12 months ago
Nine Circles of Hell!: Monday, October 17 Nine Circles of Hell!
The Nine Circles of Hell! – all the news that gives you fits in print – the nine most hellish news stories, for Monday, October 17, 2011, including two bonus articles on #OccupyWallStreet, are:
Spain’s ‘indignant,’ America’s ‘Occupy Wall Street’ go global
The Times of India
951 cities join protest against corporate greed
Protesters launched worldwide street demonstrations on Saturday against corporate greed and biting cutbacks in a rolling action targetting 951 cities in 82 countries. Inspired by America’s ” Occupy Wall Street” and Spain’s “Indignants” , people took to the streets in Sydney, Hong Kong and Tokyo in the opening hours of the unprecedented global outcry.
It was the biggest show of power yet by a movement born on May 15 when a rally in Madrid’s central square of Puerta del Sol sparked a protest that spread internationally.
Anger over unemployment and opposition to the financial elite hung over the protests, which coincided with a Paris meeting of G20 financial powers pre-occupied by the eurozone debt crisis. But demands and the sense of urgency among the activists varied depending on the city.
Around 500 people gathered in the heart of Hong Kong’s financial district to vent their anger at the inequities and excesses of free-market capitalism. Around 600 demonstrators in Sydney set up camp outside Australia’s central bank. In Tokyo, around 100 protesters marched through the streets, shouting “Occupy Tokyo!”.
In Frankfurt, continental Europe’s financial capital, some 5,000 people protested in front of the European Central Bank, while in London, around 500 people marched from St Paul’s cathedral to the nearby stock exchange.
Hundreds took to streets in the Bosnian city of Sarajevo carrying pictures of Che Guevara and old communist flags that read “Death to capitalism , freedom to the people” . In Philippines, about 100 people marched on the US embassy in Manila to denounce “US imperialism” . In Canada, protests were planned in Montreal , Vancouver and at stock exchange in Toronto.
- According to The Minnesota Independent article, “Senate hopeful, former WaMu board member kicks off anti-Occupy petition drive,” there’s at least one guy who really hates this kinda thing:
U.S. Senate candidate and former Dallas mayor Tom Leppert unveiled endoccupy.com Friday, a website devoted to opposition of the Occupy Wall Street movement that has spread across the country.
The site features a photo of screaming young people, waving signs with anti-war, pro-environment and pro-jobs messages, over a black-and-white video backdrop of slow-motion footage from the New York City protests (for the full zombie-flick effect, you can watch the video on its own here) …
The campaign hopes to gather 5,000 signatures for an online petition asking President Obama “to denounce the angry Occupy mob.”
Obama has already made overtures to the Occupy Wall Street cause, though the protesters say they’re wary of being co-opted by party politics and large institutions. It’s unclear how a lack of support from Obama would hasten the movement’s end.
If the site takes off like “We are the 53 percent,” it could arm Leppert with thousands of new email addresses as he tries to avoid being crowded out of the senate race. (endtheoccupation.org was already taken.)
Leppert’s opposition to the Occupy movement probably isn’t just a philosophical one. While he was mayor of Dallas, Leppert also sat on the board of Washington Mutual, including the bank’s audit committee, steering the bank into a 2008 acquisition in what “financial observers are calling the largest bank failure in U.S. history,” the Dallas Morning News’ Dave Levinthal wrote at the time …
So far in his campaign, Leppert has tried to position himself as the policy wonk with a concrete jobs plan, but has been overshadowed in the race by Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and former solicitor general Ted Cruz. Cruz announced earlier this week that he’d raised $1 million in the last three months, making him the top fundraiser in the race, with $2.8 million so far. Like Dewhurst, though, Leppert came into the race with significant personal wealth that he’s contributed to his own campaign.
- The bad news is, there are very wealthy people who want to crush the #Occupy movement. The good news is, the market is supporting the anti-Wall Street message, according to the San Francisco Chronicle story, “Leppert has worst fundraising quarter yet in race for U.S. Senate“:
Former Dallas mayor Tom Leppert personally contributed almost as much as he raised in the third fundraising quarter for his campaign for Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison’s Senate seat.
