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Subject: 3/31/05 Children 'starving' in new Iraq
Date: 3/31/2005 6:45:11 AM
Children 'starving' in new Iraq
Increasing numbers of children in Iraq do not have enough food to eat and more than a quarter are chronically undernourished, a UN report says.
Malnutrition rates in children under five have almost doubled since the US-led invasion - to nearly 8% by the end of last year, it says.
The report was prepared for the annual meeting of the UN Human Rights Commission in Geneva.
It also expressed concern over North Korea and Sudan's Darfur province.
Jean Ziegler, a UN specialist on hunger who prepared the report, blamed the worsening situation in Iraq on the war led by coalition forces.
The silent daily massacre by hunger is a form of murder - it must be battled and eliminated
He was addressing a meeting of the 53-nation commission, the top UN rights watchdog, which is halfway through its annual six-week session.
When Saddam Hussein was overthrown, about 4% of Iraqi children under five were going hungry; now that figure has almost doubled to 8%, his report says.
Governments must recognise their extra-territorial obligations towards the right to food and should not do anything that might undermine access to it of people living outside their borders, it says.
That point is aimed clearly at the US, but Washington, which has sent a large delegation to the Human Rights Commission, declined to respond to the charges, says the BBC's Imogen Foulkes in Geneva.
Mr Ziegler also said he was very concerned about the lack of food in North Korea, where there are reports that UN food aid is not being distributed fairly.
In Darfur, the continuing conflict has prevented people from planting vital crops, he said.
Overall, Mr Ziegler said he was shocked by the fact that hunger is actually increasing worldwide.
Some 17,000 children die every day from hunger-related diseases, the report claims, calling the situation a scandal in a world that is richer than ever before.
"The silent daily massacre by hunger is a form of murder," Mr Ziegler said. "It must be battled and eliminated."
Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2005/03/30 23:45:59 GMT
© BBC MMV
Subject: 3/31/05 U.N. Study: Earth's Health Deteriorating
Date: 3/31/2005 6:40:47 AM
U.N. Study: Earth's Health Deteriorating
U.N. Study Warns Growing Populations, Economic Activity Have Strained the Earth's Ecosystems
By CATHERINE McALOON
The Associated Press
Mar. 31, 2005 - Growing populations and expanding economic activity have strained the planet's ecosystems over the past half century, a trend that threatens international efforts to combat poverty and disease, a U.N.-sponsored study of the Earth's health warned on Wednesday.
The four-year, $24 million Millennium Ecosystem Assessment found humans have caused heavy damage or depleted portions of the world's farmlands, forests and watercourses.
Unless nations adopt more eco-friendly policies, increased human demands for food, clean water and fuels could speed the disappearance of forests, fish and fresh water reserves and lead to more frequent disease outbreaks over the next 50 years, it warned.
"This report is essentially an audit of nature's economy and the audit shows that we have driven most of the accounts into the red," Jonathan Lash, a member of the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment board, said in London.
The report said degradation of ecosystems was a barrier to achieving development goals adopted at the U.N. Millennium Summit in Johannesburg, South Africa in September 2000: halving the proportion of people without access to clean water and basic sanitation by 2015 and improving the lives of 100 million slum dwellers by 2020.
Walter Reid, director of the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, said over the past 50 years humans had changed ecosystems more rapidly and extensively than any comparable period in human history.
"These changes have resulted in a substantial and largely irreversible loss to the biological diversity of the planet," Reid said.
U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment "tells us how we can change course," and urged nations to consider its recommendations.
The study was compiled by 1,360 scientists from 95 nations who pored over 16,000 satellite photos from the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration, and analyzed statistics and scientific journals.
Their findings highlight the planet's problems at the end of the 20th century, as the human population reached 6 billion.
Conservation groups called on governments, businesses and individuals to heed the study's warnings.
Associated Press Writer Kenji Hall in Tokyo contributed to this report.
On the Net:
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Copyright © 2005 ABC News Internet Ventures
Subject: 3/31/05 Strains on Nature Are Growing, Report Says
Date: 3/31/2005 6:32:47 AM
March 31, 2005
Strains on Nature Are Growing, Report Says
SLO, March 30 - Humans are damaging the planet at a rapid rate and raising risks of abrupt collapses in nature that could spur disease, deforestation or "dead zones" in the seas, an international report said Wednesday.
The study, by 1,360 researchers in 95 nations, the biggest review of the planet's life support systems ever, said that in the last 50 years a rising human population had polluted or overexploited two-thirds of the ecological systems on which life depends, including clean air and fresh water. "At the heart of this assessment is a stark warning," said the 45-member board of the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment. "Human activity is putting such strain on the natural functions of earth that the ability of the planet's ecosystems to sustain future generations can no longer be taken for granted."
The report said future strains on nature could bring sudden outbreaks of disease. Warming of the Great Lakes in Africa from climate change, for instance, could create conditions for a spread of cholera.
The study urged changes in consumption, better education, new technology and higher prices for exploiting ecosystems.
Subject: 3/30/05 Death by Cubicle
Date: 3/30/2005 6:32:52 AM
Working Wounded Blog: Death by Cubicle
Many Businesses Are Structured in Ways That Kill Good Ideas Before They're Fully Realized
By BOB ROSNER
Mar. 29, 2005 - A U.K . study found that 81 percent of people had their best ideas outside of the office (but you'll have to guess what percentage found them in the bathroom!).
Visit any business Web site, read current business magazines or listen to business gurus and you'll no doubt get the impression that it's all about "ideas" these days. In fact, it sometimes feels like "new ideas" are the answer, no matter what the question.
This blog will spend time NOT exploring how to think outside the box. Rather, it will look into how we all got jammed into the box in the first place and why it's bad for our organizations, really bad for us and deadly for new ideas.
OK, let's give you some additional information on that U.K. study about where our best ideas are generated. Sony Ericsson conducted the study and found 81 percent had their best ideas outside of the office. Top places for idea generation? The car, in bed and socializing. At the bottom of the list was in the pub. And finally, as promised above, 6 percent of us have our best ideas in the toilet.
So why do we have to escape our desk to find our best ideas? I came up with three reasons. First is the ubiquitous cubicle, which unfortunately can be the place where great ideas go to die. Sure, a great idea can come to you while sitting in a cube, but is it because of the cube or in spite of the cube? Cubicle companies' literature emphasizes that cubes foster conversation, bring teams closer together and can be darn good-looking. But the reality is that we need less noise and distraction, especially if we are going to wander in that fragile area called idea generation.
Another part of the problem is the tendency of organizations to promote people who have never had an idea on their own into management positions. Sure, it makes sense; people are put into management because they support the status quo. This reminds me of a line I once heard about Al Gore: "Al Gore is an older person's idea of what a younger person should be."
People who don't have ideas have a really weird view of how people with ideas should be treated. Actually, weird isn't the best word to describe it. How about dangerous? Why? Because people who've never had a good idea like to pick at ideas, play devil's advocate and attach timelines and budgets to them much too early. This wet-blanket mentality can snuff out the spark of ideas early in the process.
Instead of giving the idea, and the idea generator, room to maneuver, they often force the baby to survive outside of the nurturing cubicle where it was created much too early (OK, the words "nurturing cubicle" are totally oxymoronic and run counter to what I wrote about cubes above. But since this is called a blog, and I'm speaking in stream of consciousness, a certain amount of inconsistency comes with the turf. Bear with me .).
Finally the biggest idea killer is the "corporate immune" system. This idea was first described by my friend Gifford Pinchot, best-selling author of the book "Intrapreneuring." He talks about all the ways that organizations seek out and destroy anything that runs counter to the status quo. The challenge is that the corporate immune system is relentless in its ability to remove threats and ensure mediocrity.
I'd love to hear your thoughts on how organizations kill ideas. Unfortunately, I don't have the time to tell you where I have my best ideas, because right now, I gotta go.
Quote of the Week:
"When elephants fight, only the grass gets hurt." -- Swahili proverb
Weekly Book Excerpt:
"Roger Dawson's Secrets of Power Negotiating," by Roger Dawson (Career Press, 1995)
"The biggest trap into which neophyte negotiators fall is assuming that price is the dominant issue in a negotiation. Many elements other than price are important to the other person.
You must convince her of the quality of your product or service
He needs to know that you will deliver on time
She wants to know that you will give adequate management supervision to their account
How flexible are you on payment terms?
Does your company have the financial strength to be a partner of theirs?
Do you have the support of a well trained and motivated work force?
These all come into play, along with half-a-dozen other factors. When you have satisfied the other person that you can meet all those requirements, then, and only then, does price become a deciding factor."
The Blog Mailbag:
"My new boss was upset over Styrofoam peanuts covering the ground all around our Dumpster full of cardboard boxes. I watched the man responsible for a multimillion-dollar operation become panicked. So like any good boss, he delegated his manager to get into the Dumpster and break down the boxes. Which I did. While I was doing that, I fell and had to be taken to the hospital, where I was diagnosed with a herniated disk. Six months later, I had to have surgery, and six months later I'm still on workman's comp and my boss is doing my job. The cost of the fine from the peanuts floating -- around $50. Cost of my surgery, time off work, doctors, etc. -- over $250,000. When someone asks how I was injured and I say that I fell in a Dumpster -- priceless."
Blog Ballot Results
Here are the results from a recent Working Wounded Blog/ABCNEWS.com online ballot:
How do you see your CEO?
As a future felon, 12.3 percent
As a great leader, 23 percent
Getting a lot of cash for not much, 64.6 percent
Bob Rosner is a best-selling author, an internationally syndicated columnist, popular speaker and a recent addition to the community of bloggers. He welcomes your comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This work is the opinion of the columnist and in no way reflects the opinion of ABC News.
Copyright © 2005 ABC News Internet Ventures
Subject: March 27, 2005 New Details on F.B.I. Aid for Saudis After 9/11
Date: 3/26/2005 6:41:50 PM
March 27, 2005
New Details on F.B.I. Aid for Saudis After 9/11
By ERIC LICHTBLAU
ASHINGTON, March 26 - The episode has been retold so many times in the last three and a half years that it has become the stuff of political legend: in the frenzied days after Sept. 11, 2001, when some flights were still grounded, dozens of well-connected Saudis, including relatives of Osama bin Laden, managed to leave the United States on specially chartered flights.
Now, newly released government records show previously undisclosed flights from Las Vegas and elsewhere and point to a more active role by the Federal Bureau of Investigation in aiding some of the Saudis in their departure.
The F.B.I. gave personal airport escorts to two prominent Saudi families who fled the United States, and several other Saudis were allowed to leave the country without first being interviewed, the documents show.
The Saudi families, in Los Angeles and Orlando, requested the F.B.I. escorts because they said they were concerned for their safety in the wake of the attacks, and the F.B.I. - which was then beginning the biggest criminal investigation in its history - arranged to have agents escort them to their local airports, the documents show.
