Saturday, July 28, 2007

Dysfunction at NASA

NASA spokespeople have acknowledged in the last few days that astronauts have been drunk while flying on space shuttle missions. That should be reassuring to everyone.
It was also reported this past week that a NASA employee had intentionally sabotaged equipment for an up-coming shuttle mission.

All this comes at a time when NASA and the Department of Energy are talking about expanding plans to launch nuclear powered payloads into space for their Moon and Mars missions that will ultimately be used to establish permanent mining colonies on these planetary bodies.

NASA tells us not to worry - all of their missions carrying nuclear power into space are safe. Forget sabotaged equipment and drunken astronauts.

All is well at NASA.

Should we continue to pour our precious tax dollars down the dysfunctional NASA rat hole?

Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space
PO Box 652
Brunswick, ME 04011
(207) 443-9502 (Blog) (MySpace profile)

Friday, July 27, 2007

In Memory of Harmon Wray

Harmon Wray, a tireless crusader to end the death penalty, suffered a massive stroke Sunday and was removed from life support Monday. Harmon was an organizing member of TCASK and has been relentless in his work to end the death penalty in our state. Harmon was a champion for prison reform and upholding the dignity of those who are incarcerated. Visitation will be Friday evening, July 27 at Edgehill UMC (15th and Edgehill Ave.) from 6pm to 8pm. The Memorial Service will be Saturday morning, July 28 at 10 a.m. at Belmont UMC (2007 Acklen Ave). The Harmon Wray Fund has been set up at Edgehill United Methodist Church which will be used to continue Harmon's prison ministry life work. Please write checks to Edgehill United Methodist Church noting that the gift is for The Harmon Wray Fund and send it to:

Edgehill United Methodist Church
The Harmon Wray Fund
PO Box 128258
Nashville, TN 37212

As a teacher and author, he educated countless numbers of people concerning the myriad problems with our current criminal justice system. As adjunct faculty of Vanderbilt Divinity School, Harmon created and coordinated a class at Riverbend Maximum Security Institution, comprised of both Vanderbilt students and inmates. Harmon was also a founder of the Restorative Justice Coalition of Tennessee, seeking to transform the current criminal justice system from a system primarily focused on punishment to one which facilitates healing and restoration. Most recently, he authored, Beyond Prisons: A New Interfaith Paradigm for our Failed Prison System.

Harmon was formerly with the Tennessee Conference Correctional Ministries staff of the Methodist Church and the General Board of Mission. Harmon continued to be an active member of Edgehill United Methodist Church.

Harmon Wray followed the way of Jesus to the end, still giving of himself, even in death as an organ donor. He took Jesus' call to visit the prisoner to heart and spent his life as a fierce advocate for those who are incarcerated. I count him as a mentor and a friend, and today my heart is very heavy as I cannot imagine the world without him. Still, I know that Harmon's spirit will remain with us and will continue to inspire all of us as we struggle together to end the death penalty in Tennessee.

This past Sunday night at a dinner, Harry and Karan Simpson took this picture of Harmon. It is a beautiful picture that captures the grace and good will that he emanated every day of his life. It can be found HERE.

Stacy Rector

Executive Director
Tennessee Coalition to Abolish State Killing
PO Box 120552
Nashville, TN 37212

Smithfield Workers Rally August 4th

Next SATURDAY, AUGUST 4 th at LEGISLATIVE PLAZA at 2:30 Celebrity cook Paula Deen will do a cooking show at TPAC on Sat., Aug. 4th..... Help us take advantage of this chance to tell her to end her partnership with Smithfield Co. Smithfield workers will be in town, the media will be there. We need your support, the workers need to know that you care. Join us in this momentous occasion, bring your friends, family and cousin Sally. Bring your signs, strong voices, and spirit to help us make this a great RSVP or QUESTIONS: Please contact United Food and Commercial Workers Organizer Kate Mason at or 202.286.9626

Ode to Paula Deen

Paula Deen, we don't think you're unjust or mean
We just think there are abuses you haven't seen
Involving your promotional partner Smithfield
At their Tar Heel, NC, plant where the big wigs won't yield

26 Labor Law violations and a number of reports from Human Rights Watch
The workers want a go @ organizing that the company won't botch
Paula you have a down-home, working class image
Don't support this company, please support the workers they pillage

Faith, Education, Community and Labor will come together as one
To ask Paula to tell Smithfield "this partnership is done!"
To meet with the workers and hear what they have to say
To get back to her roots and represent her down-home way

The rally will be filled with fun, energy and cause
There will be a choir and a band, excitement without pause
To keep people hyped, there will be refreshments and snacks
The theme of the day will be social justice and solidarity to the max

In order to make it clear that the workers are suffering from too many injuries,
200% up from 2003, leading the company to resort to unjust firings,
We will wrap our bodies in ace bandages from head to toe
Please bring along your crutches, casts, and slings for the show

Smithfield workers will be in town, the media will be there
We need your support, the workers need to know that you care
Join us in this momentous occasion, bring your friends, family and cousin Sally
Bring your signs, strong voices, and spirit to help us make this a great rally!

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Greens Criticize Democrats on Iraq

WASHINGTON, DC -- Green Party leaders reaffirmed the party's support for impeachment of President Bush and Vice President Cheney and demand for immediate withdrawal of US forces from Iraq, and sharply criticized Democratic Party leaders for retreating on impeachment and troop withdrawal.

Greens also demanded that Congress act to repeal President Bush's July 17 executive order titled "Blocking Property of Certain Persons Who Threaten Stabilization Efforts in Iraq," which effectively outlaws antiwar protest by allowing the White House to confiscate the financial assets of anyone who openly opposes the war.

