for illegal domestic spying. This is a start, but a censure resolution will not: Remove a single wiretap from Americans' phones; end the Iraq War; halt U.S. government torture or stop the President’s other violations of the constitutional principle of the separation of powers. Impeachment will ensure thorough investigation, real accountability and the restoration of our Constitution.

Please take a moment now to forward this email to spread the word.
You can also click here to make sure your representative supports the resolution to investigate impeachment.

Thank you for taking the time to act today, and I hope you will watch our impeachment event this Sunday at 4pm (EST) on C-SPAN 2.

William Goodman
Legal Director, Center for Constitutional Rights

Near Paul Revere Country, Anti-Bush Cries Get Louder
Washington Post

HOLYOKE, Mass. -- To drive through the mill towns and curling country roads here is to journey into New England's impeachment belt. Three of this state's 10 House members have called for the investigation and possible impeachment of President Bush.

Thirty miles north, residents in four Vermont villages voted earlier this month at annual town meetings to buy more rock salt, approve school budgets, and impeach the president for lying about Iraq having weapons of mass destruction and for sanctioning torture.

Window cleaner Ira Clemons put down his squeegee in the lobby of a city mall and stroked his goatee as he considered the question: Would you support your congressman's call to impeach Bush? His smile grew until it looked like a three-quarters moon.

"Why not? The man's been lying from Jump Street on the war in Iraq," Clemons said. "Bush says there were weapons of mass destruction, but there wasn't. Says we had enough soldiers, but we didn't. Says it's not a civil war -- but it is." He added: "I was really upset about 9/11 -- so don't lie to me."

It would be a considerable overstatement to say the fledgling impeachment movement threatens to topple a presidency -- there are just 33 House co-sponsors of a motion by Rep. John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.) to investigate and perhaps impeach Bush, and a large majority of elected Democrats think it is a bad idea. But talk bubbles up in many corners of the nation, and on the Internet, where several Web sites have led the charge, giving liberals an outlet for anger that has been years in the making.

"The value of a powerful idea, like impeachment of the president for criminal acts, is that it has a long shelf life and opens a debate," said Bill Goodman of the Center for Constitutional Rights, which represents Guantanamo Bay detainees...

For the entire article, please click here.

A new name... The Real News is coming to TV

To: IWT supporters, advisors and members:

We have exciting news. After a great deal of thought and consultation, we have decided on a new name that communicates our vision for our independent TV news network... The Real News.

We think The Real News better reflects our mission: to broadcast world news that cuts through the bull. The Real News is about reporting on the world as it is, without compromising... No corporate dollars. No government funding. No commercials. No strings.

We are preparing to launch a massive public support and membership campaign this September to bring The Real News to television and the web. The campaign launch will include a new website,, where we will be showcasing specially-produced sample video content that communicates the depth and daring of what The Real News will be all about. This weekly video content will feature short docs, comedy media satire spots and a taste of what's to come with our flagship news show, The Real News Daily. We will take on current TV news coverage of important stories and ask: did they get the story right or wrong? What's the real story and how would The Real News cover it?

Get more details on how we are going to make The Real News a reality by downloading our new and comprehensive business plan. This bold road map is the product of more than two years of study, testing, consultation and relationship- building. It lays out a concrete vision for how we will launch The Real News Daily in 2007. Visit and see a preview of our new look. Read our plan and tell us what you think. We need your help NOW to make The Real News a reality.

New Video Interview: David Suzuki. In this interview he sounds the alarm saying that climate change is a slow motion catastrophe. Dr. Suzuki calls on the media to take responsibility for the fact that the issue of climate change is still seen as controversial, even though the vast majority of climatologists in the world call for urgent action now.

Below are the opening lines of our business plan.

Witness the perilous times we live in:

* The intensification of the global struggle for control of oil

* The undermining of democracies, human rights and international law

* The waging of illegal wars and occupations

* A majority of people suffering in dire poverty

* Impending irreversible environmental damage

* Millions dying globally from inaction on AIDS

* Massive state and corporate corruption

* The threat of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons

* Powerful forces driven by apocalyptic visions and dreams of empire

Democracy depends on an informed public and a courageous press. Yet on television, where most people get their news, propaganda and spin are reported as reality and facts are treated as just a matter of opinion. In-depth investigative journalism and real debate are seldom heard. Timidity and a reluctance to challenge the official version of events permeate television newsrooms.

We must not sleepwalk into war or tyranny. The world situation is too dangerous not to know the complexity of things. We need television journalism that dares to seek truth and does not bow to pressure. We need The Real News.

Click to read The Real News business plan. We need your help to make The Real News a reality.

UFPJ: April 29 March in NYC


April 29 March for Peace, Justice and Democracy

End the War -- Bring All the Troops Home Now -- Turn this Country Around!

The president's approval ratings keep tanking ... and momentum is building for the massive April 29th demonstration.

We all know the country is heading in the wrong direction -- April 29 will be a powerful occasion to unite for change. The event has already received more than 900 endorsements -- ranging from the Hip Hop Caucus to the Communications Workers of America to the National Council of Churches. Click here to join this growing list!

