Monthly Archives: July 2010

Video: Anthony Weiner slams GOP cowards for failing to aid 911 heroes

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July 30, 2010
by Michael Stone

Anthony Weiner slams GOP cowards

Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.) went ballistic on the House floor Thursday over his Republican colleagues’ failure to pass a humanitarian amendment to the Public Health Services Act. The amendment would extend and improve health care benefits for 9/11 first responders who are now victims suffering from lasting health complications.

At issue was a bill to provide long-term medical benefits to 9/11 first responders. The bill would have provided up to $7.4 billion in aid to people sickened by World Trade Center.

The measure failed to get the two-thirds needed to pass: The vote was 255 to 159, and came down largely along party lines.

“It’s Republicans wrapping their arms around Republicans rather than doing the right thing on behalf of the heroes,” Weiner yelled. “It is a shame. A shame! If you believe this is a bad idea to provide health care – then vote no! But don’t give me the cowardly view that ‘Oh if it was a different procedure’…”

Weiner’s wrath was directed at Rep. Peter King (R) of New York, who voted for the bill but failed to deliver fellow Republicans. King then had the gall to blame GOP cowardice and failure on procedure.

Weiner was right to be angry with the GOP and King. They failed the first responders of 9/11. When push came to shove they abandoned good Americans who risked their lives responding to one of our nation’s greatest tragedies.

The Republican failure to support the heroes of 9/11 is simply inexcusable. The party of “no” is more than happy to vote subsidies to the rich and big business, but when it comes to required medical attention for firefighters and cops, the GOP is happy to sit on their hands.

Weiner’s wrath is more than justified. The GOP should be ashamed.

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Video: FARC-EP leader Alfonso Cano slams Santos regime

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Mossad assassins paid by US firms

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Sat, 31 Jul 2010

Implicated in the assassination, Israeli citizen Uri Brodsky (C) covers his face as he is escorted into court in Warsaw, Poland.

US investigators say American companies paid money to the suspects behind the Israeli-masterminded assassination of a senior Hamas official.

American cyberspace companies have been named among the firms that transferred money to the alleged hitmen behind the targeted killing of Mahmoud al-Mabhouh — the co-founder of the Hamas resistance movement’s armed wing, known as the Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades – on January 20 The Wall Street Journal reported Saturday.

CCTV camera footage, caught in a Dubai hotel, where the operation took place, has led the emirate’s police to put the names of more than two dozen suspects on the international wanted list.

The Dubai police have identified 13 US-issued debit-card accounts used by the suspects into which money was deposited.

Police say evidence confirms the involvement of the Israeli spy agency, Mossad, in the operation.

Earlier in the year, The Sunday Times reported that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “gave his authorization” for the assassination.

The discovery that the death squad used British, Irish, French, German and Australian passports caused a political predicament for Tel Aviv which ended in the expulsion of its diplomats by Dublin and Canberra.

Poland recently denied Israel’s request to extradite an Israeli man, named Uri Brodsky, who has been accused of providing the assassins with the only German passport used in the murder.

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Popularity of Evo Morales Grows

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La Paz, Jul 31 (Prensa Latina) Bolivian President Evo Morales”s approval rating rose from 50 percent in June to 55 percent in July 2010, according to survey results published today.

The poll, carried out by the company Apoyo, Opinion y Mercado(Ipsos)for the privately-owned television network ATB, focused on the cities of El Alto, La Paz, Santa Cruz (east) and Cochabamba (center).

The rise of the president’s popularity in the last two months, according to the research, is a result of social assistance payments provided to vulnerable sectors such as education (Bono Juancito Pinto), the elderly (Renta Dignidad), and pregnant women (Bono Juana Azurduy).

From June 2008 to July 2010, the president’s highest approval rating was in January 2010, Ipsos said.

According to the survey, El Alto reported the highest level of approval, with 70 percent, followed by La Paz (67), Cochabamba (56), and Santa Cruz (40).

In the case of government ministers, all of the 11 covered in the survey obtained approval ratings of below 35 percent, with the exception of Foreign Minister David Choquehuanca.

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FBI Admits Investigating Howard Zinn for Criticizing Bureau

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Raw Story / By Daniel Tencer

July 30, 2010 | Those who knew of the dissident historian Howard Zinn would not be surprised that J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI kept tabs on him for decades during the Cold War.

But in a release of documents pertaining to Zinn, the bureau admitted that one of its investigations into the left-wing academic was prompted not by suspicion of criminal activity, but by Zinn’s criticism of the FBI’s record on civil rights investigations.

“In 1949, the FBI opened a domestic security investigation on Zinn,” the bureau states. “The Bureau noted Zinn’s activities in what were called Communist Front Groups and received informant reports that Zinn was an active member of the CPUSA; Zinn denied ever being a member when he was questioned by agents in the 1950s.

“In the 1960s, the Bureau took another look at Zinn on account of his criticism of the FBI’s civil rights investigations.”

