Friday, December 23, 2005

Baltimore is so Violent that Police Offiers...

Eugene Victor Perry Jr., 33, an officer with the Department of General Services,was being held without bail this morning on two counts of first-degree murder -- charged with killing his former fiancee and the man she was dating, both of them Baltimore City Police Officers. Vazquez, a 4 1/2 -year veteran of the city force, and Holliday, a newcomer to the force and mother of three, both worked the midnight shift at the department's Northwest District.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Revisited: Mawonaj

As a way to keep myself honest and accountable, I want to begin to revisit pieces that I have written in the past which have become problematic, in which my thoughts have changed or about which I have unresolved ambivalent feelings.

Today I want to begin with the most recent of such pieces: my recent comparison of the fire at Cafe Mawonaj with the flooding of New Orleans , and a "Mawonaj Update" in December.

Since the publication of these writings, I have learned a lot of things about Cafe Mawonaj and Concei, its current owner, that have caused me to SERIOUSLY rethink my position.

Up until the my December 9th post on Mawonaj, I did not take seriously any of the public accusations about Mawonaj on Indymedia because they were anonymous. As an open publishing forum, Indymedia has often been filled with . Since then people have taken responsibility for those accusations, including friends and colleagues of mine, as well DJ D'Salaam, host of a weekly event at Cafe Mawonaj. D'Salaam, along with others, claims to have been the recipient of unauthorized credit card charges by the restaurant.

My original piece shows some of my ambivalence toward Concei and his claims, qualifying Concei's claims by saying "according to the owners" and "Mawonaj has long claimed." I did, however, give them the benefit of the doubt because of the good work I had seen being done at Mawonaj and the prestige of DC organizations that Concei has worked with. His story about the fire and his interpretation of malicious intent were always suspicious, but again, I thought I would let his words speak for themselves.

New revelations about his relationship to the Common Ground clinic in New Orleans and the possible defrauding of Mawonaj's greatest supporters has left me also feeling defrauded, as someone who publicly supported Concei's statements following the fire. My skepticism of Concei's claims are so great that I think Mawonaj owes the community an opening of its books and its accounting for all supposed donations to orphanages in "Zambia, Zimbabwe and Botswana to, as well ...[the] radio project in Senegal," and all donations on behalf of the Common Ground relief operation in New Orleans. Only with this accountability can the local community be confident that it is not being taken advantage of when we have resources to give in solidarity with activists in need. Only this way can the good work that Mawonaj has done (or at least claims to have done) be further developed and expanded.

The Big Story in Bolivia

Evo Morales has a commanding lead in the Bolivian elections and is all but assured the presidential seat. According to CNN, Morales has taken to calling himself "Washington's Nightmare." CNN, though paraphrases this as "America's nightmare." Evo Morales, quoting Simon Bolivar, would probably disaprove of the rewording.

Since Morales may not have more than %50 of the vote, the Bolivian congress may have the right to vote in another of the top leaders. Since Bolivian politics have been so unstable under governmental division since Morales' near victory three years ago, there may be more of an attempt to compromise by many local politically moderate actors.

However, the last time a Socialist president won the presidency of a South American country...

Saturday, December 10, 2005

The LA Times, the Baltimore Sun and the Tribune Company

I do not normally pay much attention to the daily life of Barbara Streisand, but I was very interested to learn that she has cancelled her Los Angeles Times subscription after the paper fired columnist Robert Scheer. While the article I read in my local paper, the Baltimore Sun, suggested that this merely had to do with the loss of a "liberal columnist," I believe there is much more to this story. Indeed, the Baltimore Sun was bought by the Tribune Co. as part of the purchase of Times-Mirror Company whose flagship paper is the Los Angeles Times. At the time many commentators pointed out that the LA Times was a much more prestigious and important paper journalistically than the Chicago Tribune, which had been the flagship of the Tribune Company up until that point. This suggestion that the guppie was swallowing the whale of course ignored the business end of the newspaper business. The Tribune had been turning out much higher profits, allowing the paper`s owners to be the gobble up the Los Angeles Times despite the Tribune´s small standing within the study and field of journalism.

Since this purchase, I have seen the Tribune Company increasingly use syndicated columnists and reporters from its nationwide company and has even reformatted the Baltimore Sun so that it appears more like the most generic news paper in the Americas, the USA Today. The consolidation of ownership of the Baltimore Sun into larger and larger conglomerates was starting to homogenize its content. This process, of course, comes at the expense of Baltimore´s voice, individuality, and investigative reporting that made The Sun an exciting part of my life growing up in Baltimore. Even when I lived inside the Washington Beltway as a student at the University of Maryland, I usually preferred the Sun over the Washington Post because of its quality reporting and distinct Baltimore perspective.

The firing of Scheer, whom Streisand labels an independent voice "of dissent and groundbreaking expositional content," was part of this same process of homogenization that logically follows from the consolidation of for-profit media. While many people may not care what Barbara Streisand thinks, this process has had a great negative effect on US American media. One wonders, for example, what the effect of this lack of diversity in media ownership had on the run-up to the war in Iraq. While plenty of evidence existed that suggested that Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction nor any ties to Al Qaeda, few media outlets questioned to audacious statements coming out of the whitehouse preparing this country for war. The American media, including the Tribune Company, surely shares some responsibility for the more than 100,000 Iraqis and 2,000 Americans whose lives have been lost in an Iraq without a clear purpose or plan.

Though occasional bright spots, such as the recent multi-part series on the lives of homeless students at Baltimore City Public Schools, have kept me reading the Sun since I moved back to Baltimore, I am considering switching my news source. Even if it isn´t the hometown perspective I can identify with, I want to get my information from sources I trust (which is increasingly not the case with the Tribune Company). Unfortunately, other major media outlets that used to feature quality reporting have lost my trust in different, if not wholly disimilar ways. I am, of course, referring to the Judith Miller´s reporting on Weapons of Mass Destruction for the New York Times and Bob Woodward´s relationship to the "Plamegate" affair while reporting for the Washington Post.

Indeed, I find myself increasingly using the BBC´s website for news while considering a subscription to the Financial Times of London, The Guardian of London, or La Jornada of Mexico City. One even wonders how much longer American news sources can be profitable while continuing to lose credibility and quality in their reporting.

Mawonaj update

Concei from Café Mawonaj has sent out an "Open Letter to the Community" that goes beyond what I have written previously.

This update includes a US Department of Justice link about what the café was like under previous owners:
Rick's Pool Hall
624 T Street, N.W.
(PSA 305) (Ward 1)

This Nuisance Property was originally a business, operating under the name "Rick's Billiards". Despite its purported operation as a pool hall, the Nuisance Property served as a base for the sale and use of heroin, which resulted in large amounts of foot and car traffic and numerous arrests for heroin and other drugs in and outside the property... In 1999, a search warrant was executed on the property resulting in three arrests and a seizure of heroin from inside of the building. In short, community members and police officers watched for years as drug transactions and drug users operated in and around the nuisance property without regard for the negative affect on the community. The United States Attorney's Office Nuisance Abatement Team contacted the property owner and informed him of its intention to file a civil suit under the Nuisance Abatement statute. The owner promptly sold the property which is now operating as Café Mawonaj, a coffee house.

Concei´s open letter also raises the possibility of the recent fire being an arson, saying "It appeared that the place was torched with gasoline, judging from the patches of burns in more than one area." This claim is, of course, difficult to evaluate, but Concei also suggests that the Fire Investigators and police involved in the case have not been responsive in his concerns that an investigation of the fire is necessary.

Most concerning is the quotes attributed to Chip Ellis, who "bought the property last month." He appearantly showed up at 9 AM the morning after the fire (and it is unclear to Mawonaj workers how Mr. Ellis so promptly knew about the fire) and said
“I’m glad this happened. I want you to get the F**K out of here and take your business someplace else. We are going to tear this building down and do something else with it.”

This was said in front of witnesses. I didn’t know what to think about these words. I responded that we were going to stay. We still have several years on our lease agreement and there is no way that is not going to be honored. That response really did tick him off because he became very angry and started to swear. His words:

“We f***ing own this building now. I’m not going to allow it to be rebuilt and you can bet on my words.”

Paul Schwartzman of the Washington Post got a hold of my first blog post and has been talking to Concei about possibly writing a story on Mawonaj and the fire. We will see if anything comes of that.

Friday, December 09, 2005

My brother John Fitzgerald has just started as a "special guest" on the WebCast of a Chicago sports show Bearscast. The first episode can be heard online here.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

NYU Graduate Student Workers Continue Strike... Need Your Support

Teaching Assistants and other graduate student employees of the New York University have been on strike for weeks because the NYU administration has refused to recognize the union. The Graduate Student Organizing Committee, an affiliate of the United Auto Workers, had been recognized by the university and had been negotiating a contract until a recent National Labor Relations Board (appointed by George W. Bush) reversed an earlier decision, now ruling that university teaching assistants were not guaranteed the right of collective bargaining.

NYU's president John Sexton recently escalated the battle, threatening to cut off all financial support to striking students after a raucus protest by the graduate students. While the graduate student union has enjoyed strong support from the UAW, AFL-CIO, Teamsters, academics and NYU teachers and students (some of whom hold classes off campus so as to not cross the picket lines), they are asking for more support in light of Sexton's "ultimatum." While the administration has agreed to postpone this economic pressure for 2 days in order to meet with a representative committe of the GSOC, this potential cut-off of funds could be devestating for some of the strikers.