The website for the April 29 March for Peace, Justice, and Democracy in New York City is up and running at Visit the site today to download leaflets, find out how to order posters, get information about transportation and housing, sign up to volunteer and more.

While you're visiting the website, download one of our web buttons and add it to your website or blog, to help spread the word about this not-to-be-missed protest.

We are still in negotiations with the NYC police over the route, so we can't yet announce where to assemble, but we can tell you that it will be in a central Manhattan location, with the march stepping off at noon. We will share more details as soon as they are available. There will be places for organized contingents to gather, although we will not be able to begin assigning spots until the route is finalized.

The march will proceed through the streets of New York City and culminate with a massive action-oriented festival, featuring hundreds of grassroots groups and campaigns. There will be tents dedicated to different issues and themes; exhibits, displays, and information; street performers; and much more. We will not be holding a traditional rally. Groups wishing to table at the festival will soon be able to sign up for space at -- keep checking back.

Some Things You Can Do NOW to Make April 29 a Success:
* forward and repost this email widely

* link to from your website or blog

* download leaflets and distribute in your community

* order posters and display them prominently

* sign up to volunteer! We need LOTS of volunteers both in the lead-up to the event and on the day of the march

* make a donation to help cover UFPJ's costs for this demonstration

If you live in New York City, come by our midtown office between 10AM and 6PM -- and some evenings later -- to pick up leaflets, stickers, posters, and buttons -- 261 West 36th Street, 7th Floor, between 7th and 8th avenues (212-868-5545).

APRIL 29 - New York City
March for Peace, Justice, and Democracy End the war in Iraq -- bring the troops home!
Unite for change -- let's turn our country around!

Amnesty International Canada: Brazil: 468 Families at Risk

UA 71/06 Brazil 468 FAMILIES AT RISK

PUBLIC AI Index: AMR 19/013/2006 30 March 2006

UA 71/06 Forced eviction/use of excessive force

BRAZIL 468 families

The municipal authorities in São Paulo are preparing to forcibly evict 468 families who have occupied a derelict building in the centre of the city for over two years, to clear the site for commercial development. The police have a history of using excessive force during similar evictions, and Amnesty International believes the families are in grave danger. No alternative accommodation has been arranged for them, and they are likely to be made homeless. Under international law forced evictions - carried out without consultations, due process of law or assurances of adequate alternative accommodation - are a grave violation of human rights.

The families, who originally numbered over 1,000, are mostly migrants from other parts of Brazil and other countries in South America. They moved into the building, a 22-storey abandoned clothes factory called Prestes Maia, on 3 November 2003. It had been empty for over 12 years, and had become known for drug-dealing and prostitution. Working with a local NGO, the Movimento Sem-Teto do Centro (MSTC), Homeless Movement of Central São Paulo, the families cleaned out the building, removing 300 truckloads of rubbish and large quantities of sewage. They pooled money and organised repairs and services including a library, a cinema, an art gallery and regular cultural events.

They were scheduled for eviction on 15 February, but after negotiations the municipal authorities allowed them a further 60 days to vacate the building, and they are now facing a deadline of 15 April. In the weeks leading up to the earlier eviction date, over a dozen police cars would park outside the building every day at 4am. When residents came to the windows, the heavily armed officers inside would wave their guns and shout threats. Because of this, and the long history of violent evictions by the Batalhão de Choque (riot police) in São Paulo, Amnesty International believes the residents of Prestes Maia are facing violent eviction that will cause serious injuries.

The municipal authorities have tried to pressure residents of Prestes Maia to leave the city and return to their state of origin, offering payments of around 5,000 Brazilian reais (US$2,300) on condition that they sign documents renouncing any rights to council services, including schools, welfare and the issuing of work papers. During a recent mission to Brazil, Amnesty International researchers received several reports of similar sums of money being offered in attempts to break down community solidarity and clear out neighbourhoods for development.


According to estimates by the UN Special Rapporteur on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, 10,000 people sleep rough on the streets of São Paulo. The city has a chronic shortage of housing for low-income families, who are often forced to live in the shanty towns on the outskirts. With the help of local NGOs, these families have begun squatting empty buildings. This has led to a series of violent evictions, carried out by the riot police using batons, CS gas, pepper sprays and rubber bullets. In August 2005, 79 families occupying a five-storey building on Rua Plínio Ramos, in the centre of town, were confronted by riot police. During the eviction, the police ordered all women and small children to leave, and then entered the building and beat several of the men and boys, some as young as 14. This was one of five evictions carried out by the municipal government during 2005, some of which involved riot police and use of excessive force.

Brazil is a party to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, and is therefore obliged to ensure that everyone in the country has adequate housing, and that no one is made homeless as the result of an eviction. It is also a party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, of which Article 12 (1) guarantees to everyone lawfully within the territory of a State the right to liberty of movement and choice of residence.