• Carl Romanelli, Pennsylvania Green candidate for the US Senate in 2006: "Democrats are pretending to be the party of opposition to the Bush agenda. They have pretended to oppose the war, while joining Republicans in Congress to pass recent legislation for renewed war funding. They refuse to consider impeachment for the Bush Administration's numerous high crimes and misdemeanors. Much of the Bush agenda will remain in place even if Democrats retake the White House and prevail again in Congress in 2008. The only hope for changing the political direction of our country is for the Green Party to advance, with a few Green victories for congressional seats. Voters who support troop withdrawal and impeachment are throwing away their votes if they vote Democrat in 2008."

• Daniel Brezenoff, Green candidate for Congress in California's 37th District : "House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other top Democrats have opposed the Iraq War only in their rhetoric. They've ignored widespread public demands for a rapid pullout of US troops, and only favor bills for delayed withdrawal plans and leaving some troops in Iraq to protect US interests. Democratic leaders have endorsed benchmarks like passage of the Iraqi oil law, which would place 2/3 of Iraq's oil resources under the control of ExxonMobil, ChevronTexaco, BP, and other western corporations. Rep. Pelosi and her fellow Dems know that these companies will need a strong US military presence in Iraq as they plunder Iraq's oil reserves. Greens have declared their support for Iraqi labor unions and the tens of thousands of Iraqis calling for defeat of the oil law and an end to the US occupation."

• Sedinam Kinamo Christin Moyowasifza-Curry, Green vice presidential hopeful for 2008: "Despite direct entreaties by Cindy Sheehan, Greens, and other antiwar Americans, Rep. John Conyers [Mich.], Rep. Nancy Pelosi [Calif.], and other Democratic leaders are refusing to initiate impeachment proceedings against President Bush and Vice President Cheney. Democrats are rebuffing the call to hold Bush and Cheney accountable for some of the most worst abuses of power in US history. The Democrats' refusal to impeach can only mean acquiescence to the Bush-Cheney-Rove crimes. That's why we Greens have taken the lead, on projects like the opening of the National Impeachment Center in Los Angeles , to ensure the American people have a place, program, and plan to get heard. Some Green Party members have joined Cindy Sheehan in peaceful civil disobedience, for which they were arrested on Monday. In December, 2006, the Green Party endorsed an impeachment motion introduced in the House by Rep. Cynthia McKinney [D-Ga.] ."

• Peter L. Thottam, Executive Director of the Los Angeles National Impeachment Center , former Green candidate for the California Assembly: "The National Impeachment Center is appalled by Speaker Pelosi's and Congressman Conyers' categorical rejection of a growing majority of American voters, a majority of whom are now insisting that Congress fulfill its constitutional oversight responsibilities and begin immediate hearings on impeaching Bush and Cheney. We are now calling upon American citizens everywhere not to fund or support any elected officials who do not endorse HR 333 and/or the impeachment of Bush and Cheney."

• Kristen Olson, co-chair of the Green Party of the United States: "Why have Congress members who claim to oppose the Iraq War remained silent on President Bush's July 17 executive order giving the White House the authority to confiscate the assets of whoever engages in antiwar activity? The order potentially criminalizes anyone who protests the war. For instance, language targeting of persons who undermine "efforts to promote economic reconstruction" can be used against anyone who criticizes the Iraq oil law, enabling the pillage of Iraqi oil by US and UK oil companies. The executive order is a vicious assault on the US Constitution. We demand that Congress act to overturn the order immediately."


Green Party of the United States
202-319-7191, 866-41GREEN
Fax 202-319-7193
• Green Party News Center
• Green Party Speakers Bureau
• 2007 national Green Party meeting in Reading, Pa.: video footage, blog and media coverage

Green Party Peace Action Committee (GPAX)

Presidential Executive Order: Blocking Property of Certain Persons Who Threaten Stabilization Efforts in Iraq

"Iraq War is Impeachable, Not Just a 'Strategic Blunder'"
Green Party press release, February 20, 2007

Impeachment resolution passed at Green Party National Meeting, July 2003

"Impeachment now -- as a defensive tactic"
By Alan Kobrin [Florida Green Party],, July 19, 200

"Bush Executive Order: Criminalizing the Antiwar Movement"
By Prof. Michel Chossudovsky, Global Research, July 20, 2007

Hazleton Anti-Immigrant Ordinance Unconstitutional

TIRRC Applauds Decision to Prevent Discrimination as Nashville Copycat Ordinances Now Seem Doomed to Fail

Washington, DC – Today, a federal judge in Scranton, PA ruled against the City of Hazleton in a landmark challenge (Lozano v. City of Hazleton) to local ordinances aimed at punishing landlords, employers, and people perceived to be immigrants. The following is a statement by David Lubell, Director of the Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition.

“Today’s decision is a win in America’s effort to restore the rule of law while upholding our tradition of fairness and equality. We are grateful that the court recognized these are not mutually exclusive concepts and made a decision to prevent the harmful effects we would have all suffered if this law had been implemented. This ruling sends a clear message that the Hazleton ordinance, and the copycat ordinances proposed last year in Nashville, are unconstitutional and would not be allowed to stand.[1]

Frustration over Congressional failure to enact comprehensive immigration reform is real and legitimate. Congress abdicated its responsibility on one of the nation’s most pressing issues, and has passed the buck on to state and local governments. But we should focus our frustration on the appropriate targets – those members of Congress who continue to obstruct a comprehensive and bipartisan solution for the sole purpose of scoring political points – rather than attempting to render whole communities suspect and in the process undermine quality of life for us all.

