Editorial Staff

Here are eight key moments from the first Democratic debate

On Wednesday night, the 2020 Democratic primaries finally got underway in earnest as 10 of the 20 candidates who had met the party's eligibility criteria took to the stage in Miami for the first of two nights of debating.

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Six takeaways from Joe Biden's Iowa speech eviscerating Donald Trump

Joe Biden and Donald Trump traded barbs in dueling speeches in Iowa on Tuesday. Trump called Biden a "dummy," and repeatedly referred to him as "sleepy Joe." Biden, who has been known to ramble, gave a lengthy, focused speech methodically making the case that Trump is unfit to be president, much less be given a second term.

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Thomas Frank Talks to Joshua Holland About the 'Hard-Times Swindle' and the Unlikely Comeback of the Right

On Sunday, we were proud to debut the AlterNet Radio Hour, hosted by Joshua Holland, on We Act Radio in Washington DC. It's a weekly show featuring progressive journalists, activists and maybe a few wonks.

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AlterNet's Most Widely Read Stories of 2011

It was an eventful year, from the Arab Spring to the growth of the Occupy Movement. Regimes fell, Osama Bin Laden was killed and the fabric of the European Union appeared to fray. 

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Help Us Name and Shame the Climate Cranks Sabotaging Our Environment

For years, climate "skeptics" have denied the near-unanimous scientific consensus around global warming in an effort to delay action.  

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Immigration: The Failure of ICE

The report released by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) on the program that authorizes collaboration between police and immigration agents provides the best argument yet to get rid of it. The lack of interest shown by the Office of Immigration and Custom (ICE) in fulfilling the program's stated purpose has led to a poorly supervised and misdirected process.

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Immigrant Prisoners Stage Uprising in Texas

Details are still sketchy of an inmate uprising at a privately-operated federal detention facility in West Texas last Saturday. Reports in the U.S. and Mexican press suggest the revolt, involving hundreds prisoners at the Reeves County Detention Center in Pecos, Tex., erupted after complaints of poor medical treatment went unheeded.

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Dominican Diplomat Arrested for Smuggling Dozens of Migrants into U.S.

NEW YORK -- An employee at the Consulate of the Dominican Republic in New York City has been arrested on charges of migrant smuggling.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents have arrested 48 year-old, Francisco Estevez, also known as "Danilo," on charges of using his family's passports and consular visas to bring dozens of illegal aliens into the United States from the Dominican Republic during 2007 through 2008.

According to the indictment unsealed Monday in Manhattan federal court, as a full-time employee at a consular post, Estevez held a diplomatic visa that allowed him and his family members-his mother, wife, and six children-to enter and reside in the United States. In addition, he and his family were entitled to receive expedited process at passport control at the airport.

Commencing in approximately October 2007, up to and including July 2008, Estevez allegedly took advantage of his A-2 visa status to smuggle into the United States numerous Dominican nationals who posed as members of Estevez's family, using the family's passports and A-2 visas. Estevez made on average two trips per month to the Dominican Republic to identify aliens who could pose as members of his family and charged each alien approximately $10,000 to bring the migrants into the country illegally.

Estevez is charged with two counts of alien smuggling and if convicted, faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison. He was arrested Friday upon his entry into the United States and is scheduled appear today before a United States Magistrate Judge in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.

Illegal Versus Inhumane: Unauthorized Immigrant Shackled While in Labor; Can't Feed Newborn

JUANA VILLEGAS is a Mexican immigrant who broke federal law. As The New York Times recently reported, she was deported in 1996, but she returned illegally to the United States. What is more troubling, however, is what happened to her in custody of law enforcement this month. Overzealous use of the law trampled decency.

On July 3, Villegas, nine months pregnant, was pulled over in a Nashville suburb and arrested after admitting that she did not have a license. At the county jail, Villegas's illegal status was discovered by a federal official. That official was there as part of the federal 287(g) program, which trains local police to enforce federal immigration laws.

Two days later, Villegas went into labor. At the hospital her foot was cuffed to the bed, and the cuffs were reportedly removed only for two hours before she gave birth and for six hours after. An officer stood guard in her hospital room.

After she left the hospital, Villegas was held in jail. She could not breastfeed her baby and was not allowed to use a breast pump. She says she developed a breast infection and her baby became jaundiced.

Needless to say, the 287(g) program wasn't intended to snare pregnant women. Rather, it is supposed to help officers "pursue investigations relating to violent crimes, human smuggling, gang/organized crime activity, sexual-related offenses, narcotics smuggling, and money laundering," according to US Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Yet the perceived need for even local officials to crack down on illegal immigrants has become an obstacle to treating people humanely.

Villegas has been released to the custody of her family and faces deportation. Her case shows how much the country needs comprehensive immigration reform that deploys legal resources where they are most needed.

AlterNet Editorial: Iraq Vets Will Detail U.S. Atrocities in Winter Soldier Hearings

This week, on March 13-16, a new generation of "Winter Soldiers" -- veterans of the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq -- will descend on the nation's capitol to tell America in their own words what they saw during their service in the "war on terror," the Bush administration's signature policy. They'll give a ground's eye perspective on the occupation's toll on the people of those countries and the costs to the military, and they'll tell stories of what it was really like in places like Fallujah and Ramadi -- places that are just names on a map to most of the people back home.

They'll be following large footsteps. In the early months of 1971, a group of Vietnam vets, organized by Vietnam Veterans Against the War (VVAW), gave two days of testimony about the Vietnam that they had seen, up close and all-too-personally, in the original "Winter Soldier" investigation. While largely dismissed by the political establishment, their wrenching testimony redoubled the peace movement's efforts to end that war.

In his opening statement 37 years ago, William Crandell, a 26 year-old lieutenant who served in the 199th Light Infantry Brigade, Americal Division -- the division that committed the infamous My Lai Massacre -- told the hushed room, "The Winter Soldier Investigation is not a mock trial. There will be no phony indictments; there will be no verdict against Uncle Sam." He promised "straightforward testimony -- direct testimony -- about acts which are war crimes under international law. Acts which these men have seen and participated in. Acts which are the inexorable result of national policy."

And they did just that. Over two days, more than a 100 vets of the Vietnam conflict bore witness to the horrors that they had seen with their own eyes -- "the inexorable result of national policy." One panel examined the question, "What are we doing to Vietnam?" and another asked "What are we doing to ourselves?"

The media largely ignored the hearings. The East Coast papers, with the exception of a New York Times article a week after the event, refused to even cover them. The VVAW complained of an "official censorship blackout."

That was before the right had built its formidable echo chamber -- before Fox News, the Washington Times, the New York Sun and the emergence of the right-wing blogosphere, with its instinctive attacks on any who question the morality of the "war on terror." It's difficult to imagine the kind of character assassinations the soldiers who gather in Washington this week will face from the war's supporters, but it's likely that they're going to redefine courage and genuine patriotism in the face of withering criticism.

But the progressive community is also better prepared to push back against those attacks this time around. A robust alternative media, of which AlterNet is proud to play a role, will at least allow this new generation of Winter Soldiers to be heard. You can get involved as well by supporting IVAW, by tuning in to the proceedings live via the internet, satellite TV and select Pacifica Radio stations, or you can organize an event to view the testimony with others in your community.

All week, AlterNet will feature special coverage of the hearings. Each day leading up to the event, we'll be posting some of the transcripts from the 1971 event. You can read Lt. Crandell's opening statement and testimony from members of the First Marine Division, and we'll post more as the week progresses. We'll also take a look back at the impact the original hearings had on the anti-war movement and on the larger debates of the day.

Several members of the AlterNet team will be in Washington this weekend, and we'll bring you the sights and sounds and in-depth coverage that the commercial media won't.

And The Altie Goes To ...

The battle for cinematic domination in the 2004 Altie Awards was fierce, with a field of movies as diverse as any in recent memory. The top two nominees for the Big Award -- "Lost in Translation" and "Return of the King" -- could not have been more dissimilar, one as demure and atmospheric as the other is pounding and epic.

