Friday, September 14, 2007


I know I've been here before but its back to the trailer parks and how the people who live in them get the shaft. I'd also add that in the case here (as in many others) the residents are also "senior citizens."

As you read the story keep in mind the simple fact that a lot of mobile home dwellers can’t afford $200,000 homes, which is about what the median price of homes are in the Tampa Bay area. Many have financial, medical, or personal reasons they are living in a trailer park and not in homes.

The truth is we should not have to talk about reasons anyway. People should be able to live in whatever type of dwelling they want without answering questions about their choices.

Anyway, back to the story at hand - the saga of Golden Lantern Mobile Homes Park in Pinellas Park, Florida (Tampa-St. Petersburg metro area).

(Note: the information to follow comes from a variety of media sources in the local area)

The issue of rezoning and redevelopment of the 22 acres at 7960 Park Blvd. occupied by Golden Lantern Mobile Home Park has been ongoing for more than two years.

The county board approved a land use amendment and rezoning of the property from residential urban to residential medium and residential and office and retail on April 4, 2006. The board also approved a development agreement allowing construction of 225 rental apartments, which would include between 133 and 183 affordable housing units, 108 market-rate townhouses and up to 17,500 square feet of neighborhood commercial retail space.

The agreement with the developer allowed a 50 percent increase in density in exchange for affordable housing units. Approval of the land use change and increased density also required approval of the Florida Department of Community Affairs.

On June 7, 2007, the Florida Department of Community Affairs (DCA) informed the county that it did not plan to approve the amended land use for the property. According to staff notes, the main reason was the increased densities. The county entered into a series of negotiations with the state to find a way to get the deal approved.

Staff said that alternatives proposed by the state to approve the land use change included providing reduced evacuation times and shelter space for residents of the proposed development.

After careful study, staff determined that it wasn’t economically feasible to comply with DCA’s requirements. DCA advised the county that it needed to rescind the ordinance and remove it from the books.

“No one wants to make a motion that is going to impact these people,” Commissioner Bob Stewart said.

The commissioners’ unanimous vote to rescind the ordinance on Tuesday night dashed any hopes the remaining 38 residents had to collect a promised $18,000 settlement with the developer.

“You’re asking us to leave with only $1,375,” Tucker said. “That’s less than first and last months rent.” "You were elected to fight for people like me who cannot fight for themselves," Tucker added.

Residents of Golden Lantern fought the change for almost two years. They begged county commissioners to leave things as they were, saying the park was their home and they’d have no place to go if it was closed down.

The owner of the park, meanwhile, has allowed to place to become a place you aren't supposed to find in the USA.

The gas has been cut off, they said, which means those who do not have electric stoves are unable to cook. Drains have been filled with concrete. The sewer is stopped up. Metal is dangling from partly dismantled mobile homes. Asbestos is exposed. Palm trees are being ripped out.

In addition, Linda Arcario, one of the leaders of the tenants association, says that garbage is not being picked up. Besides rubble from the structure razings, piles of trash – in and out of containers – line the streets.

Last week a chain-link fence was erected around the nearly 20 acres the comprise the park. The fence closed off all entries into the park except one.

Tampa attorney Joe Magri, who represents more than 80 current and former residents of the park, said it's not just the fence. Everything going on at the Golden Lantern is making life miserable for his clients.

His clients have told him that the water is cut off almost every day, and that they have been told to boil their water before drinking it. The owner admits this is true but claims the tenants are sabotaging the water lines. Anyway, he says the remaining tenants have stayed because they believe they are entitled to compensation that they are not owed. If they are miserable, he said, they have the option of leaving.

Nice guy.

Cliff Smith, assistant director of the Pinellas County Health and Human Services department, said his agency has been out to the Golden Lantern twice in the past two weeks.

He conceded that living conditions are rough.

"I wouldn't want to be there," Smith said.

About 32 trailers remain occupied by people who cannot afford to move, those living on limited income or are ill.

At least one resident suffers from terminal cancer.

Josephine Peters, who has seen the facility go from a well maintained senior citizen community to a mobile home park ghetto, said remaining residents are just plain angry.

“Where are we to go? What are we to do?” she asked. “I’ll tell you what we’re going to do. We’re going to fight for what is ours.”

"These people have lived in crud for two years," Tammy Tucker said. The homeowners, she said, are being asked to leave "with nothing, absolutely nothing to start over."

So yet another group of Americans, who have worked all their lives, played by the rules, instead of being able to live their "golden years" in peace are being jacked around by some guy who wants to make a little more moola and by local and state governments that can seem to figure out how to get their act together and can't seem to find a way to help out some of the people for whom they always like to always say they work.

If only this group of Americans were large campaign donors.

Just one more little story that goes largely untold outside of the area where it is happening.

Just one more day in a country called the United States of America.

The following comes from the site Tampa Bay Newspapers.

Golden Lantern residents gearing up for a confrontation

PINELLAS PARK – The remaining residents of the Golden Lantern Mobile Home Park are gearing up for a confrontation with the property’s owner who wants to raze the remaining units and clear the land.

Latonia Adams, president of the Golden Lantern Homeowner’s Association, said the land cannot at this time be used for anything other than a mobile home park. She hopes that the owners who purchased the property for $4.9 million will allow the residents to remain and that improvements are made to the facility.

Lot rents, she said, are between $335 and $350-a-month, a fee that most residents would be willing to continue paying if the property was improved and re-created into a 55-and-over community.

“There still is an opportunity to turn the Golden Lantern into a viable and profitable mobile home park,” Adams said.

Linda Arcario, association vice president, meanwhile, said residents are fed up over how they are being treated and with having to live under what she termed as “dangerous and deplorable conditions.”

Just over 30 mobile homes still are occupied and remain parked amid the rubble of abandoned trailers in various stages of demolition. Arcario also alleges that residents are under a “boil water” order and that water is routinely turned off almost daily.

Arcario and other residents say also that garbage is not being picked up. Besides rubble from the structure razings, piles of trash – in and out of containers – line the streets.

One of two entrances to the park is blocked by a chain link gate. Arcario said children who live in the park are forced to either go around the gate or walk to the Park Boulevard entrance.

Arcario, who is disabled due to back injuries and other medical issues, said she lives on social security. She purchased her 1970s-model trailer in August 1997 and paid it off when she was able to work.

“I thought I’d be here forever,” Arcario said. “This is my home, I have no mortgage on it, and I don’t want to leave it behind.”

Some residents said they will chain themselves to the fence to stop the park’s closure and to draw attention to how they are forced to live.

Developer Kevin Voss originally offered only association members approximately $18,000 each to leave the property. Non-members squawked and Voss then offered both members and non-members alike a $15,000 package. No agreement could be reached and the figure was reduced to $5,000 and finally to $3,000.

The problem is that the mobile homes are of 1970s vintage when construction laws were more lenient. Many contain asbestos, fiberglass and other dangerous components that now are being removed by workers wearing safety suits and face masks.

Residents are angry, however, that while workers use safety precautions those left at the park are forced to breathe unstable air generated from the building materials.

Arcario said residents meet regularly with association attorney Joseph Magri of Tampa. The association is expected to be in court within the month over the fence and gates that were installed about two weeks ago. Other proceedings regarding damages and other legal issues have not yet been scheduled.

Some residents still make mortgage payments on the very homes they may have to abandon. They will still be liable for those mortgages, even if they are forced to move.

“We are not trailer trash and we need to be treated with respect and get fair value for our homes,” Arcario said.

Retired mechanic Joseph Huckno, 69, has lived in the park since 1997. He recently underwent major surgery and lives on social security.

“This used to be a nice place,” he said. “It was a senior citizen community and was well maintained.”

Huckno and Deeann Horton live in a trailer home with a second story loft. She works in food service for the Pinellas County school system.

“Some people don’t know what they will do,” Huckno said. “One woman down the street is returning to Pennsylvania to live with her family.”


The group Shell to Sea protested today at Shell’s proposed Bellanaboy refinery site in in Ireland to highlight the ongoing community campaign against the controversial Corrib gas development. There were arrests and injuries reported.

The protesters aim to halt work at the controversial site as part of the ongoing attempt to have the Corrib gas processed offshore.

“Shell to Sea is steadfastly opposed to the ongoing activities on the Corrib gas refinery and associated pipeline, and again call on those willing to bring about an end to the current project by all legitimate means. Only then can a lasting solution of benefit to all be fully realised,” said John Monaghan a spokesperson for the group.

Earlier this week Caoimhe Kerins, of Dublin Shell to Sea, said in the Irish Times it was not too late for people to join the cause. "Shell have yet to start building the inland refinery," she said.

"It's not too late to make them process the gas at sea, as is done at Kinsale. Community opposition to the inland refinery is as strong as ever.

