Tuesday, September 7 Nine Circles of Hell!


The Nine Circles of Hell! – all the news that gives you fits in print – for Tuesday, September 7, 2010, including a bonus story on desperate jobless Americans and the proposed ETA ceasefire, are:

Women, non-Latinos, former white-collar workers seeking day labor

Iraq war cost US far more than $3 trillion

Prank TV show plants fake bombs on Iraqi celebrities

Lebanese Premier’s son withdraws charge Syria was behind killing

Spain rejects terror group’s offer to end “offensive military actions”

Killings by Indian police, paramilitaries lead to curfew for Kashmiris

Catholic reform group says, ”the church is deeply misogynist”

LA riot cops confront protesters at site of killing

Republicans recruit drifters, homeless to run on Green Party ticket

Women, non-Latinos, former white-collar workers seeking day labor
The Wall Street Journal

Pinched Workers Seek Out Day Labor

The face of day labor appears to be changing, with more women, non-Latinos and former white-collar workers taking up manual labor.

Amid continued high joblessness, employers say they are seeing more workers at curbside hiring sites, or seeking work through less traditional routes such as Craigslist, who before the downturn might have had full-time jobs.

Many lost desk jobs in the hard-hit auto, construction and financial industries. Some see manual labor such as housecleaning or hauling debris, where people are hired and paid per diem, as the only way to survive when jobs in their prior fields have become scarce. Such work is often a last resort, because day jobs often offer no benefits such as health insurance or a guarantee of a steady job.

Data on the day-labor market are scarce because of the sector’s informal nature, and because some experts differ on how to define day labor. But leading researchers and providers of services to such workers agree that their numbers—especially first-timers—have risen …

Nik Theodore, director of the Center for Urban Economic Development at the University of Illinois at Chicago, is launching a national study of day-laborer hiring sites. He focuses on workers who seek jobs at such sites, while other experts define day laborers as anyone who is hired and paid for manual labor by the day.

Mr. Theodore said he expects to find an increase in the size and diversity of the day-laborer population, including gender, ethnicity and employment history. In 2006, he was a co-author of a study that estimated the nationwide population of day laborers at 117,600, largely dominated by undocumented male Latino immigrants.

The increase in diversity is “definitely a national trend,” said Pablo Alvarado, executive director of the National Day Laborer Organizing Network in Los Angeles, a day-labor activist group. He said the increase in female day laborers has been particularly noticeable at formal and informal hiring sites.

Mr. Alvarado also noted that the types of jobs available to day workers has changed significantly over the past few years. While construction companies once supplied fairly consistent work to many laborers, the fall of the housing industry has triggered more unemployed individuals to seek out day labor while removing a major source of income from the day labor market. Now most work available to day laborers consists of moving and landscaping jobs that last only for a few hours, he said.

Day laborers often connect with employers at curbside hiring sites, with people congregating around large chain hardware stores and supermarkets, waiting for someone to pull up and offer a day’s—or even a few hours’—work. At Chavez Supermarket in Redwood City, Calif., assistant manager Omar Flores said the number of people seeking per diem work outside the store has grown over the past year to 30 a day from 20, many of whom he has never seen before.

Such increases come as several cities have restricted day labor in an attempt to deter illegal immigration or eliminate informal hiring sites in busy areas.

In June, the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld an ordinance in Redondo Beach, Calif.—modeled on one in Phoenix—prohibiting day laborers from soliciting work from passing cars. Officials in Stockton, Calif., said they are considering an ordinance to make it illegal to solicit employment on the city’s streets.

The ordinances have sparked opposition from civil-rights groups, which say such restrictions violate the laborers’ free-speech rights. But Redondo Beach City Attorney Michael Webb said the laws are necessary to ensure safe traffic flow and prevent the growth of an underground economy …

At the Day Worker Center in Mountain View, executive director Maria Marroquin said the number of first-time laborers seeking jobs through the formal hiring center has doubled to an average of 10 a day over the past year, especially as local car dealerships close or downsize.