For the second year in a row, however, loyal fans bestowed the coveted Big Award on the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy. "The magnificent conclusion to one of the greatest accomplishments in the history of cinema," wrote one voter. Reader Ellyn O'Toole predicted that "the entire trilogy will be popular long after we are dead," provided, she added, the planet could survive the Bush administration.

Runner-up "Lost in Translation" was not without its staunch defenders. Wrote voter Mary Rusnak, "Sofia Coppola created a beautiful, subtle film with dynamic, convincing performances. She didn't need to rely on computer-generated special effects to do it, just her eye and her storytelling sensibility."

"Uncovered: The Whole Truth About the Iraq War," Robert Greenwald's bold documentary unmasking Bush administration lies, took top Altie honors for the Truth To Power Award. "Uncovered" had a huge lead over the runner-up, "The Revolution Will Not Be Televised," and also beat out "Fog of War," Erroll Morris' study of Vietnam war architect Robert McNamara.

As much as people loved "Uncovered," many also marveled at the unique distribution methods the Greenwald team used to bring their indie doc to a wide audience. "Important not only for its content, which history will confirm and current events already are, but for the [MoveOn.org] 'underground' house party distribution method," Mike Dixon wrote.

"This gets my vote for the sheer guts and marketing of this film through nationwide house parties," voter Noel Hermele wrote.

The You Can't Make This Stuff Up documentary award came down to a fight between the birds and the bees. Ultimately, "Winged Migration" won by a feather, with "Spellbound" the runner-up. "Fantastic, beautiful, charming, whimsical (how the hell did they do it?)," marveled voter James Sandrolini of the soaring documentary on the secret lives of birds.

While many readers were dazzled by Charlize Theron's metamorphosis into murderer Aileen Wuornos in runner-up "Monster," it was "Mystic River," Clint Eastwood's moody meditation on crime, punishment and redemption, that nabbed the Altie for Best 'Feel Bad' Movie. "It was a character study of the lives of working class people, which you do not see often in films," wrote Kathleen Clementi.

In the most surprising victory, voters passed over "Laurel Canyon" and gave the Altie for In the Spirit of Catherine Deneuve to the seductive mystery, "Swimming Pool."

"Charlotte Rampling did something in this movie that showed amazing courage for a woman of 58 years," wrote one voter. "Rampling was amazing, considering she was sharing most of her screen time with Ludivine Sagnier, that's pretty damn impressive to me," added another. Runner up in this category was "Calendar Girls," with Helen Mirren leading a group of Brits-of-a-certain-age who shed their frocks and knickers for a good cause.

Mock-doc "A Mighty Wind" -- "a very funny movie with a big heart," said one reader -- staged a come-from-behind win, stealing the Laugh Out Loud Altie from runner-up "Finding Nemo," by only 15 votes.

Voters decided that the characters played by Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson in "Lost In Translation" deserved the Misfits Unite and Triumph Altie. Coppola's casting, wrote reader Ash Townsend "was purely genius." "Whale Rider" was the runner-up.

"Lost In Translation" also grabbed a second Altie in the Transformative Love category, ahead of runner-up "In America."

It wasn't much a contest in Guilty Pleasures, with "Pirates of the Caribbean" swashbuckling its way to nearly twice the votes of runner-up, "X-Men: X2." What was the main pleasure of "Pirates"? "Pretty people breaking the rules and saving the day," wrote Mary Mueller. Sounds guilt-free to us.

The 'Still Wishing You Could Get Your Money Back' Award was hotly contested, but when all the votes were in we were shocked, shocked, to find so many people still ruing the day they forked over 10 bucks for "Matrix Reloaded" -- which voter Don Friedkin dubbed "The Matrix Reloaded Redux Redundant All Over Again."

A somewhat lesser number of people were still mourning that their wallets were thinner after a painful viewing of "Terminator 3."

And last but not least, the honorary Democracy Works Altie goes to Caleb Kleppner and the crew at Center for Voting and Democracy, who generously donated their time to the Alties, tallying the votes with Instant Runoff Voting.

Critics at Vienna Conference Assail U.N. Approach

Think tanks, nongovernmental organizations and activists yesterday urged the United Nations to change its antidrug programs, pointing to a lack of progress in recent years against drug use and trafficking.

"After years of continuous setbacks, and with billions of dollars spent on destroying crops and putting people in jail, it is now time to look at more promising alternatives," the European Drug Policy Fund said in a statement distributed in Vienna as delegates from 116 countries gathered for talks about the U.N. anti-drug campaign that started in 1998.

Modeled on the U.S. anti-drug effort, the U.N. plan calls for increased interdiction efforts and a focus on law enforcement to stamp out the global drug trade by 2008. Critics say the approach is failing by all current measures, however, and call for an overhaul of U.N. drug policy.

The Open Society Institute, a foundation backed by financier George Soros, said U.N. drug control treaties that encourage tough law enforcement undercut health care efforts in poor countries and worsen the HIV/AIDS problem.

"In countries that are experiencing a rapid increase of drug use, the reflex reaction is to become tougher on drugs," said OSI drug abuse expert Kasia Malinowska-Sempruch. "Locking up users in prisons is not a solution. It only serves to drive users underground, making them less likely to seek out what few services do exist for them," Malinowska-Sempruch added (William Kole, Associated Press, April 15).

Last week, U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime Executive Director Antonio Maria Costa said in a report to the U.N. Commission on Narcotic Drugs that worldwide efforts against illicit drugs have shown "signs of progress" in demand reduction, supply reduction, international cooperation and overall drug control policy (UN Wire, April 9).

Transnational Institute, an independent think tank based in Amsterdam, reviewed the report and said last week that "encouraging progress cannot be substantiated on the basis of available evidence. Levels of cultivation of coca and opium poppy as well as the supply of cocaine and heroine have shown fluctuations but the trend seems to be relatively stable. No indications point at any substantial decline. The situation regarding the supply of cannabis and synthetic drugs has even deteriorated."

The institute suggested the commission "start to acknowledge that international drug policy should shift its focus to reducing the harm of drugs for users and society as a whole" (Transnational Institute release, April 8).

As War Nears, What Do We Do?

As we reach the brink of a widely unsupported U.S. invasion of Iraq, millions of Americans and many more people around the world are scrambling desperately to find the combination of protests, pleadings and symbolic acts that will throw a wrench into the gears of the war machine. And while getting President Bush and his war hungry claque to listen to the overwhelming cries of protest from every corner of the globe has proven extremely difficult, this is not the time to ease the pressure.

Instead, we need to ratchet up the peace effort, joining the broad coalition Win Without War in intensified nationwide opposition to this war. On the eve of this weekend's demonstrations in Washington, Los Angeles and other cities, plans include sustained local mobilizations, vigils and other live and virtual actions in cities and towns throughout the country. Growing participation by artists and musicians will add to efforts by faith-based organizations, women's, environmental, peace and civil rights organizations and labor unions.

Probably the most visible global event this weekend will be nearly 2,000 candlelight vigils held Sunday in more than 80 countries to oppose a U.S. invasion. Initiated by MoveOn.org, the Archbishop Desmond Tutu and many faith-based organizations in the United States are participating in the protest vigils set to begin in New Zealand on Sunday night and to continue sequentially in time zones all over the world. In Washington, the vigil will take place on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, with musicians Peter, Paul and Mary scheduled to perform.

"It's up to you to make this happen and organize a vigil in each community," said MoveOn's Wes Boyd. "We're hoping that thousands of small groups around the world will be inspired to come together and stand for peace in this moment of darkness and rekindle the light of reason and of hope. It's time to renew our commitment to building a positive world for our children."

For more information about how to make this happen in your community and to join with millions of others around the globe, go to www.globalvigil.org

There will also be a nonviolent civil disobedience campaign launched in Washington, set to begin Monday and continue throughout the week. Actions will also take place at Congressional offices throughout the country during this same period. The campaign was intiated by by United for Peace and Justice and the National Youth and Student Peace Coalition.

