Saturday, June 14, 2008

Blood for Medal: The Rising of Latin America

The Rising of Latin America

The Genesis of 'The War On Democracy'

By John Pilger
In the 1960s, when I first went to Latin America, I travelled up the cone of the continent from Chile across the Altiplano to Peru, mostly in rickety buses and single-carriage trains. It was an experience my memory stored for life, especially the spectacle of the movement of people.

13/06/08 "ICH" -- - -They moved through the dust of a snow-capped wilderness, along roads that were ribbons of red mud, and they lived in shanties that defied gravity. "We are invisible," said one man; another used the term abandonados; an indigenous woman in Bolivia unforgettably described her poverty as a commodity for the rich.

When I later saw Sebastiao Salgado's photographs of Latin America's working people, I recognised the people at the roadside, the gold miners and the coffee workers and the silhouettes framed in crosses in the cemeteries. Perhaps the idea for a cinema film began then, or when I reported Ronald Reagan's murderous assault on Central America; or when I first read the words of Victor Jara's ballads and heard Sam Cooke's anthem A Change Is Gonna Come.

"The War On Democracy" is my first film for cinema. It follows more than 55 documentary films for television, which began with The Quiet Mutiny, set in Vietnam. Most of my films have told stories of people's struggles against rapacious power and of attempts to subvert and control our historical memory. It is this control, this organised forgetting, that has always intrigued me both as a film-maker and a journalist. Described by Harold Pinter as a great silence unbroken by the incessant din of the media age, it assures the powerful in the west that the struggle of whole societies against their crimes is merely "superficially recorded, let alone documented, let alone acknowledged... It never happened. Even while it was happening it never happened. It didn't matter. It was of no interest".

This was true of Nicaragua in the early 1980s, when a popular revolution began to turn back poverty and bring literacy and hope to a country long dismissed as a banana republic. In the United States, the Sandinista government was successfully portrayed as communist and a threat, and crushed. After all, Richard Nixon had said of all of Latin America: "No one gives a shit about the place." The War On Democracy is meant as an antidote to this.

Modern fictional cinema rarely seems to break political silences. The very fine Motorcycle Diaries was a generation too late. In this country, where Hollywood sets the liberal boundaries, the work of Ken Loach and a few others is an honourable exception. However, the cinema is changing as if by default. The documentary has returned to the big screen and is being embraced by the public, in the US and all over. They were still clapping Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11 two months after it opened in this country. Why? The answer is uncomplicated. It was a powerful film that helped people make sense of news that no longer made sense. It did not present the usual phoney "balance" as a pretence for presenting an establishment consensus. It was not riddled with the cliches, platitudes and power assumptions that permeate "current affairs". It was realist cinema, as important as The Grapes of Wrath was in the 1930s, and people devoured it.

The War On Democracy is not the same. It comes out of a British commercial television tradition that is too often passed over: the pioneering of bold factual journalism that treated other societies not as post-imperial curios, as useful or expendable to "us", but extraordinary and important in their own terms. Granada's World in Action, where I began, was a prime example. It would report and film in ways that the BBC would not dare. These days, with misnamed "reality" programmes consuming much of television like a plague of cane toads, cinema has been handed a timely opportunity. Such are the dangers imposed on us all today by a rampant, neo-fascist superpower, and so urgent is our need for uncontaminated information that people are prepared to buy a cinema ticket to get it.

The War On Democracy examines the false democracy that comes with western corporations and financial institutions and a war waged, materially and as propaganda, against popular democracy. It is the story of the people I first saw 40 years ago; but they are no longer invisible; they are a mighty political movement, reclaiming noble concepts distorted by corporatism and they are defending the most basic human rights in a war being waged against all of us.

Cinema and television production are closely related, of course, but the differences, I have learned, are critical. Cinema allows a panorama to unfold, giving a sense of place that only the big screen captures. In The War On Democracy, the camera sweeps across the Andes in Bolivia to the highest and poorest city on earth, El Alto, then follows Juan Delfin, a priest and a taxi driver, into a cemetery where children are buried. That Bolivia has been asset-stripped by multinational companies, aided by a corrupt elite, is an epic story described by this one man and this spectacle. That the people of Bolivia have stood up, expelled the foreign consortium that took their water resources, even the water that fell from the sky, is understood as the camera pans across a giant mural that Juan Delfin painted. This is cinema, a moving mural of ordinary lives and triumphs.

Chris Martin and I (we made the film as a partnership) used two crews and two very different cinematographers, Preston Clothier and Rupert Binsley. They shot in high-definition stock, which then had to be converted to 35mm film - one of cinema's wonderful anachronisms.

The film was backed by the impresario Michael Watt, a supporter of anti-poverty projects all over the world, who had told producer Wayne Young that he wanted to put my TV work in the cinema. Granada provided additional support, and ITV will broadcast the film later in the year. The extra funding also allowed me to persuade the late Sam Cooke's New York agents to license A Change Is Gonna Come, one of the finest, most lyrical pieces of black music ever written and performed. I was in the southern United States when it was released. It was the time of the civil-rights movement, and Cooke's song spoke to and for all people struggling to be free. The same is true of the ballads of the Chilean Victor Jara, whose songs celebrated the popular democracy of Salvador Allende before Pinochet and the CIA extinguished it.

We filmed in the National Stadium in Santiago, Chile, where Jara was taken along with thousands of other political prisoners. By all accounts, he was a source of strength for his comrades, singing for them until soldiers beat him to the ground and smashed his hands. He wrote his last song there and it was smuggled out on scraps of paper. These are the words:

What horror the face of fascism


They carry out their plans with

knife-like precision ...

For them, blood equals medals ...