But F.B.I. officials reacted angrily, both internally and publicly, to the suggestion that any Saudis had received preferential treatment in leaving the country.
"I say baloney to any inference we red-carpeted any of this entourage," an F.B.I. official said in a 2003 internal note. Another F.B.I. official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said this week regarding the airport escorts that "we'd do that for anybody if they felt they were threatened - we wouldn't characterize that as special treatment."
The documents were obtained through a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit against the Justice Department by Judicial Watch, a conservative legal group, which provided copies to The New York Times.
The material sheds new light on the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks, and it provides details about the F.B.I.'s interaction with at least 160 Saudis who were living in or visiting the United States and were allowed to leave the country. Some of the departing Saudis were related to Osama bin Laden.
The Saudis' chartered flights, arranged in the days after the attacks when many flights in the United States were still grounded, have proved frequent fodder for critics of the Bush administration who accuse it of coddling the Saudis. The debate was heightened by the filmmaker Michael Moore, who scrutinized the issue in "Fahrenheit 9/11," but White House officials have adamantly denied any special treatment for the Saudis, calling such charges irresponsible and politically motivated.
The Sept. 11 commission examined the Saudi flights in its final report last year, and it found that no Saudis had been allowed to leave before national airspace was reopened on Sept. 13, 2001; that there was no evidence of "political intervention" by the White House; and that the F.B.I. had done a "satisfactory screening" of the departing Saudis to ensure they did not have information relevant to the attacks.
The documents obtained by Judicial Watch, with major passages heavily deleted, do not appear to contradict directly any of those central findings, but they raise some new questions about the episode.
The F.B.I. records show, for instance, that prominent Saudi citizens left the United States on several flights that had not been previously disclosed in public accounts, including a chartered flight from Providence, R.I., on Sept. 14, 2001, that included at least one member of the Saudi royal family, and three flights from Las Vegas between Sept. 19 and Sept. 24, also carrying members of the Saudi royal family. The government began reopening airspace on Sept. 13, but many flights remained grounded for days afterward.
The three Las Vegas flights, with a total of more than 100 passengers, ferried members of the Saudi royal family and staff members who had been staying at Caesar's Palace and the Four Seasons hotels. The group had tried unsuccessfully to charter flights back to Saudi Arabia between Sept. 13 and Sept. 17 because they said they feared for their safety as a result of the Sept. 11 attacks, the F.B.I. documents say.
Once the group managed to arrange chartered flights out of the country, an unidentified prince in the Las Vegas group "thanked the F.B.I. for their assistance," according to one internal report. The F.B.I. had interviewed many members of the group and searched their planes before allowing them to leave, but it nonetheless went back to the Las Vegas hotels with subpoenas five days after the initial flight had departed to collect further information on the Saudi royal guests, the documents show.
In several other cases, Saudi travelers were not interviewed before departing the country, and F.B.I. officials sought to determine how what seemed to be lapses had occurred, the documents show.
The F.B.I. documents left open the possibility that some departing Saudis had information relevant to the Sept. 11 investigation.
"Although the F.B.I. took all possible steps to prevent any individuals who were involved in or had knowledge of the 9/11/2001 attacks from leaving the U.S. before they could be interviewed," a 2003 memo said, "it is not possible to state conclusively that no such individuals left the U.S. without F.B.I. knowledge."
The documents also show that F.B.I. officials were clearly riled by public speculation stirred by news media accounts of the Saudi flights. They were particularly bothered by a lengthy article in the October 2003 issue of Vanity Fair, which included charges that the bureau considered unfair and led to an internal F.B.I. investigation that the agency named "Vanitybom." Internal F.B.I. correspondence during the review was addressed to "fellow Vanitybom victims."
Critics said the newly released documents left them with more questions than answers.
"From these documents, these look like they were courtesy chats, without the time that would have been needed for thorough debriefings," said Christopher J. Farrell, who is director of investigations for Judicial Watch and a former counterintelligence interrogator for the Army. "It seems as if the F.B.I. was more interested in achieving diplomatic success than investigative success."
Senator Charles E. Schumer, Democrat of New York, called for further investigation.
"This lends credence to the theory that the administration was not coming fully clean about their involvement with the Saudis," he said, "and we still haven't gotten to the bottom of this whole affair."
Subject: 3/24/05 Bottom Line Usurps Human Life - Politeness Out, Hostility In
Date: 3/24/2005 6:32:47 AM
March 24, 2005
A Takeover Roils Japan: Politeness Out, Hostility In
By TODD ZAUN
OKYO, March 23 - It has happened before in the United States: a fast-growing Internet start-up sets its sights on an old-line media company, and, in the end, gets it. That was the AOL takeover of Time Warner in 2000.
Until now, though, something like that seemed unlikely in Japan, where only a handful of hostile takeovers have been attempted. But a court ruling on Wednesday set the stage for a 32-year-old entrepreneur, Takafumi Horie, and his Internet company, Livedoor, to gain a majority stake in Nippon Broadcasting System Inc., a 50-year-old radio broadcaster.
In addition, Mr. Horie's company, which offers Internet services and operates a Web portal similar to Yahoo, has a chance to gain significant influence over the management of Nippon's larger affiliate, Fuji Television Network, the core company in one of Japan's largest media groups.
Because the contentious battle for control of Nippon, which began last month when Livedoor announced that it had bought a controlling stake in the broadcaster, is a rarity for Japan, the clash is being followed with a media blitz befitting a celebrity murder trial. The spike-haired Mr. Horie, who prefers T-shirts and khakis, is being portrayed as the representative of a young, more Westernized Japan taking on the country's clubby corporate leaders.
"This is a young Japanese who has got a vision, and he's got the guts," said Jesper Koll, chief economist for Merrill Lynch in Tokyo. "The Japanese are no longer afraid to take on their own elite."
The battle also highlights the shift in Japan from what is known as stakeholder capitalism, under which the interests of a company's employees, business partners or managers were often given higher priority than increasing the company's bottom line. Taking its place is an increasingly Western approach in which companies are under pressure to think first about their shareholders.
The ruling on Wednesday by the Tokyo High Court blocked a planned move by Nippon to transfer a majority stake in itself to Fuji TV by issuing share warrants to the television company. Fuji would then have been able to convert the warrants into new shares in Nippon, potentially more than doubling the number of outstanding shares in the radio company. That would have greatly diluted the holdings of Livedoor and other current shareholders.
But the High Court, upholding a lower court, said that the only purpose of the sale was to keep Nippon under the control of its current management and that the sale, therefore, did not have any strategic value.
"It's regrettable, really regrettable," the president of Nippon, Akinobu Kamebuchi, said after the ruling. "We were sure justice would be on our side but that was not accepted. It's really too bad."
He added that Nippon would scrap the warrant sale and was now evaluating what to do next. It could appeal the decision to the Supreme Court.
The ruling clears the way for Livedoor, with a market capitalization of 236 billion yen, or $2.2 billion, to take over management of Nippon, with a market cap of 206 billion yen, or $1.9 billion, later this year. Livedoor had a 49.78 percent stake in Nippon Broadcasting as of last Thursday and was expected to be able accumulate a majority stake in time to elect its own directors to the broadcaster's board at the next shareholder meeting in June.
Livedoor raised the money it needed to buy the Nippon stock with a sale of 80 billion yen (about $750 million) in bonds, arranged by Lehman Brothers. The bonds would then be convertible to Livedoor stock after the purchase.
"We want to work now to raise the value of Nippon Broadcasting and its group companies," Mr. Horie said after learning of the court's decision.
Mr. Horie has said he wants the radio broadcaster so he can advertise on its programs and draw listeners to his Internet sites and services. He also said he believed that traditional media and the Internet would inevitably become more closely integrated and he wanted to be at the forefront of the change in Japan.
"I tried to do business with broadcasters over the last five years but they are too slow to make decisions," Mr. Horie said in a speech this month. "We have to speed up this process. Of course, everyone would prefer a friendly approach but I felt we don't have time for that friendly approach."
Gaining control of Nippon could also give Livedoor a strong say in the boardroom of Fuji TV, Japan's largest private television network, because Nippon is Fuji's largest shareholder, with a 22.5 percent stake.
Media reports have said Mr. Horie has set his sights on increasing his stake in Fuji even further and the network has been beefing up its defenses against a takeover attempt.
This week, Fuji said it was prepared to issue up to 50 billion yen in new shares to fend off an unwanted bidder. The company also announced that it would raise its fiscal year-end dividend to 5,000 yen a share from the previously announced 1,200 yen, giving shareholders a strong incentive to hang on to their stocks.
But a Livedoor executive suggested Wednesday that the company would take a more conciliatory approach toward Fuji TV than it had in its pursuit of Nippon. Livedoor does not intend to raise its stake in Fuji without the approval of that company's management, Livedoor's senior vice president, Fumito Kumagai, said Wednesday, according to a company spokesman, Koichiro Ohta.
Mr. Horie, a college dropout, built Livedoor into one of the country's best-known Internet companies by combining a portal site with online brokerage and banking and a host of other Internet services. The company posted a profit of 3.58 billion yen for the year ended Sept. 30 on sales of 30.87 billion yen. By that measure, the company is still a long way behind its top rival, the Yahoo Japan Corporation, which had sales of 75.78 billion yen in its most recent fiscal year, which ended March 31, 2004.
Aside from shaking up corporate Japan, Mr. Horie's takeover bid also promises to change the landscape for mergers and acquisitions in Japan.
Although Mr. Horie is Japanese, his aggressive tactics and early success have unleashed fears that a horde of foreign companies might try to buy up Japanese firms using his methods as a model. Although analysts say a wave of such acquisitions is unlikely, ruling-party politicians are nonetheless threatening to delay long-anticipated legal changes that would have allowed foreign companies to buy Japanese companies through stock swaps.
On the other hand, many analysts and lawyers say that the attention the battle has generated could lead to a more thorough overhaul of laws governing takeovers that would benefit the industry in the long run.
"This is a very good event to educate Japanese people," said Nobutoshi Yamanouchi, a lawyer in the Tokyo office of the American law firm of Jones Day. "Some people don't like to see Japan transforming into a Western-style society but in my opinion in order to have international or global competitiveness, this step is necessary."
Many ordinary Japanese have also applauded Mr. Horie's effort even if they find his aggressive style somewhat distasteful. Polls show that he has broad support for his takeover attempt among both younger and older Japanese.
"I like what's happening," said Hitashi Suzuki, a 35-year-old employee of a construction company in Tokyo. "It is very modern and suits the time we live in. I wouldn't say I support Mr. Horie personally, but I think it is good that he fights for what he wants."
