Friday, October 30, 2009

Three Ohio Men Convicted of Being Muslims at the Wrong Time in America

Three Ohio Men Convicted of Being Muslims at the Wrong Time in America - by Stephen Lendman

In an October 22 press release, the Department of Justice (DOJ) announced another victory in its Global War on Terrorism, renamed the Overseas Contingency Operation to continue its jihad on Muslims, abroad and at home.

By now the charges are familiar, always bogus, and announced earlier about three Ohio men in a Justice Department February 2006 press release as follows:

"Three (Toledo, Ohio men) have been charged with conspiring to commit acts of terrorism against persons overseas, including US military personnel serving in Iraq, and with conspiring to provide material support to terrorists...."

On February 16, 2006, a Cleveland federal grand jury returned a five-count indictment against Mohammad Zaki Amawi, Marwan Othman El-Hindi, and Wassim I. Mazloum alleging they conspired, together and with others, "to kill or maim persons outside of the United States, including US military personnel serving in Iraq, and with conspiring to provide material support to terrorists. Amawi is also charged, individually, with distributing information regarding explosives and two counts of making verbal threats against the President of the United States."

Amawi holds both US and Jordanian citizenship. El-Hindi is also a US citizen, and Mazloum is a permanent legal resident.

The indictment further alleges that these men "engaged in activities in furtherance of their common goal to wage violent jihad, or 'holy war,' against American soldiers and Coalition allies serving in Iraq. Such activities included training and target shooting, receiving instructions in the construction and use of explosives - including improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and 'suicide bomb vests,' - recruiting others to participate in jihad training, attempting to raise funds to finance the training and to support violent jihad activities, and attempting to acquire and deliver materials - including explosives and computers - to others engaged in violent jihad in the Middle East. The indictment alleges that the conspiracy began sometime prior to November 2004."

Amawi was accused of traveling to Jordan on August 22, 2005 to deliver five laptop computers to the "co-conspirators." They were never delivered. No explanation was given why. Perhaps there were none in the first place, but, no matter. Carrying, transporting, or delivering computers isn't a crime.

Amani also "allegedly downloaded a video from a 'mujahideen website' which depicted the step-by-step construction and use of a bomb vest, and then copied it on a disk and distributed (it) to an individual who was going to be providing jihad training to the defendants. That individual - identified in the indictment as 'the Trainer' - has been cooperating since the beginning of this investigation (as a paid informant) and acting on behalf of the government" to entrap innocent men with no plans to commit terrorism. More on him below.

Other charges alleged "that in October 2004 and again in March 2005, Amawi made verbal threats to kill or inflict bodily harm upon the President of the United States. The maximum sentence....of conspiring to kill or maim persons in a foreign country is 35 years in prison, or life in prison if the conspiracy is to kill."

The maximum sentence for conspiring to provide material support to terrorists is 15 years; for distributing information on explosives, 20 years, and for making verbal threats against the President, five years.

In a prepared statement, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales said:

"This case stands as a reminder of the need for continued vigilance. We are committed to protecting Americans - here and overseas, particularly the brave men and women of the US Armed Forces who are serving our country by striving valiantly to preserve democracy and the rule of law in Iraq."

FBI Director Robert Mueller added:

"These arrests in indictments are examples of how, through close cooperation with our partners and enhanced intelligence capabilities, we are able to detect terrorist planning and prevent acts of terrorism before they occur."

Members of Toledo's Muslim community were shocked, saddened, and angered over the arrests. They also feared growing anti-Muslim sentiment against its 6,000 members that once included former mayor Michael Damas (1912 - 2003), perhaps the first Arab-American elected (in 1959) to high office in a large US city.

After their arrest, Amawi's (unnamed) brother told CNN he had nothing against the president, just the war. Mazloum's brother, Bilal, said his brother didn't own a gun or know how to use one. "He liked to help people. He never tried to hurt (anyone). I mean, he never (did) anything bad."

El-Hindi's lawyer at the time, Stephen Hartman, said:

"Let's face it. The atmosphere in America now, if there is an allegation of terrorism, and you are Middle Eastern, (or) Muslim, people are going to assume you're guilty" because prosecution charges and media reports imply the worst.

On February 23, 2006, the Toledo Blade reported that a year before his arrest, El-Hindi "offered spiritual nourishment to Muslim prisoners at the Toledo Correctional Institution as an 'imam,' or religious leader." Yet according to FBI Director Mueller:

"Prisons continue to be fertile ground for extremists who exploit both a prisoner's conversion to Islam while still in prison, as well as their socioeconomic status and placement in the community upon their release."

That said, warden Khelleh Konteh, explained that federal agents never asked him about El-Hindi's work, and expressed surprise about his arrest. Before his appointment was approved, a routine background check showed no prior arrests and a clean record.

On June 13, 2008, a jury convicted the defendants on all counts:

-- Amawi and El-Hindi on conspiring to kill or maim persons outside the United States, conspiring to provide material support to terrorists, and two counts of distributing information on explosives; and

-- Mazloum on conspiring to kill or maim persons outside the United States and conspiring to provide material support to terrorists.

At the time, the DOJ claimed these "convictions represented the nation's first successful trial of a 'homegrown terror cell' for terrorism related crimes."

On October 22, a DOJ press released announced: the "Three (men were) Sentenced for Conspiring to Commit Terrorist Acts Against Americans Overseas:"

-- for Amawi, 20 years in prison, followed by life on supervised release;

-- for El-Hindi, 13 years, including 12 years for "terror violation(s)" and 18 months on fraud; and

-- for Mazloum, 100 months or 8.3 years, followed by life on supervised release.

At trial, Amawi's lawyer, Edward Bryan, said his client hated the Iraq war, cheered US soldier deaths, admired suicide bombers' courage, but isn't a terrorist and talk of going to Iraq was just talk.

"He doesn't have the courage to be like them," said Bryan. "It's fantasy. It's stuff going on in (his and other) people's minds, but not what they're really going to do. (He had no) plan to go out and murder American soldiers." He wanted to learn how to defend himself because he feared he and his family were threatened like other Muslims. "This is defensive Islam. Do they not have the right to defend themselves" without being charged with terrorism or conspiracy to commit it?

El-Hindi's lawyer, Charles Boss, said despite the "quantity" of evidence, its "quality....wasn't there." In other words, for his client and the others, it was the usual circumstantial claptrap, most gotten from the paid informant who egged on the three men, gave them money and gifts, including a cell phone and laptop, and got them to vent the way millions of Americans do about an illegal war and the millions of lives it cost.

Lawyers for all three said, over a two year period, the undercover informant manipulated their clients by suggesting jihadi tactics and entrapped them in recorded conversations.

According to Amawi, he took them to a shooting range and encouraged them to act violently. He's "the one (who) put a real gun in my hand," he said in his first public comment since his 2006 arrest. The informant lied, he said, about his wanting to travel to Iraq to become a martyr. "I'm against suicide bombing. I made this very clear."

Former Army Special Forces soldier Darren Griffin was the paid informant (referred to above as "Trainer") and key prosecution witness. He testified that by posing as a disgruntled Islam convert, he won their trust, then manipulated them through holy war training talk, secretly recorded on conversations to entrap them. However, he admitted that the men were only together once during his involvement, and he never saw emails from them about wanting to kill soldiers.

Defense attorneys said the men never bought weapons or terrorist supplies, never planned an attack, and never carried one out. They merely expressed anger, not terror plans or conspiracy to commit them. But clever prosecutors can intimidate juries to believe it, so innocent Muslims, like the defendants, are easily entrapped, convicted, and sentenced to long prison terms, even though there's no plot, no weapons, no crime, nor intention to commit one.

Talk is talk, not a crime, and, in this case and others like it, manipulated to sound incendiary, but that's not proof of intent. No matter, if juries believe it, innocent victims are punished for being Muslims at the wrong time in America.

Stephen Lendman is a Research Associate of the Centre for Research on Globalization. He lives in Chicago and can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net.

Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to The Global Research News Hour on RepublicBroadcasting.org Monday - Friday at 10:00 AM US Central time for cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on world and national issues. All programs are archived for easy listening.

http://republicbroadcasting.org/Global%20Research/index.php?cmd=archives.year&ProgramID=33&year=9
 

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Preview of Ramzy Baroud's "My Father was a Freedom Fighter"

Preview of Ramzy Baroud's "My Father was a Freedom Fighter" - by Stephen Lendman

Ramzy Baroud is a veteran Palestinian-American journalist and former Al-Jazeera producer. He also taught Mass Communication at Australia's Curtin University of Technology, is a frequent speaker, a regular media guest, and is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of the Palestine Chronicle, a leading resource for information on Israel/Palestine and much more.

He's also written many articles, commentaries, short stories, and authored several books, including "The Second Intifada: A Chronicle of a People's Struggle," and his latest and topic of this introductory review, "My Father was a Freedom Fighter."

Baroud knows his subject well, having been born and raised in a Gaza refugee camp where he saw Israeli soldiers regularly oppress, harass, humiliate, and attack young Palestinians like himself in an attempt to crush their spirit and break their will to resist, to no avail no matter how hard they tried.

What follows is a snapshot of Baroud's new book, soon to be released by Pluto Press. As distinguished Palestinian author, historian, activist and founder and president of the London-based Palestine Land Society, Salman Abu Sitta, explained in the forward:

Ramzy is Mohammed Baroud's son, a heroic "freedom fighter, (and himself) a gifted writer (who) eloquently unearthed the recent history of Beit Daras" village, chronicled his family's struggle in exile, and recounted their determination to survive and endure under siege and assaults that continue to this day.

Many books covered the early years, but most were in Arabic. Baroud's is one of the few in English "about the life, depopulation and (literal) struggle for survival of the people of a Palestinian village in southern Palestine." In spanning over seven decades of history and survivor recollections, "it stands out as an unblemished depiction of their plight" as only those who experienced it can describe.