Anti-immigrant laws like those proposed in Hazleton are reprehensible because their proponents know fully well these ordinances will not solve the problem and often use misinformation and faulty statistics to sell them to the public. We are at this point today because Congress cannot get itself to put aside partisanship and political calculations to do what is best for the country. In the wake of their failure to fix our broken immigration system, we are left with a situation in which every small town and city around the country may try to enact their own legislation on immigration, creating total anarchy and chaos in the system.

The American people will continue to demand a workable and fair solution that restores the rule of law, secures our borders, strengthens our economy and upholds the values of faith, family and hard work that are the cornerstone of our democracy. The Hazleton ordinance would have led us away from that path; now we must continue pressuring Congress to do its job.”
TIRRC is a statewide, immigrant and refugee-led collaboration whose mission is to empower immigrants and refugees throughout Tennessee to develop a unified voice, defend their rights, and create an atmosphere in which they are viewed as positive contributors to the state.

Sept 29th - March on Washington

Momentum is growing for the national mass March on Washington on September 29, with hundreds of endorsements pouring in. Since April, when TONC proposed the Encampment to Stop the War and the March on Washington, activists across from across the U.S. have been contacting us to support the call for united, grassroots action to put an end to Bush's criminal war.

It is now painfully clear that waiting for the Democrats to "do the right thing" is a waste of time and energy. Despite being elected with a clear mandate to end the war, Democrats in Congress have continued to fund the war. If they had any intention whatsoever of ending the criminal occupation of Iraq, the troops could already be home now; instead, they have bent over backwards to vote for the funding, while counting on the antiwar movement to stand down and follow them blindly into the voting booth next November. Meanwhile, every 10 minutes another Iraqi dies, and the U.S. spends $100,000 a minute on the war, money that is desperately needed for health care, housing, education, jobs at a living wage, rebuilding the Gulf Coast, and many other human needs.

Only a massive grassroots tidal wave of resistance will put an end to the brutal occupation of Iraq. September will be the next big struggle over funding for the war - and the next opportunity for us to unite to go from protest to resistance. It is not enough to just march and go home; we need to occupy the occupiers.

The Troops Out Now, working with other national and local organizations, is moving forward to build a week of resistance in Washington DC. Beginning on September 22, we will erect an Encampment to Stop the War, directly in front of the Capitol. Activists from across the U.S. are planning to set up tents and displays at the Encampment. Grassroots and community organizations are organizing their own tents to highlight issues they are focusing on. Musicians, spoken word artists, and poets are organizing "Culture and Resistance" for the Encampment. Youth activists are organizing a student strike. During the week of the Encampment, activists are planning a series of dramatic protests and direct actions as part of the move from protest to resistance. We cannot allow the corporate politicians (of both parties) to continue with 'business as usual' as they continue to orchestrate the deaths of more Iraqi people and U.S. soldiers.

Then, to cap off this first week of a new phase of struggle, we will march from the Capitol to the White House on September 29, to demand the immediate, complete, and unconditional withdrawal of all U.S. troops from Iraq.

As we are building for the national March on Washington on September 29 and the Encampment to Stop the War, it is vital that we work to link the struggles against the war abroad and the war at home. The movement is stronger and more effective when the struggles are united:

- Stop the raids against immigrant workers -- Full rights for undocumented workers
- No War against Iran
- End all occupations now - from Iraq to Palestine, the Philippines, Haiti, Puerto Rico, and Afghanistan
- Impeach Bush & Cheney for War Crimes
- No to U.S. intervention – Hands off Cuba, Venezuela, Zimbabwe, and the Sudan
- Justice for Katrina survivors
– End racist police terror
- Free Mumia Abu-Jamal and all political prisoners
- Money for health care, jobs and education, not endless war

US Missile Defence System Set for UK

By Andy McSmith

Peace campaigners accused the Government of being underhand, and of turning part of the UK into a prime military target by allowing an RAF base in Yorkshire to become part of the US missile defence system. The Defence Secretary, Des Browne, announced in a written statement to the Commons that he had accepted an American request to use RAF Menwith Hill, near Harrogate, as part of the system. He said it would help to "build future protection for our citizens."

The highly guarded base is the scene of an annual peace demonstration, which can be expected to get bigger as a result of yesterday's announcement, which provoked a furious reaction.

Kate Hudson, Chair of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, said, "This is an outrageous announcement made with total contempt for democracy and consultation. Where was the chance for MPs, let alone the public, to discuss tying in Menwith Hill to the so-called Missile Defence system?

"This totally unnecessary system will protect no-one, but threaten all... another Missile Defence base in Britain confirms our place on the front line. Were anyone to wish to attack the US, the top priority would be to destroy these defences, sited only a few miles from British towns and cities."

But Mr Browne said in his statement: "Missile defence systems... are not for offensive use and by supporting American efforts... in the UK, we are helping to build future protection for our citizens."

Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space
PO Box 652
Brunswick, ME 04011
(207) 443-9502 (Blog)

Caixa 2 Financiou Tucano em MG, diz PF


Irregularidade na campanha de Eduardo Azeredo está em relatório sobre "mensalão mineiro" entregue à Procuradoria Geral da RepúblicaO hoje senador pelo PSDB reafirmou à Folha que "é absolutamente inocente" e que se defenderá na Justiça em momento oportuno

A Polícia Federal informou ao procurador-geral da República, Antonio Fernando de Souza, que recursos de origem pública e privada, não declarados à Justiça Eleitoral, foram usados na campanha do hoje senador Eduardo Azeredo (PSDB-MG) em 1998, quando ele tentou se reeleger governador de Minas Gerais.