This Saturday, March 15, join a rally in Washington DC organized by International A.N.S.W.E.R. The "Emergency Convergence" on the White House starts at noon on Saturday. Parallel actions will take place in San Francisco, Los Angeles and other cities. Visit United for Peace and Justice and Not In Our Name to find events in your area, and get involved -- this might be our last weekend before the war starts! Code Pink is also organizing contingents to join the Washington, DC action. You can sign up for CODEPINK email updates at http://codepink.kintera.org/updates.

"War is not inevitable," says United for Peace and Justice. "Congress has the constitutional power to stop this war and has been silent." The organizers say they plan to "fill . . . jails until they answer the people's call for peace and justice!"

Meanwhile, last Monday, primed with more than one million signatures on an international antiwar petition gathered in just five days, leaders of America's antiwar coalition, Win Without War and Jessica Lange of Artists United to Win Without War, tried to communicate a clear message to the UN: to back tough inspections, and not war.

Working Assets has a campaign to raise money to place anti-war billboards in high-traffic areas from New York to Crawford, Texas (home of Bush's ranch). The first billboards, already up, say "Support Our Troops: BRING THEM HOME NOW."

Yet another campaign from Working Assets takes an additional step, and hopes to have Saddam Hussein indicted for war crimes.

Elsewhere, the veteran Australian peace activist Helen Caldicott has mounted a worldwide campaign urging the Pope go to Baghdad as a human shield.

"To persuade the Holy Father to take this unusual but potent action, he must hear from you and millions of others around the world who have already been inspired to stand up and speak out for peace," said Caldicott. "A mountain of surface mail, email, faxes and phone calls are our devices to inspire him."

There is precedent for a pope halting an invasion. According to the Melbourne daily paper The Age, in 452 Pope Leo the Great visited the camp of Attila the Hun and persuaded Attila not to invade Rome.

Ultimately, however, it is unlikely such a hero is going to step forward to stop the bombs from raining down on the civilians of Iraq. Rather, it is up to the collective will of all of us and the world to say, "This will not stand."

Do what you can today.

Who Has A Free Press?

Reporters Without Borders is publishing for the first time a worldwide index of countries according to their respect for press freedom. It also shows that such freedom is under threat everywhere, with the 20 bottom-ranked countries drawn from Asia, Africa, Latin America and Europe. The situation in especially bad in Asia, which contains the four worst offenders -- North Korea, China, Burma, Turkmenistan and Bhutan.

The top end of the list shows that rich countries have no monopoly of press freedom. Costa Rica and Benin are examples of how growth of a free press does not just depend on a country's material prosperity.

The index was drawn up by asking journalists, researchers and legal experts to answer 50 questions about the whole range of press freedom violations (such as murders or arrests of journalists, censorship, pressure, state monopolies in various fields, punishment of press law offences and regulation of the media). The final list includes 139 countries. The others were not included in the absence of reliable information.

In the worst-ranked countries, press freedom is a dead letter and independent newspapers do not exist. The only voice heard is of media tightly controlled or monitored by the government. The very few independent journalists are constantly harassed, imprisoned or forced into exile by the authorities. The foreign media are banned or allowed in very small doses, always closely monitored.

Right at the top of the list four countries share first place -- Finland, Iceland, Norway and the Netherlands. These northern European states scrupulously respect press freedom in their own countries but also speak up for it elsewhere, for recent example in Eritrea and Zimbabwe. The highest-scoring country outside Europe is Canada, which comes in fifth.

Some countries with democratically elected governments are way down in the index -- such as Colombia (114th) and Bangladesh (118th). In these countries, armed rebel movements, militias, or political parties constantly endanger the lives of journalists. The state fails to do all it could to protect them and fight the immunity very often enjoyed by those responsible for such violence.

Costa Rica Better Placed Than the United States

The poor ranking of the United States (17th) is mainly because of the number of journalists arrested or imprisoned there. Arrests are often because they refuse to reveal their sources in court. Also, since the 11 September attacks, several journalists have been arrested for crossing security lines at some official buildings.

The highest-ranked country of the South is Costa Rica, in 15th position. This Central American nation is traditionally the continent's best performer in terms of press freedom. In February 2002, it ceased to be one of the 17 Latin American states that still give prison sentences to those found guilty of "insulting" public officials. The murder in July 2001 year of journalist Parmenio Medina was an exception in the history of the Costa Rican media.

Cuba, the last dictatorship in Latin America, came 134th and is the only country in the region where there is no diversity of news and journalists are routinely imprisoned. In Haiti (106th), journalists are targeted by informal militias whose actions are covered by the government.

Italy Gets Bad Marks in Europe

The 15 member-countries of the European Union (EU) all score well except for Italy (40th), where news diversity is under serious threat. Prime minister Silvio Berlusconi is turning up the pressure on the state-owned television stations, has named his henchmen to help run them and continues to combine his job as head of government with being boss of a privately-owned media group. The imprisonment of journalist Stefano Surace, convicted of press offences from 30 years ago, as well as the monitoring of journalists, searches, unjustified legal summonses and confiscation of equipment, are all responsible for the country's low ranking.

France, in 11th place overall, comes only 8th among EU countries because of several disturbing measures endangering the protection of journalists' sources and because of police interrogation of a number of journalists in recent months.

Among those states hoping to join the EU, Turkey (99th) is very poorly placed. Despite the reform efforts of its government, aimed at easing entry into the EU, many journalists are still being given prison sentences and the media are regularly censored. Press freedom is especially under siege in the southeastern part of the country.

Elsewhere in Europe, such as Belarus (124th), Russia (121st) and the former Soviet republics, it is still difficult to work as a journalist and several have been murdered or imprisoned. Grigory Pasko, jailed since December 2001 in the Vladivostok region of Russia, was given a four-year sentence for publishing pictures of the Russian Navy pouring liquid radioactive waste into the Sea of Japan.

The Middle East and Israel's Ambivalent Position

No Arab country is among the top 50. Lebanon only makes 56th place and the press freedom situation in the region is not encouraging. In Iraq (130th) and Syria (126th), the state uses every means to control the media and stifle any dissenting voice. Iraqi President Saddam Hussein especially has set his country's media the sole task of relaying his regime's propaganda. In Libya (129th) and Tunisia (128th), no criticism of Col. Muammar Kadhafi or President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali is tolerated.

The political weakening of the Palestinian Authority (82nd) means it has made few assaults on press freedom. However, Islamic fundamentalist opposition media have been closed, several attempts made to intimidate and attack local and foreign journalists and many subjects remain taboo. The aim is to convey a united image of the Palestinian people and to conceal aspects such a demonstrations of support for attacks on Israel.

The attitude of Israel (92nd) towards press freedom is ambivalent. Despite strong pressure on state-owned TV and radio, the government respects the local media's freedom of expression. However, in the West Bank and Gaza, Reporters Without Borders has recorded a large number of violations of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights which guarantees press freedom and which Israel has signed. Since the start of the Israeli army's incursions into Palestinian towns and cities in March 2002, very many journalists have been roughed up, threatened, arrested, banned from moving around, targeted by gunfire, wounded or injured, had their press cards withdrawn or been deported.

Good and Bad Examples in Africa

Eritrea (132nd) and Zimbabwe (122nd) are the most repressive countries of sub-Saharan Africa. The entire privately-owned press in Eritrea was banned by the government in September 2001 and 18 journalists are currently imprisoned there. Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe is notable for his especially harsh attitude to the foreign and opposition media.

At the other end of the spectrum, Benin is in 21st place despite being classified by the UN Development Programme as one of the world 15 poorest countries. Other African states, such as South Africa (26th), Mali (43rd), Namibia (31st) and Senegal (47th), have genuine press freedom too.

