Kristen Lombardi

EPA's Environmental Justice Plan Would Perpetuate Racism, Opponents Say

While touting the importance of environmental justice, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is pushing a draft “framework” for tackling the problem that lacks substance, residents of polluted communities, advocates and agency employees say.

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Environmental Racism Has Long Been Ignored by the EPA, but Not Anymore

The Environmental Protection Agency's Office of Civil Rights will more aggressively evaluate recipients of EPA funding to ensure their compliance with federal civil-rights laws, the office said in a draft Strategic Plan released two weeks ago. Billed as an effort that "invigorates the EPA's civil-rights mission," the five-year plan commits the agency for the first time to conduct targeted compliance reviews.

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Environmental Racism Persists, and the EPA is One Reason Why

The invasion of sewer flies moved residents of University Place subdivision to turn to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for help. Darting from a neighboring sewage plant, the flies descended upon the mostly African-American neighborhood in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, with such regularity that one resident posted this warning sign: Beware of attack fly

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Jesse Jackson Speaks

Progressive Democrats were out in full force on Thursday afternoon – the final day of the Democratic National Convention – at their own "shadow" convention, held across the Charles River, at the Royal Sonesta Hotel, in Cambridge. The three-day-long rallying effort, dubbed "Take Back America," had made headlines on Tuesday, when more than 1000 people turned out for pep speeches delivered by the two rock stars of the left wing of the party – former Vermont Governor Howard Dean and "Fahrenheit 9/11" filmmaker Michael Moore.

On Thursday, by contrast, the scene was far more subdued. The afternoon session, "Organizing to Take Back America," offered up the nuts-and-bolts of good grassroots action to several hundred loyal progressives. Leaders of the well-heeled political groups registering and mobilizing voters nationwide – from America Coming Together to the Campaign for America's Future (which sponsored the shadow convention) – expounded on the secrets to their voter-mobilization strategies, as well as a few election predictions for the 2004 presidential race. The general consensus among them? Never before has there been a more cohesive, more effective get-out-the-vote effort from the left. Indeed, they optimistically conclude that progressives (some 20 million Americans) represent the constituency that will lead the John Kerry and the Democratic Party to victory.

But the most interesting (and unusual) part of the panel came with the appearance of the Reverend Jesse Jackson, a veteran of the progressive movement. I had attended the session specifically to hear Jackson. But when he ascended the podium, I had a hard time discerning his message. He gave a rambling, off-the-cuff speech that covered such disparate topics as the Iraq war, the disenfranchisement of black voters in Florida in the 2000 elections, the ongoing civil-rights struggle, and the use of "liberal" as a dirty word. Suffice it to say, Jackson's speech lacked any real focus and no connective tissue. But he did manage to spit out a fair share of juicy sound bites. Some of them included:

o "There cannot be a monochromatic progressive movement in this country."

o Progressives are "heavy in the thought department, but have no power shaft. To get from here to California is hard to do without an airplane."

o "In an environment of stolen and frozen votes [a reference to Florida in 2000], the Bush administration has now suggested the idea of suspending the elections. What if they find bin Laden suddenly on October 31. Or on Halloween. Will they say we need to suspend the elections? You might say to me, 'That's absurd.' But is it? ...I'd say we're operating under a real cloud over the integrity of our voting ability."

o "We can win this election and still lose. If our votes count, we can vote in a civilized government. If they don't, we can't."

o "When Kerry wins, the anti-war movement will get bigger by the day."

o "The power we seek doesn't come from the top down. It comes from the bottom up, from people like you.... The people's movement made Kennedy, Johnson, Carter, and Clinton make the right choices."

o "I want the Democrats to get some definition of who they are. I'm not going to run away from being called a liberal. America is a liberal idea! America is a liberal idea! America is a liberal idea!"

Whatever Jackson said, he fired up the progressives in the audience, all of whom responded with a rousing standing ovation. Now, apparently, they're ready to go back to work.

Church Chat

Not a day goes by without the emergence of some new and damaging information in the ever-unfolding pedophile-priest crisis rocking the Archdiocese of Boston. To date, more than 80 area clergymen have been named as child molesters, and thousands of pages of once-secret files have exposed the Church’s cover-up of child sexual abuse by its priests. Bernard Cardinal Law has resorted to hiding from the media crews that have become fixtures outside the chancery.

But what does all this mean for the Catholic Church? Will its influential role in shaping public policy fade? Frances Kissling, who heads the Washington, DC-based reform group Catholics for a Free Choice, will participate in a debate on those questions and more at an upcoming forum titled "Sex, Scandal, and Power: Is this the End of the Catholic Church’s Political Influence?", hosted by the Women’s Studies Program at Harvard, the Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies at City University of New York, and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. I caught up with Kissling recently to discuss the decline in the Church’s authority caused by the ongoing scandal.

Q: What kind of a Catholic are you?

There are many kinds of Catholics. There are pious Catholics, for whom being Catholic means, "I go to mass on Sunday; I pray the rosary." There are Catholics who follow the social-justice message of the gospel. There are intellectual Catholics for whom theologians like Thomas Aquinas are most important. There are conservative Catholics who believe whatever the pope says. And then, there is what I call "Catholics in resistance." I’m a Catholic in resistance. Changing the Church characterizes my staying.

Q: How has your faith been tested by the clergy sexual-abuse scandal?

My faith has never depended on the institutional Church. There is a profound distinction between the Vatican, the Curia, the Holy See, and my life as a spiritual person. I’ve always seen the sacramental side as meaningful, and the governing side as often corrupt. Abuse of power comes as no surprise, whether it’s sexual, financial, or personal. My belief that the Church’s governing structure is corrupt has only been reinforced. But it doesn’t present me with a problem because I never thought the structure was a divine creation. It has been, to use the buzzwords, an elitist patriarchal entity, and these entities have a tendency to corruption.

Q: What’s your take on last week’s meeting of American cardinals at the Vatican?

It had all the trappings of the way in which large corporations act when they’ve gotten caught with hands in the cookie jar. The pope made a generic statement honoring victims, but victims weren’t there. He chose to meet with upper management. The cardinals went in with a line about what should be done, yet came out with no improvements. They think they can get away with spin. It was a disgraceful show of contempt for victims, with no recognition that the bishops and cardinals are the problem, not the solution.

Q: Five months ago, before the scandal blew wide open, how influential would you say the Church was in matters of social and public policy?

It was an influential force at both the state and federal levels. Take the decision by the Republican Party to make a monumental attempt to court conservative Catholics. The party gave [prominent Catholics] a skybox at the [2000 Republican] convention. One of the first events that George Bush attended after becoming president was dinner at Cardinal Theodore McCarrick’s house. The Church’s power in the State House is also well known. It has access, writes bills, lobbies. On a number of social issues, it wins.

Q: When you consider Church leaders like Bernard Cardinal Law -- an outspoken figure on abortion and other issues -- what do you see today?

One sees a broken man. His physical persona is different. He doesn’t stand as straight. He speaks with less firmness. He’s simply not as visible. His moral authority is profoundly eroded. What will be interesting to see as we move into the 2002 election cycle is how many politicians want a photo op with Law. The number will be far less than it was two years ago.

Q: Articles suggest that people aren’t walking away from the teachings of the Church, so how could this scandal harm the Church’s stature?

The Catholic laity has already rejected the moral authority of bishops on divorce and remarriage, homosexuality, contraception, abortion. So their faith is untouched. But the scandal harms the Church’s stature in the public-policy arena. The bishops have been unable to speak with moral authority on sexual issues inside the Church for 30 years. Now they’ll have great difficulty speaking with authority on those issues outside the Church.

Q: As far as crises go, how would you say this one measures?

It’s not as big as the Protestant Reformation, but it’s close. It will mark the Church in a negative way for hundreds of years. The American Church’s current leadership will never recover. They may never retire, because the drive to protect the patriarchy takes precedence over everything. But this scandal has vastly eroded their authority. Church leaders have misused their power in other ways that have caused suffering. That they have the clout to deny condoms to people with AIDS in the Third World is a scandal. That they could be complicit in the deaths of 600,000 women yearly who die from botched abortions or unsustainable pregnancies is a scandal. If this sex-abuse scandal contributes to diminution of political power of bishops, that’s a good thing.

This article originally ran in the Boston Phoenix.

Charitable Complications

Is it fair that the family of a New York firefighter who died in the September 11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center will receive checks totaling $325,000 plus a lifetime pension, when the family of a food-service worker at Windows on the World, the restaurant at the top of the WTC, gets just $15,000 in financial relief? Is it fair that the married spouse of a victim who died in the attack will receive Social Security benefits when the gay partner of someone who died the same way will not? Is it fair that the families of undocumented immigrants have yet to see a penny of the $1.4 billion raised in charitable contributions to help those affected by the attacks?

Of course it's not fair. But the hard truth about the September 11 relief effort is that some families will end up receiving far more benefits than others. Why? Because a huge portion of the donated money is reserved for certain victims only. It's a sensitive topic, but one that must be addressed by charitable organizations, whose duty is to help those people who need it most.

Since the terrorist attacks on September 11, Americans have donated more money for disaster-relief efforts than ever before: $1.4 billion and counting. Yet just 10 percent of the money raised thus far has been distributed. Not surprisingly, the trickling of the money stream has angered critics such as Bill O'Reilly, the conservative host of Fox News Channel's The O'Reilly Factor and a syndicated columnist. In an October 29 piece, O'Reilly characterizes the current situation as "so chaotic that nobody really knows what the hell is going on." He concludes: "This is one big, cruel mess."