Please sign a petition in support of the strikers and consider contributing the strike fund.

Checks can be made out to: "UAW Local 2110 Strike Fund."
Send it to:
UAW Local 2110
113 University Place, 5th floor
New York, NY 10003.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Update on Haitian priest being persecuted by the illegal coup government

Below is an update on Father Jean-Juste who sits in prison without formal charges, which Bill Quigley (the author of this update and many other writings on Haiti and New Orleans).

Update on Fr. Jean-Juste 12.1.05

We wound our through the hills of Port-au-Prince up the road that Father Jean-Juste calls Gologotha to the Annexe Pententiare Nationale, where he has been incarcerated the last several months. The Haitian National Police and U.N. soldiers from Senegal patrol the prison. Father's health condition continues to be serious and, in fact, has worsened since September, according to Dr. John Carroll who examined Father then and also today (12-01-05). Father is need of a complete medical work up and a surgical intervention.

As to his legal and ecclesiastical situations, he is waiting to hear from authorities on both. A judge in Haiti has his dossier and is reviewing the information. This "review" has been going on for months now. As there is no evidence that Father has committed a crime of any kind, we can only believe that he is being kept in jail until after the elections, which keep being postponed. They are currently scheduled for January 8.

Though Father is eager to leave jail, he hopes to hear from Rome first about his status as a priest. He was recently told by the bishops of Haiti that he could no
longer officially act as a priest. "It would be a great hardship on me if I couldn't say Mass after I am released from prison," Father said. He has little support from Catholic priests and bishops in Haiti or abroad. "Many of the Haitian priests who would be supporters of mine are dead," he said. Bishop Gumbleton from Detroit has visited Father and advocates for Father Jean-Juste's release.

Father's spirits continue to be strong; no one can keep him from God.

The feeding program at his parish, St. Clare's is going strong, four days a week, feeding 750 people each time possibly the only meal they will eat that day. If you would like to donate to this absolutely vital cause, contact Margaret Trost at or visit the What If Foundation website at

Father appreciates the support he receives from people in Haiti and all over the world.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Cafe Mawonaj, New Orleans and Gentrification

Last week a fire in the Shaw neighborhood of Washington, D.C. damaged a restaurant tucked away on T street, just blocks from Howard University. While the damage from the fire was confined to just a few rooms upstairs, the water damage from fighting the fire was serious. Furthermore, the front door seems to have been left open after the fire, allowing most of the sound and restaurant equipment to be looted during the night.

People from outside the beltway may not think much of this little tidbit of news, but Mawonaj represented more than just a restaurant, especially to the people of the surrounding community. In addition to offering African and vegan fair, Mawonaj, which means liberation (from slavery) in Haitian Creole, also offered its space to local community organizations and used its money for support and solidarity of less fortunate peoples. According to the owners, the profit from the Cafe helped run a local breakfast for kids program and helped support three orphanages in southern Africa. In addition, the restaurant became a local D.C. organizing base from which many activists organized support caravans to help the Common Ground project in the Algiers neighborhood of New Orleans following the Katrina hurricane and flood.

While workers at Mawonaj are soliciting help to rebuild the restaurant, tension between the owners of the building and the cafe threatens to become a full blown battle. Mawonaj has long claimed that the owners of the building and developers have been trying to kick Mawonaj out so that they could build condos in the fast gentrifying Northwest section of D.C. Now they are reporting that Mr. Chip Ellis, representing the owners Radio One have "threatened not to allow Mawonaj to be rebuilt because they have different plans." This argument with management comes despite the 7 year lease that Mawonaj has on the property. In fact, the argument is already turning ugly. The original posting on the Washington D.C. Independent Media Center about the fire now contains some anonymous comments attacking the restaurant, a few of which make demonstrably false allegations.

Indeed, Mawonaj's participation with the Common Ground reconstruction in New Orleans and with the New Orleans Diaspora illustrates a profound connection between these groups and marginalized communities everywhere. Local D.C. activists have begun to talk about the effects of the flood in New Orleans as "gentrification in fast forward," as some 200,000-300,000 New Orleanians remain displaced. These people are largely the poor black people from neighborhoods like the Lower Ninth Ward and East New Orleans.

Although wealthier neighborhoods like Lakeside were also flooded, as WikiPedia explains,
If the storm and flooding did not respect economic class distinctions, repopulation is quite a different matter. The poorest of the city's residents often face the greatest obstacles to returning. Landlords of still standing or easily repairable housing have been evicting poorer tenants, back in the city or still absent, in hopes of renting to more prosperous people looking for housing.
Meanwhile, developers and government officials are talking about a new "Whiter" New Orleans and many evacuees complain of "ethnic cleansing" in their hometown.

The troubles that Cafe Mawonaj faces after the fire in this way are becoming a microcosm of "disaster profiteering" and the coercive removal of marginalized communities by developers and capital investors.

Friday, November 25, 2005

New Orleans Diaspora

I added a new New Orleans Diaspora page to the online encyclopedia Wikipedia. Feel free to add links, new information, or clarifying words.

New Orleans Update

New Orleans Updates
It´s important to remember that New Orleans residents remain displaced, and that we all owe continued solidarity to the New Orleans Diaspora.

Jordan Flaherty and Bill Quigley offer updates on the New Orleans situation in light of the Thanksgiving holiday this week.

Also, I remind my readers that Left Turn still has up a list of recommended organizations for people to volunteer with and donate to. I am right now writing my $100 donation check to some organizations that I promised money two months ago (my work takes a month longer to pay me than I expected, so I am late in paying out non-essential bills right now).

Jordan also offers up the following list of Blogs from New Orleans:
Catherine Jones’ Blog
Abram Himmelstein’s Blog
Walidah Imarisha’s blog from New Orleans and elsewhere

Monday, November 14, 2005

Essay for SUNY DOWNSTATE MPH program

Below I reproduce an essay I sent to the SUNY Downstate MPH program in Brooklyn as part of my application for admission into their program. Enjoy... Feedback welcome.


Question: HIV and AIDS are on the rise in many immigrant communities. Yet, public health outreach is often diminished because of cultural, language, and socioeconomic barriers. You are the director of a health center in a largely immigrant community (please specify the nationality of the immigrant group). Propose a program for the health center that will enable individuals to understand that the health center provides a wide variety of services including HIV/AIDS screening and treatment.

Improving Clinic-Community Relations for Healthcare Providers in a Haitian-American Neighborhood

As a health clinic that neighbors a large Haitian American community, we do not find that many Haitians utilize our programs. This not only suggests that we need to do better outreach, but that we may not be offering the services that seem relevant to the community. By studying other programs in similar communities, I identified three areas of improvement that can increase use of our services by the Haitian American community. 1) The clinic should become more “culturally competent” within the Haitian community. 2) We must make the clinic part of a comprehensive strategy to visibly improve the health and quality of life for AIDS patients. 3) We should involve community members, including our HIV-positive patients, on all levels of the clinic’s operation.

A culturally competent clinic

In order to work effectively in the Haitian-American community, we should design our program specifically for them. First of all, we must staff the clinic with Haitian Creole speakers, because many Haitian Americans do not know French [1]. In addition, 75% of Haiti’s population is illiterate, so we cannot rely on written materials as outreach to Haitian immigrant communities [2].

Since Haitians were initially singled out as the only ethnic group “at-risk” for AIDS, we must also be aware of the cultural stigma associated with HIV. Many Haitians are seen as “AIDS carriers” and have suffered firings, evictions, violence, alienation and other discrimination simply because of their national origin [3]. Farmer points out how this stigmatization has even permeated academic literature on the subject [4]. Santana and Dancy add that many Haitian Americans have experienced “visible discrimination” in hospitals, creating distrust within the Haitian American community toward health professionals [5]. To avoid such a situation at our clinic, all of the clinic staff should be taught the popular misconceptions about Haitians and HIV in clinic-sponsored classes.

Moreover, intracommunity stigmatization “can play a major role in diminishing Haitians’ utilization of existing services,” as contracting AIDS is linked to poor morals or otherwise blamed on the patient [2]. We will need to engage community members in an educational process about HIV, AIDS, their causes, prevention strategies, and the lives of survivors in order to address negative popular attitudes. The active involvement of community members in planning and carrying out this process will be necessary to make the clinic more culturally relevant to the Haitian American community.

A comprehensive program that addresses HIV and AIDS in the Haitian community

While education and outreach efforts are needed to end stigmatization, Farmer argues that, from his experience in rural Haiti, the recovery and health of HIV-positive patients can very quickly erode the stigma attached to the disease [6]. For example, in the two years after the Clinique Bon Sauveur introduced a Directly Observed Therapy with Highly Active Anti Retroviral Therapy (DOT-HAART) they experienced a 300% increase in the number of voluntary HIV tests [3].

For this reason, our clinic must offer quality HIV treatments including anti-retroviral medication to those who come in for testing and test positive. To encourage more volunteers for the HIV tests, these treatment services should be advertised, especially to vulnerable groups such as pregnant women who might be eligible for pre-natal AZT treatment if they test HIV-positive. Similarly, the clinic must be prepared to offer effective treatment to the common opportunistic infections of AIDS patients, including multi-drug resistant Tuberculosis, to demonstrate the value of the clinic’s services to HIV patients [6]. If we cannot directly offer any of these services, we must be able to partner with other hospitals, government programs, universities or clinics that can guarantee such treatments for our patients.

