Friday, May 30, 2008


Several people are staging a hunger strike in Prague and have been joined by some in other countries as well to protest an expected agreement between the Czech Republic and the US to host part of a missile defense shield.

Jan Tamas and Jan Bednar (both pictured here/ Bednar is on the left) in Prague have been on the hunger strike since May 13, Dino Mancarella in Trieste since May 14, Federica Fratini and Eduardo Calizza in Rome since May 19, José Alvarez in Spain since May 22. Bruce Gagnon and Sung-Hee Choi in the USA, Gareth Smith in Australia, Joaquin Valenzuela in Bologna since May 24. Ivan Marchetti and Andrea Casa in Turin since May 26 and Dr. Hassan Nayeb Hashem in Austria since May 29.

One of the Czechs, Jan Bednar was rushed to a hospital yesterday with some type of liver failure. Bendar says despite his condition he will not stop his protest.

The United States plans to build a radar base on Czech soil along with a base for ten interceptor missiles in Poland as elements of the U.S. missile defense shield that Bush administration says is to protect the United States and a large part of Europe against missiles that "rogue" states like Iran might launch.

The Prague Daily Monitor reported today almost two-thirds of Czechs are against the stationing of the U.S. radar base in the Czech Republic, while fewer than one-quarter are for the project, according to a poll conducted by the polling agency CVVM in early April and released today. The poll also shows 70 percent of Czechs believe a referendum should decide on the plan, the opposite view is held by 20 percent. Some 72 percent of Czechs are afraid of an attack in the event of a military conflict, while 64 percent are afraid of a terrorist attack on the radar base.

In a letter to the hunger strikers Rep. Cynthia McKinney wrote," It is impossible for me to say strongly enough how important your efforts are in the Czech Republic to oppose deployment of U.S. so-called missile defense bases. Your leadership is being watched and is appreciated all over the world."

The Prague Post says as all eyes are fixed on the anticipated June signing of the Czech-U.S. treaty to build the radar base at the Brdy Military Base 90 kilometers (37 miles) southwest of Prague, controversy over a lesser-known radar base is playing out on the other side of the country.

That controversy centers on a new base built by the Defense Ministry and to be under NATO control which is now being completed in Slavkov, south Moravia, and is scheduled to begin trial operations June 1.

More than 20 surrounding towns and villages as well as conservation and historic groups have battled that radar station since construction began, but, at this point, locals have mostly given in to the inevitable. “We have been excluded from judicial proceedings against the radar. Any further efforts on our part would be wasted,” said Jiří Životský, mayor of Sokolnice, about 2 kilometers from the base, adding that a 2004 court case against the installation had been dismissed."

The Campaign for Peace and Democracy argues although the proposed US radar in the Czech Republic and the companion interceptor missiles planned for Poland are presented as a defense system against possible attacks from Iranian missiles, the "Missile Defense" system is, in fact, a first strike weapon and a tool for global dominance.

The following is from Russia Today.

Hunger strikers stand firm against U.S. missile shield

Two campaigners in Prague are taking anti-radar base protests to another level. They’ve been on hunger strike for 18 days as the Czech Republic nears agreement with the U.S. to host part of its missile defence shield.

Jan Bednar from the ‘No to the Base’ campaign group has lost 10 kilograms in weight in just over two weeks. His liver is failing and jaundice is setting in, so doctors are urging him to end his hunger strike. But he’s refusing. He may look weak, but his will is strong.

“I will continue as long as I can, because I want people to realise that our government is putting us in a seriously dangerous situation through its negotiations on the U.S. radar base,” he says.

At the ‘No to the Base’ headquarters in Prague, second hunger striker Jan Tamas is documenting their plight on the web. He too has eaten nothing for 18 days, drinking only water. He says he'll only stop the strike if the government meets one of three demands.

“This means receiving a clear sign that negotiations about this base will be stopped, or getting a clear sign that there'll be a national referendum on the issue or that an open democratic debate about this issue will begin to take place,” he explains.

Since last year, Prague has been negotiating the terms of installing a radar base on Czech soil with Washington. Such a base would be part of a planned U.S. missile shield in Europe. Russia and China have heavily condemned the plans, saying it would set back international disarmament efforts.

Across the Czech Republic the radar plans have been met by a wave of protests, and the latest hunger strike is, perhaps, a last resort.

The hunger strikers say the Czech government is acting undemocratically in refusing to the consult the public on the issue, even though the latest opinion polls show that 65 per cent of Czechs are against the radar base.

The majority of people want a referendum, but the government disagrees. With only a fragile majority in Parliament, the government wouldn't have it easy, especially as the Greens and the Social Democrats largely oppose the plans.

But across town, there's a sound of optimism in the air: Prague's American Embassy is educating the public on the positive aspects of a radar base. The photo exhibition called 'Life with the Radar' shows people living happily on the Marshall Islands, which hosts the U.S. radar that could one day end up near Prague.

Whether these photos will have any bearing on public opinion remains to be seen.


An attempt at a citizen's arrest of John Bolton (pictured here), the former American ambassador to the UN, at the Hay Festival in Wales failed Wednesday night.

George Monbiot, the columnist and activist, had tried to perform a citizen’s arrest on Bolton as he ended a talk to more than 600 people on Wednesday evening.

In chaotic scenes, Monbiot was stopped from doing so by security guards.