Such criticisms have grown so loud that even Congress has taken note. Last Thursday, the House Ways and Means Committee took the unusual step of establishing a subcommittee to hold a November 8 public hearing on how charities have responded to the September 11 attacks. While announcing the hearing, the subcommittee's chairman, Representative Amo Houghton, a New York Republican, opined: "I believe if a person gives money to help another through a charitable contribution, that money should end up as quickly as possible in the hands of the one who needs it."

But who determines who needs what? Many charities set up to aid victims of the attacks don't have to think about the question at all -- from the start, many of the funds were earmarked for certain groups of survivors. New York mayor Rudy Guiliani's Twin Towers Fund, for example, is raising money for families of firefighters, police officers, emergency workers, and other government personnel. The fund has collected $88 million; its Web site declares that "[i]f resources permit, families of other persons who lost their lives or were injured during the tragedies may also be included as beneficiaries." (How that decision will be made remains unclear; fund administrators did not return phone calls from this reporter.) Eight additional funds are also slated to benefit families of New York firefighters and police.

Among the largest is the Firefighters 9-11 Disaster Relief Fund, which has accumulated $51 million for the families of the 344 firefighters who died in the September 11 catastrophe. George Burke, spokesperson for the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF), which is administering the fund, says the IAFF has hand-delivered checks totaling $7 million to widows -- all the firefighters who died were men -- so they can pay mortgages and "buy clothes for the kids to wear to funerals." But the fund must be put into perspective. When the millions of dollars are divided up, each family will get only $150,000. "Is it enough for a widow who has five kids to live in New York?" Burke asks, and then answers: "Probably not. We're not making people millionaires. We're reaching out to loved ones of our fallen brothers."

To be sure, no one doubts that families of firefighters and police officers -- who daily put their lives at risk and, by storming into the towers, ran straight to their deaths -- deserve every penny of what's available to them. In fact, many people who have donated generously to the firefighters' fund would be delighted to see surviving family members get a million dollars or more. Says Kathleen McCarthy, who heads the Center for the Study of Philanthropy at the City University of New York (CUNY), "Everyone in New York feels the firemen were magnificent. We cannot possibly overpay them."

Nevertheless, McCarthy -- and many other observers -- note that some other victims' families simply do not have the same safety nets. For instance, a structure to help families of the 404 firefighters, police officers, and emergency workers who died on September 11 was already in place even before special charities were set up to help these groups. These families are already entitled to a federal death benefit of $150,000. In New York, surviving spouses of firefighters and police officers also receive $25,000 from Guiliani's office, as well as a lifetime pension that's equal to their deceased spouse's last year's earnings. Compare that to the families of the 43 union dishwashers, waiters, and cooks who perished at Windows on the World: they'll get only $15,000 in life insurance. This month, their union-paid health insurance will terminate.

In a September 20 article, the New York Times brought the equity issue to life through the stories of two widows who, on the surface, seem on equal footing. They happen to be sisters-in-law; they live in Stony Point, New York. Both of their husbands had worked on the floors occupied by Cantor Fitzgerald, the bond-trading company at 1 World Trade Center. The first widow, Ann McCarthy, whose husband, Robert, worked for Cantor Fitzgerald, can count on life insurance worth two years' salary, up to $100,000. Supplemental insurance that her husband had purchased will increase that benefit to $1 million. Cantor is also offering health insurance to employees' families for one year. That stands in contrast to the benefits of the second widow, Mary Jean O'Leary, whose husband, Gerald, worked as a chef in the Cantor Fitzgerald corporate dining room. Her husband had no life insurance from the company that operated the cafeteria, Forte Food Services. And her only communication from Forte since September 11 has been an envelope containing her husband's last paycheck.

The experiences of partners of the calamity's gay and lesbian victims also highlight the equity issue. Take Bill Randolph, whose lover of 26 years, Wesley Mercer, is one of three missing security personnel from Morgan Stanley. Randolph was featured in an October 14 article in the New York Times just days after conservative groups had demanded that gays and lesbians not receive relief funds. The flare-up prompted New York governor George Pataki to sign an executive order covering the surviving partners of gays and lesbians under the state's Crime Victims Board, which pays up to $30,000 for lost income and funeral costs. But because Randolph is not legally recognized as Mercer's partner, he is not eligible for the full range of benefits married partners are entitled to -- from pensions to Social Security payments.

Examples like these may represent just the tip of the iceberg. McCarthy wonders what resources the family of a non-unionized kitchen worker might have. Or the family of an illegal immigrant who washed windows at the Pentagon. Or the family of a vendor who ran a coffee-and-doughnut cart outside the towers. "There's a huge difference in need," she says. "The task for charities is to make sure individuals hardest hit get appropriate help."

Rick Cohen, who heads the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy (NCRP), in Washington, DC, agrees. He recognizes that charities cannot erase in death the inequities people faced in life. They certainly must reach out to all families affected by the September 11 cataclysm; but when calculating aid, charitable groups cannot ignore inequities among the victims. "All families are hurting," he explains, "yet one family might be more disadvantaged already, and their needs are greater." The issue, he admits, is unsettling when applied to human tragedy. Unfortunately, discomfort doesn't remove the task at hand. "It's the job of charities to help those most in need," he says. "They must think about how the use of their resources can assuage the inequitable circumstances of people who are equally affected by disaster."

As it stands, coordination of relief efforts seems nonexistent. No government agency keeps tabs on the dollars. No central body monitors who gets help from whom. No one organization manages the onerous application process for victims. Alan Abramson, who studies philanthropy at the Aspen Institute, a Washington, DC–based public-policy group, notes that the patchwork nature of the nonprofit sector has long made coordinating such efforts difficult. "It's not like someone with authority sits over nonprofits to make sure they don't bump heads," he says. "No one says, ‘Red Cross, you take care of these folks, and Salvation Army, go here.'"

This time, however, the problem has been made worse by the magnitude of the September 11 effort, with its many charities, funds, and communities. The situation opens the door for what the NCRP's Cohen refers to as "double dipping" -- i.e., some families may get paid twice while others languish. It increases the potential for gaps in services, or for people to be forgotten -- especially since there's no simple, comprehensive way for families to seek support. Instead, they must learn to navigate the application processes, to fill out forms for each charity, to figure out which charity will address their needs. Those who don't speak English or who lack formal documentation -- marriage licenses, pay stubs, birth certificates -- might find it impossible to get help. And so, as Cohen points out, "This disaster cannot be viewed through a lens of traditional charitable behavior. It cannot be business as usual." Or, as Abramson puts it, "Charities could and should do more."

Yet the sheer scale of this disaster has left charitable groups grappling with even basic questions about how to simply distribute the money. Take, for example, the American Red Cross. The country's largest humanitarian organization has raised the largest pot of money -- $547 million as of last week -- for its special Liberty Disaster Fund set up to benefit families of those killed or injured in the attacks. It has committed $320 million to what Red Cross spokesperson Darren Irby calls "immediate disaster relief." That includes $100 million for a "family gift program" to help families that lost a breadwinner meet imminent financial needs, such as food, utilities, housing, tuition, and funeral costs. So far, the Red Cross has issued 2267 checks totaling $34.1 million. Another $60 million has gone to aid rescue workers at ground zero in New York City: at two respite centers, the charity has served up hot meals and set up a "relaxation room" filled with TVs and La-Z-Boy chairs.

But from the moment the Red Cross launched its relief effort, the charity faced problems. First came a flare-up over blood donations. Within days of September 11, the Red Cross outraged other groups by continuing to urge the public to give blood. It wasn't clear, however, that more blood was needed. Even though thousands suffered injuries during the attacks, most of their injuries -- broken bones, abrasions, and burn wounds -- did not require blood transfusion. In fact, so few survivors needed blood that the federal Department of Health and Human Services advised blood banks to cut off all donations.

The Red Cross later came under fire for its aggressive fundraising. One of the first agencies on the scene of any disaster, the organization provides such assistance as temporary housing, clothing, and medical care. But critics worry that agencies better suited to provide people with long-term relief -- such as employment and mental-health services -- won't have enough money to do so, since the Red Cross attracted so many of the post–September 11 charitable contributions. Explains Cohen, "The Red Cross is good at helping folks in distress. But needs will change. The Red Cross should say, ‘We've done the bulk of our part; the money would be better spent by other agencies.' "

Others have blasted the charity for failing to make clear that some portion of Liberty Fund contributions will not go directly to victims and their families. Donors like Maureen DeCoste, who had believed that her donation would help victims, have expressed outrage after discovering that the Liberty Fund would also be used for other purposes. "I was duped," DeCoste wrote in a November 2 letter in the Boston Herald. "I wish I could take back my donation and send it where I wanted it to go." Huge sums of money -- about $80 million -- are slated to help the charity "expand into new programs of aid never before required," according to the Red Cross Web site. That means the money will go to buy freezers to preserve the blood supply longer. It means the money will go to train volunteers on how to respond to terrorist acts. It means the money will go to operate a national hotline for people with anxiety about the attacks. Irby defends such allocations as "emerging needs." He adds, "On September 11, the Red Cross didn't think we'd be helping victims of anthrax. Every day a need emerges. We should use some of the money to be prepared."

Still, the controversy has continued. It erupted publicly on October 26, when Red Cross president Bernadine Healy quit, in part because of internal tension over the fund. Board members and chapter presidents disagreed with Healy's decision to use contributions to advance the agency's long-term goals. Board chairman Daniel McLaughlin has since tried to appease critics; on October 31, he announced that the Red Cross would stop seeking donations for the Liberty Fund.