Furthermore, Farmer argues that poverty and inequality are pathogenic factors in the spread of HIV and opportunistic infections. He offers one example when his patients were not adhering to the medication regimens because they could not afford to buy food and wouldn’t take the medications on an empty stomach [6]. With this in mind, if we cannot provide other services that patients need, we must empower bilingual employees to actively advocate on the patients’ behalf to find housing, food, income, and other necessities. We must also help patients that are drug users to find treatment for their addictions. Moreover, our staff may need to mediate with law enforcement and immigration authorities to allow our patients to continue getting treatment even if they are sent to jail or threatened with deportation [2]. We should advertise these services in order to make the clinic a compelling destination for anyone who is or might be HIV-positive. Since many Haitian American AIDS patients are poor, we have to also find a way to provide these services at little or no cost to the patient [6].

Active involvement of the community

The active involvement of the local community members, including the HIV patients, in all levels of our clinic’s operation will improve the services offered by the clinic and encourage participation by other community members.

Our clinic can achieve this effect by hiring community “health promoters.” These members of the community are better connected to community institutions and better prepared to identify the pathogenic factors that are widespread within their community but not openly discussed - such as drug use, unprotected sex, domestic violence, crowded living situations, or chronic malnourishment. In addition to doing outreach and advocacy work, promoters can also teach other clinic staff about the community and help the staff craft strategies that work best in the local context.

Such health promoters at the Partners In Health (PIH) program in Boston were able to quickly recognize the poor AIDS treatment response rate of a certain subpopulation of patients. They responded by creating a supportive Directly Observed Anti-Retroviral Treatment to insure that patients adhered to the treatment regimens despite difficulties [3]. In another example, the Center for Community Health, Education and Research, Inc. (CCHER) created a program of “psychosocial educational counseling” in Creole for community members. This community-based counseling was able to uncover a hidden problem of alcohol and drug abuse in the Haitian community of Boston that had not adequately been described previously. They then developed “interventions from a community-level approach” to address problems discovered by the counselors [2].

Promoters can also run creative outreach initiatives such as the “Volunteer Health Educators” program of CCHER. This program trains “community members, affected family members, and consumers” to organize small group presentations on HIV/AIDS prevention, on services in the clinic and on other issues related to illness and recovery [2]. Since the advocates and/or health promoters will be community members, they can help identify other appropriate methods of outreach and information dissemination.

Effective outreach will require extensive networking with other community institutions, taking advantage of the networks that have already been created. Our bilingual staff should be empowered to create alliances with churches, schools, community organizations, affordable housing advocates, prisoner and immigrants’ rights groups, local radio stations, artists and music groups. These networks can help create new spaces where HIV/AIDS education, prevention, testing, treatment, and other services can be made accessible to many different parts of the community. For example, CCHER’s promoters ran a regular radio show at a popular and supportive radio station to talk about HIV and AIDS, to advertise services at the clinic and to answer callers’ questions in Haitian Creole [2].

Meanwhile, our health professionals should create and/or strengthen connections with local Universities, hospitals, social workers, relevant government programs, NGO’s, and foundations. These institutional contacts can help give the clinic access to more resources, funding, and complementary services. We should also build working relationships with successful programs like CCHER and PIH so that we can jointly work toward common goals and learn from each other’s experiences.


In order to make our clinic a more integral part of the community, our staff must respect and try to understand the difficulties that our patients face. Furthermore, bilingual members of the community must be integrated both as staff and volunteers into all levels of the clinic’s operation including outreach efforts, decision-making, and case management.

Since the AIDS epidemic among Haitian and Haitian American patients is so widespread and so intricately linked to issues of poverty, the services offered should be part of a systematic strategy to confront and stop the transmission of AIDS and the suffering of AIDS patients. The bilingual health promoters can ensure that our efforts are effective by interpreting, advocating and counseling for the patients. Their feedback will then be crucial in adapting the clinic to the community’s needs.

Health promoters, along with patients, family, community leaders and others can then reach out to the rest of the community as colleagues and make the clinic’s services an accessible and compelling part of our neighbors’ lives. Collaboration with community organizations and other relevant institutions will be instrumental in allowing this work to expand and one day end the local AIDS epidemic.

Selected Bibliography

1. Boyd-Franklin, Nancy, et al. “Cultural Sensitivity and Competence: African-
American, Latino and Haitian Families with HIV/AIDS.” Children, Families and HIV/AIDS: Psychosocial and Therapeutic Issues. Eds. Nancy Boyd-Franklin et al. New York: Guilford Press, 1995. 53-77.
2. Jean-Louis, Eustache, et al. “Drug and Alcohol Use among Boston’s Haitian Community: A Hidden Problem Unveiled by CCHER’s Enhanced Innovated Case Management Program.” Drugs and Society. 16 (2000): 107-125.
3. Farmer, Paul, et al. “Community Based Treatment of Advanced HIV Disease: Introducing DOT-HAART (Directly Observed Therapy with Highly Active Anti-Retroviral Therapy).” Bulletin of the World Health Organization. 29 (2001): 1145-1152.
4. Farmer, Paul. “New Myths for Old.” The Uses of Haiti. Monroe, Maine: Common Courage Press, 1994. 345-374.
5. Santana, Marie-Anne, and Barbara C. Dancy. “The Stigma of Being Named AIDS Carriers in Haitian American Women.” Health Care for Women International. 21.3 (2000): 161-172.
6. Farmer, Paul. “From Despair to Health Care.” Bloomberg School of Public Health. Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore. 22 September 2005.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Hurricane Beta? and Happy Birthday!

The world continues to break records relating to hurricane season with Tropical Storm Beta threatening to become a hurricane and slam into Nicaragua. For those who do not understand what this has to do with global warming, I will try to oversimplify what is going on.

As the world heats up, so do the oceans. Around the equator, this causes the waters to be especially hot, leading to more evaporation. At the poles, more of the polar ice melts. This creates two very strong gradients within the oceans, one based on heat and the other on the fact that the increasing evaporation at the equator causes higher salinity while the influx of fresh water at the poles makes that water much less salty than water at the equators. In addition to the intuitive conclusion that increased evaporation will create more rainclowds and precipitation, those gradients wil cause strong currents within the water as the seas will tend to balance out the gradient.

As we know from flushing the toilet, water does not move along gradients based on a straight line, if not in a swirling motion that lessens resistants. Add to this increased precipitation and increased swirling the complex math equations of Chaos Theory, and you have an increased likelihood of drastic storms and increased flooding because of global warming. (as far as i can tell anyway).

And finally, wish my girlfriend and lover a happy birthday. She is celebrating by going on a date with the founder of Narco News Al Giordano. (Way to go baby!)

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Happy Hurricane Season: From Katrina to Wilma to... Alpha?

Its official! This year there were so many hurricanes and tropical storms that, for the first time, we ran out of names and had to resort to the Greek Alphabet. Tropical Storm Alpha comes with 5 weeks still left in the hurricane season. Can we please not only admit that this epidemic of flooding might be related to global warming, but also actually work to remedy this present and gathering danger?

Note: The link leads to a Netscape News story that describes rural Haitians as "dirt-poor farmers." For some reason that doesn't quite seem profesional to me.

Also, Havana saw serious flooding because of Hurricane Wilma. 250 people had to be emergency rescued out of flooded neighborhoods along the coast as the storm surge sent water for blocks inward. By the way, don't bother trying to watch the news for information on this. Despite the fact that Havana is one of the most cultured, interesting and historically rich cities in this hemisphere, all of the major networks only have correspondents in the resort city of Cancun. While some file footage is being shown of Havana, these correspondents go on and on about "looting" and damaged windows of hotels. Not even a word is mentioned about the deaths in Haiti due to Alpha. Furthermore, the preparedness of the Cuban response system should be a lesson to Chertoff at the Department of Homeland Security and the disgraced former head of FEMA Michael Brown.

This capitalist myopia reminds me the American media and government's preocupation with shooting looters in the late days of this past August, while the elderly were still drowning in their homes in East New Orleans and the Ninth Ward and those who could swim to safety suffered hunger and dehydration in the Convention Center and the Superdome.

Where is our international network of justice based journalism? I'm starting to feel ill because of the twin sicknesses of capitalism and militarism. We are obligated now to articulate an alternative vision of interpersonal and international relations. More importantly, we must fight with those marginalized communities, from Gonaives to Havana to the New Orleans diaspora for respect and dignity. AND WE MUST DO IT NOW!

Friday, October 21, 2005

Cal Thomas: Black people poor cause they immoral

I was extremely impressed by the arrogance and disrespect of Cal Thomas' recent column.

Not only is Thomas so pompous as to tell the black community what perspectives are even "worth considering," but by consistently using quotes around the word 'leaders' to describe everyone who spoke at the Millions More Movement march, he assumes he can decide who is a legitamate leader for a community that he is not part of. Furthermore, in the sentence after attacking those who spoke at the march, he suggests that the real leaders should be from the "middle and upper classes." This exposes the attack not so much as a racist attack, though it definitely takes advantage of racist stereotypes and comes from a racially privileged perspective. Rather, Thomas is reacting to the growing realization that something has to be done about the dramatic poverty in the United States that was brought to the surface by the Katrina disaster. He wants to pre-emptively silence those financially poor individuals who demand to speak for the themselves (Never mind the fact that many of the speakers at the march seemd to actually be from the "middle class").