A irregularidade aparece em relatório do inquérito no qual a PF investigou o chamado "mensalão mineiro", encaminhado ao procurador-geral no dia 6 de julho. Os recursos não declarados, segundo a PF, foram movimentados por uma engenharia financeira que teria sido montada por Marcos Valério Fernandes de Souza. Também haveria participação do então tesoureiro da campanha tucana, Cláudio Mourão.

Os investigadores do caso acreditam que há fatos para o procurador-geral denunciar Azeredo. O senador reafirmou à Folha que "é absolutamente inocente". "Aguardarei a manifestação do procurador-geral e me defenderei na Justiça, no momento oportuno."

Um laudo do Instituto Nacional de Criminalística, que integra a conclusão do inquérito, indica que, em 1998, Valério fez 27 operações para injetar R$ 38 milhões em contas de suas empresas. Em nove empréstimos, contraídos dos bancos Rural e BCN, obteve R$ 34 milhões. Parte do dinheiro foi para campanhas, diz a PF.

Azeredo declarou ao Tribunal Regional Eleitoral de Minas ter arrecadado R$ 8,5 milhões. Mais tarde, admitiu arrecadação paralela de R$ 8,5 milhões e atribuiu a responsabilidade a Mourão, que não foi localizado na tarde de ontem.

O laudo pericial revela coincidência entre datas em que Valério recebe créditos por supostos serviços a empresas públicas e privadas e pagamentos das parcelas dos empréstimos.

A PF comprovou que as estatais Comig (atual Codemig), Copasa (Cia. de Saneamento Básico), além do Bemge, compraram cotas de publicidade de R$ 1,5 milhão e R$ 1 milhão de evento coordenado pelas empresas de Valério. Já a Cemig (Companhia Energética de MG) aportou R$ 1,7 milhão para a SMPB, agência de Valério.

No dia seguinte, a empresa transferiu R$ 1,1 milhão para candidatos do PSDB. A análise indica ainda depósitos das empreiteiras Queiroz Galvão, ARG, Tercam, Erkal e Egesa. O advogado de Valério, Marcelo Leonardo, negou irregularidade para injetar recurso na campanha de Azeredo.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Vets for Peace Gather in St Louis

Announcing the 22nd Annual Veterans For Peace Convention

Veterans, applying their experience, strength and conviction to the abolishment of war, invest the Gateway Arch of St. Louis with new significance as a portal to peace. Join them in St. Louis, Missouri - August 15 - 19, 2007 at the conference entitled, "VETERANS' TRUTH - GATEWAY TO PEACE: Building Community to Achieve Justice and Abolish War."

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Anti-Nuclear Activist Murdered In Russia

Today, one activist (Ilya Borodaenko) was murdered and several others seriously wounded in Angarsk, Russia, the hometown for International Center for Uranium Enrichment (ICEU). We deeply grieve about this tragedy and urge local authorities to put all possible efforts to identify and punish the criminals responsible for the murder.

According to Ecodefense's own investigation, based on various information
sources including statements from wounded activists, the deadly attack was conducted by15-20 Nazis (or activists of fascist organizations) who came to Angarsk from two other cities. Last week, a group of 10-12 Russian anarchists and anti-fascists established a camp in Angarsk as a symbol of protest to the ICEU. It is our belief (shared by wounded anti-fascists) that the attack was not in any way related to the protest and nuclear issues. It was based on Nazis' abhorrence for anti-fascists.

Local police questioned the remaining campers for the entire day today and asked them to leave Angarsk (all of them came from other cities), saying security can not be guaranteed in the future. It is not clear right now if they will leave or stay but all of their camping gear was taken away by police. The local police already have announced that they have caught six suspects. Even if the evidence about Nazis is clear, the police are trying to scale down the tragedy and said the attackers were not with any political organization,
just ordinary hooligans and vandals. This is why we remain deeply skeptical that arrested suspects are really connected.

Additionally, several Russian environmental groups were planning to set up a National anti-nuclear camp near Angarsk on July 26. Organizers predicted it will attract up to 100 participants. It is not clear right now whether it will happen or not. Official statement is yet to come.

This tragedy is absolutely shocking and creates great concern over the incompetence of local authorities to control situation. Taking into account that Russian authorities are putting efforts to establish ICEU in Angarsk, the tragedy poses a very important question- if security for people can not be guaranteed even by the police, how can it be guaranteedfor the uranium enrichment facility and nuclear materials?

For more information:
+7(985)7766281 or (903)2997584, Vladimir Slivyak

Monday, July 16, 2007

Nashville Protests Bush Visit

Nashville Peace Coalition Plans Rally Thursday at Two Locations

(7/18/07) Nashville, TN: The Nashville Peace Coalition is planning a
rally this Thursday at two locations to protest the policies of
President Bush as he visits Music City. The first rally, which will
be held at the intersection of Sidco Dr and Armory Dr, will begin at
10:00am and continue for one hour. The second rally will be held at
the intersection of Music Valley Dr. and McGavock Pike at the
entrance to Opryland and is scheduled to begin at 11:30am and last
for approximately one hour. Both protests are scheduled to coincide
with the President's visit to the Nashville Bun factory and the
Opryland respectively.