The other major charitable group -- the United Way -- hasn't fared much better. Hours after the Towers collapsed, the United Way of New York partnered with another local nonprofit, the New York Community Trust, to set up the high-profile September 11th Fund. Yet critics have lashed out at the national charity, complaining the United Way has failed to get donations to needy people fast enough. It's a fair rebuke. Of the $320 million collected by the fund, only $30 million has been allocated so far. That's largely because the fund makes grants to smaller agencies that, in turn, offer services on the front lines. September 11th Fund spokesperson Jeanine Moss estimates that 30 agencies, including United Way chapters, have received 60 grants. The largest, an award of $7.5 million, has gone toward cash assistance for victims. Other grants have aided rescue workers, provided grief counseling for victims' families and workers, and supplied food. Moss recognizes that the application process -- standard procedure at the United Way -- slows down the flow of money. But, she notes, "People are working around the clock to get the grants processed and out the door."

Maybe so. But all the chaos lays bare the need for coordination. Whenever disaster strikes, the top charitable organizations typically come together to figure out how to serve affected communities, according to Irby. "We explain what we're doing to each other so we don't duplicate efforts," he says. Ever since September 11, that tradition has continued; representatives of the Red Cross, the United Way, and the Salvation Army meet daily with federal, state, and local officials at Guiliani's office to share information.

And just recently, a special coordination effort was launched. On October 25, New York attorney general Eliot Spitzer, whose office oversees charitable groups, announced plans to create two central databases for relief organizations aiding victims in Washington and Pennsylvania, as well as in New York. The first database will track how charities spend contributions; the second will list recipients and how they get help. Spitzer's spokesperson, Christine Prichard, says the attorney general hopes the databases will ensure that "this money is used wisely and distributed in a fair and equitable way."

In compiling the databases, Spitzer has borrowed a page from the relief effort in Oklahoma City, where 45 charities set up a registry after raising $40 million for victims of the 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah building. Nancy Anthony of the Oklahoma City Community Foundation says that effort sprang from necessity: "We knew the bombing was too big for any one agency." At first, the registry tracked the families of the 168 people who were killed, as well as the 3000 injured. But over time, it grew along with the relief effort -- and aided, for example, rescue workers who'd developed trauma from recovering bodies, workers whose wounds kept them from returning to their jobs, people whose neighboring businesses suffered structural damage from the blast. By 1999, when the database was shut down, it listed as many as 6000 people. "I'm not saying it was perfect," Anthony adds, "but it did coordinate funds. It was essential."

It's hard to say whether Spitzer can replicate the Oklahoma City effort, since in this case the number of "primary victims" -- families of the dead and injured -- totals more than 6000. Prichard admits that not all 192 charities have signed on to the project -- or even been notified of the coordinaton project. "It's a monumental task," she says. For weeks, Spitzer tried to persuade the Red Cross to participate in the database, but the charity feared it would violate people's privacy; two weeks ago, it finally signed on. The United Way has also agreed to participate in the shared database. And since those two organizations control 70 percent of the relief funds, Prichard adds, "We're at least up and running."

Complicating the already chaotic situation is yet another fund set up by Congress for the attack victims. Pushed through as part of the billion-dollar airline bailout, which was enacted just 11 days after the hijackings, the September 11 Victim Compensation Fund raises more questions than it answers. Under the legislation, US attorney general John Ashcroft has 90 days to appoint someone to oversee the fund -- a "special master" -- and to draft regulations for its administration. Until then, says Stephan Landsman, a DePaul University law professor who advises lawyers on the fund, "it's hard to know anything yet."

The legislation does set broad guidelines for the fund. Only families of those who suffered death or physical harm -- rather than mental trauma -- are entitled to compensation, determined in the same way that airlines pay damages when a plane crashes. That means claimants will receive payment for economic losses -- lost wages, hospital bills, and funeral costs -- as well as for emotional pain and suffering. Lawsuits can take years to settle, but under the fund's rules the special master must determine a compensation award within four months of a claim's filing.

What that means in real dollars is anyone's guess. Questions about how much each family should expect -- and how money received from insurance policies, pensions, and charities will affect that sum -- remain unanswered. Privately, some lawyers say the fund could cost taxpayers as much as $15 billion; for an estimated 15,000 victims, that works out to $1 million per family. But no one wants to venture a guess publicly. As US Justice Department spokesperson Charles Miller puts it, "I wouldn't care to estimate."

Already, the uncertainty surrounding the fund has sparked debate. New York attorney Aaron Broder, who handles airline-litigation cases, purchased front-page ads in the New York Times urging September 11 victims to stay clear of the money. Broder believes it violates basic constitutional rights because the special master's decision regarding compensation, as the legislation states, "shall be final and not subject to judicial review." In short, victims who participate can neither appeal nor sue. "This is not a kingdom," Broder says. "This is a democracy. Yet this fund reposes a special master with an autonomy that no king has had since the Magna Carta."

Broder doubts that a Bush-administration appointee will award damages to victims' families in the same way that a jury would -- without caring about the cost. In airline litigation, juries have awarded victims millions of dollars for the loss of their spouses -- for the loss of their companionship, affection, love. But the special master, he argues, "is a bureaucrat. He's not going to give out millions to every widow who lost her husband. So why should people commit themselves to a fund that makes them waive their legal rights and gives them a mere pittance compared to what a jury would give?"

Other lawyers counter that such conclusions are premature. Chicago attorney Robert Clifford, who also handles airline lawsuits, heads the American Bar Association's newly created task force on terrorism and the law, which is advising the Justice Department on proposed regulations for the fund. He insists it's too early to question either the fund's legality or its legitimacy. Rules might be written to favor victims -- by allowing for an appeals process, for example. They might be written to favor the government. Or they may favor both. Says Clifford, "The point is we don't know yet."

Some issues are sure to be resolved December 21. That's when the deadline for drafting the regulations expires, and the soon-to-be-named special master must open the federal fund for business. If all goes well, victims and their families could find their awards in the mail by next April.

As for the charities, chances are they'll still be sorting through the mess. It took the Oklahoma City relief effort six years to address the needs of Timothy McVeigh's victims. Sometimes physical injuries don't appear for years. One Oklahoma City woman walked away seemingly unscathed from the bombed-out Murrah building. Only recently did she reach out to relief agencies for help: last year, glass shards embedded in her skin finally rose to the surface. For others, the mental trauma of witnessing a horrible event -- like, say, human beings jumping to their deaths from 100-story buildings -- doesn't immediately register. In Oklahoma City, some people who saw the Ryder truck that Timothy McVeigh abandoned outside the Murrah building were so traumatized by its image that they couldn't return to work.

And then there are the rescue workers, whose jobs sifting through rubble and human remains may affect their mental health. There are the proprietors whose businesses have suffered crippling economic losses -- especially in New York, where entire city blocks have been cordoned off from the public. There are the employees in the airline and hotel industries who have been laid off since September 11. Even those Muslim families who have had their homes vandalized because of misguided attempts at retaliation may count as "victims" with needs, observers say. In this disaster, says McCarthy, "it will be a long time before we know the extent of the need."

Quite right. These days, we don't even know what tomorrow will bring in the war against terrorism abroad and the anthrax scare at home. If life in the post–September 11 world has forever changed, as people so often point out, perhaps philanthropy must change too. Says Cohen, "If September 11 were a snapshot, we could all hold our breath, donate money, and work our way back to normalcy." But it isn't.

Kristen Lombardi can be reached at klombardi@phx.com.

False Alarm

IN THE FIGHT to keep drugs out of prisons, wardens resort to all kinds of arcane and invasive tactics. They turn cameras on visitors, let dogs sniff bags, and require extensive pat-down searches. Before being allowed into a visiting area, people must shake out their hair, pull out their pockets, strip off their belts, remove their shoes, open their mouths, and even remove their false teeth.

Now wardens are turning to what they call a "non-intrusive" method of discovering drug smuggling among prison visitors: the Itemiser Contraband Detector. The electronic drug-detection device — manufactured by Ion Track Instruments (ITI), in Wilmington, Massachusetts — seems simple to use. Prison visitors receive a piece of paper that looks like a coffee filter. They rub it on their hands, between their fingers, over their pockets, and on their shoes. The paper is inserted into the machine, which uses ion-mobility spectrometry — a scientific technique that measures charged atoms, or ions, as they move through an electromagnetic field — to scan for 40 different illegal substances, including cocaine, LSD, heroin, and PCP. Machines are currently in place at United States embassies, along state highways, and at customs checkpoints. The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) plans to install the Itemiser in 400 airports nationwide. And the device can be found at nearly 125 prisons in 28 states, including Florida, Pennsylvania, New York, and, as of January, Massachusetts. Under a pilot program, prison officials installed an Itemiser at the Souza-Baranowski Correctional Center (SBCC) in Shirley, MA, a "maximum" facility featuring the most restrictive, state-of-the-art security measures in the Massachusetts prison system. Just six months into the program, however, prison visitors have joined a class-action lawsuit charging that use of the machine violates constitutional protections against unreasonable searches, as well as due-process guarantees. The suit also alleges that use of the machine violates Massachusetts Department of Correction (DOC) regulations detailing what kinds of searches prison visitors may be subjected to. No DOC rule authorizes searching people with an electronic scanner.

The desktop device looks innocent enough. Suzanne Glacken, 57, a retired Milford educator who first underwent the drill last January during a trip to visit her 30-year-old son Derek, compares it to an electrocardiograph. And she believed she had as little to fear from the Itemiser as she did from a heart machine. She says she’s never ingested an illegal substance in her life. She quit smoking cigarettes 40 years ago. She doesn’t even like using Tylenol. "The only drugs I touch are prescribed by my doctor," says Glacken, who takes medication for arthritis, asthma, and anxiety. "I figured, I don’t use illegal drugs. Why worry?"

