Sunday, August 31, 2008

The People of New Orleans Have Been Ordered to Evacuate

New Orleans ordered to evacuate

Shop owners have boarded up their windows in New Orleans ahead of the storm

The mayor of New Orleans has ordered residents out of the city ahead of the arrival of "the mother of all storms" Hurricane Gustav.

An estimated one million people have already fled the US Gulf coast.

The evacuation of New Orleans is to become mandatory at 8am (12:00 GMT) on Sunday along the vulnerable west bank of the Mississippi river, and at noon on the east bank, Ray Nagin, the city's mayor has said.

As residents carried out the evacuation, the US National Hurricane Centre downgraded Gustav to a category three, although it is expected to strengthen again before it makes landfall on Monday.

Nagin gave the order late on Saturday after the storm grew into a category four hurricane over Cuba and threatened to hit the state of Louisiana within the next 36 hours. Five is the highest category.

"We want everybody ... we want 100 per cent evacuation. If you decide to stay, you are on your own," he said.

"This storm is so powerful and growing more powerful every day that I'm not sure we've seen anything like it."

Katrina memories

New Orleans is still struggling to recover from Hurricane Katrina in August 2005, when heavy rains and strong winds flooded 80 per cent of the city and killed about 1,600 people across the region.

Forecasters have warned it is still too early to say whether the city will take another direct hit.

Gustav has, so far, killed more than 80 people in the Caribbean, and if forecasts hold true, would make landfall on Monday afternoon, somewhere between East Texas and western Mississippi.

Scarred by the still-fresh memories of Katrina, roads around New Orleans were jammed and hundreds of people lined up to board buses.

William Harpur, a New Orleans evacuee, said: "I thought it's gonna hang a right, it's gonna hang a left, it's not gonna be a problem until yesterday afternoon, when they said it's in the same corridor, it’s not changing, and I thought here we go again."

Nagin estimates that about half the population has already left and admitted officials were worried that some people would try to stay.

Even before he ordered the evacuation, most hotels had closed, and the airport was preparing to follow suit.

Federal agencies, which had failed to cope with the challenge of Hurricane Katrina, say they are well prepared to handle the evacuations this time.

Energy companies, whose 4,000 platforms in the Gulf produce a quarter of US crude oil and 15 per cent of its natural gas, braced for Gustav by evacuating personnel and shutting down three-fourths of their oil production.

Katrina and Hurricane Rita, which followed it three weeks later, wrecked more than 100 Gulf oil platforms.

Convention delay

John McCain, the presumptive Republican presidential candidate, and Sarah Palin, his running-mate, are due to visit Mississippi on Sunday to inspect preparations for the arrival of Hurricane Gustav.

McCain has already warned that his party may have to suspend its convention next week, because of the storm.

"It wouldn't be appropriate to have a festive occasion while a near tragedy or a terrible challenge is presented in the form of a national disaster," he said.

The Republican national convention, scheduled to open on Monday in St Paul, Minnesota, would see McCain awarded official nominee status as the party's presidential candidate.

Source: Al Jazeera and agencies

Angolan President Speaks Highly of China-built Railway Line on Trial Operation

Angolan president speaks highly of China-built railway line on trial operation

2008-08-31 11:34:25
GMT2008-08-31 19:34:25 (Beijing Time)
Xinhua English

MALANJE, Angola, Aug. 31 (Xinhua) -- Angolan President Jose Eduardo dos Santos has spoken highly of China-built Malanje-Luanda railway in trial operation during his inspection tour to the line at the weekend.

Speaking to over 20,000 local people welcoming him, he recognized the hardworking spirit of the Chinese workers who helped more than 4,000 local laborers and expressed his satisfaction with the high-quality of the line.

The 479-km-long railway line is ok and the passenger train is beautiful, he said, adding that the operation of the line is of key strategic to the country's economic development, especially boosting markets both in coastal areas and inland regions.

After inspecting a passenger train entering into the Malanje Railway Station, the president told the crowd of Chinese workers who manage the line and the station in Chinese "Xiexie, Xiexie (Thank you, thank you)."

The president, accompanied by First Lady Anna Paula dos Santos, also enquired the Chinese railway managerial personnel about the performance and function of the six-carriage passenger train which is in trial operation.

The Malanje-Luanda railway line with a contractual value of 355 million U.S. dollars is so far the largest infrastructural project China has contracted in Angola.

There are 16 stations along the line starting from the provincial capital Malanje in the north and running through four provinces of Malanje, Kuanza Norte, Bengo and Luanda and before it terminates in the Angolan capital Luanda, also a seaport city in Angola.

It took three years for China Railway 20th Bureau to instruct some 4,300 local workers to complete the project which consists of laying 264-km-long new rails, revamping 215-km-long existing rails and constructing 16 railway stations, 16 steel and reinforced concrete bridges and over 200 culverts.

Also accompanying the president to inspect the railway line include Vieira Dias Kopelipa, director of the Office for National Reconstruction, Augusto da Silva Tomas, minister of Transportation and Manuel Gourgel, director of the Malanje-Luanda Railway Administration and Chinese officials of China Railway 20th Bureau.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Zimbabwe News Update: MDC-T Makes Fresh Demands; Let's Produce More Says President Mugabe

MDC-T makes fresh demands

By Takunda Maodza
Zimbabwe Herald

MDC-T, which pressured South African President Thabo Mbeki to reconvene talks, has demanded that Cabinet be co-chaired by President Mugabe and Morgan Tsvangirai, open fresh negotiations on all issues that had been discussed and agreed to and complained about Tuesday’s official opening of Parliament.

Zanu-PF has, however, made it clear that it would not engage in such useless discussions, a source close to the proceedings has revealed.

The negotiating teams flew to South Africa on Thursday with the Zanu-PF delegation of Cde Patrick Chinamasa, Cde Nicholas Goche joined by Cde Emmerson Mnangagwa, who was on a private visit to South Africa.

Elton Mangoma led the MDC-T delegation after its secretary-general, Tendai Biti, failed to show up despite pressing President Mbeki to convene the talks while Welshman Ncube and Priscilla Misihairabwi-Mushonga represented the Arthur Mutambara-led MDC formation.

According to the source, the negotiating teams met Presi-dent Mbeki separately yesterday.

"Each group met the facilitator separately and the import of those meetings was for President Mbeki to gauge feelings and thereafter decide on a way forward.

"It is understood Mangoma brought back issues that had been discussed and disposed of way in the past," the source said.

Mangoma talked about going back to an arrangement of having three Vice-Presidents, a proposal made by MDC-T at the beginning of the inter-party talks which was thrown out as not feasible.

It is also not the mandate of the negotiating teams to discuss such issues, but the principals.

The source said Mangoma also rehashed the issue of the draft constitution, demanding that it be enacted into law without reference to the people although the issue was discussed and dismissed a long time ago.

"The only new but nonetheless absurd suggestion from the MDC-T was that Cabinet be co-chaired by President

Mugabe and Tsvangirai. Zanu-PF dismissed that, not just as insolent, but also stunning ignorance on how Government works," added the source.

The ruling party’s negotiating team said it was up to the MDC-T to append its signature to the document.

"Zanu-PF was very categorical that it was not prepared to indulge the MDC-T with such useless suggestions. It said from its perspective all that remained was for the MDC-T to append its signature to the document, or withhold it for as long as it likes, knowing fully well that the process of forming a Government would proceed unhindered," the source said.

The MDC-T is said to have complained about the appointment of governors and the opening of the Seventh Parliament saying it should not have taken place.

In saying so, the Tsvangirai group has taken a stance against a decision of the Sadc summit that met in South Africa this month and gave President Mugabe the green light to reconvene the House.

"The MDC-T is conveniently forgetting that it not only endorsed the opening of the Parliament through its participation, but actually gained Speakership as a result of the process. Are they ready to let go the Speakership?" asked the source.

Since the official opening of Parliament by President Mugabe on Tuesday, the MDC-T has been pleading for dialogue with Mr Biti publicly urging President Mbeki to reconvene the talks.

Efforts to resume the talks on the sidelines of the Sadc summit hit a snag after Tsvangirai refused to sign the document and was later quoted by the New York Times saying it was "better to have no deal than to have a bad deal".

Let’s produce more: President

Herald Reporter

GOVERNMENT has embarked on a policy framework designed to create an enabling environment for enhanced agricultural production, President Mugabe has said.

Officially opening the 98th Harare Agricultural Show yesterday, Presi-dent Mugabe said the process would take place against a backdrop of Government’s adoption of the Millennium Development Goals, the first of which seeks to "eradicate extreme poverty and hunger" by 2015.

"Cognisant of the need to create an enabling environment for farmers and other players in the agricultural industry, Government has embarked on a policy review and formulation process to come up with an Agricultural Policy Framework for the next 20 years," he said.

President Mugabe said there is need for Zimbabwe’s agricultural sector to strategise on practical ways of achieving maximum productivity for food sustenance.