RECOMMENDED ACTION: Please send appeals in your own words to arrive as quickly as possible, in Portuguese or your own language:

- expressing concern that São Paulo municipal authorities are preparing to forcibly evict 468 families living in the Prestes Maia building in the city centre;
- calling on the government to thoroughly explore alternatives to the eviction, including offering secure tenure in adequate alternative housing;
- urging the authorities not to try to coerce residents into leaving the city and renouncing their rights to council services;
- if they have exhausted all alternatives, calling on the government to ensure that any eviction complies with national and international law, in particular Article 11(1) of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, which requires that residents should be given adequate notice of any eviction and information about how the eviction will be carried out; that the eviction should not carried out in bad weather or at night; that identified representatives of the state should be present; that legal representatives of the residents should also be present; and that residents should be offered secure tenure in adequate alternative housing;
- urging the authorities to investigate patterns of violence and abuse by police during evictions in São Paulo.


Mayor of São Paulo:

Exmo. Prefeito de São Paulo,
Viaduto do Chá 15, Centro - Edifício Matarazo
01002-020 - São Paulo/SP, BRAZIL
Fax: 011 55 11 3113.8015
Salutation: Vossa Excelência/ Your Excellency

Federal Human Rights Secretary:

Exmo. Ministro da Secretaria Especial de Direitos Humanos Sr. Paulo Vannuchi,
Esplanada dos Ministérios, Bloco T,
70064-900 - Brasília – DF, BRAZIL
Fax: 011 55 61 3226 7980
Salutation: Vossa Excelência/ Your Excellency


His Excellency Valdemar Carneiro Leão
Ambassador for the Federative Republic of Brazil
450 Wilbrod Street
Ottawa, Ontario K1N 6M8
Fax: (613) 237-6144

President of the Municipal Commission of Human Rights:

Exmo. Preisdente da Comissão Municipal dos Direitos Humanos Dr. José Gregori,
Pátio do Colégio,
5 – Centro – São Paulo – SP, CEP 01016-040, BRAZIL
Fax: 011 55 11 3106 0030

Homeless Movement of Central São Paulo:

Movimento Sem-Teto do Centro,
Avenida São João, 1495 - 2º andar, Metrô Santa Cecília
São Paulo, SP, CEP 01211-000, BRAZIL
Fax: 011 55 11 3361 3403


Many thanks to all who signed the online petition last month calling for Peru's former President Fujimori to be brought to justice in Chile. Yours was one of 20,000 collected around the world.

Marilyn McKim & Kathy Price
Urgent Action Network Coordinators
Amnesty International Canada (ES)
14 Dundonald Street, Toronto, Ontario M4Y 1K2
Phone: 416-363-9933 Fax: 416-363-3103

There are Alternatives to Military Force

A few hours before the Iraqi CPT hostages were freed, a timely book was launched in London. The book People Power and Protest since 1945: A Bibliography of Nonviolent Action (Housmans, 2006), is a new compendium of global "people power" initiatives. It is a powerful reminder that policy alternatives to situations like Iraq do exist: that "non-violence and peace activism can be a more effective instrument for social change than military force". This is what peace activists around the world have been espousing and working toward.

I have always firmly believed that we should not be so quick to use military force, and resolving issues by non-violent means is a much better and definitely less costly alternative. Instead of building up nuclear arsenals against each other, would it not be in the best interest of our world if we abandoned our bully tactics and worked more arduously toward peaceful resolutions? True, the industrial-military complex generates billions of dollars for a select few elites, but that behemoth could be transformed into machinery for alternative energy sources, innovative agricultural projects in places where draught is endemic, viable research into sustainable crops, massive building projects (dams, hospitals, schools, etc.), fighting poverty and AIDS instead of each other, and so much else that is for the betterment of humankind and our planet.

About the authors:
The co-authors (or "compilers" as they describe themselves) are in different ways experts in the theory and practice of non-violence: April Carter, one of the world's leading academic specialists on the subject; Howard Clark, former coordinator of War Resisters' International and long-time campaigner for non-violent alternatives; and Michael Randle, a dedicated peace activist and academic with a remarkable record of engagement from the "Committee of 100" (a vigorous part of the anti-nuclear weapons movement in the early 1960s) to the present day.

An excerpt from the article:
"Norman Kember [the freed British member of the CPT] and others on similar journeys of commitment riposte forcefully that military action is reinforcing rather than resolving a situation where scores of Iraqis are being kidnapped or killed every day, and that intermediation in the cause of peace can play a valuable role in addressing the roots of such violence. Much of the press in turn treats such views with contempt; pacifists and their ilk, it contends, have little or nothing to contribute in difficult situations where well-meaning but misguided naïfs should make way for those playing by "big boys' rules.

This populist view is by no means shared by all professional military people, especially at a time when there is an increasing questioning – which reaches even into senior military circles in Britain and western Europe – about the viability of current United States policies. At the same time, the populist approach reflects a brutal "realism" in relation to Iraq and to George W Bush's wider war on terror that remains deeply lodged in media discussion and establishment thinking: that there is no real alternative to current policies."

Read article "There are alternatives" by Paul Rogers on Open Democracy here.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Tomgram: Frida Berrigan on a For-Profit Nuclear World

Every now and then, amid all the grim stories in our world, you run across one that rings a special bell for you. Frida Berrigan's today is that for me. In fact, consider this week at Tomdispatch as a discordant hymn to the privatization disasters of the Bush administration. Michael Schwartz began it with his account of how the draconian economic privatization program Bush administration officials enacted on prostrate Iraq in 2003 led directly to the catastrophe of the moment in that country. We know as well that, under this administration, the Pentagon has been on its own privatization binge, turning what were once essential military activities over to Halliburton, its subsidiary KBR, and other private firms in a wholesale fashion.