But just a few weeks later, Glacken returned for another visit with her son, who’s serving a life sentence for murder. She routinely swiped her clothing and skin as required, and the machine’s computer panel lit up with a flashing red light. She was told she had tested positive for not one, but two street drugs: heroin and marijuana. "I nearly fell over," she recalls. "I thought, ‘You have got to be kidding me. This machine is wrong.’"

Glacken pleaded with SBCC guards for a retest, but they refused. She demanded to see a copy of her results, to no avail. Insulted and reduced to tears, she left that day and hasn’t returned since. Glacken is one of 237 visitors among 4442 — just over five percent — who have registered at least one positive scan by the Itemiser since January. Although she misses her son "terribly," she is convinced that she could touch off the Itemiser again — something that she does not want to risk. According to DOC policy, visitors who test positive once must submit to a pat-down search; if no contraband is found, they can enter the facility. People who receive a second positive result lose the right to "contact visits" for six months. Instead, they must be separated from prisoners by a plexiglass wall while they talk over a phone. Visitors with a third positive are barred from the prison for as long as DOC officials see fit. Glacken can’t shake her fear of being banned from visiting her son, she says. Nor can she shake the sense of shame that comes from "being flagged a heroin user by a machine."

"It’s like I’m Hester Prynne," Glacken adds. "I’ve got this big scarlet letter on my chest. Except I haven’t done anything wrong."

MASSACHUSETTS ISN’T the only place where the Itemiser — and its competitor, the Ionscan, manufactured by Barringer Technologies, Inc. in Warren, New Jersey — has come under fire. In October 1999, criticism prompted Missouri legislators to institute a temporary moratorium on using the Itemiser. And after a lawsuit was filed in that state similar to the one just filed in Massachusetts, Missouri lawmakers voted to maintain the ban indefinitely. The Itemiser also faces challenges in Colorado, California, and Louisiana.

More recently, Iowa erupted in controversy last summer when its Department of Corrections installed the Itemiser at nine facilities. Dozens of visitors — from six-year-old kids to 60-year-old grandmothers — appealed to the Iowa Civil Liberties Union (ICLU) after facing sanctions for what they claimed were false positives. Randall Wilson, who heads the ICLU legal division, says prison officials not only rescinded the visitation rights of those who had tested positive, but also released their names to law-enforcement agencies. In several cases, police seized the results as reason to investigate people on suspicion of drug-related crimes. When a toddler scanned positive for marijuana, his mother became the subject of a child-welfare probe by the state. At one facility, a warden grew so fed up with complaints that he volunteered to test the device for accuracy, Wilson says — only to test positive himself.

"The test is too sensitive," Wilson charges. He has since negotiated a "strict" Itemiser policy with the Iowa DOC. Positive scans can be retaken, followed by searches, and appealed. The DOC has also ceased handing results over to police. "This device discovers contact with illegal substances," he says, "but it cannot discriminate between innocence and guilt. In real life, the science is guesswork."

Despite these pockets of debate, however, ITI officials have evaded public scrutiny. The scientific community accepts ion-mobility spectrometry as sound. Independent analysts have verified the machine’s accuracy; according to the company, the FAA performed a battery of evaluations that showed the Itemiser to be effective at detecting explosives. ITI officials, in short, stand by their product — so much so that they declined to answer the Phoenix’s questions about the recent problems at SBCC. Explains ITI marketing director Jim Bergen, "We do not comment on how clients use the equipment." The company has trained SBCC staff to operate it, he says. "We provide the equipment, and it does what we say it does."

But not every scientist trusts ion-mobility spectrometry to detect drugs accurately. James Woodford, an independent scientist who has studied drug-detection devices for 25 years and who’s worked at forensic laboratories for the US Army and the US Customs Service, speaks for many chemists when he describes the Itemiser as "a watered-down, cheapened version of the real thing." By Woodford’s standard — and by those of government crime labs and the courts — the only truly reliable devices use gas chromatography and mass spectrometry (GC/MS) to detect drugs.

In a GC/MS system, substances taken from the filter paper are put in a chamber where they are converted into gas. The vapors are heated and broken down into ions, which are shot through an electromagnetic field. To identify the substances, the GC/MS machine is calibrated to measure various characteristics of the ions, including their mass, their chemical composition, and the time it takes them to move through the field.

The Itemiser, on the other hand, does not purify a substance by converting its components into gases. Instead, the machine bakes material to reduce it to ions. Unlike a GC/MS machine, the Itemiser simply measures the time it takes these ions to move through the electromagnetic field. By focusing on just one of many traits, Woodford says, the Itemiser comes to a premature conclusion. "Any chemist knows the length of time an ion flies doesn’t tell you much about a substance," he explains. "It’s like trying to construct a face but ending up with only an eyelid or a nose."

Simply put, it does not require much to trigger a positive result on these machines. Sometimes, the Itemiser correctly identifies a substance but can’t determine whether it’s coming from illegal drugs or prescription medication; for example, the Itemiser has no way of distinguishing the illegal compound methamphetamine from the kind of stimulants found in numerous prescription drugs. More often, the machine detects such tiny traces of contraband that, as Graham Boyd of the ACLU’s Drug Policy Litigation Project notes, "people can show up positive just because drug residue is so common in our society." If someone rents an apartment in which the previous renter had smoked pot, for example, the new tenant could produce a positive scan for marijuana. Someone who sorts significant amounts of money while working at a bank could test positive for cocaine (Woodford and other chemists have found that as much as 90 percent of American currency carries cocaine traces).

At a May meeting between the DOC and the class-action plaintiffs, even an ITI chemist admitted that it is possible for people to set off the Itemiser if they’ve had unknowing or innocuous exposure to drugs. In an account of the session obtained by the Phoenix, the ITI chemist recognized that a woman could test positive for marijuana if her son had smoked pot in the family car, and she later touched its steering wheel or dashboard. Likewise, a prison visitor who snorts cocaine before entering the facility could contaminate portions of the lobby. Those who touched the same doorknob or locker as that visitor could then test positive for cocaine.

MAYBE THAT’S what happened to Sherrad Barton, a 35-year-old social worker from Dorchester, MA who counsels recovering substance abusers. Once a week, Barton visits her long-time friend Darrell, who is serving a life sentence for murder. During nearly every visit since February, Barton has watched one visitor after another succumb to anger, frustration, and even tears after a positive result from the Itemiser. Once, Barton observed a personal acquaintance — a veteran teacher and devout Muslim — test positive for heroin. The woman "has no tolerance for drugs," Barton says. "That she would test positive for heroin seemed ridiculous." Other times, she has seen elderly women, some with grandchildren in tow, flunk after the device detected substances such as amphetamines, PCP, and cocaine.

"I couldn’t help but think this machine is messed up,’" recalls Barton. "I have regular contact with substance abusers. I thought, ‘This is a scam, and my day is coming.’"

Barton’s suspicions turned out to be correct. On May 5, after spending a work day at a Quincy, MA-based substance-abuse clinic, she arrived at SBCC for her routine visit — only to set off the Itemiser’s alarm. The guards staffing the machine told her that she had scanned positive for trace particles of amphetamines. They then informed her of the DOC policy regarding test results.

"I was livid," she says. She requested another test, but the guards refused. She asked for her results — again, the guards declined. After submitting to a search that yielded no illegal substances, Barton was allowed to pass. But she walked away from the experience determined to prove the Itemiser wrong.

Three days later, as soon as she could contact her own primary-care physician, she went to Massachusetts General Hospital, where she shelled out $458 for blood and urine analyses. Both came back negative for illegal drugs. On May 16 she sent a letter to SBCC superintendent Edward Ficco expressing her concerns about the Itemiser, and she enclosed her drug-free test results. Because of her daily exposure to substance abusers — to people who use and handle drugs — Barton started scrubbing her hands with soap and alcohol before entering SBCC. She even purchased a new pair of shoes for such occasions.

Despite her precautions, Barton flunked the Itemiser screening again on June 26 — this time, purportedly for cocaine. Seven days later, she failed the test for the third time after getting another positive hit for cocaine. The situation has made her realize how her clients must feel when they complain about a faulty drug-detection device. "I’m used to people saying they didn’t do anything; it’s the machine," she explains. "Now I’m saying it, and it’s humiliating."

Her humiliation is shared by scores of people who visit prisoners at SBCC. Soon after the Itemiser was installed last January, complaints about its accuracy began flowing into the Boston-based Massachusetts Correctional Legal Services (MCLS). MCLS attorney Jim Pingeon has taken affidavits from 50 visitors, including Barton. He says people from ministers to business owners to grandmothers claim the device produces erroneous results. "It would be one thing if a few people called," he says. "But dozens of people who don’t fit the [drug-smuggler] stereotype have complained."

In March, Pingeon filed Bouchard, et al. v. Ficco, et al. at Suffolk Superior Court on behalf of five women who, like Barton, have been denied visitation rights because of the Itemiser. They’re suing SBCC superintendent Ficco and DOC commissioner Michael Maloney for using "an unreliable electronic drug-detection device that falsely labels [plaintiffs] a drug user or smuggler." The DOC policy recognizes that a positive result does not prove a visitor is using or smuggling illegal drugs. But prison officials believe a positive result proves that a visitor has had direct contact with such drugs — a proposition they take very seriously. Yet Pingeon says the DOC is wrong to make that assumption. "Taking action based on the idea that a visitor [who tests positive] may be a security risk is too speculative," he says. The suit asks the court to find that use of the Itemiser violates DOC visitation regulations, the state Administrative Procedures Act, and the constitutional rights of prison visitors, and order the DOC to get rid of it.