On Friday, the FBI released a 243-page file on Zinn, who died in January at age 87. The release describes the historian as “radical.” The documents show the bureau taking an active interest in Zinn since the late 1940s, when he was a student at New York University. The interest continued through the 1950s, as Zinn worked on his PhD at Columbia University.

When the FBI again took an interest in Zinn in the 1960s, documents show the bureau evidently tried to have the historian fired from his job as professor at Boston University.

In a document from the Boston FBI office (see PDF file here), an FBI “source,” whose name was redacted from the publicly released documents, was quoted as being outraged over Zinn’s comment at a protest that the US had become a “police state” and that prosecutions of Black Panther Party members were creating “political prisoners.”

The bureau’s Boston office then indicated it wanted to help the source in his or her campaign to unseat Zinn. “[The] Boston proposes under captioned program with Bureau permission to furnish [name redacted] with public source data regarding Zinn’s numerous anti-war activities … in an effort to back [redacted] efforts for his removal.”

The bureau’s response to the request does not appear to have been included in the released documents.

The FBI notes that its investigations of Zinn — three in total, over 25 years — “ended in 1974, and no further investigation into Zinn or his activities was made by the FBI.”

Zinn had harsh words for the FBI during his academic career. In a paper published not long before his death, Zinn said the best thing the public could do to curb the FBI’s powers was to “continue exposing them.”

Of the FBI, he said, “They don’t like social movements. They work for the establishment and the corporations and the politicos to keep things as they are. And they want to frighten and chill the people who are trying to change things. So the best defense against them and resistance against them is simply to keep on fighting back, to keep on exposing them.”

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Castro accuses US of abusing spies

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SATURDAY, JULY 31, 2010

Castro remains a popular figure in Cuba, where he ruled for almost half a century

Fidel Castro has criticised the US for its treatment of five Cuban spies who have spent more than a decade in jail.

The former Cuban leader told a group of young Communist Party members on Friday that one of the spies was kept in a cell so small that it amounted to torture.

“They are people who have suffered for 12 years. The sufferings of these people don’t count, they’re not worth anything?” Castro said of the imprisoned agents, known in Cuba as the “Five Heroes”.

Castro, who for 49 years headed a government frequently accused of mistreating prisoners by human rights groups, said Cuba had never tortured captured spies.

He was referring to Gererdo Hernandez, one of five men captured by the US in 1998 and accused of being members of a Cuban espionage ring tasked with gathering intelligence on members of the Cuban exile community in Florida.

Prosecutors said the men had been involved in the shooting down by Cuban jets of two planes dropping pro-democracy leaflets on Cuba. They received sentences ranging from 15 years to life in prison.

Cuban agent ill

Castro alleges that Hernandez has been placed in a tiny cell with another prisoner.

“There are two men in a space one metre in width,” Castro said. “He’s not only in a high-security prison, which is already a deep hole, he’s in a hole inside the hole.”

Castro said Hernandez was ill, too. “He’s sick, he could have a bacteria,” Castro said. “He’s a person who needs medical assistance.” Hernandez, the leader of the five agents, is serving two life sentences for his role in the plot.

The former Cuban president’s comments came as the US demanded the release of one of its citizens that Cuba has imprisoned for spying.

Alan Gross was jailed in Havana last December on suspicion of espionage, but has not been officially charged. US officials say that his health is suffering and on Friday called for his detention to end.

Castro has made a series of public appearances in recent weeks, emerging from four years out of the limelight. He had stopped making public appearances after undergoing serious surgery, and handed control of the Caribbean island to his brother Raul.

Raul offically became president in 2008, when Castro tendered his formal resignation.

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Workers protest turns violent in Dhaka

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Sat, 31 Jul 2010

Thousands of Bangladeshi garment workers clashed with police forces over low payments.

Thousands of Bangladeshi garment workers have protested for a second day in the capital, demanding a pay rise and better working conditions.

The workers fought street battles with riot police in northern parts of the Bangladeshi capital of Dhaka on Saturday.

“Over 20,000 workers walked off the job and many clashed with police, hurling stones and rocks. We fired rubber bullets and tear gas to disperse them,” AFP quoted a police inspector as saying.

More than 100 people have been reportedly injured after police fired rubber bullets and used tear gas on protesters.

The Bangladeshi government has set a minimum monthly wage of USD 43 for garment workers.

Union officials have argued that the pay rise is not sufficient for workers to ensure a minimum standard of living in the face of surging prices.

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Mass Strike By Greek Drivers Continues

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SATURDAY, JULY 31, 2010

Greek truckers said they will maintain the strike at the height of the busy tourism season

The Greek government has ordered its military to help with fuel deliveries in the country as 33,000 truck drivers continue to refuse to go back to work.

Their strike continued into a sixth day on Saturday, defying an emergency government order to return to the road, which has resulted in fuel shortages across the country.

The protest began last Sunday against plans by the government to liberalise the tightly-controlled freight sector.

But authorities warn that the greatest damage has been caused to the vital tourism industry, which accounts for nearly a fifth of the recession-hit Greek economy, leaving thousands of travellers stranded and booking cancellations mounting.