As a freedom fighter's son, Baroud's book is proof of a people's persistence to survive, endure, and ultimately prevail in their historic quest for liberation, because of heroic men like father and son Baroud who'll accept no less. Nor should anyone wanting everyone to be free, especially the long-suffering Palestinians and oppressed peoples everywhere.

Born in Beit Daras, Mohammed Baroud's beloved village was conquered, leveled, and erased, except from the memory he took to his grave. One of seven children, he was born during the 1938 turmoil that erupted a decade later in merciless war that destroyed Beit Daras, 530 other villages, 11 urban neighborhoods in cities like Tel-Aviv, Haifa and Jerusalem, and slaughtered or displaced about 800,000 Palestinians with tactics reminiscent of Nazi WW II ruthlessness.

Mohammed and his family survived, were exiled to the Gaza Nuseirat refugee camp, dreamed always of going home, as a young man joined the Palestinian unit of the Egyptian army, later fought heroically for the Palestine Liberation Army (PLA) in the Six Day War, was wounded, and was horrified that historic Palestine was gone, its people captives on their own land, forced to endure Israeli occupation viciousness, that, for Gazans, is in the world's largest open-air prison.

Throughout his life, he endured decades of struggle, conflict, violence, occupation, oppression, what Edward Said called "a slow death," shattered hopes, and the incalculable horror of it all. It took its toll. Yet he raised six children, used his resources to educate them, believed the occupation and poverty killed his young son Anwar, and then his wife Zarefah at age 42.

In his early 50s, he grew frail, needed two canes to walk, was weakened by various ailments by the late 1980s, and became increasingly disillusioned and impoverished.

Ill, in pain, and incapacitated, he was dying. The end came on March 18, 2008. Thousands turned out for his funeral, oppressed people like himself who shared his vision, struggles, and plight. "The resilient (freedom) fighter had finished the battle for a well-deserved moment of peace" while those left behind continue his courageous struggle, his son Ramzy one of them through his heroic work the way many others are equally committed and will be until Palestine is again free.

Stephen Lendman is a Research Associate of the Centre for Research on Globalization. He lives in Chicago and can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net.

Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to The Global Research News Hour on RepublicBroadcasting.org Monday - Friday at 10AM US Central time for cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on world and national issues. All programs archived for easy listening.

http://republicbroadcasting.org/Global%20Research/index.php?cmd=archives.year&ProgramID=33&year=9

Monday, October 26, 2009

Tariq Mehanna: Obama's Latest Muslim Target

Tariq Mehanna: Obama's Latest Muslim Target - by Stephen Lendman

Post-9/11, Muslims have been victimized, vilified, and persecuted for their faith, ethnicity, prominence, activism, and charity. They've been targeted, hunted down, rounded up, held in detention, kept in isolation, denied bail, restricted in their right to counsel, tried on secret evidence, convicted on bogus charges, given long sentences, then incarcerated for extra harsh treatment as political prisoners in segregated Communication Management Units (CMUs) in violation of US Prison Bureau regulations and the Supreme Court's February 2005 Johnson v. California decision.

An October 21 FBI press release announced Tariq (mispelled Tarek) Mehanna as its most recent target saying:

"A Sudbury, Mass. man was charged today in federal court with conspiracy to provide support to terrorists."

The FBI alleged that from "about 2001 and continuing until (about) May 2008, Mehanna conspired with Ahmad Abousamra and others to provide material support and resources for use in carrying out a conspiracy to kill, kidnap, main or injure persons or damage property in a foreign country and extraterritorial homicide of a US national."

With no substantiating evidence, "Mehanna and coconspirators (were accused of having) discussed their desire to participate in violent jihad against American interests and that they would talk about fighting jihad and their desire to die on the battlefield. (They also) attempted to radicalize others and inspire each other by, among other things, watching and distributing jihadi videos. (In addition), Mehanna and two of his associates traveled to the Middle East in February 2004, seeking military-type training at a terrorist training camp (to) prepare them for armed jihad....including (against) US and allied forces in Iraq....(One) of Mehanna's coconspirators made two similar trips to Pakistan in 2002."

"....Mehanna and the coconspirators had multiple conversations about obtaining automatic weapons (from a Mr. Maldonado, now serving a 10-year sentence for training with Al Queda in Somalia) and randomly shooting people in a shopping mall, and that the conversations went so far as to discuss the logistics of a mall attack, including coordination, weapons needed and the possibility of attacking emergency responders."

Yet no attack occurred. None ever was likely planned, but according to the FBI, it was because no automatic weapons could be obtained even though legal semi-automatic ones are freely sold and illegal automatic ones easily gotten.

The web site eastcoastfirearms.com lists for sale numerous ones, including AK-47 (Kalashnikov) assault rifles, AR-15/M16 type rifles, Uzi assault weapons, LWRC M6A2s called the most modern carbine rifle in the world, and various others with considerable firepower.

"Mehanna was previously indicted in January 2009 for making false statements to members of the Joint Terrorism Task Force of the FBI in connection with a terrorism investigation. If convicted on the material support charge, (he) faces up to 15 years in prison, to be followed by three years of supervised release and a $250,000 fine."

Federal Judge Leo Sorokin ordered Mehanna held without bail pending his next court hearing on October 30. After his ruling, his attorney, JW Carney, Jr. said:

"This is the type of case that challenges our commitment and faith in the United States Constitution. Our country is respected around the world because we presume people are innocent, and we require the government to prove its allegations in open court at trial."

Mr. Carney will soon discover how prosecutors use secret evidence, paid informants, and will go to any lengths to intimidate juries to convict, regardless of a defendant's guilt or innocence, especially targeted Muslims charged with intent to commit or provide material support for terrorism.

According to the Bureau, Mehanna and his "coconspirators" used code words like "peanut and jelly" to mean fighting in Somalia and "culinary school" for terrorist camps, but perhaps they said precisely what they meant, and what proof suggests otherwise.

The FBI also claimed when they weren't able to join terror groups in Iraq, Yemen and Pakistan, the 2002 Washington-area sniper shootings inspired them to attack shopping malls instead as well as two (unnamed) former executive branch members.

Mehanna is a graduate of the Massachusetts College of Pharmacy where his father, Ahmed, is a professor. They reside in Sudbury, MA, an affluent Boston suburb.

Neighbors expressed shock by the news. Chafic Maalouf called Mehanna "very sweet (and) soft-spoken. He seemed so harmless. He has a beard and a dark complexion, so to the average American he fits the terrorist profile. But if you look in his eyes, he seemed to be a very genuine, kind, loving person," not a jihadist.

Paul McManus called him "everyday normal. When he was out walking, he was friendly (and) neighborly." Another supporter said the FBI is "painting the wrong picture of the Muslim community" by targeting one of its up and coming members. Still others cited his work with youths as a teacher at the Islamic Center of Boston in Wayland, MA.

Abdul Cader Asmal, the Center's former president, said he gave lectures at Friday services in Worchester, MA and translated poetic Arabic scriptures into English. Over time, he became dedicated to his beliefs as many people of all faiths do who plan no terrorist acts.

Ahmad AlFarsi defended Mehanna in a 2008 article following his previous arrest that's pertinent to his current charges. At first, he hesitated "so as not to expose (his) privacy," then felt he had to support his friend "since the media has already made his case and name public" and practically convicted him in the court of public opinion.

AlFarsi called him "one of the most gracious, kind, caring, thoughtful, and respectable people I have ever known....I have seen him go above above and beyond what most others would do to help others in need. Those who know him personally know exactly what I am talking about. I am sure any of his peers, Muslim or non-Muslim, would testify to his excellent character."

He's also been "very involved in the Muslim community. I remember many times that he would be giving halaqaat (Islamic lectures) in the local masjid (Muslim place of worship) on an Islamic text he was studying. And he helped many many other Muslims in the community come to the straight path....I'd also like to emphasize that he does not and never has supported nor been involved with terrorism, in any way whatsoever."

Consider "the implications of this incident: we have another (Muslim man, an American citizen) with no previous criminal record of any kind, being held without bail (for now) in his own country....Such a tactic serves only to smear Muslims, and brings pain and suffering to him, his family, and his future," and leaves all Muslims "fearful, marginalized, and unable to trust the authorities."

The FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF) October 20 Affidavit

JTTF Special Agent Heidi L. Williams assisted in the investigation of Mehanna, Ahmad Abousamra, and others, and presented alleged evidence to establish probable cause, but said "classified national security information" would remain secret, unavailable to the defense, and therefore beyond its capability to disprove.

Williams claimed Mehanna's "Computer and its contents constitute evidence of the commission of a criminal offense, contraband, fruits of crime and things otherwise criminally possessed as well as property designed and intended for use, and that has been used, as a means of committing....criminal offense(s under US law)."

She also said "information set forth herein comes from two cooperating witnesses ('CW1' and 'CW2' - aka commonly used FBI informants to entrap). Both CWs provided information that was based on personal knowledge, including actions and statements by MEHANNA and ABOUSAMRA." Their trial testimony will show "corroborative evidence in the form of consensually recorded conversations" with defendants and others. "Further evidence is provided by Daniel Maldonado, who was a friend of MEHANNA and ABOUSAMRA, and is currently serving a 10 year prison sentence for Receiving Military-type Training from a Foreign Terrorist Organization (to wit: Al Qa' ida....)."

"Additional information was obtained from a review of records of governmental agencies, such as Customs and Border Protection ("CBP") and Department of State, Passport Office, as well as records of private entities, such as banks, airlines, telephone companies and internet service providers, and interviews of friends, relatives and acquaintances (of defendants)."

