Wednesday, February 28, 2007

US: Secret CIA Prisoners Still Missing

Washington Should Reveal Fate of People "Disappeared" by US

Human Rights Watch, February 27, 2007

(New York, February 27, 2007) - The US government should account for all the
missing detainees once held by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), Human
Rights Watch said in a report released today.

The 50-page report, "Ghost Prisoner: Two Years in Secret CIA Detention,"
contains a detailed description of a secret CIA prison from a Palestinian
former detainee who was released from custody last year. Find report at

Human Rights Watch has also sent a public letter to US President George W.
Bush requesting information about the fate and whereabouts of the missing

"President Bush told us that the last 14 CIA prisoners were sent to
Guantanamo, but there are many other prisoners 'disappeared' by the CIA
whose fate is still unknown," said Joanne Mariner, terrorism and
counterterrorism director at Human Rights Watch. "The question is: what
happened to these people and where are they now?"

In early September, 14 detainees were transferred from secret CIA prisons to
military custody at Guantanamo Bay. In a televised speech on September 6,
President Bush announced that with those 14 transfers, no prisoners were
left in CIA custody.

The former CIA detainee, Marwan Jabour, told Human Rights Watch about a
number of other people who were in CIA detention but whose present
whereabouts are unknown. Jabour saw one of these men, Algerian terrorism
suspect Yassir al-Jazeeri, as recently as July 2006 in CIA custody.

"The Bush administration needs to provide a full accounting of everyone who
was 'disappeared' into CIA prisons, including their names, locations, and
when they left US custody," Mariner said.

Human Rights Watch's letter to Bush contained two lists of missing

The first list names 16 people whom Human Rights Watch believes were held in
CIA prisons and whose current whereabouts are unknown. The second list names
22 people who may have been held in CIA prisons and whose current
whereabouts are unknown.

Human Rights Watch expressed concern about what may have happened to the
missing prisoners. One possibility is that the US may have transferred some
of them to foreign prisons where they remain under the CIA's effective

Another worrying possibility is that prisoners were transferred from CIA
custody to places where they may face torture. A serious concern is that
some of the missing prisoners might have been returned to their countries of
origin, which include Algeria, Egypt, Libya and Syria, where the torture of
terrorism suspects is common.

The new report provides the most comprehensive account to date of life in a
secret CIA prison, as well as new information regarding 38 possible
detainees. The report explains that these prisoners' treatment by the CIA
constitutes enforced disappearance, a practice that is absolutely prohibited
under international law.

Marwan Jabour was arrested by Pakistani authorities in May 2004 in Pakistan
and held for more than a month at a secret facility in Islamabad operated by
both US and Pakistani personnel, during which time he was badly abused. In
June, he was flown to another secret prison, which he believes was in
Afghanistan, where all or nearly all of the personnel were American.

His clothes were taken from him when he arrived, and he was left completely
naked for a month and a half, including during questioning by women
interrogators and filming. He was chained tightly to the wall of his small
cell so that he could not stand up, placed in painful stress positions so
that he had difficulty breathing, and told that if he did not cooperate he
would be put in a suffocating "dog box."

During the more than two years that he was held in this secret prison,
Jabour spent nearly all of his time alone in a windowless cell, with little
human contact besides his captors. Although he worried incessantly about his
wife and three young daughters, he was not allowed even to send them a
letter to reassure them that he was alive.

"It was a grave," Jabour later told Human Rights Watch. "I felt like my life
was over."

The wife of another former CIA detainee whose whereabouts remain unknown
told Human Rights Watch that she has had to lie to her four children about
her husband's "disappearance." She explained that she could not bear telling
them that she did not know where he was.

"What I'm hoping," she said, "is if they find out their father has been
detained, that I'll at least be able to tell them what country he's being
held in, and in what conditions."

Enforced disappearance involves arbitrary, secret and incommunicado
detention, and poses a serious risk to the right to life and to protection
from torture and other mistreatment. As these cases make clear, enforced
disappearance also inflicts severe mental pain and suffering on the
"disappeared" person's family.

Human Rights Watch expressed grave concern about President Bush's stated
view that the Military Commissions Act of 2006 permits the government to
restart the CIA's secret prison program. Human Rights Watch called upon the
Bush administration to reject the use of secret detention and coercive
interrogation as tactics in fighting terrorism, and announce that the CIA's
detention and interrogation program has been permanently discontinued.

"The CIA program - and the civilian leaders who created it - have inflicted
tremendous harm on the reputation, moral standing, and integrity of the
United States," Mariner said. "It's time for President Bush to repudiate
this program, and to take steps to repair the damage it has done."

Related Material

Ghost Prisoner: Two Years in Secret CIA Detention
Report, February 27, 2007

Letter from Human Rights Watch to President Bush
Letter, February 27, 2007

Audio commentary by Joanne Mariner, director of the Terrorism and
Counterterrorism Program at Human Rights Watch
Audio Clip, February 27, 2007

Accessed from:

For Want of a Dentist

Pr. George's Boy Dies After Bacteria From Tooth Spread to Brain

By Mary Otto
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, February 28, 2007; B01

Twelve-year-old Deamonte Driver died of a toothache Sunday.

A routine, $80 tooth extraction might have saved him.

If his mother had been insured.

If his family had not lost its Medicaid.

If Medicaid dentists weren't so hard to find.

If his mother hadn't been focused on getting a dentist for his brother, who had six rotted teeth.

By the time Deamonte's own aching tooth got any attention, the bacteria from the abscess had spread to his brain, doctors said. After two operations and more than six weeks of hospital care, the Prince George's County boy died.

Deamonte's death and the ultimate cost of his care, which could total more than $250,000, underscore an often-overlooked concern in the debate over universal health coverage: dental care.

Some poor children have no dental coverage at all. Others travel three hours to find a dentist willing to take Medicaid patients and accept the incumbent paperwork. And some, including Deamonte's brother, get in for a tooth cleaning but have trouble securing an oral surgeon to fix deeper problems.

In spite of efforts to change the system, fewer than one in three children in Maryland's Medicaid program received any dental service at all in 2005, the latest year for which figures are available from the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

The figures were worse elsewhere in the region. In the District, 29.3 percent got treatment, and in Virginia, 24.3 percent were treated, although all three jurisdictions say they have done a better job reaching children in recent years.

"I certainly hope the state agencies responsible for making sure these children have dental care take note so that Deamonte didn't die in vain," said Laurie Norris, a lawyer for the Baltimore-based Public Justice Center who tried to help the Driver family. "They know there is a problem, and they have not devoted adequate resources to solving it."

Maryland officials emphasize that the delivery of basic care has improved greatly since 1997, when the state instituted a managed care program, and 1998, when legislation that provided more money and set standards for access to dental care for poor children was enacted.

About 900 of the state's 5,500 dentists accept Medicaid patients, said Arthur Fridley, last year's president of the Maryland State Dental Association. Referring patients to specialists can be particularly difficult.

Fewer than 16 percent of Maryland's Medicaid children received restorative services -- such as filling cavities -- in 2005, the most recent year for which figures are available.

For families such as the Drivers, the systemic problems are often compounded by personal obstacles: lack of transportation, bouts of homelessness and erratic telephone and mail service.

The Driver children have never received routine dental attention, said their mother, Alyce Driver. The bakery, construction and home health-care jobs she has held have not provided insurance. The children's Medicaid coverage had temporarily lapsed at the time Deamonte was hospitalized. And even with Medicaid's promise of dental care, the problem, she said, was finding it.

When Deamonte got sick, his mother had not realized that his tooth had been bothering him. Instead, she was focusing on his younger brother, 10-year-old DaShawn, who "complains about his teeth all the time," she said.

DaShawn saw a dentist a couple of years ago, but the dentist discontinued the treatments, she said, after the boy squirmed too much in the chair. Then the family went through a crisis and spent some time in an Adelphi homeless shelter. From there, three of Driver's sons went to stay with their grandparents in a two-bedroom mobile home in Clinton.

By September, several of DaShawn's teeth had become abscessed. Driver began making calls about the boy's coverage but grew frustrated. She turned to Norris, who was working with homeless families in Prince George's.

Norris and her staff also ran into barriers: They said they made more than two dozen calls before reaching an official at the Driver family's Medicaid provider and a state supervising nurse who helped them find a dentist.

On Oct. 5, DaShawn saw Arthur Fridley, who cleaned the boy's teeth, took an X-ray and referred him to an oral surgeon. But the surgeon could not see him until Nov. 21, and that would be only for a consultation. Driver said she learned that DaShawn would need six teeth extracted and made an appointment for the earliest date available: Jan. 16.

But she had to cancel after learning Jan. 8 that the children had lost their Medicaid coverage a month earlier. She suspects that the paperwork to confirm their eligibility was mailed to the shelter in Adelphi, where they no longer live.

It was on Jan. 11 that Deamonte came home from school complaining of a headache. At Southern Maryland Hospital Center, his mother said, he got medicine for a headache, sinusitis and a dental abscess. But the next day, he was much sicker.