"They haven't been given permission by the EPA to operate the refinery, yet they seem determined to steamroll ahead with the project despite massive local opposition."

Kerins also pointed out in a press release from the group, ""Shell is trying to set a precedent by bringing high-pressure, untreated gas ashore close to houses and schools. If this is allowed in Mayo, Shell and its fellow oil and gas multinationals will use that precedent to impose similar monstrosities on communities up and down Ireland's west coast - and overseas."

The EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) is due to announce later this month whether it will grant Shell a licence to operate a refinery at the Bellanaboy site.

"The fact that so much work has been done at the refinery site already, despite the fact that the EPA has yet to announce its decision, shows that Shell and their friends in government decided a long time ago that this wholly inappropriate inland refinery would go ahead no matter how the local community felt about it," Kerins said.

In recent months a number of blockades have halted work at the refinery site for up to a day at a time. These have included "lock-ons", at which campaigners have locked themselves together or to vehicles. On other occasions work has been stopped when large groups of Shell to Sea campaigners have entered and occupied the proposed refinery site.

Shell to Sea’ is an international non violent campaign, rooted in the Erris community, Co. Mayo, Northern Ireland. The campaign seeks to ensure that the proposed Corrib gas terminal and pipeline are constructed offshore. Five local people, internationally known as the Rossport Five, were jailed in Mountjoy Prison as a result of resisting Shell’s and Statoil’s plans to build their refinery and pipeline, despite the opposition of the people in this part of Mayo. Three fishermen were also arrested recently for their opposition to the multinationals’ plans while a ‘Solidarity Camp’ is continuously present on the beach near Pollathomais along the proposed route of the gas pipeline.

The following is from the Belfast Telegraph.

Arrests made at latest Shell to Sea protest in Co Mayo

Gardai in Co Mayo have arrested a number of people following a protest at the site of the gas refinery being built by Shell in Bellanaboy.

A large group of demonstrators gathered at the site this morning for the latest in a series of protests arranged by the Shell to Sea group.

They had intended to mount a sit-down blockade, but more than 50 people reportedly climbed over the gates of the refinery site in attempt to disrupt construction work.

Shell to Sea claims some protestors were injured in clashes with Gardai.


Around 200 Norwegian Tamils of Norwegian Tamils Federation (NTF) gathered in front of the Norway Foreign Ministry in Oslo Friday between 10:00 to 11:00 a.m, before a scheduled meeting of the Sri Lanka Minister of Human Rights Mahinda Samarasinghe with Norway Foreign Ministry Officials, urging Norway to exert pressure on the Government of Sri Lanka (GoSL) to immediately stop the ethnic cleansing of Tamils in Sri Lanka.

Last week Amnesty International called on the UN to address the growing violence in Sri Lanka.

Unlawful killings, abductions and enforced disappearances of civilians are daily occurrences in Sri Lanka. Several hundred cases of enforced disappearances and several hundred unlawful killings have been registered in the first six months of 2007. Amnesty International is also concerned about a rising incidence of killings of journalists by unidentified armed men, and tightened restrictions on freedom of expression. The organization today called on members of the Human Rights Council to seek opportunities during its Sixth session to take action to address the rapidly deteriorating situation in the country.

Norwegian Development Aid Minister Erik Solheim told foreign correspondents at a briefing in the Norwegian capital on Tuesday that Norway was ready to help negotiate a peace deal.

Solheim said he may meet Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa in "the near future" to see if there were any peace initiatives that could be pursued.

He said direct contacts with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) had been rare recently because of the war. "But we are talking to them on the phone all the time."

The following is from Tamil-Elam News Services.

Tamils Urges Norway to Stop the Ethnic Cleansing in Sri Lanka

Oslo - Hundreds of Norwegian Tamils gathered in front of the Norwegian Foreign Ministry building to protest the Sri Lanka Minister of Human Rights Mahinda Samarasinghe with Norway Foreign Ministry Officials.

On behalf of the Tamils in Norway, Norwegian Tamils Federation (NTF) submitted a memorandum to Mr. Eric Solheim, Norwegian Minister for International Development and Jonas Gahr Støre, Minister of Foreign affairs. The memorandum urges the Norway to exert pressure on the Government of Sri Lanka (GoSL) to immediately stop the ethnic cleansing of Tamils in Sri Lanka.

Norwegian Special Envoy to Sri Lanka Peace Process, Jon Hanssen Bauer addressed the demonstrators before receiving a memorandum from the protesters and said Norway not in a position to influence Sri Lankan government.

The demonstrators, also urged Norway to stop providing any financial aid to Sri Lanka. Tamils consider the Norwegian aid given to Sri Lanka is being used to kill their own people, the appeal said.

Under the terms of the Norwegian-brokered and internationally backed accord, both parties pledged to refrain from engaging in any offensive military operations. But year 2006 and 2007 were marred by a bloody upsurge in violence throughout the island Nation with over 5,400 people killed including 44 aid workers and 10 journalists, close to 500,000 people internally displaced (IDP) while thousands of people were abducted and hundreds are missing in the north and east of Sri Lanka.

The Norwegian Tamils strongly feels that the Tamils has agreed to a ceasefire and the a peace process because of the international community's repeated call that they will support and help to achieve a peaceful solution to the national conflict in Sri Lanka. But, the current government in Sri Lanka closed all door for peace and perusing a military option defying all the International will.

Thursday, September 13, 2007


Out of the blue, I ran across this story in the Emporia Gazette about a woman named Minnijean Brown Trickey who was in town to give a little talk . It's a fifty year old story actually It is one you should read today.

In the summer of 1957, the city of Little Rock, Arkansas, made plans to desegregate its public schools.

On September 2, the night before school was to start, Arkansas Governor Orval Faubus called out the state's National Guard to surround Little Rock Central High School and prevent any black students from entering in order, he claimed, to protect citizens and property from possible violence by protesters he claimed were headed in caravans toward Little Rock.

A web page devoted to the story tells what happened after that:
On September 20, 1957, Judge Ronald N. Davies granted the NAACP lawyers, Thurgood Marshall and Wiley Branton, the right to stop Governor Faubus from using the National Guard to stop the students from entering the high school. Governor Faubus finally agreed with them about not using the National Guard, but he wished the nine would stay away from Central High until integration could occur without violence. He knew there would be violence because of the violence last time when the Whites beat the Blacks because they didn't want African-American kids in their school.

On Monday, September 23, 1957, the nine students set off for the high school. They knew there would be violence so they went in the rear entrance. White mobs were there to protest because they didn’t want any Blacks in their school and the reporters were there in support of the Blacks. White mobs that were waiting for the nine students beat up black reporters because they didn’t want them near their school. When the mob heard the nine students had entered the school they went crazy. The black students left out the rear exit right when the mob came in so they wouldn’t get hurt.

To make sure that the students completed a successful day of school, President Eisenhower sent the 101st Airborne Division to Little Rock. Each student had their own patroller to walk with them to school and during school, but Whites still beat them. They stabbed Melba Patillo and sprayed acid into her eyes. If it weren’t for the 101st patroller throwing water over her eyes she would have been blind for the rest of her life.

After a few weeks, the patrollers left and the nine students had to protect themselves. Finally Christmas came around and the Blacks wanted to get away from the Whites. Eight of the nine students couldn’t be happier to get a break from school, but not Minnijean Brown. She was suspended for dumping her lunch on two white males because they were insulting her. The Whites told the press that they didn’t blame her for getting mad. She was suspended for 6 days. Then she was suspended again for calling a white girl, "White Trash." None of the Whites were suspended.

The other eight all finished the school year successfully, and Earnest Green Graduated that spring. He was the first black student ever to graduate from Central High.

Although Earnest Green graduated, segregationists in Arkansas wanted to stop the other seven remaining students from doing the same. The school board asked for an injunction delaying integration until 1961. Even though the injunction was granted at first, the U.S. 8th Circuit Court of Appeals said no to the injunction in August of 1958. The court told Little Rock it must integrate.

Governor Faubus had other plans. He signed a package of segregation bills that were passed by the Arkansas legislature, including a bill that granted him the power to shut down the Little Rock Public High Schools.

Just a few weeks later, the parents of the nine black students came under tremendous pressure. The families either were forced to resign from their jobs or were fired because of what was happening at the school. One of the families moved away. The five students that remained in Little Rock took courses from the University of Arkansas while they waited for their school to reopen.

The summer of 1959 came and the act that Governor Faubus had used to shut down the school was declared unconstitutional. Yet again Governor Faubus started to work on another law to take its place. To avoid the law, the school board opened up the school early on August 12, 1959. Only two Blacks that were assigned to Central High were members of the original Little Rock nine, Jefferson Thomas and Carlotta Walls. The other three went to the new Hall High. Both Jefferson Thomas and Carlotta Walls graduated that spring.