Subject: 3/3/05 China: U.S. Human Rights Hypocrisy
Date: 3/3/2005 9:02:16 PM
China: U.S. Human Rights Hypocrisy
BEIJING, March 3, 2005
China fired back Thursday at U.S. criticism of its human rights record, issuing a report that denounced the United States for offenses ranging from allowing crime and poverty at home to abuses at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.
The report - issued annually in response to the U.S. State Department's global human rights survey - accused the American military of committing "wanton slaughters," killing thousands of foreign civilians and torturing detainees.
"The atrocity of U.S. troops abusing Iraqi POWs exposed the infringement of human rights of foreign nationals by the United States," said the report released by the press office of China's Cabinet.
The State Department survey released Monday accused China's communist government of persecuting dissidents and religious activists and said prison inmates were tortured and mistreated.
The U.S. report's criticism ranged from China, where a wave of detentions targeted writers and political commentators, to Iran with executions and Burma with a ruling junta not bound by constitutional restrictions.
However, the United States did not monitor itself in the report.
Washington is likely to again seek censure of China next month at the annual meeting of the U.N. Human Rights Commission in Geneva. Such motions to censure in the past have been killed by China's allies on the commission.
The Chinese report accused the United States of hypocrisy in condemning conditions in foreign nations while staying silent on its own.
"In 2004, the atrocity of U.S. troops abusing Iraqi POWs exposed the dark side of human rights performance of the United States. The scandal shocked the humanity and was condemned by the international community," the report said.
"It is quite ironic that on Feb. 28 of this year, the State Department of the United States once again posed as the 'world human rights police,"' it said.
The report cited the case of Zhao Yan, a Chinese woman who was beaten and attacked with pepper spray by a U.S. border guard during a visit to Niagara Falls. The guard has been charged with battering her.
In other criticisms, the report said racism was deeply entrenched in the United States. It said politics were manipulated by the wealthy and dismissed the U.S. electoral system as a "contest of money."
The report cited census bureau figures saying numbers of Americans living in poverty had been rising for three straight years to 35.9 million in 2003.
By Christopher Bodeen
©MMV, The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
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Subject: 1/29/05 NYT C.I.A. Said to Rebuff Congress on Nazi Files
Date: 1/29/2005 9:41:34 PM
January 30, 2005
C.I.A. Said to Rebuff Congress on Nazi Files
By DOUGLAS JEHL
ASHINGTON, Jan. 29 - The Central Intelligence Agency is refusing to provide hundreds of thousands of pages of documents sought by a government working group under a 1998 law that requires full disclosure of classified records related to Nazi war criminals, say Congressional officials from both parties.
Under the law, the C.I.A. has already provided more than 1.2 million pages of documents, the vast majority of them from the archives of its World War II predecessor, the Office of Strategic Services. Many documents have been declassified, and some made public last year showed a closer relationship between the United States government and Nazi war criminals than had previously been understood, including the C.I.A.'s recruitment of war criminal suspects or Nazi collaborators.
For nearly three years, the C.I.A. has interpreted the 1998 law narrowly and rebuffed requests for additional records, say Congressional officials and some members of the working group, who also contend that that stance seems to violate the law.
These officials say the agency has sometimes agreed to provide information about former Nazis, but not about the extent of the agency's dealings with them after World War II. In other cases, it has refused to provide information about individuals and their conduct during the war unless the working group can first provide evidence that they were complicit in war crimes.
The agency's stance poses a sharp test between the C.I.A.'s deep institutional reluctance to make public details about any intelligence operations and the broad mandate set forth in the law to lift the veil about relationships between the United States government and Nazi war criminals.
The dispute has not previously been made public. Critics of the C.I.A.'s stance, including all three private citizens who are members of the working group, said they were disclosing the dispute now in hopes of resolving the impasse by March, when the working group's mandate is to expire.
"I think that the C.I.A. has defied the law, and in so doing has also trivialized the Holocaust, thumbed its nose at the survivors of the Holocaust and also at Americans who gave their lives in the effort to defeat the Nazis in World War II," said Elizabeth Holtzman, a former congresswoman from New York and a member of the group. "We have bent over backward; we have given them every opportunity to comply."
At the request of Senator Mike DeWine, Republican of Ohio, the Senate Judiciary Committee plans to hold a public hearing on the matter early next month, and is planning to call C.I.A. officials and members of the working group as witnesses, Congressional officials said.
A C.I.A. spokesman said the agency had already declassified and released 1.25 million pages of documents under the law, including those related to 775 different name files.
"The C.I.A. has not withheld any material identified in its files related to the commission of war crimes by officials, agents or collaborators of Nazi Germany," he said.
The spokesman acknowledged that the C.I.A. had refused to disclose other material "that does not relate to war crimes per se" and that the agency was working on a report to Congress to justify its actions under exemptions spelled out in the law.
A spokeswoman for the panel, formally known as the Nazi War Crimes and Japanese Imperial Government Records Interagency Working Group, said it would not comment on the dispute. The group is led by a representative of the National Archives, and includes representatives of the C.I.A., the F.B.I., the Defense Department and other government agencies, and has taken no formal stand on the matter, people involved in the issue said.
But in interviews, all three public members of the group, including Ms. Holtzman; Richard Ben-Veniste, a Washington lawyer; and Thomas H. Baer, a former federal prosecutor, made plain their opposition to the C.I.A.'s position. Congressional officials said the three had a sympathetic hearing from Senator DeWine, a sponsor of the 1998 law, known as the Nazi War Crimes Disclosure Act.
The 1998 law that established the working group directed that it "locate, identify, inventory, recommend for declassification and make available to the public at the National Archives and Records Administration, all classified Nazi war criminal records of the United States."
Under the law, the heads of government agencies have the power to exempt from release nine categories of national security information. But to assert such exemptions, agency heads are required to submit a report to Congressional committees, a step the C.I.A. has not yet taken, the Congressional officials said.
"I can only say that the posture the C.I.A. has taken differs from all the other agencies that have been involved, and that's not a position we can accept," Mr. Ben-Veniste said. In a separate interview, Mr. Baer said: "Too much has been secret for too long. The C.I.A. has not complied with the statute."
A book, "U.S. Intelligence and the Nazis," that was released by the working group in May provided a partial picture of those dealings. It has shown that the American government worked closely with Nazi war criminals and collaborators, allowing many of them to live in the United States after World War II.
Historians who have studied the documents made public so far have said that at least five associates of the Nazi leader Adolf Eichmann, the architect of Hitler's campaign to exterminate Jews, had worked for the C.I.A. Eichmann, who was arrested by the Allies in 1945, escaped and fled to Argentina. He was captured by Israeli agents in 1960, tried and hanged. The records also indicate that the C.I.A. tried to recruit two dozen more war criminals or Nazi collaborators.
American officials have defended the recruiting of former Nazis as having been essential to gaining access to intelligence after World War II, particularly about the Soviet Union and its cold war allies. Among former Nazis who were given refuge in the United States was Wernher von Braun, the German scientist who developed the V-2 rocket in World War II for the Nazis and played a major role in the development of the American space program.
After World War II, the Allied powers who occupied Germany defined war crimes broadly, declaring the Nazi SS to be a criminal organization guilty of exterminating and persecuting Jews and killing prisoners of war and slave laborers. They identified as a war criminal anyone who was a principal, accessory to, or consented in the commission of war crimes, or anyone who was a member of an organization or group connected with the commission of such crimes.
Exactly how many pages of documents the C.I.A. is still withholding is not clear, according to people involved in the dispute. But they said that at minimum, they believed it amounted to hundreds of thousands of pages.
A report made public by the working group in 1999 said an initial survey by the C.I.A. estimated that more than two million pages of documents among records in the agency's files for the years 1947 to 1998 included "operational, personality, country, and project files; analytical products, source material, and biographic reports" related to Nazi war criminals. The agency estimated that an additional 2.1 million pages among the files of its predecessor organizations, including the O.S.S., from 1941 to 1947, could be covered by the group's mandate.
The group outlined its objections to the C.I.A.'s position in a letter sent to the agency in February 2004, according to Congressional officials. The group's mandate to examine intelligence documents related to the Nazi war criminals was to expire last year. But Congress agreed to extend it until the end of March 2005, in a step that Congressional officials from both parties said was intended in large part to allow more time to resolve the impasse.
Subject: 1/27/05 Free Trade Leaves World Food in Grip of Global Giants
Date: 1/27/2005 6:45:10 PM
Published on Thursday, January 27, 2005 by the Guardian/UK
Free Trade Leaves World Food in Grip of Global Giants
by John Vidal in Porto Alegre
Global food companies are aggravating poverty in developing countries by dominating markets, buying up seed firms and forcing down prices for staple goods including tea, coffee, milk, bananas and wheat, according to a report (.pdf) to be launched today.
As 50,000 people marched through Porto Alegre, in southern Brazil, to mark the opening of the annual World Social Forum on developing country issues, the report from ActionAid was set to highlight how power in the world food industry has become concentrated in a few hands.
The report will say that 30 companies now account for a third of the world's processed food; five companies control 75% of the international grain trade; and six companies manage 75% of the global pesticide market.
It finds that two companies dominate sales of half the world's bananas, three trade 85% of the world's tea, and one, Wal-mart, now controls 40% of Mexico's retail food sector. It also found that Monsanto controls 91% of the global GM seed market.
Household names including Nestlé, Monsanto, Unilever, Tesco, Wal-mart, Bayer and Cargill are all said to have expanded hugely in size, power and influence in the past decade directly because of the trade liberalization policies being advanced by the US, Britain and other G8 countries whose leaders are meeting this week in Davos.
"A wave of mergers and business alliances has concentrated market power in very few hands," the report says.
It accuses the companies of shutting local companies out of the market, driving down prices, setting international and domestic trade rules to suit themselves, imposing tough standards that poor farmers cannot meet, and charging consumers more.
The report says the 85% of all the recent fines imposed on global cartels were paid by agrifood companies, with three of them forced to pay out $500m (£266m) to settle price-fixing lawsuits.
"It is a dangerous situation when so few companies control so many lives," said John Samuel of ActionAid yesterday.
The ActionAid report argues that many food behemoths are wealthier than the countries in which they do their business. Nestlé, it says, recorded profits greater than Ghana's GDP in 2002, Unilever profits were a third larger than the national income of Mozambique and Wal-mart profits are bigger than the economies of both countries combined.
The companies are also said to be taking advantage of the collapse in farm prices. Prices for coffee, cocoa, rice, palm oil and sugar have fallen by more than 50% in the past 20 years.
The report feeds into growing calls at Porto Alegre for the regulation of multinational food companies. A coalition of the largest international environmental, trade and human rights groups, including Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth, Amnesty, Via Campesina and Focus on the Global South, yesterday said they would be working together to press for corporate accountability.
