Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Indigenous Zapatista Supporters “Held Hostage” in Chiapas for Opposing Ecotourism Project

Indigenous Zapatista Supporters “Held Hostage” in Chiapas for Opposing Ecotourism
Written by Kristin Bricker
Tuesday, 29 March 2011 21:27

This past February 3, approximately 300 state police raided a meeting of indigenous Zapatista supporters in San Sebastian Bachajón, Chiapas, and arrested 117 people. The arrests sparked protests across Mexico and in front of Mexican consulates around the world, leading the Chiapas government to release the majority of the prisoners. However, five Tzeltal indigenous men, who are now known as the “Bachajón 5,” remain behind bars. One is accused of murder, another is accused of attempted murder, and all five are accused of crimes against the peace.

The Bachajón Zapatista supporters are adherents to the Other Campaign, which was initiated by the Zapatista National Liberation Army (EZLN) in order to form national and global alliances amongst leftist organizations and movements.

The arrests stem from a confrontation between rival indigenous groups that occurred the previous day in San Sebastian Bachajón, which is an ejido, or communally held lands. Marcos García Moreno, an ejido member who belonged to the faction that allied itself with the government, was shot and killed during the confrontation with ejido members who are Other Campaign adherents. The government accuses the Other Campaign adherents of murdering García Moreno and attempting to murder a second man who was shot during the confrontation. The Other Campaign adherents deny the charges. They say they were unarmed, and that the government-allied ejido members were shooting guns into the air during the confrontation.

The government has attempted to paint the conflict as a dispute between rival indigenous factions over control of a tollbooth that charges a fee to enter the Agua Azul waterfalls, one of Chiapas’ most popular tourist attractions. However, the Bachajón adherents and their lawyers at the Fray Bartolome de las Casas Human Rights Center (“Frayba”) say that they have proof that the tollbooth confrontation was designed to provoke government intervention and police occupation of the region. The Bachajón adherents argue that the government orchestrated the confrontation at the tollbooth “as a pretext to take over the Agua Azul Waterfalls Ecotourism Center for its transnational interests and projects.”

According to leaked government documents provided by Frayba, the government plans to have multinational corporations build a multi-million dollar ecotourism hotel on indigenous land. The leaked “Palenque-Agua Azul Waterfalls Development Strategy” Powerpoint, which was prepared by a United States consulting firm, argues:

"The state and local government need to ensure that tourists that visit Chiapas and Palenque feel safe and protected. The Zapatista movement is still strongly associated with Chiapas… Many of those unfamiliar with the region still consider Chiapas to be unsafe… The state needs to protect the developers and hotel operators against the perception of political instability… Before attracting investments, the state must resolve land acquisition and access problems. The acquisition of lands adjacent to the waterfalls is vital…”

Bolom Ajaw, a small community founded by Zapatistas after the 1994 uprising, is located directly across the river from the proposed hotel. The San Sebastian Bachajón ejido, home to a few hundred Other Campaign adherents and Zapatista supporters, is located just outside of Agua Azul. The highway that leads to the Agua Azul waterfalls cuts through the Bachajón ejido. A proposed freeway included in the Palenque-Agua Azul Waterfalls Development Strategy would cut through Bachajón and Bolom Ajaw.

History of the Agua Azul Conflict

Prior to 1994, the lands around the Agua Azul waterfalls were ranches owned by rich men and worked by underpaid and poorly treated indigenous peasants. When the Zapatistas rose up in arms in 1994, 96 of those indigenous peasants ran off the rich ranchers and took over the land they had worked for generations. As a result, Zapatistas and their supporters control much of the land in and around what is now the Agua Azul nature reserve.

In 2001, the Mexican government demonstrated that it would not honor its commitments under the San Andres Accords, which, if implemented, would have granted autonomy to Mexico’s indigenous peoples. In response, the EZLN began to unilaterally implement the San Andres Accords. It began to redistribute unoccupied recuperated lands to landless Zapatistas from other areas, such as the families who founded Bolom Ajaw—located next to the Agua Azul waterfalls.

In 2000, the Chiapas governor offered individual land titles to any peasant who occupied recuperated lands. The Zapatistas interpreted the offer as an attempt to divide the collectivized lands and bring recuperated territory back into the government’s sphere of control, and they rejected the land titles. However, many indigenous peasants who benefited from the uprising but were not Zapatistas did title their lands, causing divisions within the communities.

Around this time, non-Zapatista indigenous peasants, such as those who now belong to the Organization for the Defense of Indigenous and Peasant Rights (OPDDIC), took advantage of the diminished government repression of land takeovers, and they began to occupy lands close to the Agua Azul waterfalls. OPDDIC is a Chiapan paramilitary organization that the government officially granted non-profit status. “Little by little [OPDDIC] amplified [its territory] in a disproportionate manner until they began to border the Zapatistas’ parcels, and [then] they began to invade,” Frayba explains. “First [OPDDIC invaded] seven hectares of cultivated land, and later the Bolom Ajaw waterfalls reserve, with the intention of being beneficiaries of the tourism projects that are planned for that territory.”

Divisions in the indigenous communities worsened as the government began to offer “development” projects to peasants who allied themselves with the government, as is the case with the Agua Azul Tzeltal Indigenous Ecotourism Cooperative (Ecoturismo Indígena Tzeltal de Cascadas de Agua Azul S.C. de R.L.), which is affiliated with OPDDIC and operates the Agua Azul waterfalls tourist area with the help of generous government subsidies. OPDDIC, members of the Agua Azul Ecotourism Cooperative, and local indigenous peasants affiliated with the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI, one of the most powerful political parties in Mexico) have carried out armed attacks on the Bolom Ajaw Zapatistas in attempts to drive them off their land. The most recent attack occurred in February 2010, when OPDDIC ambushed Zapatistas who were attempting to retake Bolom Ajaw farmland that OPDDIC occupied the month before. The confrontation resulted in one dead OPDDIC member, whom Zapatistas say was hit by friendly fire as the OPDDIC surrounded Bolom Ajaw and opened fire from various points in the community.

Divisions amongst residents of the Agua Azul area have led to disagreements over how tourism proceeds are spent. As a result, Other Campaign adherents and pro-government ejido members are engaged in a constant battle over the right to charge admission into the Agua Azul tourist area. The tollbooth has changed hands several times, and often, tourists must pay separate entrance fees to different peasant organizations in order to enter Agua Azul. In 2009, Chiapas state police raided the Other Campaign-controlled tollbooth and gave pro-government peasants the right to charge admission. Later that year, the Other Campaign re-took the tollbooth. This past February, in the events leading up to the February 3 mass arrest of Other Campaign adherents, local PRI members attempted to once again take control of the tollbooth.

Showdown in Agua Azul

On February 1, 2011, Bolom Ajaw residents noticed two helicopters flying low over their community. The helicopters were white with red and green stripes, although witnesses could not discern who the helicopters belonged to. The witnesses’ description matches the Air Force helicopter that President Felipe Calderón used that same day to visit Chiapan tourist destinations that are under development by the federal Secretary of Tourism (FONATUR). Calderón visited Palenque, where FONATUR wants to build an integrated tourist center (which includes the proposed hotel in Agua Azul) and a freeway that would cut straight through San Sebastián Bachajón and Bolom Ajaw.

On February 2—one day after the helicopter flyby in Bolom Ajaw—sixty local PRI members take over the Bachajón tollbooth in a surprise early morning raid. The PRI group was led by Carmen Aguilar Gómez, former leader of the Regional Organization Ocosingo Café Growers (ORCAO), one of the peasant organizations that broke its agreement with the EZLN and legalized recuperated lands.

Following the attack, the Bachajón adherents regroup, and at 2:30pm, 150 of them attempt to retake the tollbooth. “We were armed with sticks and machetes,” one of them told Frayba. “No one carried firearms.” According to Bachajón adherents who participated in the action, the PRI members began to fire their guns into the air. The adherents pushed forward, and when they arrived at the tollbooth, the PRI members fled. An hour and a half later, state police arrived on the scene, accompanied by Carmen Aguilar and several other leaders of the PRI group. The police told the adherents that a PRI member had been murdered and they took over the tollbooth. The zone is now heavily occupied by state police.

On February 3, state police interrupted a meeting of Bachajón adherents to the Other Campaign. A commander asked if they agreed to a three-way dialogue with the government and the PRI ejido members. When the adherents responded that they would not participate in the dialogue, the police arrested 117 people who were in attendance at the meeting.

On February 5, the government released 107 prisoners and filed charges against the remaining ten.

Manufactured Conflict

The Fray Bartolome de las Casas Human Rights Center, whose lawyers are defending the Bachajón 5, insists that the confrontation at the Agua Azul tollbooth is part of the government’s strategy to strip indigenous Chiapans of their territorial rights. “Territory as an essential element of a dignified life and the clear exercise of indigenous peoples’ collective rights run contrary to the business interests that the federal and state government have promised to private investors. Projects that benefit Mexican and foreign investors and cause poverty and death for residents,” argues Frayba. In Agua Azul, “the State did not intervene to prevent confrontations. Instead, it planned a strategy for territorial control in the zone.”

In addition to the previously mentioned leaked Powerpoint presentation in which a private consulting firm identifies the Zapatistas as problematic for Chiapas’ tourism industry and argues that the “acquisition” of their land next to the Agua Azul waterfalls is “vital,” Frayba says that an informant has told them about secret meetings between the government and PRI ejido members. According to Frayba, “Since March 2010, officials from the Chiapas General Government Secretariat—including Secretary Noé Castañón León—public officials, political operators, police officials, and pro-government ejido members have held a series of meetings in which they designed a plan for territorial control of Agua Azul.” Carmen Aguilar Gómez, who led the February 2 attack on the tollbooth, was present at the meetings.