The problem, Pingeon explains, is not simply that prison officials use the device, but that they allow a machine to serve as final arbiter. As a result, people who insist they have never intentionally touched an illicit substance — let alone tried to sneak such substances behind prison walls — have found themselves in a tough spot. The DOC policy leaves them with little chance to challenge the results. "This mysterious machine declares a positive, and people are denied entrance," he says. "A test that isn’t reliable is not a legitimate reason for denying people rights."

Pingeon is convinced that innocent people are suffering — people like Glacken, Barton, and Mary Ann Basile. Basile, 52, a Watertown, MA administrative assistant, has a 29-year-old son, Salvatore, who is in prison for robbery. She has not returned to SBCC to visit him since she scanned positive for heroin and marijuana twice last April; she fears an indefinite prison ban if she tests positive a third time. "I don’t want to take the chance of not being able to see my son," says Basile, who suspects that the Itemiser is detecting the medication she gives her 10-year-old granddaughter for attention-deficit disorder. Basile misses her weekly encounters with her son — seeing him in the flesh, offering him a hug. "When I’m not mad about this," she says, "I’m sad. I feel at the mercy of this machine."

DOC spokesperson Justin Latini contends that the department does not hold positive results against visitors because "we don’t accuse people of illegal activity." He says the department doesn’t report those results to outside law-enforcement agencies. When asked whether stripping away visitation rights is fair treatment for people whose positive scans may be no fault of their own, he replies, "For a machine to err three times on the same person doesn’t seem likely."

Even Latini, though, seems aware that the machine can be set off by legal drugs; he admits the DOC keeps "a short list" of prescription drugs that can trigger positive readings, though he declines to identify them. According to Woodford, numerous medications — including nitroglycerin, diet aids, and asthma inhalers — can touch off the Itemiser because they contain amphetamines. Medicines for attention-deficit disorder — such as Adderall, which Basile gives her granddaughter — also consist of amphetamines. Latini maintains that those who take DOC-specified medications will not be denied prison access if they produce a doctor’s note. "Anyone else," he says, "can appeal to the commissioner.... There is opportunity to be heard."

Despite all the complaints, Latini insists the Itemiser is worth it. SBCC officials have never found illegal drugs on any of the 237 visitors who have tested positive with the Itemiser screening, he confirms. But he stresses that positive results have dropped in the past six months from eight percent in January to 5.3 percent today. When asked what’s responsible for the decline, he responds, "I don’t know. It could be people are staying away from drugs."

Or it could be that, like Barton, visitors have begun donning new shoes and scrubbing their hands clean before entering the prison.

Regardless, the Itemiser represents a technology that’s probably here to stay — false positives or no. Correctional departments have a legitimate need to ensure that their facilities remain free from contraband. Latini says, "We try to use any technology or new system that we feel is good to prevent the introduction of drugs and explosives into our facilities." This device, he adds, "is just one more tool to assist us."

Besides, Americans are dazzled by science, awed by newfangled machinery. The spread of drug-detection equipment throughout the country’s prisons essentially mirrors what has happened in other social arenas, observes Lewis Maltby of the Princeton, New Jersey–based National Work Rights Institute. Maltby has long tracked the practice of drug testing in the workplace. Whenever another device appears, he says, "employers are so gung ho to use it that they forget all about accuracy." He points to hair tests and sweat patches — two devices that have grown more and more popular among employers despite criticism. Employers, Maltby adds, "don’t care whether these tests are good; they just want the technology."

Woodford, too, has seen questionable new devices ease into the mainstream after their introduction in such venues as prisons, airports, and housing projects, where people remain powerless to object. Police now use a "passive alcohol sensor" that does not meet certified breath-analysis standards. Sheriffs’ departments have turned to an instrument known as the "modified Duquenois," which supposedly determines whether a plant is marijuana. But things like coffee, animal urine, and everyday hemp can trigger false positives.

"Technology is so intoxicating, it’s unstoppable," says the ICLU’s Wilson. Today, the Itemiser may be relegated to prisons. But tomorrow, it could come to a school or an employer near you if the technology catches on — as its manufacturer hopes it will. And without safe and skeptical policies regarding its use, says Wilson, the device results in "not good, but evil." In Iowa, the ICLU still receives the occasional complaint about its accuracy. But now that positive scans in that state can be retested and appealed, there are far fewer complaints. The Iowa DOC has become more realistic about the Itemiser. "The controversy has taught officials this is not a magic machine," Wilson explains. "They are prepared to use it with healthy skepticism."

And they should. After all, critics say, the experiences of Glacken, Barton, and Basile show what can happen when people place blind faith in technology. According to Kent Holtorf, an anesthesiologist who researches drug-detection equipment, "No drug test or device is free from error." Even the GC/MS test — the gold standard in drug-detection equipment — has a four percent error rate. Too often, however, these machines get treated as infallible. "It’s guilty before proven innocent," he says, "and that’s a problem." As America turns to technology to combat drugs, Holtorf predicts, "you will find more innocent people getting hurt."

This seems especially true for the Itemiser, which, as the DOC’s Latini admits, cannot root out a drug smuggler. When it comes to achieving that goal, it’s less effective than the inspections that each visitor to SBCC must undergo; during that routine search, a guard who notices anything suspicious already has the right to pat down the visitor. "This technology will not stop drug smuggling because it cannot detect drug smuggling," Boyd says bluntly. "In reality, it shouldn’t be used at all."

Perhaps DOC officials recognize the merit in these arguments. They have made a nod toward settling the lawsuit by proposing changes to the Itemiser policy, says Pingeon. He declines to get specific because of ongoing settlement talks. Still, he describes the offer as an "improvement" that would increase safeguards against false positives and reduce sanctions.

Latini, meanwhile, contends that the DOC has yet to determine the pilot program’s efficacy by comparing SBCC statistics about positive Itemiser results with results at other prisons operating the machine, as well as with the manufacturer’s guidelines. If the Itemiser is found effective, the DOC may install it in all 22 facilities statewide. "We are in the process of measuring efficacy," he says. "No decision has been made." Still, he emphasizes that the Itemiser must be "fairly effective" for the staff at SBCC to continue using it.

But if the DOC needs a reminder of the harm that technology can cause, it should look no further than Suzanne Glacken. Five months after her positive scan, she’s just now mustering the nerve to return to SBCC. In April, she sent prison officials a letter from her doctor outlining her medical regimen. She’s bought a new outfit — down to the undergarments — to wear during her next visit. She’s even keeping the clothes in their packages, which she will open just before going to the prison. "I always said I’d do whatever it takes to see Derek," Glacken says. "I guess I never thought a machine would be what holds me back."

Kristen Lombardi can be reached at klombardi@phx.com.

Gearing Up for the Pro-Choice Battle

ON APRIL 22, pro-choice advocates marched on Washington to demand that protections for reproductive rights remain in place. Organized by the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League (NARAL), the National Organization for Women (NOW), and Planned Parenthood Federation of America, among others, the march kicked off a four-year lobbying campaign designed to last the duration of President George W. Bush's first -- and, pro-choice activists hope, last -- term in office.

The campaign has already galvanized support on the nation's campuses. At Boston University, for instance, students are donning hot-pink sandwich boards that read keep your laws off my body and ru 4 reproductive rights, while collecting petition signatures in support of legal abortion. The issue has yet to acquire the appeal of such popular campus causes as the anti-sweatshop-labor and anti-globalization campaigns. But most of these students hadn't bothered to think about reproductive rights even 365 days ago. It's as if the Bush administration has inspired a whole new generation of campus activists.

Observes Gina Sartori, a Northeastern senior organizing students there: "The movement was practically dead before Bush got elected. Now you have Bush, and everybody hates Bush. He's really mobilizing us."

Which raises a question: are these abortion-rights organizations, nearly dormant during the past eight years, capitalizing on Bush's presidency in order to raise money, increase membership, and alleviate fears? Or are reproductive rights now vulnerable in a way they weren't when Bill Clinton led the nation?

***

IT'S A FAIR fair question. Abortion, after all, is still legal in this country. The 1973 Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade guarantees women a constitutional right to abortion free from government interference during the first and second trimesters of pregnancy -- before fetal viability. And access to the procedure hasn't changed since President Bush assumed office.

That is to say, if you happen to be middle-class and live in the city, you have access to abortion. But if you're middle-class and living in a rural area, your access is diminished. And if you're poor almost anywhere, you effectively have no access. The same can be said about women who are under 18, who do not speak English, or who need an abortion after 18 weeks of pregnancy.

Says Susan Yannow of the Abortion Access Project, "Abortion may be legal, but who can get one? If you're a poor, rural, or young woman, you already have trouble."

If access was a problem even under Clinton, why did it not become an issue until a pro-life Republican moved into the White House? Primarily because the political landscape has changed. Bush used his first full day in office, which happened to fall on the 28th anniversary of the Roe ruling, to reimpose a ban on federal aid not only to international organizations that perform abortions, but also to those that merely discuss it as an option. (The "global gag rule" was initiated by Ronald Reagan in 1984 and maintained by the first President Bush. Clinton repealed the rule.)

Not only did Bush set the new administration's tone with this immediate anti-choice salvo, but for the first time since 1973 the pro-choice movement faces an overwhelmingly anti-choice climate on Capitol Hill. A solid pro-life majority in Congress has existed for the past six years, with as many as 217 abortion foes in the House and another 47 in the Senate.