Indeed, Thomas then hopes to innoculate himself against criticism by launching the most vicious attack at poor black people in the form of a quote by a black leader. However these words, spoken first by Jesse Lee Peterson, that "it was blacks' moral poverty- not their material poverty- that cost them so dearly in New Orleans," form the most bizarre and baffling passage of Thomas' column.

Please Mr. Thomas, answer me this (and CC the question to Peterson for his response), was the levee breached by the black's moral povery? Or did those 1,000 or so people who died in New Orleans drown because of the historic and continuing neglect of the more wealthy politicians at every level of government? Perhaps Thomas believes all of those who lost their homes were ignored by government, from Bush on down, because they were immoral, rather than the fact that they have few economic resources, little lobbying power, and very poor political representation.

While many of the earliest dramatic reports of violence in New Orleans seem to be exaggerated, it is clear that people died because they did not have the means to leave New Orleans, and no one in a position of power thought it urgent enough to send in supplies during those critical days of isolation.

Indeed, Thomas' attack must also be seen as an attempt to blame the survivors of the New Orleans flood so that their poor voices can more easily be ignored by the "middle and upperclass" politicians and politically connected companies that dominate the discussions and decisions regarding relief, recovery and reconstruction in the Gulf Coast.
Author's note: This editorial will soon be published on the Blogger News Network here and in the Baltimore Sun.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

One more thing about Baltimoreans killed in Iraq

One point I want to add about the previous post. This hit me in a personal way because a friend of mine that was deployed in Iraq as a Marine reserve recounted a story where the Humvee he was riding in was damaged by a roadside bomb. It only managed to shatter the windows and blow out one passenger's eardrum, but the Humvee had been filled with C-4 explosives. The lucky coincidence that their explosives didn't ignite from the IED kept them alive, unlike the three unfortunate men I talked about below. My friend also cited the financial aid for college as a central reason for enlisting.

In short, this war must end. It may take a long time before that happens. If so, a lot of innocent civilians will be killed. More Iraqis will be tortured, and more Americans caught up in this madness will lose their lives or have them forever altered because of the trauma of war.

Pour a libation. May it quench the thirst for power that sends so many to their death at a young age.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Baltimore loses two more sons to war in Iraq

An accident between a tractor trailor and a humvee killed two young Baltimore men in a military convoy in Iraq this past weekend. Specialist Bernard Ceo, 22, from Waverly "joined the military to help pay for college. He dreamed of being a teacher," according to Baltimore Sun reporters who interviewed his family. His father added "that's what he really wanted to do - is go to college. And he ... didn't want to put that type of [financial] strain on myself and his mother."

Sgt. Brian R. Conner from Gwynn Oak worked as a firefighter at a station on West North Ave in Walbrook until being deployed to Iraq two months ago. According to the Sun, he prepared by "bringing his personal body armor."

Both men were members of the Maryland Army National Guard. A third member of their unit. Spc. Samuel M. Bosman, 20, from Elkridge was also killed in the accident which occured when "the tractor trailor struck the rear of their Humvee... 'The Humvee caught fire and the ammunition aboard detonated."

All three men were from the 243rd Engineer Company from the Melvin H. Cade Armory in West Baltimore, a part of the Maryland National Guard which traditionally responds to emergencies domestically and does not fight in foreign wars. "They were the first Maryland National Guardsmen to die while deployed overseas since World War II," according to Maj. Gen. Bruce F. Tuxill.

This suggests that these three men may have joined the National Guard without intending to volunteer for combat, though they were willing to do so when called upon. Furthermore, the case of Bernard Ceo is a classic description of "Economic Conscription" which causes disporportionate army recruiting, deployment and fatalities among the less fortunate economic classes. This has also been called the poverty draft.

However, with deaths like these happening from all over the country while the incompetence and corruption of the ruling administrations highlights the moral bankruptcy of this war and foreign policy (as well as domestic policy) have started to send recruiting numbers plummeting, especially in the traditionally easy recruiting of working class Blacks and Hispanics/Latinos.

Notes: experiencing continued technical difficulty posting links

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

New Orleans Update

The NOPD is realing once again this week. Jordan Flaherty has described how strained the relation between the New Orleans community was before the hurricane. Since then police have been accused of looting, hundreds did not show up for duty, two high ranking officers committed suicide, other officers have been living on a docked cruise ship because they are homeless including the former cheif of police who (according to the New Orleans Times Picayune) was just forced out of office by mayor Nagin.

Now a videotape has surfaced showing four officers beating a 64 year old black man who appears non-violent in the film and is only charged with public drunkenness. He claims he was sober. This comes on the heals of reports by others such as MayDay DC activist Bork (who is living in Algiers) that the New Orleans police are functioning as a force of front-line gentrification soldiers to push poor people out of the city.

The wonderful Bill Quigley, a law professor from Loyola in New Orleans whose reporting from Haiti has appeared on this blog, has written a piece on the other New Orleans residents who have not been able to return. His analysis is much in line with that of Bork, claiming that the very same people who were abandoned to fend for themselves as the city of New Orleans drowned are now being abandoned in the shelters far from New Orleans without jobs, aid, or respect from the various players in New Orleans "reconstruction."

In the words of an anonymous DC Indymedia poster. This is why we talk about "occupied" New Orleans like we talk


New Orleans:  Leaving the Poor Behind Again!

       By Bill Quigley.  Bill is a professor of law at Loyola University New Orleans where he directs the Gillis Long Poverty Law Center and the Law Clinic and teaches Law and Poverty.  Bill can be reached at

       They are doing it again!  My wife and I spent five days and four nights in a hospital in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina.  We saw people floating dead in the water.  We watched people die waiting for evacuation to places with food, water, and electricity.  We were rescued by boat and waited for an open pickup truck to take us and dozens of others on a rainy drive to the underpass where thousands of others waited for a bus ride to who knows where.  You saw the people left behind.  The poor, the sick, the disabled, the prisoners, the low-wage workers of New Orleans, were all left behind in the evacuation.  Now that New Orleans is re-opening for some, the same people are being left behind again.

       When those in power close the public schools, close public housing, fire people from their jobs, refuse to provide access to affordable public healthcare, and close off all avenues for justice, it is not necessary to erect a sign outside of New Orleans saying “Poor People Not Allowed To Return.”  People cannot come back in these circumstances and that is exactly what
is happening.

       There are 28,000 people still living in shelters in Louisiana.  There are 38,000 public housing apartments in New Orleans, many in good physical condition.  None have been reopened. The National Low Income Housing Coalition estimated that 112,000 low-income homes in New Orleans were damaged by the hurricane.  Yet, local, state and federal authorities are not committed to re-opening public housing.  Louisiana Congressman Richard Baker (R-LA) said, after the hurricane, “We
finally cleaned up public housing in New Orleans.  We couldn’t do it, but God did.”

       New Orleans public schools enrolled about 60,000 children before the hurricane.   The school board president now estimates that no schools on the city’s east bank, where the overwhelming majority of  people live, will reopen this academic school year.  Every one of the 13 public schools on the mostly-dry west bank of New Orleans was changed into charter schools in an afternoon meeting a few days ago.  A member of the Louisiana state board of education estimated that at most 10,000 students will attend public schools in New Orleans this academic year.

       The City of New Orleans laid off 3,000 workers.  The public school system laid off thousands of its workers.  The Archdiocese of New Orleans laid off 800 workers from its central staff and countless hundreds of others from its parish schools.  The Housing Authority has laid off its workers.   The St. Bernard Sheriff’s Office laid off half of its workers.

       Renters in New Orleans are returning to find their furniture on the street and strangers living in their apartments at higher rents – despite an order by the Governor that no one can be evicted before October 25.  Rent in the dry areas have doubled and tripled.

       Environmental chemist Wilma Subra cautions that earth and air in the New Orleans area appear to be heavily polluted with heavy metal and organic contaminants from more than 40 oil spills and extensive mold.  The people, Subra stated, are subject to “double insult – the chemical insult from the sludge and biological insult from the mold.” Homes built on the Agriculture Street landfill – a federal toxic site – stewed for weeks in floodwaters.

       Yet, the future of Charity Hospital of New Orleans, the primary place for free comprehensive medical care in the state of Louisiana, is under furious debate and discussion and may never re-open again.  Right now, free public healthcare is being provided by volunteers at grassroots free clinics like Common Ground – a wonderful and much needed effort but not a substitute for public healthcare.

       The jails and prisons are full and staying full. Despite orders to release prisoners, state and local corrections officials are not releasing them unless someone can transport them out of town.  Lawyers have to file lawsuits to force authorities to release people from prison who have already served all of their sentences!  Judges are setting $100,000 bonds for people who steal beer out of a vacant house, while landlords break the law with impunity.   People arrested before and after the hurricane have not even been formally charged by the prosecutor.  Because the evidence room is under water, part of the police force is discredited, and witnesses are scattered around the country, everyone knows few will ever see a trial, yet
timid judges are reluctant to follow the constitution and laws and release them on reasonable bond.