In addition, the Pentagon and the Bush administration have been on another kind of binge, privatizing national (and international) security. From New Orleans to Iraq, rent-a-mercenary companies are having a for-profit field day based on the woes of others. According to P.W. Singer, author of Corporate Warriors, for every hundred U.S. soldiers in our first Gulf War, there was one private "security contractor." This time around, it's closer to one in ten. It has been estimated that there are up to 20,000 guns-for-hire, Iraqi and Western, working in that country, the second largest (if also motliest) force in the "coalition of the willing."

Such private companies are above the law in Iraq, and their trigger-happy hirees don't hesitate to create mayhem. In part because their own casualties can largely be kept private, such companies have done much to reduce the political costs of going to war in the United States, while raising the stakes in Baghdad. In a February 2004 New Yorker article, retired Air Force Colonel Sam Gardiner told journalist Jane Mayer, "When you can hire people to go to war there is none of the grumbling and political friction" associated with mustering a larger public fighting force.

Increasingly this sort of questionable "security" is making itself felt at home as well. The premises of the Homeland Security Department are now guarded by the private security firm, Wackenhut Services, Inc. (hired through a contract with the U.S. Navy). Among other goofs, its personnel reportedly mishandled a potential anthrax attack on Homeland Security headquarters. ("An envelope with suspicious powder was opened last fall at the headquarters. Daniels and other current and former guards said they were shocked when superiors carried it past the office of Secretary Michael Chertoff, took it outside and then shook it outside Chertoff's window without evacuating people nearby.") Meanwhile, Wackenhut guards at the Energy Department, according to its inspector general, "had thwarted simulated terrorist attacks at a nuclear lab only after they were tipped off to the test; and... had improperly handled the transport of nuclear and conventional weapons." This is what for-profit national security can mean on a small scale.

Now, transfer that thought to the ultimate weaponry -- our nuclear arsenal. Sounds like the sort of nightmare you'd only find in the Wackenhuttiest of dystopian sci-fi novels, but read on and imagine our nuclear future in those same trustworthy privatized hands. Tom

Privatizing the Apocalypse
By Frida Berrigan

Started as the super-secret "Project Y" in 1943, the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico has long been the keystone institution of the American nuclear-weapons producing complex. It was the birthplace of Fat Man and Little Boy, the two nuclear bombs the U.S. dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945. Last year, the University of California, which has managed the lab for the Department of Energy since its inception, decided to put Los Alamos on the auction block. In December 2005, construction giant Bechtel won a $553 million yearly management contract to run the sprawling complex, which employs more than 13,000 people and has an estimated $2.2 billion annual budget.

Click here to read more of this dispatch.

Hamas Cabinet Sworn In

Hamas has formally taken power, with the Palestinian president swearing in its 24-member cabinet, including 14 ministers who served time in Israeli prisons.

Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president who is a moderate from the defeated Fatah movement, administered the oath to some of the cabinet ministers in a brief ceremony at Gaza City's parliament building on Wednesday.

Full Story

UK Court Rejects Iraq Detainee's Plea

A British court has rejected an appeal by a prisoner against his detention without charge by British forces in southern Iraq. Hilal Abdul-Razzaq Ali al-Jedda, a father of four with both British and Iraqi citizenship, has been held since late 2004 and argued his human rights had been breached.
Full Story

EU Mission Sees Gaza Plight Firsthand

An EU delegation has visited Gaza to get a fresh perspective on food shortages following the Israeli closure of a critical checkpoint.
Full Story

Arab Summit Ends on Note of Apathy

The 18th Arab summit has ended with the usual pledges of solidarity with Palestinians and Iraqis and a surprise announcement from Saudi Arabia that it will not host the 2007 gathering.

Addressing the final session of the two-day Arab League summit in Khartoum on Wednesday, Ghazi al-Gusaibi, the Saudi labour minister, said the next meeting should instead be held in Egypt although he gave no reason for his country's refusal to act as host.
Full Story

Fierce Clash at Afghan Base

An insurgent attack on a multinational military base in southern Afghanistan has left 32 suspected Taliban fighters and two soldiers dead, Western security officials have said. The dead soldiers included one Canadian and one American.
Full Story

Turkish Riots Leave Three Dead

Police have fired water cannons and used pepper spray to disperse stone-throwing Kurdish rioters in a second day of violence that an official said left at least three people dead and 250 injured in southeastern Turkey. The violence was the worst street fighting in the region in a decade and began after the funerals of four Kurds who were killed in fighting with Turkish soldiers.
Full Story

American Gets 30 Years for Bush Plot

An American has been sentenced to 30 years in prison for joining al-Qaida and plotting to assassinate George Bush. Ahmed Omar Abu Ali, a 25-year-old US citizen who was born to a Jordanian father and raised in Falls Church, Virginia, faced a mandatory minimum of 20 years in prison and a maximum of life behind bars. He was convicted in November of conspiracy to assassinate the president, conspiracy to hijack aircraft and providing support to al-Qaida, among other crimes.
Full Story

Italy Grants Afghan Convert Asylum

An Afghan Christian convert who had faced the death penalty for abandoning Islam has arrived in Italy where he has been offered asylum, the Italian prime minister has said.
Full Story

Cyclone Glenda Shuts Oil Rigs

Some of Australia's biggest oil and mining operations have closed as cyclone Glenda bore down on the country's west coast packing winds of up to 265km an hour. Residents were told to take immediate shelter on Thursday as state emergency services issued a "red alert" for people in coastal areas.
Full Story

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

The Dark Roots of New York's Hair Trade

This is a story that is relatively unknown and unreported. It is about the 'hair trade', as in hair extensions and weaves which are becoming ever more popular. Bet you didn't know that your expensive weave had anything to do with third-world poverty and Chinese prison camps, did you? I didn't either.