In the third quarter, Leppert raised $640,000 and contributed $500,000 of his own money to his campaign. This is his worst quarter yet for outside donations–after raising over $1.8 million from donors in the first quarter, that number dropped to just over $754,000 in the second and now, $640,000.
The $500,000 he contributed personally is also 14 times more than his last personal contribution to his campaign, which came in the first quarter and was only about $34,000. But his personal contribution brought him to a net fundraising total of $1.14 million for the third quarter, and over $5.1 million from all three quarters combined.
This amount is, according to his campaign, more than any other non-incumbent Republican U.S. Senate candidate nationwide. And over 91 percent of those contributions came from Texas.
With over $4.14 million cash on hand, this makes Leppert’s war chest comparable with the one Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst raised in the third quarter and announced Tuesday. But this comes at a high personal price. Filings from quarters one and two show the campaign has over $2.1 million in debt–all due to loans Leppert himself made to his own campaign.
‘Occupy’ actions save homeowners from eviction
Homeowner taps ‘Occupy’ protest to avoid foreclosure
Rose Gudiel and her family were squatters in their own home. They had lost a two-year battle against foreclosure, and the eviction date had arrived. They hunkered down in the house on Sept. 28, surrounded by dozens of homeowner advocates and friends, hoping to stave off forcible removal.
“(The bank) kept saying we can’t do anything. Your case is closed,” said Gudiel. “Our stand was, ‘No, we’re not leaving. This is our home. We worked hard for it and we’re just not going to leave.’”
But instead of the anticipated confrontation, there was a dramatic reversal of fortune. Fanny Mae canceled the eviction notice and offered the Gudiels a loan modification that could enable them keep their home.
Why? Fannie Mae and loan servicer OneWest won’t discuss the case. But nonprofit advocates say a series of bold protests — with reinforcements from the “Occupy Wall Street” movement — and a spate of media interest put Rose in the limelight and forced the banks to back down.
It was a small victory — and Gudiel still has to finalize her deal with the bank — but one that Southern California housing activists hope to repeat. It also provides an example of how the sprawling “Occupy” movement — often criticized for its lack of focus — can lend muscle to specific goals pursued by organizations and individuals …
On Oct. 1, just days after the eviction deadline, thousands of protesters started gathering outside Los Angeles City Hall to launch the “Occupy LA” protest — the local version of the “Occupy Wall Street” protest in New York City. Gudiel thought her story would play well with the protesters and made an appeal at one of the gatherings’ first daily “general assembly” meetings.
Gudiel’s story resonated with the crowd, which generally holds the belief that corporate greed and influence have driven the country off the rails.
Hers is a familiar tale here. California is the state hardest hit by foreclosure, with 1.2 million — or one in five nationwide — since 2008, according to Realty Trac.
“At Occupy LA, foreclosure is not the main thing, but… it really is the one thing that has truly pushed people to the limit,” said Sergio Ballesteros, an “Occupy LA” organizer who works on its education and workshops committee. “It is the one thing that is so tangible … kicking people out of their homes that some feel they were swindled into … coupled with the fact that these banks that are foreclosing actually are making a lot of money. This is at the heart of the idea that we have to do something.”
After her talk, some protesters went to Gudiel’s home in the suburbs to join the vigil, and some stayed to camp.
On Oct. 4, “Occupy LA” protesters joined in a 200-strong protest with Gudiel in front of the $26 million Bel Air mansion of OneWest CEO Steve Mnuchin.
A day later, many joined her at a sit-in at the Pasadena branch of Fannie Mae, where television captured Rose Gudiel’s disabled mother giving an impassioned plea for her home. Rose, her mother, Rose Marie and seven other protesters — some of them from “Occupy LA” — were arrested, and taken away in a paddy wagon as TV cameras rolled. They were cited and quickly released.
The next day, Rose Gudiel announced to a cheering crowd that she had received a letter from the bank inviting her to discuss a loan modification proposal.
The Gudiels are not the first to win back their home through protest — and not the first to do so after foreclosure, said Bruce Marks, founder of the Neighborhood Assistance Corp. of America, a nonprofit based in Boston. Marks, a longtime mortgage broker, is well known for using protests to win concessions from banks for distressed homeowners.
“It’s very exciting, and we think it’s very effective for “Occupy Wall Street” and “Occupy LA” to do,” Marks said.