       People are making serious money in this hurricane but not the working and poor people who built and maintained New Orleans.  President Bush lifted the requirement that jobs re-building the Gulf Coast pay a living wage.  The Small Business Administration has received 1.6 million disaster loan applications and has approved 9 in Louisiana.  A US Senator reported
that maintenance workers at the Superdome are being replaced by out of town workers who will work for less money and no benefits.  He also reported that seventy-five Louisiana electricians at the Naval Air Station are being replaced by workers from Kellogg Brown and Root – a subsidiary of Halliburton

Take it to the courts, you say?   The Louisiana Supreme Court has been closed since the hurricane and is not due to re-open until at least October 25, 2005.  While Texas and Mississippi have enacted special rules to allow out of state lawyers to come and help people out, the Louisiana Supreme court has not. Nearly every person victimized by the hurricane has a price-gouging story.  Yet, the Louisiana Attorney General has filed exactly one suit for price-gouging – against a campground.   Likewise, the US attorney has prosecuted 3 people for wrongfully seeking $2000 FEMA checks.

No schools.  No low-income apartments.  No jobs.  No healthcare.  No justice.

A final example?  You can fly on a plane into New Orleans, but you cannot take a bus.  Greyhound does not service New Orleans at this time.

       You saw the people who were left behind last time. The same people are being left behind all over again. You raised hell about the people left behind last time.  Please do it again.
Author's note: Due to technical difficulty, links will be added shortly.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

2 weeeks and Update from Kevin Pina

Its been over 2 weeks since I last posted. There are two reasons for that. First, as Riverbend likes to say (By the way she has just posted links to several other Iraqi bloggers so check her site out), "I just didn't feel like blogging." However, I have tried twice in the last week to update my blog and then found myself unable to because of technical difficulties. The contents of my posts were lost and so was my motivation.

However, back to business, Kevin Pina was released some time ago, though my blog has not reflected that fact. Today is International Solidarity with Haiti Day, and Pina has published an update on his situation called "Seething in Haiti." Everyone should check it out. This first installment is about the powerful judge who had Pina arrested, but then had to release him in the face of international pressure.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Kevin Pina Arrested in Haiti

The Haitian Police have been increasing their campaign of repression before elections that are to be scheduled soon. The most popular party in the country was said to be banned from the race, but now, they are rumered to be running a candidate from jail, the Priest Jean Juste being held illegally without charges.

Today the police stormed the Father Jean Juste's church, and started tearing it apart. Those who were present at the time called reporters, fearing the police would plant some kind of evidence against the jailed priest. Two of the journalists who arrived to film and record the police action were arrested including American Kevin Pina, whose work I have written on before.

Haiti Action has more, as always. It's time to escalate the fight for Haitian freedom.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

New Orleans and Haiti

I had more to post about Chiapas, but I am simply staggered by the events in New Orleans. From all popular reports, it looks like Haiti.

Bob Harris argues that New Orleans is a casualty of the Iraq War because no National Guard or military personel or resources were available because of the war effort. Juan Cole argues that the city is dying. Spenser Weart explains how this is an effect of global warning. A big shout out to Bush for killing to Kyoto accord.

See New Orleans Indymeda for more.

"It`s the poor people and the old people" that are dying. One hopes that Bush and the Lousiana government among others go down because of this. But the problem seems to be who is dying. Let`s see if anyone cares.

There is a bloggospere campaign to raise money. I throw my hat in.

Until tomorrow.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Hace un chingo de años...

I have published discussion of zapatista healthcare infrastructure on the Left Turn blog. Check that out.

Also, I want to leave everyone with this pleasant image from the road in front of the caracol Oventik. Chingo, chingado , and chingon, for those that don´t know, are slight profanity that mean "a lot," "screwed over" and "someone who screws over" (roughly, i want to keep this post PG).

Unfortunately i cannot upload the photo because of technical limitations, me han chingado as it were. I'll put it up as soon as i can.

Blogging from Haiti and Tsotsil update

First and foremost, a colleague will now be blogging from Haiti at
The Haiti Report. Let`s see what news he breaks in the next week and a half he is on the island.

From Chiapas I must say that the lesson on the Mayan concept of time and "intersubjectivity" must wait. My lesson on the latter has been postponed and my understanding of the former has been challenged by some material that I have just read by a French anthropologist. It will surely come this week.

Another interesting feature of most (if not all) Mayan languages is the system of numeration. Mayans use a base 20 rather than a base ten system. Even the calender is split up into 18 different twenty day months (as well as several "days out of time" which align the calender to the 365 day year).

Furthermore, the number twenty-one is given as (in the Tsotsil of Oventik) "Jun Cha`vinik," or basically, "one of the second man" (as my teacher points out, this implies a certain bit of machismo in the Mayan culture since it is thusly man-centered). As some may have already figured out, this numbering system is based on the number of fingers (including the dedos del pie) on every person. The number 21 is the first finger on the second person, the number 42 is the second finger on the second person, 65 is the fifth finger on the third person, etc.).

Above about 400 (20x20) these names get rather excessive, and many Tsotsil speakers use spanish numbers above twenty or so.

Friday, August 26, 2005

Algunos aspectos interesantes del Tsotsil

Estudiar Tsotsil

At the Oventik Language School, a 45 minute drive from the tourist destination of San Cristobal, activists can always go to study in the mist of the mountains of Southern Mexico. I say activists, because before anyone can study in Oventik, they must have a social justice or international solidarity organization send a recommendation to one of the school’s partner organizations stating that the potential student is a friend in struggle. This may seem strange, but Oventik falls in EZLN territory, the Zapatista Army for National Liberation. The group was involved in a 2 week armed struggle starting Jan.1 1994, the day the North American Free Trade Agreement came into effect (more info about them can be found in my previous writing on the subject mentioned in yesterday´s poost). Despite the tourist interest in the Zapatistas (or perhaps because of it), the Zapatistas want to assure that all students, human rights observers, and other long term visitors to their territory consider themselves part of a global struggle for social justice. In other words, rather than just a “fellow traveler,” they want all students to be "compañer@s de lucha."

The language school, on the first floor of the Autonomous Rebel Zapatista Secondary School, mainly teaches Spanish, especially to North Americans. However, those that already speak Spanish can choose to study the local Mayan language Tsotsil.

Some Interesting aspects of the Mayan language Tsotsil

Tsotsil (or Tzotzil as it is sometimes written) is one of at least 30 distinct documented Mayan languages in Southern Mexico and Central America. These languages are said to have descended from a common root “proto-Maya” which existed some 4000 years ago. Zapatitsa communities in the state of Chiapas speak some 7 or so of these languages including Tsotsil, Tseltal, Chol, and Tojolabal. While Tseltal and Tsotsil said to be mutually intelligible, it does not so seem to be so easy with the other languages.

As these languages have never been official languages since the Spanish conquest, even within the Zapatistas, community representatives have to learn Spanish to be able to communicate with Zapatistas from different linguistic zones. Furthermore, the isolation imposed on many communities has caused each language to have numerous regional variants with different pronunciation, different conjugation and some different vocabulary.

Study of the Mayan languages seems to be increasingly popular, perhaps because of the Mexican and international interest in the indigenous communities that have risen up in the “War against oblivion” (“Guerra contra el olvido”) to demand rights and respect. Of the three books I found to help me learn, one Spanish-Tsotsil-Tseltal-Chol-Tojolabal dictionary and two Tsotsil workbooks all were printed in this millennium (2001, 2004, 2005). Unfortunately, they contain two different variants of Tsotsil, both of which are different from what is taught at Oventik.

Other interesting aspects about the Use of Tsotsil.

Tsotsil, like other indigenous languages of the Americas, has incorporated a lot of Spanish influences in its day to day use. Nevertheless, many concepts, sounds, and forms of expression that pre-date the European presence here make Tsotsil a very interesting language to learn.

For example, the Tsotsil alphabet contains glottal morphemes not found in any Western language. In other words the sounds ch’, k’, p’, t’, ts’ and a’,e’,I’,o’,u’, are different from ch,k,p,t,ts,a,e,I,o, and u. To pronounce the vowels with apostrophes, one closes the vocal chords after making the vowel sound. This is akin to the effect produced when some drop the ‘th’ in “nothing” to say “nu’in” (like the “nu’in” Honey Crunch commercials).

The glottal consonants are even more interesting. They are called “explosive” because one produces these sounds by momentarily blocking air movement, building up pressure with the lips and/or the tongue. When this pressure is released, it sends out a blast of air that causes a strong consonant sound and a momentary pause before the enunciation of the following sound.

Since language is also an expression of culture, Tsotsil offers an interesting glimpse into Mayan concepts. For example, Tsotsil, like English but unlike Spanish, does not differentiate between formal and informal usage of “you” in its pronouns or conjugation. However, there are two distinct concepts of “we.” “Jo’otik” means “we” including the listener/audience, “Jo’onkutik” excludes the audience. Notice, these words are from the vocabulary of the area around Oventik. In Zinancantan they say “Vo’otik” and “Vo’onkotik.”