She said the new laborers are often surprised at the pace of the day labor-hiring process, in which jobs are distributed based on skill sets and the length of time since the laborer’s last job. At her center, some laborers wait a week or more before a job becomes available.

  • The Indianapolis Star article, “More workers target retirement accounts,” talks about more desperation from US workers:
    Financial planners call it a last resort — digging into that retirement account for cash now.
    Yet a record number of Americans opted to do just that during the past quarter as they face unemployment, home foreclosure and mounting bills.
    More than 62,000 workers initiated a hardship withdrawal from their retirement accounts in the second quarter, up from 45,000 during the same period a year ago, according to a report by Fidelity Investments.
    It’s the most Fidelity has ever seen.

Iraq war cost US far more than $3 trillion
The Washington Post

The true cost of the Iraq war: $3 trillion and beyond

Past This is Hell! guest Joseph Stiglitz writes …

Writing in these pages in early 2008, we put the total cost to the United States of the Iraq war at $3 trillion. This price tag dwarfed previous estimates, including the Bush administration’s 2003 projections of a $50 billion to $60 billion war.

But today, as the United States ends combat in Iraq, it appears that our $3 trillion estimate (which accounted for both government expenses and the war’s broader impact on the U.S. economy) was, if anything, too low. For example, the cost of diagnosing, treating and compensating disabled veterans has proved higher than we expected.

Moreover, two years on, it has become clear to us that our estimate did not capture what may have been the conflict’s most sobering expenses: those in the category of “might have beens,” or what economists call opportunity costs. For instance, many have wondered aloud whether, absent the Iraq invasion, we would still be stuck in Afghanistan. And this is not the only “what if” worth contemplating. We might also ask: If not for the war in Iraq, would oil prices have risen so rapidly? Would the federal debt be so high? Would the economic crisis have been so severe?

The answer to all four of these questions is probably no. The central lesson of economics is that resources — including both money and attention — are scarce. What was devoted to one theater, Iraq, was not available elsewhere.

Prank TV show plants fake bombs on Iraqi celebrities
The New York Times

Punk’d, Iraqi-Style, at a Checkpoint

An Iraqi reality television program broadcast during Ramadan has been planting fake bombs in celebrities’ cars, having an Iraqi army checkpoint find them and terrifying the celebrities into thinking that they are headed for maximum security prison.

The show “Put Him in [Camp] Bucca” has drawn numerous protests but has stayed on air throughout the fasting month, broadcasting its “stings” on well-known Iraqi personalities.

All of them were ensnared by being invited to the headquarters of the private television station Al Baghdadia to be interviewed, but en route to the station a fake bomb would be planted in their car while they were being searched by Iraqi soldiers, who were in on the deception.

The unwitting celebrities are then secretly filmed, Candid-Camera-style, as they reacted with shock, disbelief and anger as fake checkpoint guards shout abuse at them: “Why do you want to blow us up?” “You are a terrorist.” “How much did they pay you to do it? You will be executed.”

The celebrities protest that they know nothing about the supposed bomb, that they are innocent and honorable Iraqi citizens, only to be told, “We have caught you red-handed, with the bomb in your car.”

How much of it is staged with the knowledge of the actors is unclear from the footage, which has been broadcast daily this month, with excerpts, reactions and comments on the channel’s Web site.

One televised exchange ran:

Soldier : “Which group you are working for?”

Television Host: “Al Qaeda for sure.”

Guest: “I am an actor. What are you saying? Is this a game or what?”

Soldier: “This a military checkpoint. What do you think we are playing here? You have got a bomb in your car.”

Television Host: “Why are you doing this? Why are you putting me in such trouble?”

Guest: “I am a family man. I have two kids. How could I do this to my family? I am telling you the truth, it’s not me who planted the bomb.”

Nearly every Iraqi newspaper carried complaints about the idea of the show, with many well-known figures asking for it to be canceled. Some said it was simply too close to Iraq’s daily reality.