According to Frayba’s informant, who was present during the meetings, participants agreed on a plan that would result in the government purchasing $20 million pesos ($1.7 million dollars) of land from the pro-government ejido members in order to build the Agua Azul hotel. The informant says that the government told the ejido members present “to look for people in the region who have land titles.”

The Bachajón Other Campaign adherents were specifically mentioned in the meetings. The government “mentioned that from this moment on they [the pro-government ejido members] would be safe,” reports the informant. “Because the Other Campaign adherents were being pursued for being criminals that the Fray Bartolomé [Human Rights Center] was protecting.” In a later meeting, the informant says, they agreed that “together they would find a way to take down the Other Campaign.”

The conspirators decided to use the contested tollbooth to set their plan in motion. “The plan was that the organizations would clash so that the government would intervene and take over the tollbooth.” The ejido members investigated how many people they had to carry out a raid on the tollbooth, and how many people the Other Campaign could possibly mobilize to defend it. Then the government and the ejido members agreed on a date when the pro-government ejido members would take over the tollbooth. According to the informant, “Noé Castañón asked [the ejido members] if the majority of their group was in agreement to take over the tollbooth, and they said yes, even if they had to give their lives.”

The government’s behavior following the February 2 incident at the tollbooth appears to corroborate the informant’s testimony. On February 6, the state government held an “Agua Azul Ecotourism Center Dialogue and Coordination,” which was billed as a negotiation to resolve the conflict. Representatives from the Agua Azul and San Sebastian Bachajón attended the Dialogue, creating the appearance of an actual dialogue between conflicting parties. However, the representatives were all pro-government ejido members because the Other Campaign adherents refused to participate. Amongst the “agreements” that came out of the Dialogue are the following:

“At the communities’ request, the police will have a permanent presence.”
“Frayba will not be permitted to participate [in negotiations], because it only exhorts violence and divides the communities.”

The second point of “agreement” is particularly troubling because the Dialogue purports to address territorial control over indigenous lands, but it explicitly excludes the Bachajón adherents’ lawyers.

According to the Bachajón 5, they are being held “hostage by the state government, as a way of forcing us to accept their ecotourism project and end the Other Campaign organization on the ejido.” They say they have received several visits from government officials who have pressured them to sign on to the Agua Azul Ecotourism Center Dialogue and Coordination “agreement.” Domingo Pérez Álvaro, accused of attempted murder, says that during the confrontation at the tollbooth, he was in a meeting with José Manuel Morales, a government official from Ocosingo, Chiapas, with whom he was attempting to negotiate an agreement over the tollbooth. Morales visited Pérez Álvaro in prison and reportedly told him, “If you sign the agreement, I will say that you were with me, and the charges will go away.”

Global Solidarity

Mobilizations have occurred around the globe in support of the Bachajón prisoners. Movement for Justice in El Barrio (MJB, a New York tenants rights organization and fellow Other Campaign adherent) declared this past March 7 to be a Worldwide Day of Action for the Liberation of the Political Prisoners of San Sebastian Bachajón. That day, protests occurred around Mexico and in ten other countries in support of Bachajón.

In an attempt to prevent the protests, the government freed five of the prisoners just before the Worldwide Day of Action. The government-funded Chiapas State Human Rights Commission (CEDH) says that it personally informed the Bachajón adherents that the men had been released in the hopes that it would prevent a highway blockade outside of Agua Azul. Because five of their comrades were still in jail, the Bachajón adherents went forward with the March 7 blockade. In response, the CEDH issued a statement criticizing the Bachajón adherents: “The incident that occurred today, in which the highway in front of the Agua Azul Waterfalls tourist center was blocked, worries this Council because these acts could provoke conflict amongst the region’s inhabitants and cause damage to third parties who are uninvolved in the conflict.”

The CEDH says that the five men now known as the “Bachajón 5” remain in prison because they tested positive on a gunpowder residue test. Its press release does not mention the fact that the men were detained the day after the confrontation at the tollbooth, and that the gunpowder residue test was performed two days later, on February 4. Furthermore, the men’s lawyers argue that they were not provided with adequate interpreters during their detention and interrogation. Instead of providing a qualified Tzeltal-Spanish interpreter, Palenque police officers interpreted during the interrogation.

MJB is keeping up the pressure to release the remaining five prisoners. The group has called for “5 Days of Worldwide Action for the Bachajón 5” on April 1-5 to demand the release of the remaining prisoners. MJB proposes that during the 5 Days of Worldwide Action for the Bachajón 5, “we unite our forces and organize actions–from our particular locations and respective forms of struggle–such as demonstrations, marches, informative street actions, flyering, public forums, theatre, teach-ins, and any other activity.”

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

In Solidarity: Indigenous Youth Delegation to Palestine

GRITtv: In Solidarity: Indigenous Youth Delegation to Palestine

There are lots of connections between the indigenous communities in the United States and the Palestinian community: both the corporations and governments that have oppressed them and the strategies of resistance that they've used to fight back. Organizers from across the U.S. put together The Indigenous Youth Delegation to Palestine, which connected Native and immigrant youth from the U.S. with youth in Palestine. Ora Wise of the Palestine Education Project, Ras K'Dee of SNAG Magazine, and hip-hop activists Invincible of Detroit and the Narcicyst join us in the studio to talk about their experiences organizing across borders, creating solidarity between communities of struggle, and being part of a new generation of activists forming their own connections. If you're in New York, Thursday evening, October 22, Ras K'Dee, Invincible and the Narcicyst will be performing at Public Assembly in Brooklyn. Check it out!

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0

Rand Paul "Obama's Going Directly Against The Constitution That Says Congress Shall Declare War"

Rand Paul "Obama's Going Directly Against The Constitution That Says Congress Shall Declare War"

Wikileaks: GMO conspiracy reaches highest levels of US Government

GMO conspiracy reaches highest levels of US Government

Recent Wikileaks cables are typically associated with information leaks related to U.S. war strategy, and foreign policy, which has led some people to conclude that leaked information of this nature is a possible threat to national security.

But in this case, Wikileaks cables leaked information regarding global food policy as it relates to U.S. officials — in the highest levels of government — that involves a conspiracy with Monsanto to force the global sale and use of genetically-modified foods.

In 2007, then-U.S. ambassador to France Craig Stapleton conspired to retaliate against European countries for their anti-biotech policies. U.S. diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks reveal the Bush administration formulated battle plans to extract revenge against Europe for refusing to use genetically modified seeds.

In the leaked cable, Stapleton writes: “Europe is moving backwards not forwards on this issue with France playing a leading role, along with Austria, Italy and even the [European] Commission…Moving to retaliation will make clear that the current path has real costs to EU interests and could help strengthen European pro-biotech voice.”

Ambassador Stapleton goes on to write: “Country team Paris recommends that we calibrate a target retaliation list that causes some pain across the EU since this is a collective responsibility, but that also focuses in part on the worst culprits. The list should be measured rather than vicious and must be sustainable over the long term, since we should not expect an early victory,” he wrote.

In an interview with Amy Goodman at Democracy Now, Jeffrey Smith, executive director of the Institute for Responsible Technology notes how he’s been saying for years that the United States government is joined at the hip with Monsanto, pushing GMOs as part of Monsanto’s agenda on the rest of the world.

“This lays bare,” notes Smith, “the mechanics of that effort. We have Craig Stapleton, the former ambassador to France, specifically asking the U.S. government to retaliate and cause some harm throughout the European Union. And then, two years later, in 2009, we have a cable from the ambassador to Spain from the United States asking for intervention there, asking the government to help formulate a biotech strategy and support the government—members of the government in Spain that want to promote GMOs, as well. And here, they specifically indicate that they sat with the director of Monsanto for the region and got briefed by him about the politics of the region and created strategies with him to promote the GMO agenda.”

Although GM corn was the first seed that was approved for widespread planting in the European Union — specifically (GM) maize (NK 603, MON 810, MON 863) — individual countries stepped forward to ban these seeds. And so, in 2007, Smith claims Monsanto and the boitech industry, with the help of the U.S. Government, formulated a strategy to force these countries to accept the first of the genetically modified seeds.

Since then, there’s been more evidence — which we reported on in January of 2010 — showing that this genetically modified corn damages mice and rats, and can cause reductions of fertility, smaller litter sizes, smaller offspring, and immune responses. As Smith observes, these concerns have been ignored by both the European Food Safety Authority and the United States FDA.

Study Concludes Three Monsanto GM Corn Varieties Toxic to Mammals

The Committee for Independent Research and Information on Genetic Engineering participated in a study published in the International Journal of Biological Sciences which demonstrates the toxicity in mammals of three genetically modified corn varieties from Monsanto.

Researchers concluded that these three GMOs (GM maize NK 603, MON 810, and MON 863) are not safe enough to be distributed commercially because the kidneys and liver in rats displayed toxicity levels when exposed to all three GM corn varieties. Other effects were also noticed in the heart, adrenal glands, spleen and haematopoietic system.

Smith adds that with MON 810 corn, “they found that there was a gene that is normally silent that is switched on and now creates an allergen in corn. They found 43 different genes that were significantly up-regulated or down-regulated, meaning that there’s massive changes in these crops and they’re not being evaluated by the U.S.—by the FDA or any other regulatory authority around the world before being put onto the market.”