Government has empowered thousands of Zimbabweans by giving them access to the means of production.

"There, however, still remains the need to mobilise, promote and support our farmers for them to produce volumes that are commensurate with the needs of the nation," he said.

The objective of the land reform programme, President Mugabe said, remains the economic empowerment of the people while widening the production base and harvesting more from the land.

"Above all, our farmers should neither be just providers of raw materials nor mere receptacles of finished products, but also be capacitated to produce goods for export so that the country can increase its foreign currency earnings."

Cde Mugabe said Government was continuing to pursue irrigation development as a long-term strategy to enhance food security.

"While efforts are being put in place to ensure the timely availability of inputs to farmers, it was essential that farmers are paid competitive prices for their produce to ensure viability and encourage focus on the right crops.

"One cannot over-emphasise the growing and compelling need for us to boost our agricultural output in order to attain food self-sufficiency and produce a surplus for both our local industry and export markets.

"Thus the theme for this year’s show (‘Let Us Unite the Nation: Grow Food with Determination’) is very pertinent considering that the increases in global food prices underline the pressing need to produce food locally and avoid the present heavy reliance on imports," he said.

Govt lifts ban on NGOs

Herald Reporter

GOVERNMENT has, with immediate effect, lifted the ban on field operations of non-governmental organisations and private voluntary organisations.

Under the Memorandum of Understa-nding signed between the country’s main political parties — Zanu-PF and the two MDC formations — last month, it was agreed that Government should look urgently into the operations of NGOs with a view to restoring their operations.

Secretary for Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare Mr Lancaster Museka said in a statement yesterday that the lifting of the ban covered NGOs and PVOs operating in humanitarian assistance, food aid, relief, recovery and development; family, child care and protection; care and protection of older persons; rights and empowerment of people with disabilities as well as HIV and Aids treatment, care and related support services.

"The lifting of the suspension only applies to NGOs and PVOs duly registered in terms of the PVO Act Chapter 17:05," the statement said.

In June, the Government suspended operations of all NGOs to vet their activities amid suspicion that most of them were dabbling in politics, promising to lift the blanket ban after completing investigations.

Some of the organisations were allegedly telling people in rural areas prior to the March 29 harmonised elections and the June 27 presidential run-off poll that they would stop food distribution in the event of a Zanu-PF victory.

The NGOs were also accused of asking unsuspecting villagers to surrender their national identity cards before the March elections, but did not return them, effectively depriving them of their right to vote.

The Government, however, lifted the ban on NGOs involved in supplementary feeding schemes and HIV and Aids-related issues in June.

The ban did not affect the operations of church-related organisations which have been conducting their duties as usual.

Underprivileged communities who rely on handouts from the organisations, particularly those involved in humanitarian assistance, welcomed the lifting of the ban.

More women turn to farming

Herald Reporter

DEMAND for land and interest in agriculture as a business venture among women has increased over the years with more inquiring on how to access land under the Land Reform Programme, the president of the Women Farmers’ Association has said.

In an interview at the Harare Agricultural Show yesterday, Ms Phides Mazhawidza said her organisation has been referring such inquiries to the relevant Government departments in the provinces and districts.

"The number of women asking about the land has increased tremendously over the years. This growing interest is not only from older women but also the young who have seen the benefits of the Land Reform Programme.

"Our main focus is on helping female farmers to effectively use and manage land, access inputs and mobilise resources as well as capacity building.

"As we are not directly involved in land allocation, we help prospective women farmers to get information from the Ministry of National Security, Lands, Land Reform and Resettlement, which is mandated with land redistribution," she said.

Ms Mazhawidza said her organisation was failing to meet demand for access to inputs and resources from female farmers and was appealing to Government to increase funding to women in the sector.

"The organisation has been overwhelmed by demand for inputs such as maize seed and fertilizer. As a result, we are recommending female farmers to venture into production of small grains to reduce demand for maize and other large grain crops.

"While inputs and resource mobilisation has seen greater demand, it has been difficult to lure women into capacity building programmes as they do not see the immediate benefits of non-agriculture management training. As a result, we have intensified capacity building to improve production on the farms," she said.

A non-profit making organisation, WFA was formed with the specific objective of catering for the interests of female farmers, facilitate access to agriculture-related resources and policy advocacy.

It draws its membership from among commercial and non-commercial farmers.

It also seeks to bring about equitable access to land and agricultural resources in addition to encouraging its members to use land productively.

It's Time For Real Change: How Democrats Helped Bush Hijack the Country

August 27, 2008

It's Time for Real Change

How the Democrats Helped Bush Hijack the Country


Our country has been hijacked and the Democrats have proven themselves to have been in on the plan. When it came to the Constitution, the Democratic leadership showed us that aiding and abetting illegal spying on us was more important to them than protecting our civil liberties.

When it came to war and occupation, the Democratic leadership showed us that financing an illegal and immoral war, based on lies, was more important to them than the people's desire for peace.

And when the people, hurting from the financial mismanagement of this country, called for accountability for the crimes that have been committed against the people here, against the global community, against nature, itself, the Democratic leadership took impeachment off the table!

Grassroots Democratic Party activists want a livable wage! A "Medicare-for-all" type of health care system, repeal of the Bush tax cuts that have ushered in the greatest income inequality in this country since the Great Depression. But the Democratic Party has shown itself to be incapable of providing even a semblance of the values even of its own activists.

The Democratic Party's national leadership didn't even mention Hurricanes Katrina and Rita survivors in their Congressional agenda for the first 100 days.

The Democratic Party's national leadership gave us the Iran Naval Blockade bill, the Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act, and telecom immunity. They continue to fund war and occupation to the tune of $720 million a day while our children graduate from college tens--or even hundreds--of thousands of dollars in debt. Entire cities are going into receivership while the Democratic leadership in Congress gives the Pentagon one half trillion dollars annually with no accountability, no strings attached. That's over and above spending for war.

Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo are the hallmarks of the new U.S. gulag Democrats are helping to create.

They want us to believe that China and Russia are our enemies, in addition to the 60 countries on Dick Cheney's list. They want us to believe that workers, who come to this country to support thier families after Democratic leadership in the country saddl3ed workers with NAFTA, are our enemies. But we are here today to declare that we know who the real enemies are: those false patriots that George Washington warned us of, who wrap themselves in the flag while betraying our values.

We are the true patriots!

We know that the strength of this country lies in the way it countenances dissent. And we are here to dissent. We are not deterred by reports of sleek, new detention facilities or recently-acquired taser guns that kill. For we come to dissent in peace. Indeed, we dissent for peace.

Today, we declare our independence from conformity and "go-along-to-get-along" politics. We declare our willingness to be radical in pursuit of peace and in our hunger for justice. We can see clearly now who the real stickup artists are and that's why we're in Denver!

Our actions here this week begin the disarming of the hijackers. We no longer are afraid. And we won't be deceived. We know that a vote for the Democrats is a vote for more war in Afghanistan and other parts of the world.

But today, we are now free.

Free to stand on the four pillars guiding our political engagement: environmental wisdom, peace, grassroots democratcy, and social justice. And finally, we know our power. We know the power of the people. We know that true power rests in the hands of the people. People who are willing to take a stand.

We need look no further than Haiti, Code,I'voire, Spain, and India to see the power of the people at the ballot box. No further than Brazil, Venezuela, Chile, Argentina, Ecuador, Bolivia, Nicaragua, and Paraguay to know that if they can do it, so can we.

Provided our elections are fair!

And if the Democrats cave in, in the face of fraud, disfranchisement, and theft, then we will be there to demand election integrity!

All over this country, the signs are there. People from New York to Florida, Washington State to California, Colorado to Texas are liberating themselves. We must not stop! Our country is worth it! Let's take our country back! Power to the People!

Cynthia McKinney is the Green Party's nominee for president.
She will deliver an address in Detroit at the International Institute on Kirby at John R on Saturday, August 30 at 7:30 p.m.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Thailand Police Clash With Anti-Government Demonstrators

Friday, August 29, 2008
20:30 Mecca time, 17:30 GMT

Thai riot police attack anti-government forces at station

Police say they have taken a 'soft stance' against protesters in certain areas

Courtesy of Al Jazeera

Thai anti-government protesters have attacked the capital's police headquarters as demonstrations against Samak Sundaravej, the prime minister, have continued to spread across the country.

Hundreds of riot police fired teargas at the 2,000-strong crowd in Bangkok on Friday, which eventurally pulled back, as a fourth day of demonstrations forced the closure of airports and rail stations in the south of the country.

Demonstrators led by the People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) have been seeking to force the resignation of Samak Sundaravej, the prime minister, and his cabinet, claiming they are corrupt.

The movement accuses Samak of serving as a proxy for Thaksin Shinawatra, the former prime minister, now in exile in London, who was ousted in a 2006 coup and now faces several corruption charges.

