WINNER OF SEVEN PROJECT CENSORED AWARDS

No. 284, June 24 - 30, 2004

SECCIÓN EN ESPAÑOL
To read an article, click on the headline.

Israel’s new security: walls, land
theft, and high-tech hardware


A Palestinian woman lies on the ground in front of Israeli soldiers and bulldozers during a protest against the construction of part of Israel’s “separation barrier” in the West Bank village of Al-Zawyeh on June 20.
Photo courtesy Islamonline.org

Bush plans to screen US for mental illness

Haitian clothing company continues union-busting

US operates hidden network of prisons

Guatemala and the forgotten anniversary
Naked bike ride attracts attention
Bush plan protects drug companies at public’s expense
Iraqi leaders prepare for transfer of power
Spanish workers await the ‘positive side’ of outsourcing
Searching for a place under the sun
Remembering the lessons of the Stonewall Rebellion
Yemeni journalists fight for rights
Oposición a TLC atrincherada en Costa Rica




Quote of the Week
"Well, I see just buildings that have just been destroyed, literally destroyed by small arms fire. Buildings that have been riddled with so many bullets, they’re just falling down just from bullet holes. I’ve seen buildings that have been crumbled by what looks to be Tomahawk missile fire from Apache helicopters where a giant hole ripped through the side of a building or several ripped through the side of a building. Whole blocks just destroyed."

-- Michael Franti, hip-hop artist, speaking from Rafah Refugee Camp in Gaza in the Occupied Territories June 17



Click here for an index of original Asheville Global Report political cartoons.

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No. 273, May 27-June 2, 2004



Israel’s new security: walls, land theft, and high-tech hardware

Compiled by Bob Strott

June 23 (AGR)— Israel has expropriated thousands of acres of Palestinian farmland deep in the West Bank for the most controversial segment of its separation barrier, Palestinian officials said recently. The latest land seizures are part of construction of a barrier segment near the Israeli settlement of Ariel, in the heart of the West Bank.

Palestinians charge that the barrier project is meant to swallow up large parts of the West Bank, pointing to the Ariel sector as a prime example. If Israel builds the barrier to include Ariel on the “Israeli” side, it would mean cutting a wedge halfway through the northern part of the territory, because Ariel is in the middle.

Israel suspended construction of the security barrier near the village of Iskaka, east of Ariel, after hundreds of Palestinian and Israeli demonstrators traded stones for tear gas with troops and paramilitary police. The bulldozers are expected to be digging again soon.

Excavation began there recently, halfway between the Arab cities of Nablus and Ramallah, despite an undertaking to the United States to defer building. Israel said the new stretch around Ariel would not be connected “for the time being” to the main barrier separating the West Bank from Israel.

Six miles west of the settlement, where work started recently, 22 bulldozers were uprooting olive trees belonging to villagers from Al-Zawyeh. The barrier will run barely 14 feet from the nearest house.

“They have stolen our land, our water,” said Anan al Ashqar, head of the local committee to combat the wall. “This is a racist segregation. They have taken the best of our land, the most beautiful landscapes in the West Bank.”

Residents of the Palestinian village were informed that 4,500 acres of land are being expropriated for a 2-mile stretch of barrier, said Annan Elashkar, a Palestinian liaison officer with Israel.

Al-Zawyeh resident Khader Abdel Raouf, 65, said he had his 32 acres of olive groves seized. He said his family of 15 lives off the olive oil produced by the trees. “I have been planting and harvesting these olives since I was a small boy,” Abdel Raouf said in tears. “This land belongs to me and I belong to it.”

In Ariel, Dina Shalit, director for the Jewish town’s development fund, claimed that most of the barrier was built on a state land. The rest, she added, belonged to “so-called Palestinians.”

Israel is considering building thousands more homes in West Bank settlements, in line with Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s plan to keep large chunks of the territory but give up Gaza.

The Israeli daily Maariy reported that Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz had asked the military to draw up plans within three months for building thousands of homes in three of the settlement blocs — Gush Etzion, Maale Adumim and Ariel.

Sharon’s plan of “unilateral disengagement” calls for a withdrawal from all of Gaza and four West Bank settlements by September 2005.

He has said that in exchange, he wants to keep and expand several large settlement blocs in the West Bank — a demand that has won the support of US President George Bush.