The Telegraph reports that in other newly released cables, US diplomats around the world are found to have pushed GM crops as a strategic government and commercial imperative.

US Embassy Lobbied Pope to Approve GM Crops

John Vidal, environment editor for the Telegraph writes: Cables from the US embassy in the Vatican show that the US believes the pope is broadly supportive of the crops after sustained lobbying of senior Holy See advisers…The US state department special adviser on biotechnology as well as government biotech advisers based in Kenya lobbied Vatican insiders to persuade the pope to declare his backing.

“A Martino deputy told us recently that the cardinal had co-operated with embassy Vatican on biotech over the past two years in part to compensate for his vocal disapproval of the Iraq war and its aftermath – to keep relations with the USG [US government] smooth. According to our source, Martino no longer feels the need to take this approach,” says the cable.

monsanto Wikileaks: GMO conspiracy reaches highest levels of US GovernmentCables Show US Diplomats Working Directly for Monsanto

Wikileaks cable reads: “In response to recent urgent requests by (Spanish rural affairs ministry) state secretary Josep Puxeu and Monsanto, post requests renewed US government support of Spain’s science-based agricultural biotechnology position through high-level US government intervention….”

As Smith points out, they’ve been — meaning US GOVT officials, Monsanto, and the biotech industry — working around the world to try and influence policy on every single continent.

Spain and the US have worked closely together to persuade the EU not to strengthen biotechnology laws. In one cable, the embassy in Madrid writes:

“Spain was the first EU country to grow genetically modified (GM) corn and now cultivates nearly 75 percent of the EU’s MON810 corn crop – nearly 200,000 acres. During a May 13 meeting with Monsanto’s Director for Biotechnology for Spain and Portugal, Embassy officials were told that Spain is increasingly becoming a target of anti-biotechnology forces within Europe and that Spain’s cultivation of MON810 corn was under serious threat. The sentiment echoed by supporters of agricultural biotechnology regarding a ban on MON810 cultivation in Spain is that “If Spain falls, the rest of Europe will follow.”

As The Telegraph notes, the cables show that not only did the Spanish government ask the US to keep pressure on Brussels but that the US knew in advance how Spain would vote, even before the Spanish biotech commission had reported.

Blackwater’s Black Ops For Monsanto

In a must read article written by Jeremy Scahill for The Nation, Scahill claims Blackwater, through Total Intelligence, sought to become the “intel arm” of Monsanto, offering to provide operatives to infiltrate activist groups organizing against the multinational biotech firm.

Scahill is an American investigative journalist and author of Blackwater: The Rise of the World’s Most Powerful Mercenary Army. Scahill says the coordinator of Blackwater’s covert CIA business, former CIA paramilitary officer Enrique “Ric” Prado, set up a global network of foreign operatives, offering their “deniability” as a “big plus” for potential Blackwater customers, according to company documents.

U.S. Food Safety Czar Wikileaks: GMO conspiracy reaches highest levels of US GovernmentOur U.S. Food Safety Czar is a Former Monsanto Executive

If after reading these incriminating Wikileaks cables conforming that US government officials at the highest levels are working directly with Monsanto, and the biotech industry to control the world’s food supply with genetically modified foods, ask yourself why our current Food Safety Czar, Michael Taylor, is the former Monsanto executive who crafted the FDA’s GMO friendly policy while serving as the FDA’s Deputy commissioner for policy.

Taylor also wrote the FDA’s guidelines on recombinant bovine growth hormone (rBGH), banning dairies from labeling their milk “rBGH Free“.

Additionally, as Jeremy Smith points out in his interview with Amy Goodman, the person who was in charge of FDA policy in 1992, Monsanto’s former attorney, Michael Taylor, allowed GMOs on the market without any safety studies and without labeling, and the policy claimed that the agency was not aware of any information showing that GMOs were significantly different.

Seven years later, says Smith, because of a lawsuit, 44,000 secret internal FDA memos revealed that that policy was a lie. “Not only were the scientists at the FDA aware that GMOs were different, they had warned repeatedly that they might create allergies, toxins, new diseases and nutritional problems. But they were ignored, and their warnings were even denied, and the policy went forth allowing the deployment GMOs into the food supply with virtually no safety studies.”


Hector Ponce Painter of The City of Angels

Hector Ponce was born in Villa Delgado, an extremely poor neighborhood in the suburbs of Salvador. Due to the environmental and economic conditions during his youth, he was not able to acquire a quality education. Throughout his youth, the only authority and guide Hector could ever trust was his mother, the late Socorro Ponce. It was because of her loving guidance that he aspired to break out of the poverty of his youth. He earnestly desired to live a better life for himself and his family. It was during the 1970's that Hector decided that to find his "El Dorado", he would have to go "North".

His travels first took him to Mexico, where he lived for six years. It was here that he began to paint commercial art and develop his unique style of painting with its vibrant colors and amusing depictions of everyday life. It was also in Mexico that Hector began to develop an important part of his personality, which is to share his heart with his fellow man. In the early 80's, after having lived in Mexico for 6 years, he decided to continue on his journey North. Hector entered the United States illegally, almost penniless and with few prospects. But he was armed with the ambition that was instilled in him by his desire to escape the poverty of his youth the wisdom imparted to him by his mother, and the life knowledge that he gained on his travels North.

ADHD: It’s The Food, Stupid

March 25th, 2011 By Kristin Wartman

Over five million children ages four to 17 have been diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in the United States and close to 3 million of those children take medication for their symptoms, according to the Centers for Disease Control. But a new study reported in The Lancet last month found that with a restricted diet alone, many children experienced a significant reduction in symptoms. The study’s lead author, Dr. Lidy Pelsser of the ADHD Research Centre in the Netherlands, said in an interview with NPR, “The teachers thought it was so strange that the diet would change the behavior of the child as thoroughly as they saw it. It was a miracle, the teachers said.”

Dr. Pessler’s study is the first to conclusively say that diet is implicated in ADHD. In the NPR interview, Dr. Pessler did not mince words, “Food is the main cause of ADHD,” she said adding, “After the diet, they were just normal children with normal behavior. They were no longer more easily distracted, they were no more forgetful, there were no more temper-tantrums.” The study found that in 64 percent of children with ADHD, the symptoms were caused by food. “It’s a hypersensitivity reaction to food,” Pessler said.

This is good news for parents and children who would like to avoid many of the adverse side effects associated with common stimulant drugs like Ritalin used to treat ADHD—and bad news for the pharmaceutical industry. The National Institute of Mental Health reports that common side effects from the drugs are sleeplessness (for which a doctor might also prescribe sleeping pills) headaches and stomachaches, decreased appetite, and a long list of much more frightening (yet rarer) side effects, including feeling helpless, hopeless, or worthless, and new or worsening depression. But Pessler’s study indicates that up to two-thirds or two of the three million children currently medicated for ADHD may not need medication at all. “With all children, we should start with diet research,” Pessler said.

There are also questions about the long-term effects of stimulant drugs and growth in children. After three years on Ritalin, children were about an inch shorter and 4.4 pounds lighter than their peers, according to a major study published in the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry in 2007. A 2010 study in the Journal of Pediatrics disputed these findings, but all the study’s authors had relationships with drug companies, some of which make stimulants. According to Reuters, “The lead author, Harvard University’s Dr. Joseph Biederman, was once called out by Iowa Senator Charles E. Grassley for the consulting fees he has received from such drug makers.”

This is just one example of how the powerful billion-dollar drug industry designs and interprets studies to suit their interests. Since the 1970s, researchers not tied to drug companies have been drawing connections between foods, food additives, and the symptoms associated with ADHD but many have been dismissed or overlooked by conventional medicine. One of the earliest researchers in this field was Dr. Benjamin Feingold who created a specific diet to address behavioral and developmental problems in children. The Feingold diet, as it is now called, recommends removing all food additives, dyes, and preservatives commonly found in the majority of industrial foods.

There are a multitude of credible scientific studies to indicate that diet plays a large role in the development of ADHD. One study found that the depletion of zinc and copper in children was more prevalent in children with ADHD. Another study found that one particular dye acts as a “central excitatory agent able to induce hyperkinetic behavior.” And yet another study suggests that the combination of various common food additives appears to have a neurotoxic effect—pointing to the important fact that while low levels of individual food additives may be regarded as safe for human consumption, we must also consider the combined effects of the vast array of food additives that are now prevalent in our food supply.

In Pessler’s study the children were placed on a restricted diet consisting of water, rice, turkey, lamb, lettuce, carrots, pears and other hypoallergenic foods—in other words, real, whole foods. This means that by default the diet contained very few, if any, food additives.

As I see it, there are two factors at work in this study: One being the allergic reaction to the actual foods themselves and the second being a possible reaction to food additives, or combinations of food additives, found in industrial foods. Both certainly could be at play in the results of this study, although the discussion of Dr. Pessler’s study thus far hasn’t addressed the latter issue.

One theme in the discussion of the story has been skepticism from mainstream media—the recent Los Angeles Times article (the only major daily newspaper to cover the study) was very skeptical, if not dismissive. The author writes, “Previous studies have found similar effects, but, like this one, they all had fundamental problems that made it easy for doctors to dismiss them.” NPR interviewer, Guy Raz asked a question invoking this tone as well, “Now, you’re not saying that some children with ADHD should not be given medication, right?” Pessler does say that there are some children and adults who might benefit from pharmaceuticals but her research indicates that far too many are being medicated unnecessarily—and this is the crux of the story.