Retailers such as Tesco, Ahold, Carrefour and Metro are buying increasing volumes of fruit, vegetables, meat and dairy products in developing countries, but their exacting food safety and environmental standards are driving small farmers out of business, says ActionAid.
A spokeswoman for the Food and Drink Federation, which represents British food businesses, yesterday recognized that the industry's success "is closely linked to those at the beginning of the food supply chain".
But she added: "Britain, the world's fourth largest food importing country, invests heavily and provides an enormous market for developing world farmers."
© 2005 Independent News & Media (UK) Ltd.
Subject: 1/24/05 Antarctica, Warming, Looks Ever More Vulnerable
Date: 1/24/2005 8:47:30 PM
January 25, 2005
Antarctica, Warming, Looks Ever More Vulnerable
By LARRY ROHTER
OVER THE ABBOTT ICE SHELF, Antarctica - From an airplane at 500 feet, all that is visible here is a vast white emptiness. Ahead, a chalky plain stretches as far as the eye can see, the monotony broken only by a few gentle rises and the wrinkles created when new sheets of ice form.
Under the surface of that ice, though, profound and potentially troubling changes are taking place, and at a quickened pace. With temperatures climbing in parts of Antarctica in recent years, melt water seems to be penetrating deeper and deeper into ice crevices, weakening immense and seemingly impregnable formations that have developed over thousands of years.
As a result, huge glaciers in this and other remote areas of Antarctica are thinning and ice shelves the size of American states are either disintegrating or retreating - all possible indications of global warming. Scientists from the British Antarctic Survey reported in December that in some parts of the Antarctic Peninsula hundreds of miles from here, large growths of grass are appearing in places that until recently were hidden under a frozen cloak.
"The evidence is piling up; everything fits," Dr. Robert Thomas, a glaciologist from NASA who is the lead author of a recent paper on accelerating sea-level rise, said as the Chilean Navy plane flew over the sea ice here on an unusually clear day late in November. "Around the Amundsen Sea, we have surveyed a half dozen glaciers. All are thinning, in some cases quite rapidly, and in each case, the ice shelf is also thinning."
The relationship between glaciers (essentially frozen rivers) and ice shelves (thick plates of ice protruding from the land and floating on the ocean) is complicated and not fully understood. But scientists like to compare the spot where the "tongue" of a glacier flows to sea in the form of an ice shelf to a cork in a bottle. When the ice shelf breaks up, this can allow the inland ice to accelerate its march to the sea.
"By themselves, the tongue of the glacier or the cork in the bottle do not represent that much," said Dr. Claudio Teitelboim, the director of the Center for Scientific Studies, a private Chilean institution that is the partner of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration in surveying the ice fields of Antarctica and Patagonia. "But once the cork is dislodged, the contents of the bottle flow out, and that can generate tremendous instability."
Glaciologists also know that by itself, free-floating sea ice does not raise the level of the sea, just as an ice cube in a glass of water does not cause an overflow as it melts. But glaciers are different because they rest on land, and if that vast volume of ice slides into the sea at a high rate, this adds mass to the ocean, which in turn can raise the global sea level.
Through their flights over this and other areas of Antarctica, NASA and the Chilean center hope to help glaciologists and other scientists interested in climate change understand what is taking place on the continent and why. To do that, they need to compile data not only on ice thicknesses but also the underlying geology of the region, information that is most easily obtained from the air.
The flights are taking place aboard a Chilean Navy Orion P-3 plane that has been specially equipped with sophisticated instruments. The devices include a laser-imaging system that shoots 5,000 pulses of light per second at the ground to map the ice surface, as well as ice-penetrating radar to determine the depth of the ice sheets, a magnetometer and digital cameras.
For most parts of Antarctica, reliable records go back less than 50 years, and data from satellites and overflights like the ones going on here have been collected over only the past decade or so. But that research, plus striking changes that are visible to the naked eye, all point toward the disturbance of climate patterns thought to have been in place for thousands of years.
In 1995, for instance, the Larsen A ice shelf disintegrated, followed in 1998 by the collapse of the nearby Wilkins ice shelf. Over a 35-day period early in 2002, at the end of the Southern Hemisphere summer, the Larsen B ice shelf shattered, losing more than a quarter of its total mass and setting thousands of icebergs adrift in the Weddell Sea.
"The response time scale of ice dynamics is a lot shorter than we used to think it was," said Dr. Robert Bindschadler, a NASA scientist who is director of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet Initiative. "We don't know what the exact cause is, but what we observe going on today is likely to be what is also happening tomorrow."
Thus far, all of the ice shelves that have collapsed are located on the Antarctic peninsula. In reality a collection of islands, mountain ranges and glaciers, the peninsula juts northward toward Argentina and Chile and is "really getting hot, competing with the Yukon for the title of the fastest warming place on the globe," in the words of Dr. Eric Steig, a glaciologist who teaches at the University of Washington.
According to a recent study published in Geophysical Research Letters, the discharge rate of three important glaciers still remaining on the peninsula accelerated eightfold just from 2000 to 2003. "Ice is thinning at the rate of tens of meters per year" on the peninsula, with glacier elevations in some places having dropped by as much as 124 feet in six months, the study found.
But the narrow peninsula contains relatively little inland ice. Glaciologists are more concerned that they are now beginning to detect similar signs closer to the South Pole, on the main body of the continent, where ice shelves are much larger - and could contribute far more to sea level changes. Of particular interest is this remote and almost inaccessible region known as "the weak underbelly of West Antarctica," where some individual ice shelves are as large as Texas or Spain and much of the land on which they rest lies under sea level.
"This is probably the most active part of Antarctica," said Dr. Eric Rignot, a glaciologist at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., and the principal author of the Geophysical Research Letters paper. "Glaciers are changing rapidly and increasingly discharging into the ocean, which contributes to sea level rise in a more significant way than any other part of Antarctica."
According to another paper, published in the journal Science in September, "the catchment regions of Amundsen Sea glaciers contain enough ice to raise sea level by 1.3 meters," or about four feet. While the current sea level rise attributable to glacier thinning here is a relatively modest 0.2 millimeters a year, or about 10 percent of the total global increase, the paper noted that near the coast the process had accelerated and might continue to do so.
As a result, the most recent flights of NASA and the Chilean center have been directed over the Thurston Island and Pine Island zones of West Antarctica, near the point where the Bellinghausen and Amundsen Seas come together. The idea is to use the laser and radar readings being gathered to establish a base line for comparison with future measurements, to be taken every two years or so.
"We're not sure yet how to connect what we see on the peninsula with what we observe going on further south, but both are very clearly dramatic and dynamic events," Dr. Bindschadler said. "On the peninsula, large amounts of melt water are directly connected to disintegration of the ice shelf, but the actual mechanism in West Antarctica, whether melt water, a slippery hill or a firmer bedrock, is not yet clear. Hence the need for more data."
The information being gathered here coincides with the recent publication of a report on accelerating climate change in the Arctic, an area that has been far more scrutinized than Antarctica. That study, commissioned by the United States and seven other nations, found permafrost there to be thawing and glaciers and sea ice to be retreating markedly, raising new concerns about global warming and its impact.
"The Arctic has lots of land at high latitudes, and the presence of land masses helps snow melt off more quickly," said Dr. Steig. "But there's not a lot of land to speak of in the high latitudes of the Southern Hemisphere," making the search for an explanation of what is going on here even more complicated.
The hypotheses scientists offer for the causes of glacier and ice shelf thinning in Antarctica are varied. Rising air, land and ocean temperatures or some combination of them have all been cited.
Some scientists have even proposed that a healing of the seasonal ozone hole over the South Pole and southernmost Chile, a phenomenon expected to take place in the next 50 years or so, could change the circulation of the atmosphere over the frozen continent in ways that could accelerate the thinning of Antarctic ice fields. But even without that prospect, the situation developing in Antarctica is already sobering, glaciologists agree. The data being collected here in West Antarctica and on the peninsula farther north make that obvious, they say, though the degree to which that should be cause for concern around the rest of the planet will become clear only with more research.
"If Antarctica collapses, it will have a major effect on the whole globe," Dr. Rignot cautioned. He warned that "this is not for tomorrow, and Antarctica is such a big place that it's important to look at other areas" around the perimeter of the giant continent, but added, "Nature is playing a little experiment with us, showing us what could happen if the plug were to be removed."
Subject: 1/24/05 Climate Catastrophe Warning
Date: 1/24/2005 6:22:49 PM
Climate Catastrophe Warning
LONDON, Jan. 24, 2005
Global warming is approaching the critical point of no return, after which widespread drought, crop failure and rising sea-levels would be irreversible, an international climate change task force warned Monday.
The report, "Meeting the Climate Challenge," called on the G-8 leading industrial nations to cut carbon emissions, double their research spending on green technology and work with India and China to build on the Koyoto Protocol.
A broad scientific consensus attributes much of the warming to the accumulation of "greenhouse gases" in the atmosphere, such as carbon dioxide from fossil fuel-burning. The Kyoto Protocol, which takes effect Feb. 16, mandates cutbacks in such emissions, but the United States, the biggest emitter, has rejected that international pact.
"An ecological time-bomb is ticking away," said Stephen Byers, a close confidant of British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who co-chaired the task force with U.S. Republican Senator Olympia Snowe, from Maine.
"World leaders need to recognize that climate change is the single most important long-term issue that the planet faces," he said.
The independent report - by the Institute for Public Policy Research in Britain, the Center for American Progress in the United States and The Australia Institute - is timed to coincide with Blair's commitment to advance climate change policy during Britain's G-8 presidency.
© MMV The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
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Subject: 1/17/05 Our Velvet Revolution
Date: 1/17/2005 7:30:46 PM
Were it only so simple as the beauty of Doris 'Granny D' Haddock's words imply of courage, love, justice and freedom........but for the self-imposed death sentence on our nation resulting from a strangulated science of top secrecy. E=MC2 was announced in 1905. A hundred years later, we are still stuck in the crude, elementary, baboon stage of nuclear accessibility to this grand equation of matter, energy, space, time, gravity relationship.
As the Joker states "The discovery in the 40's and 50's had to be silenced to prevent total annihilation. And yet, by secrecy and silence - the death sentence was also sealed, as the advanced energy requirements for survival were denied." http://fadingillusionviarealitycurve.blogspot.com/
Therein, in science, lies the difference between Freedom and Life, and Flag Freaking Freedumb and Death. http://www.fuel2000.net/index.html
Published on Published on Monday, January 17, 2005 by CommonDreams.org
Our Velvet Revolution
by Doris 'Granny D' Haddock
A growing number of Americans are beginning to identify with the pro-democracy activists whose courage opened much of the world to freedom in the final decades of the 20th Century.