Marks has led hundreds of protesters armed with bullhorns and signs to the homes of financial industry titans, including Morgan Stanley CEO John Mack, Greenwich Financial Services CEO William Frey and Goldman Sachs chief Lloyd Blankfein, in some cases winning mortgage modifications for distressed homeowners within hours.
Marks’ approach is controversial, earning him a reputation as a “bank terrorist” — which he wears as a badge of honor, though he adds that he is a “non-violent bank terrorist.” But he sees the strategy as gaining steam and believes each demonstration benefits many people.
“It has a tremendous impact,” Marks said. “Now at OneWest you are going to see a lot more solutions. … The people getting (benefit from the protest) won’t even know that those two hundred people put themselves on the line.”
Rob Somerton and his wife, Ana, are considering making a public stand, if necessary, to save their 1,300-square-foot home in the Northern California town of Cobb.
They said their effort to modify a mortgage with Bank of America has led nowhere, as they have documented on a Facebook page, which now has more than 1,400 followers, many of whom are reporting their own struggles with banks. They recently received a 90-day notice for a foreclosure sale.
Somerton’s advice to others is: “Stay in your home. Do not leave. Stick it out no matter what. As this thing Occupy Wall Street grows and builds, I’ve seen a lot more people coming around to that. Do not cooperate. Do not fall for the ploys. Stay in your home until the sheriff arrives.”
If it comes to it, he said he plans to tap into the movement for help: “I’ve got a friend involved in Occupy San Francisco,” he said. “… He’s telling me if it comes down to the wire, and I need support, he can mobilize one or two hundred people to come and occupy the property. It would be streamed live.”
Over five decades, 300,000 Spanish babies stolen, sold for adoption
The Daily Mail
300,000 babies stolen from their parents – and sold for adoption: Haunting BBC documentary exposes 50-year scandal of baby trafficking by the Catholic church in Spain
Up to 300,000 Spanish babies were stolen from their parents and sold for adoption over a period of five decades, a new investigation reveals.
The children were trafficked by a secret network of doctors, nurses, priests and nuns in a widespread practice that began during General Franco’s dictatorship and continued until the early Nineties.
Hundreds of families who had babies taken from Spanish hospitals are now battling for an official government investigation into the scandal.
Several mothers say they were told their first-born children had died during or soon after they gave birth.
But the women, often young and unmarried, were told they could not see the body of the infant or attend their burial.
In reality, the babies were sold to childless couples whose devout beliefs and financial security meant that they were seen as more appropriate parents.
Official documents were forged so the adoptive parents’ names were on the infants’ birth certificates.
In many cases it is believed they were unaware that the child they received had been stolen, as they were usually told the birth mother had given them up.
Journalist Katya Adler, who has investigated the scandal, says: ‘The situation is incredibly sad for thousands of people.
‘There are men and women across Spain whose lives have been turned upside-down by discovering the people they thought were their parents actually bought them for cash. There are also many mothers who have maintained for years that their babies did not die – and were labelled “hysterical” – but are now discovering that their child has probably been alive and brought up by somebody else all this time.’
Experts believe the cases may account for up to 15 per cent of the total adoptions that took place in Spain between 1960 and 1989.
It began as a system for taking children away from families deemed politically dangerous to the regime of General Franco, which began in 1939. The system continued after the dictator’s death in 1975 as the Catholic church continued to retain a powerful influence on public life, particularly in social services.
It was not until 1987 that the Spanish government, instead of hospitals, began to regulate adoptions.
The scandal came to light after two men, Antonio Barroso and Juan Luis Moreno, discovered they had been stolen as babies.
How did a student exchange program become a sweatshop labor pipeline?
The New York Times
Pleas Unheeded as Students’ U.S. Jobs Soured
The college student from Moldova was in the United States on a cultural exchange program run for half a century by the federal government, a program designed to build international understanding by providing foreign students with a dream summer of fun in America. So he summoned his best English for the e-mail he sent to the State Department in June.
“Pleas hellp,” wrote the student, Tudor Ureche. He told them about “the miserable situation in which I’ve found myself cought” since starting a job under the program in a plant packing Hershey’s chocolates near the company’s namesake town in Pennsylvania.