The Los Angeles Times article ends on this note: “‘To be sure, the prospect of treating ADHD with diet instead of drugs would appeal to many parents,’ Dr. Jaswinder Ghuman, a child psychiatrist who treats ADHD says. ‘But parents who want to give it a try should be sure to consult their child’s physician first, she warned: ‘It’s not that simple to do appropriately.’”

Call me old-fashioned, but changing your child’s diet seems a lot “simpler” than altering his or her brain chemistry with a daily dose of pharmaceuticals. It does takes patience, trial and error, and commitment to complete an elimination diet—taking a pill to target symptoms certainly requires less effort on the part of the doctors, family and child. While no one is denying that ADHD is a complicated web of symptoms with potentially many contributing factors, why not start by examining the most basic and fundamental cornerstone of our health—the foods (and non-foods) we put into our bodies.

Kristin Wartman is a food writer living in Brooklyn. She has a Masters in Literature from UC Santa Cruz and is a Certified Nutrition Educator. She is interested in the intersections of food, health, politics, and culture. You can follow her on Twitter and read more of her writing at

Arts bloom anew in Leimert Park

The L.A. neighborhood of Leimert Park with a historical devotion to black culture is gaining new, diverse fans at its art walk.

By Erin Aubrey Kaplan, Special to the Los Angeles Times

March 22, 2011

Leimert Park Village, the historical enclave of black culture and arts, has been showing signs of new life lately, and not a moment too soon.

The nonprofit Barbara Morrison Performing Arts Center, named for the veteran jazz and blues singer, opened last month. In December, the Eileen Harris Norton Foundation premiered the Leimert Project, a space for arts education that has so far mounted two solo shows for local artists. On Leimert Boulevard, native son and internationally renowned artist Mark Bradford works out of a studio that has piqued new interest in the neighborhood in fine art circles. And for the last two summers, a homegrown music and arts festival has been successfully staged in a city parking lot.

The only thing missing was foot traffic, a longstanding problem in Leimert. Enter another addition geared to the Internet generation: the Leimert Park Art Walk (

Organized by Ben Caldwell, proprietor of the new media education center Kaos Network and a Leimert Park mainstay, the art walk launched as an experiment last June and has quietly been gathering momentum ever since. Held on the last Sunday of every month in the lobby of the Vision Theater and three storefronts on 43rd Place facing Leimert Plaza Park, it showcases artists and features other attractions such as music performances, film screenings, crafts, food and a kid's pavilion.

The community festival vibe is hardly new to Leimert, which hosts similar events — Kwanzaa, Martin Luther King Day — throughout the year. What is new is that buzz about the art walk was created almost entirely online, chiefly through social networking sites like Facebook. And unlike the demographic that comes out each year for events like Kwanzaa, most of the roughly 1,000 people who showed up for the first art walk were young and not necessarily black.

The size and the diversity of the response amazed even Caldwell. "They were mostly college age, under 40, young families starting out," he recalls. "And they were a third white, a third black, a third Asian. That surprised people."

But Caldwell, whose Kaos became famous for its hip-hop scene, is more than encouraged. Already the art walk has enough of a reputation to stage events in conjunction with high-profile events such as the NAACP national convention coming to Staples Center this summer. "We're on the radar," Caldwell says. "The good thing about the art walk is that it's monthly, it's consistent. It keeps the neighborhood on people's minds."

The idea of an art walk came about a year ago not as a way to raise Leimert's profile, but to address a problem that had developed at another regular Sunday event in Leimert, the drum circle. The African-themed circle had been meeting in the park for more than 10 years, and had always drawn complaints from some residents and businesspeople about noise and vendors who parked illegally. Tensions escalated when police showed up one Sunday and told vendors to leave.

Caldwell, a property owner in the village and a board member of its business improvement district, persuaded the group to start a business incubator to come up with a way of dealing with the problem. That yielded the idea of a monthly art walk that could expand the context of the drum circle into a larger event, use the unrented storefronts to display art (and advertise the space itself) and encourage foot traffic.

At a recent Saturday meeting of the art walk committee held at Caldwell's space, younger attendees sat with laptops propped open as Caldwell led a discussion about the details of the next day's event. The committee is an eclectic bunch comprising interested artists, merchants and residents. Caldwell encourages everyone involved to use the art walk as a way of developing and showcasing their own ambitions, artistic or otherwise. "This is a new generation, with new resources," remarked committee member G Money. "Look at the role the Internet and Twitter [had] in the revolution in Egypt. If you're not with it, you're obsolete."

The art walk's website speaks clearly to a new tradition, but also to familiar goals of racial and social progress. The logo is a tweak on a mythological African image — a sankofa bird representing the past and the future, with paintbrushes for feathers. A four-minute film features a lively hip-hop soundtrack and interviews with young art walk patrons who wax passionately about the Leimert scene.

The docents are teens from local middle and high schools. and its critical role in keeping things in the 'hood "positive."In a recent addition, capoeira dancers have joined the procession of drummers and other performers that files into Leimert Park Plaza to kick off the art walk at 2 p.m. (The next art walk is Sunday.)

Longtime area merchant and jeweler Sika, who has an eponymous shop, founded the Leimert Park Village African Art & Music Festival in 2009. Picking up where the annual African Marketplace left off when it abruptly shut down that year, the new summer event has been well-received; Sika is looking for sponsorship in 2011. He lauds the new Leimert Project and the art walk as important parts of a collective effort among business owners to permanently establish Leimert Park as a black center of culture and a model of self-determination. "Merchants should be able to do for ourselves," Sika says. "We created this place, we should define and control it."

Bradford is a relatively new catalyst in the movement. The artist, a California Institute of the Arts alumnus who met Caldwell there, moved into his renovated Leimert Park studio three years ago; last year, his close friend and arts philanthropist Eileen Norton followed suit by opening the Leimert Project. Suddenly it looked as though Leimert Park, which has always been somewhat isolated, might finally connect with the established art scene on the Westside and beyond. Bradford acknowledges that's possible, though he emphasizes he's looking to build on Leimert's rich history, not replace it.

"I'm just trying to add a little something, not trying to detract from all the folks who have been holding it down since the '60s," he says. "The goal to bring in more and more young, contemporary artists has really been a goal in Leimert Park since the '70s." With that in mind, Bradford opened the doors of his studio for the first art walk, and continues to "whenever I'm around."

Leimert has always been tough going for merchants. Development that has transformed artsy districts like North Hollywood into hip destinations has passed it by. And disagreement among merchants over what direction the village should take is legion, even during the best of times. The constant fear among some is that an influx of outsiders — such as those who've discovered the art walk — will dilute, or at least distract from, the village's historical commitment to growing and preserving black culture in L.A.

Caldwell dismisses that view as self-defeating. "This is us learning as black businesspeople to be businesspeople, which means that we can't just rely on black folk to support ourselves," he says. "I've gotten pushback for [reaching out to other groups to patronize the village.] But the truth is, hip-hop, jazz and blues wouldn't make it were it not for people of other colors. We have to broker what we have to be successful."

Jackie Ryan, co-owner of Zambezi Bazaar, mostly agrees with Caldwell. She says that in the last year she's seen a new seriousness of purpose about preserving Leimert. and doing it by any means necessary. "People are aware that we have to be innovative to survive into the future," she says. "Electoral politics are not the answer. We have to have faith in our culture," Ryan says. "That's what's sustained us all along."

Copyright © 2011, Los Angeles Times

'Year of the checkpoint' delivered thousands of impounds | California Watch

'Year of the checkpoint' delivered thousands of impounds | California Watch

California traffic safety officials declared 2010 the “year of the checkpoint,” and they delivered on that pledge.

Police agencies ran 1,050 of the state-funded roadway sobriety operations just during the holidays (which include Christmas, New Year’s, the Super Bowl, St. Patrick’s Day and Labor Day) last fiscal year. That is nearly twice as many holiday checkpoints as law enforcement ran the previous year. In all, the California Office of Traffic Safety planned to operate more than 2,500 such operations in 2010.

And while the checkpoints are ostensibly intended to snare drunken drivers, officers impounded six cars for every one DUI arrest made, according to data from the Safe Transportation Research and Education Center at UC Berkeley. The center operates a grant program funding the checkpoints for the California Office of Traffic Safety.

Vehicle seizures totaled 17,419 last fiscal year. An investigation by California Watch and the Investigative Reporting Program at UC Berkeley found most of the motorists losing their cars at the operations were sober, unlicensed illegal immigrants.

Unlike in previous years, the most recent data documents how many unlicensed drivers police encountered during the operations. Under state law, motorists who don’t have a license or who have had their driving privileges suspended or revoked can have their cars impounded for 30 days. The fees and fines that car owners must pay to retrieve their vehicle often reach more than $1,500.

Police cited 12,867 unlicensed drivers during the 2010 fiscal year, according to the data. Not every one of those motorists lost their cars, but the numbers still indicate that illegal immigrants might have accounted for as much as 70 percent of vehicle seizures at DUI checkpoints

Impounds have become a revenue source for cities in recent years.

Local governments often charge unlicensed drivers a fine to get their vehicles released from impound – on average more than $150, finance records show. Cities, increasingly, also get a cut of the fees that tow operators charge vehicle owners, generating hundreds of thousands of dollars a year.