The name of the show refers to Camp Bucca, the large American-built high-security prison near the Kuwaiti border in southern Iraq that held thousands of Iraqi detainees and was closed in September 2009.

Lebanese Premier’s son withdraws charge Syria was behind killing
Los Angeles Times

Supporters stunned as Hariri says Syria didn’t kill his dad

Praise, skepticism, betrayal, and mere confusion. The list of reactions is long in Arab media commentaries and on blogs and Web forums to Lebanese Premier Saad Hariri retracting his accusation against Syria in the 2005 assassination of his father in a recent interview.

Whatever the intentions of Hariri’s words, they’ve triggered a storm of feelings and heated debate. Reactions differ greatly, but if there is one thing that many can agree on, it’s that Hariri’s sudden switch marks a major turning point in the Lebanese political climate — for good or for bad.

Jamil Mroue, publisher of the Lebanese independent newspaper Daily Star, called Hariri’s statements  “a milestone” in an opinion editorial on Tuesday titled ” Hariri has shown his leadership.”

Hariri, who for years blamed Syria for his father’s death, dropped a bombshell on Monday when he told the Saudi-owned Asharq al-Awsat newspaper that it was a mistake to accuse Syria in the giant truck bomb that killed ex-Lebanese premier Rafik Hariri along with 21 others near the St George Hotel on the Beirut waterfront on Feb. 14, 2005, claiming that the charge was politically motivated.

“This was a political accusation, and this political accusation has finished,” Hariri said in the interview while emphasizing that the determination of his father’s killers lies in the hands of the Netherlands-based Special Tribunal for Lebanon, or STL, set up to probe the crime.

Hariri went on to stress that Syria and Lebanon had deep ties, echoing the recent intensified reconciliation efforts between the two nations. Over the last year, Hariri has made no less than five visits to his neighboring former arch-foe to improve ties. Most recently, he took up Bashar Assad on his invitation to a Ramadan suhour, a predawn supper, with the Syrian leader in Damascus on Aug. 29.

Spain rejects terror group’s offer to end “offensive military actions”
RTT News

Sinn Fein Influenced ETA To Offer Ceasefire

Sinn Fein, political wing of the pro-Catholic Irish Republican Army, claimed that it had been instrumental in influencing Spain’s separatist militant outfit Euskadi Ta Askatasuna (ETA) to offer a ceasefire.

ETA, which has been waging a violent five-decade-old campaign for a sovereign Basque state killing more than 800 people in Spain, announced on Sunday that it would cease “offensive military actions,” without mentioning a time-frame for the truce.

But the Spanish government and the country’s main political parties rejected the proposal.

Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams told the British newspaper The Guardian that senior representatives, including himself, had been engaged in years of negotiations among Basque activists. The talks were held in places such as the Basque country, Belfast and Geneva, he added.

Adams hoped that the Spanish government would utilize the opportunity to start a peace process along the lines of the 1998 Northern Ireland Peace Agreement.

Unable to conform to its two earlier ceasefire offers, ETA described the latest proposal as pathway to launch a “democratic process” involving negotiations so that the Basques could freely decide their future.

Describing the truce offer as “insufficient,” Spain’s Interior Minister Alfredo Perez Rubalcaba demanded definitive lay down of arms and vowed to continue Madrid’s hardline anti-terrorism policy.

The move was seen as a purely tactical one by ETA’s political wing Batasuna to get its 2003 ban lifted before the municipal elections, due next year.

