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News :: Civil & Human Rights

Hong Kong Lawmakers Cause Stir in China

GUANGZHOU, China - Lawmakers in China rarely yell "Long live democracy!" in crowded hotel lobbies. They don‘t wear T-shirts condemning the bloody crackdown on the Tiananmen Square protesters in 1989. And they certainly don‘t challenge Communist leaders to scrap one-party rule and hold elections.

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News :: Civil & Human Rights

New Reports of Abuse Of Detainees Surface

New Reports of Abuse Of Detainees Surface
Mistreatment Was Routine, Group Is Told

By Josh White
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, September 24, 2005; A01

Two soldiers and an officer with the Army's 82nd Airborne Division have told a human rights organization of systemic detainee abuse and human rights violations at U.S. bases in Afghanistan and Iraq, recounting beatings, forced physical exertion and psychological torture of prisoners, the group said.

A 30-page report by Human Rights Watch describes an Army captain's 17-month effort to gain clear understanding of how U.S. soldiers were supposed to treat detainees, and depicts his frustration with what he saw as widespread abuse that the military's leadership failed to address. The Army officer made clear that he believes low-ranking soldiers have been held responsible for abuses to cover for officers who condoned it.

The report does not identify the two sergeants and a captain who gave the accounts, although one of them, Capt. Ian Fishback, has presented some of his allegations in a letter to Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.).

Their statements included vivid allegations of violence against detainees held at Forward Operating Base Mercury, outside Fallujah, shortly before the notorious abuse at the Abu Ghraib prison began. The soldiers described incidents similar to those reported in other parts of Iraq -- such as putting detainees in stress positions, exercising them to the point of total exhaustion, and sleep deprivation.

They also detailed regular attacks that left detainees with broken bones -- including once when a detainee was hit with a metal bat -- and said that detainees were sometimes piled into pyramids, a tactic seen in photographs taken later at Abu Ghraib.

"Some days we would just get bored so we would have everyone sit in a corner and then make them get in a pyramid," an unidentified sergeant who worked at the base from August 2003 to April 2004 told Human Rights Watch. "This was before Abu Ghraib but just like it. We did that for amusement."

And like soldiers accused at Abu Ghraib, these troops claimed that military intelligence interrogators encouraged their actions, telling them to make sure the detainees did not sleep or were physically exhausted so as to get them to talk.

"They were directed to get intel from them so we had to set the conditions by banging on their cages, crashing them into the cages, kicking them, kicking dirt, yelling," the soldier was quoted as saying. Later he described how he and others beat the detainees. "But you gotta understand, this was the norm. Everyone would just sweep it under the rug."

Army and Pentagon officials yesterday said they are investigating the allegations as criminal cases and said they learned of the incidents just weeks ago when the Fort Bragg captain's concerns surfaced. Paul Boyce, an Army spokesman, said the Army began investigating as soon as it learned of the allegations.

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News :: Animal Rights

VCU students protest PETA: Animal-rights exhibit used images of blacks being lynched, burned

"Different species, different struggles," Jessica Smith said, repeating a slogan on a poster carried by black students.

African-American students at Virginia Commonwealth University verbally clashed yesterday with PETA representatives over an outdoor exhibition that paired images of blacks being lynched and burned with images of animals being mistreated.

"It's degrading," said Smith of the exhibit by the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.

"It's culturally insensitive," added Gabriel Williams.

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Commentary :: Gender and Sexuality

If women ruled the world nothing would be different

The biggest problem with American feminism today is its obsession with women.

Yes, you heard me: It’s time for those of us who care deeply about eliminating sexism within the context of social justice struggles to stop caring so damn much about what women, as a group, are doing. Because a useful, idealistic, transformative progressive feminism is not about women. It’s about gender, and all the legal and cultural rules that govern it, and power—who has it and what they do with it.

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News :: Protest Activity

Taking It to the Streets

Demonstration brought out a host of "counter-protestors"

Caine O'Rear
Tuesday, September 20, 2005

A group of eight protestors from the "Bring Them Home Now Tour" stopped in Richmond on Monday to hold a demonstration in which they voiced their opposition to the Iraq war. The protest occurred on the 300 block of West Broad Street, in front of the Virginia Army National Guard office.

Several Richmonders showed up to join the protest, as well as a large contingent of "counter-protestors" from the area. Though it was a peaceful assembly in the main, emotions ran high and there were several harsh verbal exchanges between those who supported the war and those who were opposed to it.