However, seven California police agencies have altered their checkpoint policies in recent months to try to reduce impounds.

Here is a breakdown of last fiscal year’s holiday checkpoint results for six of the seven cities aiming to shrink the disparity between DUI arrests and vehicle seizures.

Agency DUI arrests Unlicensed cited Impounds

Los Angeles Police Department 230 425 1,008

Oakland Police Department 24 28 50

San Jose Police Department 100 342 335

Baldwin Park Police Department 25 547 670

Berkeley Police Department 2 3 12

Coachella (Riverside County Sheriff) 24 33 18

Cathedral City also altered its policies to limit impoundment of unlicensed drivers at checkpoints but did not operate any holiday checkpoints in fiscal 2010.

Cops called it the "Year of the Checkpoint" in California.

DUI Checkpoints Net 17,419 Cars, Mostly From Illegal Immigrants, Last Year in Calif: LAPD Leads The State With 1,008 Impounds
By Dennis Romero, Mon., Mar. 28 2011

Cops called it the "Year of the Checkpoint" in California.

But it might as well have been called the Year of Taking Your Car. Because, while the number of DUI checkpoints in fiscal 2010 was double that of 2009, there were six cars impounded for every one DUI arrest, according to California Watch.

It also reports there were 1,050 of the state-funded checkpoints during the holidays alone (Christmas, New Year's, the Super Bowl, St. Patrick's Day and Labor Day), doubling the number in fiscal 2009.

Some have accused the LAPD of setting up checkpoints in immigrant-heavy areas where finding unlicensed drivers and taking their cars because they're not allowed to drive them home is like shooting fish in a barrel.

The department recently changed its policy, however, allowing accessible friends and family members with licenses to drive the cars of the unlicensed home.

The DUI checkpoint -- often conducted with federal funds as well -- has been a bonanza for other law agencies statewide. California Watch:

Vehicle seizures totaled 17,419 last fiscal year. An investigation by California Watch and the Investigative Reporting Program at UC Berkeley found most of the motorists losing their cars at the operations were sober, unlicensed illegal immigrants.

The publication states that illegal immigrants likely accounted for more than two-thirds of those who had their cars taken at DUI checkpoints.

The LAPD led the state with 1,008 impounds.

Cities like Los Angeles often get $150 or more cut of the action when owners retrieve their cars after 30 days and end up paying as much as $1,500 in fines, storage and fees.

Many don't bother trying to get their vehicles back, though, leaving the cars to be auctioned off.

State Sen. Gil Cedillo of L.A. has tried repeatedly to thwart this system by introducing a bill that would allow -- as California has in the past -- illegals to get licenses. But Arnold Schwarzenegger wouldn't sign the legislation.

With a new governor in office, maybe Cedillo has another chance.
You can read a previous article here:

Welcome To America, Now Give Us Your Car: Do Los Angeles Area DUI Checkpoints Target Poorer Areas, Immigrants?
By Dennis Romero, Wed., Sep. 29 2010 @ 7:10AM

Monday, March 28, 2011

Fence Painting Illegal in Los Angeles? FOX 11 News video report.

Fence Painting Illegal in Los Angeles?:

Los Angeles - There's nothing all that controversial about painting a fence unless you happen to paint graphic images with bold colors. That could put you on the wrong side of Los Angeles' law against murals.

One Los Angeles homeowner's fence art is apparently illegal in the eyes of the City of Los Angeles.

FOX 11's Susan Hirasuna has the story in the video report.

Resources for the Unemployed

Resources for the Unemployed
by mous Wednesday, Feb. 16, 2011 at 1:59 AM

Some sad news about the Unemployed Friends forum, and some good news about more organizing online to fight for extensions. Additional links to survival resources.

John Johnson of Change Links posted a heart-rending story about an unemployed person to the LAAMN list. It was posted to Unemployed Friends, the best forum for the long-term unemployed out there. It was with some sadness that I read that UF is now closed.

It closed due to disruptive members who were out to sabotage the efforts of Unemployed Friends. Dealing with the forum was just too much.

The silver lining to that dark cloud is the American 99ers Union: founded by two UF members.

This online organization is mobilizing the unempolyed politically to support legislation to extend unemployment and promote stimulus spending.

The structure of the organization is fascinating. It's a network of networks, a coalition of over 20 organizations founded by the unemployed themselves. What sets these organizations apart from the thousands of job-seeker support groups is that these 99er groups are political organizations, with political agendas to extend unemployment.

These are the people that the various labor organizations, unions, and community groups should be working with to build some kind of structure for shared struggle. The problem is, it's not happening. Union activist and critic Harry Kelber has written extensively at his website:

It's not only labor that should unite with the unemployed. So should leftist political groups, who are the natural allies. There is one group in LA doing this work, and it's RAC with their weekly resource and food sharing operation in Macarthur Park on Sundays at 1PM. If you need food, go there. If you can afford it, donate to their cause.

If you need food, Food Not Bombs does weekly servings of a late lunch at Pershing Square, Sundays at 6PM.

The LA Catholic Worker serves food Tu Th and Sa mornings to around noon. The CW is the far-left wing of the Catholics, and are pacificts. Look up "Dorothy Day."

Remember, even if you can afford some food, you can economize by eating meals with the homeless or nearly homeless.

Do not feel bashful. The most important thing the unemployed and poor can do is meet each other and be together. Isolation is the enemy. Depresssion is the enemy. The power that you will gain, together, will be greater than the cost of the food served.

The LA Dumpster Diving meetup group cathers periodically to scavenge food from dumpsters, and then eat some of the food together. They can help you stock your fridge and save hundreds of dollars on groceries. They also donate food they can't use.

Back in the 1930s when workers were becoming hobos, riding the rails to seek work across the country, they developed a system of chalk-mark signs. (Hobos were not "bums". They were workers who could not find work, so travelled, homeless, to find it.)

It's time again for things like this - a communication system for the unemployed and temporary workers, and odd-jobbers. We're all trying to make it in a tough economy and need all the help we can give each other.

Taking over and occupying space, whether it's space outside, space online, space in the media - it's important. And those of us who have jobs, need to occupy these same spaces in the name of the unemployed. This togetherness is the basis of political power and survival.

Other job-seeker resources:

There are employment support groups at all the EDD offices and WorkSource offices.

Westside and South Bay Unemployment Support group

Unemployment Appreciation Team


The Unemploymentor - a local unemployed guy

The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age

More Black Men Now in Prison System than Were Enslaved
March 27, 2011 By Dick Price

“More African American men are in prison or jail, on probation or parole than were enslaved in 1850, before the Civil War began,” Michelle Alexander told a standing room only house at the Pasadena Main Library this past Wednesday, the first of many jarring points she made in a riveting presentation.

Alexander, currently a law professor at Ohio State, had been brought in to discuss her year-old bestseller, The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness. Interest ran so high beforehand that the organizers had to move the event to a location that could accommodate the eager attendees. That evening, more than 200 people braved the pouring rain and inevitable traffic jams to crowd into the library’s main room, with dozens more shuffled into an overflow room, and even more latecomers turned away altogether. Alexander and her topic had struck a nerve.

Growing crime rates over the past 30 years don’t explain the skyrocketing numbers of black — and increasingly brown — men caught in America’s prison system, according to Alexander, who clerked for Supreme Court Justice Harry Blackmun after attending Stanford Law. “In fact, crime rates have fluctuated over the years and are now at historical lows.”

“Most of that increase is due to the War on Drugs, a war waged almost exclusively in poor communities of color,” she said, even though studies have shown that whites use and sell illegal drugs at rates equal to or above blacks. In some black inner-city communities, four of five black youth can expect to be caught up in the criminal justice system during their lifetimes.

As a consequence, a great many black men are disenfranchised, said Alexander — prevented because of their felony convictions from voting and from living in public housing, discriminated in hiring, excluded from juries, and denied educational opportunities.

“What do we expect them to do?” she asked, who researched her ground-breaking book while serving as Director of the Racial Justice Project at the ACLU of Northern California. “Well, seventy percent return to prison within two years, that’s what they do.”

Organized by the Pasadena Public Library and the Flintridge Center, with a dozen or more cosponsors, including the ACLU Pasadena/Foothills Chapter and Neighborhood Church, and the LA Progressive as the sole media sponsor, the event drew a crowd of the converted, frankly — more than two-thirds from Pasadena’s well-established black community and others drawn from activists circles. Although Alexander is a polished speaker on a deeply researched topic, little she said stunned the crowd, which, after all, was the choir. So the question is what to do about this glaring injustice.

Married to a federal prosecutor, Alexander briefly touched on the differing opinion in the Alexander household. “You can imagine the arguments we have,” Alexander said in relating discussions she has with her husband. “He thinks there are changes we can make within the system,” she said, agreeing that there are good people working on the issues and that improvements can be made. “But I think there has to be a revolution of some kind.”

However change is to come, a big impediment will be the massive prison-industrial system.

“If we were to return prison populations to 1970 levels, before the War on Drugs began,” she said. “More than a million people working in the system would see their jobs disappear.”

So it’s like America’s current war addiction. We have built a massive war machine — one bigger than all the other countries in the world combined — with millions of well-paid defense industry and billions of dollars at stake. With a hammer that big, every foreign policy issue looks like a nail — another bomb to drop, another country to invade, another massive weapons development project to build.