How hard it is to sing

When I must sing of horror ...

In which silence and screams

Are the end of my song.

After two days of torture, they killed him. The War On Democracy is about such courage and a warning to us all that "for them" nothing has changed, that "blood equals medals".

John Pilger was born and educated in Sydney, Australia. He has been a war correspondent, film-maker and playwright. Based in London, he has written from many countries and has twice won British journalism's highest award, that of "Journalist of the Year," for his work in Vietnam and Cambodia.

Supreme Court Rstores Habeas Corpus

Supreme Court restores habeas corpus, strikes down key part of Military Commissions Act
(updated below)

In a major rebuke to the Bush administration's theories of presidential power -- and in an equally stinging rebuke to the bipartisan political class which has supported the Bush detention policies -- the U.S. Supreme Court today, in a 5-4 decision (.pdf), declared Section 7 of the Military Commissions Act of 2006 unconstitutional. The Court struck down that section of the MCA because it purported to abolish the writ of habeas corpus -- the means by which a detainee challenges his detention in a court -- despite the fact that the Constitution permits suspension of that writ only "in Cases of Rebellion or Invasion."

As a result, Guantanamo detainees accused of being "enemy combatants" have the right to challenge the validity of their detention in a full-fledged U.S. federal court proceeding. The ruling today is the first time in U.S. history that the Court has ruled that detainees held by the U.S. Government in a place where the U.S. does not exercise formal sovereignty (Cuba technically is sovereign over Guantanamo) are nonetheless entitled to the Constitutional guarantee of habeas corpus whenever they are held in a place where the U.S. exercises effective control.

In upholding the right of habeas corpus for Guantanamo detainees, the Court found that the "Combatant Status Review Tribunals" process ("CSRT") offered to Guantanamo detainees -- mandated by the John-McCain-sponsored Detainee Treatment Act of 2005 -- does not constitute a constitutionally adequate substitute for habeas corpus. To the contrary, the Court found that such procedures -- which have long been criticized as sham hearings due to the fact that defendants cannot have a lawyer present, government evidence is presumptively valid, and defendants are prevented from challenging (and sometimes even knowing about) much of the evidence against them -- "fall well short of the procedures and adversarial mechanisms that would eliminate the need for habeas corpus review." Those grave deficiencies in the CSRT process mean that "there is considerable risk of error" in the tribunals' conclusions.

The Court's ruling was grounded in its recognition that the guarantee of habeas corpus was so central to the Founding that it was one of the few individual rights included in the Constitution even before the Bill of Rights was enacted. As the Court put it: "the Framers viewed freedom from unlawful restraint as a fundamental precept of liberty, and they understood the writ of habeas corpus as a vital instrument to secure that freedom." The Court noted that freedom from arbitrary or baseless imprisonment was one of the core rights established by the 13th Century Magna Carta, and it is the writ of habeas corpus which is the means for enforcing that right. Once habeas corpus is abolished -- as the Military Commissions Act sought to do -- then we return to the pre-Magna Carta days where the Government is free to imprison people with no recourse.

In its decision, the Court emphasized (and revived) some of the most vital principles of our system of Government which have been trampled upon and degraded over the last seven years (emphasis added):

The Framers' inherent distrust of government power was the driving force behind the constitutional plan that allocated powers among three independent branches. This design serves not only to make Government accountable but also to secure individual liberty. . . .

Where a person is detained by executive order rather than, say, after being tried and convicted in a court, the need for collateral review is most pressing. . . . The habeas court must have sufficient authority to conduct a meaningful review of both the cause of detention and the Executive's power to detain. . . .

Security depends upon a sophisticated intelligence apparatus and the ability of our Armed Forces to act and interdict. There are further considerations, however. Security subsists, too, in fidelity to freedom's first principles. Chief among these are freedom from arbitrary and unlawful restraint and the personal liberty that is secured by adherence to separation of powers. . . .

The laws and Constitution are designed to survive, and remain in force, in extraordinary times. Liberty and security can be reconciled; and in our system, they are reconciled within the framework of law. The Framers decided that habeas corpus, a right of first importance, must be a part of that framework, part of that law.

In ruling that the CSRTs woefully fail to provide the constitutionally guaranteed safeguards, the Court quoted Alexander Hamilton's Federalist No. 84: "The practice of arbitrary imprisonments, in all ages, is the favorite and most formidable instruments of tyranny." It is that deeply tyrannical practice -- implemented by the Bush administration and authorized by a bipartisan act of Congress -- which the U.S. Supreme Court, today, struck down.

The Military Commissions Act of 2006 was -- and remains -- one of the great stains on our national political character. It was passed by a substantial majority in the Senate (65-34) with the support of every single Senate Republican (except Chafee) and 12 Senate Democrats. No filibuster was even attempted. It passed by a similar margin in the House, where 34 Democrats joined 219 Republicans to enact it. One of the most extraordinary quotes of the post-9/11 era came from GOP Sen. Arlen Specter, who said at the time that that the Military Commissions Act -- because it explicitly barred federal courts from hearing habeas corpus petitions brought by Guantanamo detainees -- "sets back basic rights by some 900 years" and was "patently unconstitutional on its face" -- and Specter then proceeded to vote for it.

The greatest victim of the 9/11 attack has been our core, defining constitutional liberties. Of all the powers seized by this administration in the name of keeping us Safe, the power to imprison people indefinitely with no charges and no real process is the most pernicious.

Passage of the Military Commissions Act was spearheaded by John McCain, who was anointed by cowardly Senate Democrats to speak for them and negotiate with the White House. Once McCain blessed the Military Commissions Act, its passage was assured. Barack Obama voted against it, and once its passage appeared certain, Obama offered an amendment to limit it to five years. That amendment failed, rendering the MCA the law of the land without any time limits.