And now they have a pro-life president who is sure to sign some of the bills vetoed by Clinton, including the ban on the controversial procedure opponents call "partial birth" abortion. The phrase, coined by the National Right to Life Committee, refers to a number of late-term-abortion methods that bring the fetus partly into the vaginal canal; abortions performed early in pregnancy take place entirely within the uterus.

According to the Washington, DC–based Alan Guttmacher Institute, only one percent of all abortions conducted in 1996 (the latest year for which statistics are available) took place after 21 weeks; an additional four percent took place after 15 weeks. More than half of the five percent of women who have abortions beyond 15 weeks of gestation say they delayed the procedure because they had trouble finding or paying for the services. The rest cite personal medical reasons like diabetes, or say they discovered problems such as extreme fetal malformation later in the pregnancy.

Without the threat of a presidential veto, House Republicans have launched a coordinated campaign to impose further restrictions on abortion:

-Last month, the House Judiciary Committee heard testimony on a bill that would punish people who harm a fetus during an assault on a pregnant woman. The proposal, known as the Unborn Victims of Violence Act, would make it a federal crime to injure or kill a fertilized egg, embryo, or fetus during an attack. Abortion-rights supporters view the bill as a step toward declaring separate, legal status for a fetus and ultimately outlawing abortion.

-Representatives such as Richard Armey (R-Texas) and Christopher Smith (R–New Jersey) plan to reintroduce legislation that would prohibit "partial-birth abortion" procedures, despite the fact that "post-viability" bans already exist in 41 states, including Massachusetts. (These laws often ban abortion after 24 weeks of pregnancy except when a woman's life is endangered; the nine states without "post-viability" bans tend to have other procedure bans that limit late-term abortions.)

-House Republicans expect to push for limitations on who can administer the "abortion pill" RU-486, or mifepristone, which the federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved last fall.

-Another anti-abortion measure, known as the Teen Endangerment Act, would make it a federal crime for anyone except a parent to transport a minor across state lines to obtain abortion services rather than abide by her home state's parental-consent requirements. According to the American Civil Liberties Union, one-third of teenagers who do not tell their parents about a pregnancy are also victims of parental violence -- physical or sexual -- and fear the news will prompt abuse.

-Representatives such as Lindsey Graham (R–South Carolina) and Tom DeLay (R-Texas) have hinted that they will add abortion language to spending bills -- for example, imposing parental-consent requirements on federal family-planning funding.

Beyond these legislative assaults, Bush has appointed not only a pro-life attorney general, but also a pro-life secretary for health and human services. Attorney General John Ashcroft has made a career out of opposing abortion, even in instances of rape, incest, and risk to a woman's life. While serving as a US senator from 1995 to 2000, the Missouri politician penned legislation providing fetuses with constitutional protections. He sponsored the controversial partial-birth-abortion ban that Clinton subsequently vetoed in 2000. And in 1999, he supported a Missouri ban passed by that state's legislature (and later vetoed by its governor) that would have imposed second-degree-murder charges on women who have abortions, with penalties that included life imprisonment.

Now that Ashcroft has become the country's lead attorney, he could make a lasting impression on women's reproductive rights. As attorney general, he has the power to enforce -- or not -- those laws safeguarding abortion providers from violence. He has sole discretion over which cases are filed by the government with the Supreme Court -- cases that could challenge the precedent established in Roe v. Wade. And if the past is any guide, he will be the president's top adviser on nominations to the federal judiciary, from the Supreme Court on down.

That an extremist like Ashcroft has this much power terrifies pro-choice activists. Explains Boston NOW president Andrea Lee, "Here is a person in a position of incredible authority who wants to take away abortion completely. It's hard not to feel threatened."

Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson takes a more moderate position on abortion. Still, the former Wisconsin governor has backed restrictions on the procedure, as well as on contraceptives -- stances that aren't especially encouraging given that Thompson oversees the FDA. He has already indicated his intent to reopen the issue of RU-486, even though the FDA spent more than a decade investigating the drug before approving it.

Despite Bush's actions thus far, some Republican insiders doubt he would actually lead the charge on the abortion front. Marshall Whittmann, who works at the Washington, DC–based Hudson Institute, a moderately conservative think tank, maintains that Bush will approach this issue gingerly because, he says, "it will divide the Republican coalition." Religious conservatives -- who vehemently oppose abortion -- constitute as much as 30 percent of the Republican Party. Yet Whittmann notes that the party's "big givers" -- those who are fiscally conservative yet socially moderate -- are overwhelmingly pro-choice.

Given these divisions, Bush's actions make political sense. "He must keep his base content," Whittmann explains, "and he has done so in the cheapest way." Because the current gag rule doesn't affect American women, for example, the president has managed not to anger his pro-choice backers. "This is a pro-life administration," he concludes, "but hysteria is not warranted."

Even so, Bush has wasted no time making his pro-life position perfectly plain, telling abortion opponents January 22 that his goal "will lead us onward to build a culture of life," in which abortions are rare. For pro-life activists, these were the words of a friend, in marked contrast to someone like Clinton -- who often spoke of keeping abortion "safe, legal, and rare." Dan Avila of the Massachusetts Catholic Conference admits that he and his colleagues cannot help feeling heartened by the election of a president who shares their views. Adds Avila, "Those who say there's no difference between the present and past administrations fail to recognize all an administration can do. That Bush is pro-life will certainly benefit us."

***

THE LAST TIME the landmark Roe decision came under fire was back in 1992, when the Supreme Court heard Planned Parenthood v. Casey. In that case, the Court forever changed the definition of a woman's constitutional right to an abortion; it allowed states to enact restrictions on abortion so long as they do not place an "undue burden" on women's access. Experts say the Court isn't likely to rule on a case involving Roe until Bush is able to replace a pro-Roe justice with an anti-Roe successor. And Roe isn't in jeopardy of being overturned unless two pro-Roe justices are replaced by two who oppose the decision.

In the 28 years since Roe, the Court has heard about two dozen cases dealing with abortion, says Tom Jipping, who directs the Center for Law and Democracy at the conservative Free Congress Foundation in Washington, DC. Yet no more than three have dealt with the core protections outlined in Roe. In the first two cases -- the 1986 Thornburgh and the 1989 Webster decisions -- the Court failed to address Roe at all. It wasn't until the 1992 Casey case -- 19 years after Roe -- that justices mentioned the legal rights established in 1973. Since then, Jipping explains, not one case has addressed the heart of Roe -- that is, whether the decision is consistent with the US Constitution.

Right now, the country's highest court narrowly favors legal abortion, with a six-to-three pro-Roe majority. But three of the nine justices -- Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas, and Chief Justice William Rehnquist -- adamantly oppose the 1973 ruling. (Rehnquist, who has served on the Court since 1972, dissented in the original case.) And two of the six justices who support Roe -- Sandra Day O'Connor and Anthony Kennedy -- have taken a notably ambivalent stance. Both sided with their anti-Roe colleagues in the Casey decision, for instance, but would not support overturning Roe.

Explains Wendy Parmet, a Northeastern University professor who teaches constitutional law, "The balance on the Court is very delicate.... All you need to tip the scales is a slight change in the [Court's] composition."

That, of course, worries pro-choice advocates the most. At least two Supreme Court justices, John Paul Stevens, 80, and Rehnquist, 76, are widely expected to step down within the next four years. A previous bout with breast cancer has made O'Connor a likely candidate to retire as well. Indeed, pro-choice advocates believe O'Connor could do just that as soon as the current judicial session ends this July. Throughout the presidential campaign, Bush held up the avidly anti-Roe Scalia and Thomas as examples of the kind of justice he'd appoint. If both Stevens and O'Connor stepped down and were replaced with strict anti-Roe justices, that would give the Court enough votes to overturn the law.

Rosemary Dempsey of the Center for Reproductive Law and Policy (CRLP), in Washington, DC, maintains that the addition of even one more anti-Roe judge could easily jeopardize existing legal protections because "what started out as a strong decision for the right to abortion has become far more neutral in its language."

Activists like Lee hold out little hope that even pro-choice Democrats and Republicans in the Senate would stand firm against a regressive judicial appointment. Look what happened with the recent Ashcroft nomination: 42 Democratic senators put up a decent fight by voting against the ultra-conservative attorney general, but 58 of their colleagues -- nine pro-choice Democrats, as well as their Republican counterparts -- voted to confirm him. The Ashcroft vote shows that where one stands on abortion is often a question less of party identity than of constituent approval. Says NOW president Patricia Ireland, "I'm particularly worried about the Southern senators who carry the Democratic card but view their constituencies as pro-life. Why would they block an anti-choice judicial nominee?"

Abortion-rights advocates identify another problem as well. Those senators upon whom the pro-choice movement relies, including Massachusetts senators Ted Kennedy and John Kerry, might hold the line were Bush to put forth an outspoken anti-choice zealot. But what would happen if they had to go through the nomination process twice? If facing a second, more moderate candidate -- someone like, say, Anthony Kennedy or David Souter -- liberal senators could come across as obstructionist for sounding the alarm again.

Parmet sums up the thought best: "There are lots of milquetoast-looking and -sounding conservatives. I don't think the Senate would balk at somebody who privately opposes Roe, yet takes a less controversial public stance."