During the attempt Monbiot shouted out, “John Robert Bolton, I am arresting you for the charge of aggression, the crime of aggression, as defined by the Nuremberg Principles.”
Afterwards Monbiot, a regular freelance contributor for The Guardian, told the London Telegraph he was “disappointed” his attempt had failed.

He said: “This was a serious attempt to bring one of the perpetrators of the Iraq war to justice, for what is described under the Nuremberg Principles as an international crime.”

Monbiot stated he had given a dossier of evidence on Mr Bolton to Dyfed-Powys Police ahead of his attempt to present his charge sheet.

He added: “I’m aware that I’ve made what I believe is the first attempt ever to arrest one of the perpetrators of the Iraq War, and I believe that is a precedent and I would like to see that precedent followed up.”

A group of anti-war activists waved placards and shouted “war criminal” as security personnel escorted Bolton out.

Bolton was due to speak in Bristol yesterday on to speak there as part of the Bristol Festival Of Ideas.

He didn't show up after protests were planned. He said he was too busy.

The following is from the Tehran Times.

Protesters call Bolton war criminal

John Bolton, who was under-secretary of state under Colin Powell at the time of the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, was jeered by protesters shouting “war criminal” as he left the Hay literary festival.

The jeers came after Bolton, who was a leading hawk in President George W. Bush’s administration, told the audience that five years of “failed” negotiations with Iran over its nuclear program had left just two options for dealing with the issue -- regime change or use of force.

Thursday, May 29, 2008


Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health care is the most shocking and inhumane."
-------------Dr.Martin Luther King Jr.

Tired of the talk about healthcare reform? Ever have a problem with health insurance (or lack thereof)? Want to do something? June 19th you can. There will be demonstrations in front of insurance companies all over the country on that day challenging their control of our healthcare system and demanding instead, a guaranteed national single payer healthcare system. You can join with thousands of others around the country for the National Day of Action Against Health Insurance Companies in taking action to win a guaranteed national single-payer healthcare system with no financial barriers to care in 2009.

Below are the cities and contact emails where demonstrations are already being planned for June 19th.

San Francisco, Mosconi Center,; bill gallagher

Philadelphia and Camden, Cigna, Tom Knoche

Pittsburgh Highmark/Blue Cross/ Blue Shield-- Sandy Fox

Minnetonka, MN, United Health Care-- Ann Patterson, and Joel Clemmer,

Oklahoma City, Blue Cross/Blue Shield -- Reggie Cervantes

Louisville, KY, Humana-- Kay Tillow,

Gainesville, Florida-- Mark Piotrowski,

Hartford, CT Aetna/Hartford, Lucille Rosenblatt,

Chicago, IL Blue Cross/Blue Shield -- Jill and Donna Smith,

Indianapolis, IN, Wellpoint-- Cindy Calley,

San Antonio, TX, Humana Insurance Co, 6:00 p.m.-- Jane Lee Cantu,

Newark, NJ, Blue Cross -- Ray Stever

Atlanta, Blue Cross/Blue Shield-- Margie Rece

New York City: Billy Wharton,Email:
Phone: (718) 869-2279 Rally at the GHI office (34th & 9th) and march to United Healthcare (33rd and 8th Ave)

St. Louis, MO. Julia Lamborne,

Albany, NY, Leo O'Brien Federal Building at 5 p.m. The sponsor: the Capital District Coalition-- contact : Mike Keenan;

Boston, Contact Rand Wilson--

For more information email

I got to tell you the opportunity to take on the health insurance moguls head on sound not only like a good thing, but damn fun to boot. How many have suffered and died for no real reason except to line these bastards pockets?

You and I both know that we can't count on the pols to do the job for us (hell they've been talking about universal health care since Truman). It never works that way. It takes mass action to get anything done in this country of ours.

We don't need some scheme developed out of conversations with health insurance executives. We need a single payer system right now. That won't come from sitting down at the table and chatting. That will come when the people in their millions finally stand up and scream, "We're sick and tired of being sick and tired."

June 19ths action sounds like one place to start.

The following call to action comes from the California Nurses Association.

Healthcare Activists Plan June 19th as National Day of Action Against Health Insurance Companies
Thousands to Gather in San Francisco and Around Country as 38,000 Insurance Industry Executives Meet for Annual AHIP Convention

Nurses, Doctors, Patients, Consumer Activists Call for Guaranteed, Single-Payer Healthcare—“Patients Not Profits”

Seeking an end to the healthcare crisis that is destroying American lives and families, thousands of healthcare activists will descend on San Francisco and on cities around the country this June 19th as part of an unprecedented national day of protests against health insurance corporations—and in support of guaranteed, single-payer healthcare, the “Medicare for All” system succeeding in nearly every other industrialized democracy. The protests will demand a healthcare system focused on patients, not profits, and are being coordinated by the Leadership Conference on Guaranteed Healthcare, a coalition group representing hundreds of thousands of members. Learn more at

The national day of action is timed in conjunction with the annual convention of America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP), the insurance industry lobbying group dedicated to blocking healthcare reform. Cities that headquarter major health insurance companies will host local actions as part of the national day of protest. Activists are planning events in Chicago, the base of Blue Cross/Blue Shield; Philadelphia, base of CIGNA; Hartford, base of AETNA; Louisville, KY, base of Humana; Minnetonka, MN, base of United Health Group, and elsewhere.