They didn't start out being known as the Little Rock Nine but now they are in America's history books together. Here is a brief glimpse at these former students and what they are doing today, 40 years after this momentus year.

These nine students are unanimous in proclaiming the true heroes of the crisis at Central High School were their parents, who supported them and kept the faith that the process was right and that what they endured would give them opportunities they deserved.

Ernest Green

In 1958, he became the first black student to graduate from Central High School. He graduated from Michigan State University and served as Assistant Secretary of Housing and Urban Affairs under President Jimmy Carter. He currently is a managing partner and vice president of Lehman Brothers in Washington, D.C.

Elizabeth Eckford

The only one of the nine still living in Little Rock, Elizabeth made a career of the U.S. Army that included work as a journalist. In 1974, she returned to the home in which she grew up and is now a part-time social worker and mother of two sons.

Jefferson Thomas

He graduated from Central in 1960, following a year in which Little Rock's public high schools were ordered closed by the legislature to prevent desegregation. Today, he is an accountant with the U.S. Department of Defense and lives in Anaheim, Calif.

Dr. Terrence Roberts

Following the historic year at Central, his family moved to Los Angeles where he completed high school. He earned a doctorate degree and teaches at the University of California at Los Angeles and Antioc College. He also is a clinical psychologist.

Carlotta Walls Lanier

One of only three of the nine who eventually graduated from Central, she and Jefferson Thomas returned for their senior year in 1959. She graduated from Michigan State University and presently lives in Englewood, Colorado, where she is in real estate.

Minnijean Brown Trickey

She was expelled from Central High in February, 1958, after several incidents, including her dumping a bowl of chili on one of her antagonists in the school cafeteria. She moved with her husband to Canada during the Vietnam War protests of the 1960s and today is a writer and social worker in Ontario.

Gloria Ray Karlmark

She graduated from Illinois Technical College and received a post-graduate degree in Stockholm, Sweden. She was a prolific computer science writer and at one time successfully published magazines in 39 countries. Now retired, she divides her time between homes in Amsterdam, The Netherlands, and Stockholm, where her husband's family lives.

Thelma Mothershed-Wair

She graduated from college, then made a career of teaching. She lives in Belleville, Illinois, where she is a volunteer in a program for abused women.

Melba Pattillo Beals

She is an author and former journalist for People magazine and NBC and lives in San Francisco.

The following story comes from the Emporia, Gazette (Kansas).

Civil Rights Struggle Comes Along
By Scott Rochat

On a night when she was frequently praised for her courage, Bonner and Bonner lecturer Minnijean Brown Trickey of the “Little Rock Nine” insisted that others had done just as much for civil rights but with less fanfare.

As a teenager, Trickey was one of nine black students who attended a formerly all-white Little Rock Central High School in 1957. Newspapers and TV cameras showed the nine being barred from the school on their first day by the Arkansas National Guard, who had been placed at the school by Gov. Orville Faubus.

Adults — mostly women, Trickey recalled — heckled the students and shouted death threats.

She hadn’t expected any of it when she’d volunteered to go to Central. She’d even spent two days picking out her dress for the first day.

“What I felt most was let down by my country,” Trickey said in a press conference before Wednesday night’s lecture at Albert Taylor Hall. “I’d done the Pledge of Allegiance and hiding from the Russians under my desk. Now soldiers were preventing me from going to school. ... It was a real shock to me. I had never witnessed violence or been called a name.

“It felt like a steel rod came up through my back when I saw how stupid people were willing to behave to stop me,” she added. “I said ‘I’ll be back’ — and I said it before Arnold!”

President Dwight Eisenhower eventually responded by calling up the 101st Airborne and having them escort the teens into the school and through the halls.

Even so, Central High was a long way from paradise. Each of the nine had at least one class they felt safe in because of a teacher who kept order, but they also each had at least two where they knew anything could happen.

“What made you keep coming back to a school where you weren’t wanted?” a student asked at the lecture.

“I want to be really honest,” Trickey responded. “The media said I was brave and courageous and that’s OK.

“But at a certain point,” she added with mischief in her voice, “I think we kept coming back because we wanted to see what they would come up with the next day!”

The audience laughed and applauded. One young black woman said she also had gone to Little Rock Central High and thanked Trickey for making it possible. A black man said he could remember having to go to his own school in the back of the bus and use a separate drinking fountain from the white students.

“If it wasn’t for what the other eight and you did, we’d probably still be where we were then,” he said.

“No!” Trickey disagreed with force. “We were just the ones they took the pictures of. This was happening in every hamlet and village and big city. Yes. It was a whole bunch of people.”

And it was not the end of the story for Trickey, who remained active in civil rights long after leaving the school. She met her husband at a civil rights gathering. At another, a sit-in in Memphis, she was thrown into a cell with 27 other protesters and found out she was claustrophobic.

“I decided, ‘Next time I get arrested, I’m only going to be with 10 people,’” she said.

The ‘real heroes’

Under President Bill Clinton, Trickey served as the Department of the Interior’s deputy assistant secretary for workforce diversity — something of an irony, because she considers “diversity” to be an overly nice, toothless phrase.

But she loves variety in a culture, noting that only by seeing the reactions of people different from you do you truly learn about yourself. Besides, she said, it makes life interesting.

“At a meeting — maybe the wine was too good — I said ‘Thank goodness for Hispanics,’” Trickey told the audience. “If it wasn’t for them, I would have died of boredom.”

She never really thought about the role she had played until years later. Her daughter was 16 before she knew Mom had been one of the Little Rock Nine. Trickey’s mother, now 91, still speaks very little about that time.

To Trickey, those parents were the ones who showed the real courage — especially since, like most teens, the Nine never said much about what happened at school.

“They had to guess what was happening and watch what was happening to us,” she said. “My father lost his business. Nine parents lost their jobs. As a parent, I can see that they were the real heroes just by allowing us to go.”

Trickey is a dedicated proponent of nonviolence, though she didn’t start as a perfect one — at Little Rock Central High, she “accidentally” spilled chili on a white boy when other students blocked her way in the cafeteria. The two reconciled as adults and judged a chili contest together at the school in 2005.

Conflicts and fear

She also urges others to remember Little Rock so that the same mistakes aren’t made again.

Audience member Cathy Terrell, a past King Day speaker who works with high school kids, said she admired Trickey but wasn’t sure she could do what Trickey had done.

“I still can see (with the kids) that a lot of things haven’t changed — it’s subtle,” Terrell said. “I want to do something about it. But at the same time I’m conflicted. Part of me wants to keep my comfortable middle-class life. I don’t want to live the life you lived. I don’t want to be arrested.”

“Everyone is conflicted,” Trickey said gently. “You might have to get kicked out of a few things. And you might find out how strong and courageous you are because you got kicked out of a few things. ...

“It’s not about being arrested,” Trickey said. “It’s about being able to sleep at night. ... We’re all scared. And what we’re waiting for is for someone who’s not scared, to help us not be so scared.”


"We live in constant fear of the adverse impacts of climate change. For a coral atoll nation, sea level rise and more severe weather events loom as a growing threat to our entire population. The threat is real and serious, and is of no difference to a slow and insidious form of terrorism against us."

-Saufatu Sopoanga, Prime Minister of Tuvalu, at the 58th Session of the United Nations General Assembly New York, 24th September 2003

The canary is dying. The first to go is going. The small island nation of Tuvalu is asking for help from the rest of the world as it sinks beneath the ocean due to global warming. Flood damage caused by rising sea levels and saline intrusion into drinking water are already wide-spread.

The plea came during an environmental conference in South Korea.

Nobel laureate Muhammad Yunus endorsed Tuvalu's message, saying rising temperatures are also "a matter of life and death" for low-lying nations like his own Bangladesh.

"For many people around the world this is an issue of concern but for us it's an issue of life and death," he said, urging global lifestyle changes to reduce greenhouse gases.

No one should shrug their shoulders when they hear the people of Tuvalu talking about their homeland being washed away by rising tides and higher sea levels. Tuvalu is a Member State of the United Nations, and under the Organization's Charter, deserved the same level of attention as every other Member State.

But, of course, it won't get it.

Tuvalu's former assistant environment minister Paani Laupepa, now assistant secretary for foreign affairs commented two years ago to photographer Gary Braasch in an article in Grist, "President Bush goes to war to protect his country, and talks of national security, but the security of my people is threatened by global warming. How can you tell the American people that the way they live -- having three cars, using so much energy -- is endangering lots of small countries down the track?"

One wonders where the children shown in the accompanying photo will spend their adult years.

One wonders how many people give a damn.

The following is from Reuters (UK).

Tuvalu about to disappear into the ocean

The tiny Pacific island state of Tuvalu on Thursday urged the rest of the world to do more to combat global warming before it sinks beneath the ocean.