Williams cited more evidence from:

-- Mehanna's bedroom;

-- a computer hard drive;

-- "false information" he provided the JTTF with regard to his 2004 Yemen trip and knowledge of "Maldonado's circumstances at the time of the interview;"

-- recorded conversations in which "Mehanna admitted to other individuals that he lied to the FBI" regarding Maldonado;

-- the November 2008 charge of lying about Maldonado during JTTF interrogations;

-- the December 2006 charge that Abousamra lied during JTTF interrogations in claiming his 2004 Yemen trip was to study Arabic and Islam;

-- Williams' assertion that both defendants went to Yemen in 2004 "to learn how to conduct, and to subsequently engage in, jihad;" to Pakistan twice in 2002 for the same purpose;

-- that defendants "continued in their efforts to train for jihad (and) received information and assistance from an individual (referred to) as Individual A, about who to see and where to go to find terrorist training camps in Yemen;"

-- in February 2004, Abousamra also entered Iraq, stayed for about "15 days" and two months later went to Syria and Jordan before returning to the US in August 2004; he subsequently visited Syria "multiple times;" he "made fictitious and fraudulent statements to the FBI" that he went to Jordan to "look for colleges," to Iraq "to look for a job" and to Syria "to visit his wife."

The lengthy 55-page affidavit, plus attachments, also claimed:

-- CW 2 was a coconspirator;

-- Abousamra had "extremist views by citing Islamic teachings;"

-- "the three men engaged in serious conversations about jihad;"

-- they discussed "going to terrorist training camps in Pakistan (and) conducted logistical research on the internet pertaining to terrorist training camp locations and how to travel there, but no concrete plans materialized;" and

-- extensive further allegations that defendants sought but never received terrorist training; that they wished to engage in jihad, but never did; and they subsequently "discussed logistics of a mall attack, including the types of weapons needed, the number of people who would be involved, and how to coordinate the attack from different entrances (but) Because of the logistical problems of executing the operation (and their inability to obtain the type weapons they wanted), the plan was abandoned."

From all this, an observer might conclude there was no plan, no weapons, and no crime in what appears to be clear entrapment using a paid informant, a coconspirator CW 2, offering testimony in return for leniency, and Maldonado (imprisoned for 10 years) promised it as well for his cooperation. Nonetheless, under US conspiracy law, if prosecutors can convince juries that defendants words implied actions they can get convictions, especially when they cite terrorism and the urgency to prevent it at all costs, even if innocent victims are imprisoned for offenses they never committed of planned.

Mehanna Friends, Supporters, and Family Express Doubts about the Charges

With no previous criminal record, his friends and family call him a maturing Muslim community leader, a passionate writer, and a young man wanting a career in Saudi Arabia as a pharmacist, not a jihadist, even though he supports the right of oppressed peoples to resist as international law allows. In the Kingdom, he was promised good pay, generous benefits, and free trips home. He was boarding a plane in Boston en route when he was arrested.

In a summer 2009 interview with the Boston Globe and subsequent statements through his lawyer, he denied FBI allegations and accused federal investigators of targeting him with bogus charges because they wanted him as a government informant, pressured him to accede, but he refused and wouldn't cooperate. That made him suspect, an enemy, and got him targeted.

The Dominant Media's Jihad against Muslims

Whenever Muslims are charged, the dominant media provides support without ever questioning the legitimacy of accusations. As a result, innocent victims are vilified. They're presumed guilty unless proved innocent. Fear is instilled in the public, while law enforcement officials are portrayed as public defenders, working to keep us safe from bad guys. Below are some samples of media bias:

-- The New York Times headlined, "Mass. Man Arrested in Terrorism Case....The authorities said he had conspired to attack civilians at a shopping mall, American soldiers abroad and two members of the executive branch of the federal government."

-- AP called Mehanna "an Incompetent Wannabe" and practically accused him of "plotting to shoot up a mall, kill US troops fighting overseas, and assassinate US officials" here at home;

-- Fox News highlighted the alleged plot, called Mehanna "Defiant in Court," and said he was only foiled by being "unable to get into terror camps for training and failed to get access to automatic weapons;"

-- the Wall Street Journal headlined the "Plots to Shoot Up Mall, Kill Federal Officials" by a man "out on bail (from an earlier unsubstantiated charge and) awaiting trial;"

-- the Washington Post reported about the: "Massachusetts man arrested on terror charges" (for) conspiring to support terrorists by seeking training from Islamic extremist fighters overseas...."

-- Time magazine offered a "two-minute bio" about an "Alleged US Terrorist....plann(ing) to carry out a 'violent jihad' by killing US politicians, (and) attack(ing) US shopping malls;"

-- the Christian Science Monitor headlined how the "FBI traced Tarek Mehanna in his quest to become a jihadi" and practically accused him of "try(ing) to become a terrorist for eight years following the 9/11 attacks....;" and

-- Jihad Watch, an Islamaphobic web site, called Mehanna "a Misunderstander of Islam," then accused him of "plotting 'violent jihad.' "

Nowhere do major media or hate group reports suggest possible bogus charges, ulterior motives behind them, innocent people being targeted, secret evidence withheld to compromise a proper defense, intimidation of juries, or that everyone is presumed innocent unless proved guilty in fair and open proceedings with defendants having competent counsel.

According to muslimmatters.org after Mehanna's 2008 arrest, the FBI was "Desperate for Results (so they) Arrest(ed a) US Citizen on Two-Year-Old (unsubstantiated) Charges" and got their usual scare headlines for support.

These comments followed his October 21 arrest:

"All of us here at MM believe, based on the facts that we know, that Tareq is innocent of the crimes that he has been accused of....MM is often on the front lines against disinformation about Islam, and actively seeks to counter the radicalization of Muslims."

MM's goal "is to educate readers about the fallacies and dangers of all types of extremism by promoting Orthodox Islam....we believe that Islamophobes are indirectly aiding and abetting terrorists' recruiting efforts by fitting into their agenda and supporting their stereotypes."

Many Muslims were shocked about the news on Mehanna. "It was generally thought (his 2008 charges were bogus) and that (he) had been falsely accused. After all, (post-9/11), the civil liberties of the Muslim American community had been slowly withered away by the Patriot Act, warrantless wiretapping, the denial of the basic American right of habeas corpus, and unsavory tactics that targeted (Muslims) in general....we at MM" know his "reputation as a family man and a peaceful citizen" and presume he's innocent "unless proven otherwise.... (We) remain highly skeptical that he was actually a 'terrorist in disguise.' "

A Final Comment

More than any other ethnic-religious group, Western discourse has long portrayed Muslim/Arabs stereotypically as culturally inferior, dirty, lecherous, untrustworthy, religiously fanatical, and violent.

According to Jack Shaheen's book, "Reel Bad Arabs: How Hollywood Vilifies a People," defaming them has been fair game throughout decades of cinematic history (from silent films to today's blockbusters) as a way to foster prejudicial attitudes and reinforce notions of Western values, high-mindedness, and moral superiority.

Worse still are slanderous media characterizations of dangerous gun-toting terrorists who must rounded up and put away, never mind the rule of law, right or wrong, or whether those accused are guilty or innocent.

It's no surprise why it's dangerous to be Muslim in America at a time when we're all as vulnerable as Tariq Mehanna.

Stephen Lendman is a Research Associate of the Centre for Research on Globalization. He lives in Chicago and can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net.

Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to The Global Research News Hour on RepublicBroadcasting.org Monday - Friday at 10AM US Central time for cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on world and national issues. All programs are archived for easy listening.

http://republicbroadcasting.org/Global%20Research/index.php?cmd=archives.year&ProgramID=33&year=9

Friday, October 23, 2009

AARP's Tradition of Betrayal

AARP's Tradition of Betrayal - by Stephen Lendman

Founded in 1958 for aged 50 and older Americans, AARP call itself "a nonprofit, nonpartisan membership organization (dedicated to) improv(ing) the quality of their lives," even though from inception it sold insurance to earn royalties - now to its 40 million members in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the US Virgin Islands while claiming a mandate to:

-- deliver "value to members through information, advocacy and service;"

-- work "tirelessly to fulfill its vision: a society in which everyone ages with dignity and purpose, and in which AARP helps people fulfill their goals and dreams;" and

-- speak "with one voice - united by a common motto: 'To serve, not be served."

Today it's branches include:

-- AARP Foundation focusing on "education....service, (and) legal advocacy efforts;"

-- AARP Services, providing "marketplace access to services that people need and want" related to "health and financial products, travel and leisure offerings, and life event services;"

-- AARP Financial, Inc. providing "financial advice and education, and managed AARP-endorsed financial and insurance products," that include health care and other insurance as well as equity, bond and money market mutual funds sold to members;

-- AARP Global Network of "likeminded, nonpartisan, national organizations (in five countries) working to meet the needs of older adults around the world;" and

-- NRTA: AARP's Educator Community (formerly the National Retired Teachers Association) comprised mainly of "educators and school personnel dedicated to educational opportunities, advocacy, and service."

On March 9, 2009, Roll Call's Katie Kindelan's article titled, "Defining a Future at AARP" described the organization as "perhaps the nation's most powerful and well-funded advocacy" group, both inside and beyond the Beltway, impressively headquartered in a 10-story, 500,000 foot DC building.

Nonprofit in name only, "AARP is the equivalent of a Fortune 500 company, employing a staff of 2,419 employees, (incurring) $1.16 billion in operating expenses and overseeing annual revenues (well above) $1 billion," around 60% of which comes from so-called Medigap supplemental insurance sales.

According to Physicians for a National Health Program (PNHP), "Some of these products are total rip offs," so bad, in fact, that AARP was forced to withdraw its Essential Health Insurance Plan and Essential Plus Health Insurance Plan, developed by United Health Group and sold to 44,000 of its members.

PNHP calls AARP "part of the problem and not part of the solution. It is nothing but an insurance (and financial) broker disguised as an advocacy group - and they will never take on the health insurance industry. (It) represent(s) the insurance industry (and its own self-interest) rather than (its members and) the public welfare in discussions about health reform."

As a result, it's largely profit-driven offering 17 types of insurance reaping hundreds of millions annually in royalties. Millions more from selling drugs; other products and services including mutual funds; plus federal subsidies exceeding $80 million annually; and annual membership dues of $16 per year, $43 for three years, or $63 for five x 40 million members.

It's also active on Capitol Hill with a 50-person staff and a 2008 $28 million lobbying budget, much like major corporations and for the same purpose - profits at the expense of member interests, unaware how they're ill-served by an organization claiming to be their advocate.