WHAT: Thousands Protest Insurance Companies in San Francisco, nationwide
WHEN: Thursday, June 19th, 12 Noon
WHERE: San Francisco, CA—4th St. @ Howard St.

The Leadership Conference on Guaranteed Healthcare is composed of California Nurses Association/National Nurses Organizing Committee (CNA/NNOC), Physicians for a National Health Program, Healthcare Now!, and Progressive Democrats of America, working in coalition with the California School Employees Association, the American Medical Students Association, the California Universal Healthcare Organizing Project, the Courage Campaign, United Educators San Francisco, AFT 2121-4, and Senior Action Network.

Malinda Markowitz, RN, a member of the Council of Presidents of CNA/NNOC said, “We are calling a national protest against these insurance companies because they profit by denying care to our patients—not by providing it. The American people are ready for guaranteed healthcare, through great bills like Rep. John Conyer’s HR 676, and we will no longer let insurers and politicians block progress and maintain an unworkable status quo.”


Yes, the Oread Daily is read in Great Britain and as such I'm printing the announcement below from Love Music, Hate Racism for those of you who live there or might be visiting.

Love Music Hate Racism uses the positive energy of the music scene to fight back against the racism being pushed by Nazi organisations like the BNP.


Coaches are being booked from around the country for the national LMHR/Unite Against Fascism demonstration and carnival parade in London on Saturday 21st June. Campaigners from areas with sitting fascist BNP councillors are among them - including Stoke-on-Trent, Burnley and Rotherham. The event will be a national show of unity against the Nazis which will boost anti-fascists and launch year-long local anti-BNP campaigns in the run up to next year’s European Parliament elections. If you’re coming from outside London see below for your nearest coach - and let us know of any other coaches planned.

Barrow & South Cumbria: Paul on 07817688835
Black Country & Sandwell: contact LMHR for details
Burnley : Andy on 01282 832319
Cardiff: contact LMHR for details
Chesterfield: contact LMHR for details
Derby: contact LMHR for details
Glasgow: Margaret on 07870286632
Lancaster : Paul on 07817688835
Manchester : Mike on 07903586191 or
Oxford: contact Ian on 07790532513.
Preston: contact LMHR for details
Rotherham & Sheffield: contact LMHR for details
Southend: Clare on 07944779412.
Stoke-on-Trent: contact LMHR for details
Swansea : Martin on 07840598988
Telford & Shrewsbury: contact LMHR for details


The United States would very much like to push NATO further east and bring in the Ukraine.

Russia and Georgia are not thrilled with the idea.

Ukraine's pro-Western leaders hope to join NATO but the people of the Ukraine are mixed on the idea. Recent polls show that more than half of the population is opposed to NATO membership.

Today pro and anti-NATO forces clashed during a protest in the Ukraine.

Primary opposition to NATO comes from the citizens of Sevastopol (where the Russian Black Sea Fleet is based) as well as large swathes of Ukraine's Russian-speaking east and south.

The Crimean peninsula where Sevastopol is located was a part of the Russian republic of the Soviet Union until 1954, when Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev signed it over to the Ukrainian republic as a "token of brotherly love".

That mattered little when both republics were part of the Soviet Union, but when Ukraine gained independence in 1991 it became a ticking time bomb.

Through the 1990s, as the new Ukrainian state established its credentials, Crimea was gripped by periodic outbursts of pro-Russian sentiment but has since been generally calm.

If Ukraine and Georgia are accepted into NATO, Russia will revise is relations with the alliance, Russia's envoy to NATO Dmitry Rogozin said recently. "The NATO eastward expansion at the expense of Ukraine and Georgia is a red line in our relations with NATO, which NATO should not cross. If NATO crosses this red line, relations will not only be spoilt, but they will change drastically."

During the NATO summit in April then President Vladimir Putin hinted that Russia would work to break up Ukraine, should the former Soviet republic join the military alliance.

The follow blurb is from Russia Today.

NATO opponents and supporters clash in Ukraine

Opponents and supporters of Ukraine's entry into NATO have clashed in Crimea's largest city of Simferopol.

Police tried to separate the two parties, which were holding simultaneous meetings in the central square of the city. However, verbal abuse triggered a fight involving about 150 people.

The NATO opponents, mostly communists, threw tomatoes, eggs and cartons of juice at their rivals. They were carrying posters, which read 'NATO Is War Against Slavs' and 'Neo-Fascism Won't Succeed.'


Anti-nuclear activists in the UK are worried about nuclear wasted being transferred from around the UK to the town of Sellafield (see black spot on accompanying map).

In France, they are worried about waste that is already coming to them from the same Sellafield nuclear facility (pictured here).

Both places have legitimate concerns.

A study by veteran British environmental journalist Paul Brown published today by Friends of the Earth "Voodoo Economics and the Doomed Nuclear Renaissance" says Sellafield has the world's biggest stockpile of plutonium and uranium and storage tanks contain highly volatile radioactive waste "more dangerous" than the Chernobyl reactor.

The study points out that Britain's "nuclear recycling centre" has suffered "many near disastrous episodes in its history; but accidents and technical and management failures in the past 10 years have brought this production line of linked nuclear factories to a crisis".

"There is an ever-increasing quantity of nuclear waste which, despite billions of pounds of investment in hardware, the industry is struggling to deal with," the report adds.