March For Peace On Saturday

This Saturday, Oct. 26, tens of thousands of students, peaceniks, priests, union members, war veterans and working moms and dads will gather in Washington D.C. and San Francisco to protest the war on Iraq. It will be the latest and biggest in a series of protests that have been spontaneously emerging across the nation over the past few weeks.

The Institute for Policy Studies, a liberal Washington think-tank that compiles a list of anti-war events planned throughout the country over the next two weeks, says it can barely keep up. "People are organizing at all levels," co-director Amy Quinn told the Washington Post. "I'm not surprised that people are coming out against the war. I am surprised at how organized and vocal people are."

And organizers predict that the Oct. 26 march will be huge. The vote in Congress authorizing Bush to attack Iraq may have been the tipping point for an anti-war movement that has been steadily gaining momentum with each passing week.

"The vote closed all doors. The only real option left for people in terms of stopping the war is to take to the streets," says Global Exchange peace coordinator Kristi Laughlin. The International ANSWER Coalition, a broad-based alliance of activist groups organizing the protest, says it is "confidently expecting" up to a hundred thousand people to show up and be counted.

Many of the marchers will not be lifelong activists, but ordinary Americans who are tired of being ignored by D.C. politicos more interested in expediency than in the nation's welfare. With help from local groups, ANSWER is organizing 250 buses to transport people from around the country to Washington and San Francisco. A demonstration that large should serve as a richly deserved wake-up call to the Bush administration and the Democrats who scurried to join the war effort.

Some recent articles, for example, have raised questions about the participation of fringe groups in organizing these demonstrations. But as many point out, what matters is not the presence of a few radical groups but the remarkable diversity of the participants from all walks of life and every political stripe, both seasoned activists and first-time marchers -- veterans, concerned parents, religious leaders, people of color, teenagers and women. Even Bush's own United Methodist church has launched a scathing attack on his plans for war, saying it is "without any justification according to the teachings of Christ." "It is hard to dismiss these people as just kooks," Laughlin says.

The escalating anti-war movement is well aware that Bush's new war will make the world a more dangerous place. If the U.S. makes war on Iraq, we all stand to lose whatever peace and security we now have. Some of the demonstrators may have differing political beliefs, but they are united in their conviction that war with Iraq is not the answer and dissent is democratic. If you, your family, friends and colleagues share this conviction, please join the demonstrators and march for peace this Saturday.

For more information on how you can participate in the protests, visit the InternationalAnswer.org website.

War and Peace: A Roundtable Discussion

St. Louis' youth online magazine, Louie, recently gathered seven area high school students for a roundtable discussion on the war on terrorism. Travis Gregory, Shadi Peterman, Jessi Donahoe, Samantha Keppler, Liz Fuhro, Rebecca Halperin, and Wil Mowrey participated in the dialogue. Shadi is Iranian-American, and Sam and Rebecca have spent time in Israel.

Louie: How personally connected do you feel to the war on terrorism? How has this situation affected you?

Shadi Peterman: I kind of feel teens should pay special attention to the war on terrorism and what's going on in Israel and Palestine because they're not our problems right now, but should they not get solved, they will be in the future. So, we should be paying attention in case it falls upon us to take care of it.

Jessi Donahoe: I think this is an important issue to me personally because it's not just that some people are getting hit with bombs or are dying. These are families; these are people that are doing the same things I'm doing. I believe that, if it can happen to them, it could also happen to me. And that makes me very worried about how my family could eventually be affected.

At my school not a whole lot has changed. People are trying to ignore what's happening because it's so much, and it's so intense and it's almost too much to handle. If we do talk about it, it's very, very generalized.

Louie: How afraid does this make you? Is there a level of fear that has been injected in your lives based on what's been going on?

Shadi: I was more afraid for my family in Iran at first. When they declared the war on terrorism and said that Iran is in the "axis of evil," I felt kind of upset about that. But it becomes more general after a while. You just get kind of tired of seeing all these people being killed, over and over and over again. It gets pathetic after a while, and seeing that just kind of wears you down.

Liz Fuhro: Personally, I'm not afraid for my life, but I have family in Israel. My friends have family in Israel. And I'm afraid of what could happen to them. It's really depressing to think that there are people who think they're doing good by killing other people and they think they're gonna live a better life if they destroy themselves and others. It's just a really sad thing.

Rebecca Halperin: I sort of have two different but similar fears. One is a very selfish fear, and I guess it's that, with everything going on, my children won't see Israel how I saw it. And then the other fear is just that I guess it's possible for people to hate so much and so deeply, and you never think that it would be possible for someone to be able to do what people are doing to each other. It's not just a nightmare or something that you say one day would happen.

Louie: What are some of the ways that the war has changed dynamics at your school?

Liz: Actually, at my school, at least within the people that I'm friends with, not a whole lot has changed. People are trying to ignore what's happening because it's so much, and it's so intense and it's almost too much to handle. If we do talk about it, it's very, very generalized. We don't get in to details; we talk about the latest suicide-bomber. We just stick to our day-to-day discussions about what happened over the weekend because it's easier to deal with. It's not so difficult to manage.

Samantha Keppler: It hasn't changed at all, sadly, as much as I try to push to talk about the issues. I want to be able to be like, "Well, you guys, this is how it is." But I'm only one voice.

Rebecca: After Sept. 11, everybody was freaking out -- and rightfully so. But a lot of my friends that also shared a connection in Israel -- we sort of felt like this happens everyday in Israel, and finally America was getting a taste of what it's like to be freaked out because someone you know might have been hurt. I think that was the only time there was a response at my school -- a huge response all over the country. And I still had a different response, though, than everyone else.

Travis Gregory: I don't think that people don't care, or at least teens don't care. They don't know the real story, the real fight of the Israelis and Palestinians. This is a fight that's been going on not only in modern history but in Biblical times. So, I think the education factor -- a lot of teens just don't know what it's really about, and that's why it doesn't interest them. If they don't know what it's about, why get caught up in it? So, I think education's the key.

People will get in a playful disagreement with someone who is Arabic, and then the next word out of their mouth is "terrorist." I swear, it's just become an awful, trendy insult.

Samantha: The hard thing is just figuring out how to educate, how to get the message across and how to get peers interested in the topic. I mean, now it has come in to America -- just because WE were bombed. But before I have to admit though, once I went to Israel, it all became more because I lived with it. I lived down the street from the Sbarro that was bombed a few months ago, and I woke up to bombs. So, on 9/11, when it happened -- first of all, I was having a very difficult time getting reacclimated to America. Then that came, and I lost it; I completely broke down. And people were like, "What's wrong with you?" They didn't understand, and then I just was like, "OK, I'm done."

Liz: I just think it's not so much that people don't know. I think it's more that they don't want to know. The first three or four days after the 9/11 attacks, every TV in our school was on CNN -- all the time, all day. And as it gradually became a little more real, people just stopped paying attention. If it doesn't have anything to do with them, they don't wanna hear about it.

Jessi: The Arabic people at my school were already being called "brown people" by everybody at school. And now those people will get in a playful disagreement with someone who is Arabic, and then the next word out of their mouth is "terrorist." I swear, it's just become an awful, trendy insult.

Shadi: My teacher has joked about me being a terrorist before because of my Iranian background. I know he's just kidding, but on some level -- ouch.

Travis: People have no idea how Muslims actually are. These terrorists aren't so-called "Muslims." Their beliefs are nothing of their religion.

Shadi: Islam is a really beautiful religion. I think the misconceptions about how you need to blow yourself up, and God will be, "Oh, yea!" -- it's not like that at all. It's a very peace-loving religion, and I think a lot of the misconception has been over religion. And then it gets put onto a certain group of people: a woman who wears a scarf or a man who wears a turban. I just think that they're putting too much on image.

Jessi: Many, many people in our country and in the whole world are so quick to judge but you can't know anything about a person unless you hear them say it and you see them act on it.

Louie: How involved do think the United States should be in the war on terrorism and the Israel/Palestine conflict, and in what way?