Students like Mr. Ureche, who had paid as much as $6,000 to take part in the program, expected a chance to see the best of this country, to make American friends and sightsee, with a summer job to help finance it all.
Instead, many students who were placed at the packing plant found themselves working grueling night shifts on speeding production lines, repeatedly lifting boxes weighing as much as 60 pounds and financially drained by low pay and unexpected extra costs for housing and transportation. Their complaints to the contractor running the program on behalf of the State Department were met with threats that they could be sent home.
Events this summer at the Hershey packing plant in Palmyra, Pa., revealed major holes in the State Department’s oversight of its summer work and travel program, the largest and most ambitious of its cultural exchanges. The program, which placed 130,000 foreign students in all sorts of jobs across the country this year, has a large impact in shaping the country’s image for young generations overseas.
The Hershey students finally got the department’s attention on Aug. 17 when 200 of them, waving placards and chanting union slogans, walked out of the plant, the first labor protest in the 50-year history of the department’s exchange programs.
The protests raised questions about whether the State Department is equipped to manage what has become a vast temporary work program, especially in times when suitable jobs for foreign students — even short-term jobs — are harder to come by as high unemployment persists in the United States.
The protests also exposed serious lapses by the Council for Educational Travel, USA, a nonprofit group based in California and one of more than 70 sponsors contracted by the State Department to organize the students’ trips to the United States and find jobs and housing for them.
The group, known as Cetusa, placed nearly 400 foreigners from 18 countries, many of them graduate students in medicine, engineering and economics, in physically arduous jobs at the Palmyra factory that were overwhelming for some.
The students, who were earning about $8 an hour, said they were isolated within the plant, rarely finding moments to practice English or socialize with Americans. With little explanation or accounting, the sponsor took steep deductions from their paychecks for housing, transportation and insurance that left many of them too little money to afford the tourist wanderings they had eagerly anticipated.
Program documents and interviews with 15 students show that Cetusa failed to heed many distress signals from students over many months, and responded to some with threats of expulsion from the program …
The department was already on notice about trouble in the program, after an Associated Press investigation last year found abuses of foreign students in several states. Officials started a broad review earlier this year, and on July 15 they inaugurated new regulations, which tighten requirements on sponsor organizations to ensure that students are matched with jobs that are appropriate and safe. A newly expanded staff of 18 inspectors will begin on-site audits of sponsor organizations this fall, officials said …
“This is a beautiful, great program,” Rick Anaya, Cetusa’s chief executive, said of the cultural exchange.
Mr. Anaya said he was aware that the work in Palmyra was strenuous. “It is hard to lift,” he said. “But they get used to it and they are fine with it after a week or so.” He said all students had received and signed job descriptions before going to Palmyra. If packing work seemed too difficult, he said, “they didn’t have to sign up for the job.”
Mr. Anaya blamed the discontent on the National Guestworker Alliance, a labor group that helped organize the walkout, together with the A.F.L.-C.I.O. and other unions.
“It’s clear and obvious to me that this whole thing was started and fueled by the unions,” he said.
The foreign students’ travails did prove fertile ground for the alliance, an advocate for temporary foreign workers. Joined by some of the students, the alliance since August has led a campaign against the Hershey Company, accusing it of exploiting foreign students to displace American workers. Some students agreed.
“They take students who came on a cultural exchange to slave for them and make next to nothing, when these jobs could be going to families in Pennsylvania,” said Godwin Efobi, 26, a Nigerian medical student who was a protest leader.
Created under a 1961 law, the State Department’s summer work and travel program was designed to give foreign university students who do not hail from wealthy elites at home a brief plunge into American life, at no cost to the American taxpayer. The students come on a visa known as a J-1, which allows them to work for up to four months and travel for a month.
Students in the program, a legacy of the cold war, come mainly from China, Russia and Eastern European countries, with some from Latin America. Traditionally they have been employed in national parks, amusement parks, summer camps, beach resorts and restaurants, in low-wage but congenial jobs.
Over the years the program has won many happy reviews after students returned home. But in recent years it grew rapidly, to 150,000 students in 2008 from about 30,000 a decade earlier. It is now bigger than most federal programs explicitly dedicated to importing temporary foreign workers.