The group of atolls and reefs, home to some 10,000 people, is barely two meters on average above sea-level and one study predicted at the current rate the ocean is rising could disappear in the next 30 to 50 years.

"We keep thinking that the time will never come. The alternative is to turn ourselves into fish and live under water," Tuvalu Deputy Prime Tavau Teii told Reuters in the South Korean capital where he was attending a conference on the environment.

"All countries must make an effort to reduce their emissions before it is too late for countries like Tuvalu," he said, calling the country one of the most vulnerable in the world to man-made climate change.

He reeled off a list of threats to the country, one of whose few export earnings comes from its Internet country suffix which it can sell to anyone wanting their Website site to end with .tv.

Coral reefs are being damaged by the warming ocean and so threatening fish stocks -- the main source of protein.

The sea is increasingly invading underground fresh water supplies, creating problems for farmers, while drought constantly threatened to limit drinking water.

Annual spring tides appear to be getting higher each year, eroding the coastline. As the coral reefs die, that protection goes and the risk only increases.

And the mounting ferocity of cyclones from a warmer ocean also brought greater risks, he said, noting another island state in the area had been buffeted by waves three years ago that crashed over its 30 meter cliffs.

"We'll try and maintain our own way of living on the island as long as we can. If the time comes we should leave the islands, there is no other choice but to leave."

Teii said his government had received indications from New Zealand it was prepared to take in people from the islands. About 2,000 of its population already live there.

But Australia, the other major economy in the region, had only given vague commitments.

"Australia was very reluctant to make a commitment even though they have been approached in a diplomatic way."


About twenty five years ago I was living in a cheap apartment with my dog Dakota around 37th and Wyoming in Kansas City. At the time I had just begun working at a local free clinic and was pretty much minding my own business. One day, I came home and found a letter telling me that some large company had bought the building, that my rent was doubling and I had to get rid of my dog or move out...within thirty days. I was pissed. Who wouldn't be. I had a friend who worked at Legal Aid and she assured me I could get an extra thirty days beyond the time the company said I had to go. That was the best she could do.

So I had to move.

It's called I don't have any control over my life.

Well, that is pretty much what is happening to the people in the article below. A big Casino has decided they've got to go in thirty days...and though the people are angry, my money is on the Casino.

Things like this, of course, happen to well meaning folks every day all over this grand country of ours. Little people, even middle class people, often find out out of the blue that they aren't really as free as "they" say. When Mr. Big decides, more often than not, that's that...and our lives are upended sometimes with a "Gee, we really wish there was something else we could have done," but more often with not a word at all.

Meanwhile, back in Vegas, Arrion Burks told the press, why he moved to the Desert Club apartments. "Live right down the street from the Wynn. I work at the Wynn and I pretty much don't have any transportation right now," Burks said.

A commute that only takes a matter of minutes on foot is now about to get much longer.

Burks added, "Hopefully I can find something that's close to the bus line. Buy a bike, you know, do what I have to do always gotta survive."

Surviving at Desert Club was already hard enough.

"My wife is pregnant. She's seven months pregnant, so she can't get another job. I'm the only one that's working. I also have a two-year-old, so I mean it's just been really rough," he said.

Now, his small but growing family has 30 days to find a new place to live. "There was no warning. It was just in the mail. There you go, 30 days. Goodbye," he explained.

Ryan Weeks, another resident, told Eyewitness News, "Ten to 20 people here that work for Harrah's and they're getting kicked out. And what is Harrah's doing for their employees? Nothing."

Big surprise.

The following is from Las Vegas Now Eyewitness News Channel 8.

Apartment Residents Angry Over Harrah's Evicting Them

Hundreds of residents at an apartment complex near the Strip have been told to pack their bags. They have 30 days to move out and just about all of them are putting up a big fight against the property's owner -- Harrah's.

There was a very heated meeting with angry residents and apartment management, with residents demanding answers. Some have lived at the apartments near Flamingo and Koval for years, while others just moved there last month.

Tuesday, they protested outside the Desert Club Apartments. Eventually they got permission to go in a meeting room inside and things did not cool off there. People are furious.

They say Harrah's, the owner of the complex, let them sign leases and is now evicting them with little warning. The casino giant has other plans for the property. Even the management company says last Wednesday's notice came as a surprise.

"We all knew that something would happen one day. The problem is when was that day. We would have loved to have been able to give our people more notice because we certainly knew what the reaction would be," said Barbara Holland, president, H&L realty & Management Co.

"They let me sign a six-month lease from overseas. Now they're going to maintain the six-month lease, or they're going to pay me six months money back, or we'll go wherever we go!" said Antonio Urgese.

That means he plans on getting a lawyer. He just moved here Aug. 23, all the way from Italy, rented furniture, spent a lot of money and now this.

For Stephen Ferris, move-in day quickly turned into an eviction notice.

"By September 30th, we have to move out," he said.

So Stephen joined with dozens of his neighbors at the Winnick Holdings and Desert Club Apartments Tuesday to protest their joint fate.

Harrah's wants to use the land for a new development. So now it's be out by the end of the month -- or be forced out.

Harrah's public relations executive Alberto Lopez came under fire for the eviction plans. "I'm doing this out of the goodness of my heart, honestly. I came here for the media," he said.

He and Barbara Holland say all the agreements were clear and made sense.

"It's a big bold print. And people initialed," said Holland.

Those month-to-month policies allowed Harrah's to cancel rentals essentially at any time. But residents like Bret Dunbar want more time. "It's just ridiculous. They can't give us 60 days notice? They obviously knew this was going on for quite some time. Why can't you treat us like human beings instead of garbage?"

"We're going above and beyond what we're legally required to do. I'm not sure what else we can do," said Lopez.

"Legally, maybe they're following the letter of the law, but morally and ethically, we are the people that make this town," said Brett Pearlman.

Tenants like Pearlman feel Harrah's is biting the hand that feeds them. A number of people who live here work at casinos. But Lopez says Harrah's has done all it can.

"So we're following the terms of the agreement that was signed with these tenants. I'm not sure what else it is the tenants might be looking for," adds Lopez.

"Moving expenses. Not only for moving here, but to move back out again," said Stephen.

Meanwhile, Stephen has not even finished unpacking from his first move. His time is running out -- 24 days and counting.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007


The head of the Utah Division of Indian Affairs says the Mormon Church should stop blaming an 1857 massacre on the Paiute Tribe.

Forest Cuch says the church has "villainized" Indians by associating Paiutes for the Mountain Meadows Massacre on September 11 1857. About 150 men, women and children were killed in the attack.

The massacre at Mountain Meadows has been the focus of passionate debate among Mormons and the people of Utah. It is a debate that cuts to the core of the basic tenets of Mormonism. This, the darkest stain on the history of the religion, is a bitter reality and challenging predicament for a modern Mormon Church struggling to shed its extremist history.

Will Bagley, author of "Blood of the Prophets: Brigham Young and the Massacre at Mountain Meadows," said he doesn't feel that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will ever get past the Mountain Meadows Massacre.

As far as making steps toward healing, Bagley said he believes first, the LDS Church needs to step up and seek forgiveness from the Paiutes and the descendants, but said he is not optimistic that this will happen

After the massacre, the church first claimed that local Paiute Indians, but later gave that up.

Well, not completely.

They still like to make it sound like it was a joint operation.

The Paiutes are tired of that blood libel.

Glenn Rogers, chairman of the Shivwits band of Paiutes, in an article published in southern Utah's Spectrum, said an apology from those who placed the blame on the Paiutes would be fine, but primarily, the Paiutes want to see the history books changed to show the Indians were not involved in the killings.

"We would like to see the history books put straight," Rogers said.

Rogers said growing up, his grandmother talked about the massacre and, according to the oral history he was told, four Paiutes were present but did not take part in the killings.

Rogers said an archaeological dig at the grave site and exhuming bodies for studies could shed some light on what really happened and how the emigrants were killed.

"Who would have given Native Americans a rifle, let alone a knife?" Rogers asked. "They took everything away (from us) and that's just the way it was."

Rogers would like the truth to be told and those responsible for the massacre to be accountable.

But like Bagley, he is not optimistic.

By the way, before I go, I would like to point out that the Mormons are certainly not alone in carrying out massacres in the name of religion. Virtually all religions include such sagas in their respective histories. It seems to go with the territory.

The following is from the Deseret Morning News (Utah).

Indians' role in massacre disputed
By Carrie A. Moore

CEDAR CITY — On the eve of the 150th anniversary of the Mountain Meadows Massacre, a state official told descendants of massacre victims Monday that the LDS Church needs to stop associating the Paiute Indians with the slaughter of 150 unarmed men, women and children.