I've never had any of these hair 'processes' - not because my baby-fine, lank hair couldn't use some improvement, but simply because I do not spend much time with cosmetic enhancements and consider them frivolous, unnecessarily time-consuming and ridiculously expensive.

Whether or not you indulge in these hair-enhancing procedures, this is a very interesting, compelling article, written by Aina Hunter for the Village Voice. Read "Hair Traffic" here.

Morality Failure

Alberto Gonzales's flippant attitude towards torture exposes the US administration's wider moral blindness.

Read "The attorney-general comes to town", by Fred Halliday on Open Democracy.

Abel Announces Green Party Leadership Race

News Release
For Immediate Release

Abel Announces Green Party Leadership Race

(Ottawa - Wednesday, March 29, 2006) – Bruce Abel, Chair of the Green Party of Canada’s Federal Council, announced today that nominations for the Leadership of the Green Party will open on April 21, 2006. Voting on the leadership will take place at the party’s national convention in Ottawa August 24-27, 2006.

"According to our constitution, there is an election for the leadership every two years, regardless of whether the current leader wishes to continue or not," explained Abel.

A $2,000 registration fee is required of all candidates. Candidates are allowed to spend up to $50,000 on their campaign.

The election of the leader is a one-member-one-vote process. Members have the option to mail in their votes if they are unable to attend the convention. Membership in the Green Party of Canada must be purchased or renewed no later than June 27, 2006 to qualify to vote. To join the party visit or call 1-866-868-3447.

In addition to the election of the leader, the convention will also elect members of Federal Council and vote on resolutions to change party policy.

The Green Party of Canada is Canada’s fourth largest national party. The party won the support of 700,000 Canadians in the 2006 General Election.

For more information:
Derek Pinto
Media Relations Officer

Authorized by the Chief Agent of the Green Party of Canada
Read this media release online

Green Party of Canada

Jim Harris Offers Suggestions for Mr. Harper

News Release
For Immediate Release

Green Party Leader Jim Harris Offers Suggestions for Mr. Harper’s Throne Speech

(Ottawa, Monday, March 27th, 2006) - "The Green Party has a vision for Canada," said Jim Harris, leader of the Green Party of Canada, today at a press conference on Parliament Hill.

"We understand Mr. Harper has his priorities. We also understand that almost 700,000 Canadians voted for the Green Party in January," added Harris, "and they voted for us so that we could represent their views in the House of Commons. An antiquated electoral system is the only thing stopping us."

Harris requested that Mr. Harper seriously consider all aspects of what it means to have a healthy Canada. "Standing up for Canada means delivering a balanced budget, supporting our communities, and ensuring the health of our planet," said Harris.

"During the climate change talks in Montreal last December, worldwide consensus was reached that the time for the green movement has come," said Harris, "Global awareness around ecological issues has reached new heights and the green movement is becoming an economic and political force. The need for clean air and fresh water bind us all together."

Harris requested that Mr. Harper:

Respect our Kyoto commitments. Using legislation and fiscal incentives we can meet our greenhouse gas emission targets and continue to build Canada’s international reputation and credibility as a country that honours its environmental responsibilities.

Strike a citizen’s committee on democratic reform and hold a national referendum to implement their recommendations. We need an electoral system that will recognize the contribution of all political parties and help them work together.

Reduce income tax while introducing new taxes on pollution.

Work to amend the Charter of Rights and Freedoms to include the right of all Canadians to clean air and water.

Pass the Canada Well-Being Measurement Act and implement the Canadian Index of Well-Being so that our economic success reflects our actual quality of life without attaching value to ecological and social catastrophes.

For more information contact:
Derek Pinto
Media Relations Officer

Authorized by the Chief Agent of the Green Party of Canada
Read this media release online

Green Party of Canada

Iraq Dispatches: An "Alliance" of Violence

An "Alliance" of Violence
By Dahr Jamail
t r u t h o u t | Perspective

Wednesday 29 March 2006

A disturbing trend noticeable in Iraq for quite some time now is that each aggressive Israeli military operation in the occupied territories results in a corresponding increase in the number of attacks on US forces in Iraq. One of the first instances of this was the assassination of Hamas leader Sheikh Ahmed Yassin in March 2004 and the reaction it set off across Shia and Sunni, ultimately spiraling into the siege and devastation of Fallujah. Fallujah is but one example one may use to demonstrate how the ongoing use of heavy handed tactics by the US-Israel alliance is proving to be as suicidal as it is homicidal. US troops in Iraq and Israeli civilians in their homes can bear testimony to this, as they are the ones who bear the brunt. Not to mention the collateral damage in Iraq.