Last month the French News revealed nuclear waste was being ferried from Sellafield , via the bustling port of Cherbourg to Cap de la Hague, site of a sprawling, high-security reprocessing plant.

Greenpeace confirms that deliveries to Cherbourg of plutonium were underway. The plutonium was being shipped according to several news sources and environmental organizations aboard the Atlantic Osprey. The ship, reports the Independent (UK), is “an old roll-on rolloff ferry with few security and safety features”.

While the company doing the shipping refused to admit anything (least of all plutonium was being transferred), Thomas Houdré, chief of the Normandy nuclear division of France’s nuclear safety authority (Autorité de sûreté nucléaire – ASN), expressly referred to the content of the shipments as “plutonium.” He said the plutonium would be converted to mixed oxide fuel (MOX) for nuclear reactors before being returned to Sellafield.

Greenpeace expressed its astonishment that plutonium was being transported aboard “an old, third-hand ferry with a single hull and single engine”.

Cumbrians Opposed to a Radioactive Environment (CORE) said the Atlantic Osprey left during a “secretive night shipment” in late May during which time the dock was sealed off by security staff.

The campaigners believe that the original departure date had been delayed for two months because details were leaked.

CORE’s Martin Forwood told the News and Star (UK): “In its powder form this plutonium is prime terrorist material.

“Its shipment to France is highly irresponsible at this time of heightened terrorist activity around the world and its transport endangers all communities along the sea route.”

CORE says that high amounts of plutonium are being shipped from Sellafield in west Cumbria to France because of problems with reprocessing atomic materials at the British site.

The following is from the Northwest Evening Mail (UK).

Fears over nuclear waste transport plan

A MAJOR development to import and export radioactive waste in and out of Sellafield could create 105 new jobs

The building would be used for surface storage of intermediate level waste before it is exported to a final permanent repository, when one is built.

But anti-nuclear campaigners are worried that more radioactive waste could be transported in from elsewhere.

Currently, waste for storage or reprocessing is transported in and out of Sellafield by road and rail and also by ship through Barrow and Workington.

Margaret Sanders, coordinator for South Lakeland Friends of the Earth, said: “It is very dangerous to keep carting this stuff about.

“We don’t look after our own waste very well and if we can’t handle our own, it seems absolutely ridiculous to bring in more. We would be wholeheartedly against this.”

Martin Forwood, coordinator of Cumbrians Opposed to a Radioactive Environment, said: “If they need to box up waste from Sellafield itself and hold it for the unlikely event of finding an underground dump, that’s fine, but I would be worried if this was going to be a facility that’s going to take in waste from other areas. The government wants an underground dump and I would not like to see anything done at Sellafield that makes it more likely that the Sellafield area becomes where the final underground dump will be.”

An outline planning application for the building and associated groundworks will go before Copeland councillors today – and the application is being recommended for approval. If permission is granted, major construction work is not expected to start for at least three years.

A Sellafield spokesman said: “There will be some work in the interim period and once the building is up and running the rough estimate for staffing is 105. “There is historic waste on site and it will be boxed up on site and this will be a storage facility for that until a permanent storage facility is found.”

Wednesday, May 28, 2008


Last week Barack Obama appeared before a group of Cuban Americans in Florida to deliver what he called a "substantive" speech about his policy for Latin America.

The media presented the speech as if it heralded a huge change of policy. They also made sure to pundicize that a tough yet reasonable Obama was calling for a free Cuba through this "changed policy."

I don't know about all that.

The speech should be a big disappointment to his progressive supporters, if you ask me.

While Obama said he would meet with Raul Castro he added a precondition (what happened to "no preconditions") which pretty much means no such meeting would take place. He said members of the exile community would have to have "a seat at the table."

He also promised to keep the embargo in place (something he opposed last year).

Obama failed to mention acts of terrorism perpetrated with absolute impunity against the people of Cuba financed by those who sponsored the speech (carried out by convicted terrorist Posada Carriles).

As Greg Kafoury wrote in CounterPunch, "Senator Obama essentially gave the same kind of speech on Cuba that we have heard from American Presidents for the last fifty years."

Some will say we should remember who he was talking to (wink wink). But that is part of the problem with Obama and part of what makes him just another politician. Like everybody else the guy is out looking for votes from, as the blog Open Anthropology puts it, "...almost every sector imaginable, including the upper crust of Miami’s Cuban elites in this case." It's part of his call me the great "UNIFIER" mantra. Someone needs to tell him you can't make real change and at the same time look for love from everyone.

Moving on, although it was widely reported that Fidel Castro looked favorably upon the Obama speech, Granma presented a statement today from the ex-leader which seemed anything but that. Castro wrote:

"It would be dishonest of me to remain silent after hearing the speech Obama delivered on the afternoon of May 23 at the Cuban American National Foundation created by Ronald Reagan. I listened to his speech, as I did McCain’s and Bush’s. I feel no resentment towards him, for he is not responsible for the crimes perpetrated against Cuba and humanity. Were I to defend him, I would do his adversaries an enormous favor. I have therefore no reservations about criticizing him and about expressing my points of view on his words frankly."

What were Obama’s statements?"