Eventually, he was rushed to Children's Hospital, where he underwent emergency brain surgery. He began to have seizures and had a second operation. The problem tooth was extracted.

After more than two weeks of care at Children's Hospital, the Clinton seventh-grader began undergoing six weeks of additional medical treatment as well as physical and occupational therapy at another hospital. He seemed to be mending slowly, doing math problems and enjoying visits with his brothers and teachers from his school, the Foundation School in Largo.

On Saturday, their last day together, Deamonte refused to eat but otherwise appeared happy, his mother said. They played cards and watched a show on television, lying together in his hospital bed. But after she left him that evening, he called her.

"Make sure you pray before you go to sleep," he told her.

The next morning at about 6, she got another call, this time from the boy's grandmother. Deamonte was unresponsive. She rushed back to the hospital.

"When I got there, my baby was gone," recounted his mother.

She said doctors are still not sure what happened to her son. His death certificate listed two conditions associated with brain infections: "meningoencephalitis" and "subdural empyema."

In spite of such modern innovations as the fluoridation of drinking water, tooth decay is still the single most common childhood disease nationwide, five times as common as asthma, experts say. Poor children are more than twice as likely to have cavities as their more affluent peers, research shows, but far less likely to get treatment.

Serious and costly medical consequences are "not uncommon," said Norman Tinanoff, chief of pediatric dentistry at the University of Maryland Dental School in Baltimore. For instance, Deamonte's bill for two weeks at Children's alone was expected to be between $200,000 and $250,000.

The federal government requires states to provide oral health services to children through Medicaid programs, but the shortage of dentists who will treat indigent patients remains a major barrier to care, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Access is worst in rural areas, where some families travel hours for dental care, Tinanoff said. In the Maryland General Assembly this year, lawmakers are considering a bill that would set aside $2 million a year for the next three years to expand public clinics where dental care remains a rarity for the poor.

Providing such access, Tinanoff and others said, eventually pays for itself, sparing children the pain and expense of a medical crisis.

Reimbursement rates for dentists remain low nationally, although Maryland, Virginia and the District have increased their rates in recent years.

Dentists also cite administrative frustrations dealing with the Medicaid bureaucracy and the difficulties of serving poor, often transient patients, a study by the state legislatures conference found.

"Whatever we've got is broke," Fridley said. "It has nothing to do with access to care for these children."
The Ghost of Giuliani’s Political Past

by Theodore Hamm

Rudy Giuliani is often presented as a political moderate whose thriving presidential campaign need only negotiate the hurdle of a conservative primary, but his pre-9/11 record as New York’s mayor—particularly his policies toward working-class and minority residents—should greatly alarm progressives.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Cheney Feels Impact of Failure of War on Terror

By Matthew Rothschild

Just how seriously Bush has bungled his war on terror became painfully clear this week. On Tuesday a Taliban suicide bomber attacked Bagram Air Force Base in an apparent assassination attempt on Dick Cheney, who was visiting there.

When the Vice President of the United States is unable to visit purported allies in the so-called war on terror without risking his life, how can Bush and Cheney say we’re winning?Cheney was unhurt, but the blast killed “up to 23 people and wounding 20 more,” CNN reported.

Bagram is one of the most heavily defended sites in all of Afghanistan. If the Vice President is not safe there, no one is safe in the entire country.

It’s a country Bush and Cheney have neglected and mismanaged. After knocking off the Taliban, they failed to vanquish bin Laden in the caves of Tora Bora. They failed to get Mullah Omar. And they lowballed the number of troops needed to control the place.

As a result, the Taliban have reemerged, bolder than ever, as Cheney himself got to learn, up close and personal.

Next door, in Pakistan, things aren’t any better.

Cheney visited there a day before Bagram, and the mission was top secret. American reporters couldn’t even mention that Cheney was going to Pakistan until he’d left the country.

The reason: Because Musharraf can’t control the people in his own intelligence agency, the ISI, who were seen as a threat to Cheney’s life. Elements of the ISI have also been aiding the resurgent Taliban in Afghanistan.

When the Vice President of the United States is unable to visit purported allies in the so-called war on terror without risking his life, how can Bush and Cheney say we’re winning?

I pity the Secret Service.

China Disputes Cheney on Military Plans
Washington Post, DC - 12 hours agoBEIJING -- China rejected criticism by Vice President Dick Cheney about its military ambitions, saying Tuesday that it is a force for stability in the world ...

Pledge for Gore

Monday, February 26, 2007

by Naomi Klein As Jose Padilla's trial unfolds in Miami, the cruel methods of US interrogators are finally being put on trial.
Libby Juror Dismissed Over Media Exposure


WASHINGTON, Feb. 26 — A juror in the perjury trial of I. Lewis Libby Jr., Vice President Dick Cheney’s former chief of staff, was dismissed from the panel today after acknowledging that she had had outside contact with information related to the case.

Federal Judge Reggie B. Walton said the jury’s deliberations, which began at mid-day Wednesday, could go on with 11 members on the panel. “I don’t think it would be appropriate to throw away those two and a half days,” he said, alluding to the work that jurors had done up to this morning.

The judge’s decision came over the objection of the prosecutor, Patrick J. Fitzgerald, who wanted one of two remaining alternates to be seated, bringing the jury panel back to 12. But that would have required the newly constituted jury to begin deliberations all over again, a development that the chief defense lawyer, Theodore V. Wells Jr., said would be prejudicial to his client.

Judge Walton said the problem juror’s exposure to outside information was the result of a misunderstanding rather than intentional on her part. But he said he had no choice but to dismiss her. The woman, who now lives in Washington, was a curator at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York for decades.

Mr. Libby is charged with obstruction of justice, lying to federal agents and perjuring himself before a grand jury amid an investigation over who made public the name of a C.I.A. operative, Valerie Wilson, whose husband, the former diplomat Joseph C. Wilson IV, was highly critical of the Bush administration’s rationale for going to war in Iraq.

Before dismissing the juror, and ruling that the 11 remaining on the panel could continue to deliberate, Judge Walton questioned them individually. He then cautioned the jurors, as he has daily over the four-week trial, to avoid contact with any case-related information from outside the courtroom.

When the trial began, there were 16 jurors — counting four alternates — but two were let go before today for reasons not having to do with the case.

Libby: No Mistrial, Yet
by John Nichols Judge questions jurors about exposure to news of the high-stakes trial of Dick Cheney's top aide.

Al Gore wins Oscar and lots of laughs

LOS ANGELES — The documentary that turned former U.S. vice-president Al Gore's power-point presentation on global warming into an engaging and entertaining film won the Oscar on Sunday night.

The best-documentary win was a triumph for Gore, who has kept a sense of humour about his loss in the 2000 election that was decided in George W. Bush's favour by a U.S. Supreme Court decision.

"I am Al Gore. I used to be the next president of the United States of America,'' Gore says in the film, repeating a line he has used often.

Sunday, Gore used the Oscar win not to further his political career but to boost his campaign to find solutions for global warming and other environmental problems.

"My fellow Americans,'' Gore said to laughter from the crowd. "People all over the world, we need to solve the climate crisis. It's not a political issue, it's a moral issue. We have everything we need to get started with the possible will to act. That's a renewable resource. Let's renew it.''

Earlier in the evening, Gore and Leonardo DiCaprio took the stage to unveil a series of efforts the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences took to make this year's awards more environmentally friendly.

Pressed by DiCaprio about any other major announcement he might like to make, the former vice president pulled out a statement.

"My fellow Americans, I'm going to take this opportunity right here and now, to formally announce my intentions to ...'' Gore said before the orchestra broke in and he walked off, arm-in-arm and laughing, with DiCaprio.

Backstage, Gore put speculation to rest, saying "I do not have plans to become a candidate for office again.''

Instead, Gore said he was dedicating all his efforts to pressuring governments to act on climate-crisis issues.

"It is the overriding world challenge of our time,'' Gore said. "I really hope the decision by the academy to honour the work by director Davis Guggenheim and these producers will convince people who did not go see it before to see the movie and learn about the climate crisis and become a part of the solution.''
Editorial Observer: Why Have So Many U.S. Attorneys Been Fired? It Looks a Lot Like Politics
Three theories are emerging for why these well-qualified U.S. attorneys were fired — all political, and all disturbing.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Bush Slashes Funding for Public Broadcasting

By Elizabeth DiNovella

Independent journalism, intelligent cultural coverage and even Sesame Street are at risk.
read more
Grow Up or Get Out
by E.J. Dionne —
The childish feud between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama this week trampled over the real issues while giving Republicans a pass. The two Democratic front-runners had better move beyond self-obsessed pettiness—and fast—or they risk handing the election to the GOP.

Slavery links families

New York Daily News -

Saturday, February 24th, 2007

In a revelation that will stun the nation, the Rev. Al Sharpton, one of America's most powerful black leaders, has unearthed a shattering family secret - his ancestors were slaves owned by relatives of the late South Carolina Sen. Strom Thurmond.