May 17, 2004, Washington

Cofer Black, at the time Coordinator for Counterterrorism for the US State Department, in a talk at the 2004 Policy Conference for the American-Israeli Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), said that of all the nations cooperating with the US in the global war on terror, "none [is] more stalwart than the state of Israel." He told the audience of the powerful lobby group that "Our two great nations will stand together to fight terror" and deemed the US-Israel Joint Counterterrorism Group (JCG) "an important part of our counterterrorism partnership."

May 10, 2004, Fallujah, Iraq

The first US siege of Fallujah ended in early May, 2004, and on May 10th US forces abandoned all control of the city, handing it back over to the Iraqis.

April 4, 2004, Fallujah, Iraq

US military directed to launch the first, and eventually failed, revenge assault in retaliation for the four Blackwater USA mercenaries killed on March 31st. The siege caused severe casualties among the people of Fallujah, killing 736 people, over 60% of whom were women, children and the elderly, according to the director of Fallujah General Hospital.

April 2, 2004, Iraq

Speaking on al-Manar TV, Muqtada al-Sadr pledged, "From here I announce my solidarity with the genuine unity announced by Hezbollah general secretary Hassan Nasrallah with the mujahideen movement Hamas. Let them consider me their striking hand in Iraq whenever the need arises. As the martyr Sheikh Ahmed Yassin said, Iraq and Palestine have the same destiny."

March 31, 2004, Fallujah, Iraq

Four Blackwater USA mercenaries killed in Fallujah in an attack avenging the assassination of Hamas leader Sheikh Ahmed Yassin. Nine days after the assassination, the bodies of four mercenaries from Blackwater USA were burned, chopped into pieces, dragged behind vehicles bearing posters of Sheikh Yassin, and finally put on display by being hung from a bridge. Pamphlets were distributed at the scene which declared the attack against the four men as having been carried out in the name of Yassin. It was also reported by several Arab media outlets at the time that a group known as the "Phalange of Sheikh Yassin" claimed responsibility for the attack, and that the deaths of the four men were meant as a "gift to the Palestinian people."

March 28, 2004, Baghdad, Iraq

The head of the CPA, Paul Bremer, ordered the closing of the al-Hawza newspaper, the mouthpiece of Muqtada al-Sadr. One of Sadr's spokespeople, Sheikh Mahmud Sudani, told reporters at the time that al-Hawza had attracted censure because of its strong critique of the killing of Sheikh Yassin by Israeli forces. The closing of this paper was a primary factor that led to the first violent uprising called by Sadr against the occupiers.

March 26, 2004, Iraq

Four days after the assassination of Yassin, thousands of followers of the Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, carrying portraits both of Yassin and Sadr, demonstrated after Friday prayers in protest of Israel's action by burning Israeli flags, chanting "No, no to Israel" and "No, no to occupation." In Najaf, an Imam with the extremely powerful political party the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI) called for demonstrations outside the revered Imam Ali mosque. Similar demonstrations were also held as far north as the city of Mosul.

The demonstration began promptly after it was ordered, with protesters shouting, "Death to Israel, death to America." Other demonstrations continued across Iraq daily for weeks after the assassination, denouncing Israel's actions. Even US-appointed puppets in Iraq's Interim Governing Council expressed grave concerns that the killing of Yassin, who was highly respected throughout the Arab world, would escalate violence in Iraq. This concern materialized within hours, as blood began to flow throughout central and southern Iraq.

On the same day Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, who commands more followers than any leader in Iraq, political or spiritual, released an unusually staunch statement of criticism, referring to the assassination of Yassin as "an ugly crime against the Palestinian people" with an injunction, "We call upon the core of the Arab and Islamic nations to close ranks, unite and work hard for the liberation of the usurped land."

March 22, 2004, Gaza

While he was being wheeled out of his morning prayer session in his wheelchair on March 22, 2004, Sheikh Ahmed Yassin was assassinated by US-built Hellfire missiles fired by a US-built helicopter piloted by members of the Israeli military. The quadriplegic elder die along with two of his bodyguards and six bystanders. The half-blind Hamas leader was replaced by his son Rantissi, who was also murdered shortly after his father, on April 17th.

There was a clear connection between events in Gaza and what these generated in Iraq.

This act of state-sponsored terrorism by the Israeli government was opposed even by British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, who said, "It [Israel] is not entitled to go in for this kind of unlawful killing and we condemn it. It is unacceptable, it is unjustified and it is very unlikely to achieve its objectives."

Reaction from the United States? The usual feeble inauthentic mumblings of "We condemn this attack." Once again actions spoke far louder than words when the US vetoed a UN resolution condemning Yassin's assassination.

Cofer Black later became Vice President of Blackwater USA, the erstwhile employer of the four mercenaries killed in Fallujah.

