July 2nd, 2011


Boats prevented from leaving port


Greece blocks Canadian boat in Gaza flotilla

A Canadian-organized ship carrying protesters bound for the blockaded Gaza Strip has been prevented from leaving a port in Greece.

Greek coast guards boarded the ship Friday and attempted to arrest Canadian Sandra Rush, a member of the organizing committee Canadian Boat to Gaza, for refusing to surrender the boat's registration papers, the protesters said.

The Audacity of Hope sits docked in the town of Peramat after it was intercepted Friday. Greece has banned ships heading to Gaza from leaving Greek ports. The Audacity of Hope sits docked in the town of Peramat after it was intercepted Friday. Greece has banned ships heading to Gaza from leaving Greek ports. (Darko Bandic/Associated Press)

Another vessel bound for Gaza carrying mainly U.S. activists made it three kilometres out to sea but was intercepted by the Greek coast guard and brought back to shore, as Greece announced it was banning vessels heading to Gaza from leaving Greek ports.

The Canadian ship, known as the Tahrir, is part of a flotilla of nine Greek and foreign-flagged vessels that have been planning to break Israel's sea blockade and deliver aid to the Palestinian territory.

Canadian organizers with the flotilla said they aren't breaking any laws and will continue attempts to sail to Gaza.

"It is the blockade of Gaza that is illegal under international law," organizer Dylan Penner said in a statement.

"We have a legal and moral obligation to challenge the blockade, given the failure of the international community to act."

U.S. ship sneaks away

The secretive attempt by the U.S. activists' ship, called the Audacity of Hope, to head out to sea ended in failure after authorities in inflatable speedboats raced after them when their vessel tried to sail without permission from the port of Perama, near the Greek capital, Athens.

"We shall overcome," the activists sang as security personnel watched from their boat just 10 metres away, according to updates protesters posted on the internet during a brief standoff.

The Irish ship Saoirse, in dry dock in Turkey, is alleged to have been sabotaged by Israeli agents before it could sail to Gaza.  The Irish ship Saoirse, in dry dock in Turkey, is alleged to have been sabotaged by Israeli agents before it could sail to Gaza. (Agence France-Presse/Getty)

Greek officials appealed to them to turn around, arguing that it was not safe to continue, but activists responded that it was not safe in port because of fears of sabotage of their vessels, organizers said.

On Thursday, an Irish ship, the MV Saoirse, said it had to abandon plans to set sail from the Turkish town of Gocek because of Israeli sabotage. Earlier this week, activists said the propeller of a Swedish ship in a Greek port was sabotaged. Israel has not commented on the reports.

Flotilla organizer Vangelis Pissias condemned the Greek ban on Friday and argued the government had no legal grounds to block private vessels that were heading to international waters from its ports.

"The efforts to sail will continue," he said.

Israeli pressure on Greece alleged

Many of the passengers on the Canadian and U.S. boats are Jewish; the ships also include Muslims and people of other faiths, as well as high proportions of women and people over age 50, organizers said. Filmmaker John Greyson and Quebec activist Manon Massé are among the Canadian vessel's delegates, while the U.S. boat's passengers include two former U.S. military officers.

The Greek government action delivered a major blow to the flotilla and its several hundred activists. The setback followed a week of administrative delays that organizers attributed to Israeli pressure on Greece, which is mired in an economic crisis and has grown closer to Israel as it seeks more foreign investment.

Israel has said it will thwart any effort to breach its sea blockade of Gaza, which it imposed on the Palestinian territory after the militant and political group Hamas took control of it in 2007 following its victory in parliamentary elections the year before.

The U.S., EU, Canada and Israel consider Hamas a terrorist group.

Hamas issued a statement Friday condemning Greece's ban on sailings to Gaza, saying Athens had bowed to Israeli pressure and was acting in an "inhumane" manner "contrary to international regulations and norms," according to the Agence France-Presse news agency.