Similarly, with such a well-entrenched prison-industrial complex in place — also with a million jobs and billions of dollars at stake — every criminal justice issue also looks like a nail — another prison sentence to pass down, another third strike to enforce, another prison to build in some job-starved small town, another chance at a better life to deny.

Alexander, who drew her early inspiration from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., devotes the last part of “The New Jim Crow” to steps people can take to combat this gross injustice. In particular, she recommended supporting the Drug Policy Alliance. At the book signing afterwards, Dr. Anthony Samad recruited Michelle Alexander to appear this fall at one his Urban Issues Forums, typically at the California African American Museum next to USC.

Dick Price

Israel's unwanted citizens

Palestinian citizens of Israel are complaining about a string of policies, which they say are designed to drive them out of Israel.

First, a bill requiring them to pledge allegiance to a Jewish state was passed by the Israeli cabinet.

Now the Knesset is debating whether to stop Arab Israelis from living in cities where there's a Jewish majority.

So who are Palestinian-Israelis and how did they become citizens of a state that doesn't want them?

Al Jazeera's Sherine Tadros reports.

The Kill Team - Rolling Stone

Rolling Stones looks into the story of photos that came out last week.

Read the Rolling Stone Article

The Kill Team

How U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan murdered innocent civilians and mutilated their corpses – and how their officers failed to stop them. Plus: An exclusive look at the war crime photos censored by the Pentagon.

See the photos
Their inclusion in the collection of photos bespeaks a shocking disregard for human life. “We were operating in such bad places and not being able to do anything about it,” Morlock tells Rolling Stone. “I guess that’s why we started taking things into our own hands.”

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Bolivia’s Water Fight

An irrigation lake above Tiraque. (Photo: Daniel Aldana Cohen)

Bolivia’s Water Fight
Will violence in Bolivia deny water rights to its indigenous people?
| by Daniel Aldana Cohen

Tough talk at the top of the world

Shiny black hair tops Andrés Gonzales’s long, sturdy face. It catches the pale Sunday morning light as he stands to rebut an angry farmer in an asamblea of some eighty peasants. The community has purchased a field for communal use with the surplus from their drinking water collective. The farmer, a long-settled German immigrant who wanted the money spent elsewhere, speaks in Spanish, but Gonzalez answers with the hard k’s and ch’s of Quechua, the language Inca settlers brought to this Andean valley a century before the Spanish arrived. Not yet thirty, Gonzales leads a farming community in Tiquipaya, a relatively prosperous municipality in Bolivia’s Cochabamba province.

The meeting’s slow, collective cadences are the legacy of Andean traditions of communal deliberation. Mostly, the custom is banal, the habit of long arguments over small details. But the endless hours are never wasted—a social fabric is being woven.

The rest of us sit in plastic chairs. The men are wearing fedoras or baseball caps, the women polleras (traditional gathered skirts) and wide straw hats. Behind me rises the yellow cordillera, a rugged chain of mountains whose stark, blunt landscape seems like an extension—or maybe the source material—of the campesinos who have lived among them for thousands of years. Over sixty percent of Bolivians self-identify as indigenous, the highest share on the continent.

When the assembly ends, Gonzales takes me on a tour of the village’s irrigation system, a maze of cement canals carved through hillside fields of vegetables and flowers. As in most communities where fields are irrigated, the farmers are known and organized as regantes, irrigators. When a fight breaks out over the scarce water that is the source of their livelihood, they know what to do. “It can take entire mornings, even days, of meetings to resolve water conflicts,” Gonzales explains in his clipped, matter-of-fact voice.

But talk isn’t always enough. In South America’s poorest country, fights for water are fights over life and death.

you can read the rest of the story here

The Story of Bottled Water (2010)

Bolivia Leasing the Rain 2002

This is actually a pretty good piece by PBS Frontline on Bolivia's people struggles against their government's intention to lease rain water in 2002.

Privatization sparks a deadly protest in the town of Cochabamba when the Bolivian government sells off its water system to a private, multi-national consortium Aguas del Tunari. New Yorker writer William Finnegan travels to Cochabamba to learn why people took to the streets and what happens next. read more


LAND trailer for feature documentary from Six Island Productions on Vimeo.

LAND is a true Wild West story, delving in to the tumultuous topic of land ownership and development in politically volatile Nicaragua. The year is 2006, where Nicaragua is viewed as the new land of opportunity. Newspapers and magazines hail it as The New Cancun, The Next Florida. Fred, Sean and Keith, three naive Americans wide-eyed at the prospects of finally making it big, set up shop and start constructing resorts for tourists’ next discount tropical vacation. What these inexperienced developers don't know is that the seemingly inexhaustible cheap manual labor is about to run out. The natives are restless and starting to see through this new form of imperialism. When former revolutionary leader Daniel Ortega and the Sandinistas sweep back to power, legitimately or otherwise, not one of our Gringos is left unscathed. Dreams of plane loads of vacationers and pool-side margaritas give way to death threats and armed assaults. In a story of tourism vs. terrorism, one is never quite sure who has the upper hand nor if anyone is telling the honest truth.

Join the fan page on facebook and receive occasional updates about screenings, events, festivals, awards etc.

Six Island Productions
& Deliberate Films

Directed by: Julian T. Pinder
Produced by: Paul Scherzer
Edited by: Alex Shuper
Music Composer: Ivan Barbotin

In Association With: TVO, Canwest-Hot Docs Fund & The National Film Board of Canada

Oglala Native Youth Movement Occupation

Oglala Native Youth Movement Occupation
Posted: March 23, 2011
by Rowland Túpac Keshena in Places: Turtle Island - US

International Statement
Oglala Band of Native Youth Movement
Unsurrendered Lakota Nation
March 21, 2011

Oglala Band Native Youth Movement and the Strong Heart Warrior Society are currently occupying a building in PahinSinte Lakota Nation, (so-called Porcupine, South Dakota) with Elders of the Lakota Nation.

Oglala Band of NYM was called to action after Elders began to occupy this building on March 4, 2011. Elders requested support to bring attention to the mental, physical, and spiritual abuse and the neglect of meal services that they are being excluded from. The Elders, some 90+ years old, involved in this occupation have tried for 4 years to have their grievances heard and brought forth to the tribal governments but were completely ignored & disrespected. The Elders are the knowledge keepers of our Lakota Nation, traditionally our Elders, Grandmothers and Grandfathers were held with the upmost respect. It is now time that our Elders are heard, as Warriors we stand with them to let their voices be heard as a loud war cry and wake up our Nation. The tribal government has applied for a vacate order, without any clear resolution to the initial grievances the Elders are addressing. In order to intimidate the Elders and Warriors in this occupation and keep the tribal corruption from being exposed one Lakota man, Dwayne Martin, has been arrested and detained on bunk charges related to his involvement in this occupation. Dwayne Martin is being held captive behind enemy lines as a political prisoner. The Elders demand his release. The BIA police are being used to also intimidate supporters, following people from the occupation, stopping and harassing them. We need support to bring a resolution to these issues and to let the Native community be aware of this occupation so that the Elders and Warriors are not isolated and criminalized.

Demand the Elders be respected and their grievances resolved. Contact John Yellow Bird Steel OST president phone # 6058675821.

For more information about the occupation and to support contact:
Oglala Band Native Youth Movement
Olowan and Ryder Cell on site (605) 454-8439
Facebook: 1st Generation AIM Babies

Friday, March 25, 2011

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The Real Intentions of the "Partnership of Equals"

Fidel Catro: The Real Intentions of the "Partnership of Equals"
by Fidel Castro — last modified Mar 23, 2011 02:55 PM

Yesterday was a long day. I was paying attention to the ups and downs of Obama in Chile since noon, as I had done the day before with his adventures in the city of Rio de Janeiro. That city (...) had defeated Chicago in its aspirations to be the home of the 2016 Olympic Games when the new president of the United States and Nobel Peace Prize laureate was looking like a rival of Martin Luther King.


Yesterday was a long day. I was paying attention to the ups and downs of Obama in Chile since noon, as I had done the day before with his adventures in the city of Rio de Janeiro. That city, in a brilliant challenge, had defeated Chicago in its aspirations to be the home of the 2016 Olympic Games when the new president of the United States and Nobel Peace Prize laureate was looking like a rival of Martin Luther King.

Nobody knew when he would arrive to Santiago de Chile and what a president of the United States would do there when one of his predecessors had committed the painful crime of promoting the overthrow and physical death of their heroic president, horrible tortures and the murders of thousands of Chileans.

I for one was trying to follow the news that was coming in about the tragedy in Japan and the brutal war unleashed against Libya while the illustrious visitor was proclaiming the “Partnership of Equals” in the region of the world where wealth is distributed in the worst way.

Among so many things, I lost track a bit and saw nothing of the lavish banquet for hundreds of people being served the delicacies nature offered from the sea. The banquet had been served in a Tokyo restaurant , the city where one can pay up to 300,000 dollars for a fresh blue-fin tuna, they had collected up to 10 million dollars.

That was too much work for a young man of my age. I wrote a brief Reflection and then went to bed for a long sleep.

This morning I was refreshed. My friend wouldn’t be arriving to El Salvador until after mid-day. I requested the cable dispatches, Internet articles and other recently arrived material.

I saw in the first place that, because of my reflections, the cables had given importance to what I had said about my position as First Party Secretary and I shall explain as briefly as possible. Concentrating on Barack Obama’s “Partnership of Equals” , a matter of so much historical importance – I say that seriously – I didn’t even remember that next month the Party Congress would be taking place.