Selina Downes, Al Jazeera's correspondent in Bangkok said the prime minister has been holding high-level crisis talks with members of the military and said he hadn't ruled out initiating a state of emergency.

"I will not quit. At this moment, I will not declare emergency rule, I will wait and see tomorrow," Samak said on Friday.

Al Jazeera's Downes said Samak was likely waiting until after Saturday when Thailand's crown prince is due to make a speech.

"The crown prince may call for unity, and the royal family are highly regarded here," which may quell some of the protests, Downes said.

Thailand's ruling six-party coalition agreed on Friday to hold an urgent parliamentary debate on Sunday to discuss the ongoing crisis.

Roads sealed-off

She said protesters had overrun parts of Government House and closed three airports in the southern tourist destinations of Phuket and Krabi.

She added: "People saying about 1,000 protesters sealed-off roads going into and out of the airports.

"Thai airways' labour and electricity unions have also said they will join strikes calling form the prime minister to resign."

State rail workers had begun a strike that had halted 30 per cent of services nationwide, a union spokesman said, and similar action was being considered by unions at other state agencies.

"The prime minister has said to the protesters: 'You are called the People's Alliance for Democracy, so what is it you want? Because the key element of democracy is elections'," Downes reported.

Call for emergency

In the capital, where protesters have been occupying the prime minister's compound since Tuesday, some of Samak's advisers have urged him to impose emergency rule, two government sources said.

A state of emergency would allow the government to deploy soldiers to disperse the protesters. But Anupong Paochinda, Thailand's army chief, said the situation does not currently warrant it.

Police appeared to exercise restraint when the protesters, some armed with golf clubs, batons and bamboo sticks, forced 400 personnel out of the government house grounds early on Friday morning.

Downes said crowds appeared to be provoking police action, but the government was still withholding the use of force.

Samak and police officials have repeatedly said that force will not be used to remove the thousands of protesters.

Police Lieutenant General Suraphol Thuanthong said that they will use a "softened stance [to] give them time to leave the government house".

"But if they continue to defy the court order, then we have to use force to drive them out," he said.

The PAD, whose 2005 protests against Thaksin contributed to his removal in a coup a year later, urged more supporters to gather until the current elected administration fell.

"Today is the judgment day. It is the people's revolution and we must win," Sondhi Limthongkul, a PAD leader, told the cheering crowd from the group's constructed stage on the prime minister's front lawn.

Nine PAD leaders have been charged with insurrection, a crime that can carry the death penalty, after violent raids on government offices and a state TV station on Monday.

Moroccan Authorities Announce Arrests in Connection With Alleged Plot

Morocco dismantles 'terrorist network': police

RABAT (AFP) - - Moroccan police said Friday they had dismantled "a dangerous terrorist network" linked to Al-Qaeda and arrested 15 suspects who were planning attacks in the kingdom.

The group, called Fath Al Andalous, were in possession of chemicals and electronics "used in the making of explosives", the Moroccan news agency MAP quoted police as saying.

"Members of this structure ... were planning attacks in Morocco and had established operational links with foreign extremists of the Al-Qaeda organisation," MAP quoted police as saying.

MAP quoted police as saying the network was present in several Moroccan cities.

Those arrested would be taken before a court "to answer for their acts," police said.

Morocco 'breaks terror network'

The Moroccan authorities say they have broken up a militant cell operating in several towns in the kingdom.

The group allegedly had links with al- Qaeda and police described the 15 people arrested as "dangerous".

They had electronic and chemical materials used to make explosives, reports the state press agency, MAP.

It is the fourth such network Morocco says it has broken up this year. An al-Qaeda-inspired group has said it was behind recent attacks in Algeria.

"The members of this structure, known as "Fath al-Andalous" [Conquest of Andalusia], planned to carry out attacks in Morocco and had formed operational links with foreign extremists who have pledged allegiance to the al-Qaeda organisation," MAP says.

The BBC's James Copnall in Morocco says this is almost certainly a reference to al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (QIM), an organisation largely based in neighbouring Algeria which has ties with Osama bin Laden's movement.

QIM says it has carried out attacks in several other North African countries, as well as the Algeria bombings which left 70 dead.

However, some analysts believe there is little real regional co-ordination between extremist groups.

Our correspondent says Morocco has been accused of over-dramatising the threat it faces from extremists, to benefit from support from the US and Europe.

Nevertheless, he notes that there have been attacks in Morocco: the most dramatic example occurred five years ago, when suicide bombers killed 45 people in Casablanca.

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2008/08/29 16:27:52 GMT

No Democracy in Denver: Cops Attack Protesters at the Democratic National Convention

No democracy in Denver

Cops attack protesters at DNC: Emergency news conference exposes gov’t terror

By LeiLani Dowell
Published Aug 27, 2008 9:19 PM

Denver police have used violence and mass arrests in an attempt to silence dissent during the Democratic National Convention. However, organizers and activists have put the city and police on notice that their intimidation tactics will not work.

Several hundred activists were gathered in Civic Center Park on Aug. 25, where the Recreate 68 Alliance ( has a permit for a week of actions during the DNC. At about 6 p.m., Denver police began massing in groups, encircling the park. Squads then began to march through the park, pushing and kicking people as they passed. One group of heavily-armed police lined up directly across from the Troops Out Now Coalition table.

At about 7:00, a group of mostly young people responded by chanting “No justice, no peace!” The police charged the group, hitting several of them with pepper spray. Attempting to get away from the club-swinging police, the group moved onto Cleveland Street, joined by many others from the park.

Police then closed off both ends of the block, entrapping the group as well as many bystanders. They began hitting people with their nightsticks and using pepper spray and pepper balls.

One young protester, Martin, told the Denver Post, “We moved to the sidewalk—a few people stayed in the street—because we didn’t want a confrontation, but it didn’t matter. People started pleading: ‘Let me go. I want to go home.’ ...

“Some of the police on horses were whacking people with their batons. I was told later that the police were telling us to disperse, but I didn’t hear them say that. And where would we go? The police were all around us, not letting us leave.”

TONC organizer and Navy veteran Dustin Langley was among those trapped on the street between the police lines. He noted that spirits remained high, saying: “Street medics took care of those who had been pepper sprayed, and we shared water and made sure everyone was okay. We continued chanting and singing. At one point, we sang ‘Solidarity Forever’. One group of activists chanted at the cops: ‘Who do you protect? Who do you serve?’”

After more than an hour, the solidarity of those on the streets and negotiations by Recreate 68 organizers won the release of most of those trapped on the block.

At least 85, however, were placed in metal shackles and arrested. They were denied access to attorneys while at the detention center, and many were bullied into making a guilty plea in order to get released. Martin said, “Now, because of the plea bargain, I’m free but on probation. I can’t join any more marches, or do anything illegal in the next six months, or I’ll get five days in jail on top of the other charges.”

The next day the police continued their attempts to intimidate those protesting the DNC. Heavily-armed police continued to mass around the park, and squads of horse-mounted cops rode through the park several times.

At about 9 a.m., the right-wing bigot Fred Phelps entered the park, spewing a homophobic hate speech. A Recreate 68 organizer, Carlo Garcia, told him to leave. The Denver police responded by arresting Garcia, who has two brothers in Iraq.

When Code Pink organizer Alicia Forrest questioned Garcia’s arrest, she was knocked to the ground by police and arrested as well.

Organizers with the Recreate 68 Alliance and TONC called an emergency press conference in front of police headquarters to take a public stand against these tactics and respond to distortions in the corporate media, which portrayed the protesters as the initiators of violence.

Glenn Spagnuolo, one of the cofounders of the Recreate 68 Alliance, put the mayor, police chief and Denver Police Department on notice that he and other organizers are meeting with attorneys to move forward with legal action. He noted several major protest-related lawsuits, such as those in New York and Washington, which have cost local governments millions of dollars.

Larry Hales, a leader of the Recreate 68 Alliance and of the youth group FIST (Fight Imperialism Stand Together), noted that any violence that has occurred was initiated by the Denver police. Recreate 68 demands all police be removed from the park. Hales stated that since Recreate 68 has a permit to hold its activity in the Civic Center Park, the police have no business there.

Other speakers at the press conference included Brian Vicente of the Peoples Law Project; Ben Kaufman, who described the arrest of Carlo Garcia; Sally Newman of Code Pink; and Mark Cohen, a Recreate 68 cofounder, who questioned the role of the Democratic Party in suppressing civil liberties and attempting to silence protest.

Following the press conference, organizers returned to Civic Center Park, where they joined hundreds of activists from around the country determined to continue in the spirit of resistance and protest.

More coverage and analysis on developments at the DNC as well as the Republican National Convention will appear in upcoming WW issues.
Articles copyright 1995-2008 Workers World. Verbatim copying and distribution of this entire article is permitted in any medium without royalty provided this notice is preserved.