The ongoing alliance of unbridled and unbalanced military aid flowing into Israel from the US has gone unchallenged for years. "Since 1976, Israel has been the largest annual recipient of US foreign assistance, and is the largest cumulative recipient since World War II," according to an Issue Brief for Congress from 2002. This US military support to Israel has caused, especially in Iraq, an incredible backlash against US troops and contractors. This is not helped by the fact that much of this aid comes in the form of weapons. Israel is one of the largest importers of weapons from the US, and in the last decade alone, Israel purchased $7.2 billion in weapons and other military equipment. As a result, Israel is now the proud owner of the largest fleet of F-16 fighter jets outside of the United States.

I found it to be common knowledge in Iraq that, during the last six years of the Clinton presidency, the US gave Israel free weapons and ammunition, such as M-16 rifles, grenade launchers, .50 caliber machine guns and the ammunition for all of them.

The reputation of the US in the region has been further demolished both by the failed occupation of Iraq and by its perpetual support for Israeli policies, generally viewed with contempt throughout the Arab and Muslim world. The ongoing violations of international law by both countries don't exactly assist matters either.

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, who had given the "green light" for the Yassin operation, monitored its progress in real-time video transmitted from the Israeli military helicopters. His ecstasy was accompanied by complete dismissal of all international criticism.

Ask any US military commanders how they feel about the deaths of US soldiers in Iraq generated by revenge attacks in reaction to Israeli military policy against Palestinians. The consensus is an overwhelming thumbs down regarding the effectiveness of the strategy.

One could ask the families of the four Blackwater USA mercenaries who were killed in Fallujah on March 31, 2004, as well. The four men were killed in a revenge attack that had twofold causes - reports had been coming out of Fallujah for months about assassinations, rape and thefts carried out by "plain clothed" men working for the US military. But more pertinent to this particular attack is the date on which it occurred.

I remember seeing photos of Sheikh Yassin in several areas of Baghdad and Abu Ghraib while both entering and exiting Fallujah on April 9 and 10, during the US attack on the city. The photos of the slain Hamas leader were pasted on the sides of cars, trucks, roadside food stalls and even some houses.

It would appear that Cofer Black had left Israeli Prime Minister Sharon out of the cooperation loop of his counterterrorism strategy, as the Israeli military was being instructed by Sharon to carry out operations that engendered severe repercussions in Iraq and took the form, and continue to take the form, of dead American soldiers.

Not so coincidentally, less than a year after the first siege of Fallujah, on February 4, 2005, Cofer Black was named Vice-Chairman of Blackwater USA. The press release proudly announced his arrival in the company's leadership, asserting that during his time in the State Department Black's responsibilities included "coordinating US Government efforts to improve counterterrorism cooperation with foreign governments, including the policy and planning of the Department's Antiterrorism Training Assistance Program."

Is it perhaps possible that despite a 28-year career in the Directorate of Operations at the CIA, Black was unaware of Sharon's plans to murder Yassin, or was unable to stop it, or most likely, approved of this methodology?

The latter possibility seems most likely when we consider the instances of direct Israeli involvement with US policy on the ground in Iraq that have long since come to light.

"One step the Pentagon took was to seek active and secret help in the war against the Iraqi insurgency from Israel, America's closest ally in the Middle East," wrote Seymor Hersh in the New Yorker in December, 2003, "According to American and Israeli military and intelligence officials, Israeli commandos and intelligence units have been working closely with their American counterparts at the Special Forces training base at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, and in Israel to help them prepare for operations in Iraq." Israeli commandos are expected to serve as ad-hoc advisers - again, in secret - when full-field operations begin. Neither the Pentagon nor Israeli diplomats would comment. "No one wants to talk about this," an Israeli official told me. "It's incendiary. Both governments have decided at the highest level that it is in their interests to keep a low profile on US-Israeli cooperation" on Iraq.)" Hersh also told the BBC that his sources had confirmed the presence of Israeli intelligence personnel operating inside Iraq.

During that same month, it was reported that Israeli counter-insurgency specialists were sent to Fort Bragg to teach American special forces how to control an unruly Iraqi population. Also during December 2003, it was reported that "Israeli advisers are helping train US special forces in aggressive counter-insurgency operations in Iraq, including the use of assassination squads against guerrilla leaders, US intelligence and military sources said on Monday," and "The Israeli Defense Force (IDF) has sent urban warfare specialists to Fort Bragg in North Carolina, the home of US special forces, and according to two sources, Israeli military "consultants" have also visited Iraq. US forces in Iraq's Sunni triangle have already begun to use tactics that echo Israeli operations in the occupied territories, sealing off centers of resistance with razor wire and razing buildings from where attacks have been launched against US troops."

Iraqis are all too aware of this, and I even saw this played out on the ground in Samarra as far back as December 2003. I interviewed a family whose home was demolished by military bulldozers after a roadside bomb detonated near it hit a passing US patrol. This, coupled with collective punishment of the city by cuts in electricity, water and medical aid, had everyone infuriated, and continues to do so today as these policies gain in scale, frequency and intensity.

These collective punishment tactics have been imposed, to one degree or another, in other cities in Iraq, such as Fallujah, Abu Hishma, Siniyah, Ramadi, areas of Baghdad, Balad and Baquba, to name just a few. Iraqis see the collective punishment meted out by Israeli military forces in Palestinian neighborhoods in the occupied territories via Arab satellite television networks, and are horrified to witness the very same tactics being applied on their soil.