  • The Canadian Press ran the story, “Spain rejects ETA ceasefire,” which included some interesting details:
    The Spanish government on Monday rejected a new ceasefire announcement by the separatist group ETA and ruled out negotiations on an independent Basque homeland, saying the militants have been decimated by arrests and are desperate to regroup and rearm.
    Interior Minister Alfredo Perez Rubalcaba said the ETA cannot be trusted after shattering a 2006 truce with a deadly car bombing. He said its statement Sunday by three hooded militants speaking in a video falls short of what Basque society and other Spaniards demand: that ETA renounce violence for good.
    “The word truce, as the idea of a limited peace to open a process of dialogue, is dead,” Perez Rubalcaba, adding that Spain will be as tough as ever against ETA …
    Since late last year, divisions have widened between ETA and the political parties that support it. Jailed ETA veterans have also been distancing themselves from the group, and French police have cracked down, denying militants a neighbouring haven. Friday’s statement marked the first time the political groups had put down in writing that they wanted ETA to work toward independence through peaceful means, rather than with violence …
    The minister said ETA’s new tactic is to seek new negotiations and, if in a few months or a year the government still refuses, ETA will say it has no choice but to revert to bombs or bullets.
    He said the ETA wants to impose its will, either through violence or dialogue “and the state is going to tell it time and time again ‘no, no and no.”‘

Killings by Indian police, paramilitaries lead to curfew for Kashmiris
BBC News

Curfew imposed as civilians are shot dead in Kashmir

A curfew has been imposed in Srinagar, the summer capital of Indian-administered Kashmir, after four civilians were shot dead on Monday.

Unofficial curfews have also been imposed in three other towns.

The city remains tense following the shootings in Pattan, 27km (16.7 miles) north of the capital despite the impending Muslin Eid holiday.

Sixty-nine people have now been killed during anti-India protests over the last three months.

All but four of them have either been shot or beaten to death by the police and Indian paramilitaries.

A police officer confirming the latest deaths told the BBC that guards of a provincial police chief opened fire after protesters pelted his motorcade with stones.

The Kashmir valley has witnessed widespread anti-India demonstrations since mid-June.

Separatist leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani – who has been put under house arrest – on Monday repeated five key demands which he said were necessary to stop the protests.

These include:

* Recognition by Delhi that Kashmir is an “international dispute”

* The “demilitarisation” of Kashmir

* The release of “political prisoners”,

* The withdrawal of “draconian laws” such the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA)

* The punishment of soldiers involved in the killings

The Indian government has still to respond to Mr Geelani’s demands …

Incidents of armed violence have plummeted in the past few years with militancy showing a marked decline.

However, the three-month old public uprising has caused a lot of concern to the Indian government.

Catholic reform group says, ”the church is deeply misogynist”

Catholic Church misogynist and homophobic, says reform group

Organisers of Catholic Voices for Reform said they wanted to see an ”open discussion” on issues within the church such as women’s ordination, sexual orientation and clerical celibacy.

The group has drawn up six questions it plans to deliver to the Archbishop of Westminster, the Most Rev Vincent Nichols and the Vatican’s Ambassador to the UK to pass to Pope Benedict when he visits Britain next week.

The questions describe the church as ”over-centralised”, ask why the rules on compulsory celibacy for the priesthood cannot be relaxed and describe the ban on women priests as ”purely cultural and historical”.

The crisis over sex abuse within the church has also highlighted an institutional church that is ”too monarchical” and lacking in transparency and accountability, they said.

Bernard Wynne, a spokesman for Catholic Voices for Reform, said he doubted they would get ”anywhere near the Pope” during his visit to ask the questions but he believed many of the issues would be discussed ”behind closed doors”.

He said he believed at least half of ”average” Mass-going Catholics in Britain would support many of their demands.

He said: ”The church has now reached a stage where an open discussion about how it can best fulfil its sacred mission in the modern world is the only way forward.

”What we are seeking is an open, transparent discussion about the real need for change within the church.”

Mr Wynne, from Sidcup, Kent, said he backed the church’s ”wonderful” social teaching in areas such as the rights of workers and global poverty.

But he said: ”Although the issue of ordination is very much related to the Pope, what we have in the church is an appalling misogyny where many, many people, priests, bishops, and I guess still some lay people would be appalled at women being involved.

”The church, I think, is deeply misogynist and we have to change that.”

He added: ”There is a whole series of issues… about the equality of women, but also there is also an issue of sexual orientation and how in fairness to what the church suggests, one could only say that it is intolerant of people of a different sexual orientation.”