My position on the subject was basically logical. Once I understood the seriousness of my state of health, I did what I thought, in my opinion, wasn’t necessary when I had that painful accident in Santa Clara; after the fall, treatment was tough, but my life was not in danger.

On the other hand, when I wrote the Proclamation on the 31st of July it was clear to me that the state of my health was extremely critical.

I immediately set aside all my public duties, adding to the proclamation some instructions to provide security and tranquility for the population.

It wasn’t necessary to specifically step down from each one of my duties.

For me, my most important duty was that of First Party Secretary. Because of ideology and on principle, in a revolutionary stage, that political position carries the highest authority. The other position I held was that of President of the Council of State and Government, elected by the National Assembly. Both posts had replacements, and not by virtue of some family connection, something I have never considered to be the source of right, but due to experience and merit.

The rank of Commander in Chief had been granted me by the struggle itself, a matter of chance more than because of any personal merit. The Revolution itself, in a subsequent stage, correctly designated headship of all armed institutions to the president, a function that in my opinion, ought to fall to the First Party Secretary. I consider that that’s how a country such as Cuba should be, having had to face an obstacle as considerable as the empire created by the United States.

Almost 14 years went by since the previous Party Congress; it coincided with the disappearance of the USSR, the socialist bloc, the Special Period and my own illness.

When gradually and partially my health was recovered, the idea didn’t even cross my mind about the need to proceed formally in order to expressly resign from any position. At that time, I accepted the honour of being elected as Deputy to the National Assembly, something that did not demand my physical presence and with which I might share my ideas.

Since I have more time than ever now to observe, to inform myself and to lay out certain points of view, I shall modestly fulfil my duty to fight for the ideas I have defended throughout my modest life.

I beg readers to forgive the time I have spent in this explanation that above-mentioned circumstances have forced me to undertake.

The most important matter, which I cannot forget, is that rare partnership between millionaires and starving people as proposed by the illustrious President of the United States.

Those who are well-informed, those who know for example, the history of this hemisphere, its battles, or even the history of the Cuban people defending their Revolution against the empire that, as Obama himself acknowledges, “now lasted for longer than I’ve been alive”, will surely be amazed by his proposal.

It is well-known that the current president is a good wordsmith, circumstances that, together with the economical crisis, growing unemployment, losses of homes, and deaths of American soldiers in the stupid wars of Bush, helped him to obtain his victory.

After observing him well, I wouldn’t be surprised that he was the author of the ridiculous name with which the massacre in Libya was baptized – “Odyssey Dawn” – that unsettled the dust of the mortal remains of Homer and those who contributed to the forging of the legend in the famous Greek poems, even though I admit, perhaps, the name was created by the military chiefs who are managing the thousands of nuclear weapons with which a mere command from the Nobel Peace Prize laureate can determine the end of our species.

His speech to whites, blacks, native peoples, mestizos and non-mestizos, religious or non-religious peoples of the Americas delivered in the Palacio de la Moneda Cultural Centre was distributed in a true copy by United States embassies everywhere, and it was translated and spread by Chile TV, CNN, and other broadcasting stations in other languages as I would imagine.

It was in the style of the speech he gave in the first year of his term in Cairo, the capital of his friend and ally Hosni Mubarak, whose tens of billions of dollars taken from the people were supposedly known to a president of the United States.

“…Chile shows that we need not be divided by race […] or ethnic conflict”, he assures us, and thus the American problem was erased from the map.

He obsessively insists almost immediately that “…our marvelous surroundings today, just steps from where Chile lost its democracy decades ago, …” Everything other than saying coup d’état, the murder of the honourable General Schneider, or the glorious name of Salvador Allende, as if the government of the United States had absolutely nothing to do with it.

The great poet Pablo Neruda, whose death was prompted by the treacherous coup, was quoted more than once, in this case to affirm our beautifully poetic “guiding stars” which are “struggle” and “hope”. Has Obama forgotten that Neruda was a Communist, a friend of the Cuban Revolution, a great admirer of Simon Bolivar who is reborn every hundred years, and inspiration for the Heroic Guerrilla Ernesto Guevara?

I was admiring Barack Obama’s profound knowledge of history almost from the very beginning of his message. Some irresponsible advisor forgot to explain to him that Neruda was a member of the Chilean Communist Party. After a few other insignificant paragraphs, he recognizes that “Now, I know I’m not the first president from the United States to pledge a new spirit of partnership with our Latin American neighbors. Words are easy, and I know that there have been times where perhaps the United States took this region for granted.”

“…Latin America is not the old stereotype of a region - in perpetual conflict or trapped in endless cycles of poverty.”

“In Colombia, great sacrifices by citizens and security forces have restored a level of security not seen in decades.” Over there, there was never any drug trafficking, paramilitary or secret cemeteries.

In his speech, the working class does not exist, nor do landless peasants, or the illiterate, or infant and maternal mortality, people becoming blind, or victims of parasites such as Chaga or bacterial diseases such as cholera.

“From Guadalajara to Santiago to Sao Paolo, a new MIDDLE CLASS is demanding more of themselves and more of their governments”, he states.

“When a coup in Honduras threatened democratic progress, the nations of the hemisphere unanimously invoked the Inter-American Democratic Charter, helping to lay the foundation for the return to the rule of law.”

The real reason for Obama’s marvellous speech is explained in inarguable fashion in the middle of his message and in his own words: “Latin America is only going to become more important to the United States, especially to our economy […] We buy more of your products, more of your goods than any other country, and we invest more in this region than any other country. […] we export more than three times as much to Latin America as we do to China. Our exports to this region -- which are growing faster than our exports to the rest of the world -- …”. One can perhaps assume from this that “when Latin America is more prosperous, the United States is more prosperous.”

Further on, he dedicates insipid words to real facts:

“But if we’re honest, we’ll also admit that […] progress in the Americas has not come fast enough. Not for the millions who endure the injustice of extreme poverty. Not for the children in shantytowns and the favelas who just want the same chance as everybody else.”

“…political and economic power that is too often concentrated in the hands of the few, instead of serving the many”, he said verbatim.

“...we are not the first generation to face these challenges. Fifty years ago this month, President John F. Kennedy proposed an ambitious Alliance for Progress.”

“President Kennedy’s challenge endures – ‘to build a hemisphere where all people can hope for a sustainable, suitable standard of living, and all can live out their lives in dignity and in freedom.”

It is incredible that he now comes up with such an awkward story, an insult to human intelligence.

He has nothing left other than to mention, among the great calamities, a problem that originates in the colossal US market of lethal weapons: “Criminal gangs and narco-traffickers are not only a threat to the security of our citizens. They’re a threat to development, because they scare away investment that economies need to prosper. And they are a direct threat to democracy, because they fuel the corruption that rots institutions from within.”

Further on he reluctantly adds: “But we’ll never break the grip of the cartels and the gangs unless we also address the social and economic forces that fuel criminality. We need to reach at-risk youth before they turn to drugs and crime.”

“ President I’ve made it clear that the United States shares and accepts our share of responsibility for drug violence. After all, the demand for drugs, including in the United States, drives this crisis. And that’s why we’ve developed a new drug control strategy that focused on reducing the demand for drugs through education and prevention and treatment.”

What he doesn’t say is that in Honduras 76 per every 100,000 inhabitants are dying as a result of violence, 19 times higher than in Cuba where practically, despite proximity to the United States, that problem hardly exists.

After a bunch of similar bits of foolishness, about weapons headed for Mexico that are being seized, a Trans-Pacific Partnership, the Inter-American Development bank, with which he says they are increasing the Microfinance Growth Fund for the Americas and promises to create new “Pathways to Prosperity” and other highfalutin terms that he pronounces in English and Spanish, he returns to his outlandish promises of hemispheric unity and he tries to impress his audience with the dangers of climatic changes.

Obama adds: “And if anybody doubts the urgency of climate change, they look -- they should look no further than the Americas -- from the stronger storms in the Caribbean, to glacier melt in the Andes, to the loss of forests and farmland across the region.” Without the guts to acknowledge that his country is the one most responsible for that tragedy.

He explains that he is proud to announce that “…the United States will work with partners in this region, including the private sector, to increase the number of U.S. students studying in Latin America to 100,000, and the number of Latin America students studying in the United States to 100,000.” We already know how much it costs to study medicine or any other profession in that country, and the shameless brain drain being practiced in the United States.

All his empty words ends with praise for the OAS that Roa described as the Ministry of Yankee Colonies when our Homeland unforgettably made an accusation in the United Nations, informing that the government of the United States had attacked our territory on April 15th of 1961 with B-26s painted with Cuban flags; a shameless event that in 23 days will be 50 years old.

Thus he believed that everything was completely ready to proclaim the right to subvert law and order in our country.

He openly confesses that they are “allowing Americans to send remittances that bring some economic hope for people across Cuba, as well as more independence from Cuban authorities.”

“…we’ll continue to seek ways to increase the independence of the Cuban people, who I believe are entitled to the same freedom and liberty as everyone else in this hemisphere.”

Later he recognizes that the blockade is damaging Cuba, depriving the economy of resources. Why does he not recognize the intentions of Eisenhower, and the declared United States aim when he applied it was bringing the Cuban people to their knees by hunger?

Why is it still in place? How many billions of dollars does the compensation the US must pay our country come to? Why are they keeping the 5 Cuban anti-terrorist heroes imprisoned? Why aren’t they applying the Adjustment Law to all Latin Americans instead of allowing thousands of them to die or get injured on the border imposed on that country after having stolen more than half of its territory?