An Israeli raid on a similar flotilla last year killed nine activists on a Turkish ship, with each blaming the other for the violence. Israel says its sea blockade stops weapons from reaching Iranian-backed Hamas militants.

ETA - Because I was half asleep when I posted this last night. Source is the CBC www.cbc.ca/news/world/story/2011/07/01/greece-flotilla.html


Milwaukee County DA: No DNA tests needed in 2,100 homicide cases

((What do you all think about this?))

Report draws criticism from defense attorneys
12:00 AM, Jul. 2, 2011
Written by The Associated Press

MILWAUKEE — The Milwaukee County district attorney's office says its review of 2,100 homicide convictions did not find a single case in which DNA testing would be warranted to ensure that an innocent person wasn't sent to prison.

The review of homicide convictions in the county from the last two decades began last June after three people charged or convicted in homicides were exonerated when DNA testing linked the victims in their cases to a serial killer. The findings of the review shocked attorneys for the Wisconsin Innocence Project and for one of the exonerated men.

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Board of Directors Lost Confidence with Osama Bin Laden. Golden Suicide Bomber Vest to Go to Waste.

Al-Qaeda Inc. at The Verge of Financial Bankruptcy. Eying for a Bailout.

Bin Laden document trove reveals strain on al-Qaeda

Toward the end of his decade in hiding, Osama bin Laden was spending as much time exchanging messages about al-Qaeda’s struggles as he was plotting ways for the terrorist network to reassert its strength.

Over the past year, the al-Qaeda leader fielded e-mails from followers lamenting the toll being taken by CIA drone “explosions” as well as the network’s financial plight, according to U.S. officials who have completed an exhaustive review of the trove of bin Laden files collected at his compound after the May 2 U.S. raid that killed him.

Bin Laden approved the creation of a counterintelligence unit to root out traitors and spies, only to receive a complaint in mid-2010 from the unit’s leader that it was losing the “espionage war” and couldn’t function on its paltry budget.

Just months before the Arab Spring took hold, bin Laden warned affiliates in Yemen and elsewhere that it was too soon to create an Islamic state. The Saudi native, whose family had made its fortune in construction, concluded that there wasn’t “enough steel” in al-Qaeda’s regional support structures to warrant even tentative steps toward reestablishing the caliphate.

Such sober assessments and references to setbacks are among the fine-grained details that U.S. intelligence analysts have gleaned to assemble a new and more nuanced portrait of al-Qaeda and its founder in the aftermath of the raid on bin Laden’s compound in the Pakistani city of Abbottabad.

Analysts at the CIA and other agencies are likely to continue poring over the bin Laden files for years. But the multi-agency task force that was set up to review what officials have described as the largest cache of terrorism records recovered to date finished its job and was disbanded last month.

“We believe the materials will continue to yield new insights on al-Qaeda for years to come,” said a U.S. counterterrorism official familiar with the task force’s work. “But the task force is done.”
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Steven Universe, If I could begin to be

'Don't say gay' bill passes Tenn. Senate

Students protest and 'Star Trek's' George Takei offers a work-around

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — A bill passed Friday by the Tennessee Senate would forbid public school teachers and students in grades kindergarten through eight from discussing the fact that some people are gay.

The measure has prompted student protests and even a humorous suggestion for foiling it from former "Star Trek" actor George Takei.

Opponents deride the measure as the "don't say gay bill." They say it's unfair to the children of gay parents and could lead to more bullying. Supporters say it is intended to give teachers clear guidance for dealing with younger children on a potentially explosive topic.

In Nashville, student groups have been protesting the bill for weeks.

"I've said it multiple times: This is the civil rights movement of our time," said Brandon Holt, a high school senior, NBC station WSMV of Nashville reported, "and if we don't take advantage of our opportunity to stand up for what we believe in then we have lost that opportunity and this is something that we all feel so strongly about."

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mus | like a bird in a cage

DSK Rape Case Takeaway Number Five: You Have to Be the Perfect Victim

Based on the word of two unnamed “well-placed law enforcement officials,” the New York Times is reporting that the sexual assault case against former IMF managing director Dominique Strauss-Kahn “is on the verge of collapse.”