We remember and honor the poet revolutionary Vaclav Havel of Czechoslovakia, where Charter 77 rendered the flowers and songs of a velvet revolution more powerful than the guns of oppression. We remember the shipyard hero, Lech Walesa, of Poland. We remember those who stood non-violently in Russia, in Yugoslavia, in Tiananmen Square, in East and West Germany. It was their fearless living that ended the Cold War, not Reagan's saber rattling.
When people stand united with certain courage against oppression, they get their way. That is an axiom in the geometry of world history.
To say we are oppressed in America sounds remarkably like the whining of spoiled children. We live such privileged lives compared to many in the world, it is true. We have our cars and our homes or apartments, most of us, and our television shows and our clean cities and glittering stores, cornucopias--and theaters and a thousand kinds of systems and conveniences and communication devices and all the rest that seem to work and serve us with well-maintained reliability. Living in the midst of such luxury, it is hard to imagine that one might not be free, that freedom might be an illusion, a fraud.
Was the hooped-skirted, ante-bellum Southern Belle, living her life in the plantation mansion amid her luxuries, a free human being--or was she as constrained from independent action as the slaves who served her luxury? Our homes are now filled with the cheap products of slave societies, and our streets are safe because those who dare move against the system are locked away by the millions, so that their forced labor can serve us, too. But we are free and happy, we think. We are Americans. We need no Velvet Revolution, for our lives are sufficient; they are velvet couches, made in China, affordable to us because the best part of the price is paid by others, by the young worker in China, by the unemployed fellow in our own town, and by his children who pay in a thousand ways.
So, we have it made. Yes, it is a problem that we Americans use a third of the world's resources, and that global pollution and the balance of our trade are all completely unsustainable, and that we can only get the cheap resources we desire by destroying democracies around the world and installing dictators to whom we can dictate; and all this sowing of bitterness is a harvest of terrorism now and to come, but we can at least live for today in our freedom and our happiness. We, empire's debutantes, need not look out our plantation house window to the slave quarters in the distance, when the same window will give us our beautiful reflection. But the small, everyday injustices of a population must flow somewhere; indeed, they gather into great rivers that flow through capitols and pentagons, where the selfish energies combine and become the bombs and machine-gun roar and rattle of our bloody agents in the world. Our vote every four years is a weak ceremony of little importance compared to how we live our personal lives, which empowers either good or evil in the world.
But as for our freedom, what do we have left of it? No man or woman is free whose life is built upon the suffering of others. Slavery enslaves the master more than the slave, for the master is enslaved in mind as well as body. And so we take off our shoes at the airport and are too dumbed-down to think why, and we send our children to factory schools that are the abattoirs of their tender imaginations and grand potentials, and we are too hypnotized to think much of it. We bow our heads to our bosses, without the clear minds to mourn for our human dignity, for we dare not miss a paycheck or else the credit card and mortgage bales on our backs will come crushing down on us, and that is all that matters, we have been programmed to believe, not think.
Our lives have been stolen; we have no place to go, no meaningful choices--only meaningless, consumer choices. Decide to live the life of a poet, or a farmer, or a vagabond, or a philosopher, and count the cost of that. Can you afford it--can you afford freedom? Are you free to make big changes in your life, or do you have too many obligations to others? Financial entanglements have come to define human relationships, so that the elite may prosper.
Was it not ever so? Did not the frontier farmers and the townspeople feel the constraints of their position, their obligations to family, church, community? They did so. I remember this life. It was imperfect, but it was different than today: people chose their oppressions and built lives. They were pawns in their own schemes and social hierarchies, and the fodder for the wars of the elites, but there was a sense of freedom that is missing now. Today's oppressions have organized in some inhuman way that serves against our interests and against the interests of society itself more permanently and aggressively. It is evidenced in so many new ways, from unnecessary wars built upon great lies, to election frauds and the dismantling of social programs by the device of other great lies, and the creation of permanent war so that power over us may be extended forever in ways small and grave: our shoes are to come off at the airport, our children are to be shot and blown up, and our debt is to be the great burden that keeps the bales upon our backs and all of us in our places. There is, in other words, a permanently vicious aspect to life today that was only an occasional visitor to us before, when the wars came, when the union contract expired. The boot of greedy oppression is now always at our necks, it seems. And, like medical companies who own Congress or oil companies who own White Houses, it seem to have become the nature of the beast, widely understood and generally, if grudgingly, accepted.
But the pursuit of happiness? There it is, a phrase central to the world's idea of America. If some people in this country could erase those words from our Declaration, they would do so--and replace them with something more religious or otherwise authoritarian and demanding of obedience instead of the nurturing of our human potential. But the words remain there on that parchment, and indelibly upon our hearts and imaginations. That is why there is a velvet revolution brewing, and it is not the whining of spoiled children, but the song of freedom of brave men and women who are prepared to let the bales upon their backs fall and mix with the old tea in the harbor.
And this phrase, the pursuit of happiness, the central red magma of our collective political souls, the energy source of all our revolutions including this one, calls not for our selfish enjoyment of other people's labors, but for the freedom to live meaningful lives in a land of justice, where our democracy is our tool to better the earth as a happy human outpost in the cold universe; a warm reprieve from the heartless and fatal logic of time and space, and a reflection here and now of God's love, or, absent that according to your beliefs, our best make-do substitute. For brotherhood is enough, and democracy is our belief in brotherhood and our commitment to it.
I have long admired the Europeans for the fact that they discuss politics constantly. The sidewalk café conversation is superior for the maintenance of democracy, when compared to our sitting in front of endlessly dumbed-down news broadcasts and newspaper accounts. Even during this recent disclosure of election fraud in Ohio, the news channels all but ignored it, and the main story in the New York Times, even as Senators stood against a sham election, was a long report on the disruption made to Congress's mindless train schedule.
The sharing of email and our occasional standing together in protests is the best we Americans can do to create the community of democracy and raise the barricades of its defense. Or is it?
We tend to fall into the politics of victimization and anger. We are defensive, when in fact our only real success must come from another way: from the promotion and spreading of a lifestyle that we model with lives of joy and justice and sustainable common sense, and from a mending of the split in American culture that now colors our national map. For we are not reds and blues; we share beliefs in common: freedom, justice, unity, brotherhood. It is only in our information that we differ, and those of us with better information have an obligation to share and, by doing so, widen the unification of the American people, whose interests are much the same.
This we can do if we understand that truth is conveyed and minds are convinced not by our words but by our actions--to live free, to find and share joy, to earn our livings not at the expense of others or of the earth. Who will not follow, one by one at first, young people first, mothers and then fathers, pastors and then flocks?
The soulful way forward we seek for our country and the world is to be found in mending the house divided. Not by the whisperings of fear, the shouts of anger or the whining of victimization, but by joy itself, and creativity, and a confident chuckle at the folly of the old, dead-end ways of life.
War breeds consumer materialism. The Civil War brought the Gilded Age; the First World War brought the Roaring Twenties; The Second World War brought on the material binge we now maintain with ad-hoc wars as necessary. Wars destroy all other values, leaving only materialism. Can the process work backward? Can we bring peace by living in more sensible and beautiful ways? Yes, for the future is always being forged in the present. Lives of joy, if we create them, will bear joyous fruit.
Serving each other is the joy of life. It does us no good to rise up every four years and comb through housing projects and poor neighborhoods, begging for votes, when we were needed there all along--needed to bring joy and education to the children, resources to parents, tools for self-representation and community progress. In the current push in the Democratic Party for a new national chairman, the debate centers on how to better reach more people with our political message, when our elections are but report cards for how we have served our communities all along. The work of a successful party or movement depends on how well it organizes people every day for the improvement of free and joyful living, for the power to shape their futures and care for their children, for the power to extend their higher values into the world and thus serve their dreams of brotherhood, justice and the peace that comes naturally from brotherhood and justice. And this peace needs no armies nor preemptive slaughters; no torture chambers nor even the taking off of our shoes at airports, as if our old globe were still large enough for us to be safe in an unjust world if only we will take off our shoes!
The poor of this country are so deprived of options that they now flock to churches, where the government money now comes, so that people can be turned away from the idea that government--democracy--is our common tool for serving each other's needs.
If a party or a movement is to be successful, it must become that place where people go for personal help, like the union hall or the old Grange hall, or the thing we must see next, the party office in every neighborhood that needs help, filled with volunteers who have learned that the joy of life comes only through service.
My advice to the activist is to look at the work of groups like City Repair of Portland, and of ACORN, and other groups that work to make everyday life more joyful for our people. Get involved with them. There are simply not enough of us to effect dramatic political change as things stand today, so we must labor happily in these vineyards until we are enough. And we must open the eyes and minds of our neighbors. Just as the religious groups go door-to-door with their pamphlets, so must we, with pamphlets that fill in the gaps of information about our government, our environment, and our situation in America and around the world. These activities--working with people who need help and spreading the truth--must be joined, and our political work will come easier.
Let us string lights in the trees and bring out tables of food. Let us buy the things we need from the workers here who need the work. Let us invite the musicians and the artists and the academics to do their part. Let us do, in short, what we would do if the present order fell to feathers with all its mortgages and credit cards. It will do just that if we so elect, and this is the election that matters. The things we dislike in the present order are sustained only by our fearful complicity.
Look at me: I am still alive, and I am looking at you, and you are alive. This is our world as much as anyone else's. We who are old enough or wise enough to see the edges of life can understand that we have a choice between fear and joy, and between victimization and service. All elections and other indications to the contrary, happy days are here again when we but say they are. We do not turn our hearts away from injustice or suffering, indeed we mend them as best we can with our joyful engagement and our courageous non-cooperation with the forces of fear and death. And no one can take away our joy, for even our suffering for justice and brotherhood is joyful.
This is our Velvet Revolution, American style. We resist what we must and what we can, but our victory is not in defense, but in a cultural offensive made irresistible by the power of love and courage, pulling our people together, and our own lives together, over time.
We have tried this before in America. Things got in our way: drugs, wars, fears. We became parents. We became distracted. It is now time to get it right.
Doris "Granny D" Haddock is celebrating her 95th birthday (Jan. 24) with a quick speaking tour in Florida over the next few days and then speaking at the January 20th Inauguration Day Protests in Washington, D.C.
Subject: 1/26/04 FREDUMB FREEDUMB HOORAY Guns and Jeers Used by Gangs to Buy Silence
Date: 1/16/2005 9:07:33 AM
January 16, 2005
Guns and Jeers Used by Gangs to Buy Silence
By FOX BUTTERFIELD
OSTON, Jan. 15 - In Boston, a witness to a shooting by a member of a street gang recently found copies of his grand jury testimony taped to all the doors in the housing project where he lives.
In Baltimore, Rickey Prince, a 17-year-old who witnessed a gang murder and agreed to testify against the killer, was shot in the back of the head a few days after a prosecutor read Mr. Prince's name aloud in a packed courtroom.