Sharon has previously expressed a desire to confine the Palestinian population to 42 percent of the West Bank while annexing the rest to Israel.

The Israeli army is considering a plan to patrol the Gaza border with remote-controlled buggies fitted with night-vision television cameras and machine guns that could spot and kill infiltrators before they crossed into Israel.

The technology was displayed by Israeli manufacturers at a Tel Aviv trade fair earlier this year.

The four-wheeled buggies are armor-plated and can move on any terrain. They would be added to a surveillance network, including aerial drones and 60 foot observation towers. Military sources say that night-vision cameras on top of the towers are responsible for 70 percent of interceptions.

Israel is also worried about the Egypt-Gaza border, where they say large quantities of arms are smuggled in to Palestinian fighters. The Defense Ministry this week published a bid for digging a moat, two and a half miles long and up to 80 feet deep, alongside “Philadelphia Road,” a security corridor between Sinai and Gaza. Defense officials said it had not yet been decided whether to flood the moat with seawater or leave it as a dry trench fitted with sensors. The bid was a first concrete step towards a project which was previously dismissed as impracticable.

In the West Bank, meanwhile, dozens of Israelis, many of them settlers, gathered at the hilltop outpost of Givat Haroeh. Carrying sleeping bags and tents, they said they would try to prevent the evacuation of the outpost’s 17 families.

Under the US-backed “road map” peace plan, Israel is required to dismantle dozens of unauthorized outposts and freeze construction in older settlements. It has removed only a few outposts and has not stopped building in the others.

Peace Now, an Israeli group that monitors settlements, says of the 102 outposts it has located, 21 have been removed.

Jewish settlers began establishing outposts on West Bank hilltops several years ago, to prevent the handover of land to Palestinians as part of interim peace deals. Most outposts started out with a few trailers, a generator and a water tower, but have expanded over time.

The Israeli government has quietly funneled money to the outposts, despite a public pledge to remove them.

The Palestinians want the West Bank, Gaza and east Jerusalem, territories Israel captured in the 1967 Six Day War, for their future state.

Palestinian leaders have also expressed reservations on the Gaza plan because of the implied tradeoff — Israel giving up Gaza while strengthening its hold on parts of the West Bank.

All Israeli settlements in West Bank and Gaza are considered illegal under international law.

Sources: Al Jazeera, AP, Guardian (UK), Independent (UK)


Bush plans to screen US for mental illness

By Jeanne Lenzer

New York, New York, June 19— A sweeping mental health initiative will be unveiled by President George W. Bush in July. The plan promises to integrate mentally ill patients fully into the community by providing “services in the community, rather than institutions,” according to a March 2004 progress report entitled New Freedom Initiative (www.whitehouse.gov/infocus/newfreedom/toc-2004.html). While some praise the plan’s goals, others say it protects the profits of drug companies at the expense of the public.

Bush established the New Freedom Commission on Mental Health in April 2002 to conduct a “comprehensive study of the United States mental health service delivery system.” The commission issued its recommendations in July 2003. Bush instructed more than 25 federal agencies to develop an implementation plan based on those recommendations.

The president’s commission found that “despite their prevalence, mental disorders often go undiagnosed” and recommended comprehensive mental health screening for “consumers of all ages,” including preschool children. According to the commission, “Each year, young children are expelled from preschools and childcare facilities for severely disruptive behaviors and emotional disorders.” Schools, wrote the commission, are in a “key position” to screen the 52 million students and 6 million adults who work at the schools.

The commission also recommended “Linkage [of screening] with treatment and supports” including “state-of-the-art treatments” using “specific medications for specific conditions.” The commission commended the Texas Medication Algorithm Project (TMAP) as a “model” medication treatment plan that “illustrates an evidence-based practice that results in better consumer outcomes.”

Dr. Darrel Regier, director of research at the American Psychiatric Association (APA), lauded the president’s initiative and the Texas project model saying, “What’s nice about TMAP is that this is a logical plan based on efficacy data from clinical trials.”

He said the association has called for increased funding for implementation of the overall plan.