Workers World, 55 W. 17 St., NY, NY 10011
Page printed from:

As Democrats meet

Activists take to Denver streets against war, racism

By LeiLani Dowell
and Dustin Langley
Published Aug 27, 2008 8:48 PM

Aug. 26—A series of rallies, marches, teach-ins and cultural events have taken place in the first two days of people’s resistance to the Democratic Party during its national convention in Denver.

The events, organized primarily by the Recreate 68 Alliance (, have called attention to the Democratic Party’s complicity in imperialist wars abroad and racism, poverty and oppression in the United States. Thousands of activists, many of them youth, are participating in the week of activities.

Protesters have challenged right-wingers who also arrived in Denver this week. Women’s groups have defended abortion clinics, and bigots like the anti-lesbian/gay/bi/trans Rev. Fred Phelps have been shouted down by activists.

Cultural performances have been an integral component of the week’s events, with all-day, free concerts featuring spoken word, Hip Hop, folk, rock and punk music. Food Not Bombs has provided free food to participants.

The effective organization of this week of action has been evident in the success of the events, despite continuing police and state harassment and intimidation of protesters (see accompanying article). As social services for the people of Denver have been slashed, the state received $50 million in federal funds for convention “security,” which is reflected in the high-tech riot gear and weapons worn by the thousands of police who surround the protesters daily.

March to end all occupations

The mobilization began on Aug. 24 with a March to End All Occupations at Home and Abroad. A lineup of multinational speakers denounced the anti-worker, imperialist policies of both the Democratic and Republican parties. Many stressed the necessity for a revolution to abolish the entire capitalist system.

Glenn Spagnuolo of Recreate 68 Alliance saluted the courage and determination of those who had come to Denver from as far as Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, Florida and Maine.

Larry Hales of Recreate 68 Alliance and the youth group FIST (Fight Imperialism, Stand Together) called for unconditional solidarity with the struggles of all oppressed people. Congressional candidate Cindy Sheehan warned against new U.S. military actions in Georgia and Russia.

Larry Holmes, a national leader of the Troops Out Now Coalition, celebrated the call to “Recreate 68,” saying that reviving 1968 spirit of militant struggle is necessary as the attacks on workers at home and abroad increase.

Cynthia McKinney, Green Party presidential candidate, spoke of the continuing U.S. government neglect faced by survivors of hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Former Black Panther Kathleen Cleaver addressed the Bush administration’s misuse of the term “terrorism,” saying that African-American communities have been victims of terrorism for more than 400 years.

Activist and author Ward Churchill denounced the theft of Native lands, noting the continuing U.S. policy of land theft in the Middle East. Palestinian refugee Ida Audeh described the horrific conditions faced by the people of Gaza.

Ron Kovic, disabled Vietnam veteran and author of “Born on the Fourth of July,” said, “I’ll be damned if I let another young person be sent to war and come home like this.”

Well-known activists and Hip Hop performers dead prez closed the rally, introduced by Rosa Clemente, Green Party vice presidential candidate, who spoke of the power of Hip Hop as an organizing and educational tool.

The rally was followed by a militant march through the streets of Denver, including a strong contingent in opposition to a war against Iran. When the protesters reached the Pepsi Center, thousands of them faced off with police, blocking one of the entrances and holding the street for more than 45 minutes.

The next day, Aug. 25, was dedicated to political prisoners, as well as the millions of workers, disproportionately people of color, locked up by the prison/industrial complex. An energetic march took to the streets, without a police permit, winding its way down the 16th Street Mall, a main tourist and shopping attraction in the city. A street vendor threw up his fist and shouted “Free Mumia!” as activists passed by.

The march ended at Denver’s federal courthouse, where a rally featured the leaders of various struggles to free political prisoners. A moving letter to the mobilization from Leonard Peltier, a Native political prisoner who has been locked up for more than 30 years, was read; and a recorded statement from death-row political prisoner and award-winning journalist Mumia Abu-Jamal was played.

Speakers at the rally included Pam Africa of International Concerned Family and Friends of Mumia Abu-Jamal; Kathleen Cleaver, representing the case of former Panthers known as the San Francisco 8; King Downing, national coordinator of the ACLU’s Campaign against Racial Profiling; Chairman Fred Hampton Jr. of the Prisoners of Conscience Committee; Gloria La Riva of the National Committee to Free the Cuban Five; and more.

Many more activities are planned for the remainder of the week, including direct actions to protect the environment, a march for immigrant rights, performances by Public Enemy and Rage Against the Machine, and forums on a number of other important topics.

The last event on Recreate 68’s list of activities takes place on Aug. 29—when buses will leave from Denver to transport activists to St. Paul, Minn., to protest at the Republican National Convention.
Articles copyright 1995-2008 Workers World. Verbatim copying and distribution of this entire article is permitted in any medium without royalty provided this notice is preserved.

Workers World, 55 W. 17 St., NY, NY 10011
Page printed from:

Senator Barack Obama's Acceptance Speech in Denver; 84,000 Attend Rally

Full text: Obama speech

Below is full text of Barack Obama's historic nomination speech to the Democratic National Convention as it was prepared for delivery.

To Chairman Dean and my great friend Dick Durbin, and to all my fellow citizens of this great nation, With profound gratitude and great humility, I accept your nomination for the presidency of the United States.

Let me express my thanks to the historic slate of candidates who accompanied me on this journey, and especially the one who traveled the farthest a champion for working Americans and an inspiration to my daughters and to yours - Hillary Rodham Clinton.

To President Clinton, who last night made the case for change as only he can make it, to Ted Kennedy, who embodies the spirit of service, and to the next Vice President of the United States, Joe Biden, I thank you.

I am grateful to finish this journey with one of the finest statesmen of our time, a man at ease with everyone from world leaders to the conductors on the Amtrak train he still takes home every night.

To the love of my life, our next First Lady, Michelle Obama, and to Sasha and Malia I love you so much, and I'm so proud of all of you.

Four years ago, I stood before you and told you my story of the brief union between a young man from Kenya and a young woman from Kansas who weren't well-off or well-known, but shared a belief that in America, their son could achieve whatever he put his mind to.

It is that promise that has always set this country apart that through hard work and sacrifice, each of us can pursue our individual dreams but still come together as one American family, to ensure that the next generation can pursue their dreams as well.

That's why I stand here tonight.

Because for two hundred and thirty two years, at each moment when that promise was in jeopardy, ordinary men and women students and soldiers, farmers and teachers, nurses and janitors - found the courage to keep it alive.

We meet at one of those defining moments a moment when our nation is at war, our economy is in turmoil, and the American promise has been threatened once more.

Tonight, more Americans are out of work and more are working harder for less.

More of you have lost your homes and even more are watching your home values plummet.

More of you have cars you can't afford to drive, credit card bills you can't afford to pay, and tuition that's beyond your reach.

These challenges are not all of government's making.

But the failure to respond is a direct result of a broken politics in Washington and the failed policies of George W. Bush.

America, we are better than these last eight years. We are a better country than this.

This country is more decent than one where a woman in Ohio, on the brink of retirement, finds herself one illness away from disaster after a lifetime of hard work.

This country is more generous than one where a man in Indiana has to pack up the equipment he's worked on for 20 years and watch it shipped off to China, and then chokes up as he explains how he felt like a failure when he went home to tell his family the news.

We are more compassionate than a government that lets veterans sleep on our streets and families slide into poverty, that sits on its hands while a major American city drowns before our eyes.

Tonight, I say to the American people, to Democrats and Republicans and Independents across this great land, enough!

This moment, this election is our chance to keep, in the 21st century, the American promise alive.

Because next week, in Minnesota, the same party that brought you two terms of George Bush and Dick Cheney will ask this country for a third.

And we are here because we love this country too much to let the next four years look like the last eight.

On November 4th, we must stand up and say: "Eight is enough."

Now let there be no doubt. The Republican nominee, John McCain, has worn the uniform of our country with bravery and distinction, and for that we owe him our gratitude and respect.

And next week, well also hear about those occasions when hes broken with his party as evidence that he can deliver the change that we need.

But the record's clear: John McCain has voted with George Bush 90 per cent of the time.

Senator McCain likes to talk about judgement, but really, what does it say about your judgement when you think George Bush has been right more than 90 per cent of the time?

I don't know about you, but I'm not ready to take a 10 per cent chance on change.

The truth is, on issue after issue that would make a difference in your lives on health care and education and the economy Senator McCain has been anything but independent.

He said that our economy has made great progress under this president. He said that the fundamentals of the economy are strong.

And when one of his chief advisors the man who wrote his economic plan was talking about the anxiety Americans are feeling, he said that we were just suffering from a mental recession, and that wev'e become, and I quote, a nation of whiners.

A nation of whiners?

Tell that to the proud auto workers at a Michigan plant who, after they found out it was closing, kept showing up every day and working as hard as ever, because they knew there were people who counted on the brakes that they made.

Tell that to the military families who shoulder their burdens silently as they watch their loved ones leave for their third or fourth or fifth tour of duty.