The impending collapse is due to “major holes” in the credibility of the 32-year-old Guinean housekeeper who on May 14th accused the liberal French presidential candidate known as either The Great Seducer or a serial offender, depending on the source.

Anyway, here are the “major holes” prosecutors have uncovered, as filtered by three male Times reporters and their editors, whose genders I don’t know:

“The woman had a phone conversation with an incarcerated man within a day of her encounter with Mr. Strauss-Kahn in which she discussed the possible benefits of pursuing the charges against him. The conversation was recorded.”

I’d like to hear the audio of that discussion. I do wonder if it also contained anything about, say, the possible drawbacks of being a private citizen and West African immigrant cleaning a hotel room when a rich, powerful, 62-year-old Frenchman emerges naked, rips your pantyhose and forces you to perform oral sex on him.

“That man, the investigators learned, had been arrested on charges of possessing 400 pounds of marijuana.”

OK. She talked to a weed dealer. And that makes her less likely to have been sexually assaulted while doing her job?

“He is among a number of individuals who made multiple cash deposits, totaling around $100,000, into the woman’s bank account over the last two years. The deposits were made in Arizona, Georgia, New York and Pennsylvania. The investigators also learned that she was paying hundreds of dollars every month in phone charges to five companies. The woman had insisted she had only one phone and said she knew nothing about the deposits except that they were made by a man she described as her fiancé and his friends.”

Involvement in a money-laundering scheme is risky, particularly when you’re the single mother of a 15-year-old daughter and a West African immigrant in the United States on an asylum visa. You know what else is risky? Being a hotel housekeeper charged with cleaning the rooms of powerful men.

“In addition, one of the officials said, she told investigators that her application for asylum included mention of a previous rape, but there was no such account in the application. She also told them that she had been subjected to genital mutilation, but her account to the investigators differed from what was contained in the asylum application.”

So is this a question about whether she’d actually been raped and undergone genital mutilation in Guinea—or whether these violations made it into her asylum paperwork and were consistent with her statements to investigators? Is the prosecution really willing to discount what it first described as her “outcries to multiple witnesses immediately after the [DSK] incident, both to hotel staff and law enforcement”? How about the full sexual assault forensic examination they used to corroborate her accusations against an impossibly high-profile and well-connected politician? Is that off the table now, too?

The housekeeper still maintains that Dominique Strauss-Kahn sexually assaulted her. But prosecutors will likely drop felony charges against DSK because they’re worried that the woman once described as an unassuming hardworking young Muslim widow will make a poor witness.

You know what this mess tells me? That if you report a rape, you have to be perfect. You can’t make foolish choices. You can’t talk to a drug felon on the phone, (especially if they’re one of a disproportionate number of people of color incarcerated for drug crimes.) You can’t be too poor to hire investigators to do their own digging. You can’t live in housing associated with HIV. You can’t be an immigrant. You can’t be a woman. You can’t be a woman of color. Unless you’re the right kind of witness, you just can’t afford to tell the police or anyone else that a man with power, money, global connections and sense of entitlement raped you. Because you’re below his, the prosecution’s and The New York Times’s pay grade.

If Dominique Strauss-Kahn is innocent of this crime, this is justice. If he’s guilty, he’ll do this again.

Either way, the mechanisms of victim-blaming will keep on churning.


University of Michigan: Preschool children of professionals verbally outcompete working class peers

University of Michigan: Class in session: Upper middle class preschoolers silence less fortunate peers
June 29, 2011

ANN ARBOR, Mich.—Preschool upper middle class children tend to ask for help and argue their points effectively--sometimes to the detriment of their classmates from working class families.

A new University of Michigan study finds that 4-year-old, upper middle class kids use their strong verbal skills to engage teachers in more conversations and to draw upon reasoning that appears to be fair to get their way. This behavior often silences working class children who feel less confident or willing to express their views, thus giving them less power and fewer opportunities to develop their own language skills.