And in each city, CD's and DVD's titled "Stop Snitching" have surfaced, naming some people street gangs suspect of being witnesses against them and warning that those who cooperate with the police will be killed. To underscore its message, the Baltimore DVD shows what appears to be three dead bodies on its back cover above the words "snitch prevention."
These are only a few examples of what the police, prosecutors and judges say is a growing national problem of witness intimidation by youth gangs that in some cities is jeopardizing the legal system and that bears striking similarities to the way organized crime has often silenced witnesses.
"Witness intimidation has become so pervasive that it is ruining the public's faith in the criminal justice system to protect them," said Judge John M. Glynn of Baltimore City Circuit Court. "We are not much better off than the legal system in Mexico or Colombia or some other sad places."
The intimidation has gone hand in hand with a sharp increase in the number of youth street gangs, not just in their traditional strongholds like Los Angeles and Chicago but also in affluent parts of Northern Virginia, as well as in Denver and in Raleigh-Durham, N.C. In New York City, hundreds of witnesses in court cases report being threatened every year, and at least 19 have been killed since 1980, according to law enforcement officials.
The latest F.B.I. Uniform Crime Report, for 2003, showed that while overall crime has stayed level or has fallen slightly in the past four years, juvenile gang homicides have jumped 25 percent since 2000.
The trend has led the bureau to make a major switch in the past six months, making combating street gangs its top criminal priority, said Chris Swecker, an assistant director of the F.B.I. who heads its criminal division. The change is particularly significant because since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, the bureau has made counterterrorism its main job and has cut back on some of its domestic crime fighting.
Mr. Swecker said the bureau was now planning to go after youth gangs the way it went after the Mafia starting in the 1970's, trying to dismantle whole gangs in a coordinated nationwide effort. To accomplish this, the F.B.I. will create a national gang intelligence center, with a database on all gangs and members. The bureau is also ordering its 140 Safe Streets task forces to devote more effort to gangs.
And youth gangs have been reclassified, in bureau terminology, to "criminal organizations and enterprises" from "violent criminal offenders," placing them on a par with the Mafia. Mr. Swecker said the bureau would now also use tough federal racketeering laws and seek long federal sentences.
Police chiefs and prosecutors call the effort welcome. William Bratton, the Los Angeles police chief, said street gang killings made up more than half of the 515 homicides in the city last year, including a number of witnesses. Mr. Bratton said that over the past year he had had a number of talks with Robert S. Mueller III, the director of the F.B.I., urging him to make street gangs the bureau's top priority. "In this country, street gangs are a national problem and are taking more lives than all the civilians lost to Al Qaeda last year," Mr. Bratton said.
One of the obstacles to combating the Mafia, and to defeating youth gangs, is the "code of silence" they encourage, often by intimidating witnesses, Mr. Swecker said. One advantage the F.B.I. will have is that by bringing federal charges against street gang members, witnesses can be placed in the federal witness protection program and given new identities.
Prosecutors say the need for protection is critical. Daniel Conley, the district attorney for Suffolk County, Mass., which includes Boston, said his prosecutors had seen intimidation in more than 90 percent of cases in the past two years that involved guns, gangs or serious violence.
Wesley Adams, who prosecutes homicides for the state's attorney of Baltimore City, said virtually all of his cases that were not domestic homicides were hampered by witness intimidation. In 2003, Mr. Adams said, when he tried nine homicides, 23 of the 35 witnesses he managed to get to the stand either recanted or lied, and that was not counting many others who were too scared and simply disappeared.
Under a program started in August, two Baltimore City detectives have been assigned full time to try to find missing witnesses. They are currently looking for 77 people.
Jackie Davis, the mother of Rickey Prince, the teenage witness murdered in Baltimore, said in a telephone interview, "This witness intimidation makes a joke of the justice system, and it's not all on the criminals." Ms. Davis said the constitutional right granted defendants to learn the identity of witnesses against them in pretrial discovery is a built-in mechanism for gang members to make threats, often against poor people who live in the same neighborhoods and have nowhere to hide.
Although the two men who shot her son have subsequently been tried and convicted, Ms. Davis said, "I got no closure." She said she was threatened herself for testifying against the killers and has had to give up her job and move out of state at her own expense.
Only a handful of states have witness protection programs, including Rhode Island, Ohio, Colorado and California. But prosecutors and the police say that they tend to have only a small amount of money to pay for temporarily moving witnesses to another part of a city before a trial and that the protection ends when the trial is completed.
Mr. Conley, the Suffolk County district attorney, is working with Massachusetts officials to create a state witness protection program here and to try to pass legislation that would make it a crime for anyone to distribute grand jury testimony, as happened with the witness who saw his testimony taped to the doors in the Franklin Hill housing project where he lived.
In Maryland, Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. and Patricia C. Jessamy, the state's attorney for Baltimore City, are supporting a bill that would reclassify witness intimidation as a felony, instead of a misdemeanor, and raise the maximum punishment to 20 years in prison, from 5 years.
The bill would also create a "hearsay exception" that would allow past statements by witnesses to be admitted at a trial if the witness disappeared or was unwilling to testify.
Mr. Conley said, "We have always had witness intimidation, but it has gotten much worse in the past couple of years."
Some of the problem, he said, results from the tight-knit geography of poor neighborhoods where witnesses and gang members often know one another. So threats are easy to make and hard for law enforcement to stop.
But gang members have become more brazen, too, Mr. Conley said. In Boston last month, at a trial of two gang members accused of killing a 10-year-old girl, some spectators came to the courtroom wearing T-shirts that said "Stop Snitching."
Judge Glynn in Baltimore said he had seen spectators in courtrooms using their cellphones to send text messages to friends reporting on who had testified as witnesses and what they had said.
Judge Glynn recalled that one witness, a middle-aged woman who had seen the killing of a bail bondsman by a drug gang leader, was so scared she could not open her mouth on the stand. When the defendant's lawyer questioned her, she said nothing and even after the judge interceded, she remained silent for minutes.
Finally, Judge Glynn said, out of earshot of the lawyer and prosecutor, he asked her if she was afraid to tell her story. "Yes," she said.
Last month, the Baltimore police found that a two-hour DVD titled "Stop Snitching" was being sold on the street. It features young men smoking marijuana, flashing wads of $100 bills, waving guns and making violent threats, some against specific witnesses. "He's a rat, a snitch," one man sings, continuing with obscenities. "He's dead because I don't believe he's from the 'hood."
The maker of the DVD has said he was only documenting the attitudes and concerns of people in West Baltimore.
The DVD has drawn particular attention because of the appearance on it of Carmelo Anthony, 20, a National Basketball Association star with the Denver Nuggets who grew up in Baltimore. Mr. Anthony does not make any threats in the DVD.
Calvin Andrews, Mr. Anthony's agent, said, "He was not aware a DVD was being produced. He was just hanging out with some guys from the neighborhood who had a video camera." Mr. Andrews added of Mr. Anthony: "He doesn't condone the message about intimidation." The case of Mr. Prince, the Maryland teenager murdered after his name was read in court, illustrates the difficulty of protecting witnesses.
Mr. Prince had seen the killing of a gang member in suburban Baltimore County, outside the city of Baltimore, and at the urging of his mother had given a statement to the police. Ms. Davis, his mother, said that he soon began receiving threats.
Ms. Davis said she believed that her son's name was revealed through pretrial discovery and that the defendant, Jerrard Bazemore, 18, tipped his fellow gang members.
Ms. Davis said she appealed to the Baltimore County assistant state's attorney handling the case for help in relocating her family. "They blew me off," Ms. Davis said, "They said they didn't have any money." Steve Bailey, the deputy state's attorney for Baltimore County, disputed that. "An offer was made," Mr. Bailey said. "Rickey Prince refused."
The day the trial was to begin, April 15, 2003, Mr. Prince received a call saying he would not need to testify, Ms. Davis said.
She said that he was not told by prosecutors that Mr. Bazemore had agreed to plead guilty, and that in a courtroom packed with the defendant's friends, a prosecutor had read out Mr. Prince's name, saying, "Rickey Prince would testify that he saw the defendant shoot at the victim's group."
At that, the courtroom erupted, according to later testimony.
"But Rickey didn't know, and he continued going to school and working at a restaurant," his mother said.
Mr. Bazemore's friends in court that day included Christopher Mann, 20. Several days later, Mr. Mann and another gang member seized Mr. Prince, drove him to a landfill and shot him, according to later testimony. Mr. Mann and his accomplice, Tayvon Whetstone, 19, were convicted of murdering Mr. Prince.
"The motive for the killing was based on his name being read out in open court; it was retaliation," said Lisa Goldberg, the assistant state's attorney for Baltimore City who prosecuted the two men.
Mr. Bailey, the deputy state's attorney for Baltimore County, said Maryland law required that Mr. Prince's name be read out. Other prosecutors disagreed, saying the law requires only that the judge be told of the existence of a witness and what he would say. "I don't know why his name was read out," Ms. Goldberg said. "In Baltimore City, in a plea bargain, we would just tell the judge we have a witness who would testify, to show there is a factual basis for the plea."
Ms. Davis said simply, "They've got to find a better way to handle witnesses."
Subject: 1/13/05 Global Dimming - Why the Sun seems to be 'dimming'
Date: 1/13/2005 7:08:04 PM
Why the Sun seems to be 'dimming'
By David Sington
We are all seeing rather less of the Sun, according to scientists who have been looking at five decades of sunlight measurements.
They have reached the disturbing conclusion that the amount of solar energy reaching the Earth's surface has been gradually falling.
Paradoxically, the decline in sunlight may mean that global warming is a far greater threat to society than previously thought.
The effect was first spotted by Gerry Stanhill, an English scientist working in Israel.
Comparing Israeli sunlight records from the 1950s with current ones, Dr Stanhill was astonished to find a large fall in solar radiation.
"There was a staggering 22% drop in the sunlight, and that really amazed me." Intrigued, he searched records from all around the world, and found the same story almost everywhere he looked.
Sunlight was falling by 10% over the USA, nearly 30% in parts of the former Soviet Union, and even by 16% in parts of the British Isles.
Although the effect varied greatly from place to place, overall the decline amounted to one to two per cent globally every decade between the 1950s and the 1990s.
Dr Stanhill called it "global dimming", but his research, published in 2001, met a sceptical response from other scientists.
It was only recently, when his conclusions were confirmed by Australian scientists using a completely different method to estimate solar radiation, that climate scientists at last woke up to the reality of global dimming.
My main concern is global dimming is also having a detrimental impact on the Asian monsoon ... We are talking about billions of people
Professor Veerhabhadran Ramanathan
Dimming appears to be caused by air pollution.
Burning coal, oil and wood, whether in cars, power stations or cooking fires, produces not only invisible carbon dioxide - the principal greenhouse gas responsible for global warming - but also tiny airborne particles of soot, ash, sulphur compounds and other pollutants.