These are not whiners. They work hard and give back and keep going without complaint. These are the Americans that I know.

Now, I don't believe that Senator McCain doesnt care what's going on in the lives of Americans.

I just think he doesn't know.

Why else would he define middle-class as someone making under five million dollars a year?

How else could he propose hundreds of billions in tax breaks for big corporations and oil companies but not one penny of tax relief to more than 100 million Americans?

How else could he offer a health care plan that would actually tax people's benefits, or an education plan that would do nothing to help families pay for college, or a plan that would privatise Social Security and gamble your retirement?

It's not because John McCain doesn't care. It's because John McCain doesn't get it.

For over two decades, he's subscribed to that old, discredited Republican philosophy, give more and more to those with the most and hope that prosperity trickles down to everyone else.

In Washington, they call this the Ownership Society, but what it really means is you're on your own.

Out of work? Tough luck.

No health care? The market will fix it.

Born into poverty? Pull yourself up by your own bootstraps even if you dont have boots.

You're on your own.

Well it's time for them to own their failure. It's time for us to change America.

You see, we Democrats have a very different measure of what constitutes progress in this country.

We measure progress by how many people can find a job that pays the mortgage, whether you can put a little extra money away at the end of each month so you can someday watch your child receive her college diploma.

We measure progress in the 23 million new jobs that were created when Bill Clinton was president when the average American family saw its income go up $7,500 instead of down $2,000 like it has under George Bush.

We measure the strength of our economy not by the number of billionaires we have or the profits of the Fortune 500, but by whether someone with a good idea can take a risk and start a new business, or whether the waitress who lives on tips can take a day off to look after a sick kid without losing her job, an economy that honours the dignity of work.

The fundamentals we use to measure economic strength are whether we are living up to that fundamental promise that has made this country great a promise that is the only reason I am standing here tonight.

Because in the faces of those young veterans who come back from Iraq and Afghanistan, I see my grandfather, who signed up after Pearl Harbor, marched in Patton's Army, and was rewarded by a grateful nation with the chance to go to college on the GI Bill.

In the face of that young student who sleeps just three hours before working the night shift, I think about my mom, who raised my sister and me on her own while she worked and earned her degree, who once turned to food stamps but was still able to send us to the best schools in the country with the help of student loans and scholarships.

When I listen to another worker tell me that his factory has shut down, I remember all those men and women on the South Side of Chicago who I stood by and fought for two decades ago after the local steel plant closed.

And when I hear a woman talk about the difficulties of starting her own business, I think about my grandmother, who worked her way up from the secretarial pool to middle-management, despite years of being passed over for promotions because she was a woman.

She's the one who taught me about hard work. She's the one who put off buying a new car or a new dress for herself so that I could have a better life.

She poured everything she had into me. And although she can no longer travel, I know that she's watching tonight, and that tonight is her night as well.

I don't know what kind of lives John McCain thinks that celebrities lead, but this has been mine.

These are my heroes.

Theirs are the stories that shaped me. And it is on their behalf that I intend to win this election and keep our promise alive as president of the United States.

What is that promise?

It's a promise that says each of us has the freedom to make of our own lives what we will, but that we also have the obligation to treat each other with dignity and respect.

It's a promise that says the market should reward drive and innovation and generate growth, but that businesses should live up to their responsibilities to create American jobs, look out for American workers, and play by the rules of the road.

Ours is a promise that says government cannot solve all our problems, but what it should do is that which we cannot do for ourselves, protect us from harm and provide every child a decent education, keep our water clean and our toys safe, invest in new schools and new roads and new science and technology.

Our government should work for us, not against us. It should help us, not hurt us.

It should ensure opportunity not just for those with the most money and influence, but for every American who's willing to work.

That's the promise of America, the idea that we are responsible for ourselves, but that we also rise or fall as one nation, the fundamental belief that I am my brother's keeper, I am my sisters keeper.

That's the promise we need to keep. That's the change we need right now. So let me spell out exactly what that change would mean if I am president.

Change means a tax code that doesn't reward the lobbyists who wrote it, but the American workers and small businesses who deserve it.

Unlike John McCain, I will stop giving tax breaks to corporations that ship jobs overseas, and I will start giving them to companies that create good jobs right here in America.

I will eliminate capital gains taxes for the small businesses and the start-ups that will create the high-wage, high-tech jobs of tomorrow.

I will cut taxes cut taxes for 95% of all working families. Because in an economy like this, the last thing we should do is raise taxes on the middle-class.

And for the sake of our economy, our security, and the future of our planet, I will set a clear goal as president: in 10 years, we will finally end our dependence on oil from the Middle East.

Washington's been talking about our oil addiction for the last thirty years, and John McCain has been there for twenty-six of them.

In that time, he's said no to higher fuel-efficiency standards for cars, no to investments in renewable energy, no to renewable fuels.

And today, we import triple the amount of oil as the day that Senator McCain took office.

Now is the time to end this addiction, and to understand that drilling is a stop-gap measure, not a long-term solution. Not even close.

As president, I will tap our natural gas reserves, invest in clean coal technology, and find ways to safely harness nuclear power.

I'll help our auto companies re-tool, so that the fuel-efficient cars of the future are built right here in America.

I'll make it easier for the American people to afford these new cars.

And I'll invest 150 billion dollars over the next decade in affordable, renewable sources of energy wind power and solar power and the next generation of biofuels, an investment that will lead to new industries and five million new jobs that pay well and can't ever be outsourced.

America, now is not the time for small plans.

Now is the time to finally meet our moral obligation to provide every child a world-class education, because it will take nothing less to compete in the global economy.

Michelle and I are only here tonight because we were given a chance at an education. And I will not settle for an America where some kids don't have that chance.

I'll invest in early childhood education. I'll recruit an army of new teachers, and pay them higher salaries and give them more support. And in exchange, I'll ask for higher standards and more accountability.

And we will keep our promise to every young American if you commit to serving your community or your country, we will make sure you can afford a college education.

Now is the time to finally keep the promise of affordable, accessible health care for every single American.

If you have health care, my plan will lower your premiums.

If you dont, you'll be able to get the same kind of coverage that members of Congress give themselves.

And as someone who watched my mother argue with insurance companies while she lay in bed dying of cancer, I will make certain those companies stop discriminating against those who are sick and need care the most.

Now is the time to help families with paid sick days and better family leave, because nobody in America should have to choose between keeping their jobs and caring for a sick child or ailing parent.

Now is the time to change our bankruptcy laws, so that your pensions are protected ahead of CEO bonuses, and the time to protect Social Security for future generations.

And now is the time to keep the promise of equal pay for an equal days work, because I want my daughters to have exactly the same opportunities as your sons.

Now, many of these plans will cost money, which is why I've laid out how I'll pay for every dime by closing corporate loopholes and tax havens that don't help America grow.

But I will also go through the federal budget, line by line, eliminating programs that no longer work and making the ones we do need work better and cost less because we cannot meet twenty-first century challenges with a twentieth century bureaucracy.

And Democrats, we must also admit that fulfilling America's promise will require more than just money.

It will require a renewed sense of responsibility from each of us to recover what John F. Kennedy called our intellectual and moral strength.

Yes, government must lead on energy independence, but each of us must do our part to make our homes and businesses more efficient.

Yes, we must provide more ladders to success for young men who fall into lives of crime and despair.

But we must also admit that programs alone can't replace parents, that government can't turn off the television and make a child do her homework, that fathers must take more responsibility for providing the love and guidance their children need.

Individual responsibility and mutual responsibility, that's the essence of America's promise.

And just as we keep our keep our promise to the next generation here at home, so must we keep America's promise abroad.

If John McCain wants to have a debate about who has the temperament, and judgement, to serve as the next Commander-in-Chief, that's a debate I'm ready to have.

For while Senator McCain was turning his sights to Iraq just days after 9/11, I stood up and opposed this war, knowing that it would distract us from the real threats we face.

When John McCain said we could just muddle through in Afghanistan, I argued for more resources and more troops to finish the fight against the terrorists who actually attacked us on 9/11, and made clear that we must take out Osama bin Laden and his lieutenants if we have them in our sights.

John McCain likes to say that he'll follow bin Laden to the Gates of Hell but he won't even go to the cave where he lives.

And today, as my call for a time frame to remove our troops from Iraq has been echoed by the Iraqi government and even the Bush Administration, even after we learned that Iraq has a $79 billion surplus while we're wallowing in deficits, John McCain stands alone in his stubborn refusal to end a misguided war.

That's not the judgement we need. That wont keep America safe. We need a president who can face the threats of the future, not keep grasping at the ideas of the past.

You don't defeat a terrorist network that operates in eighty countries by occupying Iraq.

You don't protect Israel and deter Iran just by talking tough in Washington.

You can't truly stand up for Georgia when you've strained our oldest alliances.

If John McCain wants to follow George Bush with more tough talk and bad strategy, that is his choice but it is not the change we need.