"We are planning to gather to protest the horrendous policies of the
Bush administration and to call for the troops to come home," said
Nini Thomas of the Peace Coalition, "It is clear that the majority of
Americans are against the war and it is only a matter of time before
the President must face up to the fact that this war has been a

"We need more people to get involved," said Eric Schecter of the
Nashville Peace Coalition, "Most of the country is opposed to the war
but not doing anything about it. We need more people to join the
peace movement and be active rather than just sitting on the
sidelines. Most people are in agreement with us."

The Nashville Peace Coalition, which is a project of the Nashville
Peace and Justice Center, represents a diverse representation of
peace groups in the middle Tennessee area including Vets for Peace,
Peace Roots Alliance as well as concerned individuals. The Peace
Coalition has been organizing rallies against the war and for peace
since 2002.

For more information contact:

Nashville Peace Coalition
c/o Nashville Peace and Justice Center
1016 18th Ave So
Nashville, TN 37203

Commentary: Veteran's Interviews

Below is the URL for Internet reproduction of the 50-Iraq Combat Veteran interviews as reported in an article in the July 30 issue of The Nation magazine. Because Congress is now considering the $648 Defense Authorization bill, it would be appropriate to have this set of interviews - including the comment of one combat vet that the whole war is an atrocity - read aloud on the floors of the House and Senate. Hawks can scarcely have it said of them that they refused to listen to interviews with Iraq combat veterans. Message to Congress: "Read aloud on the floors of the House/Senate the 50-Iraq-Combat-Veteran interviews - The Nation magazine, July 30, 2007"

- Jean G. Braun

Friday, July 13, 2007

Justice for Smithfield Workers

Nashville clergy, civil rights leaders and consumers will join abused workers to call on two Nashville-area supermarkets to stop stocking Smithfield Foods pork products made at the company's Tar Heel, North Carolina, plant. Community leaders, led by the Reverend James Thomas, Pastor of Jefferson Street Missionary Baptist Church; the Reverend Gwen Felder, Pastor of Ernest Newman United Methodist Church; Civil Rights leader and Presiding Elder of the North Nashville District of the AME Church, Robert E. Keesee; and Professor Ronnie Steinberg from Vanderbilt University, will rally and protest the sale of pork products from Smithfield Foods in Tar Heel, NC, at the H.G. Hills supermarket at 11:00 am, and the PUBLIX supermarket at 1:00 pm, Saturday July 14th.

Two former Smithfield Foods workers will attend and speak at the two rallies. The protests are part of a national campaign sparked by widespread abuse and legal violations by Smithfield Packing in Tar Heel, North Carolina. The national campaign is backed by the NAACP, Reverends Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton, Danny Glover, Fast Food Nation author Eric Schlosser, Judge Greg Mathis and the Progressive and National Baptists, amongst others.

Smithfield Packing in Tar Heel, North Carolina, has a long history of mistreating workers. Various legal rulings found that the company assaulted, intimidated, unlawfully fired and used racial epithets against its workers. Human Rights Watch documented widespread dangerous working conditions. Workers report they are often fired after being injured and unable to keep up with the work. Injuries at the plant have increased 200 percent since 2003 based on OSHA data.

"We are asking these stores to be good corporate citizens and show concern for the communities of those who shop there. They should not be stocking products that are packaged with abuse and suffering," said Vanderbilt University's Professor Ronnie Steinberg.

Saturday, July 14th
11:00am-H.G. Hills, 615 Gallatin Ave.
1:00pm-PUBLIX, 4670 Lebanon Pk.

For more information or to arrange interviews, contact:
Kofi Owusu at 202 486 1917, or
Leila McDowell at 202 728 1829.

Early Voting Starts in Nashville Today

Voters in Metropolitan Nashville and Davidson County go the polls beginning Friday, July 13, to elect a new Mayor, Vice Mayor, and 40 member Council. Early Voting runs through July 28, with the actual election day on Thursday, August 2.

Next week, the Nashville GLBT Chamber of Commerce will host a special Mayoral Candidate Forum. It will be held on Wednesday, July 18, starting at 5:30 pm, in the Symphony Ballroom in the Loews Vanderbilt Plaza. Light appetizers will be provided along with a cash bar. There will be a straw poll conducted at the end of the forum. For more information about the Nashville GLBT Chamber of Commerce and the Mayoral Candidate Forum, visit

The Tennessee Transgender Political Coalition encourages all registered voters in Davidson County to attend the forum and to participate in the election. Nashville's GLBT community hopes to see enactment of a non discrimination ordinance that will cover sexual orientation and gender identity or expression.

Next Tuesday, July 17, there will be a special election in Memphis for House District 89. One candidate, Jeanne Richardson, is being supported by GLBT activists in Memphis. That same night, the Tennessee Transgender Political Coalition will host a Memphis screening of Citizen Lobbyist at 7pm in First Congregational Church, 1000 South Cooper Street. Admission is only $7.00.

Additional municipal elections are scheduled for Knoxville on September 25, and Memphis on October 4.

Marisa Richmond

The Tennessee Transgender Political Coalition (TTPC) is an organization designed to educate and advocate on behalf of transgender related legislation at the Federal, State and local levels. TTPC is dedicated to raising public awareness and building alliances with other organizations concerned with equal rights legislation.

For more information, or to make a donation, contact:

Tennessee Transgender Political Coalition (TTPC)
P.O. Box 92335
Nashville, TN 37209
(615)353-1834 fax

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Come Hear Two Amazing Speakers at MTSU

Monday July 16th will be an exciting day at the MTSU campus in Murfreesboro as two speakers, Juan Melendez and Celia McWee, will share their incredible stories. Juan Melendez was the 99th death row exoneree after spending 17 years, 8 months, and 1 day on death row for a crime he did not commit. Celia McWee's daughter was murdered and her son was executed--and she speaks strongly against the death penalty. The panel will be in LRC 221 ( with the first panel starting at 8:00 a.m. and running until 9:50 a.m. The second panel will begin at 12:50 p.m. and run until 2:45 p.m. More information on Juan and Celia can be found below. Bring and tell as many people as you can to take advantage of this opportunity!