Forest Cuch, executive director of the Utah Division of Indian Affairs and a member of the Ute Tribe, praised members of Mountain Meadows Monument Foundation, saying he appreciates how "they won't let the myth (surrounding responsibility for the massacre) die. You are striving for the truth, and it has to come forth sooner or later."

The foundation is one of two groups of massacre victims' descendants seeking federal stewardship of the Mountain Meadows site, owned by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It was local leaders of the church in the Cedar City area who ordered the massacre by LDS militiamen, a fact that has long been discussed by historians but only acknowledged publicly by the church in recent months.

For years, many blamed local Indians as the planners and perpetrators.

Today's anniversary ceremony — which includes the foundation as one of three different groups of descendants, along with representatives from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints — will begin at 10 a.m. at Mountain Meadows.

Cuch said while several authors have written books about the massacre, "What about a book about the cover-up and the more recent actions that have taken place? I challenge someone to take that on. I'm too busy to write it because I'm writing my own," about the history of American Indians.

Cuch said he's tired of hearing that Paiute Indians were involved with the massacre every time culpability is publicly discussed.

"This afternoon I was interviewed out here by Channel 5 — which is owned by the LDS Church. In that interview, I said there seems to be a significant amount of evidence to suggest that Paiutes were not perpetrators, and if they were involved, it would have been one or two. That doesn't constitute a tribe or a band, for that matter," he said.

"So what happens — later this afternoon, a partner and I were watching the Channel 5 news and they state once again that this involves the Mormon militia and their Indian allies," he said. "When you own the media, you can pretty much say what you want."

Even so, Cuch said, "The LDS Church has got to stop making that association. They're constantly associating the Mormon militia with the Indians. Instead, say there were 60 members of the Mormon militia and two Paiute Indians.

"They need to stop perpetrating that association because we are already villains in history. We continue to be villainized in history."

Cuch said American Indians understand wars and massacres, as they have been victims of many, including the Bear River Massacre in 1863 near the northern Utah border. Approximately 240 Utah Indians were killed by the California militia, he said.

"Massacres are certainly nothing new to us," he said. "So why is this so important to someone like me?"

Cuch detailed the history lessons he learned in school throughout his youth. American Indians were either cast as villains or simply ignored altogether. That one-sided portrayal of history — always from a white perspective — did harm to his self-worth, he said.

It wasn't until he got to high school that he was told about the Mountain Meadows Massacre.

"That was a real punch in the head. I was told the Indians attacked and killed the settlers, the women and the children. They didn't say anything about the Mormon militia," he said. "I hadn't heard the other side. Just like I was told (as a child) that the Pilgrims only discovered 'wilderness,'" instead of Indian inhabitants.

"You start doubting yourself and your family and wondering, 'Who are we and why do we do things like that?'... I hadn't heard the other side so, in my head, all we did was stand in the way of progress and attack people."

Cuch said he wants young people of all backgrounds to understand the truth about history, particularly concerning American Indians — that they welcomed the Pilgrims and fed them so they wouldn't starve to death that first winter in New England.

"Squanto knew where the food was. If he was a lesser man, could have stood there and watched them starve. He could have feasted, then come and watched those people die. But he didn't — he showed them where the food was. Why isn't he a founding father in our history books?"

American Indians have fought in every war "in a greater proportion than any other ethnic group in the country and we continue to fight for it."

Those facts are vital, he said, because "it's important for the truth to prevail. Only through the truth can hearts heal and heroes rise to the fore."

One-sided history warps thinking and sows the seeds of self-doubt and — for some — self-destruction when self respect is not fostered with the whole story, he said. By reading as much as he could about American Indian history once he graduated from college, "I found my way out of it. I found the truth and it made me whole and complete.

"I join with you in striving for the truth and may we stay joined to continue to accomplish great things," he said. "May our efforts have the blessing of God."


This is the spot reserved for my ongoing series about class and issues of concern to regular run of the mill folks. I wasn't intending on this post but while doing some research I ran across a couple of articles about some yahoos, apparently of the anti-war stripe, who defaced a Vietnam Memorial wall up in Maine.

Give me a break.

I protested the Vietnam War and I oppose the Iraq War (and lots of other crap in between), but it ticks me off, like it ticks off most people, when some fools do something like this.

I remember the "reports" which were I believe obviously untrue rumors about protesters spitting on Vietnam veterans returning from that war (I always found it odd that not one photograph or film was ever produced of any such incident). Defacing a wall memorializing though who have given their lives in a war which they were sent to fight allegedly in the name of all that is good is in some ways worse.

I never held to the notion that we should hate the soldiers (except a few of them like Lt. William Calley). Most of those who fought in Vietnam were just like me except they weren't lucky enough to not get drafted (I had this high lottery number) or because they believed those who told them we were fighting for freedom in the jungles of that country. They were the other half of my generation. Many of them had no use for the war before, during or after their deployment. Others believed in what they were doing. It doesn't really matter. The foot soldiers didn't start the war, they didn't plan the war, they didn't avoid the war (like a certain President we all know). They just got the job of fighting it.

For the most part those who fought in Vietnam and those who fight in Iraq are young men and women, are anything but wealthy, and are decent human beings sent to do an ugly and impossible task.

It is actions like the above, the defacing of a wall that help to perpetuate some ugly myths about those of us who oppose this war and that war.

But you know what also annoyed me. There were all these right wing blogs with stories talking about the slimy anti-war people and how even though they say things like "support the troops," this sort of things proves they don't. They, the right wing blogs, said you won't find any on the left denouncing this. You know what. I haven't found any left blogs that have. That is more then a bit distressing to me.

Anyway, least I slight the "right." I was just talking to a guy who will be jumping on his bike on Thursday to go to the funeral of a soldier in Emporia, Kansas. He doesn't know the guy or anything. No, he is going because he is part of a group of bikers who go to these soldiers funerals to block off the cries of hate and the sick signs of the fundamentalist Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kansas who like to picked these funerals and those of gays. These fundamentalist nutcakes make the anti-war nutcakes above look like good guys.

And ain't that America...

The following is from the Andover Townsman (Maine).

Vietnam Veterans Memorial defaced

Many veterans in town were disappointed to learn last week that someone had vandalized the town's Vietnam Veterans Memorial, requiring the 15-month-old memorial to be sandblasted Wednesday.

"We know that in no way does this reflect how the community feels about our veterans," said Michael Burke, director of veteran services.

The lyrics of a 1970s protest song and a reference to Iraq were scrawled on the monument in the Park. "War, what is it good for, absolutely nothin'," was written in red marker along with a peace sign.

The lyrics are from "War," a song that Motown soul singer Edwin Starr popularized in 1970.

Near the base of the memorial where the phrase "our cause is just" is etched, a vandal wrote "just like in Iraq."

The markings were made with some kind of felt marker, which soaked into the stone, Burke said yesterday. Methuen Monument is helping the town repair the memorial, which was dedicated May 29, 2006.

While there was no structural damage, "the stone does need to be sandblasted," Burke said. He was not sure how much the work would cost, if anything, but said the town was grateful to the Methuen business for stepping in to help.

Police Lt. Harry Collins said the vandalism was under investigation.

Burke said this week he has talked to several veterans and longtime residents, and that no one could remember something like this happening in Andover.

"This is a disappointing event," he said. "This is an anomaly. If someone does have opposition, there are other ways to vocalize that."

In Haverhill earlier this summer, vandals ruined parts of a Korean War Memorial and spray-painted a World War II monument.


Nearly two dozen opposition demonstrators were arrested (one pictured here in the back of a police van) outside a court in western Belarus Monday where a youth activist went on trial for membership in an unregistered organization called Young Front, a rights activist said.

After the activists started yelling anti-government slogans, police encircled the group and arrested 22 of them, said Tatyana Protko, leader of the Belarusian Helsinki Committee, a human rights group.

"The authorities are afraid of solidarity and that's the only way this aggression and all these new arrests can be explained," she told the International Herald Tribune.

Reuters photographer Vasily Fedosenko said police detained him and Viktor Drachyov, a photographer for Agence France Presse, and about 20 protesters. The two photographers were released within hours. Protesters were taken to court to face charges of staging an illegal public gathering, usually punishable by a fine or up to 15 days in jail.

Young Front, an independent youth resistance organisation that emerged as a youth wing of the Belarusian Popular Front and is a member of the European Coalition block, is one of the most active organized youth groups of Belarus, and is a target of severe govenment repression.

Young Front is the member of European Young Conservatives. The European Young Conservatives is a grouping of youth wings of right of center political parties, usually with a Eurosceptic bias.

What are y'a gonna do...

The following is from JAVNO.

Belarus Police Detain Protesters and Journalists

Police in Belarus detained a group of opposition activists for staging an unlawful protest on Monday and held two journalists, including a Reuters photographer, who were covering the event.