The Supreme Court today did what the Founders envisioned it should do: it protected our basic constitutional guarantees from erosion and assault by a corrupt majority within the political class. In so doing, the Court took a mild though important step in reversing some of the worst and most tyrannical excesses of the last seven years. Patrick Henry warned long ago of the unique dangers of allowing executive imprisonment without meaningful process:

Is the relinquishment of the trial by jury and the liberty of the press necessary for your liberty? Will the abandonment of your most sacred rights tend to the security of your liberty? Liberty, the greatest of all earthly blessings -- give us that precious jewel, and you may take everything else! . . . Guard with jealous attention the public liberty. Suspect everyone who approaches that jewel.
In his concurring opinion in Brown v. Allen (1953), Justice Jackson wrote:
Executive imprisonment has been considered oppressive and lawless since John, at Runnymede, pledged that no free man should be imprisoned, dispossessed, outlawed, or exiled save by the judgment of his peers or by the law of the land. The judges of England developed the writ of habeas corpus largely to preserve these immunities from executive restraint.
Our political and media elite were more than willing -- they were eager -- to relinquish that right to the President in the name of keeping us Safe from Terrorists. Today, the U.S. Supreme Court, in what will be one of the most celebrated landmark rulings of this generation, re-instated that basic right, and in so doing, restored one of the most critical safeguards against the very tyranny this country was founded to prevent.

UPDATE: Three of the five Justices in the majority -- John Paul Stevens (age 88), Ruth Bader Ginsburg (age 75) and David Souter (age 68) -- are widely expected by court observers to retire or otherwise leave the Court in the first term of the next President. By contrast, the four judges who dissented -- Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas, John Roberts and Sam Alito -- are expected to stay right where they are for many years to come.

John McCain has identified Roberts and Alito as ideal justices of the type he would nominate, while Barack Obama has identified Stephen Breyer, David Souter and Ginsberg (all in the majority today). It's not hyperbole to say that, from Supreme Court appointments alone, our core constitutional protections could easily depend upon the outcome of the 2008 election.


Thursday, June 12, 2008

Mulroney Appointee to Judge Mulroney/Schreiber Affair

PM appoints Manitoba jurist to head Mulroney-Schreiber inquiry
Last Updated: Thursday, June 12, 2008 | 5:04 PM ET Comments50Recommend22CBC News
Justice Jeffrey Oliphant sits in a courtroom in Winnipeg on May 7, 2008. (Phil Hossack/Canadian Press)Prime Minister Stephen Harper has appointed Associate Chief Justice Jeffrey Oliphant of Manitoba's Court of Queen's Bench to head the inquiry into the business dealings of former prime minister Brian Mulroney and Karlheinz Schreiber.

"A number of questions remain unanswered and it is in the public interest to investigate further and to find answers," Harper said in a statement released Thursday.

Oliphant's report from the inquiry is to be submitted to the government on or before June 12 of next year, the statement said.

Oliphant was appointed to the bench by prime minister Brian Mulroney in 1985.

The inquiry's mandate will be based on recommendations made by David Johnston, who had been asked to advise the Conservative government on what shape a public inquiry into the Mulroney-Schreiber affair should take.

Johnston said the inquiry should be limited and possibly include closed-door hearings.

The announcement comes six months after Harper said he would hold an inquiry into the Mulroney-Schreiber dealings.

It also comes on the same day the House of Commons ethics committee had wanted Mulroney to return to testify at its hearing. Opposition members of the committee had decided to resume the committee's probe into the affair because they hadn't heard anything about the promised inquiry.

But in a letter to the procedural clerk of the committee, Mulroney's lawyer, Guy Pratte, said the former prime minister "respectfully declines" the invitation to provide more testimony.

Pratte said "no useful purpose would be served by his re-attendance."

Pratte wrote that Mulroney has already provided four hours of testimony to the committee, along with relevant documentation. He also wrote that the committee had not specified what it wants to hear from Mulroney.

"In any event, the upcoming public inquiry should now be allowed to take its course."

No subpoena
The committee chair, Liberal MP Paul Szabo, has said the committee has already decided it won't issue a subpoena to Mulroney compelling him to testify.

Last April, the committee released a report calling for a broad, full-fledged public inquiry into the past business relationship between Mulroney and Schreiber, as German-Canadian businessman.

In previous testimony, Mulroney told the ethics committee that he received money between 1993 and 1994 to lobby internationally on behalf of Schreiber's client, Thyssen, a German armoured-vehicle company.

Mulroney said he was paid $225,000 cash in envelopes at three meetings between the two men, and insisted the arrangement was struck after he left office in June 1993.

While saying that accepting cash payments was one of the biggest mistakes of his life, Mulroney has said he did nothing illegal.

But Schreiber testified that the total was $300,000, and that the arrangement was reached while Mulroney was serving his last days as prime minister in 1993, something that could have put him in violation of federal ethics rules.


Department of Justice Fails to Appeal Dismissal Kurtz Speaks about Four-Year Ordeal

Buffalo, NY-- Dr. Steven Kurtz, a Professor of Visual Studies at SUNY at Buffalo and cofounder of the award-winning art and theater group Critical Art Ensemble, has been cleared of all charges of mail and wire fraud. On April 21, Federal Judge Richard J. Arcara dismissed the government's entire indictment against Dr. Kurtz as insufficient on its face." This means that even if the actions alleged in the indictment (which the judge must accept as "fact") were true, they would not constitute a crime. The US Department of Justice had thirty days from the date of the ruling to appeal. No action has been taken in this time period, thus stopping any appeal of the dismissal. According to Margaret McFarland, a spokeswoman for US Attorney Terrance P. Flynn, the DoJ will not appeal Arcara's ruling and will not seek any new charges against Kurtz.