Wil Mowrey: If anything, definitely morally instead of all the economical reasons. It's really selfish, and I think it should be more of what's right. And I don't think America has any grasp or concept of what's right, right now.

I think America's always in a lose-lose situation. If we don't help, we're sitting by, being selfish; if we help too much, we're poking our nose into somebody else's business.

Shadi: If it gets to the point where neither country is really working towards peace, we shouldn't be pushing it because it makes us look kind of odd. It's their problem, and we should be there to help them if they ask for it but nothing really beyond that.

Louie: What if there were a reinstatement of the draft and you were called up? What would you do?

Rebecca: In Israel, it's mandatory for girls and guys. Sam and I have a lot of friends and people that are close to us. Right now, we're getting excited about college, and our peers that are the same age are getting nervous about going into the army.

Samantha: It's not even nervousness. It's an awesome, awesome nervousness.

Rebecca: This is gonna come off sounding really awful, but I think I would be more eager to serve in Israel's army. I would not wanna serve in the American army if the draft was instituted here. But I don't think I'd have to be asked twice to serve for Israel.

Samantha: I agree. I'd go in a second.

Rebecca: Yeah, but it would be scary. One of my closest, closest guy friends -- his brother was in Afghanistan, in the troops that were going through the mines and stuff. Obviously, it would be scary; everyone's gonna say that if the draft came back, it would be sad to see your friends and your fathers and your sons go. I don't think there's any other way, but...[in a whispering tone] I don't know -- just that it's scary.

Wil: If I got word that there was any kind of draft, you'd probably find me with a one-way ticket out of this country. I disagree with just about everything that's going on and what our country is doing, and I just couldn't fight for it.

Travis: I won't disagree with anyone's opinion. But I believe every country has its sins, and everybody has certainly made mistakes. And, if anything, this country has certainly recognized its mistakes. I won't say that America is perfect, but I find it hard that someone would enjoy all the benefits of America, but when it comes to fighting against another nation, they would revolt.

I think that the whole excuse of, "What can I do? I can't do anything, so I'm not gonna do anything" is kind of an immature way of avoiding something. I don't think that's acceptable at all.

Samantha: I think a big problem that everyone has is, no one wants to admit that, no matter what we do, people are gonna DIE. And so, we're trying to find a solution where no one will get hurt, everything will work perfectly. The idea of killing anyone makes me nauseous. But, especially with teenagers -- I feel like I try to sit down and try to figure out, "Well, we could do this, this, this and this, and no one would have to get hurt."

Travis: I think America's always in a lose-lose situation. If we don't help, we're sitting by, being selfish; if we help too much, we're poking our nose into somebody else's business. We're the major power in the world; there's no doubt about it. So, we're gonna have to do something about something.

Shadi: I would have to be a conscientious objector to the war because I just feel that the United States has made so many mistakes, and they're not accidental. The United States has done disgusting things with its foreign policy in the past. and I cannot risk my life for a country that has -- and in my case --done terrible things to a country where my mom is from. And I've seen the effects of that firsthand. You know, I've seen people who have their legs blown off in the street from the weapons that the United States sold to Iraq, while selling weapons to Iran, while they were fighting each other. I can't go to war for a country that 's done that, especially if it gets to the point that the United States may choose to go to war against Iran -- and I would be there fighting against, potentially , family. I couldn't do that.

Louie: As an 18-year-old high school student living in St. Louis, Missouri, USA, what can you do?

Rebecca: This -- what we're doing now. Talk.

Jessi: Well, I've signed a lot of petitions and written a lot of letters. This sounds really stupid, but I wrote to Jimmy Carter because I know he opposes what we're doing, and I know that he's a great diplomat. And I asked him if there was anything he could do that would maybe influence our president to think about it differently. [sighs]

Sam: I think that the whole excuse of, "What can I do? I can't do anything, so I'm not gonna do anything" is kind of an immature way of avoiding something. I don't think that's acceptable at all.

Travis: I think you have to educate the public -- not only teens but older adults as well -- because, again, education is the key to everything. If we don't know what we're fighting for, we're not gonna fight at all for it.

To read the entire transcript of this Dialogue, visit Louie Magazine.

It's Not So Slick When Oil Ends Up in the Sea

About 29 million gallons of petroleum enters the oceans off North America each year, shows a new study by the National Research Council. The report finds that about 85 percent of that pollution can be blamed not on massive oil spills, but on the lesser amounts released by airplanes, swept into polluted rivers and from the largest culprits: recreational boats and runoff from the land.

The amount of petroleum released into North American and global waters is less than previously thought, the committee found. At the same time, however, new studies show that the environmental effects of a major oil spill are longer lasting than once thought and that even small amounts of petroleum can seriously damage marine life and ecosystems.

"Oil spills can have long lasting and devastating effects on the ocean environment, but we need to know more about damage caused by petroleum from land based sources and small watercraft since they represent most of the oil leaked by human activities," said James Coleman, chair of the committee that wrote the report.

"This doesn't mean we can ignore hazards from drilling and shipping, however," Coleman cautioned. "Although new safety standards and advances in technology reduced the amount of oil that spilled during extraction and transport in the last two decades, the potential is still there for a large spill, especially in regions with lax safety controls."

About 47 million gallons seep naturally from the seafloor into the North American oceans, more than all human sources of petroleum pollution combined. That puts North America in a better position than the world as a whole: worldwide, about 210 million gallons of petroleum enter the sea each year from human caused petroleum sources, with an additional 180 million gallons coming from natural seepage, the report says.

Of the human caused petroleum pollution entering the oceans around North America, less than eight percent comes from oil tanker or pipeline spills, says the report by the National Academies' National Research Council (NRC), titled "Oil in the Sea: Inputs, Fates, and Effects."

The report, which relies on data from a variety of sources, is said to be far more accurate than the NRC's last such assessment in 1985.

Oily Waters

Oil slicks visible from the air and birds painted black by oil get the most public attention, but it is consumers of oil -- not the ships that transport it -- who are responsible for most of what finds its way into the ocean, the NRC says.

Oil exploration and extraction are responsible for only three percent of the petroleum that enters the sea, with their effects concentrated where oil drilling rigs are at work in the Gulf of Mexico and in waters off southern California, northern Alaska, and eastern Canada.

The bulk of the 29 million gallons from humanmade sources comes from individually small source that, combined, account for about 25 million gallons of ocean petroleum pollution.

For example, oil runoff from cars and trucks is increasing in coastal areas where the population is growing and roads and parking lots are expanding. More than one half of the land based oil contamination along the North American coastline occurs between Maine and Virginia, where there are dense seaside populations, many cities, several refineries, and high energy use, the report notes.

Rivers polluted by oil in wastewater or the improper disposal of petroleum products are also a major source of oil entering the sea.

Older two stroke engines still found on many recreational boats and jet skis were purposely designed to discharge gasoline and oil. Land runoff and recreational boating account for nearly three-quarters of the petroleum released into the sea each year through human consumption.

Other sources of oil from human activities include military and commercial jets that occasionally jettison excess fuel over the ocean and ships that release oil from their engines while in port or at sea.

The impact of an oil spill on marine life is not directly related to the size of the spill, since even a small spill in an ecologically sensitive area can have long term impacts, the NRC found. A spill's influence also depends on the type and amount of toxics present in the petroleum product being released.

The riskiest toxics are a class of organic compounds known as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, or PAHs. Growing evidence suggests that PAHs and other toxic compounds can have adverse effects on marine species even at very low concentrations. This means chronic releases from runoff and recreational boating may inflict more damage than previously thought, and that the effects of large spills may last as long as residual oil persists in the area.

Gulf of Mexico Impacted

The Gulf of Mexico is the most heavily impacted of North America's ocean waters, the NRC learned. About 20 percent of the land based petroleum entering North American coastal waters ends up in the Gulf of Mexico.

The Gulf also receives most of the oil and gas that is emitted by recreational boats and jet skis, and oil drilling rigs concentrated in the Gulf spill thousands of gallons each year.