It is an ironic twist of fate that inexorably links one of the most vocal civil rights activists and an icon of Deep South segregation.

A team of some of the country's most trusted genealogists spent two weeks examining Sharpton's family background.

Sharpton learned the results of their work this week. Today, in the first part of a Daily News series, Sharpton talks about the emotional shock of learning how his family was so closely linked to a man who embodied everything he despises.

The Rev. Al Sharpton sat silently in the sanctity of his Manhattan radio studio as his family's roots were laid bare before him.

With each revelation, the feeling of disbelief grew. His lips drew thin and his face tightened as the findings, projected onto a beige wall, brought home the enormity of the moment.

Sharpton - one of America's most vocal and prominent civil rights campaigners, a man who has dedicated most of his grown life to furthering the cause of the black community - was stunned to learn how his history was bizarrely intertwined with a man with whom on the surface he had nothing in common - the late right-wing Sen. Strom Thurmond.

It is a history linked in the degradation and cruelty of the slave trade in the South - a history that Sharpton himself was totally unaware of until this week.

The journey into the past began after the Daily News gave him the opportunity to explore his family's history with the help of a team of experts from - a company that has archived more than 5 billion documents around the world and has 55 million additional pieces of data dedicated to African-American ancestry.

In a series of numbing revelations, Sharpton learned how:

# His great-grandfather, Coleman Sharpton, was a slave in South Carolina.

# Coleman Sharpton, a woman and two children - believed by genealogists to be his wife and kids - were given as a gift to Julia Thurmond, and were forced to move to Florida.

# Julia Thurmond's grandfather is Strom Thurmond's great-great-grandfather.

# Once freed, Coleman Sharpton earned a living as an elderly wood hauler, and fathered a son, Coleman Jr., who would go on to be a minister - like his grandson, the Rev. Al.

The enormity of the political and social irony was not lost of Sharpton, as the epic story of his family was laid out before him.

"I have always wondered what was the background of my family," he said. "But nothing - nothing - could prepare me for this."

For the better part of two weeks, a team of genealogists - led by Megan Smolenyak, an ancestry scholar who has written four books and was the lead researcher for the PBS "Ancestors" series - unpeeled the layers of Sharpton's family tree.

They unearthed historic documents, including an 1861 slave contract that confirmed that Coleman Sharpton was indeed sent from Edgefield County, S.C., to Liberty County, Fla., where he would work until given his freedom at the end of the Civil War.

They found incontrovertible data that the woman who owned Sharpton's great-grandfather was related to Sen. Thurmond, a champion of segregation.

But they would break the news to Sharpton slowly and gently, letting him absorb each piece of information before proceeding with the next revelation.

Sharpton sat 2 feet from a projection screen, Smolenyak standing several feet behind, manipulating each new slide as her soft voice led the way through this country's ugly involvement with slavery.

She walked Sharpton through the slave contract, showing how Coleman Sharpton was sent from South Carolina to Florida by his white owner, Alexander Sharpton, to work for his four grandchildren. Coleman Sharpton took his surname from his white owner, a practice common among slaves.

Smolenyak explained how Alexander Sharpton's son Jefferson Sharpton, died broke in 1860, leaving his family in debt.

Smolenyak said Alexander Sharpton, a wealthy slave owner, wanted to help out his son's widow.

"The document we found was known as an indenture," Smolenyak said. "It shows that Jefferson Sharpton died in debt and he had no will. His father [Alexander Sharpton] steps in to help the family."

The original copy of the indenture, which sits in the Liberty County Courthouse in Florida, reads:

"Describes negro to wit, Coleman, age 25 years, Biddy (female) age 22 years old, Harrison aged about 4 years and Bachus aged about 8 years," it states.

"Together with the future increase of the said female slave."

Sharpton stared at the image, carefully reading each word to himself.

"You know for real that you are three generations away from slavery," Sharpton would later remark.

Smolenyak said the indenture awarded Coleman and three others to the grandchildren - but placed them in the temporary custody of another relative in Florida, who was to put Coleman and the others to work to pay off the deceased son's debts.

"He [Alexander Sharpton] says okay, I'm going to give these four slaves to these four grandchildren," Smolenyak told the Reverend.

"I'm interested in those four [white] kids because they are essentially inheriting your great-grandfather, right?" Smolenyak said.

Sharpton nodded in silence.

Smolenyak then told Sharpton how she delved into the family tree of the mother of the four children.

"Their mother was a Thurmond," Smolenyak said. "Julia Ann Thurmond."

"Was what?" Sharpton asked.

"A Thurmond," Smolenyak replied. "Jefferson Sharpton's wife was a Thurmond."

After an uncomfortable pause, the genealogist continued.

"These children, who were the last owners of Coleman, were related to Strom Thurmond through their mother," she said.

Sharpton's face tightened, and the room fell silent as he digested the news.

"Strom Thurmond's family owned my family," Sharpton said aloud in disbelief.

Sharpton's cheeks slowly relaxed, as he gradually took in the evidence laid out before him.

"Julia Thurmond Sharpton's grandfather and Strom Thurmond's great-great-grandfather, William Thurmond, are the same man," Smolenyak explained. "Julia Thurmond Sharpton is Strom Thurmond's first cousin twice removed."

"It's chilling," Sharpton said. "It's amazing."

The genealogists gave Sharpton more time to absorb the significance of what he had just heard.

"The family that owned my great-grandfather was related to Strom Thurmond's family?" Sharpton said. "Now that's amazing.

"I had no idea about the interlocking past," his face flush with discovery. "I don't know if you know how crazy this is going to be when it gets out.

"It's going to be crazy."

Then he couldn't resist acknowledging the political irony of the two disparate men being joined at the genealogical hip.

"Maybe, I'm the revenge of Coleman," Sharpton joked.

"They [Thurmonds] are just recovering from his black child, now they are about to get the bomb dropped on them," he roared.

The child that Sharpton was referring to is Essie Mae Washington Williams, now 82. After Thurmond's death in 2003, it was disclosed that he had fathered her when he was 22, and her mother, a black maid for the Thurmond family, was 16.

After contemplating the Thurmond revelation, the genealogists got back to business.

Smolenyak told Sharpton of a 1900 census record that indicated the 65-year-old Coleman Sharpton, by then emancipated, earned a living as a wood hauler.

He had a son whom he named Coleman Sharpton Jr., who worked as a turpentine dipper and eventually worked as a Florida grocery-store owner during the Depression. Coleman Sharpton Jr. also was a minister - something the Rev. Al never knew about his grandfather.

As the presentation wound to a close, Sharpton's oldest child, Dominique, 20, unexpectedly walked in.

"Hey, come here!" he beckoned. "This is my daughter," he told the genealogists.

Then as his daughter approached, Sharpton grabbed her by the arm and said, "I want to shock you."

He walked her over to an oversized chart displayed on an easel in the center of the room, pointing enthusiastically at the names of their ancestors.

"They did an ancestry chart that's going to be in the Daily News," he said. "This is me. It goes to my father and my grandfather."

He would then do what the genealogists had done in two hours, taking his daughter on a quick tour of their roots.

"This is my great-grandfather, and he was owned by Strom Thurmond's relatives," he said.

Her response was similar to her father's an hour before.

"What?" she said. "I don't even know what to say."

Sharpton was asked by The News about the significance of being able to discover his family tree.

"It tells you who you are. Where you come from. Where your bloodline is," Sharpton said. "When you know directly your great-grandfather was a slave - owned by the Thurmonds. Your grandfather was a turpentine worker. It kind of like makes you feel, you can't waste your life."

"You have opportunities that they didn't have," he added. "It gives you a sense of obligation."

With Jose Martinez and Mike Jaccarino

Saturday, February 24, 2007

The Iraq Effect

Exclusive: The war has inspired a wave of terrorism around the world. Excluding Iraq and Afghanistan, the number of jihadist attacks has jumped 35 percent in the past four years. A Mother Jones exclusive study.

by Peter Bergen and Paul Cruickshank, Mother Jones

Mike Konopacki/Kathy Wilkes:US Redemption Mandates Impeachment of Bush
Cheney: Iraq War A "Remarkable Achievement"

Obama ridicules Cheney on Iraq, U.K.

Americans lowball Iraqi death toll

Friday, February 23, 2007

The British retreat from Iraq brings peril for U.S. troops
Vice President Cheney says the British are leaving southern Iraq because things are going so well. In the real world, Basra is a mess
By Juan Cole

Juan Gonzalez:Oily Truth Emerges in Iraq

To Be A True Friend of the Jewish People

I can think of nothing more unfaithful to the strong Jewish traditions of social justice than the current climate of vicious denunciation towards anyone who raises criticisms of Israel’s policies.

Judaism is the religion of the prophets, who never held back from calling to account the people or the kings. Jewish culture thrives on intellectual freedom, argument and debate. “Where there are two Jews, there are three opinions,” we used to say, proudly. How have we allowed this vibrant diversity to be stifled?