But the Texas project, which promotes the use of newer, more expensive antidepressants and antipsychotic drugs, sparked off controversy when Allen Jones, an employee of the Pennsylvania Office of the Inspector General, revealed that key officials with influence over the medication plan in his state received money and perks from drug companies with a stake in the medication algorithm. He was sacked this week for speaking to the British Medical Journal (BMJ) and the New York Times.

The Texas project started in 1995 as an alliance of individuals from the pharmaceutical industry, the University of Texas, and the mental health and corrections systems of Texas. The project was funded by a Robert Wood Johnson grant—and by several drug companies.

Jones told the BMJ that the same “political/pharmaceutical alliance” that generated the Texas project was behind the recommendations of the New Freedom Commission, which, according to his whistleblower report, were “poised to consolidate the TMAP effort into a comprehensive national policy to treat mental illness with expensive, patented medications of questionable benefit and deadly side effects, and to force private insurers to pick up more of the tab”

Larry D. Sasich, research associate with Public Citizen in Washington, DC, told the BMJ that studies in both the United States and Great Britain suggest that “using the older drugs first makes sense. There’s nothing in the labeling of the newer atypical antipsychotic drugs that suggests they are superior in efficacy to haloperidol [an older “typical” antipsychotic]. There has to be an enormous amount of unnecessary expenditures for the newer drugs.”

Olanzapine (trade name Zyprexa), one of the atypical antipsychotic drugs recommended as a first line drug in the Texas algorithm, grossed $4.28 billion worldwide in 2003 and is Eli Lilly’s top selling drug. A 2003 New York Times article by Gardiner Harris reported that 70 percent of olanzapine sales are paid for by government agencies, such as Medicare and Medicaid.

Eli Lilly, manufacturer of olanzapine, has multiple ties to the Bush administration. George Bush Sr. was a member of Lilly’s board of directors and Bush Jr. appointed Lilly’s chief executive officer, Sidney Taurel, to a seat on the Homeland Security Council. Lilly made $1.6 million in political contributions in 2000 — 82 percent of which went to Bush and the Republican Party.

Jones points out that the companies that helped to start up the Texas project have been, and still are, big contributors to the election funds of George W. Bush. In addition, some members of the New Freedom Commission have served on advisory boards for these same companies, while others have direct ties to the TAMP.

Bush was the governor of Texas during the development of the Texas project, and, during his 2000 presidential campaign, he boasted of his support for the project and the fact that the legislation he passed expanded Medicaid coverage of psychotropic drugs.

Bush is the clear front runner when it comes to drug company contributions. According to the Center for Responsive Politics (CRP), manufacturers of drugs and health products have contributed $764,274 to the 2004 Bush campaign through their political action committees and employees — far outstripping the $149,400 given to his chief rival, John Kerry, by Apr. 26.

Drug companies have fared exceedingly well under the Bush administration, according to the center’s spokesperson, Steven Weiss.

The commission’s recommendation for increased screening has also been questioned. Robert Whitaker, journalist and author of Mad in America, says that while increased screening “may seem defensible,” it could also be seen as “fishing for customers,” and that exorbitant spending on new drugs “robs from other forms of care such as job training and shelter programs.”

But Dr. Graham Emslie, who helped develop the Texas project, defends screening: “There are good data showing that if you identify kids at an earlier age who are aggressive, you can intervene... and change their trajectory.”

Source: British Meducal Journal <bmj.com>


Haitian clothing company continues union busting

Brussels, Belgium, June 17— After ducking efforts by the local Haitian union, Sokowa, to address a series of grievances, Grupo M, a Dominican Republic-based company, has precipitated a strike, organized a lock-out of the workforce, and has finally fired more than half its employees at the Ouanaminthe plant, which manufactures jeans for Levi’s. The International Confederation of Free Trade Unions is protesting against another attempt at union-busting on the part of one of the biggest textile companies in the Caribbean, by calling on the World Bank to intercede in favor of the laid off Haitian workers.

The events in recent days have led to a storm of international protest at the company’s recurrent abuses of workers. According to Neil Kearney, General Secretary of the International Textile, Garment and Leather Workers’ Federation (ITGLWF), workers’ were protesting at the Ouanaminthe Free Trade Zone in Haiti “because of inhuman treatment including violence, intimidation, harassment, forced stripping of women union leaders, beatings, kidnappings and non-payment of wages.”