Police made the detentions outside a courthouse in the town of Baranovichi, about two hours' drive from the capital Minsk, detained Reuters photographer Vasily Fedosenko said by mobile telephone from inside the local police station.

The activists were protesting against the prosecution of a member of outlawed opposition group Young Front who went on trial in Baranovichi on Monday on charges of membership of a banned group.

Fedosenko said police detained him, a photographer working for Agence France-Presse news agency, and about 20 protesters.

He said police officers said he would be taken to court on Monday and tried. The charge sheet, which he was shown, stated he had shouted opposition slogans and created a disturbance.

Belarus police said they had no comment and Fedosenko said he was simply doing his job as a journalist.

"They (the police) started detaining everyone, including the journalists, even though I showed them my official Belarus Foreign Ministry accreditation and told them I was carrying out my professional duties," said Fedosenko.

Western governments accuse Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko of harassing opponents, muzzling the media and rigging elections. The United States and the European Union have stopped issuing entry visas to senior Belarus officials.

Lukashenko remains popular at home and tells voters he has spared them from the lawlessness and turmoil of other former Soviet republics.


Yesterday 55 members of ADAPT (an advocacy group for disabled people) were arrested outside AMA headquarters in Chicago when they demanded to meet with AMA Executive Vice President and CEO, Michael Maves. The group is trying to pressure the AMA to endorse home and community based long-term care services and supports for older and disabled Americans instead of forcing them into nursing homes and other institutions.

Right now another ADAPT protest is taking in place in downtown Chicago (See article below).

ADAPT has four demands for the AMA including:

* Endorse the Community Choice Act (S. 799, H.R. 1621) which is federal legislation that would give people eligible for nursing home and/or institutional placement a choice to choose community services instead;

* Work with ADAPT to develop an action plan that assures that people with disabilities and seniors get REAL CHOICE in long-term care services/supports so they are able to live in the legally required "most integrated setting," and provide the AMA membership with continuing medical education programs about community-based alternatives to institutionalization;

* Develop an AMA ethics policy requiring doctors to disclose to their patients any financial interest they have in a nursing facility when they are discussing long-term care with those patients, and to not refer any patient to a nursing home in which the doctor has a financial interest;

* Require that AMA Board of Trustees and leadership divest themselves of all financial interests in nursing facilities, etc.

"With the swipe of a pen, a doctor can take away your freedom by sending you to a nursing home when you're discharged from a hospital rather than exploring options in the community," said Diane Coleman, ADAPT Organizer from Chicago. "I can only wonder if a number of those referrals come because many doctors have ownership interest in nursing homes."

ADAPT points out that currently, Illinois ranks 41st in the nation for providing the community-based services that will allow disabled and older citizens to stay in their own homes. Illinois' long record of being in the bottom ten states puts it among the worst when it comes to human rights in general and disability rights in particular.

"It turns my stomach to know that my state, historically a home of civil rights in America for people of color, is the same state that is one of the worst civil rights performers in regard to people with disabilities," says Chicago native Larry Biondi, an organizer with Chicago ADAPT on the groups web site. "I'm ashamed of Illinois' record of institutionalizing people with disabilities. Right now there almost 20,000 people who have said they want to get out of Illinois' nursing homes- nursing homes they never wanted to go into in the first place. But they were forced to go there by the institutional bias in Medicaid funding, and the state's failure to act in accordance with federal law- law that clearly states that people should receive services in '...the most integrated setting,' which is clearly the community!"

The following is from the Chicago Tribune.

Disabled protesters block downtown Chicago building

A group of disabled protesters is blocking access to elevators and escalators in a government office building in downtown Chicago.

A wall of wheelchairs is preventing occupants of the James R. Thompson Center from exiting or entering their offices, although people are being allowed into the building.

The protesters from the advocacy group ADAPT made a similar effort Monday, blocking the entrances to the American Medical Association in Chicago for more than three hours.

The group wanted the AMA to push for legislation that could lead to more housing options for people with disabilities.

It isn't immediately clear if the Thompson Center protest has the same focus.

Monday, September 10, 2007


It is a sad fact that Native American languages are disappearing rapidly. In California, for example, out of 85 indigenous languages, 35 have no speakers and the remaining 50 are spoken by only a few elders.

Of the 3 major dialects of Lenape, once spoken widely by pre-colonial tribes throughout modern New Jersey, Delaware, New York and Connecticut, only one remains. It is now spoken almost exclusively on reservations in Oklahoma and Ontario, and is largely forgotten by the two youngest generations descended from the Lenape tribes.

In North America as a whole, there are now only half the number of indigenous languages spoken by anyone as there were 500 years ago, when Europeans began to settle permanently.

In fact, indigenous languages are dying all over the world.

IPS reports, "Hundreds of languages disappeared from Latin America and the Caribbean over the past 500 years, and many of the more than 600 that have survived could face the same fate in the not-so-distant future."

Indigenous languages like Kiliwua in Mexico, Ona and Puelche in Argentina, Amanayé in Brazil, Záparo in Ecuador and Mashco-Piro in Peru, are just barely surviving, the result of their continued use by small groups of people -- most of whom are elderly.

"Every disappearance of language and culture is a great tragedy to humanity. When it occurs, a unique and irreplaceable human experience is extinguished," bemoans Gustavo Solís, a Peruvian linguist with expertise in vernacular and author of language studies of the Amazon region.

On the eve of European settlement of Australia around 250 Indigenous languages were spoken on the continent. Most of them have since been lost and of the remaining 50 or so only 17 (with a total number of 50,000 speakers) are regarded as viable enough to survive for another generation.

Currently, 500 to 600 of Africa's 1400 or so languages are in decline, with 250 under immediate threat of disappearing forever, according to a report by Unesco.

In Mozambique's the indigenous languages - the storehouse for the accumulated knowledge of generations is also dying. "Sons no longer speak the language of their fathers... our culture is dying," laments Paulo Chihale, director of a project that seeks to train Mozambican youths in traditional crafts.

Six Kenyan languages are extinct, five are seriously endangered, at least three are endangered and a number of others are potentially endangered, says Unesco.

The list goes on and on.

There are those who say, "So what."

Maurice Ragutu, a language teacher at the University of Nairobi, however, says it does matter. “Vernacular or mother tongue helps people to trace their ancestral roots, culture, heritage and traditions, which all help promote unity in a community."

Jared Diamond, an American physiology professor at the University of California, told the Dispatch On Line, the loss of language can mean the death of a culture.

"Languages carry the culture, the literature and the music of that particular community," he says.

Because language is the vehicle of culture, Diamond says, when a people lose their language they tend to lose their cultural identity and often end up demoralised, with a low image of themselves. This then has an impact on their ability to earn a living.

Robert Oduol knows all this too well. For him, the exit of his Suba ancestors has meant a loss of his cultural identity and history.

"Language is one of the cornerstones of any culture and society," Oduol told the Dispatch. "It cements the unique identity of a group, its history, and expresses that particular group's concerns and needs in its vocabulary.

"Sadly I don't have that," the father says, pointing out that he doesn't "have any Suba folktales to tell my kids".

The following is from Cultural Survival

The Endangered Native American Languages Campaign

“Indigenous peoples have the right to revitalize, use, develop and transmit to future generations their histories, languages, oral traditions, philosophies, writing systems and literatures.”
—The UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

The Problem:

America’s cultural heritage is in crisis. Our country’s first languages are dying.

If we don't act now, in the next 10 years, 70 Native American languages will disappear. Ten years after that, only about 20 of the original 300 will remain. Fifty languages are spoken by fewer than five people, all over 70 years of age. A single car accident could wipe out 10,000 years of cultural continuity.

Native American languages are not disappearing because they are obsolete. They are disappearing because of a US government policy to specifically terminate American Indian language. Under this program, which lasted until the 1950s, children were taken from their homes and forced into boarding schools where they were children were beaten and had their mouths washed out with blistering lye soap for speaking their language. With that background of brutality they did not speak their language in their homes as adults, so their children never learned it—the chain was broken.

But the remaining Native American languages can be saved. There are proven techniques that enable elders to pass on their languages to their children and grandchildren. Immersion schools surround Native youngsters with their own language and build fluency quickly and naturally. Native Hawaiians launched an immersion program in the 1980s, when there were fewer than 30 speakers of Hawaiian under the age of 18. Today there are 2,000 speakers in that age range. Other tribes have set up similar schools, with similar results. Others are teaching Native languages to adult learners who will then pass them on to their tribe's children.

Native Americans who learn their languages also gain significant side benefits: students perform far better academically, they stay in school, they go to college, and they bring social and economic benefits back to their communities. Children who have a strong native identity ensure their culture’s ongoing survival.

While some tribes have had great success in revitalizing their language, most lack the resources and expertise to set up effective programs. Unfortunately, those small language communities are the ones with the fewest living speakers.