Anti-Semitism is a form of prejudice, and the essence of any prejudice is seeing all members of a group as the same and erasing the differences among them. To label any criticism of Israel as ‘anti-Semitic” is to obscure the real differences between Israel as a state, Judaism as a religion, and Jews as a varied and diverse group of people. It is to ignore the thousands of Jews and Israelis who are strong critics of many of Israel’s policies, and to erase the many courageous Jews who have crossed the line to stand with Palestinians in demonstrations against the wall, who have rebuilt demolished Palestinian homes, taken public stands in favor of justice for both peoples, and worked to build bridges of peace.

It also gives a pack of strident lobbyists credence over the measured critiques of rabbis like Michael Lerner, Arthur Waskow, Aerik Asherman of Rabbis for Human Rights and so many more, the organizations like Jewish Voices for Peace, Gush Shalom, Bat Shalom, B'Tselem, Israeli Committee Against Home Demolition, Jewish Peace Fellowship, Jews for Justice for Palestinians, Tikkun, and many more.

Although, as readers of this blog will have noted, I’m a practicing Pagan, I was raised as an American Jew in the postwar period, when Israel was our great dream realized, our one compensation for the horrors of the Holocaust. I grew up saving my pennies to buy trees to plant in the Holy Land, and spent my vacation, at 15, on a Hebrew High School summer-in-Israel program. I know the tug Israel has on our hearts, the deep pain we feel when that dream is threatened in any way, the excruciating process we must go through to challenge the myths and stories we were brought up on.

But I have also seen the other side. I have volunteered four times with the International Solidarity Movement, a group which supports nonviolent resistance to the occupation in Palestine. And yes, there is a strong nonviolent movement among the Palestinian people, and though the media rarely report on it. For the last two years or more, almost every day has seen protests at the Western Wall, and hundreds of courageous Israelis have crossed the line to join marches, peace camps, and demonstrations together with their Palestinian neighbors.

I have been a witness in refugee camps under siege and negotiated with soldiers as they searched—and trashed—Palestinian homes. I have stood in line at checkpoints and experienced a taste of the daily frustration and humiliation of life in Gaza and the Occupied Territories. I have huddled with children trying to do their homework as soldiers fired bullets into their homes and tanks prowled outside, and I’ve sat in meetings with village elders searching desperately for some nonviolent means to resist the wall which would shortly confiscate their farmlands and their ancient olive groves. I know that every day in the occupied territories, people live with terror, with the death and loss of loved ones, with arbitrary restrictions imposed on their movements and their livelihoods, with hunger, want, and humiliation. I can never condone terrorism as a response to oppression, but I do know that under the conditions of the occupation, frustration and rage will breed violence as sure as stagnant water will breed algae.

Only justice for the Palestinian people can bring security to Israel and bring peace to both peoples. Every day that justice is delayed increases the danger to Israel and to the Jewish people worldwide. True friends of Israel will not support her in policies that sow hatred and reap retribution. Real allies of the Jewish people will listen to and amplify the voices of all those who cry out for justice.

For more information:
My accounts of my time in the Occupied Territories can be found in the archives of my website,

I highly recommend Jimmy Carter’s Palestine, Peace Not Apartheid. All the attacks he has suffered cannot obscure the calmness, fairness, and clarity of his account—and the fact that no other politician has yet delivered a long-lasting peace agreement like the one he brokered between Israel and Egypt.