As a cultural exchange, the program is not monitored by labor authorities, said Daniel Costa, an analyst at the Economic Policy Institute in Washington who studies the J-1 program. Unlike the Department of Labor, he said, the State Department does not collect employment data that would show, for example, how many students have been placed in factories like the Palmyra plant, or how recently.
In January, US ‘will effectively end … involvement in the Iraq war’
The Associated Press
AP: U.S. drops keeping troops in Iraq
The U.S. is abandoning plans to keep U.S. troops in Iraq past a year-end withdrawal deadline, The Associated Press has learned. The decision to pull out fully by January will effectively end more than eight years of U.S. involvement in the Iraq war, despite ongoing concerns about its security forces and the potential for instability.
The decision ends months of hand-wringing by U.S. officials over whether to stick to a Dec. 31 withdrawal deadline that was set in 2008 or negotiate a new security agreement to ensure that gains made and more than 4,400 American military lives lost since March 2003 do not go to waste.
In recent months, Washington has been discussing with Iraqi leaders the possibility of several thousand American troops remaining to continue training Iraqi security forces. A Pentagon spokesman said Saturday that no final decision has been reached about the U.S. training relationship with the Iraqi government.
But a senior Obama administration official in Washington confirmed Saturday that all American troops will leave Iraq except for about 160 active-duty soldiers attached to the U.S. Embassy.
A senior U.S. military official confirmed the departure and said the withdrawal could allow future but limited U.S. military training missions in Iraq if requested.
Both officials spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue.
Throughout the discussions, Iraqi leaders have adamantly refused to give U.S. troops immunity from prosecution in Iraqi courts, and the Americans have refused to stay without it. Iraq’s leadership has been split on whether it wanted American forces to stay. Some argued the further training and U.S. help was vital, particularly to protect Iraq’s airspace and gather security intelligence. But others have deeply opposed any American troop presence, including Shiite militiamen who have threatened attacks on any American forces who remain.
Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has told U.S. military officials that he does not have the votes in parliament to provide immunity to the American trainers, the U.S. military official said.
A western diplomatic official in Iraq said al-Maliki told international diplomats he will not bring the immunity issue to parliament because lawmakers will not approve it.
A White House spokesman, Tommy Vietor, said discussions with Iraq about the security relationship between the two countries next year were ongoing.
Pentagon press secretary George Little said the U.S. remains “committed to keeping our agreement with the Iraqi government to remove all of our troops by the end of this year.”
Women march in Yemen’s capital
Thousands of women demonstrated Monday in front of Yemen’s foreign ministry in the capital, Sanaa, demanding U.N. intervention in the ongoing unrest in the Persian Gulf nation, residents and eyewitnesses said.
The protest comes a day after the first woman was killed in a demonstration against the government, according to opposition activists.
The women called for sanctions against President Ali Abdullah Saleh and asked that he be tried by the International Criminal Court.
They also alleged that snipers were on the rooftop of the foreign ministry Sunday.
The protests came hours after gunfire and loud explosions reverberated throughout the capital early Monday.
Medics in Change Square said at least four people were killed and another 26 injured after government forces raided parts of the capital. Another eight people died and 20 were injured in government raids on civilian property, said Abdulqawi al-Qaisi, a prominent opposition leader and head of the Sadeq Ahmar media office.
“The death toll is expected to rise as a number of the injured are in critical condition,” he said.
According to eyewitnesses, government security forces clashed with tribesmen loyal to Hashid tribal leader Sadeq Al-Ahmar in the Hasabah neighborhood in northern Sanaa. Government forces attacked the tribal leader’s family residences, al-Qaisi said.
“The government attacks against innocent civilians and the Ahmar family continued for hours and hundreds of explosions were heard throughout the morning, causing fear throughout the capital,” he said.
Residents and witnesses also reported that the Republican Guard was bombarding the headquarters of the 1st Armored Division, loyal to Maj. Gen. Ali Mohsen Al-Ahmar, who withdrew his support for Saleh in March.
California’s largest industry group for doctors calls for legalizing pot
The Associated Press
California doctors’ group backs legalizing pot
California’s largest industry group for doctors is calling for the legalization of marijuana even as it maintains that the drug has few proven health benefits.