"Throughout my entire life, there has been injustice and repression in Cuba. Never, in my lifetime, have the people of Cuba known freedom. Never, in the lives of two generations of Cubans, have the people of Cuba known democracy. (…) This is the terrible and tragic status quo that we have known for half a century – of elections that are anything but free or fair (…) I won't stand for this injustice, you won't stand for this injustice, and together we will stand up for freedom in Cuba," he told annexationists, adding: "It's time to let Cuban American money make their families less dependent upon the Castro regime. (…) I will maintain the embargo."'

The content of these declarations by this strong candidate to the U.S. presidency spares me the work of having to explain the reason for this reflection."

José Hernandez, one of the Cuban American National Foundation directors whom Obama praises in his speech, was none other than the owner of the Caliber-50 automatic rifle, equipped with telescopic and infrared sights, which was confiscated, by chance, along with other deadly weapons while being transported by sea to Venezuela, where the Foundation had planned to assassinate the writer of these lines at an international meeting on Margarita, in the Venezuelan state of Nueva Esparta."

Pepe Hernández’ group wanted to return to the pact with Clinton, betrayed by Mas Canosa’s clan, who secured Bush’s electoral victory in 2000 through fraud, because the latter had promised to assassinate Castro, something they all happily embraced. These are the kinds of political tricks inherent to the United States’ decadent and contradictory system."

Presidential candidate Obama’s speech may be formulated as follows: hunger for the nation, remittances as charitable hand-outs and visits to Cuba as propaganda for consumerism and the unsustainable way of life behind it."

How does he plan to address the extremely serious problem of the food crisis? The world’s grains must be distributed among human beings, pets and fish, the latter of which are getting smaller every year and more scarce in the seas that have been over-exploited by large trawlers which no international organization has been able to halt. Producing meat from gas and oil is no easy feat. Even Obama overestimates technology’s potential in the fight against climate change, though he is more conscious of the risks and the limited margin of time than Bush. He could seek the advice of Gore, who is also a democrat and is no longer a candidate, as he is aware of the accelerated pace at which global warming is advancing. His close political rival Bill Clinton, who is not running for the presidency, an expert on extra-territorial laws like the Helms-Burton and Torricelli Acts, can advise him on an issue like the blockade, which he promised to lift and never did."

What did he say in his speech in Miami, this man who is doubtless, from the social and human points of view, the most progressive candidate to the U.S. presidency? "For two hundred years," he said, "the United States has made it clear that we won't stand for foreign intervention in our hemisphere. But every day, all across the Americas, there is a different kind of struggle --not against foreign armies, but against the deadly threat of hunger and thirst, disease and despair. That is not a future that we have to accept --not for the child in Port au Prince or the family in the highlands of Peru. We can do better. We must do better. (…) We cannot ignore suffering to our south, nor stand for the globalization of the empty stomach." A magnificent description of imperialist globalization: the globalization of empty stomachs! We ought to thank him for it. But, 200 years ago, Bolivar fought for Latin American unity and, more than 100 years ago, Martí gave his life in the struggle against the annexation of Cuba by the United States. What is the difference between what Monroe proclaimed and what Obama proclaims and resuscitates in his speech two centuries later?"

"I will reinstate a Special Envoy for the Americas in my White House who will work with my full support. But we'll also expand the Foreign Service, and open more consulates in the neglected regions of the Americas. We'll expand the Peace Corps, and ask more young Americans to go abroad to deepen the trust and the ties among our people," he said near the end, adding: "Together, we can choose the future over the past." A beautiful phrase, for it attests to the idea, or at least the fear, that history makes figures what they are and not all the way around."

Today, the United States has nothing of the spirit behind the Philadelphia declaration of principles formulated by the 13 colonies that rebelled against English colonialism. Today, they are a gigantic empire undreamed of by the country’s founders at the time. Nothing, however, was to change for the natives and the slaves. The former were exterminated as the nation expanded; the latter continued to be auctioned at the marketplace —men, women and children—for nearly a century, despite the fact that "all men are born free and equal", as the Declaration of Independence affirms. The world’s objective conditions favored the development of that system."

In his speech, Obama portrays the Cuban Revolution as anti-democratic and lacking in respect for freedom and human rights. It is the exact same argument which, almost without exception, U.S. administrations have used again and again to justify their crimes against our country. The blockade, in and of itself, is an act of genocide. I don’t want to see U.S. children inculcated with those shameful values."

An armed revolution in our country might not have been needed without the military interventions, Platt Amendment and economic colonialism visited upon Cuba."

The Revolution was the result of imperial domination. We cannot be accused of having imposed it upon the country. The true changes could have and ought to have been brought about in the United States. Its own workers, more than a century ago, voiced the demand for an eight-hour work shift, which stemmed from the development of productive forces."

The first thing the leaders of the Cuban Revolution learned from Martí was to believe in and act on behalf of an organization founded for the purposes of bringing about a revolution. We were always bound by previous forms of power and, following the institutionalization of this organization, we were elected by more than 90% of voters, as has become customary in Cuba, a process which does not in the least resemble the ridiculous levels of electoral participation which, many a time, as in the case of the United States, stay short of 50% of voters. No small and blockaded country like ours would have been able to hold its ground for so long on the basis of ambition, vanity, deceit or the abuse of power, the kind of power its neighbor has. To state otherwise is an insult to the intelligence of our heroic people."