For over a decade, cultural institutions worldwide have hosted Kurtz and Critical Art Ensemble's educational art projects, which use common science materials to examine issues surrounding the new biotechnologies. In 2004 the Department of Justice alleged that Dr. Kurtz had schemed with colleague Dr. Robert Ferrell of the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health to illegally acquire two harmless bacteria cultures for use in one of those projects. The Justice Department further alleged that the transfer of the material from Ferrell to Kurtz broke a material transfer agreement, thus constituting mail fraud.

Under the USA PATRIOT Act, the maximum sentence for these charges was increased from five years to twenty years in prison.

Dr. Kurtz has been fighting the charges ever since. In October 2007, Dr. Ferrell pleaded to a lesser misdemeanor charge after recurring bouts of cancer and three strokes suffered since his indictment prevented him from continuing the struggle.


Finally vindicated after four years of struggle, Kurtz, asked for a statement, responded stoically: "I don't have a statement, but I do have questions. As an innocent man, where do I go to get back the four years the Department of Justice stole from me? As a taxpayer, where do I go to get back the millions of dollars the FBI and Justice Department wasted persecuting me? And as a citizen, what must I do to have a Justice Department free of partisan corruption so profound it has turned on those it is sworn to protect?"

Said Kurtz's attorney, Paul Cambria, "I am glad an innocent man has been vindicated. Steve Kurtz stared in the face of the federal government and a twenty-year prison term and never flinched, because he believes in his work and his actions were those of a completely innocent man. Clients like him are a blessing, and although I have had many important victories, this one stands at the top of the list."

As coordinator of the CAE Defense Fund, a group organized to support Kurtz from the beginning of the case, Lucia Sommer sees the end of the prosecution as bittersweet, and like Kurtz, is thoughtful about the broader significance of the case: "This ruling is the best possible ending to a horrible ordeal--but we are mindful of numerous cases still pending, and the grave injustices perpetrated by the Bush administration following 9/11. This case was part of a larger picture, in which law enforcement was given expanded powers. In this instance, the Bush administration was unsuccessful in its attempt to erode Americans' constitutional rights."

Referring to the international outcry the case provoked, involving fundraisers and protests held on four continents, Sommer said, "The government has unlimited resources to bring and prosecute these kinds of charges, but the accused often don't have any resources to defend themselves. This victory could never have happened without the activism of thousands of people. Supporters protested, vocally opposed the prosecution, and refused to let it go on in silence. And without their efforts at
fundraising, Kurtz and Ferrell would not have been able to defend themselves from these false accusations."

Sommer added that the next step for the defense will be to get back all of the materials taken by the FBI during its 2004 raid on the Kurtz home, including several completed art projects, as well as Dr. Kurtz's lab equipment, computers, books, manuscripts, notes, research materials, and personal belongings. The four confiscated art projects are the subject of an exhibition entitled SEIZED on view at Hallwalls Contemporary Arts Center in Buffalo, NY, through July 18:


The case originated in May 2004, when Kurtz's wife Hope died of heart failure as the couple was preparing a project about genetically modified agriculture for the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art. Police who responded to Steve Kurtz's 911 call deemed the Kurtzes' art materials suspicious and alerted the FBI. Kurtz explained that the materials (legally and easily obtained basic life science equipment and two harmless bacteria samples) had already been displayed at museums throughout Europe and North America with absolutely no risk to the public. However, the following day, Kurtz was illegally detained for 22 hours on suspicion of bioterrorism, as dozens of agents from the FBI, Joint Terrorism Task Force, Homeland
Security, Department of Defense, ATF, and numerous other law enforcement agencies raided his home, seizing his personal and professional belongings.

After a federal grand jury refused to charge Kurtz with bioterrorism, Kurtz and Ferrell were indicted on two counts of mail fraud and two counts of wire fraud concerning the acquisition of of harmless bacteria for one of Critical Art Ensemble's educational art projects. (Critical Art Ensemble is the recipient of numerous awards for its projects, including the prestigious 2007 Andy Warhol Foundation Wynn Kramarsky Freedom of Artistic Expression Grant, in recognition of twenty years of distinguished work:

The Department of Justice brought the charges in spite of the fact that the alleged "victims of fraud"--American Type Culture Collection and the University of Pittsburgh--never filed any charges or complained of any wrongdoing, and the fact that in bringing the charges the Department of Justice was acting completely outside its own Prosecution Policy Relating to Mail Fraud and Wire Fraud


June 11, 2008

Dr. Steven J. Kurtz: (716) 812-2968
Lucia Sommer, CAE Defense Fund: (716) 359-3061
Edmund Cardoni, Hallwalls Contemporary Arts Center: (716) 854-1694

For more information and extensive documentation, including the Judge's
dismissal, please visit:

Don't Believe the Skype Bush Tells Italy's Youth

Bush Slams Anti-US ‘Propaganda’
by BBC News
US President George W Bush has denounced “misinformation and propaganda” which he says are sullying his country’s image abroad.

On a visit to Italy, he told young entrepreneurs on an exchange programme that going to the US would show them it was compassionate and open.

Mr Bush will later hold talks in Rome with Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.

The two leaders are expected to discuss further sanctions against Iran, and the role of Italian troops in Afghanistan.

Mr Bush will conclude his visit to Italy on Friday by meeting Pope Benedict XVI. In an unusual break with protocol, they will meet not in the Papal Study, but in the Vatican’s gardens.