We are the party of Roosevelt. We are the party of Kennedy. So don't tell me that Democrats won't defend this country. Don't tell me that Democrats won't keep us safe.

The Bush-McCain foreign policy has squandered the legacy that generations of Americans - Democrats and Republicans have built, and we are here to restore that legacy.

As Commander-in-Chief, I will never hesitate to defend this nation, but I will only send our troops into harms way with a clear mission and a sacred commitment to give them the equipment they need in battle and the care and benefits they deserve when they come home.

I will end this war in Iraq responsibly, and finish the fight against al-Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan.

I will rebuild our military to meet future conflicts.

But I will also renew the tough, direct diplomacy that can prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons and curb Russian aggression.

I will build new partnerships to defeat the threats of the 21st century: terrorism and nuclear proliferation, poverty and genocide, climate change and disease.

And I will restore our moral standing, so that America is once again that last, best hope for all who are called to the cause of freedom, who long for lives of peace, and who yearn for a better future.

These are the policies I will pursue. And in the weeks ahead, I look forward to debating them with John McCain.

But what I will not do is suggest that the Senator takes his positions for political purposes.

Because one of the things that we have to change in our politics is the idea that people cannot disagree without

challenging each other's character and patriotism.

The times are too serious, the stakes are too high for this same partisan playbook.

So let us agree that patriotism has no party.

I love this country, and so do you, and so does John McCain.

The men and women who serve in our battlefields may be Democrats and Republicans and Independents, but they have fought together and bled together and some died together under the same proud flag.

They have not served a Red America or a Blue America they have served the United States of America.

So I've got news for you, John McCain. We all put our country first.

America, our work will not be easy.

The challenges we face require tough choices, and Democrats as well as Republicans will need to cast off the worn-out ideas and politics of the past.

For part of what has been lost these past eight years can't just be measured by lost wages or bigger trade deficits.

What has also been lost is our sense of common purpose our sense of higher purpose.

And that's what we have to restore.

We may not agree on abortion, but surely we can agree on reducing the number of unwanted pregnancies in this country.

The reality of gun ownership may be different for hunters in rural Ohio than for those plagued by gang-violence in Cleveland, but don't tell me we can't uphold the Second Amendment while keeping AK-47's out of the hands of criminals.

I know there are differences on same-sex marriage, but surely we can agree that our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters deserve to visit the person they love in the hospital and to live lives free of discrimination.

Passions fly on immigration, but I don't know anyone who benefits when a mother is separated from her infant child or an employer undercuts American wages by hiring illegal workers.

This too is part of America's promise, the promise of a democracy where we can find the strength and grace to bridge divides and unite in common effort.

I know there are those who dismiss such beliefs as happy talk.

They claim that our insistence on something larger, something firmer and more honest in our public life, is just a Trojan Horse for higher taxes and the abandonment of traditional values.

And that's to be expected.

Because if you don't have any fresh ideas, then you use stale tactics to scare the voters.

If you dont have a record to run on, then you paint your opponent as someone people should run from.

You make a big election about small things.

And you know what, it's worked before.

Because it feeds into the cynicism we all have about government.

When Washington doesn't work, all its promises seem empty.

If your hopes have been dashed again and again, then it's best to stop hoping, and settle for what you already know.

I get it. I realize that I am not the likeliest candidate for this office.

I don't fit the typical pedigree, and I haven't spent my career in the halls of Washington.

But I stand before you tonight because all across America something is stirring.

What the nay-sayers don't understand is that this election has never been about me.

It's been about you.

For eighteen long months, you have stood up, one by one, and said enough to the politics of the past.

You understand that in this election, the greatest risk we can take is to try the same old politics with the same old players and expect a different result.

You have shown what history teaches us that at defining moments like this one, the change we need doesn't come from Washington.

Change comes to Washington.

Change happens because the American people demand it because they rise up and insist on new ideas and new leadership, a new politics for a new time.

America, this is one of those moments.

I believe that as hard as it will be, the change we need is coming.

Because I've seen it. Because I've lived it.

I've seen it in Illinois, when we provided health care to more children and moved more families from welfare to work.

I've seen it in Washington, when we worked across party lines to open up government and hold lobbyists more accountable, to give better care for our veterans and keep nuclear weapons out of terrorist hands.

And I've seen it in this campaign.

In the young people who voted for the first time, and in those who got involved again after a very long time.

In the Republicans who never thought they'd pick up a Democratic ballot, but did.

I've seen it in the workers who would rather cut their hours back a day than see their friends lose their jobs, in the soldiers who re-enlist after losing a limb, in the good neighbors who take a stranger in when a hurricane strikes and the floodwaters rise.

This country of ours has more wealth than any nation, but that's not what makes us rich.

We have the most powerful military on Earth, but that's not what makes us strong. Our universities and our culture are the envy of the world, but thats not what keeps the world coming to our shores.

Instead, it is that American spirit that American promise that pushes us forward even when the path is uncertain, that binds us together in spite of our differences, that makes us fix our eye not on what is seen, but what is unseen, that better place around the bend.

That promise is our greatest inheritance.

It's a promise I make to my daughters when I tuck them in at night, and a promise that you make to yours, a promise that has led immigrants to cross oceans and pioneers to travel west, a promise that led workers to picket lines, and women to reach for the ballot.

And it is that promise that 45 years ago today, brought Americans from every corner of this land to stand together on a Mall in Washington, before Lincoln's Memorial, and hear a young preacher from Georgia speak of his dream.

The men and women who gathered there could've heard many things.

They could've heard words of anger and discord. They could've been told to succumb to the fear and frustration of so many dreams deferred.

But what the people heard instead, people of every creed and colour, from every walk of life is that in America, our destiny is inextricably linked.

That together, our dreams can be one.

We cannot walk alone, the preacher cried. And as we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead.

We cannot turn back.

America, we cannot turn back. Not with so much work to be done.

Not with so many children to educate, and so many veterans to care for. Not with an economy to fix and cities to rebuild and farms to save.

Not with so many families to protect and so many lives to mend.

America, we cannot turn back. We cannot walk alone.

At this moment, in this election, we must pledge once more to march into the future.

Let us keep that promise, that American promise and in the words of Scripture hold firmly, without wavering, to the hope that we confess.

Thank you, God Bless you, and God Bless the United States of America.

Source: Al Jazeera

Bolivia Is an Uneasy Ally as US Presses Drug War

August 29, 2008

Bolivian Is an Uneasy Ally as U.S. Presses Drug War

New York Times

CHIMORÉ, Bolivia — The refrain here in the Chapare jungle about Americans is short but powerful: “Long Live Coca, Death to the Yanquis!”

So when President Evo Morales recently came to the area, raising his fist and shouting those words before his supporters, the irony was not lost on an elite wing of the Bolivian military that survives on American support.

“We depend on the Americans for everything: our bonuses, our training, our vehicles, even our boots,” Lt. Col. José Germán Cuevas, the commander of a Bolivian special forces unit that hunts down cocaine traffickers, said at a military base here in central Bolivia.

With Vietnam-era Huey helicopters donated by the United States swirling above the base and dozens of Bolivian officers who have been trained alongside the Green Berets at the School of the Americas in Fort Benning, Ga., Bolivia ranks among the most muddled fronts of the Andean drug war.

Mr. Morales, a former grower of coca, the raw ingredient of cocaine, is both an antagonist and an active partner in American antidrug policy for the region. He often describes the United States as his leading adversary and has made the right to grow the coca leaf a top symbol of sovereignty and anti-imperialism.

Yet he has also gone to unexpected lengths to restrain coca cultivation, and he accepts about $30 million a year from the United States — almost his entire antinarcotics budget — to fight cocaine.

For now, Mr. Morales and the United States remain uneasy bedfellows. Mr. Morales has been hesitant to sever ties with the United States, especially since it provides Bolivia with about $100 million in development aid each year. It also grants duty-free access for Bolivian textiles, an economic lifeline for his country.

On the American side, officials argue that a sharp increase in coca cultivation could drive more cocaine to the United States, even though it is currently a negligible market for Bolivian cocaine. A deeper reason may be that the antidrug money gives them a rare window into Mr. Morales’s government.

But this cooperation is coming under increasing strain. Radical parts of Mr. Morales’s political base, instrumental in bringing him to power, are chafing at American anti-coca policies, especially here in the Chapare, where coca growers expelled American aid workers last month amid claims that they were conspiring to topple Mr. Morales’s government.

Tensions are raw in the capital, La Paz, as well. Two months ago a mob of 20,000 protesters marched to the gates of the American Embassy, clashing with the police and threatening to burn the building down, prompting the State Department to temporarily recall Ambassador Philip S. Goldberg in protest. After the episode, Mr. Morales praised the demonstrators.

“Evo Morales simply cannot accede to U.S. demands after being democratically elected by a large mass of angry and hungry Indian peasants who see no real alternatives for themselves and their children,” said Bruce Bagley, an expert on Andean drug policies at the University of Miami.