Another destructive link highlighting the intertwined policies of the two countries is Abu Ghraib. In July 2004, after the torture scandal broke, Brig. Gen. Janis Karpinski, the US officer at the heart of the Abu Ghraib scandal, told BBC she had evidence that Israelis helped interrogate Iraqis at another detention facility in Iraq. Karpinski told the BBC she'd met a man who told her he was from Israel while she was visiting an intelligence center with a senior US general. "I saw an individual there that I hadn't had the opportunity to meet before, and I asked him what did he do there, was he an interpreter - he was clearly from the Middle East," she said. "He said, 'Well, I do some of the interrogation here. I speak Arabic but I'm not an Arab; I'm from Israel.'"

I've spoken with several Iraqis who had been tortured in various military detention facilities throughout Iraq. Several of them testified to being interrogated by Israeli Mossad (an Israeli intelligence agency).

Another event that sent shock-waves throughout Iraq was the news from December 2004 that detainees in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, were tortured and, according to FBI agents, one detainee was wrapped in an Israeli flag and subjected to extremely loud music in order to shake his resistance to his interrogation.

It is clear that the longer the two countries continue with the use of their brute military power as the prime strategy in their war on terrorism, the greater grows the threat to the civilians they claim to protect.

This article originally posted on Truthout.

(c)2004, 2005 Dahr Jamail.
All images, photos, photography and text are protected by United States and international copyright law. If you would like to reprint Dahr's Dispatches on the web, you need to include this copyright notice and a prominent link to the website. Website by photographer Jeff Pflueger's Photography Media. Any other use of images, photography, photos and text including, but not limited to, reproduction, use on another website, copying and printing requires the permission of Dahr Jamail. Of course, feel free to forward Dahr's dispatches via email.

More writing, commentary, photography, pictures and images at

Dahr Jamail is an independent journalist who spent over 8 months reporting from occupied Iraq. He presented evidence of US war crimes in Iraq at the International Commission of Inquiry on Crimes Against Humanity Committed by the Bush Administration in New York City in January 2006. He writes regularly for TruthOut, Inter Press Service, Asia Times and TomDispatch, and maintains his own web site,

Note: My thanks to Dahr Jamail for his kind, explicit permission to reprint all of his Iraqi Dispatches on my site. - Annamarie

Tomgram: Michael Schwartz on Why the Media Gets the War Wrong

To a question from CBS's Bob Schieffer on Face the Nation -- had his "overoptimistic" statements led Americans "to be more skeptical in this country about whether we ought to be in Iraq?" -- Vice President Dick ("in the last throes") Cheney replied:
"No. I think it has less to do with the statements we've made, which I think were basically accurate and reflect reality, than it does with the fact that there's a constant sort of perception, if you will, that's created because what's newsworthy is the car bomb in Baghdad. It's not all the work that went on that day in 15 other provinces in terms of making progress towards rebuilding Iraq."

This was Cheney's version of an ongoing litany of not-enough-good-news complaints from officials of the Bush administration who are already preparing their (media) stab-in-the-back/we-lost-the-war-at-home arguments to cover their Iraqi disaster. ("A few violent people can always grab headlines and can always kill innocent people" was the way Condoleezza Rice put it on Meet the Press Sunday.) Missing, they regularly claim, are those quiet, behind-the-scenes stories of what's really happening in Iraqi life. They imagines such missing "good news" reports as like those the U.S. Central Command regularly sends out in its weekly electronic newsletter with headlines like "Darkhorse Marines Deliver Wheelchair to Iraqi Girl" and "Bridge Reopens over Euphrates River."

In a sense, many Iraqis might go partway down this path with them. It's just that most of them would undoubtedly define the nature of those quiet stories about real life a bit differently than the Vice President and Secretary of State do. Last December, in an ABC poll (taken in conjunction with the BBC)which reflected a degree of hopefulness about the elections soon to take place and the possibility of a better future, only 46% of Iraqis felt the country was better off than under Saddam Hussein (and those figures are guaranteed to be even lower today), while two-thirds opposed the very presence of U.S. troops in the country. When it came to "conditions in the village/neighborhood where you live," they were asked to "rate" a number of topics "using very good, quite good, quite bad or very bad?"

On the following topics, the "total bad" tally (combining "quite bad" and "very bad") went like this:

Availability of jobs 58%
Supply of electricity 54%
Availability of clean water 42%
Availability of basic things you need for your household 39%
Security situation: 38%

When asked to order their priorities for the next year, Iraqis ranked "the security situation" at the top of their list -- think: Cheney's car bombs -- but the other high percentage "bads" reflected a daily reality that the administration doesn't even bother to acknowledge. Unlike spectacular acts of suicidal violence, assassinations, bombings, roadside explosions, American raids, insurgent attacks on police stations, or mutilation murders, this daily reality really doesn't get the headlines or much notice most of the time in anything we read or see either. Yes, there are the odd newspaper stories on the lack of electricity in Baghdad or the near collapse of the Iraqi oil industry, but mostly subjects like lack of potable water, lack of fuel, and certainly lack of jobs are, at best, on the news backburner -- and our understanding of the situation there suffers for that.

Click here to read more of this dispatch.

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