The "Bring Them Home Now Tour" coalesced at Camp Casey, the site of the highly-publicized vigil that was organized by Cindy Sheehan, whose son, Casey, was killed last year in Iraq. The vigil took place in Crawford, Texas, near the vacation home of President George W. Bush.

On Aug. 31, the last day of the vigil, three buses left Crawford to embark on a tour of forty-two cities in twenty-six states All three buses will convene in Washington D.C. for a national protest on Sept. 24-26.

The tour is sponsored by Gold Star Families for Peace, Iraq Veterans Against the War, Military Families Speak Out, and Veterans for Peace.

In Richmond, those who were part of the tour gathered on the pavement around noon with a banner that read "Bring Them Home Now." Others from the group held signs that read, "For What Noble Cause?"

But for every anti-war protestor, there seemed to be a "counter-protestor" who supported the mission in Iraq.

"I support the troops, the president and the mission," the war-supporters would shout.

"We support the troops, that's why we want to bring them home!," the anti-war camp would answer back.

One "counter-protestor" was Teresa Jenkins, who stood on the on the curb of Broad Street with a huge placard that read, "People Who Care Support Them All" and "Sometimes War Is the Only Answer."

Jenkins said she believed the anti-war protests in America were detrimental to the troops. "I feel for Cindy [Sheehan], but she's not doing anyone any favors," she said. "When we don't support them, we increase their chance of getting killed. And they're over there fighting for the freedom to be able to do what I'm doing right now."

Michelle DeFord, an Oregon native who had attended the vigil in Crawford, was at the demonstration in Richmond. Deford's son, Sgt. David W. Johnson, was killed in Iraq last September. She said she had taken a week off after the vigil, but had been traveling on the bus since then. DeFord is a member of Gold Star Families for Peace, an organization co-founded by Sheehan that consists of families of soldiers who had died as a result of war.

The bus driver for the tour, Chito Greer, said he had been at Camp Casey since the beginning of the vigil. A military veteran who served 16 years in the Navy, Greer called the troops "honorable," but said the American people were "not told what the mission was all about." He also questioned the "motivations" of the Bush White House.

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News :: Protest Activity

War protesters rally in Richmond

They are part of national tour led by activist mother Cindy Sheehan


A lunchtime anti-war demonstration in downtown Richmond yesterday drew as many pro-war supporters as protesters.

About a dozen participants in the nationwide "Bring Them Home Now" tour stopped in front of the Virginia Army National Guard office at 304 W. Broad St.

The tour, with stops in more than 40 cities, is an effort to convince President Bush to bring U.S. troops home from Iraq.

Participants were met by a counter-protest of about a dozen people, who waved signs supporting Bush and the U.S. military presence in Iraq.

At several points, the two groups butted heads, with each calling the other un-American.

On Aug. 31, three RVs left Crawford, Texas, carrying members of Gold Star Families for Peace. The group was founded by Cindy Sheehan, the woman who camped outside Bush's Crawford ranch for nearly a month after her son was killed in Iraq.

The caravan will reconvene Saturday in Washington.

Michelle DeFord, an Oregon resident who has been with the tour since it left Texas, lost her son in Iraq on Sept. 25, 2004. Sgt. David W. Johnson, 37, was killed by a roadside bomb while he was on a supply convoy mission in Baghdad.

DeFord became active in the anti-war groups soon after her son's death.

"I know this is what he would have wanted me to do," she said. "I think his life was wasted . . . We need to go after the people who are responsible for 9/11, and some of them are in the White House."

Just a few feet away, Todd Vander Pol waved a sign supporting the war. So did his two sons, 9-year-old Harrison and 14-year-old Mitchell, and his wife, Jill.

"We feel strongly that the war needs to be finished, that the president is absolutely right in finishing the change of leadership for the Iraqi people," said Vander Pol, a Hanover County resident. "The president has been very supportive of others' rights to voice their opinion. Our opinion is that we support him."

Later yesterday, the tour group planned to meet with some Virginia lawmakers and attend a town hall meeting at Asbury United Methodist Church at 29th and Marshall streets in Church Hill.

Contact Paige Akin at (804) 649-6671 or pakin@timesdispatch.com

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News :: Civil & Human Rights : International Relations : Labor & Class : Peace & War : Protest Activity

Anti-war tour driving home its message

Tamara Dietrich

September 17 2005

For a former career diplomat, Ann Wright is more bludgeon than you'd expect. She calls herself a 35-year "federal bureaucratic puke" with no apologies. She has choicer words for the president she once served.

"George Bush is the worst I've ever seen," Wright said in a phone interview Thursday from South Carolina on a bus heading for the next stop on the Bring Them Home Now anti-war tour.