The amount of petroleum released during oil drilling has dropped in recent years, but the threat of a spill cannot be ignored, the NRC warns. The report recommends that the U.S. Minerals Management Service promote extraction techniques that minimize accidental or intentional releases of petroleum.

Other federal agencies, including the Department of Transportation and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) should also continue to work with state environmental agencies and industry to minimize the potential for spills from pipelines and other coastal petroleum facilities.

While new shipping standards have helped reduce oil spills and deliberate discharges from tankers and other ocean going vessels, about 2.7 million gallons of petroleum still spill into North American waters while being transported to market. The report cautions that large tanker spills are still possible, particularly in areas without stringent safety procedures and inspections.

To better monitor how much oil consumers and industry are depositing in the ocean, the NRC recommends that federal agencies work with state and local environmental bureaus to develop a system for documenting sources of runoff. The report also calls on the EPA to continue efforts to phase out older, inefficient two stroke engines, which power many jet skis and other small watercraft.

The report also says federal ocean management agencies should try to develop more accurate techniques for estimating the amount of oil that seeps into the ocean from geologic formations beneath the seafloor. This would help researchers distinguish the effects of petroleum released by natural processes versus human activities, and study how marine life responds to the introduction of oil.

Altered Ecosystems

Where oil seeps naturally into the ocean, local marine ecosystems have been altered, the report says. For example, in seepage areas in the Santa Barbara Channel off California, there is little biodiversity, with just bacteria and a few invertebrate species surviving in the petroleum slurry.

Research conducted in the wake of the EXXON Valdez spill in 1989 shows that large oil spills can be devastating to the marine environment. They kill fish, mammals, birds and their offspring, destroy plant life, and reduce the food supply for organisms that survive.

Spills also disrupt the structure and function of marine communities and ecosystems, although more research is needed to better understand how spills affect overall populations, the NRC says.

Less is known about how chronic releases from sources such as land runoff and inefficient two stroke engines on boats and jet skis affect marine ecology. The report calls for the federal government, in cooperation with academia and industry, to launch a major research effort aimed at better understanding how chronic releases of petroleum affect the marine environment, particularly when organisms in already polluted waters are exposed to the multiple toxics found in oil.

The NRC report is available online at http://www.nap.edu

Bush Is No Berliner

Once upon a time, a young American could proclaim "Ich bin ein Berliner" and Germany and all of Europe would be thrilled. On Thursday the crowds were out on the streets of Berlin for another American president -- but to revile George Bush, not to praise him.

Rank ingratitude for all America did for Berlin and Germany during the Cold War? Perhaps, and certainly many Europeans of a certain age would beg to differ with the protesters. Nevertheless, the demonstrations are as symptomatic of the times as the rapture that greeted John Kennedy in Berlin 39 years ago. The harsh truth is that for all the platitudes we hear about how shared values, heritage and interests make Europe and America partners for all eternity, the glue that binds them has rarely been thinner.

In some ways there is nothing wrong with this. The Soviet Union, the common threat that made the transatlantic alliance necessary, has disappeared. Painstakingly and not without immense problems, the European Union is forging its own political identity, which in the nature of things is shaping a different European world view.

But that alone does not explain today's chill -- and it certainly does not explain how, in a few short months, the Bush administration has managed to exhaust the huge stock of European sympathy and solidarity that it was given after Sept. 11.

If anything, that horrific event has strengthened all the disturbing trends that were apparent in Washington beforehand -- unilateralism, highhandedness, a disdain for any treaty that might, even marginally, tie the administration's hands, and a tendency to interpret the verb "consult" to mean making a weary pretence of listening to the views of others before doing exactly what it intended to do anyway.

The attacks on Sept. 11 seem only to have hardened the assumption in Washington that what's good for the U.S. is, by definition, good for everyone else. It has hardened the conviction that it is America's manifest destiny to launch a war against Iraq, whatever its allies and the United Nations might think, and whatever the destabilising effects across the Middle East. Mr. Bush talks of a Palestinian state, but undoes that good work by imposing his simplistic with-us-or-against-us template of the "war against terrorism" on a conflict that has infinite shades of grey.

And the charge of hypocrisy must now be added to the charge of selfish shortsightedness for the rejection of the Kyoto treaty and the new International Criminal Court. The country that tells other countries to open their markets has closed its own to steel imports and brought in farm subsidies that would make the inventors of the Common Agricultural Policy blush. Here any pretence of world leadership is dropped. The name of the game is pandering for votes in states that might help Mr Bush and the Republicans in the elections of 2002 and 2004.

Europe, to be sure, is not without blame for the sorry state of the relationship. Inevitably but maddeningly, it still speaks with many voices. Its collective failure to modernise and strengthen its armed forces is a scandal that undercuts Europe's claims to equal partnership and its ability to defuse the world's crises, of which the most dangerous is now Kashmir. There, too, America must lead, because there is no one else.

But the onus in Europe this week is on Mr Bush. He should relearn the traditional sense of "consult" -- to listen to the views of others, and take them into account -- and admit that sometimes they may have a point.

Eyewitness Accounts From Ramallah

Eyewitness acccounts of the Israeli invasion are pouring in from Ramallah and Bethlehem every day. The following reports and testimonies are being circulated on listservs and indymedia sites.

April 3, 2002

From the Electronic Intifada.com

Reports on Demonstration at the Kalandia Checkpoint:

Posted by Diaa Hadid, Ittijah: Union of Arab Community Based Associations

Kalandia checkpoint -- Today, between 5,000 and 6,000 people -- Israeli peace activists, Palestinians in Israel and Palestinian MK's in the Israeli Knesset -- marched to the Kalandia checkpoint, with several aims:

1. To ensure that urgently needed aid people here had collected -- medicines and food -- would enter Ramallah.

2. For the Palestinians, to try to enter Ramallah, breaking the military closure around the city and protesting against the curfew and occupation;

3. To protest America's open support for the clearly illegal occupation, and re-assault in the West Bank.

We marched to Kalandia with women leading, straight to the checkpoint, which is currently a big set of plastic and concrete blocks blocking off the main road into Ramallah, heavily guarded by armed Israeli soldiers and police.

We began to push against the blocks. I was in the front line. The soldiers and police reacted by letting off sound bombs over our heads, which caused people to panic. Tear gas bombs were thrown at us. "Tear gas" causes a temporary inability to breath, then immense pain as the gas enters your lungs and eyes. With that, people dispersed, running for cover. From nowhere, onions were passed out. A few minutes later, people re-gathered. We marched to the checkpoint blocks again.

The truck passed through into Ramallah after much bargaining and pleading. By accident, one young Palestinian woman found herself on the other side of the checkpoint. She returned to us by climbing over the checkpoint. The soldiers and police began to argue with her (after she arrived to the other side of the checkpoint, our side). A policeman lost his temper and began to beat her, the green light for the police to throw more tear gas at the crowd, dispersing us again.

The police were indiscriminately beating people - friends running away were smashed with batons, the police pushed an old man before me. The press was affected by the tear gas. It seemed that they had been specifically targeted. They were clearly marked with "TV" - it's impossible that the police didn't't see that.

We ran away and re-gathered. The police began to organize themselves. They pushed aside their plastic barriers and began to chase us, throwing tear gas into the crowds and beating us with batons. We kept regrouping, chanting, waving Palestinian flags, standing in groups with our hands linked, refusing to be beaten into submission, refusing to use force. Police would stand behind us, beating us with their batons, abusing us, especially the Druze police, who kept abusing us in Arabic. If we reacted, they would beat us. If we ran, they would chase after us, throwing tear gas and beating us.

One young man was caught. Around 5-6 policemen stood around him, beating him, kicking him, smashing their batons upon him. Then he was arrested.

Towards the end of the protest, we stood at traffic lights, closer to Beit Hanina. Again, chanting, grouping up, waving Palestinian flags. The police surrounded us, throwing more tear gas and beating who ever they could catch. We took refuge behind cars, in the grassy, muddy field below the road, anywhere we could. It was a war zone, but only one side was armed.