The Holy See said the Pope wanted to show his gratitude for the hospitality shown to him on his recent visit to the US. Afterwards, Mr Bush will travel to France and the UK.

‘Misinformation and propaganda’

Security for President Bush’s visit has been very tight.

Commercial flights over the city have been diverted, 10,000 policemen have been mobilised, there are frogmen under bridges and snipers on roofs, and mobile phone signals are being disrupted whenever his motorcade moves, says the BBC’s Christian Fraser in Rome.

As Air Force One touched down, hundreds were gathering in the city centre in protest at the Bush administration and Italy’s involvement in Afghanistan.

Another group of demonstrators chanted “Bush, go home” outside the American Academy in Rome’s Villa Aurelia while the president met young entrepreneurs inside.

Mr Bush urged them to ignore the “misinformation and propaganda” spread about his country and to learn the “first-hand truth about America” by visiting.

“The best diplomacy for America, particularly among young folks, is to welcome you to our country,” he said. “We are compassionate, we’re an open country, we care about people and we’re entrepreneurial.”

Shortly afterwards, Mr Bush was greeted by his Italian counterpart, Georgio Napolitano, at his official residence in the Quirinale Palace.

He will later hold talks with Mr Berlusconi, who was staunch supporter of the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 during his previous term in office.

After months of pressure from Washington, Mr Berlusconi’s administration has removed restrictions on Italian troops serving in combat operations in western Afghanistan for the Nato-led International Security Assistance Force (Isaf).

In return for this co-operation, Italy wants a bigger say on Iran on the grounds that it has recently become the Iranians’ largest European trading partner.

Mr Bush has said he supports Italy’s bid to join the group of five permanent UN Security Council members plus Germany, which has been involved in negotiations about Iran’s nuclear programme.

After meeting German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin on Wednesday, he repeated a warning to Iran that it would face additional sanctions if it continued to defy the international community by refusing to abandon uranium enrichment.

He said diplomatic pressure remained the best path to deal with the issue, but insisted that “all options are on the table”.


Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Motion to Ban (Depleted) Uranium Weapons

CANADA: Statement by Member of Canadian Parliament (New Democratic Party) "to ensure that depleted uranium weapons of mass destruction are banned forever".

Wednesday, June 5, 2008

Depleted Uranium

Mr. Alex Atamanenko (British Columbia Southern Interior, NDP): Mr. Speaker, last year the United Nations First Committee passed a resolution urging member states to re-examine the health hazards posed by the use of uranium weapons.

Belgium has banned the use of uranium in all conventional weapon systems. However, at least 18 countries, including the U.S., use depleted uranium in their arsenals. They are considered weapons of mass destruction under international law.

According to a Canada-U.S. agreement, Canadian uranium exports may only be used for peaceful purposes. However, according to Dr. Douglas Rokke, a U.S. Army research scientist, and others, Canada provides raw uranium to the U.S. and other countries for processing. The resulting depleted uranium is then used in weapons.

One only has to watch the documentary film Beyond Treason to see the devastating effects of these weapons in countries such as Iraq.

I call upon our government to undertake every measure possible to ensure that depleted uranium weapons of mass destruction are banned forever.


To express your support, please contact:

MP Alex Atamanenko (NDP)
House of Commons
Ottawa, Ontario
K1A 0A6
Telephone: (613) 996-8036
Fax: (613) 943-0922

Thank you.

Monday, June 09, 2008

Dan Rather’s prepared remarks

The following are Dan Rather’s prepared remarks:

I am grateful to be here and I am, most of all, gratified by the energy I have seen tonight and at this conference. It will take this kind of energy - and more - to sustain what is good in our news media… to improve what is deficient… and to push back against the forces and the trends that imperil journalism and that - by immediate extension - imperil democracy itself.

The Framers of our Constitution enshrined freedom of the press in the very first Amendment, up at the top of the Bill of Rights, not because they were great fans of journalists - like many politicians, then and now, they were not - but rather because they knew, as Thomas Jefferson put it, that, “If a nation expects to be ignorant and free… it expects what never was and never will be.”

And it is because of this Constitutionally-protected role that I still prefer to use the word “press” over the word “media.” If nothing else, it serves as a subtle reminder that - along with newspapers - radio, television, and, now, the Internet, carry the same Constitutional rights, mandates, and responsibilities that the founders guaranteed for those who plied their trade solely in print.

So when you hear me talk about the press, please know that I am talking about all the ways that news can be transmitted. And when you hear me criticize and critique the press, please know that I do not exempt myself from these criticisms.

In our efforts to take back the American press for the American people, we are blessed this weekend with the gift of good timing. For anyone who may have been inclined to ask if there really is a problem with the news media, or wonder if the task of media reform is, indeed, an urgent one… recent days have brought an inescapable answer, from a most unlikely source.

A source who decided to tell everyone, quote, “what happened.”

I know I can’t be the first person this weekend to reference the recent book by former White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan, but, having interviewed him this past week, I think there are some very important points to be made from the things he says in his book, and the questions his statements raise.

I’m sure all of you took special notice of what he had to say about the role of the press corps, in the run-up to the war in Iraq. In the government’s selling of the war, he said they were - or, I should say, we were “complicit enablers” and “overly deferential.”

These are interesting statements, especially considering their source. As one tries to wrap one’s mind around them, the phrase “cognitive dissonance” comes to mind.

The first reaction, a visceral one, is: Whatever his motives for saying these things, he’s right - and we didn’t need Scott McClellan to tell us so.

But the second reaction is: Wait a minute… I do remember at least some reporters, and some news organizations, asking tough questions - asking them of the president, of those in his administration, of White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer and - oh yes - of Scott McClellan himself, once he took over for Mr. Fleischer a few months after the invasion.