AARP's Role in Enacting the Controversial Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement and Modernization Act (MMA) of 2003 - the So-Called Part D

Costing tens of billions annually, passage came only after initially being defeated, followed by a three hour all-night suspending of proceedings to exert pressure and offer bribes because passage assured PhRMA big profits at the expense of seniors extorted top dollar for prescription drugs, not the substantial savings government-negotiated prices would have delivered. Yet AARP was one of its staunchest advocates.

In an email later revealed, the organization's associate executive policy director, Chris Hansen (a former aerospace lobbyist), assured Bush deputy assistant to the president, Barry Jackson, that he was on board with only minor issues to resolve. He said:

"We know that there may be details that we will message differently but we are together on the big goal."

The deal was struck, and in succeeding weeks, AARP leaders worked closely with House Speaker Dennis Hastert and Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist to draft a final bill. On November 22, 2003 the House passed it. The Senate followed three days later, and on December 8, it became law after George Bush signed it as "an important step toward fulfilling a longstanding promise to older and disabled Americans" who later learned they were swindled by the administration, Congress, and their premiere advocate that betrayed them for profits, its ties to PhRMA, and greater political influence in Washington.

At the time, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich explained that AARP's CEO, Bill Novelli, had "a long history of supporting individual responsibility in health care and doesn't want seniors dependent on government handouts." Novelli, in fact, invited Gingrich to join an advisory panel to discuss AARP future strategies, including insurance and other products and services it might sell. He also endorsed Gingrich's book, "Saving Lives and Saving Money" by writing in its forward:

"Gingrich's (marketplace medicine) ideas are influencing how we at AARP are thinking about our national role" in the health care debate. Whether or not "one agrees (with his) policies, the book has interesting and important ideas about transforming the American health care system" to assure it remains a private for-profit system, not one run by Washington.

Novelli also expressed concern about "how (Medicare) is financed and operated," the program AARP opposed in the 1960s, after which it supported the major 1988 Medicare Catastrophic Coverage Act expansion, aligned with the Republican-controlled Congress in 1995 on health issues, backed the 1997 Medicare Reform Act that let recipients choose between private health insurance plans, and was comfortable with a free-market approach after Novelli became CEO in June 2001.

His background foretold his advocacy. His November Group initiative for Richard Nixon helped devise attack ads against George McGovern in 1972. In the 1980s, his Porter-Novelli PR firm helped the drug industry. When he left in 1990, his clients included Bristol-Myers, Ciba-Geigy, Hoffman-La Roche, SmithKline Beecham, and the Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Association.

As AARP CEO, Novelli began centralizing control at the top, away from greater grassroots input attuned to local needs and interests. He also hired Republican-leaning staff, including former Boeing executive Chris Hansen as chief lobbyist, who along with Novelli and Mike Naylor (a former John Deere and AlliedSignal executive) orchestrated AARP's position on Medicare Part D. They then worked closely with Republican leaders to pass it.

According to advocates for universal single-payer coverage and others, passage of the 2003 law potentially marked the beginning of the end for publicly-financed Medicare and clouded the future of employer-provided coverage. AARP played a crucial role, much like today in the debate over health care reform. It's siding with free-market ideologues destroys its credibility as an advocate for seniors.

AARP's Support for Obamacare

Its initiative Health Action Now calls "this crucial moment (the) opportunity of a lifetime to fix our broken health care system. President Obama has promised health reform before the end of the year but we need to make sure that Congress follows through."

It asks individuals to email "decision makers" about the the health care crisis and concludes:

"America needs you to take action to ensure that everyone has a choice of health care they can afford. I urge you to commit to working on a bipartisan basis to pass legislation that will provide all Americans with affordable health care choices and strengthen Medicare and improve long-term care services."

Based on other public and internal messages, it subtly endorses hundreds of billions of Medicare cuts over the next decade as a first step toward ending Washington's responsibility entirely by shifting the obligation to states that, in turn, will force their residents to bear the burden through higher taxes, on their own, or for those who can't afford it, get no coverage when they most need it. That's Obamacare's promise, the one AARP endorses with thousands of its members dropping their memberships from an organization mindless of their interests.

On its Health Action Now web site, AARP headlines "Myths vs. Facts (saying) Don't Let the Myths About Health Care Reform Scare You," then follows with misinformation and outright distortion of the facts by claiming:

-- Obamacare won't ration care;

Fact check:

-- proposals call for hundreds of billions in cuts over ten years with near certain greater amounts to follow;

-- billions in waste will be eliminated;

Fact check:

-- the above cuts will eliminate essential services, thus assuring less care, not more;

-- lower drug prices;

Fact check:

-- no mandate exists to cut them, just a non-binding promise on existing products and none whatever on new ones;

-- "the so-called 'public plan' option (will) give American consumers choice if they can't find affordable, quality coverage in the private insurance market;

Fact check:

-- most people won't qualify for a public option, and the one discussed will provide fig leaf cover for a weak and ineffective plan, not high-quality care for its recipients;

-- Obamacare guarantees "all Americans a choice of health care plans they can afford;"

Fact check:

-- choices will offer poor options, not quality care;

-- reform plans "will NOT give the government the power to make life or death decisions for anyone regardless of their age;"

Fact check:

-- hundreds of billions in Medicare cuts and restricted expensive treatments will do it for them;

-- "Health care reform will help ensure doctors are paid fairly so they will continue to treat Medicare patients;"
Fact check:

-- doctors already are unpaid and $200 billion in new cuts are proposed;

-- "None of the health care reform proposals being considered by Congress would cut Medicare benefits or increase your out-of-pocket costs for Medicare services;"

Fact check:

-- Obamacare assures both;

-- "Health care reform will reduce costly, preventable hospital readmissions, saving patients and Medicare money;"

Fact check:

-- less care assures more illness, not less, and higher costs to be borne by recipients;

-- "Rather than weaken Medicare, health care reform will strengthen the financial status of the Medicare program;"

Fact check:

-- proposed cuts, along with new ones, will weaken and eventually destroy Medicare as well as other social safety net protections because Washington prioritizes banker bailouts, other corporate subsidies, trillion dollar defense budgets, militarizing America, and servicing growing hundreds of billions in debt obligations;

-- "The President and Congress have committed to producing legislation that will be paid for so it won't saddle our children and grandchildren with debt;"

Fact check:

-- growing debt obligations place a lifetime burden on future generations to pay for them; and

-- "If we do nothing to fix health care, families with Medicare or employer-based health coverage will likely see their premiums nearly double in the next seven years;"

Fact check:

-- private insurers are assured unrestricted freedom to raise rates and will take full advantage as they've always done.

Nowhere under "Myths vs. Facts" does AARP suggest the only real reform solution that's off the table and undiscussed by the administration, Congress, the major media, or by organization officials as a fundamental human right - universal single-payer coverage assuring everyone in, nobody out. Instead, Washington, in cahoots with powerful providers and AARP, highjacked the process for greater future profits by charging more, providing less, making a dysfunctional system worse, and cheating growing millions with promises they know are hollow.

It's become traditional at AARP, cashing in at members' expense after advocating to "improve the quality of their lives." Will more dropouts follow over concerns about its betrayal? Very likely as Washington steamrolls toward an end of year resolution that will erode health care coverage for most Americans and deny it entirely to millions under the mantle of reform and AARP's endorsement. It's tradition continues.

Stephen Lendman is a Research Associate of the Centre for Research on Globalization. He lives in Chicago and can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net.

Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to The Global Research News Hour on RepublicBroadcasting.org Monday - Friday at 10AM US Central time for cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on world and national issues. All programs are archived for easy listening.

http://republicbroadcasting.org/Global%20Research/index.php?cmd=archives.year&ProgramID=33&year=9

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Obamacare Targets Entitlements

Obamacare Targets Entitlements - by Stephen Lendman

Meeting with the Washington Post's editorial staff on January 16, President-elect Obama pledged to reform entitlements saying the process would begin straightaway by convening a "fiscal responsibility summit" before delivering his first budget to Congress.

"What we have done is kicked this can down the road. We are now at the end of the road and are not in a position to kick it any further," he said. "We have to signal seriousness in this by making sure some of the hard decisions are made under my watch, not someone else's."

Key, he said, is reigning in entitlement costs by making "very difficult choices and....sacrifice(s)....Social Security, we can solve. The big problem is Medicare (and, of course, Medicaid covering 60 million in 2005), which (are) unsustainable."

In a major April 14 Georgetown University speech, he again highlighted the problem saying cutting health care costs and "restoring fiscal discipline" are two of the top "pillars" of his agenda.

"Let's not kid ourselves and suggest that we can solve this problem by trimming a few earmarks," he said. The "biggest cost drivers in our budget are entitlement programs like Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security, all of which get more and more expensive every year, (so) if we want to get serious about fiscal discipline - and I do - we will have to get serious about entitlement reform," implying a clear long-term goal of:

-- shifting the burden from Washington, handing it to the states, and ultimately to taxpayers directly with no government aid or indirectly through taxes.

The US Debt Clock.org shows why. Besides the official $11.9 trillion exponentially growing national debt (some economists say $15 trillion or more), the big problem is unfunded liabilities:

-- $13.9 trillion for Social Security;

-- $18.4 trillion for prescription drugs; and

-- $73.3 trillion for Medicare/Medicaid for a total of nearly $105.7 trillion.

Primarily through health care cost cuts, Obama pledged in his first year to begin controlling these unsustainable obligations.

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) and Other Recent Reports Highlight the Problem

The CBO's June 2009 "Long-Term Budget Outlook" projects future budget deficit and national debt estimates.

Both suggest future economic decline, eventual hyperinflation, and deep erosion of personal savings. Already the national debt is more than during the Great Depression, and it's fast heading for surpassing WW II. According to the report, this burden will:

-- "reduce national saving;"

-- create the need for "more borrowing from abroad;"

-- reduce "domestic investment;

-- depress income growth in the United States;" and

-- "seriously harm the economy."

In addition, "Lenders may become concerned about the financial solvency of the government (and) demand higher interest rates to compensate for the increasing riskiness of holding government debt." Worrisome as well - "Both foreign and domestic lenders may not provide enough funds for the government to meet its obligations."