We kept searching for each other, seeking familiar faces, to reassure ourselves. In pauses between teargas, sound bombs and violent police, we were hugging, sometimes crying. As we walked back to our buses, we could count the toll: around 30 injured, including three Palestinian MK's in the Knesset - Issam Makhoul, Ahmad Tibi and Mohammad Barakeh. Two young men arrested. One young man has his finger torn off when a tear-gas bomb exploded next to his hand. A woman had her head stitched up after the police smashed her over the head with his baton.

On the bus, we received a phone call that the medicines and food convey reached the NGO's. Some of the older Palestinian women on the bus began to weep.

Posted by activist Arjan El Fassed:

Dahiya al-Barid, Occupied Palestine - I need water. I was just caught in teargas. We were at a demonstration before the checkpoint (the one that was previously known as the Ram-checkpoint). Thousands of protesters, Palestinians (a huge number from "inside"), Israeli's, Italians, French, Dutch, Belgians, Swiss, and other foreigners, and a lot of international media (probably because they are prevented from covering Israel's assaults on Palestinian cities) were present. The whole street was packed with people, calling for the end of occupation, international protection, freedom, justice, "libra Palestina" (the Italians wrote this on a former Israeli road sign warning people to "prepare documents for inspection"), and an immediate end to human rights violations. Among the protesters were many Palestinian and Israeli human rights and peace activists, members of the Knesset, student organisations and others. More and more busses arrived, I saw some friends from Haifa, and other friends I didn't see in a long time, due to the pressing situation.

Israeli Border Police, known for their brutal response to demonstrations, with clubs in their hands, and Israeli soldiers were preventing people from passing. The march was supposed to reach Qalandia checkpoint in the direction of Ramallah. Trucks of food and medical supplies destined for the Union of Palestinian Medical Relief Committees and women's organisations were supposed to be reaching Ramallah.

Suddenly, we heard the sounds of blasts, white smoke, which made me conclude: "teargas!" People started running back, even while more protesters arrived.

We walked in a side road from where you could see the demonstration and the checkpoint clearly. Two armored personnel carriers were blocking the road on the other side of the checkpoint. An Israeli soldier on one of the carriers, behind a 500mm heavy machinegun was following persons aiming his machinegun on them.

More blasts, more teargas, I hear Israeli women shouting: "fascists, fascists!" People start running, more blasts, white smoke and tears. I felt it in my throat, tears follow, I was afraid for my asthma. Annet and I walked up to the direction of the Ne've Yacov colony, which is next to Dahiya al-Barid, where we live. From there up the hill, you can walk pass the checkpoint and come down to the other side, which we did. More sounds of teargas, people running in various directions. Back at the office, I went on the roof, I could see the Israeli soldiers, hear the blasts and see white smoke up to Beit Hanina, people running in various directions.

Hanan, one of our lawyers, just came back from the demonstration. With a tissue in her hand she tells me that she helped someone who was choking and entered a home, telling the residents that she escaped for the teargas. A number of protesters have been injured through teargas inhalation.

Later Safwat entered the office. "They beat the shit out of some protesters!" he says. He still catching some air, while talking about what he had seen. I saw an Israeli policeman pushing down an old woman who climbed up a hill. She fell a couple of meters down. I saw a member of an Israeli special unit dragging a guy out of the group and just start beating him. When other protesters started to interfere, more Israeli soldiers started to beat the crowd. Some Knesset members got injured and there have been several arrests of Palestinians.

From LAW

Israeli Crackdown on Media

Israel has started to expell several foreign correspondents and journalists from various Palestinian cities. In the past 18 months, and in the past week in particular, Israeli forces have attacked reporters, cameramen and photographers, press offices have been raided, journalists have been detained and are prevented from performing their jobs.

For example, on April 2, 2002, Andre Durand, a journalist who works for Agence France Press, together with 'Ata Awisat, who is a reporter for Gama News, were stopped by Israeli soldiers in Beitunia. After two hours, Durand was released, but Awisat was still being held. On April 1, 2002, Abas al-Moumani, a photojournalist, who also works for Agence France Presse, was driving his car, which has been clearly marked with "TV", at Manari, the main square in the center of Ramallah. Israeli soldiers opened fire at his car and a live bullet hit the mirror inside the car. The driver was not hurt. The car was stopped and Israeli soldiers confiscated Moumani's camera. They forced him to put his hands behind his head and left him standing for three hours, after which they returned his camera and ordered him to leave the area.

That same day, April 1, 2002, Israeli forces, in Ramallah, fired on an armored vehicle used by NBC. The car was clearly marked as a vehicle used by the foreign press. That same day, a BBC correspondent and her crew were shot at while covering a peaceful protest in Beit Jala.

In Bethlehem on April 2, an Israeli soldier fired one round toward the car of Reuters photographer Magnus Johansson, which was clearly identified as a press vehicle. Johansson heard soldiers shouting at him. When he got out of the car, he was ordered back in. The shot was fired as he attempted to drive away.

In Bethlehem on April 1, Palestinian militants threatened journalists working for The Associated Press, Reuters, and Palestine TV and forced them to hand over footage, shot the night before, of the body of an alleged Palestinian collaborator who had been shot in a parking lot.

The lack of coverage of Israeli actions in various Palestinian areas is very dangerous. In addition to difficulties faced by human rights monitors and defenders, Israel's restrictions on the press, is a dangerous escalation and should concern international bodies and governments.

Articles 50 and 51 of the 'Protocols Additional to the 1949 Geneva Convention' emphasise the protection of civilians in time of war including journalists, since they are part of the civilian population:

"The civilian population comprises all persons who are civilians."

"The civilian population and individual civilians shall enjoy general protection against dangers arising from military operations."

Article 79 of the 'Protocols Additional to the 1949 Geneva Convention' stipulates:

"Journalists engaged in dangerous professional missions in areas of armed conflict shall be considered as civilians within the meaning of Article 50, paragraph 1. They shall be protected as such under the Conventions and this Protocol, provided that they take no action adversely affecting their status as civilians."

LAW Society views the Israeli measures against journalists as a policy of silencing the press by attacking and harassing journalists in order to prevent them from documenting human rights violations and grave breaches of the Fourth Geneva Convention, i.e. war crimes.

Israeli Forces Enter Jenin:

At 4.30 this morning, Israeli forces with tanks, armored personnel carriers, entered the Palestinian town Jenin, firing indiscriminately with heavy ammunition at residential buildings, killing Fadwa al-Jamal (24), who was shot inside her home by an Israeli sniper; Hani Abu Irmali (16), also shot inside his home; Walid Masharka (24), killed during Israeli shelling of Jenin refugee camp. An Apache helicopter, hovering above Jenin refugee camp, fired heavy ammunition and hit and killed Ziad Zbeidi (23). Dozens of Palestinians have been injured.

According to fieldresearchers from LAW, many of the injured have not been evacuated. Paramedics and ambulances are prevented from evacuating the wounded. Ambulances have been targetted by the Israeli forces and many residential buildings have been partly destroyed and some severely damaged, due to indiscriminately shelling with no military purpose.

Israeli forces have been reinforced and continue their military assault on Bethlehem, Beit Jala, Beit Sahour and the refugee camps of Dheishe, Aida and 'Azza, which were raided yesterday.

Yesterday morning, at 10 o'clock, 64-years old Sumaya Abed and her son Khaled Abed were killed inside their home in the old city of Bethlehem. Since yesterday (and until this moment), the bodies have not been evacuated. Ambulances and medical personnel, including the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) have been prevented access by the Israeli forces, despite the desperate humanitarian situation. Nine children remain in the bathroom of the home as to not watch the horrible scene. These children are not allowed to leave the home or being evacuated. One hour ago, a local cameraman, accompanied by a journalist have visisted the home.