LA riot cops confront protesters at site of killing
Los Angeles Times

L.A. police, residents face off over police killing of Guatemalan

Tensions flared Monday in the immigrant neighborhood of Westlake as dozens of protesters and Los Angeles police faced off at the site where a day laborer was fatally shot by police a day earlier.

The angry crowd gathered at 6th Street and Union Avenue, a bustling corner where Los Angeles Police Department officers said they were confronted Sunday by a knife-wielding man who refused commands to drop his weapon.

The protesters, claiming the man was unarmed, used a bullhorn to shout in Spanish — “Assassination!” “Assassination!” and “We want justice!” — as they marched along 6th to the Los Angeles Police Department’s Rampart station. Onlookers watched from their apartment windows, while others joined the procession as LAPD officers monitored the action from nearby corners and adjacent streets.

At one point, police in riot gear faced off with a shouting throng near a series of memorials hung from a fence by the sidewalk where the man was killed on 6th Street. He was identified by friends as Manuel Jamines, 37, a Guatemalan immigrant who came to Los Angeles seven years ago.

Republicans recruit drifters, homeless to run on Green Party ticket
The New York Times

Republican Runs Street People on Green Ticket

Benjamin Pearcy, a candidate for statewide office in Arizona, lists his campaign office as a Starbucks. The small business he refers to in his campaign statement is him strumming his guitar on the street. The internal debate he is having in advance of his coming televised debate is whether he ought to gel his hair into his trademark faux Mohawk.

Mr. Pearcy, 20, is running for a seat on the Arizona Corporation Commission, which oversees public utilities, railroad safety and securities regulation. Although Mr. Pearcy says he is taking his first run for public office seriously, the political establishment here views him as nothing more than a political dirty trick.

Mr. Pearcy and other drifters and homeless people were recruited onto the Green Party ballot by a Republican political operative who freely admits that their candidacies may siphon some support from the Democrats. Arizona’s Democratic Party has filed a formal complaint with local, state and federal prosecutors in an effort to have the candidates removed from the ballot, and the Green Party has urged its supporters to steer clear of the rogue candidates.

“These are people who are not serious and who were recruited as part of a cynical manipulation of the process,” said Paul Eckstein, a lawyer representing the Democrats. “They don’t know Green from red.”

But Steve May, the Republican operative who signed up some of the candidates along Mill Avenue, a bohemian commercial strip next to Arizona State University, insists that a real political movement has been stirred up that has nothing to do with subterfuge.

“Did I recruit candidates? Yes,” said Mr. May, who is himself a candidate for the State Legislature, on the Republican ticket. “Are they fake candidates? No way” …

The Democratic Party is fuming over Mr. May’s tactics and those of at least two other Republicans who helped recruit candidates to the Green Party, which does not have the resources to put candidates on ballots around the state and thus creates the opportunity for write-in contenders like the Mill Rats (as the frequenters of Tempe’s Mill Avenue are known) to easily win primaries and get their names on the ballot for November. Complaints about spurious candidates have cropped up often before, though never involving an entire roster of candidates drawn from a group of street people.

“It’s unbelievable. It’s not right. It’s deceitful,” said Jackie Thrasher, a former Democratic legislator in northwest Phoenix who lost re-election in 2008 after a Green Party candidate with possible links to the Republicans joined the race. “If these candidates were interested in the democratic process, they should connect with the party they are interested in. What’s happening here just doesn’t wash. It doesn’t pass the smell test.”

Arizona, where Democrats, Republicans and independents each represent about a third of the populace, is known for its political hardball. Challenging nominating petitions is common. Election-related lawsuits are filed with regularity. This is not the first election in which a party has accused another of putting forth candidates to hoodwink voters.

Besides the Mill Rat candidates, the Democrats smell a rat in other races, including one in which a roommate of a Republican legislator’s daughter ran as a Green Party candidate in a competitive contest for the State Senate. They cite a variety of state and federal election laws that the Republicans may have violated in putting forward “sham” candidates for the Green Party.