The Solution:

Cultural Survival has formed a coalition of American Indian leaders and language practitioners to help the most critically endangered Native American language communities pass along the birthright of language to their children. Our goal is to raise public awareness, secure funds, provide technical support, get government backing, and create an online resource center for language teachers.

Together, we can save America’s cultural heritage, but we cannot do it without your help, and the clock is ticking. We need your generous support now, while there is still time.

To help click here!!!


The Teamsters Union and student supporters are hitting the streets today in front of KFC's around the country to protest the treatment of workers at a KFC supplier, National Frozen Foods Corporation (NFFC), and the lack of sanitary conditions at the KFCs themselves.

Over the past three years NFFC at their Chehalis, WA Warehouse has:
* Cut pay by 16%
* Stripped seasonal workers AND retirees of health care
* Increased the number of hours it takes to qualify for health
care, pension benefits and pay increases

According to a leaflet distributed at a rally in Downtown Seattle:
These concessions have hit hardest at those least able to afford them, particularly Latino workers and new hires. A majority of the peak work force is Latino. NFFC has attempted to strip workers of their voice at work twice since 2004. Workers beat back these efforts, voting to keep their union (Teamsters Local 252) on both occasions. On July 14, 2007, NFFC illegally declared bargaining to be at an impasse, and ended their contract with the workers' Union. The Teamsters have filed unfair labor practice charges with the National Labor Relations Board.

Since then, NFFC has denied access to any pension plan for workers aged 18-21, eliminated entry into the defined benefit plan for new hires, stopped the Union grievance process, and put into effect minimal pay increases that come nowhere near making up for recent concessions.

Founded in 1912 by William P. McCaffray, Sr., National Frozen Foods Corporation (NFFC) is a family-owned, private label company whose ties reach around the globe. National Frozen Foods Corporation is headquartered in Seattle, WA, and employs 600 people full time and an additional 1,400 seasonally throughout Washington and Oregon.

NFFC workers process fresh vegetables for freezing and repackaging for such chains as Boston Market, Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC), Wal-Mart, Sysco Foods, ConAgra and Woodstock Farms, as well as producing their own
label, Valamont.

In the meantime, KFC seems to be a leader in health violations at its local operations. For example, these are just some of the problems posted at the blog SICK TO DEATH OF KFC:

In North Carolina, a man claims to have found a smear of human blood in his KFC sandwich

A woman in Texas alleged that KFC served her a cockroach-filled sandwich

MSNBC investigated fast-food restaurants for health code violations and found that “[t]he 100 KFCs we sampled tallied up 157 critical violations, and two thirds of the ‘finger lickin’ good’ restaurants had at least one critical violation.”

A KFC in Indiana was closed down for all of 2006 because the health department said it posed an "imminent health hazard" and was a "potential vector of food borne illness."

A KFC in Knoxville, Tennessee, was recently found to have 42 problems (out of a possible 46 items on the inspection list), including toxic chemicals out of place, chicken cooked at a temperature not high enough to prevent people from getting sick, and dirty containers, work stations, counters, and cups, among other things.

A poor inspection at one KFC in Davenport, Iowa, helped spawn an article with the headline "Trash Cans, Flies and Meat, Oh My!" when flies were found all over a back room. analyzed health inspection reports for more than 200 KFC's in 12 cities. They found the restaurants in these cities averaged more than five critical violations per location – that's a high number of serious problems. If you have the stomach for it check it out by clicking here

And if all of that is not enough, KFC doesn't exactly hit the mark with PETA either. They point out:

KFC suppliers cram birds into huge waste-filled factories, breed and drug them to grow so large that they can’t even walk, and often break their wings and legs. At slaughter, the birds’ throats are slit and they are dropped into tanks of scalding-hot water—often while they are still conscious. It would be illegal for KFC to abuse dogs, cats, pigs, or cows in these ways.

KFC’s own animal welfare advisors have asked the company to take steps to eliminate these abuses, but KFC refuses to do so. Many advisors have now resigned in frustration."

The following is from the International Brotherhood of Teamsters.

Teamsters Tell Colonel Sanders: Stop Your Supplier's War on Workers

Teamsters and student activists will rally today at Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) restaurants across the country to demand that a key KFC supplier respect the rights of its workers and to urge that the supplier reverse disastrous cuts in health care and retirement benefits, including the elimination of health care benefits for its retirees.

Distributing leaflets drawing attention to a series of health code violations at local KFCs, the union and its community allies are demanding that Seattle-based National Frozen Foods Corporation cease all anti-worker activities at its plant in Chehalis, Washington.

Protests will take place in Washington D.C., California, Washington State, Oregon, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and at a number of universities throughout the U.S.

"We are determined to get the word out about serious health violations at local KFCs and serious labor conditions at National Frozen Foods Corporation," said Fred Gegare, director of the Teamsters food processing division. "These companies are not going to get away with corporate greed in the 21st century. National Frozen Foods picked this fight because of their greed."

National Frozen Foods Corporation supplies KFC with frozen corn-on-the- cob. Since 2004, National Frozen Foods Corporation has cut worker pay by 16 percent, cancelled health care benefits for seasonal workers, and eliminated health care benefits for retirees. These changes have hurt seasonal workers and new employees.

National Frozen Food Corporation has supported two efforts to vote the union out in recent years. The workers defeated these efforts, voting to stay with their union, Teamsters Local 252. In July, the Company cut off negotiations with the union and terminated their contract with workers in violation of U.S. labor law.

"We are asking KFC to honor their moral responsibility to their customers by insuring that KFC suppliers respect U.S. workers fighting to provide a decent living for their families," said Gegare. "We will continue to alert KFC customers to both KFC's health violations and its failure to address NFFC's mistreatment of American workers until these problems are fixed."

Founded in 1903, the Teamsters Union represents more than 1.4 million hardworking men and women in the United States and Canada.

Sunday, September 09, 2007


As regular readers of the Oread Daily know, I usually give my two cents worth especially in this on going series of posts and articles about issues affecting everyday Americans. That won't be the case today. Someone else has sort of done that for me.

A couple of months back a friend of ours, whom we affectionately refer to as "Ellie Mae," wrote a little something about the movie SICKO and the what the screwed up American Healthcare "system" has meant to one hard working Alabama woman.

"Ellie" tells me she is no longer sure that she still holds to the section she wrote critical of the movie, but because I think the commentary in general catches the reality of the "system" at its most basic level I'm reprinting the entire dang thang as an introduction to a post I found at another blog site (see further on down). That second post details another problem with the system to which, I must admit, I had given virtually no thought.

Anyway, here is what our friend down in 'bama wrote (Note the name of the person involved and the town have been changed to preserve some form of anonymity).

Lights, Camera, NO Action: Will Michael Moore’s, ‘Sicko’, Derail Healthcare Reform?
If so, what happens to Janice?

Well, unless you have been living under a rock you have at least heard about Michael Moore’s new movie, ‘Sicko’. It focuses on how the healthcare industry is ‘broken’ and insurance companies fail to pay for procedures, which in some cases are lifesaving, or at least restorative. In addition, there is discussion about our nations’ 46 million uninsured rolls which increases exponentially as more and more businesses cut or eliminate benefits for employees – creating a significant group of people who are now called the, ‘working poor’. The final concept explored in the movie discusses the benefits of what is characterized as socialized medicine or universal healthcare which would be a government managed system, and how a nation like the United States should adopt such a program like other industrialized countries in order to provide basic healthcare access to all people living in our country.

Now, most individuals who have studied the problems within the industry must admit the people Moore presents in the movie make a compelling argument that we are at the brink in regards to our system of ‘sick’ care that is the most costly of any industrialized nation and yet finds us ranked at 37 in terms of patient outcomes (Commonwealth Fund, 2007). Most agree that something should be done… so, what’s the problem with a movie like Sicko? Plenty!

Now, before anyone says I am a Right-Winged fanatic and Michael Moore basher that is simply not the case. I am a registered Democrat and have been since I could vote in 1976. Michael Moore seems like someone I would love to have dinner or drinks with. He seems like a barrel of laughs with an extremely sharp mind. And for those of you who may say, as a NURSE, I should be supporting movies that expose these atrocities – and rally with the nurse collective like those in California who came out into the streets to support his movie. But, in all good conscience I can not.

The issues and consequences are deeper than Mr. Moore’s right to entertain or provoke – the issue is that this will only fuel the fire of the debate that had started to become a reasonable dialogue that crossed party lines… NOW, lines in the sand will again be drawn and the discussions will deteriorate to derail the healthcare reform we so desperately need in this country. It will be ‘us against them’. In fact, it has already started. You can not turn on the television, pick up a paper or read news online without being bombarded with editorials, face time with Michael Moore himself or expert commentators and not find an article or segment about the topic that does not have that feel that we are sinking again into a debate on the virtues of either a) capitalism or b) access to healthcare for all. It is one way or another – there is no in between or middle ground. And, now on the campaign trail of the 2008 elections the candidates will be drawn into the debate. Unfortunately the debate will not include intelligent discourse about tangible solutions to a genuine crisis; a crisis that impact real people. Instead the American people will be subjected to pandering to their base and snarling talking points at each other about what was right or wrong with the movie like a bunch of silly children. Thanks (NOT), Mike!