Admitting its estimates may be grossly understated, the CBO said its projected budget shortfalls are unprecedented in US history, signaling a growing urgency to address them.

Further, the analysis omits how financial markets will react, but it anticipates "much more (disorder) as investors' confidence in the nation's fiscal solvency beg(ins) to erode....causing (dollar valuations to) plunge, interest rates to climb, and consumer prices to shoot up."

The Federal Reserve's second quarter "Flow of Funds Accounts" report highlights the problem by showing federal spending crowding out businesses and consumer households. In Q 1 2009, the Treasury borrowed $1.443 trillion, and in Q 2 $1.896 trillion with projected continued high levels ahead.

In contrast, bank credit has dried up. Q 1 2009 outstanding loans were liquidated at an $857.2 billion annual rate and $931.3 billion in Q 2. In addition, net new mortgages aren't being created. Instead, annualized liquidations hit $39.3 billion in Q 1 and $239.5 billion in Q 2. Cash availability through credit cards eroded by $95.3 billion in Q 1 and $166 billion in Q 2.

According to Professor Tim Congdon of International Monetary Research, "There has been nothing like this in the USA since the 1930s. The rapid destruction of money balances is madness," suggesting serious trouble ahead.

The September 2009 US Treasury Bulletin adds more by showing America owes foreign investors nearly $7.9 trillion, and suggesting that these sources may begin drying up and eventually contract because dollar investments no longer are safe. Some, in fact, say the time for alternatives is now.

Medicare Reform Through MedPAC - The Medicare Payment Advisory Commission

Established in 1997 as an independent congressional agency, it advises Congress about Medicare. Each year, it submits a "Report to the Congress: Medicare Payment Policy," the latest on March 17, 2009 for FY 2008 with recommendations to the nation's lawmakers:

"to help constrain costs both in the short and long run. (These) recommended actions are one part of a broader array of recommendations aimed at more fundamentally reforming Medicare's delivery system," including achieving greater overall "efficiency" to control the unsustainable out-year costs.

However, since recommendations aren't policy, S. 1110: Medicare Payment Advisory Commission (MedPAC) Reform Act of 2009 (with one co-sponsor) was introduced in the Senate on May 20:

"to amend title XVIII of the (1935) Social Security Act, making the Commission an executive branch agency, and providing the Commission new resources and authority to implement Medicare payment policy."

Then, on June 4, HR 2718: Medicare Payment Advisory Commission (MedPAC) Reform Act of 2009 was introduced in the House (with no co-sponsors) for precisely the same purpose.

In other words, both bills will let White House appointed bureaucrats dictate future policies, including payment rates and benefits, trial programs, and various other initiatives outside of congressional control for the first time ever. Thus far, they remain in committees, so it's uncertain if Congress will relinquish its long held power. If it does, for Medicare and Medicaid combined, it will be step one toward eventually ending what over 100 million Americans rely on - a steadily rising total as the population ages and growing numbers of poor and lower income people have no other source of care.

House and Senate Health Care Reform Bills

The House bill is HR 3200: America's Affordable Health Choices Act of 2009. The Senate's version is America's Healthy Future Act of 2009. After clearing the Finance Committee on October 13, further consideration now moves to both floors where significant hurdles remain.

In an earlier article, this writer explained that House and Senate bills will ration health care, enrich insurers, drug companies, and large hospital chains, and make a dysfunctional system worse. If Obamacare passes, hundreds of billions in Medicare cuts will harm seniors. Most others as well, especially the poor, chronically ill, all working Americans paying more and getting less, and millions more left uninsured. In addition, employers will be able to opt out of providing coverage, but since insurance will be mandated, those without it will have to buy it or face hundreds of dollars in penalties - still a debated figure ahead of House and Senate floor debate, votes in both chambers, and if passed, approving final legislation to be sent to the President for signing.

Four of the five House and Senate versions include a public option. Only the Baucus bill excludes it. Instead, it calls for expanding nonprofit health care cooperatives, similar to ones in many states that sell insurance, can pick and choose their members, are able to charge premiums comparable to private insurers, and in most areas provide little, if any, real competition.

If a public option becomes law, it will provide fig leaf cover for a weak and ineffective plan, not what many want but won't get. Most, in fact, won't qualify because it'll be a limited to high-risk individuals, offloaded to the government for substandard care under an "adverse selection" process. Private insurers will get to skim off the cream, charge as much as they want, profit handsomely at low risk, and leave Washington stuck with ones the industry doesn't want.

Yet they want more, are using hyperinflated cost estimates well above projected increases without "reform" legislation, and claim Medicare cuts will mean higher costs for the privately insured. They also say taxing higher-priced "Cadillac" plans and being prohibited from denying preexisting conditions will raise costs for everyone.

More still according to Wendell Potter, former PR executive for CIGNA insurance, now a whisleblower exposing shenanigans he saw on the inside, including the industry's "Medical Loss Ratio" (MLR) profit margin. Until about two decades ago, it was five cents on the dollar. Now it's a quarter or five times as much, and they're still not satisfied, so they're going for broke on Obamacare to skim hundreds more billions off the top in what will be greater than ever grand theft if they get it.

Other likely final legislation features will include:

-- providing government subsidies of about $460 billion to lower income people over ten years to buy private insurance;

-- expanding cost-sharing with the states for an additional 14 million Medicaid recipients because of growing numbers of poor and lower income households needing it; in addition, raising the income threshold so more people qualify at a time the need is the greatest in decades;

-- exacting deep Medicare and other social service cuts to fund it - for starters, around $400 billion in federal programs for the elderly, poor, and disabled over 10 years; another $200 billion in lower payments to providers; and $113 billion in Medicare Advantage cuts affecting 10 million seniors getting benefits through private insurers;

-- taxing so-called "Cadillac" plans by levying them on insurers to be passed on to customers through higher premiums, larger deductibles, and/or less coverage, even though these plans mostly cover state employees, municipal union members, and other working Americans, not just the well-off;

-- exacting more Medicare cuts ahead, including from a White House appointed independent Medicare Commission to curb "excess cost growth" by rationing care through capping costs, denying expensive tests, procedures and drugs, and incrementally ending Medicare as we know it to deny future generations of seniors of what those covered now get - packaged as "health care reform" with deceptive promotion to disguise a scheme few will understand until they need expensive care and can't get it.

As bad, millions will be left uninsured or underinsured as Washington cuts back on its obligation to provide universal quality care as a human right. Instead, final legislation will be class-based on the ability to pay with growing millions of poor and lower income people offered sub-standard care, millions left out entirely, and a time coming when only those who can afford it will be covered, no others. That's Obamacare's bottom line, but expect no public discourse to explain it.

Stephen Lendman is a Research Associate of the Centre for Research on Globalization. He lives in Chicago and can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net.

Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to The Global Research News Hour on RepublicBroadcasting.org Monday - Friday at 10AM US Central time for cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on world and national issues. All programs are archived for easy listening.

http://republicbroadcasting.org/Global%20Research/index.php?cmd=archives.year&ProgramID=33&year=9
 

Monday, October 19, 2009

IF Stone: An Iconic Radical Journalist

IF Stone: An Iconic Radical Journalist - by Stephen Lendman

Born Isador Feinstein in 1907, his brother Louis said he changed his name at age 30 because "he didn't want to turn a reader off who might be anti-Semetic, right away, to avoid anti-Semitism in his work." Most people called him Izzy, and when he died in 1989, biographer DD Guttenplan said "he had (so) transformed (himself) from America's premiere radical journalist into a respectable icon of his profession" that all four major television networks announced his passing.

ABC's Peter Jennings called him "a journalist's journalist." The New York Times featured his death on its front page (usually reserved for the rich and powerful) in a Peter Flint obituary titled, "IF Stone, Iconoclast of Journalism, Is Dead at 81." A quintessential muckraker, he described him as "the independent, radical pamphleteer of American journalism hailed by his admirers for his scholarship, wit and lucidity" over a career spanning 67 years.

He quoted Stone saying:

"I tried to bring the instincts of a scholar to the service of journalism; to take nothing for granted; to turn journalism into literature; to provide radical analysis with a conscientious concern for accuracy, and in studying the current scene to do my very best to preserve human values and free institutions." In the spirit of author Finley Peter Dunne (1867 - 1936), he "comfort(ed) the afflicted and afflict(ed) the comfortable," in a way few others matched or kept doing for so long.

In a 1987 interview, he deplored what he called the ascendancy of "right-wing kooks (and) the ugly spirit (of Reagan's not so subtle message that) you should go get yours and run." Late in life he learned classical Greek to be able to read untranslated works and write "The Trials of Socrates" after more than a decade of study. He criticized the accepted Plato view that he died for exhorting his fellow Athenians to be virtuous. According to Stone, he was seen as a security threat at a time Athenian democracy was imperiled.

In Izzy on Izzy (on ifstone.org), he called himself an "anachronism....an independent capitalist, the owner of my own enterprise, subject to neither mortgage or broker, factor or patron....standing alone, without organizational or party backing, beholden to no one but my good readers."

They were many, loyal, and included Ralph Nader who called him "the modern Tom Paine - as independent and incorruptible as they come (as) journalism's Gibraltar and its unwavering conscience."

Stone called himself "a newspaperman all my life," publishing a paper (the Progress) at age 14, working for a country weekly, and then as correspondent for two city dailies (the Haddonfield Press and Camden Courier-Post). Beginning as a high school sophomore, he did this into his third year of college (at the University of Pennsylvania), then quit because "the atmosphere of a college faculty repelled me." At the same time, he worked afternoons and evenings at the Philadelphia Inquirer "doing combination rewrite and copy desk (work), so I was already an experienced newpaperman making $40 a week - big pay in 1928." He did everything "except run a linotype machine."

In the 1920s as a teenager, he became radicalized, mostly from reading Jack London, Herbert Spencer, Peter Kropotkin (a noted Russian anarchist and early communism advocate), and Karl Marx. He joined the Socialist Party and was elected to its New Jersey State Committee "before I was old enough to vote." He did publicity for Norman Thomas (1894 - 1968) in the 1928 presidential campaign, but then "drifted away from left-wing politics because of the sectarianism of the left."