The two most interesting concepts reflected in the Tsotsil have to do with 1) the concept of time and 2) the relationship between the subject and object of an action. Both of these are very different from the European concepts, so be sure to tune in to tomorrow´s addition.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Chano Bats´i K´op

Chano Bats´i K´op is Tsotsil for "Aprenda Tsotsil" or "Learn Tsotsil." Of course, I am currently in Zapatista rebel territory learning this Mayan language. For those who aren´t familiar with the Zapatistas, there are plenty of sources out there. MKristin Bricker and I, for example, wrote a piece called Zapata Vive y La Lucha Sigue which I translated into Spanish under the title Dos Gringos en Territorio Rebelde.

Kristin is currently blogging for Left Turn Magazine.
Meanwhile, what follows will be a series of posts on my experiences learning Tsotsil in a Zapatista Autonomous School.


Sunday, August 21, 2005

Kevin Pina and the Haiti Information Project

“You are always making trouble for us. I have taken your picture and I am going to give it to the Haitian police. They will get you.”
- Brazilian officer speaking to journalist and film-maker Kevin Pina in Haiti

Kevin Pina previewed footage from his upcoming movie “Haiti: Betrayal of Democracy” in Washington D.C. on July 25th, days after another arrest of a well-respected supporter of the deposed president of Haiti Jean Bertrand Aristide and his Lavalas Movement. With congresswoman Maxine Waters in attendance, Pina dedicated the showing to the freedom and vision of Fr. Jean-Juste, who sits in a Haitian jail without written charges as what Amnesty International calls a “Prisoner of Conscience.”

Many people have already seen still shots from Pina’s movie without even realizing it. He has become the front man for a group of (anonymous) Haitian journalists, the Haiti Information Project, which has put the mainstream media to shame. The group consistently scoops stories about governmental violence against Haiti´s poor and takes photographic evidence that contradicts the assumptions and conclusions of international media about the daily reality of post-coup Haiti. Almost all of the recent photos of pro-democracy protests as well as the pictures of casualties caused by the Haitian police or the UN come from HIP. Months prior to the film showing this work manage to show up on the BBC when HIP showed Haitian police planting guns on the bodies of murdered Lavalas protesters. Such footage is often disturbingly graphic, which Pina warned the crowd as the lights in the Plymouth Congregational churched dimmed. But as the filmmaker added, “it is important for everyone to see this footage to understand what is really going on in Haiti.”

What is going on in Haiti?
From the film’s opening scene that shows U.S. Marines blocking the path of pro-democracy Haitian protesters in the wake of Aristide’s “kidnapping” by U.S. forces, the documentary paints a picture of internationally sanctioned campaign of violent repression against the poor communities of Haiti in general and Aristide’s Lavalas movement in particular.

“Betrayal of Democracy” is Pina’s second film on Haiti after “Harvest of Hope.” This sophomore effort exposes the role of United Nation’s forces in the current campaign of political violence in Haiti. With footage starting from January 2005, Pina documents aggression by the UN on behalf or in coordination with the Haitian Police.

The fact that the Haitian police are murdering political dissidents is not news in Haiti. As human rights investigators have proven, many of the coup leaders from the former military that have been responsible for numerous coups against the elected leaders of Haiti have been reincorporated into the police force. The resulting violence including indiscriminate shooting during raids in poor neighborhoods, arrests without charges, and outright assassinations is a pattern that has been repeated today from the coups of the past generation.

“Betrayal” surprises its audiences by showing how the deeply the UN first became complacent and then participatory in this pattern of violence. One resident of Cite Soleil commented that the UN is doing nothing serious in Haiti “except to massacre all those in favor of Aristide’s return.” With a series of interviews and graphic photographs from the aftermath of police and UN actions, the movie describes how the role of UN troops in HNP lead violence has continuously escalated.

On one occasion described in the film, it becomes clear that journalists from the HNP were preventing a massacre by filming masked Haitian police in black SUVs who had their guns drawn on the crowd. Since most pro-democracy demonstrations in Haiti include police assassinations, the crowd anticipated the type of killing seen during the anniversary of the Haitian coup on Februar 28th , but Pina and other photographers caused the police to hesitate because of the presence of international journalists. The Brazilian officer in charge UN forces on the scene responded to Pina by screaming “F*ck you!” repeatedly and telling him to “Go F*ck himself.” The Brazilian general then took Pina´s picture and threatened to pass the photo on to the Haitian Police so they could “take care of him.” Though the masked police withdrew from that confrontation, the movie then shows the footage from later that day on another street corner of the bodies of protesters lying on the ground, reportedly killed by police in black SUVs.

As this interaction shows, the UN has come to support the Haitian police unquestionably. In this case they threatened to help the police identify and target a pro-democracy activists, but the heart of the film shows repeated evidence of UN raids into poor neighborhoods like Cite Soleil that end in unwarranted arrests, destroyed houses, and indiscriminate firing on civilians.

The most graphic and shocking evidence of UN violence against the Haitian people came from the Cite Soleil on July 6. Scene after scene of that time shows Haitian men, women and children in their houses, in their beds or in the streets with gaping head wounds. While the UN for a long time claimed that they “knew of no civilian casualties” from this operation, the Haiti Information Project managed to confirm at least 20 deaths, almost all from head shots at relatively close range.

Pina underlined the fact that “the UN brought no medics to support this operation because they were not anticipating any injured civilians. They were shooting to kill. These were all headshots.” While the idea that the UN “peacekeeping” forces were assassinating civilians in Haiti´s poorest neighborhood to support the coup is difficult to accept, the footage is incontrovertible.

When seen with Pina´s first film on Haiti “Harvest of Hope,” the new “Betrayal” is even more sad because of how much history has repeated itself, and how little most people are aware of that fact. “Harvest of Hope” focuses on the first coup against president Aristide in 1991 when Aristide is arrested by the military, and bodies appear in the mourgue of Lavalas activists. That film reports 4000 killings, 250,000 people in hiding, and 43,000 boat refugees because of the 1991 coup. Indeed, the film goes back to the elections of 1987 to show that the military created panic and chaos in Haiti to disrupt the democratic process and maintain their hold on power. In all of this political violence, then as now, the hardest hit area is Cite Soleil, one of Lavalas´ strongest bases of support. Most of this political instability was lead by Haitian military figures on the CIA payroll, just as the current political situation was brought about by some of the same Haitian military figures with the help of the US marines.

Who are the UN force
The Haitian citizens repeatedly complain in the film that the Jordanian forces are the most violent and brutal, and complain that an army of a dictatorship should not have forces in the country supposedly to bring about democracy. But the UN led violence brings up questions about the other forces in the country, including Argentine, Chilean, and Brazilian forces. Pina took questions about this point, answering that “all of these militaries have sordid histories within their own countries,” referring to the military juntas that ruled these countries about a generation ago. But why would the “progressive” government of Lula in Brazil support this killing? Pina answered with two possibilities “Lula is trying to get Brazil a permenant seat on the UN security council among other strategic concerns, and he hopes that his soldiers’ role in Haiti will mollify American objections to that position,” adding that there is also an advantage to Lula of getting a troublesome military out of Brazil so it can do no harm there.

For whatever reason, the United Nation`s force in Haiti continues to act as an accomplice in the murder of Lavalas basis of support before the upcoming elections planned for the end of the year. Such elections, like the UN “peace-keeping force” only serve as political cover for theft of Haitian democracy.

The importance of the HIP
What Pina´s two movies, along with theShows the bankruptcy of current journalism out of Port Au Prince. While most individuals interpret Haiti’s current situation as somehow inherent in the Haitian people, and major media outlets continue to blame the violence in Haiti on “The Shadow of Aristide,” the Haiti Information Project continues to show graphic evidence of a widespread campaign of violence to restore to power the Haitian ruling class after the people voted them out of power. Taken in combination with previous works, “Betrayal” and the HIP give a historical context to today’s events, showing how the military players killing to stay in power and those in neighborhoods like Cite Soleil fighting for their democracy and survival have been locked in this battle since before the first democratic election went forward and was then overthrown,As such powerful testimony, HIP’s work has the ability to shock and inspire pro-democracy forces around the world to stand with the Haitian people to demand truth, justice and democracy. As one Lebanese-American activist said after seeing “Betrayal” in D.C . and trying to explain its importance to his colleagues “this is extremely important. Haiti is much worse than even Palestine.”

In short the work of HIP on and in Pina’s films threaten to ignite the type of concentrated and long-term Haiti solidarity movement, if enough activists take the initiative to force these images and stories on the public conscience. (Truth in advertising, I have done voluntary translations of HIP stories into Spanish for dissemination in Latin America).

Thursday, August 11, 2005

He estado muy ocupado. De hecho, ahorita estoy en Chiapas, y no tengo mucho tiempo para trabajar en el internet, aunque tengo tanto que quisiera decir. En los días siguientes, tendré mas para escribir. Abajo usted puede leer mi "personal statement" que entregué como parte de mi solicitude de estudiar medicina.

I want to be a physician with a Masters degree in public health because it will enable me to contribute to the health and well-being of the refugees of war, famine and violence through organizations like Medecins Sans Frontieres. In places of profound instability such as the slums of Mogadishu, the generations-old Palestinian refugee camps in Gaza or Lebanon, and the deserts of Darfur, vulnerable people can become desperate. With a dual clinical and community health background I can both offer the care and support that every human being deserves, and I can collaborate on community health projects in the affected communities. Thus, rather than allow such people to become disillusioned, I can use my training to respect and engage the intrinsic value of the world's poorest citizens.