So, just like in 1992 when the healthcare agenda was buried in partisan politics – mostly fueled by those who hated the appointed spokesperson for this reform; Hillary Clinton. We were closer to a reasonable chance of reform than we had been in years and yet in spite of the need to do so our elected officials – who, by the way, have really great insurance, reduced the discussion to such a state that it died a miserable death on the cutting floor of congress – mostly because they just hated the messenger. Now, as political jabs hurl from the left and right, sparked by those who use the Moore film to make their case on both sides of the issue – here we go again! And, who will suffer from the polarizing effects of this debate framed in such a manner? Well, my friend, Janice and her children for starters. They are the losers in this game of repartee and pithy sound bites.

Janice who lives in my small rural town, Piedmont, Alabama, cleans houses, boats and anything else she can for a living is a friend of mine. Her children attend school with my daughter and she is one of the most delightful individuals I have ever met. Even though she cleans my house twice a month I count her a very close friend and just marvel at her resourcefulness. Her kids are on the state healthcare plan, but Janice doesn’t have health insurance even though she probably works more hours and definitely harder than I ever have.

She grew up in a small town in Indiana and left high school to marry a man who was in the Army who promised to love, cherish her and take care of her. He did too. Well, up until the time he left her after impregnated another woman and quit working so he wouldn’t have to pay child support after the Army discharged him for mental health and anger issues. So, Janice, only 33 years old, lives in a trailer with 3 bright children as she struggles to put food on the table.

By now some of you are reading this and may be thinking that Janice needs to get a job with healthcare benefits – even if it is a menial job since she doesn’t have formal education or any technical training. But, there are two problems with that bright idea. First, Janice has a child with special needs. He needs constant medical care and she juggles numerous doctors’ appointments that simply would not jive with holding a traditional full time job. Ask anyone with a child like hers and they will tell you that making sure they get the therapy and care they need is, in and of itself, a full time ‘job’. Cleaning other people’s houses and boats can be done at odd hours and provides the flexibility she needs; however, none of her clients can offer her health insurance.

The second problem facing Janice and the other thousands of people who live in this area of the country is there are only a handful of industries and employers who provide benefit packages to their workers. So, Janice herself falls into the ‘doughnut hole’ where the working poor find an unsettling resting place with very few ways in which to climb out – and who, in essence, no one of consequence seems to care about. In fact, although this particular story highlights my friend Janice, over half of my daughter’s classmates are in the same predicament. There are hundreds of Janices – and, Jims for that matter and their stories are just as tragic.

The last time Janice was at my house she looked so tired. She just was not her bright and bubbly self. Her eyes were tired and dull. When I asked her what was wrong she said she needed a hysterectomy because she was diagnosed with endometriosis, but couldn’t afford it. Endometriosis is an extremely painful condition. It produces severe menstrual cramping and bleeding almost constantly and many women pass huge clots of blood on a regularly basis. But, in and of itself it is not life threatening. Endometrial tissue can actually attach itself to other internal organs like the intestines which increases the pain ten-fold. I had the same diagnosis 5 years ago, but of course I just scheduled and had my surgery and went about my life (I have great insurance too) - but, Janice can’t do that. She said she had contacted all of the local physicians about performing this surgery only to be directed to the office manager about how they would need about $10,000 down and there would be a similar bill and process when she set up the procedure at the local hospital. It might as well be 1 million. So, Janice will not get to have her hysterectomy that can restore her health so she can continue working 80 hours a week cleaning other people’s stuff and, so she can feed her children and put gas in her run down van in order to take her special needs child to his doctor visits and to and from school.

What happens if Janice can’t continue her cleaning work at her current pace? Well, she may have to go on government assistance to include getting a Medicaid card; something she has never done before and is tremendously proud of. But, there are limits on the amount of time someone can be on Medicaid, so it would only be a temporary fix. The irony is that if she did have Medicaid she could probably have her surgery and go on her merry way. So, not working so hard could actually help her situation. Interesting, and sadly true.

I do not know what will happen in Janice’s case, but there are thousands of more individuals like Janice who are forever falling in the ‘doughnut hole’ of our healthcare system. And because of a polarizing, yet factually true movie, the politicians and pundunts will reduce the debate to the lowest common denominator again and nothing will happen, again. Maybe it is not our lawmaker’s fault. Maybe they do not know someone like Janice in their district. Oh, wait – of course they do – she cleans their houses and boats!

We can send men and women into space, we can build bombs that will destroy the world as we know it, but Janice can’t have her surgery, and no one who can do anything about that seems to care – or, if they do care, they are doing little about it – now, that, my fellow Americans, is what I call, SICKO!

The following is from The Stiletto which granted permission to re-print this piece. This is, by the way, a self-described conservative web site and I appreciate the author (who has quite an interesting bio) granting me permission to post her article.

Why Middle Class Americans Can’t Afford Health Insurance

A new Census Bureau report shows that even though median household income rose to $48,200 in 2006 - a slight increase from the year before - the number of people without health insurance also increased to 47 million, or 15.8 percent of the population.

The uptick in the uninsured is due to workers losing employer-provided or privately purchased health insurance.

An article in The Wall Street Journal advises scrutinizing your medical records as closely as your credit report, as mistakes can affect your insurability or your premium:

Savvy consumers know to check their credit score before applying for a loan. What is less well known is that consumers can improve their chances of getting insured -- and of paying lower premiums -- by checking that medical information held by doctors, hospitals and pharmacies is accurate.

Errors in medical records aren't uncommon. "They happen all the time," says Joy Pritts, research associate professor at Georgetown University's Health Policy Institute.

Mistakes can arise from a mistyped diagnosis code or transcription error to an inaccurate diagnosis or a diagnosis that is out-of-date, say because a patient has gotten his or her cholesterol under control. And, if you have a common name, other peoples' records can end up in your file, says Ms. Pritts. Part of the problem is that the U.S. health-care system relies mainly on paper records, which make it harder to coordinate care and spot errors.

Even if your medical records are complete – and completely accurate – there is stuff in there that an insurance underwriter will zero in on to assign you to a higher risk pool – which could mean that your monthly premium could be higher than your mortgage or rent – even if you are in good health. Consider this scenario:

A 35-year old divorced woman is going over the results of her lab tests with her doctor. The patient has two tween-age children, and took her widowed mother into her home two years earlier after a stroke left her unable to live on her own – though still able to walk, dress and bathe herself

The patient is a non-smoker and within 10 pounds of a weight her doctor considers optimal. However, her blood pressure is borderline and her cholesterol is a bit high. The doctor tells her that both conditions can be managed without medication, if she exercises at a moderate level of intensity for 30 to 45 minutes a day.

She looks at the doctor incredulously, and launches into a plaintive protest:

"Are you kidding me? Do you know what my life is like? I have a 45-minute drive each way to work, and that’s after I drop the kids off at school and leave my mother at a daycare program for seniors. I’m lucky that my neighbor brings the kids home from school, but I have to leave work at the crack of 5:00 to fetch my mother. If a late afternoon meeting is running long, I’m eating my heart out thinking I’m not going to get to the senior center in time. My mother is as independent and healthy as can be expected, but she’s very demanding and critical of everything I do. Not only I have no time to exercise, I feel like I am constantly late for something. My social life has dwindled down to zero – I have no time for my friends, and it’s been ages since I’ve been out on a date. I often feel trapped, which depresses me no end."

If you think this is a private exchange between this patient and her doctor you’re wrong. The doctor has been taking notes the entire time, and the details of this conversation are immortalized in the patient’s medical records.

Should this woman lose her health benefits, because her company can no longer afford to insure its employees or the company goes belly up and she’s out of work, underwriters at all the insurance companies from which she will try to purchase individual coverage will look at the doctor’s notes and conclude she is a high risk.

Despite being a normal weight non-smoker she will be deemed a heart attack waiting to happen, because of her cholesterol and blood pressure readings. Her reference to depression will also be flagged as a potential suicide. Every health insurance company she contacts will offer her coverage – as they are required to under HIPPA – but they will want to charge more than $1,000 a month just for her, never mind the kids. (The American Sleep Apnea Association Web site has a great explanation of why people get "rated" and how underwriters determine how much to charge you for health care coverage.)

The moral of the story: Don’t give your doctor any extraneous information about your life. Anything you say can and will be used against you by an insurance underwriter when you try to get healthcare coverage.