The plant in question was built using a $20 million loan from the International Finance Corporation (IFC), the World Bank’s private-sector lending arm. A one-day strike on June 7 ended in an agreement between Grupo M and Sokowa for a return to work and the start of negotiations to address workers’ grievances. The following day Grupo M locked out the workforce and announced by letter the closure of their jeans factory in Ouanaminthe. On the June 9, the letter was partially rescinded, and the company restarted production, but on June 11, in another apparent U-turn, it was announced that the firm was laying off 254 workers. However according to the Sokowa union, 370 workers (around 60 percent of the workforce) have been sacked.

While Grupo M claimed to be laying off the workers temporarily, it emerged that they were being pressured to accept severance payments at the same time, which the company may try to use as a pretext to make the dismissals permanent. “The sacking of the workers was an effort to retaliate against them for their strike, and was discriminatorily aimed at the union leaders. All but one of the union’s executive committee members have been fired,” said ICFTU General Secretary Guy Ryder.

While the IFC has proposed mediation between Grupo M and the union, such efforts are likely to remain futile so long as 370 workers have been fired and do not know if they have any chance of being rehired. The ICFTU has sent a letter to the acting president of Haiti, Alexandre Boniface, demanding the immediate rehiring of the workers by Grupo M and the start of serious negotiations with the union. It is also calling on the IFC to withhold its loan payments until production is restored at the Haitian plant.

Grupo M is a particularly abusive employer. According to information received by the ITGLWF, Grupo M CEO Fernando Capellan started threatening to fire factory workers as early as June 3, saying that the factory was suffering several million dollars in losses because of lack of productivity. The same day managers “summoned four women workers into what is called the ‘dark room,’ locked the door, and posted Dominican guards outside. Under the threat of weapons, the women were subjected to a police-style interrogation. Their factory badges and work shirts were ripped off of them, leaving the women topless. After they had been in the room for nearly two hours, their co-workers grew worried and started to approach the room, shouting for the workers to be let out. The guards posted outside the room summoned backup. A truck full of guards arrived. The guards aimed their weapons at the workers, ordering them to back off behind a line traced on the ground with a rifle. A four-month pregnant woman was thrown to the floor, in a pool of mud, her dress torn.”

According to Ryder, “It is vital that the World Bank’s IFC step in and ensure that these Haitian workers, who are in a desperately poor situation, get their jobs back as soon as possible and be allowed to work under humane conditions. In view of Grupo M’s obligations in the loan agreement it signed, the IFC should suspend disbursements on the loan until the workers are rehired and a serious process of negotiations has begun with union to address the workers’ grievances.” Last January, following earlier submissions by the ICFTU on the company’s labor rights abuses, the IFC agreed to make its $20 million loan to Grupo M conditional on the company’s respect for the freedom of association and right to collective bargaining of its employees.

Source: ICFTU


US operates hidden network of prisons

June 13— The United States government, in conjunction with key allies, is running an “invisible” network of prisons and detention centers into which thousands of suspects have disappeared without trace since the “war on terror” began. In the past three years, thousands of alleged militants have been transferred around the world by American, Arab and Far Eastern security services, often in secret operations that by-pass extradition laws. The astonishing traffic has seen many, including British citizens, sent from the West to countries where they can be tortured to extract information. Anything learnt is passed on to the US and, in some cases, reaches British intelligence.

The practice of “renditions” — when suspects are handed directly into the custody of another state without due process — has sparked particular anger. At least 70 such transfers have occurred, according to CIA sources. Many involve men who have been freed by the courts and are thus legally innocent. Renditions are often used when American interrogators believe that harsh treatment — banned in their own country — would produce results.

In one incident, a British businessman called Wahab al-Rami, an Iraqi living in the UK and a Palestinian seeking asylum were arrested by US and local officers in Gambia in November 2002 as they stepped off a flight from London.

Their seizure, which followed a tip-off from the UK security services, came just days after they had been arrested by British police on suspicion of terrorism and then freed by a British court. Two were transported from Gambia to Guantanamo Bay, where they remain today without any legal process.

In another incident, two Turks, a Saudi, a Kenyan and a Sudanese man were arrested in Malawi in June 2003 on suspicion of funding terrorist networks. Though freed by local courts, the men were handed over to the CIA and held for several months. Campaigners say these incidents are “the tip of an iceberg.”