"We are suckin' wind bad on the international scene," she says. "There's nothing that Bush has done that will convince the world that we are not a bunch of lunatics."

Wright is on the road with Cindy Sheehan - Gold Star mom turned anti-war poster child - to rally the troops and win over the critics. The Southern route of the three-leg tour through 28 states in 25 days includes a rally Sunday afternoon at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg. Wright will be there, although Sheehan will splinter off to connect with the northern tour in Providence, R.I., and New York City that day.

The final destination for all is Washington on Sept. 24 to demonstrate across from the president's home.

If Wright sounds like a harsh critic, she's served under seven administrations and says she knows what she's talking about. She spent 29 years in the military - retiring a full colonel - and 16 years in diplomatic service, through Vietnam, Watergate, Nixon, Iran/Contra and sundry presidential low points. Through it all, she says, she could always invoke some honor in service. It took war mongering in Iraq, she says, to compel her to resign from the State Department in protest.

War wasn't the problem - it was picking the right fight. She backed the invasion of Afghanistan to hunt down al-Qaida. She flew to Washington, beating on doors to wrangle a spot on the tiny diplomatic team to re-open the American Embassy in Kabul, shuttered for 12 years. She had experience in hot spots such as Sierra Leone and Central Asia, Grenada, Panama and Nicaragua. She had military expertise. She was handpicked for Kabul, serving as deputy chief of mission till April 2002.

Once there, she couldn't understand why the administration wasn't sending enough troops to secure the country. Why Afghanistan was a "mission done on the cheap."

Then Bush beat the drums of war against Iraq, preparing to attack without the approval of the U.N. Security Council. Wright had enough. By then she was deputy chief of mission in Mongolia, reading Buddhists texts that urged standing up and speaking out when things aren't right with the world.

"I'm standing up for my karma and my conscience in the next life," Wright says. "I don't want it on my conscience that I didn't stand up against this (crap)."

Within two days of her resignation, she says, more than 400 Foreign Service officers e-mailed her in support.

Since then, she continued to speak out against the war, to little fanfare. Then in August, a California housewife pitched a tent outside Bush's ranch in Crawford, Texas, goading him to explain what "noble cause" her son, Army Spc. Casey Sheehan, had died for in an ambush outside Sadr City.

Wright helped set up Camp Casey, and for 26 days war protesters sweltered in ditches while Bush vacationed nearby. When their little army swelled to 12,000 and media from around the world started paying attention, Wright says, she knew they'd struck a chord.

Cindy Sheehan has become its keynote. "I see my role as the spark that ignited the flame, and now it's burning out of control," Sheehan told me Thursday. "And it's a movement that's not gonna go away till our troops are back home."

She's a mother on a mission, darting from one tour hot spot to the next - if it's Tuesday, it must be Charleston - holding press conferences, preaching to the choir and to counter-demonstrators. I ask why she thinks Bush refused to meet with her in Crawford. She says because he's "too cowardly to face people with opposing viewpoints" and because he simply doesn't have a good answer for her.

If she were to meet with him, I ask, what would she say? "Now," she says, "I would just confront him with every lie he's told, every mistake he's made and the devastation he's caused."

For a politician, that's an excellent reason to avoid her at all costs. But Sheehan says "there's always hope, and I've always said that. The invitation's still open, and I think he knows how to get a hold of me."

As for their ultimate goal - bringing the troops home now - I say it seems impossible. Iraq would collapse into civil war.

"It couldn't be more violent than what you've got right now," Wright counters. "If we occupy the land for 10 years, those same issues are going to be there. The United States is not going to sort out those problems for the Iraqis.

"It's not gonna be simple. It's not gonna be easy. But America's presence there is not going to be the thing to calm it down; it's just going to inflame what's happening.

"What we the people of America need to do is stop this stupid war. It's unwinnable. It's not unpatriotic to say that. It's unpatriotic to stand there like a nerd and watch while idiots tear up our country and tear up another country. I ain't no idiot, and I ain't standing by to let that happen. That's why we're here on these buses."

Tamara Dietrich can be reached at tdietrich@dailypress.com or at 247-7892.

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News :: Media

Workflow Software Standards Promise Bright Future

CHICAGO—A new wave of international software standards for digital publishing is emerging, industry insiders said Monday at the Seybold Digital Publishing Workflow & Asset Management Conference.

While the new standards promise gains in variable data printing, content reuse and workflows, the industry is still mostly waiting to embrace these standards. By Gene Koprowski

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