So how do we reconcile these competing reactions? Well, we need to pull back for what we in television call the wide shot.

If we look at the wide shot, we can see, in one corner of our screen, the White House briefing room filled with the White House press corps… and, filling the rest of the screen, the finite but disproportionately powerful universe that has become known as “mainstream media” - the newspapers and news programs, real and alleged, that employ these White House correspondents - the news organizations that are, in turn, owned by a shockingly few, much larger corporations, for which news is but a miniscule part of their overall business interests.

In the wake of 9/11 and in the run-up to Iraq, these news organizations made a decision - consciously or unconsciously, but unquestionably in a climate of fear - to accept the overall narrative frame given them by the White House, a narrative that went like this: Saddam Hussein, brutal dictator, harbored weapons of mass destruction and, because of his supposed links to al Qaeda, this could not be tolerated in a post-9/11 world.

In the news and on the news, one could, to be sure, find persons and views that did not agree with all or parts of this official narrative. Hans Blix, the former U.N. chief weapons inspector, comes to mind as an example. But the burden of proof, implicitly or explicitly, was put on these dissenting views and persons… the burden of proof was not put on an administration that was demonstrably moving towards a large-scale military action that would represent a break with American precedent and stated policy of how, when, and under what circumstances this nation goes to war.

So with this in mind, we look back to the corner of our screen where the White House Press Corps is asking their questions. I have been a White House correspondent myself, and I have worked with some of the best in the business. You have an incentive, when you are in that briefing room, to ask the good, tough questions: If nothing else, that is how you get in the paper, or on the air. There is more to it than that, and things have changed since I was a White House correspondent - something I want to talk about in a minute. But the correspondents - the really good ones - these correspondents ask their tough questions.

And these questions are met with what is now called, euphemistically and much too kindly, what is now called “message discipline.”

Well, we used to have a better and more accurate term for “message discipline.” We called it “stonewalling.” Now, cut back to your evening news, or your daily newspaper… where that White House Correspondent dutifully repeats the question he asked of the president or his press secretary, and dutifully relates the answer he was given - the same non-answer we’ve already heard dozens of times, which amounts to a pitch for the administration’s point of view, whether or NOT the answer had anything to do with the actual question that was asked.

And then: “Thank you Jack. In other news today… .”

And we’re off on a whole new story.

In our news media, in our press, those who wield power were, in the lead-up to Iraq, given the opportunity to present their views as a coherent whole, to connect the dots, as they saw the dots and the connections… no matter how much these views may have flown in the face of precedent, established practice - or, indeed, the facts (as we are reminded, yet again, by the just-released Senate report on the administration’s use of pre-war intelligence). The powerful are given this opportunity still, in ways big and small, despite what you may hear about the “post-Katrina” press.

But when a tough question is asked and not answered, when reputable people come before the public and say, “wait a minute, something’s not right here,” the press has treated them like voices crying in the wilderness. These views, though they might be given air time, become lone dots - dots that journalists don’t dare connect, even if the connections are obvious, even if people on the Internet and in the independent press are making these very same connections. The mainstream press doesn’t connect these dots because someone might then accuse them of editorializing, or of being the, quote, “liberal media.”

But connecting these dots - making disparate facts make sense - is a big part of the real work of journalism.

So how does this happen? Why does this happen?

Let me say, by way of answering, that quality news of integrity starts with an owner who has guts.

In a news organization with an owner who has guts, there is an incentive to ask the tough questions, and there is an incentive to pull together the facts - to connect the dots - in a way that makes coherent sense to the news audience.

I mentioned a moment ago that things have changed since I was a White House correspondent. Yes, presidential administrations have become more adept at holding “access” over the heads of reporters - ask too tough a question, or too many of them, so the implicit threat goes, and you’re not going to get any more interviews with high-ranking members of the administration, let alone the president. But I was covering Presidents Johnson and Nixon - men not exactly known as pushovers. No, what has changed, even more than the nature of the presidency, is the character of news ownership. I only found out years after the fact, for example, about the pressure that the Nixon White House put on my then-bosses, during Watergate - pressure to cut down my pieces, to call me off the story, and so on… because, back then, my bosses took the heat, so I didn’t have to. They did this so the story could get told, and so the public could be informed.

But it is rare, now, to find a major news organization owned by an individual, someone who can say, in effect, “The buck stops here.” The more likely motto now is: “The news stops… with making bucks.”

America’s biggest, most important news organizations have, over the past 25 years, fallen prey to merger after merger, acquisition after acquisition… to the point where they are, now, tiny parts of immeasurably larger corporate entities - entities whose primary business often has nothing to do with news. Entities that may, at any given time, have literally hundreds of regulatory issues before multiple arms of the government concerning a vast array of business interests.

These are entities that, as publicly-held and traded corporations, have as their overall, reigning mandate: Provide a return on shareholder value. Increase profits. And not over time, not over the long haul, but quarterly.

One might ask just where the news fits into this model. And if you really need an answer, you can turn on your television, where you will see the following:

Political analysis reduced to in-studio shouting matches between partisans armed with little more than the day’s talking points.

Precious time and resources wasted on so-called human-interest stories, celebrity fluff, sensationalist trials, and gossip.

A proliferation of “news you can use” that amounts to thinly-disguised press releases for the latest consumer products.

And, though this doesn’t get said enough, local news, which is where most Americans get their news, that seems not to change no matter what town or what city you’re in… so slavish is its adherence to the “happy talk” formula and the dictum that, “If it bleeds, it leads.”