I am not questioning Obama’s great intelligence, his debating skills or his work ethic. He is a talented orator and is ahead of his rivals in the electoral race. I feel sympathy for his wife and little girls, who accompany him and give him encouragement every Tuesday. It is indeed a touching human spectacle. Nevertheless, I am obliged to raise a number of delicate questions. I do not expect answers; I wish only to raise them for the record."

Is it right for the president of the United States to order the assassination of any one person in the world, whatever the pretext may be?"

Is it ethical for the president of the United States to order the torture of other human beings?"

Should state terrorism be used by a country as powerful as the United States as an instrument to bring about peace on the planet?"

Is an Adjustment Act, applied as punishment to only one country, Cuba, in order to destabilize it, good and honorable, even when it costs innocent children and mothers their lives? If it is good, why is this right not automatically granted to Haitians, Dominicans, and other peoples of the Caribbean, and why isn’t the same Act applied to Mexicans and people from Central and South America, who die like flies against the Mexican border wall or in the waters of the Atlantic and the Pacific?"

Can the United States do without immigrants, who grow vegetables, fruits, almonds and other delicacies for U.S. citizens? Who would sweep their streets, work as servants in their homes or do the worst and lowest-paid jobs?"

Are crackdowns on illegal residents fair, even as they affect children born in the United States?"

Are the brain-drain and the continuous theft of the best scientific and intellectual minds in poor countries moral and justifiable?"

You state, as I pointed out at the beginning of this reflection, that your country had long ago warned European powers that it would not tolerate any intervention in the hemisphere, reiterating that this right be respected while demanding the right to intervene anywhere in the world with the aid of hundreds of military bases and naval, aerial and spatial forces distributed across the planet. I ask: is that the way in which the United States expresses its respect for freedom, democracy and human rights?"

Is it fair to stage pre-emptive attacks on sixty or more dark corners of the world, as Bush calls them, whatever the pretext may be?"

Is it honorable and sane to invest millions and millions of dollars in the military industrial complex, to produce weapons that can destroy life on earth several times over?"

Before judging our country, you should know that Cuba, with its education, health, sports, culture and sciences programs, implemented not only in its own territory but also in other poor countries around the world, and the blood that has been shed in acts of solidarity towards other peoples, in spite of the economic and financial blockade and the aggression of your powerful country, is proof that much can be done with very little. Not even our closest ally, the Soviet Union, was able to achieve what we have."

The only form of cooperation the United States can offer other nations consist in the sending of military professionals to those countries. It cannot offer anything else, for it lacks a sufficient number of people willing to sacrifice themselves for others and offer substantial aid to a country in need (though Cuba has known and relied on the cooperation of excellent U.S. doctors). They are not to blame for this, for society does not inculcate such values in them on a massive scale."

We have never subordinated cooperation with other countries to ideological requirements. We offered the United States our help when Hurricane Katrina lashed the city of New Orleans. Our internationalist medical brigade bears the glorious name of Henry Reeve, a young man, born in the United States, who fought and died for Cuba’s sovereignty in our first war of independence."

Our Revolution can mobilize tens of thousands of doctors and health technicians. It can mobilize an equally vast number of teachers and citizens, who are willing to travel to any corner of the world to fulfill any noble purpose, not to usurp people’s rights or take possession of raw materials."

The good will and determination of people constitute limitless resources that cannot be kept and would not fit in the vault of a bank. They cannot spring from the hypocritical politics of an empire."

In his speech, Obama also expressed support for continuing the US policy in Colombia and the little secret wars going on throughout the hemisphere.

By the way both McCain and Hillary Clinton were out in Florida giving speeches that weren't a hell of a lot different.

Happy days aren't here again.

The following is from Black Agenda Report.

Obama on Latin America: "Small Change", If Any
by Black Agenda Report Special Correspondent Roberto Lovato

Many of us had great "hope" for the much-vaunted "change" in U.S. policy towards Latin America. But listening to Barack Obama's "substantive" speech on U.S. Latin America policy last week and reading his "New Partnership with the Americas" policy proposal, it's pretty clear that Obama will do nothing to alter the basic structure of George W. Bush's Latin America policy: trade backed by militarism.

Given the painful failure and generalized destruction wrought by the last century of U.S. policy in the hemisphere, the basic outline of "substantive" policy towards America Latina should look something like this"

Immediate de-escalation of tensions between Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia and US ally/surrogate Colombia. One would hope that, in the face of the atrocities in Colombia, Ubama would add a condemnation as loud as those Democrats wield at Cuba, whose violation of sovereignty (condemned by OAS) and human rights record-death squad killings, disappearances, torture of thousands-pales before that of Colombia;

Holding up Colombia's multi-billion dollar military aid package would also indicate some substance;

Dismantling NAFTA, CAFTA and other trade and economic policies (ie some IMF and World Bank programs) that destroy livelihoods and communities (nay regions), bust government budgets and further enrich the elites in these countries;

Ending the embargo on Cuba. Will Obama stop beating the tattered political pinata of Cuba or simply spin it a little differently, hit it more gently?

Ending the low intensity destabilization programs in Venezuela and Bolivia;

Re-negotiating Bush's crop-killing ethanol program;

Aborting Plan Mexico, which is already Colombianzing (ie; drug wars, anti-insurgent war, repression against opposition under cover of national security, etc.) a country that, for more than 80 years, has lived without the imposition of military rule U.S. Presidents from Roosevelt, Kennedy, Reagan and Carter have paid for the arming of death squads who kidnap and torture jurists, journalists, union members and ordinary citizens as our "Latin American policy";

Placing migration policy within the hemispheric context in which it originates;

Closing the School of the Americas and the ILEA training facility in El Salvador, both of which are factories for barbarism under the guise of national security.