On January 3, 2002, Juan Roberto Melendez was released from Florida’s death row after spending seventeen years, eight months, and one day under a death sentence for crime that he did not commit. Juan became the 99th death row inmate to be exonerated and freed from death row in the modern death penalty era. The number now stands at 124. Since that time, Juan has spoken across America and the world, telling his stories to audiences of all ages and walks of life.

Celia McWee was born and raised in El Paso, Texas. She has lost two children to two forms of killing. In 1979, her daughter, Joyce, was murdered in Florida. In 1991, her son, Jerry, was executed by the state of South Carolina. Celia has found strength to tell her story to fight against the death penalty in America. She is a founding member of the No Silence, No Shame project of Murder Victim’s Families for Human Rights and a member of the Journey of Hope. Celia has told her story to audiences across the country.

Keep up with TCASK organizing on the TCASK Blog - tcask: on the road to abolition - a typically good entry can be found at: and starts out: More often than not, when our staff goes out to make a presentation in the community, we will get the comment, "You would feel differently about the death penalty if someone you loved was brutally murdered." Of course, I cannot pretend to know how that reality must feel for a loved one--the devastation, the rage, the pain that never goes away..... Check it out today!

Stacy Rector

Executive Director
Tennessee Coalition to Abolish State Killing
PO Box 120552
Nashville, TN 37212

"The death penalty is a public policy that fails
victims, the accused and our core constitutional
value of fairness. The best solution is to use
alternatives and simply abolish the death penalty."

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

VFP Supports Cindy's March for Peace

Cindy Sheehan's "On A Journey For Humanity, Summer of Love `07" kicks
off from Camp Casey in Crawford, Texas, on July 10th, 2007 with a
press conference at 10:00 am. After the Press Conference, Cindy and
supporters will walk out of Crawford, one of the vacation homes of President
Bush, where with VFP help and assistance two years ago she started her
World renown peace movement, seeking an answer as to what noble cause her
son, Casey, died for in Iraq.

Several VFP members of the Camp Casey VFP Chapter from around the
nation will accompany Cindy on her historic march, including Jamie Branigan
(Tacoma), Thomas Brinson (Long Island), Rick Burnley (New Mexico),
Will Covert (San Diego), Jerry Fonseca (New Orleans), Leslie Harris
(Dallas), Mikel Hutto (Houston), Lela McNutt (Centralia, WA), Carl Rising-Moore
(Crawford), David Rubinson (San Francisco), Paul Schafer (Texas) and
Ann Wright (Hawaii). The 18 city tour includes a visit to Congress on
July 23rd and culminates in New York City with a rally at the United
Nations on July 26th and a Gathering of Hearts Fest, tentatively scheduled
for Central Park, on July 29th. Herein follows the full itinerary:

July 10 Crawford Tx - Houston Tx
July 11 Houston Tx. - New Orleans La.
July 12 New Orleans La. - Montgomery Al.
July 13 Montgomery Al. - Ft. Benning Ga,
July 14 Ft. Benning Ga - Atlanta Ga.
July 15 Atlanta Ga. - Gainesville Ga.
July 16 Gainesville Ga. - Clemson SC
July 17 Clemson SC - Charlotte NC
July 18 Charlotte NC - Greensboro NC
July 19 Greensboro NC - Lynchburg NC
July 20 Lynchburg NC - Charlottesville Va
July 21 Charlottesville Va. - Richmond Va.
July 22 Richmond Va. - Arlington Va
July 23 Arlington Cem - White House/ Capital
July 23 Washington DC - Philadelphia PA.
July 24 Philadelphia PA - Allentown PA
July 25 Allentown PA - New York City NY
July 26 United Nations Action
July 27 Begin to Gather at Central Park
July 28 TBA
July 29 Gathering of Hearts Fest Central Park

All VFP Chapters in vicinity of this itinerary are urged to attend
and support this historic initiative by Cindy, who has vowed to run as an
Independent against Nancy Pelosi, current Speaker of the House, if
she does not put Articles of Impeachment for War Criminals George Bush
and Dick Cheney back on the table in the House of Representatives by July
23rd. Detailed information about the march can be found at:

Veterans For Peace
Outreach and Communications Specialist
314-725-6005 ext. 102

This Week on Avalon Farmcast

Valerie writes . . . "I interviewed the owners of Out Loud Books, Jim Hawk and others that were on Church Street passing out water to the marchers. Music on today’s show is “I Ain’t Afraid” by Holly Near and “Blame the Gays” by Tammy Fowler Photos: Brad Beasly. About a dozen or so of us went down to Church St. at 7am Saturday morning to keep a GLBT presence up. Religious right wing fundamentalists held a revival in Titan’s Stadium that day. 7-7-07 was a significant date for them I guess and what better way to celebrate than to show that Christian love than to do a little gay hating. To make their anti-abortion, anti-gay, anti-pornography point they decided to have a silent march right through Nashville’s Gay Business District.

Use your podcatcher of choice or these links:
mp4 file:

"Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well-preserved body, but rather, to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming-"WOW, what a ride!!!" - unknown

valerie reynolds

Report on Visit to China

A delegation from the UK's Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament - CND (Kate Hudson, Bruce Kent and me) travelled to Beijing at the end of May in response to an invitation from the Chinese People’s Association for Peace and Disarmament (CPAPD).