One of the most harrowing stories concerns a Syrian-born Canadian, Maher Arar, who was arrested by US authorities in late 2002 during a stopover in New York, on suspicion of terrorist activities.

After several days of questioning, the 34-year-old IT specialist was flown to Jordan, where the CIA passed him on to local security officials. He was repeatedly assaulted in Jordan before being driven to Syria, where he was kept in solitary confinement in a 6 foot by 3 foot cell for several months and repeatedly beaten with cables. All charges were dropped on his release. Arar said last week that he was “trying to rebuild [his] life.”

“I never did anything to make me a suspect. I could not believe they would send me back to Syria, but they did,” he said. “They sent me back to be tortured.”

The ghost prison network stretches around the globe. The biggest American-run facilities are at the Bagram airbase, north of Kabul in Afghanistan; at Guantanamo Bay, where around 400 men are held; and in Iraq, where tens of thousands of detainees are held.

However, Washington is relying heavily on allies.

In Morocco, scores of detainees once held by the Americans are believed to be held at the al-Tamara interrogation center sited in a forest five miles outside the capital, Rabat. Many of the detainees were originally captured by the Pakistani authorities, who passed them on to the Americans. Last November, Amnesty International criticized the “sharp rise” in torture during 2003 in Moroccan prisons.

In Syria, detainees sent by Washington are held at “the Palestine wing” of the main intelligence headquarters and a series of jails in Damascus and other cities.

Egypt has also received a steady flow of suspects from American installations. Many other suspects have been sent to Egypt by other countries through transfers assisted by the Americans, often using planes run by the CIA. In Cairo, prisoners are kept in the interrogation center in the general intelligence directorate in Lazoughli and in Mulhaq al-Mazra prison.

Suspects have also been sent to facilities in Baku, Azerbaijan, and to unidentified locations in Thailand. Scores more are thought to be at a US airbase in Qatar, and a large number are believed to have been sent to Saudi Arabia, where CIA agents are allowed to sit in on some of the interrogations. Elsewhere, security officials merely provide the Americans with summaries.

Some “high-value” prisoners — such as those suspected of being directly connected to the Sept. 11 attacks or other al-Qaida strikes, or of being senior aides of bin Laden — are held in prisons in Jordan’s capital, Amman, and in desert locations in the east of the country. Jordanian investigators are seen as “professional” by Western intelligence services, although the nation has been repeatedly criticized for its human rights record.

Khaled Sheikh Mohammed and Ramzi bin al-Shibh, who both already helped plan the Sept. 11 attacks, were also transferred to American custody soon after their capture by Pakistani security forces in September 2002 and March 2003 respectively. They are believed to have been interrogated in Thailand.

The whereabouts of Riduan Isamuddin, the Indonesian activist dubbed “the bin Laden of the Far East,” who was passed to the Americans following arrest by Thai security forces in August last year, are unknown. Jabarah Mohamed Mansur, allegedly involved in an attempt to bomb the US and Israeli embassies in Singapore, is reported to have been interrogated in Oman.

In March 2003, FBI agents kidnapped a Yemeni al-Qaida suspect from a hospital in Mogadishu, where he was being treated for gunshot wounds. Two months earlier, a sophisticated operation involving a fake charity lured a 54-year-old Yemeni to Germany, where he was detained and later extradited to the US. To seize Mohammed Iqbal Madni, a suspected al-Qaida operative, in Indonesia, US investigators worked three states’ legal systems to provide an excuse to pick up the 24-year-old Pakistani. They then flew him to Cairo on a private US-run jet.

The exact number of prisoners held by the Americans or their allies is unknown, but US officials claim that more than 3,000 al-Qaida suspects have been arrested since 11 September. Only around 350 are held in Guantanamo Bay. Very few have been released.

American officials are unrepentant. “You have to break eggs to make omelettes,” said one last week. “The world is a bad place.”

But former intelligence officers criticized the new tactics last week. Milton Bearden, who ended a 30-year career with the CIA in 1994, said that coercion did not work.

“You just get all kinds of confessions that turn out to be completely untrue,” he said. “And rendition to someone who will torture a suspect is as bad as doing it yourself.”

Source: Observer (UK)