The study's author Jessi Streib, a graduate student in the U-M Department of Sociology, defined the children as upper middle class if their parents were college educated and worked in occupations such as upper level managers, doctors, engineers and professors. Working class parents were construction workers, short-order cooks or were temporarily unemployed, and did not have four-year college degrees.

Upper middle class kids tended to have larger vocabularies, spoke more often to "take a stand" to gain the teachers' attention, interrupted more, and felt more entitled to speak to teachers than working class children.

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Class distinctions and advantages begin early.

For Sylvia Rivera On Her Sixtieth Birthday

 Sylvia Rivera, the Stonewall hero and godmother of the transgender community, would have been sixty years old today. It is a gift to have known someone who is already deservedly becoming a legend. It’s hard to swallow that it has already been nearly ten years since she passed. In many ways, the NYC transgender community is still missing her, almost as much as those who knew her.

Last Friday when I mentioned her name to an older person, he pointedly said that he was “not friends” with Sylvia, although he had been friends with her best friend in life, Marsha P. Johnson. I understand that sentiment. Sylvia was a very difficult person to be around for those she disagreed with. One cannot take her greatest gifts without remembering that Sylvia had once been a teenage sex worker on Times Square, that she had been a transvestite, that she had been homeless, that she had been a junky, or that she was a proud woman of color. To have not had any of these attributes, however, would almost certainly have diminished her abilities as a leader in her last days. Most of us in this diverse community have at least some of these experiences.

When I finally accepted myself in 2000, one of my first thoughts was that there were people around who were heroes to me. I got the idea that if I offered myself to some of these people, they would be able to teach me on my path. Sylvia was good at accepting help from others by that time in her life. After she saw how useful I could be, we became friends. The fierce spirit that everyone knows of Sylvia was contrasted equally with a gentleness of loving spirit any of her family or others of those close to her could confirm. Sylvia could hold your pain and give you hope. The best place to measure the stock of Sylvia wasn’t when she was at the head of a political rally or kicking cops at Stonewall, or scaling the walls of City Hall to smash windows with her heels. To see Sylvia at her best, one had to visit and help her at her job distributing food to the homeless at the Metropolitan Community Church on 36th Street in New York City. Every one of those homeless people knew Sylvia and she knew each one of them. Most people have the entitlement of separating people into all kinds of subsets based on religion, race, class, sexuality, etc. Homeless people and transgender people do not have this. Each person comes at you uniquely and there is no telling what that person will be like until they have expressed themselves, even if you knew them before that moment. More than anyone I have ever met, watching Sylvia interact with the homeless people at her church helped teach me to be better at taking the world this way. Sylvia could find her way inside anyone who wanted to be found. She had been there.

It is my guess that Sylvia would have found more today to applaud in the trans male community than in the trans female community. She would have loathed the arguments we have been having in the female community and her words would be a blowtorch. She would have had no time for transsexuals who felt put upon by the transgender community. She would have gotten GENDA passed years ago with signs that said “TRANNY POWER.” Sylvia did not brook shame and she recognized all kinds of powers in words. She respected those who were afraid, but not those who were afraid and whined about their plight. If you didn’t like other people in the community, that was not her problem. She didn’t have the time left. Sylvia fought for the rights of all transgender people literally up until the day she drew her dying breath when she had an argument in her room at St. Vincent’s Hospital with ESPA leaders Matt Forman and Joe Grabarz, and they lied to her for the last time. Sylvia would always have rather been with the fighters rather than people fighting amongst themselves.

There are so many more things to say about Sylvia. A friend of mine on the phone today said her impression of Sylvia was one of fierceness. Sure, long before models on television expropriated the word, Sylvia was the original fierce and I am grateful to her for that, but more, I’m glad for the softness she taught me in all the fierceness. I‘m most thankful that the last word I shared with Sylvia was love. That is what she truly was to the whole transgender community in the end and why we still talk about her and her amazing life.

Happy Birthday, Sylvia.