Some other good websites:
International Solidarity Movement

Gush Shalom

> Dead Men Walking

> By Michael Mason
> February 21, 2007 | Medicine
> In a flash, the blast incinerates air, sprays metal, burns flesh.
> Milliseconds after an improvised explosive device (IED) detonates, a blink
> after a mortar
> shell blows, an overpressurization wave engulfs the human body, and just
> as quickly, an underpressure wave follows and vanishes. Eardrums burst,
> bubbles
> appear in the bloodstream, the heart slows. A soldier-or a civilian-can
> survive the blast without a single penetrating wound and still receive the
> worst
> diagnosis: traumatic brain injury, or TBI, the signature injury of the
> Iraq War.
> But in the same instant that the blast unleashes chaos, it also activates
> the most organized and sophisticated trauma care in history. Within a
> matter
> of
> hours, a soldier can be medevaced to a state-of-the-art field hospital,
> placed on a flying intensive care unit, and receive continuous critical
> care a
> sea away. (During Vietnam, it took an average of 15 days to receive that
> level of treatment. Today the military can deliver it in 13 hours.) Heroic
> measures
> may be yielding unprecedented survival rates, but they also carry a grim
> consequence: No other war has created so many seriously disabled veterans.
> Soldiers
> are surviving some brain injuries with only their brain stems unimpaired.
> While the Pentagon has yet to release hard numbers on brain-injured
> troops, citing security issues, brain-injury professionals express concern
> about the
> range of numbers reported from other military-related sources like the
> Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center, the Department of Defense, and
> the Department
> of Veterans Affairs (VA). One expert from the VA estimates the number of
> undiagnosed TBIs at over 7,500. Nearly 2,000 brain-injured soldiers have
> already
> received some level of care, but the TBIs-human beings reduced to an
> abbreviation-keep coming.
> "We would get about 300 helicopters landing a month, all having some level
> of trauma," says Dr. Elisha Powell, an orthopedic surgeon who served as
> commander
> of the U.S. Air Force Theater Hospital in Balad, Iraq, a facility
> described as "MASH on steroids," where most of the severely brain injured
> are treated.
> A soldier treated at Balad Air Base stands a 96 percent chance of
> surviving; several hundred come through every month. I ask Dr. Gerald
> Grant, who served
> as one of the few neurotrauma surgeons in Iraq, how the hospital managed
> to keep patients alive.
> "It's complex in that it's not only medical advances," he tells me. "This
> war is different in that the aerovac system is superb. The ability to get
> someone
> into your care facility with many forward surgeons and subspecialists so
> close to the front line, very quickly, is a novel concept in this
> theater."
> The moment an injured soldier hits the helipad at Balad, he's swept into a
> whirlwind of critical care. It's the one ER in the world where up to 10
> surgical
> specialists are hell-bent on saving a life. Patients get lined up with IVs
> and catheters, undergo CT scans and X-rays, and then hit the operating
> table-the
> hospital's best time is 18 minutes. The head-and-neck team tackles their
> trauma while a cardiothoracic surgeon and a vascular surgeon go to work on
> the
> chest. They're shoulder to shoulder with the urologist, who's brushing
> against the chief trauma surgeon, who's coordinating everything over the
> buzz of
> orthopedic surgeons drilling external fixators into bone. It's crowded.
> It's hot.
> Amid the cramped bustle, doctors are pushing the boundaries of medicine.
> They're going through crates of the hemophilia drug Factor VII, yet to be
> approved
> for trauma but a wonder drug in stopping bleed-outs. At $3,000 a vial, two
> vials per dose, the price is a drop in the bucket compared with the
> expenses
> incurred during the critical phase of recovery, which can easily exceed a
> million dollars in the coming weeks. The lifetime cost of care for
> brain-injured
> troops could reach $35 billion, according to a Nobel Prize-winning
> economist and a Harvard University budget expert.
> If the diagnostics come up positive for blast-related brain trauma, the
> neurosurgeon takes action based on observable signs of trauma. Depending
> on whether
> the brain was pulled, pushed, twisted, or punctured in the blast, the
> neurosurgeon could elect major surgery.
> "Our expression is 'Go big or go home,' " Grant says. "We really want to
> do the definitive operation that we know will be OK for them."
> In a matter of minutes, a surgeon will saw the skull in half and discard
> the damaged portion. There will be a plastic replacement waiting farther
> down
> the
> line. Shrapnel is excised, cerebral tissue swells, and the scalp is pulled
> taut and sewn back over a ballooning brain. Thanks to the wealth of
> surgical
> resources, a procedure that takes several hours in any general hospital in
> the United States might take Balad surgeons 30 minutes. "The secret to our
> hospital's
> ability is throughput," Powell says. "We have to keep churning. Things
> that would overwhelm a major hospital would not overwhelm us. During the
> worst incident,
> we had 35 people come to us in 90 minutes, all by helicopter, landing with
> just horrible injuries."
> "There are soft tissue traumas where we have no scalp, no eye, and no
> skull base left," Grant says. "And we have to somehow treat that acutely
> in one surgery
> setting."
> Many of the soldiers treated at Balad won't remember being there. After
> leaving the frontline hospital, they're loaded onto a massive C-17 cargo
> plane
> that
> has been retrofitted to hold an entire intensive care unit-up to 8
> critical care patients and 27 noncritical litter patients. It's basically
> a flying warehouse
> abuzz with armor-clad clinicians and portable life-support units. Known as
> a critical care air transport team, each consists of a critical care
> physician,
> a critical care nurse, and a respiratory therapist. There are 249 of these
> teams in the Air Force, catering to all branches of the armed forces.
> Five hours later, the C-17 lands at Ramstein Air Base in Germany. Having
> been prepped through a satellite tracking system, doctors at Landstuhl
> Regional
> Medical Center (just across the autobahn from Ramstein) already have a
> strong grasp of any patient's treatment needs. In Balad, surgeons don't
> have the
> time to check medical records or advance directives, so every life is
> saved at any cost. But that's not the case in Landstuhl. In addition to
> being a transitional
> facility, Landstuhl also happens to be the place where the family has a
> voice in their loved one's fate.
> "You can look at someone and see they will not survive," says Dr. Gene
> Bolles, former chief of neurosurgery at Landstuhl. "When you see that, you
> are up
> front with the families. But so often, you don't know enough. When you are
> in the military, you don't question, you just save life. When I was there,
> our
> modus operandi was to maintain them and keep them alive to get them to the
> States."
> "It is very rare for us to have family contact in Iraq because the
> communication is so difficult," Grant explains. "The family can meet the
> patient in
> Germany.
> They are there to make decisions for them, and they can withdraw care
> there, whether the patient has an advance directive or not."
> When one veteran's wife, Michele Reid, spoke with a doctor at Landstuhl
> about her husband, Pete, she was surprised to learn that he had survived
> an attack
> on May 2, 2004. She had feared him dead after receiving funeral notices
> for some of the friends he served with. A Navy Seabee, Pete Reid was one
> of the
> three severely injured servicemen hit by a barrage of mortar shells in
> Ramadi, Iraq. Thirty people were injured, six were killed.
> "First they told me he lost his eye and that his brain was bleeding," she
> says. "But then they said that they didn't think he was going to make it."
> Michele asked for the phone to be placed next to Pete's ear, and she told
> him to hang on, that she wanted to see him get better. Later that day,
> Pete emerged
> from his coma, opened his eyes, and asked a nurse when he could see his
> wife. The team immediately flew him back to the States to see Michele.
> The aggressive level of care continues once the troops return to either
> Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C., or the National Naval
> Medical
> Center in Bethesda, Maryland. At Walter Reed, troops undergo intensive
> therapies aimed at helping them regain their independence. Reid was
> transferred
> to Bethesda, where Michele was waiting for him.
> "When they let me see him, I lost it," she says. "I could see his open
> wounds when they pulled back the sheet. He didn't say anything-he just
> squeezed
> my
> hand."
> While in the intensive care unit at Bethesda, doctors told Michele that
> her husband had a 1 percent chance of recovery, and if he survived, he
> would be
> vegetative.
> "I cried, I prayed, I cussed, and I screamed," Michele says. "After a few
> days, Pete turned his head toward me and said, 'Enough already. I'm going
> to
> be
> OK.'"
> From Walter Reed, soldiers are then triaged to one of the nation's VA
> polytrauma centers, where the hard work begins. (There are only 4
> polytrauma centers
> and 21 designated polytrauma rehabilitation sites, a painfully small
> number to deal with the great many injured troops.) Weeks ago, a staff
> sergeant might
> have been conducting complex tactical operations; on the polytrauma unit,
> his biggest challenge might involve lifting his head off the pillow.
> Another
> soldier experiencing sequencing problems might try his hand at
> disassembling a carburetor in one of the rehab rooms. That same soldier
> could then be taken
> to physical therapy to work on his balance. Because of the brain's
> complexity, each injury manifests its own unique set of challenges.
> "All the polytrauma centers offer patients highly individualized care,"
> says Dr. Rose Collins, a psychologist with the Minneapolis polytrauma
> center. "One
> of my roles is to decrease the barriers that get in the way of your
> participating in rehabilitation." Soldiers are not the only ones whose
> issues get addressed
> at the center. "Part of my job is to help their families," she says. "How
> do you make positive meaning out of this? How do you grieve ambiguous
> losses?
> On some level, family members prepare for the possibility of death, but
> they don't prepare for the possibility of severe disability. Who, outside
> in the
> real world, thinks about the lifetime impairments of a traumatic brain
> injury?"
> At the polytrauma center in Tampa, Florida, Michele had a better idea of
> what condition her husband was in. He arrived at the center with a hundred
> stitches
> along his scalp and a missing eye. Surgeons had removed some of his
> stomach muscles along with portions of his hip bone and transplanted them
> to his right
> leg. Michele could come to terms with his physical injuries, but the
> personality changes brought on by the TBI made her feel as though her
> husband was
> a different man altogether. The injuries to Pete's right frontal lobe
> caused severe impulse control and reasoning problems.
> "Near the beginning, Pete threw his urinal and grabbed people by the
> throat," Michele says. "He thought he was still in Iraq, and he even tried
> to stab
> out his one good eye with a pen. He could never be left alone, ever."
> Inside the Minneapolis VA's polytrauma unit, military insignias adorn the
> walls, and the milieu is preternaturally calm-a necessity in brain-injury
> treatment
> centers. Color-coded floor tiles in front of entryways help soldiers who
> can no longer read room numbers. Halls and doorways are extra wide, all
> the furniture
> is movable, and even the bathroom fixtures are amputee-friendly. The unit
> was recently redesigned to be completely focused on treatment. Like Balad,
> Landstuhl,
> and Walter Reed, the polytrauma center represents the culmination of
> research and resources, a level of care to which many private hospitals
> aspire. The
> patients on the unit represent some of the most complicated treatment
> challenges in the world.
> While there, I met a young soldier who had received the military's full
> battery of services. He had been blown apart and put back together, but
> not entirely,
> not yet. The upper left quadrant of his head was missing, pending a new
> skull plate, and the remainder was dappled with tufts of dark hair and
> notches
> left by shrapnel. In place of two limbs, he had prosthetics-one arm, one
> leg. The visible parts of his body were replete with fresh skin grafts,
> giving
> him an uneven, patched-together appearance. In some respects, he didn't
> look quite possible, but because he could talk and interact and function,
> he was
> a success story. The guy parked in the foyer's corner, whom I didn't meet,
> wasn't faring as well. He was wrapped head to toe in heavy white blankets,
> with
> only his mouth and a single gray hand exposed. A plastic tube ran from his
> lips back behind the chair; he never moved for the duration of my visit.
> From
> a far room, the angry wailings of another brain-injured patient broke the
> calm. As I passed that soldier's room, I could see him sitting on the edge
> of
> his bed, swiping an arm at the nurse who was trying to help him.
> Behavioral outbursts, particularly those driven by agitation, are a common
> side effect
> of brain injury.
> What looks otherworldly to us now will be commonplace in a matter of
> years. Projections based on a recent VA report suggest that 400,000
> veterans deployed
> in the global war on terrorism will file for disability. Can such a number
> be adequately treated? With the lifetime costs of civilian brain injuries
> escalating,
> are local communities prepared for the complex treatment measures many
> veterans will require?
> In high heels and a business suit, Marilyn Price Spivack makes an unlikely
> rock star, but in the world of brain-injury experts, that's exactly the
> image
> she conjures up. She is innately tenacious, bold, and energetic. The
> availability of cognitive, neurobehavioral, and mental health services is
> sorely lacking,
> Spivack explains. Men and women in the military will receive excellent
> care for a time, but eventually, they are going back to their communities.
> "The military is doing an extraordinary job in saving young soldiers and
> treating them through the acute rehabilitation phase," says Spivack, who
> works
> with the brain-injured population at Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital in
> Boston. In the early 1980s she founded the Brain Injury Association, today
> the
> foremost advocacy organization for TBI survivors.
> "Now the government must make a commitment to help them in their recovery,
> but where are the resources going to come from? As brain-injury
> professionals,
> we know that TBI services aren't available in many places across the
> country, and we are aware of huge holes in the system," she says.
> "Frankly, I'm frustrated
> and angry about the government's refusal to give the TBI population the
> support it desperately needs."
> Spivack is not being glib; the giant holes are glaringly apparent. Many
> states do not have a single brain-injury rehabilitation center, and of the
> states
> that do offer some level of TBI treatment, few actually provide enough
> assistance to acquire even the most basic level of specialized care. At
> rates that
> can exceed a thousand dollars a day for postacute TBI rehabilitation,
> there aren't many American families that can afford a month's worth of
> treatment,
> much less the recommended minimum of 90 days.
> As recently as mid-July 2006, the VA Office of the Inspector General
> admitted that patients and families were dealing with major inadequacies.
> The reality
> is that a fundamental level of care is simply absent in most states.
> The military did not anticipate the magnitude of the problem, and now they
> are scrambling to add new brain-injury programs and services. Problems
> experienced
> by patients and families include inadequate or absent communication with
> case managers, lack of follow-up care, and being forced to pay
> out-of-pocket for
> necessary treatments and medication.
> An evaluation of TBI programs and services conducted by the Institute of
> Medicine reads like a list of indictments. It concludes that "finding
> needed services
> is, far too often, an overwhelming logistical, financial, and
> psychological challenge . . . . the quality and coordination of postacute
> TBI service systems
> remains inadequate."
> Samuel Reyes Jr. had never heard the term "traumatic brain injury" before
> he enlisted in the Marines. As a machine gunner who patrolled Route Mobile
> near
> Fallujah, he was well aware of the loss of limb and life. He regularly saw
> the unspeakable, and then he lived it.
> On September 6, 2004, Reyes rode in the back of a seven-ton supply truck
> with his patrol buddies and members of the Iraqi National Guard. A suicide
> bomber
> pulled up next to the truck and detonated its payload of C-4 explosive and
> 250-millimeter shells. The blast reduced the truck to little more than a
> chewed-up
> driveshaft. Only Reyes and four other marines survived the attack.
> Reyes's body sustained a range of trauma in the attack. The impact of the
> blast cleaved his tongue in two and tore open his abdomen from rib cage to
> navel.
> It slammed both his knees into a metal barrier and peppered his back with
> shrapnel. His left arm was blown open to the bone.
> "I remember waking up, being on the street, being hot like I was on fire,"
> Reyes recalls. "People were talking to me, asking questions I couldn't
> understand.
> Someone told me I got hit by an IED [improvised explosive device], and I
> got scared because I knew what it meant."
> Reyes could not have guessed what had happened inside his skull.
> Blast-related brain injuries like those sustained by Reyes can deliver
> multiple TBIs. First there is barotrauma, in which the body suffers the
> same magnitude
> of pressure felt deep underwater. It's theorized that portions of the
> brain swell and decompress almost instantly during this stage, causing a
> host of
> cellular defects throughout the brain. Objects like shrapnel and gravel
> penetrate the skull, ping-ponging within the cranium walls. The force of
> the blast
> then blows an individual against an object, like a wall or a roof, causing
> blunt trauma to the head. Finally, in response to these injuries, the
> brain
> releases a metabolic cascade of neurochemicals that have a toxic effect on
> brain tissue. Reyes had no penetrating fragments; he experienced three of
> the
> four blast insults.
> Reyes's ride through the military's medical system wasn't as clean as
> most. The medevac helicopters never arrived, so he was trucked to an ER.
> His heart
> stopped on the way to Baghdad-twice. Reyes awoke in a blur of bandages,
> surrounded by other wounded soldiers. Later that day, his platoon
> commander appeared
> from out of the haze and told him seven of his friends had died in the
> blast. The accompanying Iraqi soldiers had all died as well, he said.
> "I had already lost a lot of friends before that, and this was another
> really big kick," Reyes says. "It's really bad to feel it, to hear it, and
> to know
> it."
> The lieutenant left Reyes alone with his grief, and eventually Reyes's
> mind wandered to his own well-being. "It was all really going downhill
> then," Reyes
> says. "I was wondering what was going to happen to my military career, or
> if I could ever have a career at all anywhere else. It was hard to think
> of all
> that."
> At the time of his injury, Reyes had only two more weeks of duty remaining
> before his tour was over. A natural-born athlete, he had planned to try
> out
> for
> Marine Recon, a component of special operational forces, and then move on
> to Officer Cadet School. He dreamed of someday leading his own platoon,
> then
> working his way up the chain of command until retirement. His entire
> future began to crumble away as he lay helpless among the damaged.
> In less than a day, Reyes was transported to Balad, where a critical care
> air transport team accompanied him to Landstuhl. There he regained enough
> strength
> to make it to the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland.
> "I was just waiting at Bethesda," Reyes explains. "By then, I was walking
> a bit better, but I still had a lot of headaches, a lot of pain, and
> vision blurs."
> Prior to his injury, Reyes had perfect eyesight; now he wears glasses in
> order to drive.
> After a couple of days as an inpatient, Reyes was discharged to Camp
> Pendleton, near San Diego, where his father saw him for the first time
> since his injury.
> "I was just happy to see he was alive and walking, but I knew something
> was different," Reyes Sr. tells me. "I could tell by the expression on his
> face
> that he didn't know me at first."
> Reyes accompanied his father home for a three-week medical leave. During
> his entire journey through the military's most elite treatment centers,
> nobody
> mentioned anything about a traumatic brain injury to him-the most that was
> discussed was the likelihood of a mild concussion. Meanwhile, Reyes's
> concentration
> was shot, his tolerance was low, and he still could not shake the terrible
> headaches. He figured he was just a little shaken up and that his head
> would
> clear in a short time.
> During his convalescence at home, Reyes didn't tell his family or friends
> about his memory gaps. Initially, he recognized no one. Reyes's father
> grew increasingly
> concerned.
> "I had to keep explaining things to him," Reyes Sr. says. "He would ask me
> how everyone was, and I would have to tell him who they were and how he
> was
> related
> to them."
> Reyes smiled and shook the hands of high school buddies and cousins,
> trusting that his memory would be jogged, but other problems began to
> creep in. Once,
> he drove an old girlfriend to work and then lost his sense of direction.
> When he dropped her off, he had a full tank of gas. He pulled into his
> driveway
> hours later with less than a quarter of a tank. Reyes also began drinking
> heavily; it was the only thing that soothed the searing pain in his head.
> When he returned to Camp Pendleton that October, Reyes complained and
> complained, but the Marines put him back to work training new recruits. He
> misidentified
> guns; he forgot to include details about special combat procedures. It
> took the Marines a month to realize that Reyes wasn't the same, but
> instead of looking
> deeper, he says they simply allowed him to whittle his time away playing
> video games in the barracks while the rest of his friends prepared for
> another
> tour in Iraq. Finally, in June 2005, out of concern for Reyes's
> unrelenting headaches, a civilian doctor tested him for neurological
> problems. It was the
> first time Reyes heard the term "brain injury."
> "I didn't know what a brain injury was, how it was caused, what it did, or
> what it was going to do to me," Reyes says. "It was just another term.
> They
> told
> me I would have to deal with these problems my whole life and that I
> needed to work with it and to find ways to live with it."
> The military sent Reyes straight to the polytrauma center in Palo Alto.
> "They told me that his mild concussion wasn't as mild as they thought it
> was,"
> Reyes
> Sr. says, recalling his first meeting with the Palo Alto treatment team.
> The team told both father and son that the memory damage might be
> permanent but
> that the son could still benefit from rigorous rehabilitation.