But in a drug war in which contradictions abound, Mr. Morales is doing better than antinarcotics experts feared when he rose to power.

At the time, some warned that his presidency would usher in a return to the early 1980s, when military rulers allowed coca output to surge in the Chapare, destabilizing the country. But Mr. Morales has been eager to show that he does not run a narco-state, and working with the Americans helps bolster his international legitimacy.

Cultivating Coca

Coca cultivation has increased during his two years in office, but instead of booming, it has simply climbed, up 8 percent in 2006 and 5 percent in 2007, according to the United Nations.

That still places Bolivia far behind the world’s largest coca producer, Colombia. Despite being the Bush administration’s most ardent ally in the region, Colombia had a 27 percent increase in coca cultivation last year, and remains the top source of cocaine smuggled to the United States.

While American officials publicly congratulate Mr. Morales for keeping cultivation from exploding, they are privately pointed in their criticism. “Let’s put it this way: It’s going in the wrong direction,” said an American official at the United States Embassy in La Paz about Mr. Morales’s drug policies, speaking anonymously because of tense relations with Bolivia.

Still, it is a wonder that Bolivia and the United States remain antinarcotics allies at all, with Mr. Morales chipping away at American influence in Bolivia.

Indeed, Mr. Morales has said that the decades of American aid to Bolivia had as much to do with asserting control over puppet governments as with fighting drugs or helping people. Earlier this year, he dissolved an intelligence unit that received American money, and he announced that Bolivia would stop sending officers to receive combat training in the United States.

Meanwhile, here in the Chapare, the American-backed Anti-Narcotics Special Forces, known as the Leopards, go about their job. Each day at dawn, eight-man teams in camouflage snake out of a military base here in new Nissan Patrol sport utility vehicles, driving down dirt roads into the jungle. Then they get out and walk, chopping through brush with machetes, grasping M-16 rifles, in search of small mobile coca-mashing factories that have pushed Bolivian cocaine production to a 10-year high. When they find one, they set it ablaze.

After finding a lab in a clearing in the thick jungle, Lt. Freddy Saenz, 27, said he tried not to think about the pro-coca ideology that had become a defining element of Mr. Morales’s presidency. “We just do our job, trying to destroy the labs,” said Lieutenant Saenz, sweat falling from his brow. “Coca will always be a part of life in Bolivia.”

Archaeologists say coca has been grown in the Andes since before Jesus was born. While much of the West associates coca with cocaine, many Bolivians chew it to alleviate altitude sickness, combat hunger pangs or stay alert, a daily ritual much like drinking a latte in rich countries. In some of the fashionable cafes of La Paz, it is not uncommon to be served a plate of coca leaves upon sitting down.

‘Caldron of Violence’

Mr. Morales, 48, spent his teenage years in the coca fields of the Chapare after his impoverished family migrated here from the high plains. He then rose through the ranks of the region’s coca growers unions in the 1980s and 1990s, a time when American-backed troops were aggressively trying to eradicate every illegal coca plant in Bolivia.

In defiance, coca growers, or cocaleros, blockaded crucial roads and clashed with security forces. In a new biography of the president, the Argentine writer Martín Sivak describes one episode in which a group of Leopards beat Mr. Morales after he spoke at a rally, leaving him for dead. A photograph in the book shows the president as a wisp of a young man, lying beaten on a stretcher.

“The Chapare was the caldron of violence out of which Evo was born,” said Jim Shultz, a political analyst in Cochabamba. “If there had not been a U.S. war on drugs, there would not have been a President Evo.”

Now Mr. Morales governs from the presidential palace, where the walls are graced with portraits of him and Che Guevara by Gastón Ugalde, the enfant terrible of Bolivia’s art scene who makes collage paintings from coca leaves. But in a twist to his pro-coca thinking, Mr. Morales has also sought to clamp down on cocaine.

First, in a nod to coca farmers, he nearly doubled the amount of land that growers can legally devote to growing coca, to about 49,400 acres. But then he tried to make them stick to another rule that prevents them from devoting more than a cato, or less than half an acre, to growing coca.

Taking a page from cartels like OPEC, organizers in the Chapare coca growers unions, where doctrinaire support of the president is prized, fanned out to convince growers that the limit would dampen supply and keep coca prices stable.

The pressure worked on the growers, who were faced with stiff penalties for disobeying. It also helped create rare social peace in the Chapare. Growers earn about $100 a month from coca — a tidy sum in a country where the minimum wage is about $70 a month — while complementing that income with crops like rice, bananas and manioc.

Signs of relative prosperity have even emerged. A government-financed university to train schoolteachers is set to open soon, with a curriculum in both Quechua, an indigenous language, and Spanish. On weekends, traffic slows to a crawl in towns like Chimoré as farmers take their newly acquired used minivans, known here as Surubís, out for a spin.

And while Venezuelan-financed projects to turn coca into products like shampoo and toothpaste have yet to materialize, coca farmers do not seem bothered that a large part of their crop becomes cocaine smuggled to Brazil and Argentina, its main markets.

“Now that we have a little money, we are treated like human beings,” said María Eugenia Ledezma, 30, an official with the main coca growers union in the Chapare. “We’ll die fighting before becoming slaves to the Americans or their lackeys in Bolivia.”

Tenuous Cooperation

While Mr. Morales has directly challenged the United States, among other things requiring visas for American visitors, American officials have generally refrained from sparring publicly with Mr. Morales over coca policies, in part because the cooperation between them is so tenuous.antidrug

“Paradoxically, the United States has been far more tolerant of this regime than with governments in the past that were its friends,” said Roberto Laserna, a political scientist in Cochabamba who studies the cocaine trade.

This uneasy status quo may be set to change. The Bolivian government was emboldened by a referendum this month, in which Mr. Morales’s presidency was ratified by more than 67 percent of voters. Now the government plans to take over antinarcotics projects financed by the United States, according to Felipe Cáceres, a coca grower who is Mr. Morales’s drug czar, suggesting that Bolivia could become an even more assertive partner.

The tug of war leaves Colonel Cuevas, the commander of the Leopards’ base, in an awkward position, thanking the United States for his livelihood while lauding Mr. Morales’s defense of the coca leaf. He smiled, and with a soldier’s reserve, pointed to an inscription on one of the walls at the base, “Atipasunchaj,” which idealistically proclaims in Quechua, “We will prevail.”

Africa Wants Racism, Xenophobia Criminalised

Africa wants racism, xenophobia criminalised


ABUJA--African nations decided on Tuesday to push for laws that prohibit racism and xenophobia next year at an international conference to discuss the practices.

Africa will specifically want the Geneva conference to provide for sanctions "for those who violate the law" according to the action plan by African governments and civil society organisations at the end of a meeting in the Nigerian administrative capital on Tuesday.

"Prohibiting by law and adopting necessary policy measures to combat the dissemination of all ideas based upon racial superiority or hatred and incitement to hatred," will be part of Africa’s goals, read part of the 101 recommendations for the Geneva conference.

The Geneva conference due next April is to carry out a review of the decisions taken at a similar meeting in 2001 in Durban, South Africa.

The three-day Abuja talks also recommended "protecting the human rights of migrants whether regular or irregular" and "countering anti-immigration ideologies advocating the criminalisation of irregular migration."

A Geneva-based human rights group, UN Watch, however, slammed a document adopted by the meeting saying that it threatened to "derail" the UN’s follow up to the Durban conference.

The text according to UN-Watch’s executive director Hillel Neuer, "flouts international human rights principles, and breaches the red lines set by France, Britain, the Netherlands, and other Western states, which they have warned could trigger their boycott of the 2009 meeting in Geneva".

He said the meeting had failed to review African countries’ performance on racism since 2001 conference. The rights watchdog also took at a swipe at the text’s failure to "review the xenophobic attacks that recently broke out in South Africa — the key organiser of the Abuja meeting and the overall Durban process — where foreigners . . . were targeted in May during a wave of anti-immigrant attacks."

At least 62 immigrants were killed and tens of thousands were displaced during the attacks in South Africa. –– AFP.

New Orleans Asks: Will the Rebuilt Levees Hold?

New Orleans asks: Will the rebuilt levees hold?

Associated Press Writer

NEW ORLEANS - Just three years after Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans confronts a new threat from Gustav and a stark question: Will the partially rebuilt levees hold?

Despite $2 billion in improvements, including 220 miles of repaired, raised and replaced floodwalls, 17 new pump stations and more flood-resistant pump stations, nobody can say for sure the city won't be swamped again. And if it is, could it ever recover?

"It's scary, man," said Robert Russell, a 63-year-old plumber whose house in Gentilly Woods is close to floodwalls on the Industrial Canal that are so suspect the Army Corps of Engineers is buffering them with large baskets filled with sand.

"They say it's not up to code," he said. "We'll have to wait and see."