He also believed that party affiliation was incompatible with independent journalism, and he wanted to be "free to help the unjustly treated, to defend everyone's civil liberty, and to work for social reform without concern for leftist infighting."

Remembering them "with affection," he praised his employers for never forcing him to compromise his conscience, even as an anonymous editorial writer. From 1932 - 1939, that was his job for the Philadelphia Record and New York Post, both strongly pro-New Deal papers at the time. In 1940, he came to Washington as The Nation's editor and remained until his death, working as reporter and columnist for PM, the New York Star, New York Post and New York Compass.

In the 1950s, during the Cold War and McCarthy era, no daily paper (or The Nation) ran his byline, so when the Compass closed in 1952, he launched his own four-page IF Stone's Weekly in 1953 and wrote:

"Early Soviet novels used a vivid phrase, 'former people,' about the remnants of the dispossessed ruling class. On the inhospitable streets of Washington these days, your editor often feels like one of the 'former people.' "

Earlier from its 1946 inception until 1949, he was a regular on "Meet the Press," first on radio, then TV. No longer, nor was he seen again on national television for another 18 years because his muckraking threatened the powerful.

It's never easy starting out on your own, but Stone succeeded by what he called "a piggy-back launching" from the PM, Star, and Compass mailing lists as well as people who had bought his books. From them, he got 5,000 subscribers at $5 each. During McCarthy's heyday, he got a second-class mailing permit, and was on his way after "working in Washington for 12 years as correspondent for a succession of liberal and radical papers."

Biographer Myra MacPherson (from All Governments Lie!) said he "went from a young iconoclast in the 1930s to an icon during the Vietnam War. In the fifties, he spoke to mere handfuls who dared surface to protest Cold War loyalty oaths and witch-hunts. A decade later, he spoke to half a million who massed for anti-Vietnam War rallies. (Deservedly) He became world famous."

Earlier, he supported Progressive Party nominee Henry Wallace in the 1948 presidential election campaign, civil liberties for everyone, including communists, and advocated for peace and co-existence with the Soviets. He fought the loyalty purge, FBI, House Un-American Activities Committee, Senator Pat McCarran's virulent anti-communism as Senate Judiciary Committee and Internal Security Subcommittee chairmen, and Joe McCarthy.

He wrote the first article against the Smith Act for its 1940 use against Trotskyites and other leftists with suspected subversive leanings.

His idea was to make the Weekly radical by providing information readers could check out on their own. He "tried to dig the truth out of hearings, official transcripts and government documents, and to be as accurate as possible." He wanted every issue to provide facts and opinions unavailable elsewhere in the press. He felt like "a guerilla warrior, swooping down in a surprise attack on a stuffy bureaucracy where it least expected independent inquiry."

Unlike beat reporters for major dailies or wire services, he was immune to the pressures they faced. He said Washington has lots of news. If information on some are blocked, go get others because "The bureaucracies put out so much that they cannot help letting the truth slip from the time to time." And by asking tough questions, a whole lot can be learned that as an independent can be published freely without fear of employer retribution.

It's why no bureaucracy likes independent journalism, especially radical muckrakers digging out the most sensitive material it wants suppressed. The fault Stone found with most newspapers wasn't the absence of dissent. It was the absence of real news, the timidity of journalists to write it, and the power owners held over them.

"Their main concern is advertising. The main interest of our society is merchandising. All the so-called communications industries are primarily concerned not with communications, but with selling." Most newspaper owners are businessmen, not journalists. "The news is something which fills spaces left over by advertisers."

Most publishers aren't just hostile to dissent, they suspect any opinions likely to antagonize readers, consumers, and mainly advertisers. As a result, most newspapers "stand for nothing. They carry prefabricated news, prefabricated opinion, and prefabricated cartoons." Even the best papers are timid. They don't question the Cold War, arms race, or stand up for civil liberties and the rule of law. Only a few "maverick" dailies are around making it "easy for a one-man four-page Washington paper to find news the others ignore, and of course opinion they would rarely express."

Journalism was a "crusade" for Stone. What Jefferson symbolized for him was being "rediscovered in a socialist society as a necessity for good government." During the height of the McCarthy era, he felt like a pariah but believed he stood for and was preserving the best of America's traditions. It inspired what he did to the end.

DD Guttenplan's "American Radical: The Life and Times of IF Stone"

Guttenplan described him as a journalistic "irritant to power for his uncanny ability to seize on the most inconvenient truths and for his vociferous opposition to the existing order." After becoming radicalized, he was brash, forthright, anti-fascist, pro-labor, a supporter of New Deal politics, and a passionate activist for the oppressed, disadvantaged, and social justice.

In his preface, Guttenplan described the fateful December 12, 1949 moment when Stone went from prominence to a non-person in American politics and his profession. It was during an interchange with the AMA's Dr. Morris Fishbein on Meet the Press, an ardent foe of universal single-payer health insurance he denounced as "socialistic." Quoting Stone, Guttenplan wrote:

"Dr. Fishbein, let's get nice and rough. In view of his advocacy of compulsory health insurance, do you regard Mr. Harry Truman as a card-carrying communist, or just a deluded fellow-traveler?"

After that, he slowly vanished, was never again on Meet the Press, couldn't get his passport renewed after a year in Paris as foreign correspondent for the Compass, and when it closed in 1952 was blacklisted as a reporter. As he put it at age 40: "I feel for the moment like a ghost." And as Guttenplan wrote:

"For some time he live(d) in a kind of internal exile (sitting) in (a) Washington, DC....rented office waiting for the phone to ring (and) after three years (getting no) visitor apart from building maintenance workers and the mailman....(so he gave) up the office....work(ed) from home," and launched the IF Stone Weekly as a platform to produce radical commentaries for his readers...."slowly, almost imperceptibly, his audience return(ed)" to its final year 1971 peak 70,000 circulation level.

According to Guttenplan, Stone "rode into battle not as a paladin of the powerless or a gadfly, but as an insider, a confidential agent of the (left-wing) 'party within a party' that served" progressive politics in the 1930s. He later broke with Harry Truman and supported Wallace. The FBI followed him everywhere, investigated him for five years, and accumulated 6,000 pages in his file, threefold its size for Al Capone. His phone was tapped and his mail intercepted on suspicion he was a Soviet spy, that was, of course, untrue.

By 1970, he was invited in from the cold and given a special George Polk Award in journalism. He got honorary degrees from American University, Brown, Colby, and others, including a baccalaureate and doctorate from the University of Pennsylvania where he dropped out before graduating.

His numerous awards included:

-- Newspaper Guild of New York Honors Page One Must for his book, "Underground to Palestine" - written before his views about Israel changed after the 1967 war;

-- The Eleanor Roosevelt Award;

-- the National Press Club Journalists' Journalist Award

-- ACLU Award;

- the Professional Freedom and Responsibility Award of the Association for Education In Journalism & Mass Communications;

-- Columbia University Journalism Award; and

-- on March 5, 2008, The Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard University announced an annual IF Stone Medal for Journalistic Independence award and an IF Stone Workshop on Strengthening Journalistic Independence.

In his name, the annual Izzy Award is presented to "an independent outlet, journalist, or producer for contributions to our culture, politics, or journalism created outside traditional corporate structures."

Three of Stone's great quotes were:

One of several versions of his saying "All governments are run by liars and nothing they say should be believed."

"The only kinds of fights worth fighting are those you are going to lose, because somebody has to fight them and lose and lose and lose until someday, somebody who believes as you do wins...."

"You've really got to wear a chastity belt in Washington to preserve your journalistic virginity. Once the secretary of state invites you to lunch and asks your opinion, you're sunk." Not Stone. His honor and integrity weren't for sale.

In a June 19 - 25, 2009 Counterspin interview, Guttenplan said Stone was never ideologically rigid, and would always change his views in light of new information. He:

"never pretended to be a liberal. He was an unashamed radical, and in a way, the most important way in which he matters is he shows us, he reminds us what's possible. He reminds us what the left can do. He reminds us what our country can do. He reminds us what our government can do if we keep on its back and we make sure it delivers on its promises."

And he showed how good journalism can make a difference, the kind so lacking then and now with no IF Stone around to write it.

He "challenged power by using power's own record against itself." And after his hearing failed, he relied increasingly on documents to prove what he famously said:

"All governments lie, but the truth still slips out from time to time," and it's up to good journalists to find and report it. Stone did, what the powerful wanted suppressed in his Weekly and numerous books, including (a treasured signed used copy this writer owns of) his "Hidden History of the Korean War."

Published in 1952, Monthly Review co-founders Leo Huberman and Paul Sweezy wrote in the preface:

"This book....paints a very different picture of the Korean War - one, in fact, which is at variance with the official version at almost every point." Stone's investigations into official discrepancies led him "to a full-scale reassessment of the whole" war.

First published, in part, in the Compass and two articles in France's L'Observateur, its publisher, Claude Bourdet explained in his article titled, "The Korean Mystery: Fight Against a Phantom?"

"If Stone's thesis corresponds to reality (and it did), we are in the presence of the greatest swindle in the whole of military history....not a question of a harmless fraud but of a terrible maneuver in which deception is being consciously utilized to block peace at a time when it is possible."

Stone called it international aggression. So did Huberman and Sweezy writing in August 1951 (14 months into the war):

"....we have come to the conclusion that (South Korean president) Syngman Rhee deliberately provoked the North Koreans in the hope that they would retaliate by crossing the parallel in force. The northerners (who wanted a unified Korea, not war) fell neatly into the trap." Truman was the instigator who took full advantage when they did, as Stone believed in writing:

"we said we were going to Korea to go back to the status quo before the war but when the American armies reached the 38th parallel they didn't stop, they kept going, so there must be something else. We must have another agenda here and what might that agenda be?"