I could continue for hours, cataloging journalistic sins of which I know you are all too aware. But, as the time grows late, let me say that almost all of these failings come down to this: In the current model of corporate news ownership, the incentive to produce good and valuable news is simply not there.

Good news, quality news of integrity, requires resources and it requires talent. These things are expensive, these things eat away at the bottom line.

Years ago, in the eighties and the nineties, when the implications of these cost-trimming measures were becoming impossible to ignore, and the quality of the news was clearly threatened, I spoke out against this cutting of news operations to the bone and beyond. Even then, though, I couldn’t have imagined that the cost-cutting imperatives would go as far as they have today - deep into the marrow of what was once considered a public trust.

But since the financial resources always seem to be available for entertainment, promotion, and - last but not least - for lobbying… perhaps there is an even more important reason why the incentive to produce quality news is absent, and that is: quality news of integrity, by its very nature, is sure to rock the boat now and then. Good, responsible news worthy of its Constitutional protections will, in that famous phrase, afflict the powerful and comfort the afflicted.

And that, when one feels the need to deliver shareholder value above all, means that good news… may not always mean good business - or so goes the fear, a fear that filters down into just about every big newsroom in this country.

Now, I have spent my entire life in for-profit news, and I happen to think that it does not have to be this way. I have worked for news owners who, while they may have regarded their news divisions as an occasional irritant, chose to turn that irritant into a pearl of public trust. But today, sadly, it seems that the conglomerates that have control over some of the biggest pieces of this public trust would just as soon spit that irritant out.

So what does this mean for us tonight, and what is to be done?

It means that we need to be on the alert for where, when, and how our news media bows to undue government influence. And you need to let news organizations know, in no uncertain terms, that you won’t stand for it… that you, as news consumers, are capable of exerting pressure of your own.

It means that we need to continue to let our government know that, when it comes to media consolidation, enough is enough. Too few voices are dominating, homogenizing, and marginalizing the news. We need to demand that the American people get something in exchange for the use of airwaves that belong, after all, to the people.

It means that we need to ensure that the Internet, where free speech reigns and where journalism does not have to pass through a corporate filter… remains free.

We need to say, loud and clear, that we don’t want big corporations enjoying preferred access to - or government acting as the gatekeeper for - this unique platform for independent journalism.

And it means that we need to hold the government to its mandate to protect the freedom of the press, including independent and non-commercial news media.

The stakes could not possibly be higher. Scott McClellan’s book serves as a reminder, and the current election season, not to mention the gathering clouds of conflict with Iran, will both serve as tests of whether lessons have truly been learned from past experience. Ensuring that a free press remains free will require vigilance, and it will require work. Please, take tonight’s energy and inspiration home with you. Take it back to your desks and your workplaces, to your colleagues and your fellow citizens. magnify it, multiply it, and spread it. Make it viral. Make it something that cannot be ignored - not by the powers in Washington, not by the owners and executives of media companies. Write these people. Call them. Send them the message that you know your rights, you know that you are entitled to news media as diverse and varied as the American people… and that you deserve a press that provides the raw material of democracy, the good information that Americans need to be full participants in our government of, by, and for the people.

There is energy here, that can be equal to that task, but this energy must be maintained… if the press - if democracy - is to be preserved.

Thank you very much, and good night.

Newfoundland; Evicting the Innu

Newfoundland orders Innu families to leave

With a report from The Canadian Press

June 6, 2008

QUEBEC -- More than 100 Innu families from Quebec occupying land in Labrador are being evicted by the Newfoundland and Labrador government as part of an escalating confrontation over land rights involving resource development and hydroelectric projects.

A lawyer for the Innu said yesterday the people of the Uashat-Maliotenam reserve in northeastern Quebec will take matters into their own hands if they are forced off the land.

"I've heard people saying that if they tear down our cabins, there won't be a single cabin standing, whether it's Innu or a non-Innu cabin, in Labrador," Armand MacKenzie said.

"We're going to call it 'Labrador Burning.'

"If [Newfoundland Premier] Danny Williams wants to pick a fight with the Quebec Innu, he'll get it. He'll get it and we'll have a social crisis in Labrador."
The government posted the eviction notices late last month, and have given the families 60 days to demolish and remove "cabins located at or near Nairn Bay" in western Labrador.

The Innu face fines of $1,000 and up to three months in jail if they refuse to comply. They've been ordered to restore the site to its original condition or face an additional $25 fine for each day the cabins and other structures remain on Crown land. If they don't remove the structures, the province will do it at the occupants' expense, the eviction notice stated.

Mr. Williams told reporters in St. John's yesterday that the Quebec Innu recently erected the cabins in the region, and government lawyers are questioning whether the action is legal. Mr. Williams said he isn't sure why the cabins were built, but added that they appeared after discussions intensified on the development of the Lower Churchill hydroelectric project. He believes the Innu moved in to assert their land claim over the territory, which would be affected if the hydro project goes ahead.

Mr. MacKenzie pledged to challenge the eviction notice in court. He said that some of the structures were built many years ago on the land, and that the Innu occupied it long before Newfoundland and Labrador was formed.

"This is our homeland. We have sacred sites here. They are recognized by all the residents of Labrador. This is where we hunt. Hold ceremonies and bury our relatives. Even the game wardens and other provincial authorities saw us build structures here 20-25 years ago and recognized that the Innu had the right to do so," Mr. MacKenzie said in a telephone interview yesterday.

The Innu accused the Williams government of harassing their community because a claim to the land was before the Federal Court yesterday in Montreal. More than 20 Innu have filed a claim to establish native ownership over the site.