> At Palo Alto, Reyes spent more than a year learning to learn again. The
> rehab team gave him a handheld organizer that beeps when he has
> appointments. They
> taught him meditation in hopes of relieving his anger. They educated him
> about brain injury and warned him that it would probably be tough on his
> social
> life.
> Reyes is currently stationed back at Camp Pendleton. His primary duty
> involves chauffeuring a sergeant major around the base, a job he feels
> comfortable
> doing. As he grows more aware of his limitations, he is beginning to draw
> connections between his injury and its effect on his life.
> "I don't really tell people about my injury," he says. "I don't like to go
> out at all. I stay inside and do things with people I know. I don't talk
> to
> my
> friends as much. When I get really upset, I forget how to calm myself."
> Reyes's injury may be fresh, but his challenges mirror the complaints I
> hear from other survivors many years after the injury. Isolation,
> addiction, agitation-they
> are all quintessential characteristics of a serious TBI. When I ask
> officials in the VA system if they knew about the long-term outcomes faced
> by blast-injury
> survivors, I am met with shoulder shrugs. The injury is too new, the
> research is ongoing, the book is still being written.
> I ask Reyes's father if he has any advice for other families dealing with
> the effects of a blast injury. "There ain't no really easy way to get
> through
> this," Reyes Sr. says. "You got to hope like hell someone is there to help
> you."
> After five months of multiple transports between VA hospitals in Bethesda
> and Tampa, Seabee Pete Reid was finally cleared to return home. He still
> struggles
> with frequent nightmares, and sometimes he asks for the car keys, thinking
> he can still drive. His behavioral outbursts occur only every few days
> now.
> "When someone dies, you go through all the steps of grieving," says his
> wife, Michele. "When someone goes through what we have, you grieve over
> and over
> because the TBI never goes away. This has ripped our family apart
> emotionally, physically, and financially. He was once the strong one who
> kept our lives
> together, and now our roles have changed drastically."
> Pete Reid has a good sense of what he has lost, and what remains. "My
> biggest problem right now is staying focused," he says. "But I also miss
> being able
> to drive and do things around the house. It's frustrating to be taken care
> of, to not be able to wash myself and use the toilet on my own."
> Reid knows he won't return to the service, but he still carries a strong
> sense of duty. I ask him what he sees himself doing 10 years from now, and
> he
> doesn't
> hesitate a moment in his answer. "I hope to help other vets so they don't
> have to go through what my wife has had to deal with," he says. "To me it
> seems
> like we had a lot of paperwork and mess to deal with. If they're going
> through the trouble of fixing me up, then they ought to help walk us
> through the
> red tape."
> In its ambitious efforts to save lives, the military did not expect the
> dire circumstances that await surviving soldiers. With most other kinds of
> injuries
> and disorders, there are a wealth of services in place. Any heart patient
> can find affordable treatment within city limits, and any kidney patient
> can
> get dialysis within state lines. But brain-injury patients are stranded in
> their communities, isolated without basic services. Why have we devoted
> such
> tremendous effort to sustaining life while investing so little to support
> and nurture it? How did we become so shortsighted about such a serious
> problem?
> Spivack agrees that the equation is unbalanced. "Our government will spend
> whatever it takes in pharmacology and technology to save people, and if
> they
> don't die, it's OK," she says. "Prevent fatality. They speak to caring,
> but meanwhile services are being cut and access is an issue. When we first
> began
> this effort, everybody talked about the quality of life, maximizing
> functionality. It costs money, and a lifetime of commitment."
> Today Samuel Reyes Jr. perseveres despite the realities of his
> impairments. He plans to enroll in college and pursue a career in business
> management. "I
> expect school to be really hard, but I just want to try," he says.
> Behind the impairments, you can still sense the soldier. Reyes's
> determination is rivaled only by his loyalty to the Marines. He believes
> they'll take
> care
> of him, Semper Fi. I want to believe Reyes, but I know there are obvious
> problems with service delivery. What happens when he and others are taken
> off
> active duty? In my eyes, he's the future. He's one of the thousands of
> veterans who will be in routine contact with brain-injury centers, asking
> for advice
> and help. Bolles points out that the actual number of troops wounded in
> Iraq is likely to betwice as many as reported. Will local VA hospitals
> have brain-injury
> clinicians ready to deal with a plague of psychological and social issues?
> Can communities already overburdened with brain-injury patients sustain
> the
> new influx of veterans?
> The military has done a spectacular job repairing bodies, but it has not
> yet learned how to put lives back together. "More lives are being saved,"
> says
> Bolles. "At the same time, those that are being saved are the more
> critically injured. There's a higher incidence of permanently disabled
> people." America
> isn't prepared for the injured's medical demands. After the dream-team
> care is finished, soldiers are finding themselves trapped in a nightmare.
> **************************************
> Posted by Miriam V