The CPAPD was founded in June 1985 and is the largest Chinese non-governmental peace association with a total of 24 member organizations. Its objectives are “to promote mutual understanding, friendship and cooperation between the peoples of China and the rest of the world in joint efforts to maintain world peace, oppose arms race and war, achieve arms control and disarmament, strive for the complete prohibition and thorough destruction of nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction, protect ecological environment and promote economic development and social progress.” The CPAPD has links with more than 300 NGOs and research institutions in about 90 countries and is actively engaged in research on arms control, disarmament, peace and security. It has Consultative Status with the ECOSOC of the United Nations and is a member of the Conference of NGOs in Consultative Relationship with the United Nations (CONGO). It publishes a quarterly journal “PEACE” in English and has a website -

All the expenses of the visit (including rooms in the very pleasant Diao Yu Tai hotel where the Six Party talks on North Korea took place) except air fares were taken care of by the CPAPD. We were very well looked after and given full VIP treatment on arrival on 28th May. We were welcomed by CPAPD representatives who collected our baggage and sorted out immigration procedures while we waited in the VIP lounge. After an hour or two to recover from the flight, we were guests of honour at a dinner with Mme. Shen Shuji, Vice President of the CPAPD and former Vice President of the All-China Women's Federation. She was particularly pleased to see that a woman was leading our delegation and we exchanged pleasantries and information about our respective organisations and activities. We also heard about the growing economic development of China and the role that women play politically and in society generally.

The next day (Tuesday) we started with an early breakfast and were driven to the Wan Shou Hotel (rather than the CPAPD offices which were currently undergoing refurbishment – as many were buildings in Beijing - in readiness for the Olympic visitors?). Here we met with prominent members of CPAPD including Mr. Niu Qiang, Secretary General, Mr. Wang Changyong, Deputy Secretary General and Mr. Hou Hongyu, head of research. Our discussion on our respective origins, structures and activities extended over a working lunch after which we left for the Foreign Ministry for a meeting with Ambassador Hu Xiaodi (Former Ambassador for Disarmament Affairs) at the Department of Arms Control.

This was a very interesting meeting. The Ambassador seemed very concerned about the lack of progress at the NPT Prep Com and the failure to make headway with the Prevention of an Arms Race in Outer Space (PAROS) talks at the UN First Committee on Disarmament. For some years now China and Russia have attempted to progress talks on PAROS but the US has always denied the need for such talks saying that there is no such thing as an arms race in outer space. When questioned about the anti-satellite (ASAT) test conducted in January by China, there was a suggestion that the purpose was to persuade the US to take these talks seriously. This may be the case but there are alternative suggestions, including the proposition that Chinese politicians and diplomats did not know that their own military were about to perform the test which was part of an ongoing ASAT development programme. Some news reports showed that the US had been monitoring activity leading up to these tests, and the eventual destruction of an old Chinese weather satellite, but chose not to say anything until it had actually happened.

In the evening we were taken, by our guide and translator Mr Chen, to the traditional Beijing Opera at the Li Yuan Theatre. Driving through the streets of Beijing is some experience. There is a tremendous amount of traffic (about 1,000 new cars are introduced on the roads of Beijing every day!) and vehicles are moving rapidly in and between lanes. We had several near misses but our driver seemed to be used to the mayhem and didn’t seem bothered by it at all. At the theatre we saw two very spectacular, colourful and energetic performances. Beijing opera is a synthesis of stylized action, singing, dialogue and mime, acrobatic fighting and dancing to represent a story or depict different characters and their feelings of joy, anger, surprise, fear and sadness. There are generally four main roles: sheng (male) dan (young female), jing (painted face,male), and chou (clown, male or female). The characters’ make up and costumes are wonderful and the evening was warmly welcomed by an enthusiastic audience of tourists and local people.

On Wednesday after breakfast we left for the China Institutes for Contemporary International Relations (CICIR) and met with the Vice President, Mr. Wang Zaibang, and half a dozen members of his department. At just about all our meetings we were asked whether the imminent change in Prime Minister would make a difference to UK Foreign and Defence Policies. Unfortunately we had to keep repeating that indications were that it would only be ‘business as usual’. Dave had met Mr Zaibang previously at conference in Xiamen last year on Global Security. It was very interesting again to share thoughts and concerns at first hand on issues ranging from nuclear proliferation to space weapons.

We had time before lunch for a walk in the park next to our hotel. There we lingered on two or three occasions to listen to groups of people gathering together to sing. Apparently this is quite common not only in parks but also squares and street corners. Coming across a lake in the park we hired a boat and Kate was positioned at the bow and rode in some majesty (as far as that was possible in a pedal boat in the shape of a duck) around the lake powered(?) along by Bruce and me.

After lunch we left for an inevitable visit to the Great Wall which was busy but very impressive. In the evening we were joined at dinner by Mr. Ma Hui, Deputy Director-General of Bureau VII (North American, Oceanic and Scandinavian Affairs) of the International Department of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China. Kate had already met Mr Hui in London where he had studied for a Masters degree at UCL and we had a frank and friendly discussion with him on a number of issues including the problems associated with US policy in the Asia-Pacific region.

On Thursday morning we visited Peking University (it is still called Peking University – it was from here that Jeffrey Sachs delivered the second of his recent Reith lectures) and met with a professor and researchers from the School of International Relations – they too were keen to know if Gordon Brown was likely to be a very different PM from Tony Blair. Here we also came across another theory regarding the Chinese ASAT test – i.e. it was carried out as a warning to the US to stay clear of Taiwan. This was a new one to me.