With some important exceptions - engaging Venezuela, reconfiguring the World Bank and IMF, environmental agreements- his current approach to Latin America veers only slightly to the left of Bushismo. There is little in his speeches and proposals that is "liberal", "progressive" or very enlightened in terms of easing the crush of poverty and repression in the region. In fact, Obama's proposals for continuing and expanding the drug war in the hemisphere will only complete the efforts of the Bush Administration to re-militarize the region under cover of fighting drug wars.

In the search for post-Cold War enemies, the Bush Administration found its new excuse to militarize the region in the drug cartels, who, must be dealt with, but not in the Bush way.
Obama should know better.

Roberto Lovato's work has appeared in The Nation, New America Media, and dozens of other places. His frequently updated blog is, and he can be reached at robvato(at)


Some moms and dads in northern Virginia are not happy about sending their kids off to school these days. Why? Well, it seems coming to the neighborhood is a brand new operation where railroad cars will be transferring highly flammable ethanol to tanker trucks not far from their kiddies schools.

And, of course, residents feel like no one really talked to them about. So they were upset with the city.

Problem is, as city officials told them, nothing much they could do but pass resolutions since the railroad industry is pretty much exempt from zoning laws and the like.

And they are correct.

Responding to a situation in Georgia where railroad construction operations where "upsetting" nearby locals, Nancy Beiter, an attorney for the Surface Transportation Board, the federal agency that oversees the railroad industry said, "They cannot require any kind of procedure that would prevent the railroad from building something. There isn't any place where they've beaten the railroad."

She failed to mention her agency might be able to do something to help these old fashioned Americans, but won't.

Anyway Beiter is right on one score. When fighting with the railroads it does seem when the locals around the country have gone to court they virtually always lose.

You see there is this thing called the Termination Act. The Termination Act granted the Surface Transportation Board (STB) exclusive jurisdiction over railroads and rail transportation, and entities within that jurisdiction are exempt from state and local land use and environmental laws.

Another example of this outrage involved the District of Columbia no less. It seemed the District enacted a law governing routing of rail shipments of hazardous materials. The Surface Transportation Board stepped in and ruled that, "...based on the statute and well-established precedent, Congress foreclosed state or local power to determine how a railroad's traffic should be routed." The Sierra Club later petitioned the Board to reconsider and reopen its decision. The Board said, "Forget about it."

In fact, there has been an organized effort by some within the railroad industry to de-regulate solid waste activities along railroad lines. Unregulated solid waste transfer stations are popping up across the nation.

The railroads, of course, base their case upon the strictures of the Surface Transportation Board or STB (by the way the STB is a three-member board appointed by the U.S. President), which always rules they alone have jurisdiction over the siting of these facilities under the Interstate Commerce Commission Termination Act of 1995 (ICCTA). President Bush supports this ruling, of course.

It worth noting folks that once the STB rules these facilities are exempt from local and state jurisdiction the STB's job is done, as they have no funds or legal or legislative authority to regulate solid waste activities. In the case of New Jersey, for example, this has resulted in open dumps piled as high as a two story building.

But wait just when it seems all hope is loss the Clean Railroads Act of 2007 was passed late last year by the House of Representatives. The legislation will allow states to regulate solid waste processing facilities along rail lines. It was included as an amendment to larger rail safety legislation. The legislation may close the loophole in federal law that prohibits states from enforcing environmental, health and safety regulations at these rail sites.

Congressional action followed a ruling by the Third Circuit Court of Appeals which ensured New Jersey, and all states, have clear authority over solid waste transfer stations.

However, don't get too excited just yet.

The latest on the bill's progress in the Senate has it as added to calendar on Mar 03, 2008: Placed on Senate Legislative Calendar under General Orders. Calendar No. 590. That's the last I can find about it (if you know anything more, please comment or let me know).

The legislation, if finalized, will require the states to do something. The question then will become - will your state take action?

The following is from NBC4 News (Washington, D.C.).

Alexandria Residents Concerned About Ethanol Transfer Station
Residents Say They Weren't Notified About Facility For Transport Of Flammable Substance

ALEXANDRIA, Va. -- The opening of an ethanol transfer station near homes and a school in Alexandria is causing residents of one neighborhood to worry.

Some Cameron Station residents said they imagine the worst when they look out their town home windows at the operation under way in the nearby Norfolk Southern yard.

Last month, the company opened a station where up to 20 rail cars per day bring in ethanol, which is transferred into truck tankers for shipment to local storage facilities.

Residents said they wonder what would happen if the highly flammable ethanol ignited.

Mindy Lyle, who is on the board of the Cameron Station Civic Association, said she and residents of another nearby town home complex are angry that they were not notified in advance about Norfolk Southern's plans.

"We really want to know that were there an incident, someone could be out here and we wouldn't have to evacuate for days, weeks, whatever," Lyle said.

She said the station poses a danger to an elementary school, a Metro stop and even the nearby Beltway.

When residents started pressing city officials for information, the city manager sent out a memo saying that while city leaders "are opposed to and have concerns about this type of facility," they are powerless to block it because federal rules exempt the railroad industry from local zoning laws.