From Anna to Britney to Zawahri

posted by M Vieni

The New York Times
February 22, 2007
Op-Ed Columnist


Have they buried Anna Nicole Smith yet?

Are you kidding? Ms. Smith may be dead and rapidly decomposing, but there’s too much fun still to be reaped from her story to let it die just yet. This is world-class entertainment: Larry King, “Today,” CNN, The New York Times.

Even the judge in the televised hearing over what to do with Ms. Smith’s remains is milking his 15 minutes, like Judge Ito of O. J. Simpson fame. In a burst of wisdom from the bench, the judge, Larry Seidlin, said, “Like a Muhammad Ali fight, sometimes you have to wait the whole 10 rounds.”

When we were kids we were taught not to laugh at people who were obviously mentally or emotionally disturbed. With Ms. Smith, who was deeply and unmistakably disturbed, we put her on television and laughed and laughed. Would she say something stupid, or spill out of her dress, or pass out in public from booze or drugs? How hysterically funny!

Then her son died. Then she died, leaving an orphaned infant daughter. Instead of turning away chastened, shamed, we homed in like happy vultures. Whatever entertainment value Ms. Smith had when she was alive increased exponentially when she was kind enough to die for us. Now she’s on the tube around the clock.

The story, as they say, has legs.

There are other stories out there, but they aren’t nearly as much fun. The Times reported on Monday, for example, that Al Qaeda is getting its act together in Pakistan and is setting up training camps in an area that, apparently, we don’t dare trespass in.

According to the article, “American officials said there was mounting evidence that Osama bin Laden and his deputy, Ayman al-Zawahri, had been steadily building an operations hub in the mountainous Pakistani tribal area of North Waziristan.”

The article went on to say, ominously, “The United States has also identified several new Qaeda compounds in North Waziristan, including one that officials said might be training operatives for strikes against targets beyond Afghanistan.”

I imagine that there are a fair number of television viewers and newspaper readers who have trouble distinguishing the relative importance of celebrity stories, like the death of Anna Nicole Smith, from other matters in the news, like the reconstitution of forces responsible for the devastating Sept. 11 attacks.

If air time is any guide, there’s no contest. It’s been obvious for the longest time that the line between news and entertainment has vanished. News is entertainment. And the death of Anna Nicole Smith is more entertaining — for the time being, at least — than the war in Iraq or the plodding machinations of bin Laden and Zawahri.

Paris Hilton and Britney Spears were on the cover of Newsweek last week with the headline “The Girls Gone Wild Effect.” When you turned to the story, there was a full-page picture of the former best friends, with a glassy-eyed Britney looking for all the world like a younger version of Anna Nicole Smith.

The lead-in to the article said in large type: “Paris, Britney, Lindsay and Nicole — They seem to be everywhere and they may not be wearing underwear.”

The nation may be at war, and Al Qaeda may be gearing up for a rematch. But that’s no fun, not when Britney is shaving off her hair and Jennifer Aniston is reported to have a new nose and the thrill-a-minute watch over Anna Nicole’s remains is still the hottest thing on TV.

It was Neil Postman who warned in 1985 that we were amusing ourselves to death. I’m not sure anyone knew how literally to take him.

More than 20 years later, the masses have nearly succeeded in drawing the curtains on anything that’s not entertaining. No one can figure out what do about Iraq or Al Qaeda. A great American cultural center like New Orleans was all but washed away, and no one knows how to put it back together. The ice caps are melting and Al Gore is traveling the land like the town crier, raising the alarm about global warming.

But none of that has really gotten the public’s attention. None of it is amusing enough. As a nation of spectators, we seem content to sit with a pizza and a brew in front of the high-def flat-screen TV, obsessing over Anna Nicole et al., and giving no thought to the possibility that the calamitous events unfolding in the world may someday reach our doorsteps.

2 Groups Compare Immigrant Detention Centers to Prisons

posted by M Vieni
February 22, 2007


WASHINGTON, Feb. 21 — Two advocacy groups for refugees said on Wednesday that the Bush administration routinely detained immigrant families in prisonlike housing that separated young children from their parents and sometimes provided inadequate medical care, food and educational opportunities, despite calls from Congress to house such families in “nonpenal, homelike environments.”

The Department of Homeland Security, which allowed the advocacy groups to visit the two detention centers that house immigrant families, has already corrected several problems identified by the groups. The two groups, the Women’s Commission for Refugee Women and Children and Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Services, are expected to release their report on Thursday.

But department officials, who said they were still reviewing the report, vigorously defended the quality of services provided by the 512-bed T. Don Hutto Residential Center, which opened last year in Texas, and the Berks Family Shelter Care Facility, which houses about 80 families in Pennsylvania. The centers hold immigrants and asylum seekers awaiting the outcomes of their cases.

“They adhere to the highest standards,” said Marc Raimondi, a department spokesman.

The complaints come one month after a federal inspection of 5 of the nation’s 325 immigrant detention centers found that most did not provide timely and responsive health care and sometimes failed to comply with the government’s standards of disciplining, classifying and housing detainees. Officials of the Homeland Security Department say the study was too small to be representative.

The new report found that women at the Hutto center received inadequate prenatal care and that children received only one hour of schooling a day. At both centers, children as young as 6 were separated from their parents, and separation of families and the threats of separation were used as disciplinary tools.

The study praised the Berks center for providing adequate educational opportunities and allowing families to participate in field trips and outdoor recreation time. But it says both centers are modeled on prisons, even though they hold people who are fleeing persecution or stand accused of violating civil immigration laws, not criminal codes.

“The prisonlike conditions, this form of detention, is not necessary,” said Michelle Brané, who heads the detention and asylum program at the Women’s Commission for Refugee Women and Children.

“We release criminals,” said Ms. Brané, pointing to parole and monitored supervision programs. “Yet for immigrants in civil proceedings, they have not explored those options. And these are families with children.”

Mr. Raimondi said the family detention system was expanded to help end the routine practice of releasing immigrant families caught sneaking across the border. Smugglers began taking advantage of the loophole and pairing children with unrelated adults in hopes of ensuring their release, officials say. Some children were abandoned or abused. Mr. Raimondi said the centers provided a safe place for families and “serve as a deterrent to alien smugglers who needlessly endanger children’s lives.”

Ms. Brané said officials of the Homeland Security Department had addressed some of her concerns.

The Hutto center contracted with a local clinic to provide medical care to pregnant women. It also expanded the educational program to four hours a day from one.
Senate Dems Plan Bill To Begin Iraq Troop Withdrawal

Now McCain Stabs Bush In Back

US Soldier Sentenced To 100 Years For Murder, Rape Of Iraqi Girl
Time for regime change for American workers

Instead of just promoting democracy abroad, our government should defend the liberty of workers at home by supporting a new labor reform bill.

By Joe Conason

Feb. 23, 2007 Nobody talks about the democratic way more fervently than George W. Bush and Dick Cheney, who have so often proclaimed that the historic mission of the United States is to expand liberty around the world. The Bush administration frequently denounces governments that suppress free speech, intimidate citizens and tamper with elections, expressing outrage over violations of human rights and self-determination in states such as Cuba, Iran, Myanmar and Zimbabwe.