Trustees of the California Medical Association adopted the new stance at its annual meeting Friday in Anaheim, according to a Los Angeles Times report ( http://lat.ms/qR96hb ).
Dr. Donald Lyman, the Sacramento physician who wrote the group’s new policy, said doctors are increasingly frustrated by the state’s medical marijuana law, which allows use with a doctor’s recommendation. Physicians are put in the uncomfortable position of having to decide whether to recommend a drug that’s illegal under federal law, Lyman said.
“It is an open question whether cannabis is useful or not,” he told the newspaper. “That question can only be answered once it is legalized and more research is done. Then, and only then, can we know what it is useful for.”
The CMA acknowledges health risks associated with marijuana use and proposes regulation similar to alcohol and tobacco, but the group says the consequences of criminalization outweigh the dangers.
The federal government considers cannabis a drug with no medical use. The CMA wants the White House to reclassify it to help promote further research on its medical potential. Earlier this year, the Obama administration turned down a request to reclassify marijuana. That decision is being appealed in federal court by legalization advocates.
Lyman called current laws a “failed public health policy.”
Republicans want to open up mining near Grand Canyon
The Associated Press
GOP-led bill opens up Grand Canyon area to mining
A group of Republican lawmakers is renewing an effort to open up 1 million acres near the Grand Canyon to new mining claims.
Legislation announced Wednesday would prevent the Interior Department from extending a temporary ban on the filing of new mining claims that expires in December. The group said Interior Secretary Ken Salazar’s intention to set aside the land for 20 years would eliminate hundreds of potential jobs, create a de-facto wilderness area and unravel decades of responsible resource development.
“At a time when we are desperate for jobs and economic growth, this administration continues to do everything in its power to implement the job-killing policies of fringe environmental groups,” said Arizona Rep. David Schweikert. “This withdrawal is not so much a protection of the Grand Canyon but a governmental land grab of economically fertile mining land.”
Salazar enacted a two-year ban in July 2009 but extended it by six months earlier this year to give the U.S. Bureau of Land Management more time to study the economic and environmental effects of mining. Interior officials said Wednesday that any claims about jobs losses are false.
Should any of the land be withdrawn, mining companies would need to prove they have valid existing rights to those claims before mining could occur. According to the BLM’s draft environmental study, 11 mines could open over the next 20 years under Salazar’s proposal.
Without a withdrawal, up to 30 mines could be developed. The difference in the number of jobs under the two scenarios would be 71, the BLM said.
Other proposals include withdrawing either 300,000 or 650,000 acres from any new claims. The final study is due out later this month …
Rep. Raul Grijalva, D-Ariz., environmental groups, American Indian tribes, ranchers, sportsmen and others have been on the opposite side of the Republican lawmakers, advocating for a permanent withdrawal of the land from new mining claims. A bill Grijalva sponsored to do just that routinely has stalled.
They contend that the mining industry cannot guarantee that extracting uranium would not contaminate water sources, endanger public health or cripple the tourism industry.
“Selling this as a jobs bill for the future and brushing the environmental damage under the rug isn’t going to fly with voters,” Grijalva said of the Republicans’ move. “The public overwhelmingly supported Secretary Salazar’s announcement during the comment period, and the public supports it today. This bill is a waste of taxpayers’ time, and I join them in looking forward to its defeat.”
97% of Americans exposed to cell phone radiation over government limits
Study: Most Cell Users Exposed To Alarming Radiation Levels
A new report suggests that 97 percent of Americans are exposed to cell phone radiation levels well above the Federal Communications Commission limit.
The FCC underestimates the amount of radiation that people who carry cell phones are exposed to, according to the a study published in the journal Electromagnetic Biology and Medicine.
Because the existing process uses a mannequin model that represents 3 percent of the population, the authors report that 97 percent of the population, especially children, will exceed the certified level of absorbed radiation when they hold a cell phone up to their ear.
The authors suggest an alternative certification process — one that uses MRI scans to test real humans.
The authors also raise questions of long-term side effects, like infertility in males who carry phones in their pockets, an exposure unaccounted for in the traditional certification process.
The group is calling for a revision of the process, especially in children, who have smaller heads than the traditional male adult mannequin model.