This visible air pollution reflects sunlight back into space, preventing it reaching the surface. But the pollution also changes the optical properties of clouds.
Because the particles seed the formation of water droplets, polluted clouds contain a larger number of droplets than unpolluted clouds.
Recent research shows that this makes them more reflective than they would otherwise be, again reflecting the Sun's rays back into space.
Scientists are now worried that dimming, by shielding the oceans from the full power of the Sun, may be disrupting the pattern of the world's rainfall.
There are suggestions that dimming was behind the droughts in sub-Saharan Africa which claimed hundreds of thousands of lives in the 1970s and 80s.
There are disturbing hints the same thing may be happening today in Asia, home to half the world's population.
"My main concern is global dimming is also having a detrimental impact on the Asian monsoon," says Professor Veerhabhadran Ramanathan, professor of climate and atmospheric sciences at the University of California, San Diego. "We are talking about billions of people."
But perhaps the most alarming aspect of global dimming is that it may have led scientists to underestimate the true power of the greenhouse effect.
They know how much extra energy is being trapped in the Earth's atmosphere by the extra carbon dioxide we have placed there.
What has been surprising is that this extra energy has so far resulted in a temperature rise of just 0.6 degree Celsius.
This has led many scientists to conclude that the present-day climate is less sensitive to the effects of carbon dioxide than it was, say, during the ice age, when a similar rise in CO2 led to a temperature rise of six degrees Celsius.
But it now appears the warming from greenhouse gases has been offset by a strong cooling effect from dimming - in effect two of our pollutants have been cancelling each other out.
This means that the climate may in fact be more sensitive to the greenhouse effect than previously thought.
If so, then this is bad news, according to Dr Peter Cox, one of the world's leading climate modellers.
As things stand, CO2 levels are projected to rise strongly over coming decades, whereas there are encouraging signs that particle pollution is at last being brought under control.
"We're going to be in a situation unless we act where the cooling pollutant is dropping off while the warming pollutant is going up.
"That means we'll get reducing cooling and increased heating at the same time and that's a problem for us," says Dr Cox.
Even the most pessimistic forecasts of global warming may now have to be drastically revised upwards.
That means a temperature rise of 10 degrees Celsius by 2100 could be on the cards, giving the UK a climate like that of North Africa, and rendering many parts of the world uninhabitable.
That is unless we act urgently to curb our emissions of greenhouse gases.
You can see more on this report on Thursday's Horizon, BBC Two, at 9.00pm GMT.
Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2005/01/13 14:10:30 GMT
© BBC MMV
Subject: 1/13/05 Energy Summit Connects Industry, Government
Date: 1/13/2005 7:00:16 PM
Energy Summit Connects Industry, Government
Environmental Groups Decry Event as 'Junket'
By BRIAN ROSS, JILL RACKMILL and VIC WALTER
Jan. 13, 2005 - In a preview of how the Bush administration may be influenced on important energy policies, executives and lobbyists from the oil, gas and mining industries entertained the top Washington officials who regulate them over rounds of golf, expensive steak dinners, and a special casino night last week at a lavish Phoenix resort.
The 2005 Business Summit of the West, a three-day event, was co-sponsored by the Western Business Roundtable, whose member companies gave close to $2 million to Republicans last year, and BIPAC, a pro-business political action committee.
"We have an agenda," said Jim Sims, executive director of the Western Business Roundtable and a former member of Vice President Dick Cheney's energy tax force. "We make no bones about it."
Behind Closed Doors
The summit offered companies a rare chance to meet in private with powerful policy makers, including Secretary of the Interior Gale Norton. Her department grants drilling, mining and timber rights on public lands.
Norton declined to speak to ABC News as she left the dinner after her speech.
"Whether it's air regulations or mining regulations or tax policy," Sims said, "we are working every day to try to change policy in Washington and in states for the benefit of the Western region."
Summit meetings were held behind closed doors at the Arizona Biltmore Resort and Spa, the self-proclaimed "jewel of the desert." Event organizers said reporters were kept out for fear they might be environmental activists.
Ken Cook, founder and president of the nonprofit Environmental Working Group, called the conference "a junket."
"There's no other word for it," he said. "You go behind closed doors with the powerbrokers in the oil and gas industry, the mining industry, and you cut deals. And these are deals that unfortunately involve land and resources that belong to the American public and we weren't invited."
'Creature of the Industry'
Taxpayers paid for the travel expenses of Norton and other members of her staff, including her deputy, James Steven Griles, a former industry lobbyist.
"I speak to anybody who asks me to speak to them," Griles told ABC News. "This group is no exception. We go to everyone who are citizens of this country."
Environmental advocates felt differently. "Time and again, Mr. Griles has sided with that industry to weaken environmental laws that are in his purview at the Interior Department," Cook said. "He is pretty clearly a creature of the industry."
A spokesman said the Interior Department's ethics office approved Norton's trip to Phoenix because it was official business. Golf fees were not paid by taxpayers, the spokesman said.
Among those at one of the conference's golf events was former Rep. Charlie Stenholm, a Democrat from Texas who has been a longtime supporter of the energy industry.
Stenholm was defeated in November, but he told ABC News outside the steak dinner that he hoped to have a job soon.
"I'm going to be a lobbyist," Stenholm said.
Copyright © 2005 ABC News Internet Ventures
Subject: 1/12/04 Bush: Iraq Invasion Worth It Despite No Trace of WMD
Date: 1/12/2005 6:43:47 PM
Bush: Iraq Invasion Worth It Despite No Trace of WMD
President Bush Speaks With Barbara Walters
Jan. 12, 2005 - The invasion of Iraq, which ousted Saddam Hussein and has cost the lives of some 1,300 U.S. military personnel and billions of dollars, was "absolutely" worth it, despite the absence of any weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, President Bush told ABC News' Barbara Walters in an exclusive interview that will air this Friday.
Watch Barbara Walters' full interview with President Bush this Friday at 10 p.m. on "20/20."
The White House acknowledged today that there is no longer an active search for Iraqi weapons. The final report from chief U.S. weapons inspector Charles Duelfer, due out next month, has concluded that "the former regime had no formal written strategy or plan for the revival of WMD."
The Bush administration does not hold out hopes that any weapons will ever be found.
Duelfer's predecessor David Kay reached the same conclusion a year ago. "It's taken them another year, and in fact we were right a year ago. There were no weapons there," Kay said in response to Duelfer's announcement.
Bush told Walters, "I felt like we'd find weapons of mass destruction -- like many here in the United States, many around the world. The United Nations thought he had weapons of mass destruction. So, therefore: one, we need to find out what went wrong in the intelligence gathering. ... Saddam was dangerous and the world is safer without him in power."
When asked if the war was worth it even if there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, Bush responded, "Oh, absolutely."
Saddam insisted he had no weapons of mass destruction, and U.N. inspectors failed to uncover them. But the Bush administration was adamant that Saddam was deceiving the international community. The administration justified its decision to wage war on Iraq largely on its contention that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction.
Kay estimates that more than $1 billion and countless man hours were spent looking for weapons.
Today House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said, "Now that the search is finished, President Bush needs to explain to the American people why he was so wrong."
The 1,700-member Iraq Survey Group, a U.S. team responsible for the weapons search, is now tasked with what commanders had long wanted them to do -- gather intelligence about the real threat now in Iraq: the insurgents.
Copyright © 2005 ABC News Internet Ventures
Subject: 1/8/05 For Unemployed, Wait for New Work Grows Longer
Date: 1/8/2005 11:20:42 PM
January 9, 2005
For Unemployed, Wait for New Work Grows Longer
By JOHN LELAND
hen Fabiola Quitiaquez lost her job in New York City last May, she moved to the Atlanta area, confident that she would easily find work there.
"I thought maybe it would take two or three months," she said.
But after six months Ms. Quitiaquez was still unable to find a job, even cleaning houses or caring for the elderly. As her unemployment benefits ran out in November, she found herself at odds with news reports of economic recovery. "I realized what all these people like me were going through," she said.
Ms. Quitiaquez, 50, is one of about 3.6 million American workers who ran out of unemployment insurance benefits last year, the most in at least three decades, said Isaac Shapiro, a senior fellow at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a research and advocacy group that supports extending unemployment benefits.
Even as overall unemployment dropped last year, the share of unemployed workers who have been jobless for more than six months - the point at which most state benefits run out - has remained historically high. As of November, about 1.8 million, or one in five, unemployed workers were jobless for more than six months, compared with 1.1 million when the recession officially ended in November 2001.
Since the start of the recession in March 2001, the average length of unemployment has risen to 20 weeks from 13.
"Usually at this point in a recovery, job creation is skyrocketing, but so far that hasn't happened," said Kevin A. Hassett, economic director at the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research, a conservative organization. "It's not a partisan issue, it's a fact. The labor market is worse than in the typical recovery."
For Ms. Quitiaquez and many others who run out of unemployment benefits, this has meant a steady stream of difficult choices, as well as emotional and economic stress. She needed emergency dental work. Her daughter's car required expensive repairs.
"When I was working, things like that would happen, but I was getting a check every week, so I just said, 'I'll pay for this now, but next week I'll get another check,' " she said.
At Pfizer, where she processed data for clinical studies, Ms. Quitiaquez said she made as much as $1,002 a week before taxes. Her weekly unemployment check was $405, which she supplemented by drawing on savings and a severance package from Pfizer that she said she could not discuss. She sold her modest apartment in New York and bought a house in Atlanta.
Now she has cut corners on her medical care, and she has put off the car repair, even though her daughter has to use a screwdriver to change gears. "I don't know how much that's going to cost us," she said. "Then I have high blood pressure and cholesterol. But if you go to a doctor, that's a luxury."
Ellie Wegener, executive director of the Employment Support Center, a nonprofit group that works with unemployed job seekers in Washington, D.C., said that compared with past years more of the people coming to her group "are living on thin ice," with higher expenses and lower savings.
"There's a lot of different responses," Ms. Wegener said. "One of the major errors people make when they're suddenly unemployed, whether they're skilled or unskilled, is say, 'O.K., I'll take a vacation.' They feel that they'll get a job easily."
When they do not find work, unemployment begins what Richard H. Price, a professor of psychology at the University of Michigan, calls a "chain of adversity," which can include marital tension, psychological stress and other problems not immediately tied to the loss of income.
Dr. Price studied 756 people for two years after they lost their jobs. "The first thing that people don't understand about job loss is that it isn't the job loss that gets you," he said. "It's the cascade of negative life events that follow and that reverberate through families. You lose your health benefits, then, if someone in the family has an illness, the family is forced to ration health care. Or you can't send a child to college, or make a car payment - and then you don't have transportation to look for a job. Or you can't sell your house because everyone else in the neighborhood is unemployed, so property values are down."