This world is an unhealthy and dangerous medium for the growth of many of its inhabitants, and I hope to help reverse the trends that perpetuate this unfortunate situation. There are, of course, many root causes of global problems such as environmental devastation, political instability and epidemic disease. Furthermore, each locale has its own epidemics and environmental dangers. For example, Baltimore, the city I was raised in, suffers from excessive addiction rates and pervasive violence that threaten entire communities on a daily basis.Since the causes of suffering are numerous, I could approach these problems from many distinct perspectives. However, since many of these problems are rooted in unhealthy and fractured communities, I intend to help heal communities with knowledge of clinical medicine and an informed background in public health.

While I am convinced of the nobility and necessity of such projects, I do not intend to become a medical nomad wandering the world and treating the sick. I have deep respect for individuals like Paul Farmer that work full time on health projects in endangered communities such as the AIDS patients of Haiti. Nevertheless, I will probably only do such work on temporary basis, eventually returning to my home community.

On the other hand, I am no less concerned about the security, health and harmony of communities that are not in such a dramatic stage of social breakdown. Poor and wealthy communities alike suffer from dangers as disparate as cancer and handgun violence that necessitate both individual medical treatment and community-wide knowledge and action.

For example, the citizens of the Wagner's Point neighborhoods in Baltimore City complained for years about their isolation from the rest of the city by several large chemical plants. These plants had a history of dangerous accidents and the only road out of the neighborhood went between two such chemical manufacturing facilities. The community organized itself and, with the help of public health professionals, articulated its concern that a strategically unfortunate chemical spill could trap and poison residents. The city finally bought out the neighbors after a dramatic chemical leak highlighted this real and present danger. While this may not have been exactly the resolution that the community wanted, my mother's role as an physician with a master's degree in public health was important in allowing the neighborhood's concerns to be taken seriously.

It is exactly this type of work that I hope to combine with the classical, clinical role of a physician. I am convinced that the best way to keep a community safe is not only to have enough doctors to treat all the possible chemical burns, but to use public health experience preventatively and in collaboration with the residents to allow them to provide for their own health and well-being.

That being said, I know my role as a clinical physician will bring me into close contact with the communities I treat. I intend to live in the neighborhoods of my patients if possible and encourage values of collective well-being as I care for individuals' well-being. Furthermore, it is in the separation of the poor and the rich and the segregation by race and religion that other profound fractures in society become institutionalized. I hope that in addition to simply treating individuals from all backgrounds, I can help build a community between them and overcome societal divisions that underlie many societal faults. These fault lines are often the basis of societal instability, violence, and ill will.

In my time abroad I have met and spoken with Argentine textile workers, Salvadoran-American housekeepers, Mexican peasant farmers and all measures of Cuban society. Getting to know such people was occasionally awkward for a relatively wealthy North American student like myself. Nevertheless, with a common language, a little bit of shared context, and some effort I got to know many of them as equals and build some form of communal bonds with them.

In some ways, I want to be a doctor in order to become wealthy. However, I define wealth by the strength and support of my community, and in this way I want to create such wealth for myself and my community.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Brazilian unconnected to bombings shot by London Police

In Charles Todd's blog yesterday, he argued that the extra-judicial killing of a man in the London tubes reflected very poorly on the London police in particular and on the Western anti-terrorism tactis in general.

Well, it turns out the "suspect" was a Brazilian electrician "unconnected" with those bombings. Just another reason to oppose the death penalty in all of its manifestations.

Update from Bill Quiqley

I received the following update yesterday, but have been without power since last night. Below is an update on the beating and arbitrary arrest of a Haitian priest who has been active in the fight for democracy in Haiti.
By Bill Quigley, professor of law at Loyola University
New Orleans School of Law.

A half an hour ago,over a dozen masked policeofficers with machine guns, forced a handcuffedFr.Jean-Juste into a police van and sped away.

As he was being put into the police wagon heyelled to the officers and the onlookers "Where is thejustice in Haiti? I am a priest. Why do you treatpeople like this? Vive Aristide!"

No one yet knows where Fr. jean-Juste has beentaken. No written charges have been made against him.

This afternoon Fr. jean-Juste was still in Petitionville jail, where he shared a single toilet with over 40 prisoners. There were no beds and norunning water.

He had a quick hearing with a justice of thepeace, who refused to wait until Mario Joseph, his Haitian lawyer could be present. No written chargeswere shared - again questions were like, what party doyou belong to? can you explain your presence at thefuneral of Jacques Roche? Do you know why the banditskilled him? Do you visit the poor neighborhood ofBel-Air frequently?

At the conclusion of the meeting with the justiceof the peace, we took a harrowing ride with policemachine guns downtown to the prosecutor's office whereno questions were asked and no conversation was held.Papers were signed and Fr. Jean-Juste was placed inhandcuffs and taken away.

Mario Joseph, of the Institute of Justice and Democracy in Haiti, and I will continue to try to findout where Fr. Jean-Juste is over the weekend and will report what we know. The only thing we know for certain is the answer to Fr. Jean-Juste's cry to the soldiers, "Where isjustice in Haiti?" If there is to be justice in Haiti, it rests with those who are willing to struggle

Freedom is coming, but only if we keep up the pressure.

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Haitian Priest Assaulted at Roche's Funeral and Arrested for Murder

It seems that the anti-Lavalas attack in response to the killing of journalist Jacques Roche has already begun. I just recieved this email below from Bill Quigley in Haiti. Apparently Roche was associated in some way with the "Group of 184" which was an organization of business people and "elites" that worked for the overthrow of Aristide and in support of the recent coup.

Since Roche's body was found in a poor neighborhood, it was assumed by much of the Haitian media that the Lavalas Party was behind the murder. Furthermore, there seems to have been an organized campaign against a Pro-Democracy priest Fr. Gerard Jean-Juste, who was a friend of the Roche family as well as an ally of Aristide. Jean-Juste is now in jail for the murder of Roche. The evidence that the state has is "public clamour" in the form of vociferous and baseless accusations against the priest at the funeral for the slain journalist.

Please read all the way to the end, and take the action steps suggested by Mr. Quigley, whose contact information is available to any inquiring journalists.
Haitian Priest Assaulted by Mob at Funeral andArrested for Murder.
By Bill Quigley, in Port au Prince. Bill is a lawprofessor at Loyola University New Orleans and is co-counsel with Mario Joseph and the Institute forJustice and Democracy in Haiti. Mario Joseph can be reached at (contact information available upon request).

On Thursday July 21, 2005, Fr. Gerard Jean-Justewent to St. Pierre's Catholic Church to be one of the priests participating in the funeral of Haitian journalist Jacques Roche. Fr. Jean-Juste is a cousin of the Roche family and members of the Roche family protected him from a mob earlier in his life. He went to express spiritual comfort and reconciliation to the family.

The tragic kidnapping and death of Jacques Rochehas been taken up as a cause by those opposed to the Lavalas party. Jacques Roche was identified as a supporter of the people calling themselves the group of 184, who overthrew by force the democratically elected goverment of President Aristide, the leader ofthe Lavalas party, in February 2004.

Oppononents of Aristide say that because the body of Jacques Roche was found in a poor neighborhood that he was executed by the Lavalas party who is very strong in the poorest neighborhoods. For those of us in the US, this is much like blaming John Kerry for inner city deaths because most of the people in the inner city vote democratic.

Fr. Jean-Juste went to the funeral expressly to pay his respects to the family and express his open remorse and opposition to any killing of anyone, no matter their political affiliation.

Jacques Roche's coffin was in the chapel next to the sacristy and main area of the chuch. At 10 o'clock the bishop and about seven priests robed in white with purple stoles or sashes paraded out of the sacristy of the church to the chapel next to the main area of the church to say blessings over the coffin of Jacques Roche.

When Fr. Jean-Juste walked out, people started yelling at him in the chapel. They called him"assasin" and "criminal" and yelled out to "arrest and kill the rat."

Fr. Jean-Juste has been publicly accused in the last several days of "a plot against the security ofthe state," smuggling money and guns into the country, and of being behind all the kidnappings. All clearly false charges but widely reported by unfriendly press.

People knew Fr. Jean-Juste was coming to the funeral because that was printed on the front page of a conservative paper the day before.

As the well-dressed people continued yelling at Fr. Jean-Juste, the prayer service nearly turned into a riot. The other priests turned to leave and a well-dressed crowd of screaming people surrounded him. I went out to be by his side. Some plain clothes security people and a few priests surrounded us and helped push us through the increasingly hostile crowd back into the church sacristy.

The other priests then persuaded Fr. Jean-Juste not to continue in the funeral service. So we stood aside as the priests and the funeral crowd filed pastus into the main church.

Well-dressed men and women continued to scream and threaten Fr. Gerry as they moved by us into the church. Then a crowd of 15 or 20 or more young men, not dressed at all for the funeral came into the sacristy and the mood turned uglier and more menacing. At that point, the security forces melted away.

The young men continued the screaming started by the well-dressed people and then started pushing and hitting Pere Jean-Juste. At that point a young woman came out of the funeral crowd and embraced Fr. Jean-Juste shielding him with her body from the blows and the increasingly loud and angry young men. She started praying loudly and saying "mon pere, mon pere."