The same one, he later learned, we had in Vietnam that made him outspoken against it. He was the only journalist asked to speak at the first nationwide November 15, 1969 "Moratorium to End the War in Vietnam War," that half a million to Washington one month after a global event was held.

He matched his anti-war spirit with his support for the disadvantaged, the oppressed, social equity, and above all accuracy and truth, and used his journalism as a "crusade" to produce it. He wrote:

"I was heartened by the thought that I was preserving and carrying forward the best in America's traditions, that in my humble way I stood in a line that reached back to Jefferson. These are the origins and the preconceptions, the hopes and the aspirations" behind all his writings and the legacy that's now ours.

On June 17, 1989, he died of heart failure in Cambridge, MA and is buried there at Mount Auburn Cemetery, leaving behind his wife, Esther, of 60 years, and three children, Celia, Jeremy and Christopher. He once told his wife that "if (he) lived long enough (he'd) graduate from a pariah to a character, and then if (he) lasted long enough, from a character to public institution." He omitted a legend, a committed radical, consummate independent, and ideological hero symbolizing what Public Affairs' Peter Osnos called his "stubborn tenacity, ferocious independence, and extraordinary will" in pursuing truth.

Or as Guttenplan ended his book:

"IF Stone wrote not to create a sensation, or to promote himself (or his 'brand'), but to change the world. We read and work - and wait."

Stephen Lendman is a Research Associate of the Centre for Research on Globalization. He lives in Chicago and can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal. net.

Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to The Global Research News Hour on RepublicBroadcasting.org Monday - Friday at 10AM US Central time for cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on world and national issues. All programs are archived for easy listening.

http://republicbroadcasting.org/Global%20Research/index.php?cmd=archives.year&ProgramID=33&year=9
 

Friday, October 16, 2009

Funding Sweatshops Globally

Funding Sweatshops Globally - by Stephen Lendman

In July 2008, SweatFree Communities (SFC) released a report titled, "Subsidizing Sweatshops: How Our Tax Dollars Fund the Race to the Bottom, and What Cities and States Can Do" in which it studied 12 factories in nine countries that produce employee uniforms for nine major companies.

Widespread human and labor rights violations were revealed, including child labor; illegal below-poverty wages; few or no benefits; forced or unpaid overtime; hazardous working conditions; verbal, physical, and sexual abuses; forced pregnancy testing to be hired and while employed; excessive long working hours causing physical ailments, stress, and harm; denial of free expression, association, and collective bargaining rights; and elaborate schemes to commit fraud and deceive corporate auditors.

In April 2009, Subsidizing Sweatshops II followed to provide more evidence of a global problem. It tracked developments in four factories from the first report and four new ones in five countries on three continents producing uniforms for nine major firms in China, Honduras, the Dominican Republic, Mexico, and America.

Two cases relied on investigations by independent factory monitors. Three others used personal worker interviews conducted by "credible local unions and non-governmental organizations with expertise in labor rights." Three more are based on SFC-conducted interviews.

In all cases, the global economic crisis materially increased worker hardships leaving them more vulnerable, in jeopardy, and unable to secure their rights. Most often, the following violations were found:

-- children as young as 14 forced to work the same long hours as adults and under the same onerous conditions;

-- wages so low, they only cover one-fourth to one-half of essential needs;

-- workers in at least two factories not paid overtime;

-- because of excessive production quotas, workers forced to skip breaks, not go to the bathroom, and work sick through grueling 12-hour or longer days;

-- unhealthy work environments in stifling heat and thick fabric dust detrimental to health;

-- numerous sewing machine accidents causing wounds and loss of fingers; and

-- instances of severe repression against union supporters and organizers, including harassment, intimidation, firing, and blacklisting from further employment elsewhere.

The report's findings "are corroborated by scores of academic research and industry investigations." Human and labor rights violations are the norm, not the exception. Monitoring alone won't change them, but perhaps public disclosure can help.

The Honduran Alamode Factory

Employing about 500 workers, it makes public employee uniforms and other apparel for Lion Apparel, Cintas Corporation, and Fechheimer Brothers Company. In 2008, the Worker Rights Consortium (WRC) reported some of the worst working conditions in the region, but months later corrective measures had been taken, thanks to exposing the situation to public scrutiny.

Alamode agreed to pay minimum wages, provide back pay, enroll all workers in the Honduran social security system to give them access to health care, paid injury leave and other benefits, and establish an injury log as required.

However, other issues remained unresolved, including:

-- further improvement of health and safety issues;

-- ending verbal harassment; and

-- making overtime work voluntary, not mandatory.

Despite improvements, Alamode workers still earn sub-poverty wages, and full compliance with labor rights falls far short.

The Mexican Vaqueros Navarra Factory

The factory produces jeans and uniforms, including the Dickies brand. In May 2007, its workers tried to form a union but faced extreme harassment and intimidation, as reported by a labor rights monitor on the scene. It's investigation:

"found that workers had been psychologically and verbally harassed, dismissed without warning, and forced to sign resignation letters for attempting to form an independent union at the factory and that at least some workers dismissed for union activities have been blacklisted....the official reason given for workers dismissed....was 'lack of work.' "

Two months after voting to affiliate with the Garment Workers Union, employees were told the plant shut down for lack of work. Yet three buyers, Gap, Warnaco, and American Eagle, placed orders with the factory in support of their right to organize.

In July 2008, the Tehuacan Valley Human and Labor Rights Commission filed a complaint with WRC alleging that another Navarra Group factory, Confecciones Mazara, discriminated in its hiring practices. WRC investigated and found "overwhelming evidence that Confecciones Mazara engaged in unlawful discrimination against union supporters in hiring decisions, otherwise known as 'blacklisting.' "

Twenty former Vaqueros Navarra workers applying for jobs were rejected. Another initially hired was fired on her first day after her former union organizing activities were discovered. In response to WRC complaints, the company refused to comply and continues its blacklisting practices.

The Dominican Republic's Suprema Manufacturing, Wholly Owned by Propper International (PI)

It operates three plants and employs about 1,000 workers making uniforms and other apparel items. PI is one of the largest makers of US military clothing. In 2008, Suprema Manufacturing's employees described low wages, high production quotas, unhealthy work conditions, and extreme hardships, all unaddressed by the company.

At the same time, PI distributed a threatening notice to its Puerto Rico workforce accusing the union and workforce of defamation. The same notice said that SweatFree Communities' publications expressed "a defamatory tone toward Propper (alleging) that the Department of Defense is subsidizing companies with terrible work conditions, and safety and human rights violations." The notice concluded saying:

"SAY NO TO THE UNION. DON'T SIGN ANOTHER CARD."

In March 2009, Federation of Workers of Free Trade Zones (FEDOTRAZONAS) workers and volunteers and their counterparts at the National Federation of Free Trade Zone Workers (FENOTRAZONAS) conducted over two dozen interviews on behalf of SweatFree Communities (SFC). They revealed extreme poverty, exhaustion, intense pressure to meet production quotas, an unhealthy work environment, and intimidation-instilled fear against openly supporting union organizing. Even though Suprema has a certified union, only a handful of workers belong. As a result, it's weak, unable to represent workers effectively or organize to recruit more.

Workers said to get by, they need other jobs and loans (at 10% weekly interest) to pay unexpected medical and other expenses. Their work load is so exhausting, it makes "my whole body hurt," according to one employee. "When I leave work, I am tired and exhausted....All I want to do is lie down, but I have my obligations." Another machine operator said:

"The work is hard and the production quota is killing us (and earning minimum pay) isn't enough for anything, for what's needed at home."

Other workers complained of health-related issues related to poor air quality, extreme heat, and fabric dust. According to workers interviewed, they can't act individually or collectively to address issues as important as these or any others. According to one:

"In the event that we complain, normally they don't listen to us but you have to suffer the consequences. One time I complained about the high temperatures in the factory and said it is not good for our health. And the manager said to me, 'If you are not comfortable you can leave."

Another worker said "we discuss problems at work amongst the other workers, but not with management because we are afraid....If you complain too much, they fire you. So we don't complain because we need employment...."

They also fear recrimination over union organizing or joining one. In 2000, 300 union members were fired. After reviewing the case, the Dominican Labor Department ordered 30 leaders reinstated with back pay. When they returned, management ordered workers not to speak to them or be fired. Workers today live in fear, endure harsh conditions, and put up with whatever they're ordered to do.

New Bedford, Massachusetts-based Eagle Industries

Eagle supplies tactical gear to the Pentagon and state governments. In November 2007, it acquired a New Bedford, Massachusetts facility that made headlines in March 2007 when Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents raided the factory, discovered sweatshop conditions, and arrested hundreds of alleged undocumented workers.

In its 2008 report, SweatFree Communities (SFC) highlighted Eagle's failure to address abusive sweatshop conditions as well as its hostility to an ongoing union organizing campaign at the time.

In February 2009, SFC conducted in-depth interviews with eight union supporters and learned the following:

-- Eagle raised its minimum wage by 50 cents an hour to an average of about $9 an hour;

-- it included a week's vacation in worker benefits bringing the total to two, including an annual July shutdown;

-- a new sick day policy requires a doctor's note, and time off remains unpaid; and

-- workers expressed concerns over low pay, poor benefits, dangerous working conditions, and everyday harassment of union supporters by company managers.

Examples cited:

-- machines need lots of oil; in operation, it "shoots into your eyes," according to workers;

-- excessive heat, lack of circulation, smoke and oppressive smell causes dizziness, head and stomachaches, and for some vomiting;

-- forklifts go everywhere and sometimes hit people, causing injuries;

-- fabrics used are so heavy and stiff, they inflict abrasions, leave fingers bent and stiff, and cause chronic pain;

-- no health insurance is provided;

-- without a doctor's note, no sick days are offered and if taken are unpaid;

-- workers are constantly watched and checked, even when they go to the bathroom;

-- action is taken against anyone suspected of supporting a union; new hires must sign a declaration agreeing not to join one;

-- pressure and harassment are constant "to produce a lot;" and

-- departments are shut down and workers reassigned to divide and separate them from each other.