The Innu argue that their traditional homeland, which also cuts across part of Quebec, belongs to them under aboriginal title, and that resource development, especially hydroelectric projects, cannot proceed without their consent. In 1998, the Innu blocked the announcement of the Lower Churchill project by then-Quebec-premier Lucien Bouchard and his Newfoundland and Labrador counterpart at the time, Brian Tobin.

"No one has the right to evict us," Mr. MacKenzie said yesterday. "It is a total disgrace in the international community for the provincial government to attempt to bully us into giving up our land so that it can construct hydroelectric dams and make money off our resources."

Sunday, June 08, 2008

This Week on Gorilla Radio

GR for Monday, June 9th, 2008
by C. L. Cook
Of the world's industrial states, Canada has perhaps the most concentrated media. In this country, the confluence of corporate media purveyors with a singular political vision; a State broadcaster run by careerist weaklings, desperate to preserve their jobs by pleasing the party of the day; and, a supine regulatory system, more interested in making life difficult for college and community radio programmers than in challenging the systemic abuses of the nation's "public" airwaves, conspire to make of Canadian media a final product little better than the base propaganda of the communist regimes of old.

What this means for the denizens of this sad, satellite state that is Canada is a monolithic meme delivery system masquerading as journalism, while media handmaidens to power pretend to operate in the public interest. It's no wonder then Canadians can blithely sit before flickering boxes, sucking beer, as the nation is frog-marched into fascism.

It is a dangerous, and seemingly hopeless situation: Corporate players are not likely to change the way they massage their message, and fearful bureaucrats behind the State media apparatus will not endanger their livelihoods to buck the system to deliver truth to the citizenry.

Luckily, we live in a time of technological wonders whose magic promises to change not only the way we live, but the way we learn about the others effecting our lives.

Geraldine Cahill is Communications and Social Media coordinator for The Real News, a Toronto-based emerging media upstart challenging "old media's" news dissemination monopoly. Geraldine Cahill in the first half.

And; almost seven years past the time the first bunker busters fell upon the heads of hapless Afghani goat herds and their keepers, it's instructive to look back upon the carnage of the interim and what meaning we can take away from this madness.

Hundreds of thousands dead; millions maimed and made homeless; landscapes scarred and corrupted with poisons and unexploded ordnance, just waiting for the curious attentions of children to add again to the misery the chosen course engendered for Afghanistan, Iraq, Lebanon, Pakistan, and the un-people thrown into dark prisons around the world without a glimmer of hope for salvation.

Mike Ferner is an activist with Voices in the Wilderness and Veterans for Peace, broadcaster, and author of the book, 'Inside the Red Zone: A Veteran for Peace Reports.' He's also a dedicated writer, chronicling America's spiral into perpetual war in hundreds of articles published across the internet.

Mike Ferner and keeping tabs on War, Incorporated in the second segment.

And; Janine Bandcroft will be here at the bottom of the hour to bring us up to speed with all that's good to do in and around Victoria in the coming week.

UK: Barclays Bank Bows to der Homeland

Barclays bank rejects customers to comply with US terror law

Sean O'Neill, Crime and Security Editor

Barclays is using controversial American anti-terrorism laws to shut down the personal bank accounts of British citizens who are working for Iranian-owned businesses, The Times has learnt.

The bank has unilaterally enforced anti-Iran sanctions drawn up by the Bush Administration under the US Patriot Act against companies that operate completely legally in Britain. Those affected by the account closures are not directors of the companies but ordinary staff members, including clerical officers, computer engineers and bank tellers.

Barclays refuses to discuss the decision or to say how many people have been affected by its action. But The Times has obtained a letter written by Deborah Cooper, a senior Barclays lawyer, which states that the bank must consider “the global regulatory environment” and regards “full compliance with sanctions regimes to be of extreme importance”.

Ms Cooper’s letter was addressed to lawyers representing employees of the Iranian-owned banks Saderat and Melli whose accounts have been closed and funds returned to the account holder.

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Both banks are based in the City, fully licensed to operate in Britain and regulated by the Financial Services Authority. Neither is subject to the extensive Iranian sanctions regimes that are operated by the Treasury or the European Union.

However, the US Government’s Office of Foreign Assets Control has placed both on its list of specially designated nationals (SDNs).

Ms Cooper’s letter said: “Barclays has . . . a policy of not conducting business with people or entities which are publicly designated SDNs and in line with that Barclays is unable to receive payments from or undertake other business which involves Melli or Saderat.”

Barclays began the account closures in February, shortly after reports from industry sources that US Treasury agents had been touring the City of London putting pressure on financial institutions to withdraw from any form of business that might have Iranian links.

One source told The Times that City banks had been warned that they would lose access to the US market if they continued to deal with Iranian businesses. Barclays has extensive business interests in the United States.

The US Government has accused Melli Bank of alleged links to the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and described Bank Saderat as a terrorist financier that has channelled money to Hezbollah and other groups. Both banks deny the allegations strongly.

Case study: Cast out in the supermarket

Chris was doing the shopping in Tesco when Barclays rang to tell him that his bank account was being closed. Later that evening his wife was told that her Barclays account, which she had held for 25 years, was also being closed.

Chris, 46, works in IT for Bank Saderat, and his wife is in the accounts department of Melli Bank. Both institutions are Iranian-owned. “They said it was because of sanctions but I knew there were no British sanctions on the banks. I asked them if they were responding to US laws and they said they didn’t have to give me a reason,” he said.

The couple opened new accounts with one of Barclays’ rivals but they had difficulty transferring standing orders, especially Chris’s child-support payments. He said: “I know that UK banks are being pressured by America to stop all dealings with Iran but what impact will it have to shut an English bloke’s account with an English bank? The Iranians won’t give a monkey’s. What upsets me is the lack of respect Barclays have for their customers.”