Although Jipping points out that no abortion cases dealing with the constitutionality of Roe are now wending their way through the federal courts, that could change quickly with an anti-Roe majority. Dempsey, of the CRLP, has no doubt that an anti-Roe majority of five would prompt an anti-abortion state like Nebraska to reintroduce its partial-birth-abortion ban, which was struck down last year. In that case, Stenberg v. Carhart, the Supreme Court invalidated the Nebraska legislation because it prohibited not just one procedure, but an array of common and safe methods. The Court also ruled that the law didn't make appropriate exceptions for a woman's health.

With an anti-Roe majority on the Court, however, Nebraska -- and as many as 29 other states with similar bans in the pipelines -- could rewrite the legislation so that it outright prohibits a certain type of procedure after, say, 20 weeks of pregnancy. Or it could flat-out specify that a woman can have this type of procedure only if she faces death going into delivery. "I would bet that piece of legislation makes its way through the state legislature and before the courts in no time were anti-Roe justices appointed," Dempsey says. She adds, "An anti-Roe majority could uphold [such] legislation. That would basically mean that you don't have a right to an abortion at all."

Ultimately, though, some observers doubt the Supreme Court would overturn a precedent with as much public salience as Roe -- regardless of whether it achieves an anti-Roe majority. Boston University professor Kenneth Simons, who teaches constitutional law, notes that the Court rarely falls out of step with popular opinion. "The Court pays attention to public sentiment," he says. And this, he adds, explains its more recent decisions allowing for restrictions on abortion. A January report by the Gallup Organization, for example, shows that the percentage of people who want abortion outlawed has remained between 17 and 19 percent. Yet only 28 percent of people believe that abortion should remain legal in all circumstances, while 51 percent support the procedure sometimes. Concludes Simons, "The court is close to the middle position on what many people believe about abortion."

Given public attitudes, he speculates, "the Court will likely allow more and more restrictions on abortion. But until people want to forbid abortions, the Supreme Court is unlikely to overrule Roe entirely."

***

THAT SAID, there's no question that women's reproductive rights in this country remain in serious jeopardy. They've been eroding slowly yet significantly ever since Roe was decided. Parmet, of Northeastern, puts it more bluntly: "The right to abortion doesn't mean what it did in 1973 at all. Given [later cases], one could say in all honesty that Roe v. Wade has already been overruled." The point is highlighted by the fact that over the past six years, Congress has voted 134 times on reproductive-health issues. Pro-choice advocates have lost all but 24 times.

And even if Roe isn't overturned, legislative restrictions on abortion -- mandatory waiting periods, mandatory consent requirements, counseling bans -- can eliminate abortion just as effectively. Even seemingly innocuous regulations like a mandated 24-hour waiting period can prove onerous.

Or consider the parental-consent requirement. If a teen doesn't wish to tell her parents that she's pregnant, the legislation forces her to navigate the courts seeking a judicial bypass. That requires the teen to find a lawyer, then go before a judge requesting a waiver. In short, the restriction sets up hoop after hoop that may encourage teens to carry unwanted pregnancies to term. As NOW's Lee notes, "The goal of [anti-choice] lawmakers is to make sure women don't have abortions. You don't need to overturn Roe to do that."

The fact that so many legislative restrictions have passed -- most without banner headlines -- illustrates how wily pro-life advocates have grown. They've learned they cannot shove radical change down people's throats, but that if they keep patient, they can quietly chip away at reproductive rights until Roe looks like what Chief Justice Rehnquist calls "the storefronts on a Western movie set, just a façade." James Nuzzo, a Boston-based Republican consultant, says pro-life Republicans realize that a frontal assault on Roe is counterproductive. "People recognize that to change the climate toward the unborn they must change hearts and minds," he adds. "They know to address abortion in an incremental fashion, then wait for the culture to catch up."

In the meantime, though, pro-life forces continue to chip -- much as a sculptor chisels away at a block of marble. What they are creating is hard to discern, because the image is taking shape so slowly. But when the pro-lifers do put down their tools, chances are abortion-rights supporters won't like what they see.

Yet Bush's surprisingly early and extreme attacks on abortion rights may end up being a timely blessing in disguise. It may be just the wake-up call pro-choice advocates need to rouse supporters from eight years of complacency and to mobilize against the steady gains made by their opponents during the Clinton years. Maybe now, as Mass NARAL president Melissa Kogut says, "people will finally get it: there's a lot at stake when it comes to reproductive choice."

Next week the House is scheduled to hold its first anti-choice vote of the year -- a bill written with the assistance of the National Right to Life Committee that would be the first federal law to recognize a fetus at any stage of development as an independent "victim" of a crime. Join the ACLU in opposing covert attacks on reproductive freedom.

The Year of the Protest

History will find it fitting that 2000 neared its end in a burst of anti-capitalist dissent. The news that Seattle had erupted in mini-riots on November 30 called to mind the destruction that occurred there 365 days earlier, when anti-free-trade protests paralyzed the city's downtown. To commemorate the historic 1999 event, protesters went after a popular corporate target -- Starbucks -- smashing windows and spray-painting walls at nine of the chain's coffee shops.

The raucous affair pretty much sums up 2000. Y2K might not have sparked the end of civilization, but it brought us street riots all the same. The past 12 months witnessed one rowdy protest after another in cities across the nation, from Seattle to Washington, DC, from Philadelphia to Los Angeles. Even places known more as sunny vacation spots than as hotbeds of political activity (hello, West Palm Beach) became home to mass marches and demonstrations.

To be sure, a certain amount of public dissent could be expected -- it was, after all, a presidential-election year in which no incumbent was running. Still, people took to the streets with a passion and ferocity that this country hadn't seen since the late 1960s. What made the 2000 protests so unusual was that they weren't rooted in a single issue like Vietnam -- an issue that divided the country and touched the lives of virtually every American. Under the loose rubric of curbing "corporate globalization" -- the year's hottest political buzz-phrase, referring to the unchecked expansion of global capitalism -- activists spoke out against everything from old-growth forest destruction to Third World debt to racism, sexism, and homophobia. In retrospect, it seems, a spirit of protest once again became the national Zeitgeist.

Technically speaking, of course, the mother of all recent protests took place at the tail end of 1999, during the now-famous World Trade Organization (WTO) meetings in Seattle. As many as 50,000 environmentalists, labor leaders, human-rights advocates, and self-styled anarchists shut down the city with demonstrations, giant papier-mâché sea turtles, and vandalism. Police responded with tear gas, rubber pellets, and mass arrests.

The tumultuous affair began on November 30, 1999: armies of demonstrators linked arms to block access to the Seattle convention center, where WTO delegates were trying to start a round of global-trade talks. Coverage of the event riveted the country. Newscasters broadcast dramatic footage of anarchists in black ski masks kicking in windows at the Gap, of cops in full riot gear tossing tear gas into the crowds. By the time the protests ended, activists everywhere had been inspired. In shutting down the WTO talks, the demonstrations proved that ordinary people who mobilized could make a difference -- and this intoxicating notion set the tone for 2000. No sooner had the World Series of demonstrations ceased than organizers looked to re-create the magic.

And they did. Yet for all the comparisons that were made between 2000-style outrage and the social unrest that punctuated the 1960s, observers often missed one crucial point. Yes, the Greens, unionists, black-clad anarchists, and other advocates who spilled into the streets this year had much in common with their '60s counterparts -- both identified serious societal problems. But '60s protesters could say what they were for -- namely, peace. Protesters today couldn't do the same, at least not without ticking off a list of causes ranging from the inspired (stop the environmental scourge of globalism) to the familiar (free Mumia Abu-Jamal). Their crusade's lack of coherence prompted many critics to dismiss them out of hand.

That would be a mistake, however. These activists not only highlighted the downside of American economic success (which, after all, is due largely to free trade), but also thrust prosperity's price into the American media spotlight -- which is no small feat in our hyperactive, attention-deficit culture. That protesters drew scores of once-apathetic young people into the political process -- witness the strength of Ralph Nader's presidential run -- has proven their biggest achievement yet. And it's one that could pave the way for long-term political action.

Flush with the success of Seattle, activists spent the year crisscrossing the country from one major event to another. And like their '60s-era counterparts, who used mischievous, attention-grabbing tactics like taking over university buildings, the 2000 rabble-rousers tried to shut down city neighborhoods that hosted nefarious gatherings -- though they never quite succeeded in doing so after Seattle.

In April, some 10,000 activists flocked to the nation's capital to protest a joint meeting of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), which regulates international currency and helps countries in debt, and the World Bank, which funds development projects around the globe. Loosely organized by groups like the Ruckus Society, in Berkeley, California, and the San Francisco-based Global Exchange, protesters arrived a week early for teach-ins and marches. Their ultimate goal, though, was to stop the meetings on April 16 (dubbed "A16" by activists). Yet unlike Seattle's police force, which was overrun by protesters, DC's finest were prepared for the demonstrations -- perhaps too prepared. The day before A16, police raided a DC warehouse known to activists as the "convergence space." Claiming that the demonstrators possessed Molotov-cocktail ingredients, officers then confiscated the activists' art tools -- the paint, turpentine, and brushes used to construct the movement's signature giant puppets.

The day before the A16 action was supposed to occur, police also swooped in and arrested 600 people on K Street. For every protester hauled in and charged with parading without a permit, there was a DC resident observing the activities or a commuter on the way to work who ended up pinched as well. Police were embarrassed when it was later revealed that they'd netted a Pulitzer Prize-winning Washington Post photographer in the sting.