Cleon Cox, who runs a support group called Job Finders in Portland, Ore., said Internet job boards have added to the stress for some people by creating false expectations and soaking up time and money.
"In the beginning, the Internet is exciting because there are so many listings out there," Mr. Cox said. "People say, 'This is great.' But most of the time they end up very frustrated and depressed. One guy said, 'It's as though my incoming phone line has been cut, because I'm sending stuff out there and getting nothing back.' I had a guy who sent 500 résumés, and what got him is he didn't get one response."
Mark Laska, a computer programmer in Hopkins, Minn., navigates a different pattern of long-term unemployment. For most of the last decade, he has found short periods of well-paid work, sometimes as a computer consultant, alternating with longer stretches without a job. This year he was unemployed until August, except for a one-day-a-week job he found at Walgreens. He does not have health insurance and goes to the emergency room when he needs medical care. He has not exhausted his unemployment benefits, but he has been homeless and once lived in the basement of a laundry.
"They say stress is highest when you don't know what's going to happen next," Mr. Laska said. "That's what I deal with day to day."
Though he would like a permanent job, he said, his résumé and the job market make that difficult.
"If I tell people all the jobs I did, they say, 'You're not steady,' or 'It looks like you don't want a permanent job, because you haven't worked one,' " he said. "But I can't find one. Nowadays in the job market, the type of work available is part-time or contract work, or now they're calling it 'seasonal work.' You don't get benefits."
When Loretta and Eleanor Jones, sisters who live together in Hempstead, N.Y., both were laid off in May, they made a point not to run up credit card debt. They cut down on expenses, and were determined to make the most of their time. They cared for their mother, and both enrolled in training programs for certificates in electrocardiography and phlebotomy.
Loretta Jones, 42, lost her job as a lab assistant at Nassau University Medical Center. Her sister, 43, a senior collector at Chase Manhattan, said her department was moved to Texas and Florida. Their unemployment benefits ran out last month.
"We're both going to be looking for jobs, but we hope school will improve us," Loretta Jones said. "Our mother was already sick, so it gave us a chance to make sure she was being taken care of."
For Ms. Quitiaquez in Atlanta, being out of work and without unemployment benefits holds no such prospects. If she cannot find a job, she said, she will have to move in with her parents in the Bronx. Her lengthy unemployment has made her think differently about work and the self-esteem associated with it.
"When I was working, I was always thinking of getting ahead, and my title was so important," she said. "Now I don't care if I have a title. All I care about is to get a job. And to have health benefits."
Subject: 1/7/05 Monsanto fined $1.5m for bribery
Date: 1/7/2005 6:49:24 AM
Monsanto fined $1.5m for bribery
The US agrochemical giant Monsanto has agreed to pay a $1.5m (£799,000) fine for bribing an Indonesian official.
Monsanto admitted one of its employees paid the senior official two years ago in a bid to avoid environmental impact studies being conducted on its cotton.
In addition to the penalty, Monsanto also agreed to three years' close monitoring of its business practices by the American authorities.
It said it accepted full responsibility for what it called improper activities.
A former senior manager at Monsanto directed an Indonesian consulting firm to give a $50,000 bribe to a high-level official in Indonesia's environment ministry in 2002.
The manager told the company to disguise an invoice for the bribe as "consulting fees".
Companies cannot bribe their way into favourable treatment by foreign officials
Christopher Wray, assistant US attorney-general
Monsanto was facing stiff opposition from activists and farmers who were campaigning against its plans to introduce genetically-modified cotton in Indonesia.
Despite the bribe, the official did not authorise the waiving of the environmental study requirement.
Monsanto also has admitted to paying bribes to a number of other high-ranking officials between 1997 and 2002.
The chemicals-and-crops firm said it became aware of irregularities at a Jakarta-based subsidiary in 2001 and launched an internal investigation before informing the US Department of Justice and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).
Monsanto faced both criminal and civil charges from the Department of Justice and the SEC.
"Companies cannot bribe their way into favourable treatment by foreign officials," said Christopher Wray, assistant US attorney general.
Monsanto has agreed to pay $1m to the Department of Justice, adopt internal compliance measures, and co-operate with continuing civil and criminal investigations.
It is also paying $500,000 to the SEC to settle the bribe charge and other related violations.
Monsanto said it accepted full responsibility for its employees' actions, adding that it had taken "remedial actions to address the activities in Indonesia" and had been "fully co-operative" throughout the investigative process.
Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2005/01/07 06:22:58 GMT
© BBC MMV
Subject: 1/2/05 Wall Street's Designs on '05? A Merger Boom
Date: 1/2/2005 11:18:28 AM
January 2, 2005
Wall Street's Designs on '05? A Merger Boom
By ANDREW ROSS SORKIN
espite being one of the nation's most prominent takeover lawyers, Martin Lipton has in recent years been Wall Street's holiday Grinch, issuing bleak yet ultimately accurate annual forecasts for mergers. In one year-end letter to his clients, he went so far as to declare that deal making had fallen into disrepute.
The past year has made Mr. Lipton a believer.
"Yes, it appears that there will be an M.& A. boom in 2005," Mr. Lipton, who founded the Wall Street law firm of Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz, wrote in his latest annual letter. "The recent increase in M.& A. activity reflects a return to confidence in the economy and to accommodation to the new accounting and corporate governance requirements."
Mr. Lipton's newfound optimism suggests that corporate America has finally gotten a bit of swagger back in its step after years of self-doubt and housecleaning in the wake of Enron and the scramble to comply with tougher regulations.
If the last month was any indication, Mr. Lipton's prediction may already be a bit dated: the merger boom is already in full throttle. In December alone, Sprint agreed to buy Nextel Communications for $35 billion, Johnson & Johnson made a deal to acquire Guidant for $25 billion, Symantec agreed to buy Veritas for $13.5 billion, PeopleSoft finally capitulated to Oracle's $10.3 billion offer, and I.B.M. sold its flagship personal computer business to Lenovo of China for $1.75 billion.
And those kinds of headline-grabbing acquisitions tend to beget more deal making.
"It is causing a lot of companies to inquire, 'What does it mean to me? Do I need to do something?' " said Steven Baronoff, who runs the global mergers practice at Merrill Lynch.
Last month was the busiest December in history, with a total of $283.7 billion in mergers and acquisitions worldwide, outpacing the total deal volume during the same period in 1999, at the height of the stock market bubble and merger mania, according to Thomson Financial, which tracks deal data.
For the year, deals were up nearly 50 percent compared with 2003 - the biggest yearly jump since 1998.
"We're clearly at a turning point in the M.& A. market," said Bob Filek, a partner at PricewaterhouseCoopers in New York. "Companies will be more active across the board. They have a lot of cash, and there's a lot of debt financing available."
To be sure, many of the forces driving the merger boom were already in place at the beginning of 2004: interest rates were relatively low, corporate profits were poised for strong gains and many companies were sitting on a mountain of cash that had been hoarded over several cautious years.
But corporate America's buying spree took some time to take off, a sign that insecurity was still ruling the boardroom.
After the year began with a bang with J. P. Morgan Chase's $58 billion acquisition of Bank One and Cingular Wireless's $41 billion deal for AT&T Wireless, the pace of deal making slowed to a near crawl by the spring. Uneasiness among investors grew as the death toll climbed in Iraq and the United States presidential election approached. As a result, a number of merger negotiations were suspended, and September and October ended up being two of the slowest months in history for deals.
The only deal makers still working were the private equity firms. Throughout the market's downturn, these firms, backed by big, private investors seeking rich returns five years down the road, had been the most active players, as they tried to buy businesses on the cheap while the big corporations focused their attention internally.
But after the election - and the stock market rally that followed - Wall Street's deal makers went into overdrive, first with the announcement of Kmart's $11 billion acquisition of Sears and then the frenzy of deals last month.
"The lift in the stock market postelection caused people to dust off deals that had gotten close earlier in the year but didn't get there when there was uncertainty and the stock prices were less firm," Mr. Baronoff of Merrill Lynch said.
The market's reaction to the latest wave of deals may encourage more companies to come to the negotiating table. Typically, investors have penalized the shares of buyers, worried that they have overpaid or that the integration process will be difficult. But if the stock market's initial reaction to deals like Kmart's merger with Sears is any indication - shares of Kmart initially rose more than 20 percent in its first hours of trading the day the deal was announced - other corporations may now feel more comfortable pursuing transactions.
"That's the real story," said Douglas Braunstein, the chief of investment banking coverage and mergers and acquisitions at J. P. Morgan Chase. "Shareholders are giving acquirers the benefit of the doubt, unlike several years ago."
Well, not all of them.
Deals that have a strong strategic rationale - for example, the acquisition of AT&T Wireless that removed a competitor in what is widely seen as an overcrowded field - have been applauded. But some other deals have brought back memories of the boom-and-bust 1990's.
Symantec's $13.5 billion acquisition of Veritas, for example, has been criticized as strategically unsound. Shares of Symantec have fallen some 21 percent since word of a deal emerged two weeks ago. That acquisition brings Symantec's antivirus and spyware software business together with Veritas's corporate backup and archive business. Investors and analysts argue Veritas is a more natural fit for a hardware manufacturer and that Symantec is simply using its highly valued stock to insulate itself from a downturn in its own business.
Despite the skepticism over that software deal, Silicon Valley is expected to become the new frontier for deals this year. The technology industry has long been considered a potentially fertile ground for mergers because it is so fragmented. The formidable barrier to doing deals has always been the belief that anything but a friendly deal would cause the software designers and engineers - the real assets of any technology company - to flee.
Oracle's dogged and ultimately successful hunt for PeopleSoft appears to have turned that notion upside down. Oracle's shares have risen 3.7 percent since PeopleSoft announced on Dec. 13 that it would agree to a takeover.
And hostile deals may be back, too. While Comcast's unsolicited $54.1 billion bid for the Walt Disney Company went nowhere, other similar deals are expected to have a greater chance of succeeding.
"The increase in the power of institutional and activist shareholders has been manifested in the dismantling of takeover defenses by many companies during the past two years," Mr. Lipton wrote in his letter. "This, combined with the threat of a proxy fight to remove a board of directors that rejects a takeover bid, will encourage aggressive acquirers to make use of 'bear hugs' and hostile tender offers."
American companies in particular may become the targets of foreign suitors in Europe and Japan looking to take advantage of the deep discounts because of the weak dollar. The weak dollar may also prevent United States companies from making a mega-acqusition abroad.
Still, the biggest enemy of deal making is uncertainty, and the possibility that terrorism and other problems around the world could stop this merger boom in its tracks.
"The marketplace and C.E.O.'s have had a tremendous sense of renewed confidence," said Ray McGuire, who co-manages the mergers and acquisitions practice at Morgan Stanley. "But if a new problem comes along, we could be back where we started."