A Norfolk Southern spokesman declined an on-camera interview. He said the company initially told the city about its plans in August 2006.

He said in response to concerns that the rail company is storing special foam on the site required to put out a fire if ethanol ignites.

Norfolk Southern is also purchasing foam and a special truck for the Alexandria Fire Department.

Chief Adam Thiel said the facility is in compliance with fire prevention requirements.

"I think safe is really a matter of degrees," Thiel said. "I mean, certainly, there have been incidents involving all manner of hazardous materials shipped on road and rail corridors. We've had multiple incidents here in the national capital region. So there's always risk."

"I think the challenge for us, and, of course, the challenge for the folks that run this facility is to make it as safe an operation as possible," Thiel said.

The facility will be discussed at Alexandria's City Council meeting on Tuesday. Three council members said the council is unanimous in its concern and will ask whether the company is really exempt from seeking a special-use permit from the city.

Council members said if the company can sidestep city rules, they will press the congressional delegation for help.


For years, Chevron has been accused of myriad human rights and environmental abuses, from having nonviolent protesters gunned down in Nigeria to the dumping of toxic waste into Amazon waterways in Ecuador.

This year they are being confronted directly by their accusers as representatives from Ecuador, Burma, and Nigeria are in California to protest at the annual Chevron shareholders meeting.

Amazon Watch Director of Communications Simeon Tegel told The San Francisco Bay Guardian the event was designed to "potentially help shareholders become more active" in pressuring Chevron executives to finally address and rectify Chevron's abuses.

"One hopes they are human beings too, although sometimes it's hard to tell. But perhaps they will be motivated to do something, either from pressure from their shareholders or from the kindness of human nature," said Tegel.

The representatives from abroad - joined by human rights groups in the U.S. - said a rising tide of abuses associated with Chevron requires decisive action from Chevron CEO David O'Reilly and his senior management team.

Amazon Watch reports the California confrontation comes just after Chevron was hit with a damages assessment in an environmental litigation in Ecuador of up to $16 billion - which could lead to the largest judgment in civil court history - and after a U.S. federal judge in San Francisco ordered the company to stand trial in September over the killing of Nigerian villagers who were protesting on a Chevron oil platform.

"Chevron is at a watershed moment in its history over these growing human rights abuses, yet Chevron management is again burying its head in the sand and refusing to deal with them," said Atossa Soltani, Executive Director of Amazon Watch, an environmental organization working with the human rights advocates. We're here to take the fight directly to shareholders because management has completely failed to live up to its legal and ethical obligations."

Amazon Watch says the main issues include:
Nigeria: Security forces flown in and closely supervised by Chevron Nigeria shot nonviolent environmental protesters in an infamous case that will be the focus of two trials in San Francisco later this year. Two people died, several others were injured and some survivors of the attack were then tortured in a Nigerian jail. One decade after the incident, and after years of legal wrangling in American courts, Chevron management has yet to compensate the families of those killed and injured or resolve the original issues raised by the community.

Burma: Chevron’s Yadana pipeline has provided revenues that have propped up the country’s repressive military dictatorship, while security forces guarding the pipeline have been accused of rape, murder and forced labor. The pipeline has also had significant direct and indirect environmental impacts on the Tenassirm region, one of the largest surviving tracts of tropical rainforest in Southeast Asia, including illegal logging, fishing and poaching. Meanwhile, the pipeline has exacerbated the human rights abuses perpetrated by Burmese security forces against the region’s Mon, Karen and Tavoyans indigenous peoples. Naw Musi, a Karen woman who lives in exile, will attend the shareholder’s meeting.

Ecuador: Chevron faces an environmental damages claim of between $7 billion and $16 billion for causing what experts believe is the most extensive oil-related contamination on the planet. Chevron had admitted to deliberately dumping 18 billion gallons of toxic waste into Amazon waterways and abandoning almost 1,000 open-air toxic waste pits, leading to the decimation of indigenous groups. A court-appointed special master recently found 428 deaths from cancer in the region related to Chevron’s oil operations. In addition, community leaders heading the lawsuit have been subject to death threats, office break-ins, and assaults that have resulted in protective measures being ordered by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. Community leader Luis Yanza, recently awarded the Goldman Environmental Prize, will lead a delegation of Ecuadorians that includes Emergildo Criollo, a Cofan indigenous leader.

United States: In Richmond, in the East Bay, 35,000 families live in the shadow of a Chevron refinery that spewed out three million pounds of contaminants during the last three years. Existing pollution from Chevron already causes premature death, cancer, and other health ailments. Richmond asthma rates are 5x the state level. Now Chevron wants to expand the refinery, allowing it to process both more and dirtier crude oil, despite overwhelming opposition from local residents. Most of the people who live in the area are minorities, leading to charges of environmental racism.

The following is from KGO-TV (California)

Chevron shareholders met by protests

SAN RAMON, CA - Chevron officials are being met by protesters as they arrive in San Ramon for their annual shareholders meeting.

Many of Chevron's critics joined forces outside the company's front gate to highlight claims of environmental and human rights abuses in the Amazon, Nigeria, and Myanmar.
The oil company has rejected those claims. Chevron is also being criticized by U.S. consumers for high fuel prices. The oil giant continues to make post profits, their stock jumped 22 percent in the last year.