So far, ten Palestinians have been killed in Bethlehem, including two today. In Manger Square, Israeli forces have killed Omar Shehadeh Salahat (39) and Awad Musa al-Malhi (31). Both have been shot in the upper parts of their body. Eyewitnesses in Bethlehem have reported that no one has been immune from Israeli fire, including at places of worship, churches and mosques. Bodies of many injured residents are in the streets, waiting to be evacuated.

In view of the humanitarian crisis in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, including Ramallah, Bethlehem, Qalqiliya, Jenin, Tulkarem, and Nablus, LAW - The Palestinian Society for the Protection of Human Rights and the Environment urgently requests the intervention of the international community, in particular the member states of the European Union and the United States of America, in order to receive guarantees from Israel that access to medical treatment and humanitarian aid to all those who need it is not obstructed and that attacks on hospitals, ambulances and medical personnel cease immediately.

One of the most basic principles of international humanitarian law refers to the obligation of states to ensure access to medical treatment to any injured person, including evacuation if need be; protection of civilian hospitals and their staff; medical transportation and the consignment of medical supplies and equipment.

Moreover, LAW urges the international community to investigate and prosecute any instances of attacks on ambulances, medical staff and institutions, which have led to death or serious injury, in order to determine whether they were deliberate. Any such deliberate attacks amount to grave breaches of the Fourth Geneva Convention and are thus war crimes.

From Palestinian Activist Sam Bahour:

I just got off the phone with my brother-in-law. This is what he said:

-- Taken at 10:30 am Friday, after being told to exit his home. They were gathered at local school ground that Israeli army is using as military post.

-- At around 11:30 am Friday, they were put in buses and taken on the Pesgot settlement by-pass road, via French Hill in Jerusalem to the Israeli military camp on the West side of Ramallah (Betouna).

- They were dropped off in a dried up human sewage hole adjacent to the miliary base. They remained there until the next morning in the outdoors with absolutely no shelter, food, etc. It was and still is very rainy and cold here.

-- At around 11 am Saturday, they were taken into the military base, ten at a time, to be interviewed and pictured. Each were pictured (as they do in the movies) with their ID # on a carton under their chin.

-- They were then distributed to 3 sections, each with 2 tents. He estimates that there are over 700 Palestinians being held. As the number of prisoners increased they added a tent to each section.

-- Every 5 prisoners were given 380 x 180 cm sponges to sleep on the second night. With the rain these become soaked.

-- Tents were dirty, leaking, and a mess. He said he would have preferred to stay outside.

-- On the second night, each five prisoners were given a wooden pallet to put under the now soaked sponges.

-- He says that people have not slept for days.

-- Each tent was given one meal for 130-160 people which comprised of: 6 tomatoes, 15 apples, 15 cucumbers, bread (which he said was leftover from Passover), and uncooked frozen chicken snekzles. This was distributed to 150-160 people! As the prisoners complained. they started to bring two meals per day of the same.

-- When the Israelis decided to release the Palestinian prisoners, 66 names were called. This was Tuesday night at 11 pm. They took two sets of 13 from the 66 and put them in a bus and sent them off. The rest returned handcuffed to the open dried-up sewer pit, not knowing their status at the time.

-- Every section had access to three outdoor toilet units, like the ones used at construction sites. This was to be used by around 150 people.

-- He says these toilets were a total mess when they arrived -- overflowing and really bad sight.

-- The prisoners requested to speak to a commander in charge to request a pipe or something to open the drains and when he came hours later he said the following and I quote: "You know the difference between me and you? I'm a human. Go open them with your hands."

-- After staying outdoors all last night, handcuffed, they were blindfolded and loaded in buses at 11 am today, wednesday morning, and dropped off at the Kalandia checkpoint, a closed military zone.

- Mohammad asked the soldier at the bus that his personal items were not returned (mobile, wallet, etc and most importantly his ID card, which if not on a person when stopped by an Israeli patrol means immediate going back to an Israeli jail).

-- The soldier told him his question was a good one but he had no idea and Mohammad should go home.

-- The 40 or so that were let off this bus had nowhere to go. They ran into the Kalandia refugee camp. We are trying to get the Red Cross and UNRWA to send them a bus to get home.

These are the first accounts of what is happening!!!!!!!!!!! Someone tell BUSH!

Read earlier reports filed by eyewitnesses and activists.

Rogue Nation

News that the United States has been voted off the UN Human Rights Commission and the UN international drug monitoring board has elicited vows of revenge from conservatives in Congress. They threaten to withhold payment on the long-unpaid dues owed the UN. They blame our adversaries -- China, Cuba, Sudan and others -- for the insult. But the secret votes enabled allies as well as adversaries to vent their mounting exasperation with US policies. At the last session of the commission, the United States stood virtually alone as it opposed resolutions supporting lower-cost access to HIV/AIDS drugs, acknowledging a human right to adequate food and calling for a moratorium on the death penalty, while it continued to resist efforts to ban landmines.

The global outrage is by no means limited to US policies on the Human Rights Commission. In barely 100 days in office, the Bush Administration has declared the Kyoto accords on global warming dead, spurning eight years of work by 186 countries. It banned US support for any global organization that provides family planning or abortion services, even as an AIDS pandemic makes this a matter of life and death. It bade farewell to the antiballistic missile treaty, while slashing spending on nuclear safety aid for Russia. It casually bombed Iraq, helped shoot down a missionary's plane over Peru and enforced an illegal and irrational boycott of Cuba. It sabotaged promising talks between North and South Korea, publicly humiliating South Korea's Nobel prizewinning president, Kim Dae Jung. The nomination as UN ambassador of John Negroponte, former proconsul in Honduras during the illegal contra wars, is an insult. "There is a perception," said one diplomat in carefully parsed words, "that the US wants to go it alone."

Our lawless exceptionalism is a deeply rooted, bipartisan policy that didn't begin with the Bush Administration. Under previous Presidents, Democratic and Republican, Washington denounced state-sponsored terrorism while reserving the right to bomb a pharmaceutical plant in Sudan or unleash a contra army on Nicaragua. It condemned Iraq for invading Kuwait while reserving the right to invade Panama or bomb Serbia on its own writ. The United States advocated war crimes tribunals against foreign miscreants abroad while opposing an international criminal court that might hold our own officials accountable. Our leaders proclaim the value of law and democracy as they spurn the UN Security Council and ignore the World Court when their rulings don't suit them. The Senate refuses to ratify basic human rights treaties. The US international business community even opposes efforts to eliminate child labor. And of course, there are those UN dues, which make us the world's largest deadbeat.

Worse is yet to come. US policy is a direct reflection of its militarization and the belief that we police the world, we make the rules. The Bush Administration plans a major increase in military spending to finance new weapons to expand the US ability to "project" force around the globe -- stealth bombers, drones, long-range missiles and worse. The tightly strung Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld sounds increasingly like an out-of-date Dr. Strangelove as he pushes to open a new military front in space, shattering hopes of keeping the heavens a zone of peace.

As the hyperpower, with interests around the world, America has the largest stake in law and legitimacy. But the ingrained assumption that we are legislator, judge, jury and executioner mocks any notion of global order. From the laws of war to the laws of trade, it is increasingly clear that Washington believes international law applies only to the weak. The weak do what they must; the United States does what it will.

After the cold war, we labeled our potential adversaries "rogue nations" -- violent, lawless, willing to trample the weak and ignore international law and morality to enforce their will. Now, in the vote at the UN, in the headlines of papers across Europe, in the planning of countries large and small, there is a growing consensus that the world's most destructive rogue nation is the most powerful country of them all.

This is not a role most Americans support. Public interest groups and concerned individuals will vigorously remind Congress of the widespread popular backing in this country for paying our UN dues, for global AIDS funding and other forms of international involvement. Unilateralism must be opposed in all its guises, from national missile "defense" to undermining efforts to curb global warming. The United States was founded on a decent respect for the opinions of mankind. Let's keep it that way.

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