Levee experts and the Army Corps insist New Orleans is safer than before Katrina flooded more than 80 percent of the city on Aug. 29, 2005.

Yet the system still has severe shortcomings: Flood barriers meant only to withstand medium-strength storms, hidden layers of weak soil and navigation channels that inadvertently funnel storm surge into the city, to name a few.

"The positive thing about having any storm hit you, it will reveal any kind of frailty in the system," said J. David Rogers, an engineer at Missouri University of Science and Technology, who's tracked the construction closely. "And we shouldn't be surprised if there is frailty."

Experts estimate the system is only a third of the way to where the corps wants it by 2011 _ strong enough to protect against what scientists call a 100-year-storm. That type of hurricane has a 1 percent chance of occurring each year.

By comparison, the corps says Katrina was a 396-year storm, a rare catastrophic hurricane. The agency has not classified Gustav, which was crossing Jamaica Thursday.

"We're not close to 100-year-level protection yet," said Robert Turner, the regional director of the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority-East. "It's not worth putting your life at risk if you have the means to get out."

Each side of the river still has its own problems.

On the east side, where the French Quarter stands, the most serious concerns lie along a T-shaped shipping corridor where the Industrial Canal meets the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway. The canals have been the cause of repeated flooding over the decades, and floodwalls along it were breached during Katrina, flooding the Lower 9th Ward, Gentilly, St. Bernard Parish and eastern New Orleans.

Corps officials have called it the system's Achilles' heel. To fix the problem, the agency plans to spend at least $695 million to construct a barrier across the shipping channel's mouth. But that work won't be done for at least another three years.

There are other spots to watch, too.

Levees protecting eastern New Orleans and St. Bernard Parish are in many stretches 10 feet lower than what the corps would like them to be, Turner said.

Another concern is a new system of pumps and floodgates on three drainage canals. Floodwalls on two of the canals collapsed during Katrina, causing widespread flooding in central New Orleans.

The corps installed the new system to prevent storm surge from entering the canals, but some of the pumps have been plagued with problems. They were defective when they were installed in 2006 and doubts persist about the corps' overall engineering solution.

The other side of the Mississippi, known as the West Bank, has serious flaws as well.

In the past two years, the corps has been scrambling to finish its work. But levees, floodwalls and floodgates remain in various states of completion.

At the moment, four miles of floodwall are under construction, and corps contractors are working to raise 23 miles of levees, the corps said.

In time, the corps would like to build a massive floodgate to stop storm surge water from entering canals that run through the West Bank.

But for now, those are just ideas.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Michigan Coalition Calls For Moratorium on Foreclosures

For Immediate Release

Press Conference in Monroe, Michigan, Aug. 28, 5:00pm

Event: Media Briefing in Monroe, Michigan
Activists Demand Senate Hearing on Foreclosures
1st District Court, 106 E. 1st Street, Monroe
Thurs., August 28, 2008, 5:00 p.m.
Contact: Moratorium Now Coalition to Stop Foreclosure &
Evictions in Michigan
Phone: 313.319.0870

Statewide Coalition Demands a Public Hearing on Senate Bill 1306 to Impose a Moratorium on Home Foreclosures

A broad-based coalition of urban, suburban and rural citizens of the state of Michigan are demanding a State Senate Hearing on a bill introduced earlier this year that would enact a two-year moratorium on all foreclosures. The bill, SB 1306, was drafted by Senator Hansen Clarke, a member of the Banking and Finance Committee in Lansing.

The bill is being held up because of the refusal of the Banking and Finance Chair, Randy Richardville, to hold a hearing so that people throughout the state of Michigan can give voice to the widespread foreclosure epidemic effecting hundreds of thousands of people.

On Thursday, Aug. 28, at 5:00 p.m., members of the Moratorium Now Coalition to Stop Foreclosures and Evictions will hold a press conference at the Courthouse in the district that Senator Richardville represents. After the press conference, members of the Coalition will deliver a letter to the home of Senator Richardville demanding a public hearing on September 17 on the passage of SB 1306.

Members of the Moratorium Now Coalition are mobilizing hundreds of residents from throughout the state to come to Lansing on September 17 to demonstrate the urgency of the housing foreclosure crisis in Michigan. On that day, members of the Coalition will seek to convey to State Legislators that the current situation in Michigan warrents the declaration of a state of emergency requiring immediate action and the passage of SB 1306.

Members of the Moratorium Now Coalition to Stop Foreclosures and Evictions are available for comment to the media. Journalists and media representatives are asked to contact the Coalition at the contact numbers listed above.


Foreclosure front

By Curt Guyette
Metro Times

Rubie Curl-Pinkins sat smiling on the front porch of her Detroit home because ... well, because she could sit on the front porch of her home. As the activists who helped her stave off eviction from the Holden Street property she's called home for 45 years held a small rally Friday, Curl-Pinkins needed only three words to sum up her feelings about the turn of events.

"It's a blessing," said Curl-Pinkins, who gets around with the aid of a walker.

The point of the rally wasn't just to celebrate the victory. Members of the group Moratorium Now! wanted to drive home the point that it was public pressure that helped Curl-Pinkins keep her home, and that even more public pressure will be needed if tens of thousands of other Michigan residents in the same sinking boat are also going to be able to win reprieves from the foreclosures facing them.

What activists such as attorney Jerry Goldberg and others want is for the public to get behind state Senate Bill 1306. Introduced by Sen. Hansen Clarke (D-Detroit), the legislation is seeking to provide a two-year moratorium on home foreclosures. Modeled on laws passed during the Great Depression, it is currently gathering dust as it sits waiting for a hearing before the Senate's Banking and Financial Institutions Committee.

Strong public pressure will be needed to counteract the lobbying of special interests — namely banks and mortgage companies — opposed to the measure, said Goldberg. There's no shortage of people who'd benefit from the bill, and those ranks are growing larger every week.

As of July, Michigan had the seventh-highest foreclosure rate in the country with one filing for every 137 households, according to data compiled by RealtyTrac, a company that tracks foreclosures. During the second quarter of this year, 32,868 Michigan properties were in foreclosure, according to published reports.

If signed into law, Clarke's bill would allow homeowners faced with foreclosure to obtain a court-mandated stay letting them remain in their homes for up to two years, giving them time to arrange new financing. The law is not intended to let homeowners skate by without paying anything to mortgage holders. A judge would determine what Clarke describes as a "reasonable" payment structure.

"People will still have to make payments," Clarke told Metro Times as he stood outside Curl-Pinkins' home on the city's near west side. "It would be up to a judge to set an interim mortgage rate. This bill wouldn't help people with no income and no prospect of an income."

Passage of the bill will do more than just help individual homeowners avoid eviction, said Clarke. The overall effect, he contended, will be to protect property values in communities large and small.

The math is straightforward: Because foreclosed properties usually sell for a fraction of their assessed value, the value of neighboring properties takes a big hit when foreclosed properties go on the market. Value declines even further when scrappers hit foreclosed properties, stealing copper plumbing, wiring, aluminum siding, furnaces and more.

"What you get from foreclosures is blight and devastated communities," Clarke said.

Detroit made national news earlier this month when a house that sold for $65,000 in November 2006 was listed for just $1 after the property went into foreclosure, the owners were evicted and scrappers stripped the place bare.

"What we're trying to do with this legislation is keep homes occupied, because once these homes go vacant, everyone loses," Clarke said.

Clarke blamed Senate Banking and Financial Institutions Committee Chair Randy Richardville (R-Monroe) for failing to hold a hearing on the bill, which was introduced in May.

A staffer in Richardville's office said no hearing has been held because of the Legislature's summer break. Activists at Friday's rally promised to turn up the heat on Richardville if immediate action isn't taken, saying that they are prepared to stage demonstrations in front of the senator's home.

It was that kind of public pressure that won the day for Curl-Pinkins, her supporters said. After she fell behind on the payments of a subprime mortgage provided by the lender Countrywide — now owned by Bank of America — eviction efforts stalled after protesters took to the streets in order to draw attention to her plight.

Even though the retired health care worker was able to obtain a reverse mortgage allowing her to meet her original mortgage obligations, the lender was moving ahead with eviction because the redemption period had passed.

"When the bank said no, we got them to say yes," daughter Nikki Curl told supporters Friday. "When people unite together, you can make a difference. I've seen 100 people with picket signs beat the biggest bank in America."

To win passage of Clarke's bill in Lansing, an even more intense outpouring of public support is going to be necessary, Goldberg says.

But it's not just Michigan. Goldberg said he recently returned from California, where momentum is building to institute a similar moratorium there.

"What we're seeing," he said, "is that this small struggle on Holden Street can inspire a national struggle."

The group Moratorium Now! will stage a rally in support of SB 1306 in Lansing at 11 a.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 17. Call 313-319-0970 or go to the Web site for more information.

Curt Guyette is Metro Times news editor. Contact him at 313-202-8004 or