I ask the President of the United States to pardon my frankness.

I harbour no hard feelings against him or his people.

I fulfill the duty of laying out all that I think about his “Partnership of Equals”.

The United States will get nothing from creating and stimulating the mercenary profession. I can assure him that the best and most well-educated young people in our country, graduates from the University of Informatics Sciences, know much more about the Internet and computer science than the Nobel laureate and President of the United States.

Fidel Castro Ruz

March 22, 2011

9:17 p.m.

Save The LA Murals

Save The LA Murals


We have lost 60% of the murals of los Angeles to tagging by a new generation of street kids who have no mural programs nor a relationship to the murals via having had an opportunity to work on one or knowing someone who worked on one. We have 10 million being spent to abate graffiti in the city and 30 million from the County of LA annually to remove the growing proliferation of graffiti. Incarceration of a single youth has been estimated at 250,000 annually and criminalization of our youth is no longer a feared outcome but a documented fact in ever increasing numbers. It is possible for example to go to prison for life with three strikes on graffiti violations that are felonies (those causing over 500.00 of damage). At a recent panel we held for graffiti artists we learned of youth being named "urban terrorists" by the sentencing judge.

We have a new city policy that has made it against the law to put up a street mural, an effective program proven to divert youth from vandalism to constructive art making and civic engagement. The confusion between "Mural/ signs" has been used as a ploy for corporations to demand equal rights under the First amendment. The city of Los Angeles fears making a distinction between "art" and "advertising" as it is seen as a violation of advertising giants rights to freedom of expression based on a lawsuit against the tiny mural program of the city of Portland Oregon by Clear Channel. The ordinance that makes it illegal to put up a "mural sign" without a permit has created a moratorium on any new murals for over 3 years because of a fear that the city will be sued for making that distinction. Yet advertising is proliferating at an alarming rate with 800 new digital billboards among giant super graphics that now dominate our downtown. Advertising giants simply pay the fines and continue illegal signage. Murals are replaced daily by advertising in every square inch of our eye space.

We must act now to stop this insanity. Doesn’t Barbara Black have first amendment rights which are being violated by the citation? Why can’t she put up art on her own walls and why must she destroy the work of her neighbors?

Why do advertising giants have the rights of individuals to freedom of expression when they can hide under corporate cover at their convenience not taking individual responsibility for actions they take that harm the public? Why can’t we decide as the public what kind of a city we want to live in and control advertising and allow art to proliferate?

Here are the larger questions art supporters: When is enough enough?

1. What are the legal implications of freedom of expression on private property?
As a property owner can you not decorate your fence as you choose? Is it a problem only when youth use spraycan do so?
2. Why is the city of Los Angeles, once the MURAL CAPITAL OF THE WORLD, unable to simply make the distinction between signage and art? It is not so hard is it? It is essentially the intention of the work. If the intention is to sell you something, it is advertising. If the intention is to beautify, enlighten, inspire or cause reflection: it is art.

“Energy autonomy – the 4th revolution”

Energy autonomy – watch out for the 4th revolution!

Posted on 07/03/2010 by Florian

Energy entirely from renewable sources, accessible to everyone, affordable and clean. Utopia? Not quite, as Carl A. Fechner’s documentary “Energy autonomy – the 4th revolution” shows. A visionary film, arguing that through energy autonomy we can positively influence the balance of power and distribute capital more equitably -we need only do it. This is not a distant dream anymore, but rapidly becoming reality, as Fechner demonstrates presenting practical examples, exemplary projects and the daily work of “green” champions around the globe. Get to know the world’s most energy-efficient office building in Germany, for example. A building that produces more energy than it consumes. Learn how renewable energies secure the existence of families in Mali and Bangladesh or how alternative energy concepts have already started to revolutionize the car industry and encourage new ways of mobility.

After the agricultural, industrial and information revolutions, here it comes, the fourth, the energy revolution.

It took four years to produce this documentary, with features celebrities, top managers, African mothers, bankers and ambitious activists around the world. “The current energy system is on the ropes”, says Hermann Scheer, chairman of the World Renewable Energy Forum, winner of the Alternative Nobel Prize, and member of German parliament. “A new system of energy autonomy is just about to break through. It will make energy independent”. High time for the economy to get prepared, Scheer warns, as the world is “facing the greatest structural changes in the economy since the beginning of the industrial age”. After the agricultural, industrial and information revolutions, here it comes, the fourth, the energy revolution.

now for a brief history of the united states :)

Empire or Humanity?

Empire or Humanity?
What the Classroom Didn't Teach Me about the American Empire
by Howard Zinn
Narrated by Viggo Mortensen
Art by Mike Konopacki
Video editing by Eric Wold

To read more from Howard Zinn visit

Veterans Demand Peace: 113 are Arrested at White House!

Veterans Demand Peace: 113 are Arrested at White House!

On Saturday, March 19, 2011, Veterans for Peace led a rally and then a march on the White House. Organizers report 113 were arrested in an action of nonviolent public civil resistance. To learn more about this spirited event and the exact charges filed, go to:

BP to start drilling off Libyan coast

BP to start drilling off Libyan coast

Oil giant's shock revelation is the latest twist in a tale of politics, pollution, terrorism – and violent death

Hugo Chavez calls off Venezuela's nuclear energy plans

Hugo Chavez calls off Venezuela's nuclear energy plans

Nina Simone at the William Grant Still Arts Center

Please join us for two events
April 2, 2-4 pm
Panel discussing the life and career of Nina Simone. Panelists are Carrol Waymon (Nina's Brother), Barbara Morrison and Tootie Heath, moderated by Nailah Porter

April 6, 6:30 - 8 pm
"Tales of Nina" a community open dialogue with musicians, friends and fans of Nina Simone. Join in with your story along with Greg Middleton, Ernie Fields, Jimmy Bond, Foster Corder, Nawili Gray, Maiya Sykes and more

at the William Grant Still Arts Center
2520 S. Westview St.
Los Angeles, Ca. 90016
3 blocks east of La Brea, just north of Adams
line 37 bus on Adams

The William Grant Still Arts Center is a facility of the city of Los Angeles, Department of Cultural Affairs

Monday, March 21, 2011

Rally Against Hate and Nazi Rally March 19, 2011 - Claremont, Ca

We gathered in Claremont March 19, 2011 on awkward circumstances. Today is the 8th anniversary of the Iraq War and the day the Nazis came to Claremont, California. The announcement that they were coming evoked a series of emotions and reactions from friends, neighbors, coworkers and colleagues ranging from shock to anger to hurt to ambivalence and more. The Nazis have a knack for unifying us as they hate pretty much everybody. You have probably all looked at their website stating the requirements for membership, "those of pure White blood...not homosexual or Jew." Though the NSM is against so-called "homosexuals" and have targeted gay pride, a gay church, and gay marraige in Ohio, Iowa and North Carolina, we really have a different issue here in Southern California. And I say "different" knowing that no aspect of human identity is removed or separate from the others. For example, one can be both queer and a migrant. The NSM have stated that they chose to come to Claremont because the Claremont Colleges are pro-migrant. This is a compliment to many, as the colleges house scholar activists who encourage the humanization of migrants through their writing and by fostering student community engagement. And there is a DREAMer presence that cannot be forgotten as one Claremont College student presented at the 'Perspectives on Queer Undocumented Identity' forum in Rialto today. Today people from the immigrant's rights movement, the anti-sexist movement, the anti-war movement, queer, feminist, animal liberation, anti-racist, religious, environmental movements....were all represented. We are all affected by fascism and we are all affected by anti-immigrant sentiment and laws.

How do you know race is there? And is White really a race? Critical race theorists have drawn up maps of how race can be perceived, performed, represented and embodied. Though general consensus among racial theorists is that race is not biologically meaningful as a category, they have determined that social meanings are projected on race that are undeniably fraught with real-life consequences. Michael Omi and Howard Winant historically traced racial formation and racism in the US, arguing that race is cultural and historical, not biological. They problematize the immigrant assimilation narrative, pointing out that it requires white skin. They say that people of color cannot fully assimilate to hegemonic Americanness as Americanness is equated with Whiteness.

Sentiment about race and immigration fluctuate radically in popular opinion and culture in the US, usually based on economic factors, demographic changes, and media representation. Certain trends have emerged as to why outbreaks of anti-immigrant sentiment occur, the most prominent being a national crisis. The US is facing a huge economic crisis. Pair that with the fear of terrorism since 9-11 and the rhetorical conflation of immigrants with terrorists in politics, the news media, and popular culture, and what we end up with is a slippage in prioritizing the rights of immigrants.

According to law professor Kevin R. Johnson, "discrimination against immigrants often is legally acceptable." "The law" he said, "must police governmental conduct based on immigration status to ensure that it does not serve as a proxy for race." Since today's immigrants are overwhelmingly people of color, when immigrants are targeted, it is impossible to ignore the racial implications.

The first half of the video was the peaceful rally organized by Claremont College students intendedt to serve as a peaceful alternative to a confrontation with the NSM. The second half was the "protest" and "counter-protest," Nazis against people from various communities and movements. As you can see from the video, there was a lot of anger and shouting and the Nazis were clearly outnumbered. Though this is a good thing, it was also obvious that the scary ones were not the (approx 25) Nazis but the police, and this ended up dividing many activists between those that trusted the police to protect them and those that found the police to be worse than the Nazis because they had more power and criticized them for protecting the Nazis.