A man in a suit, who identified himself as head of security for the funeral, rushed back in from the church area - only a few feet away and in plain view-and told Fr. Gerry these people were going to kill him there in the sacristy unless he fled. Fr. Jean-Juste knelt to pray and the woman and I knelt with him in the middle of the growing crowd.

At that point people started slapping Fr.Jean-Juste on the head and face and spitting on him and the other two of us. Something then hit Fr. Jean-Juste in the head. Someone punched him in the eye. We stood up and a few UN CIVPOL officers showed up to help us leave the sacristy of the church. As we tried to get to the stairs people continued pushing and screaming and shouting threats. They continued to call out "assasin," "criminal," and "kill the rat." The crowd now overwhelmed the police. More people spit on us and hit Fr. Gerry, even in the face, while others were grabbing his church vestments trying to drag him off the church steps.

The CIVPOL were trying to hold back the crowd but were still well outnumbered and were not able to halt the mob. We moved up the steps into a narrow dark corridor while the crowd pushed and shoved and spit and hit. We then retreated into a smaller corridor and finally to a dead end that contained two small concrete toilet stalls.

The three of us were pushed into the stalls as the crowd banged on the walls and doors of the stalls and continued screaming. The woman held the door closed and prayed loudly as the people outside roared and the CIVPOL called for reinforcements.

After a few minutes, reinforcements arrived andthe hallway was finally cleared of all but us and the authorities.

A man in a suit identifying himself as secretary for security for Haiti told us that he was going to have to arrest Fr. Jean-Juste because public clamor had identified him as the assasin of journalist Jacques Roche. The police would bring him to the police station for his own safety. Fr. Jean-Juste told the man that he was in Florida when thejournalist was killed and he wanted to return to St.Claire's, his parish. The man left escorting out the woman who helped us.

In a few minutes, CIVPOL police, including troopsfrom Jordan, surrounded Fr. Jean-Juste and I and ran us out of the church to a police truck. The truck with police with machine guns sped away from the church and took us not to Fr. Gerry's parish but to the police station in Petitionville.

For the next seven or eight hours we were kept in aroom while the UN forces and the Haitian forces negotiated about what to do. Fr. Gerry read his prayer book while we waited. We were told informally that the UN wanted to escort Fr. Jean-Juste back tohis parish but the Haitian government was insisting that he be arrested.

The attackers were allowed to go free and not arrested, but they wanted to arrest the victim!

Fr. Gerry told me "This is all a part of the death sentence called down upon me on the radio in Miami. The searches at the airport, the visits to the police stations, the mandate to appear before a criminal judge yesterday, and now this. It is all part of the effort to silence my voice for democracy."

At about 6pm, several Haitian officers came intoour room and ordered Fr. Gerry and I and Haitian attorney Mario Joseph to come with them.

The officers held out a piece of paper that they said was an official complaint against Fr. Gerry accusing him of being the assasin of Jacques Roche. The complaint was based on "public clamor" at the funeral identifying him as the murderer. They refused to let Fr. Jean-Juste or the lawyers see this paper. It was their obligation, they said, to investigate this public clamor identifying him as the murderer. If Fr. Jean-Juste chose not to talk with them, they would put him in jail immediately.

Fr. Jean-Juste agreed to the interrogation and it went on for over three hours. He was growing increasingly sore and tired from the beating he took, but was not bleeding externally. When the lawyers argued with the police, Fr. Gerry read his prayerbook.

The police already knew that Fr. Jean-Juste was in Florida at the time of the kidnapping and death of the journalist, because the police had already interviewed him several times in the last few days in connectionwith the other false allegations against him, but asked him many questions anyway. How many cell phones did he have? What is his exact relation to Jacques Roche? Why did he go to the funeral? Can he prove hewas in Florida? Since he was on the news in Florida can he provide a copy of the newstape showing he was in Florida? When Aristide was president was he provided with armed security? What happened to the pistols that his secutity had? Could he find out and have any pistols returned to the government? Why did he go to the funeral? Did Lavalas promise Aristide to execute someone from the group of 184 in retaliation for them taking power? When was the last time he was in the US? Are the Catholic sisters in Bel-Air with you when you got to demonstrations there? and on and on.

After over three hours, the interrogation finished.

With great solemnity the police told Fr. Jean-Justethat he was being charged with participating in the death of Jacques Roche and not returning state property. The said the law orders that he will be brought before a judge within 48 hours for further decision.

At exactly 10pm, Fr. Gerry handed me his keys and church vestments and was locked into the jail cell at Petionville with many, many others. He was holding a pink plastic rosary, his prayer book and a roll of toilet paper.

He flashed a tired smile and told me: "Now you see what we are up against in Haiti. If they treat me like this, think how they treat the poor people. Tell everyone that with the help of God and everyone else I will keep up the good fight. Everyone else should continue to fight for democracy as well. The truth will come out. I am innocent of all charges. I will be free soon. Freedom for Haiti is coming. The struggle continues."

As I left him, a very tired Fr. Gerard Jean-Justewas being greeted by all the prisoners in the very crowded jail cell as "mon pere!"

Action: Write or fax UN Special Representative, Juan Gabriel Valdés, urging him to release MINUSTAH'sprison report immediately, and to resist pressure from the Haitian police to minimize the number of casualties. A sample letter is below.
Mr. Valdés speaks English, French and Spanish.

His fax number is(dial 011 first from the US for an international line)509 244 3512.
Mr Juan Gabriel Valdés Special Representative of the Secretary-General United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti
387, avenue John Brown
Port-au-Prince, Haiti


Contact Information:U.S. Ambassador to Haiti, James B. FoleyUnited States Embassy
Port-au-Prince, HaitiTelephones: 011-509-223-4711, or 222-0200 or 0354
Fax: 011-509-223-1641 or 9038Email to Dana Banks, Human Rights Officer:
Canadian Ambassador to Haiti,
Claude BoucherEmbassy of CanadaPort-au-Prince, Haiti
Telephone: 011-509- 249-9000Fax: 011-509-249-9920
Ambassador of France in Haiti, M. Yves GAUDEUL
Embassy of France
51 place des Héros de l'Indépendance - BP 312
Port-au-Prince, Haiti
Telephone: 011-509-222-0952
Fax : 011-509-223 5675

Haiti Authorities:
Fax. No. 011-509-245-0474
Me. Henri Dorléans
Ministre de la Justice et de la Securite Publique
Ministre de la Justice19
Avenue Charles SumnerPort-au-Prince, Haiti

blogger's note:
sample letter will be posted shortly(hopefully)

Friday, July 22, 2005

Murder of Journalist Jacques Roche in Port-Au-Prince

BBC is reporting that Haitian journalist Jocques Roche was kidnapped, tortured and shot to deat in Port-Au-Prince. They don't give much background on who this reporter is, who he works for, or what he wrote about. All they say is that the body was found in a "slum district" of the capital. This is perhaps meant to suggest that the crime was due to armed gangs or "armed gangs loyal to former President Aristide" which they blame for Haitian "instability" in the dated, poorly researched analysis of the Haitian crisis called "Aristide's Shadow".

The BBC's reporting on Latin America is usually pretty lacking, but it is downright terrible with regards to Haiti. The fact that "Aristide's Shadow" piece is the best analysis of the situation that they can do for so many months straight suggests that the organization as a whole doesn't really care.

But back to the point. Does anybody know who this journalist is? I just saw "The Agronomist" about a great Haitian journalist, Jean L. Dominique, who spent his life fighting for justice against tyranny in Haiti. He was shot and killed, and most people credit his murder to a corrupt police chief that switched sides from being with the dictatorship to working for the Lavalas government.

In any case, it seems a fearful situation when journalists are just gunned down, especially if that leads to increased violent repression and worsening news information. By the language of the BBC article, I suspect that the repression, state-violence and non-state violence are going to continue for some time now.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Bloggistan for Haiti

Bloggistan for Haiti

While the UN attack and murders of July 6th were met by a deafening silence by mainstream media. It has really resonated in the activist community in a way that the Haiti issue hasn't previously. Indymedia has a front page article about it, andDemocracy Now! ran a story on it with interviews of human rights investigators. These two occurances are not out of the ordinary for such news, nor perhaps were the article in the Village Voice and Naomi Klein's piece in The Nation. The interesting thing about the indymedia story is the announcement of a campaign that has been organized by bloggers to respond to this silence with incessant reporting. Other groups and individuals organized media blitz's to call reporters and editors and try to make the invasion of Cite Soleil a story.

I have contributed my own 'granito de arena' to the movement at La Luchita blog, but it remains to be seen if this campaign manages to crack an official silence on Haiti's plight. However, it does show that time is right to massively organize on the issue of Haitian democracy, taking advantage of the new organization of bloggers last catalogued on monday july 18 by Charles Todd .

While Todd spends today's post lamenting what has been a painful month for Free Haiti Activists, his information from Fact-esque that "Luigi Einaudi, the (American) Assistant Secretary General of the Organisation of American States has said that the only thing wrong with Haiti is that it is run by Haitians." This type of hypocrisy and the continued violent repression in Haiti catalogued by the Haiti Information Project in places like Haiti Action show the vulnerability of the entire imperial enterprise in Haiti if a concerted effort is made to make the truth accessible to more people and to encourage individuals to work for a Free Haiti.