As a result, workers feel a union is their only hope because it "offers a contract and a negotiating table with the owner of the factory where he will have to realize the suffering we have endured working for him for so long, making money for him so he will have a good future while our future is bleak," according to one worker.

Tijuana, Mexico's Safariland

A division of Armor Holdings, a wholly-owned subsidiary of BAE Systems, Inc., Safariland's 700 employees produce bulletproof vests and accessories, belts and personal accessories, and grenade and pistol holsters.

Workers told researchers that management told them in response to questioning to say everything is fine and not complain. Reality, however, concealed lives of extreme poverty, living at home with:

"No water, no electricity, and no terrace. One room made of garage doors and cardboard. The electricity we have is stolen. We buy water because there is no running water. There is no floor. The roof is made of laminate and cardboard." Workers expressed little hope for future change, even less now in economic crisis hitting Tijuana like most everywhere.

In recent months, thousands lost jobs, and when openings exist, long lines queue up to apply. Women must take pregnancy tests, a violation of Article 3 of Mexico's labor law requiring equal treatment of both genders. Article 26 requires worker contracts with wage guarantees, their amount, how they're paid, working hours, breaks, vacations, and other benefits. Yet Safariland offers only temporary ones, then chooses whether or not to renew them, a violation of Article 37.

Pressure and harassment are constant to meet quotas, arrive on time, and respect supervisors. Failure is punished by suspensions without pay for one to three days.

However, Mexican Labor Law is clear, yet Safariland disobeys it. The Constitution's Article 123 establishes an eight hour work day, including breaks. So does the Labor Law's Article 61 and under its Article 67, double pay is required for overtime. In addition, Article 110 prohibits pay deductions for any reason, but Safariland gets around it by suspending workers.

Articles 177 and 178 let 14 - 16 year old minors work for up to six hours daily, including a one-hour rest after three hours, if they pass a medical examination. Workers said children worked the same hours as adults.

They also reported dangerous and unhealthy conditions, including accidents with sewing and riveting machines and material cutters, resulting in wounds and lost fingers. In addition, hazardous substances are used, including thinners, solvents, and Resistol 5,000 glue, the notorious narcotic used by Latin American street children.

Other complaints included supervisors' indifference to worker concerns, and according to one account: "They do not listen to us, and if we complain they treat us like troublemakers." Anyone caught supporting a union "would be fire(d) or at least consider(ed) troublemakers," said another. "They would put us on the blacklist," a believed widespread practice in Tijuana.

The Dickies de Honduras Factory

Located in Choloma, its 1,000 workers produce apparel under oppressive conditions. Wages are sub-poverty, and at best cover half a family of four's basic necessities. Work days are long, 11 - 12 hour days, four days a week, and constant pressure to produce. According to one worker, illness is no excuse for missing work.

Union organizing is forbidden, and those caught or suspected are fired. One union leader explained how organizers are treated. In 1998, Dickies fired 80 supporters. In 2003, alleged leaders were fired, then in 2005, 280 workers got legal recognition to form a union. A month later, a Mexican Ministry of Labor representative and three union officials attempted to deliver official documents to the company. They were denied entry. The officials and others were fired, and Dickies stonewalled government summonses to answer for the action. Other firings followed, and the company refused to recognize a union, bargain collectively with it, or address employee grievances.

Workers nonetheless persisted until the current economic crisis became challenging. Claiming lack of orders and a need to cut costs, worker dismissals began in December 2008. By March 2009, 58 were gone, in all cases for supporting a union, in violation of Honduran Labor Law's Article 96 that prohibits employers from "firing or persecuting their workers in any way because of their union affiliation."

China's Genford Shoes

Located in Guangdong Province, its 10,000 employees produce work, exercise, casual, and dress shoes, 80% for Ohio-based Rocky Brands. According to the company, Genford is independently audited for social compliance, but SFC research found evidence of widespread labor law violations.

Workers are constantly pressured to produce for low pay under poor conditions:

-- new employees get no income for their first three days; they also must pay $4 for a physical examination, $10 for housing, and another $10 for ten days' meals in the company cafeteria - in total, around a week's wages;

-- wages are sub-poverty;

-- no rest days are allowed for an entire month during peak production periods, in violation of Article 38 of China's Labor Law requiring at least one per week;

-- children as young as 14 work the same hours as adults and are hidden when customers visit the factory; Article 28 of China's Labor Law prohibits employing children under age 16; it also protects 16 - 18 year olds from "over-strenuous, poisonous or harmful labor or any dangerous operation" and requires employers to follow state laws regarding types of jobs, hours worked, and labor intensity for adolescents;

-- excessive over time is mandatory at below the legal double hourly pay rate for daytime work on weekends;

-- by law, workers can cancel their labor contracts by giving 30 days notice, but are penalized by loss of wages when they do;

-- they live 12 to a room in crowded dorms of around 200 square feet with ten cold showers for 264 workers;

-- pollution levels are oppressive; workers describe discharged black, foul smelling effluent into the adjacent river; and

-- at the end of every work day, body searches are conducted, similar to but not full strip searches.

Genford employs a complex system of bonuses and fines to achieve output. Workers get bonuses for meeting quotas that must be maintained hourly, but no one understood how they're calculated. They also complained that they're hard to reach, and they're constantly pressured to work faster for maximum production. In addition, fines are levied for arriving a few minutes late, leaving early, skipping work, or causing trouble.

It's also not easy to quit even though Article 37 of China's Labor Law lets workers do it by giving 30 days advance written notice or three days during their probationary periods. Employers must then fully compensate workers, but they don't.

Frackville, Pennsylvania's City Shirt Company

Its owner, Elbeco Inc., a producer of public employee uniforms, "was the first major uniform company to endorse SweatFree Communities' campaign for worker rights," and it shows in how it treats its employees.
According to one, "I am pretty much able to cover my needs. Anybody can always use more money, but I do pretty well, I can say."

The average worker makes about $11 an hour, but some get up to $19 because the company is unionized and was able to bargain collectively for decent wages and benefits. In addition, workers have "a seat at the table with the company....affording them a sense of ownership and respect."

City Shirt's employees are also much older than at other factories studied, a sign of greater stability and a contented workforce staying in place, happy to be there, and for many, hoping to stay for the rest of their working lives.

Yet they worry that their jobs may not last because of factors beyond the plant's control forcing layoffs to cut costs and stay viable. Apparel manufacturing in America is dying. In addition, the current environment is taking its toll closing factories across America, and City Shirt has had to cut one-third of its workforce in the past 18 months.

The alternative is the global sweatshop as oppressive or worse than the ones described above. The company's employees hope to reach retirement age before their operation gets outsourced, but making it won't be easy.

In today's global economy, in good times and bad, worker rights are subordinated to greed and private profit, and future prospects look grim. Job losses are continuing. Wages are stagnating at best. Benefits are eroding, and job security is a thing of the past at a time governments, in alliance with business, are indifferent to protecting them. The result, more and more, is that workers are on their own to endure against very long odds. It's all the more important for harder struggle because it's the only way they have a chance.

Anti-Sweatshop Legislation in Congress

On January 23, 2007, S. 367: The Decent Working Conditions and Fair Competition Act was introduced in the Senate "to amend the Tariff Act of 1930 to prohibit the import, export, and sale of goods made with sweatshop labor, and for other purposes." It was referred to committee but never passed.

On April 23, 2007, HR 1992: The Decent Working Conditions and Fair Competition Act was introduced in the House for the same purpose. It, too, was referred to committee but never passed.

Both bills were introduced in a previous congressional session and failed. They may be re-introduced later in 2009.

Sweatshop labor takes different forms, some far worse than others. On February 14, 2007, Charles Kernaghan, Executive Director of the National Labor Committee in Support of Human and Worker Right, testified about the worst kind at a Senate committee hearing on Overseas Sweatshop Abuses, Their Impact on US Workers, and the Need for Anti-Sweatshop Legislation.

Citing the December 2001 US - Jordan Free Trade Agreement, he gave examples of human trafficking and involuntary servitude abuses that followed:

-- Jordan's 114 garment factories employ over 36,000 foreign guest workers from Bangladesh, China, Sri Lanka and India;

-- Bangladeshi guest workers had to borrow at exorbitant interest rates $1,000 - $3,000 to pay unscrupulous manpower agencies for two-to-three year contracts to obtain work;

-- they were trapped in involuntary servitude at one factory and couldn't leave;

-- they were promised benefits, then reneged on, including free food, housing, medical care, vacations, sick days, and at least one day a week off;

-- on arrival in Jordan, their passports were seized;

-- they were forced to work shifts of "15, 38, 48, and even 72 hours straight, often going two or three days without sleep;"

-- they worked seven days a week for as little as 2 cents an hour, 98 hours a week;

-- those complaining were beaten and abused;

-- 28 workers shared one small 12 x 12-foot dorm with access to running water only every third day;

-- legally owed back wages were never paid nor were factory owners prosecuted for human trafficking, involuntary servitude, or treating their employees abusively;

-- they sewed clothing for Wal-Mart; and

-- other Jordanian, Chinese and other factory workers are treated the same way; some worked under conditions so hazardous that "scores of young people (are) seriously injured, and some maimed for life."

Kernaghan's National Labor Committee (NLC) web site highlights the problem by saying that corporate predators "roam the world to find the cheapest and most vulnerable workers....mostly young women in Central America, Mexico, Bangladesh, China, and other poor nations, many working 12 to 14-hour days for pennies an hour."

Corporate unaccountability is responsible for this moral crisis of our time - a dehumanized, expendable workforce ruthlessly exploited for profit. NLC believes worker rights are as inalienable as human rights and civil liberties and says "now is the time to secure them for (everyone) on the planet."

Stephen Lendman is a Research Associate of the Centre for Research on Globalization. He lives in Chicago and can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net.

Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to The Global Research News Hour on RepublicBroadcasting.org Monday - Friday at 10AM US Central time for cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on world and national issues. All programs are archived for easy listening.

http://republicbroadcasting.org/Global%20Research/index.php?cmd=archives.year&ProgramID=33&year=9