“The period to August 15 is the heart of the tourism season and an entire week has now been lost,” Vassilis Korkidis, the head of the Greek trade association, told state television.

‘Unfair’ reforms

The truckers decided to maintain their protest, ignoring warnings by the government that strikers who continue to defy the law would be prosecuted and that their operating licenses could be forfeit.

George Tzortzatos, the head of the Greek truck owners confederation, told reporters after a union meeting: “We will continue [the strike] in dynamic fashion.”

The truckers say that boosting competition in the freight sector by reducing new licence charges is unfair to existing operators ,who have already paid high start-up fees running up to $391,000.

The plan is part of a reform programme that the Athens government committed to in May in exchange for a $143bn loan package from the International Monetary Fund and the European Union.

Greece has suffered waves of strikes and protests over the unprecedented budget cuts and reforms the government had to agree to in order to tap the IMF-EU money it desperately needed to avert default on debts close to 300 billion euros.

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Panama: General Strike Against Killings

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Written by Federico Fuentes
Friday, 30 July 2010

A protest against anti-worker Law 30, Panama 2010. The law includes dramatic restrictions on the right to strike and immunity for the police to use force against strikers.

When right-wing billionaire Ricardo Martinelli was elected Panama’s president in May 2009, political commentators heralded it as a sign that Latin Americans were becoming disillusioned with the “pink tide” of progressive and leftist governments.

But one year later, the Martinelli government is facing a wave of resistance to its anti-labour and anti-union laws. Resistance has grown in the face of deadly repression.

With 60% of Panamanians saying they would not vote again for Martinelli, about the same percentage that voted for him, a La Prensa editorial, published same day as the July 13 general strike, warned the government it was “playing with fire and now facing the consequences”.

The trigger for the recent protests was the June 12 approval by the National Assembly, behind closed doors and under heavy police protection, of the anti-worker Law 30.

Handed down by the executive, Law 30 is commonly referred to as the “sausage law”. It is ostensibly a law to reform the civil aviation sector, but is packed full of anti-union provisions implying big changes to the labour law and penal code.

This includes dramatic restrictions on the right to strike, provision of payments for strike-breakers and the ability to fire striking workers, the elimination of obligatory payment of union dues, and immunity for the police to use force against strikers.

Another recent law penalises workers that take part in street protests with possible 2-5 year prison terms.

These new laws have given bosses a green light to drive down wages and conditions.

This comes as the government is pushing to further hand over more of Panama’s natural resources to transnationals and carry out neoliberal education reforms — moves which have ignited popular anger.

The first sign of rising anger was a 10,000-strong march on June 29.

On July 2, 4500 mostly indigenous workers belonging to the powerful Banana workers union (Sitribana) began a strike at the Bocas Fruit Company in the province of Bocas del Toro.

Workers from nearby farms quickly joined the strike. Other workers set up road blockades and occupied the airport. Employees on the project to widen and deepen the Panama Canal also downed tools.

In response, the government mobilised 1500 police to brutally repress protesters.

The deadly repression left at least 11 people dead and more than 200 injured. The National Front for the Defence of Economic and Social Rights (Frenadeso) said on July 16 that, “following the clashes, corpses were found in rivers and farms”.

“There is talk of at least two children dying due to respiratory problems caused by the large amount of tear gas canisters fired. In the Changuinola morgue, it is still unclear whether some of the corpses there are of citizens who died during the protests.”

The repression continued with the arrest of 30 construction unionists, as well as Professor Juan Jovane, a key left-wing leader.

Protesting students at the University of Panama (UoP) also faced repression, with 157 students detained.

This did not dampen the July 13 general strike, which was called by various union confederations that caused an almost complete paralysation of the construction sector and schools.

Also, workers at UoP, Coca Cola, and many other factories achieved between 50-100% adherence to the strike, a statement from the left-wing Popular Alternative Party (PAP) said.

There were also worker and community protests in Colon, Santiago, David, Aguadulce, Chitre and Changuinola — where the banana workers strike continued. There was also a march of 4000 indigenous people in San Felix.

The strike forced a partial backdown from the government, which established a roundtable to revise some of the more contentious articles in the new law.

Some sectors have criticised the stacking of the roundtable with organisations allied to the government. Many insist the fight is far from over.

The PAP said Martinelli “hopes to suffocate all the democratic institutions of the country in order to impose the interests of the oligarchic, financial and commercial elites that control our economy”.

Further proof came with government attacks on journalists and civil society organisations such as Pro-justice Citizens Alliance. The leaders of this human rights group have been persecuted and had their phones tapped over the past few months.

The Martinelli government “aims to impose an economic model like that of Singapore, where workers lack even the most fundamental democratic and union rights and even the right to protest.

“Panamanian democracy is in danger.”

But the PAP said the government’s attacks and the resistance they have inspired from workers “implies a big rupture of the population that voted for Martinelli a year ago”.

It added: “The struggle has not finished, we must sustain the levels of unity and coordination achieved by the popular and union movement.”

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Video: The Human Cost Of Crossing The Border

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