So what would our great advocates of democracy say about a regime that routinely deprives people of their livelihood for speaking out freely on public issues? What would they say about a place where citizens are forced to listen to propaganda -- or where voters have to run a gantlet of armed police to enter a voting booth? How would they describe a system that distributes bribes, spies on dissidents and threatens everyone who dares to vote the "wrong" way with the direst possible consequences?

If they told the truth, they would be forced to admit that those awful conditions still exist on American soil, oppressing millions of workers whose employers use such tactics to prevent them from forming or joining a labor union.

In theory, all Americans enjoy a basic right to unionize and bargain collectively with their bosses for better wages, benefits and working conditions. Since 1935 that right has been enshrined in the National Labor Relations Act, originally known as the Wagner Act, which was supposed to end the abusive and violent anti-union campaigns that had marred American industry for more than 50 years. From that landmark bill came an upsurge in unionization and, over the decades that followed, a steady rise in workers' compensation that helped to fuel the world's strongest economy and created the largest middle class in history.

In recent decades, however, the rate of unionization has fallen steeply, especially in the private sector -- along with real wages, job security and health insurance coverage, among other living standards, which probably is no mere coincidence. Most workers understand that they would be better off with union protection, and polls consistently show that they would organize if they could. In nearly 60 percent of union representation elections, labor defeats management.

Why do fewer and fewer workers belong to unions if most of them would prefer to bargain collectively? Global economic change has decimated the old industrial unions, but that doesn't explain why workers in the newer service industries remain largely unorganized.

The reason is simple and ugly, as Washington Post business columnist Steven Pearlstein explained three years ago when he looked at Wal-Mart's labor policies. Since 1935, he wrote, the right to organize "has been whittled away by legislation, poked with holes by appeals courts and reduced to irrelevancy by a well-meaning bureaucracy that has let itself be intimidated by political and legal thuggery. As a result, any company willing to use intimidation and delaying tactics will never have to sign a first contract with a union, even if employees really want one."

That well-meaning bureaucracy is the National Labor Relations Board, which back then was mulling over some 250 cases of alleged unfair interference with workers' rights by Wal-Mart executives that had languished in its files for up to a decade. Like other anti-union employers, the retailing behemoth has used every dictatorial tactic to prevent unionization, from threatening workers with loss of benefits and pensions to imposing psychological tests, conducting surveillance on workers who meet with labor organizers, and bribing employees with increased wages just before a representation vote. The most typical tactic is to use any feeble excuse to fire any worker suspected of leading a union drive -- which is wholly illegal but happens hundreds of times every day.

Wal-Mart is the biggest foe of unions but hardly the most brutal. Meatpacking and other agricultural companies have inflicted beatings and harassment as well as firings on workers who dare to challenge their absolute and abusive power. At a Smithfield Farms plant in North Carolina, the company actually formed its own police force, in cahoots with the local sheriff, to scare away the union with guns. The Wagner Act was supposed to end that kind of corporate criminality more than 70 years ago, but it is still happening today.

After decades of ignoring the degradation of workers' rights, Congress is poised to pass labor law reform next month and restore a measure of equality between unions and employers. The Employee Free Choice Act, with 233 sponsors from both parties, will probably reach the House floor during the first week of March and pass overwhelmingly, thanks to the support of the new Democratic leadership. But the bill is just as likely to be stymied in the Senate, where corporate opposition has stimulated threats of a Republican filibuster. And the president has promised to exercise his rarely used veto power if it reaches his desk.

Corporate fury over the bill is understandable because the new law would establish heavier sanctions against companies that violate worker rights, require companies that refuse to bargain to enter mediation and arbitration, and permit workers to win union rights by signing cards that authorize representation. Unions argue that the old election system no longer works -- and that only radical reforms can restore worker freedom. Although opponents of the bill claim that they are protecting "secret ballots" and "workplace democracy," their true objective is clearly to maintain management's overpowering advantage in controlling workers and banishing unions.

Yet the time may have come at last for a bit of regime change in the warehouse, the factory and the nursing home, too.

It's Insanity Writ Large

February 22, 2007, 9:10 pm
Why Rebecca Died

Tags: child abuse, psychiatric medications

If you haven’t been reading the Boston newspapers, then you’ve missed the awful details in the story of 4-year-old Rebecca Riley, who on Dec. 13 was found on a pile of clothes in her home in Hull, Mass., wearing a pink diaper and a pair of gold earrings, her lungs filled with fluid. She’d died of a drug overdose – murdered by her parents, local prosecutors claim, who had purposefully administered excessive doses of her bipolar and attention-deficit disorder medications in order to keep her calm and quiet.

Though I would like, on the one hand, to spare you the miserable details of Rebecca’s life – a life filled with abuse and neglect and incompetence and the worst sort of failure and cowardice on the part of almost every key adult present – I feel it’s important to share them. For if you’re at all like me, then reading about Rebecca, whose story was outlined in The New York Times last week, filled you not only with sadness, outrage and pity, but also with anxiety.

The anxiety came, perhaps, because like millions of other American parents, you have a child who is taking one or more psychiatric medications. Or maybe it’s not your child, but your sister’s child or your best friend’s child, or the child who lives across the street and is so sweet and lovely that you can’t believe – you say, shaking your head as you close your front door – that he or she is “on drugs.”

It’s such a scary thing, this business of medicating children. Especially when the medications are being prescribed for off-label use, or are being given to very young children, or are being taken as part of a multidrug “cocktail,” as is the trend among kids with multiple behavioral and emotional ills. It was the case with Rebecca, who according to state police reports was taking 750 milligrams a day of the antiseizure drug Depakote, 200 milligrams a day of the antipsychotic Seroquel, and .35 milligrams a day of clonidine, a blood pressure drug that is also used as a sedative. She went on her medications at age 2.

It’s so easy, if you’re a parent of a child who takes psychiatric medications, to feel vaguely like a criminal, or like you’re lazy or irresponsible, a dupe of the drug companies, or a standard-bearer for a sick society, as a mother in California put it to me this week, as she discussed her inner struggles over the decision to medicate her son for attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder. “It’s like ‘One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,’” she said.

It’s easy to read Rebecca’s death as a cautionary tale for all parents who might even consider medicating their kids. The Times certainly did, headlining its story, “Charges in the Death of a Girl, 4, Raise Issue of Giving Psychiatric Drugs to Children.” But giving it this reading doesn’t actually do justice to her story. And this interpretation could – if all the fear, anger and despair that the story raises were allowed to rage beyond reason – lead to worse, rather than better, care for some children.

So it’s worth taking a detailed look at what actually happened to Rebecca:

She came from a home that was rife with abuse. In 2005, her father, Michael Riley, had been accused of assaulting his wife Carolyn’s 13-year-old daughter from a previous relationship. He was later banned from the house by restraining order after allegedly choking Rebecca’s 11-year-old brother – but he had returned prior to Rebecca’s death. Complaints of abuse and neglect had been filed over the years against Carolyn Riley as well; on one visit, a social worker found her seemingly drugged and unable to care for her children.

Carolyn ran through Rebecca’s prescriptions for clonidine – ostensibly prescribed to help her sleep and make her less aggressive – at an alarming rate; she would tell Rebecca’s psychiatrist, Kayoko Kifuji, of Tufts-New England Medical Center, that she’d lost the pills, or ruined them with spilled water. And Kifuji kept writing prescription after prescription – despite an alarmed call from a pharmacist at Walgreen’s and reports from a school nurse that Rebecca was like a “floppy doll” when she arrived at school in the morning.

Family members watched Rebecca wander the house dazed and sick in the days before her death. Afterward, her uncle claimed that he told Michael Riley, “If you won’t bring her to the hospital, then I’ll beat you so that the ambulance will come and take both of you,” according to an affidavit described in a newspaper account.

In other words, Rebecca’s world was a nonstop horror show. It began with her parents, ran right on through her extended family (“What are people supposed to do, stop living?” her grandma scolded a Boston Globe reporter, when the news got out that Rebecca’s parents had gone bowling and attended a high school reunion in the days just after their daughter’s death), and was allowed to continue – without, it seems, more than biochemical interference – in her psychiatrist’s office.

From all of this, it’s fair to raise questions about the stranglehold that the focus on brain chemistry has on certain members of the mental health establishment. It’s fair to raise questions about psychiatric diagnoses in very young children and draconian drug treatments. But we should avoid generalizing from what appears to be a case of patent domestic abuse – where the weapon of choice happened to be pharmaceuticals – to a widespread condemnation of parents and doctors who treat children with psychiatric drugs.

Rebecca Riley was not killed by biological psychiatry or AstraZeneca or the Massachusetts Department of Social Services or parents like you or me who may or may not be medicating our children but are, indisputably, part of a culture in which doing so is now the norm.

She was killed by abuse, neglect and abandonment.

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