Their methods were crude -- and their intent all too apparent: the police had done their damnedest to rid the streets of as many protesters as possible, locking them up in jail until the crucial IMF/World Bank meetings were completed. In the end, though, the Washington affair may have solidified the budding movement against corporate globalization. What might have happened if the DC police had played by the rules? Would the action have collapsed under the weight of its unmet expectations? Indeed, despite the hype, nowhere near the number of protesters who had descended on Seattle showed up in the nation's capital. Even if police hadn't locked up so many, the demonstrators probably wouldn't have succeeded in shutting down the city and blocking the meetings. But ironically, the DC cops may have given protesters a unifying goal -- that of "fighting the Man," as their '60s brethren used to say. After the gross injustices committed by the DC police, who could blame activists when they seized the opportunity to strike back at the Republican and Democratic National Conventions in Philadelphia and Los Angeles?

The four-day Republican National Convention, held at Philadelphia's First Union Center July 31 through August 3, boasted its share of bold, Seattle-style stunts. Activists wearing George W. Bush and Al Gore masks duked it out in a staged mud-wrestling match. They parodied Bush's "compassionate conservatism" with a makeshift homeless camp dubbed Bushville. They poked fun at corporate America with an 80-foot float christened Corpzilla. Even reformed political columnist Arianna Huffington showed up to object to the lack of debate over substantive issues.

But just three days into these peaceful -- and festive -- gatherings, the rage returned. On August 1, protests led to the hospitalization of three police officers, including Police Commissioner John Timoney, who said his bike had been used as a weapon against him when he confronted protesters in the streets. By the time GOP delegates rang farewell to the Liberty Bell, police had arrested 404 demonstrators. Days later, Timoney stunned the public by accusing six leaders of prominent protest-training groups -- including John Sellers, the Ruckus Society's director -- of colluding and orchestrating madness and mayhem during the Republican get-together.

Sellers was arrested and charged with a laundry list of 14 misdemeanor offenses, including conspiracy. He was then slapped with $1 million bail. He spent six days in jail before his bail was reduced and he was released. On November 14, when his charges were finally heard in court, prosecutors said they didn't have enough evidence to make their case. All charges were dropped. Ever the activist, Sellers came to embody the Zeitgeist by voicing his outrage over what he called "an unconstitutional, pre-emptive, and illegal strike by the Philadelphia Police Department to silence dissenting opinions."

Not surprisingly, it didn't take the Los Angeles Police Department -- the department that brought us Rodney King -- nearly as long to crack down on protests at the Democratic National Convention, held August 14 through 17. On the meeting's first night, while the Clintons delivered their farewell speeches inside the Staples Center, the politically active, anti-establishment band Rage Against the Machine entertained protesters who had gathered outside. At the set's end, as police prepared to close down the concert, some concertgoers took to throwing rocks at the cops, who, in turn, fired rubber pellets into the crowd. Once again, the country focused on dramatic TV images of riot-gear-clad police terrorizing protesters. And again, observers drew parallels with the 1960s: the clash between protesters and police outside a Democratic convention called to mind the riots that took place at the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago.

Activists continued to challenge authority -- in far more peaceful, productive ways. They called attention to police brutality by marching to the LAPD's Rampart division, which is now under investigation for widespread abuse of citizens. Hours later, they gathered outside police headquarters to protest the criminal-justice system. But activists had not come to take on the police. They came to say that Democrats were just as guilty as Republicans of pushing a domestic policies that promote the almighty buck over every other consideration. They even put Gore to the test, organizing a well-attended march against his investment in the Occidental Petroleum Corporation, whose Colombian operations threaten to wipe out the indigenous U'wa people. Rallies and teach-ins went on without a hitch all week -- although ultimately they had little effect on the convention itself.

Despite the failures in LA, protesters remained undeterred. No sooner had the political conventions ended than they set their sights overseas. In late September at least 8000 activists arrived, as eager as ever, in the Czech Republic to try to shut down a meeting of the World Bank and IMF in Prague. They failed -- but this time they blocked all exit routes to the city's convention center, trapping delegates from 182 countries inside for six hours.

Prague turned the anti-corporation protest into a bona fide worldwide institution. American activists joined Italian, British, and German advocates who had long spoken out against globalism. By doing so, they made their commitment clear: they weren't about to stop until policymakers took their complaints seriously.

Passions erupted in Boston again on October 3, when Bush and Gore squared off at the UMass Boston campus for the first of three presidential debates. The barricaded lawn outside UMass was dubbed the "protest pen" by the media, and rightly so. Thousands of protesters turned out, ostensibly to object to Green Party candidate Ralph Nader's exclusion. But drums were beaten for everything from ending capital punishment to campaign-finance reform. Nader and Gore supporters went mano a mano over who backed the better candidate. As the dust settled, police arrested 16 people, some of whom were caught throwing an eight-foot steel fence at passing cars.

The fracas surrounding the first debate was more than appropriate, given the rage over the political process that has ensued since Election Day. No sooner had November 7 passed than Jesse Jackson led the rallying cry against voting snafus that had resulted in thousands of African-Americans' being denied the right to vote in Florida -- in a year when blacks went to the polls in record numbers. The AFL-CIO brought in scores of union members to boost Democratic demonstrations over the Florida recount; it bused in hundreds for a December 6 demonstration on Capitol Hill, during which demonstrators decried action from the Florida State Legislature, which was preparing to call a special session to name the state's 25 electors. And a parade of Democratic officials traveled from DC to Tennessee to Florida to demand an accurate tally of all ballots.

But when it came to sheer, unbridled rage, the Republican camp -- with its rent-a-mob partisans -- truly outdid everything the year had witnessed up to that point. Of course, the act of protesting was about the only thing the GOP demonstrations had in common with those of the youthful Y2K activists. Overwhelmingly, Republicans spilled into the streets not out of idealism or a desire to better the system, but because their political party had appealed to their economic self-interest. W. attracted them with the very item that made their counterparts recoil in disgust: the dollar bill.

And the Bush camp -- which, as the Wall Street Journal pointed out, paid party operatives to travel to Florida and protest -- got its money's worth. As soon as the recount of Florida ballots commenced, far-flung GOP followers poured into the Sunshine State and proceeded to lash out in mass gatherings orchestrated by the Republican Party. In Broward County, a crowd of angry GOP protesters chased down one Democratic official who was suspected of stealing a ballot; it turned out to be a sample. The day before Thanksgiving, demonstrators in Miami-Dade County showed their gratitude by screaming, pounding walls, and waving fists while storming the offices of the election commission. Amid the vitriol and confusion, some GOP protesters shoved, kicked, and punched Democratic spokesman Luis Rosero.

When the Florida Supreme Court handed down its December 9 decision to allow 14,000 contested ballots to be recounted, hundreds of Bush loyalists flocked to Gore's DC residence -- only to turn their jeers into cheers less than 24 hours later with the US Supreme Court's ruling to halt the count. Spontaneous outbursts soon shifted to the front of the US Supreme Court, where hundreds of Republicans and Democrats spent December 11 in a partisan shouting match while the nine justices heard legal arguments on the Florida recount. The clamoring grew so intense that DC police in riot helmets separated the two sides with metal barricades.

The election outbursts provided the perfect end to a perfectly tumultuous year. But the very people who had expressed the most vigorous dissent over the previous 12 months were conspicuously absent: the young activists. This could be because many of them voted for the anti-corporate Nader, derided as a campaign spoiler. Maybe Y2K activists were nursing their wounds after their man had been blamed for the election fiasco. (Under other circumstances, it was Patrick Buchanan who might have been the spoiler: he won crucial votes in four states -- Iowa, New Mexico, Oregon, and Wisconsin -- that, had they gone to Bush, would have won the Republican 30 additional electoral votes and thus the presidential election.) Maybe their anti-establishment mindset simply prevented them from taking up the fight for a major-party candidate. Whatever the reasons, in retrospect it may be that, ironically, Republicans and Democrats who engaged in spontaneous outbursts (as opposed to the meticulously planned "actions" by the Ruckus Society, complete with training sessions on how to avoid arrest by secoring oneself to a fence with a U-lock) will be credited with preparing the ground for immediate change. After the mess that was the Florida recount, who doesn't believe that the next crusade on Capitol Hill will be an attempt to overhaul the way we vote?

After such a spirited 2000, 2001 seems destined to carry the fiery flame forward. True, we probably won't see the numbers we saw during the last great period of activism, the 1960s. For one thing, today's protesters embrace such a buffet of causes -- everything from environmental damage to sweatshop labor -- that they confuse the rest of us. And a confusing message makes for a tough sell with mainstream audiences.

Still, the seeds for widespread mobilization were planted with the remarkably odd coalition of activists that organized demonstrations this year. Labor leaders, environmentalists, death-penalty opponents, gay-rights activists -- a host of advocates worked together under the anti-corporate banner. These seeds should grow and bloom before they wither. After all, when it comes down to it, Y2K activists are not all that different from their counterparts in the '60s. Like their forerunners, young people spent the year protesting because they expect their country -- their government -- to live up to its ideals.

Besides, the passion that characterized 2000 is bound to be fueled further once Bush and his fellow Republicans come into power. Talk of a Seattle-like demonstration at the January 20 inauguration has already circulated among this year's young crusaders in more than 30 states. They will join Jesse Jackson and others in speaking out against what they call the anti-democratic US electoral system, as well as the "gross disenfranchisement" of black voters in Florida. If the GOP's hungry ideologues succeed in passing even a fraction of their regressive policy agenda -- if they reverse the social, environmental, and educational gains made under the Clinton-Gore administration -- we can expect the outcry to be amplified. Says Boston University professor Joseph Boskin, who studies social movements: "Conservatives in the Republican Party are nasty, nasty people, and their nasty policies will translate into greater activism."

And if that happens, then maybe, just maybe, we can watch the Year of the Protest turn into a year of sustained political action.

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