After lunch we visited Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City (the city within a city that was once the home of Chinese Emperors). There was a lot of reconstruction work taking place here too – getting ready for the many visitors that are expected during the Olympic Games. In the evening we were taken to a special dinner at a famous Beijing Roast Duck Restaurant hosted by CPAPD Secretary General Mr. Niu. Everywhere we went we saw the amazing economic development that defines modern China. There are enormous buildings, cars, a range of expensive shops – all the things you would associate with any large city in the West. Mr Niu explained that certain (mainly coastal) areas of China had been specially earmarked for rapid economic growth and the wealth brought in to these areas was bringing benefits to all sectors of society. It was now time he said for effort to be focused on some of the rural areas where most of the poorer people lived. Of course, their rapid economic growth has many associated problems and the Chinese people are aware of their responsibility to the environment and to the people in rural areas. However, they do not want to slow down growth too much as they see it as a way of bringing more help and social well being to all citizens, and getting the balance right is not easy.

On Friday morning there was a little time for Bruce to visit the Beijing Catholic Cathedral while Kate and I visited the church of consumerism at the local market. After a secluded lunch (there was another conference taking up the main dining room of the hotel and so we were placed in one of the many large private dining rooms) we said goodbye to Mr. Niu Qiang (who was busy at the conference) and were taken to the airport and again given VIP treatment so that instead of the usual waiting around and queuing for ages before boarding we were drinking tea in a VIP lounge and fast tracked through the various stages of embarkation (although, once on the plane, we still ended up in economy class).

Overall the visit was extremely interesting and very useful. People were most friendly and our hosts accommodating and very attentive. We were treated extremely well and everyone seemed to be expressing themselves freely and honestly. The Chinese people were very aware of their history and considered themselves to be the victims of many events in the past. The impression I got was of a country struggling to cope with rapid growth and a huge population that wants its share of wealth and a prominent place in the modern world. There did appear to be a genuine concern for an improvement in international understanding and global relations and a wish to work for multilateral disarmament. As a parting comment Bruce emphasized that we believe that it is up to groups like ours to apply pressure to our governments to take more initiatives on disarmament issues as a hint that maybe the CPAPD could do more to try and influence their country’s policies rather than act merely as a way of introducing government policy to outside groups and NGOs.

We have come away with a number of possible collaborative ideas to follow up and have invited the CPAPD to the International Conference that CND will be organizing next year. They accepted that invitation with some enthusiasm and so we look forward to furthering our relationship with them and repaying some of their hospitality in London in February.

Dave Webb is a Professor of Engineering at Leeds Metropolitan Univeristy and is Chair of Yorkshire Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament. He is also the Chair of the Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space

Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space
PO Box 652
Brunswick, ME 04011
(207) 443-9502 (our blog)

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Commentary: Abandonment

If 160,000 U.S. troops are not safe in Iraq now, fewer troops would face
increasing danger in a gradual withdrawal, as those left behind are
gradually abandoned by their support. Wars end when there are peace
accords, and safe withdrawal of troops must be effected by agreement with
insurgents. It is not a matter of leaving Iraq "hijacked by international
terrorists," as the July 8 New York Times editorial so colorfully
expresses it. It is a matter of giving back to Iraqis the land which is
theirs. We will have to pay a high price for a peace agreement, but it
will be far cheaper than 10 more years of war. Here is a suggested message
to Congress: "Negotiate peace and convert $100 billion of the Defense budget
to build affordable housing."

- Jean G. Braun

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Kroger Returns OAN to Area Stores

TTPC Praises Kroger on Permitting GLBT Community Paper in Area Stores

The Tennessee Transgender Political Coalition (TTPC) praises the recent decision by Kroger to allow Out and About Newspaper into several Nashville area stores. TTPC was one of the groups which participated in the recent The "Save Your Receipt(s)" campaign in response to the banning of the GLBT community newspaper by Kroger and Harris Teeter. Harris Teeter remains silent and has made no public statement about diversity and inclusion of community voices.

As we gather with family and friends this week, let us all remember the words in the Declaration of Independence that "All Men Are Created Equal." The Tennessee Transgender Political Coalition will continue working to ensure that those words will have meaning for all people regardless of sexual orientation and gender identity or expression.

We wish you a Happy and Safe Independence Day Holiday.

Marisa Richmond

The Tennessee Transgender Political Coalition (TTPC) is an organization designed to educate and advocate on behalf of transgender related legislation at the Federal, State and local levels. TTPC is dedicated to raising public awareness and building alliances with other organizations concerned with equal rights legislation.

For more information, or to make a donation, contact:

Tennessee Transgender Political Coalition (TTPC)
P.O. Box 92335
Nashville, TN 37209
(615)353-1834 fax

Commentary: Pay Raise

A judge appointed by George Bush has a debt of appreciation to George
Bush, and it is a conflict of interest to hear a civil or criminal case
against George Bush. The Bush appointees who dismissed the warrantless
wire-tapping lawsuit committed high misfeasance and must be impeached.

More government recklessness appears in the $550 billion Defense
appropriation. Bush's proposed 2008 budget has a couple hundred billions
dollars deficit, to be piled onto the eight $trillion debt. As the money
supply is inflated next year to accommodate the needed borrowing, and
those without COLAs struggle to cope with the rising costs of living,
Congress, which enjoys automatic Cost of Living Adjustments, will have a
nice pay raise, for voting this year to appropriate for war, $550 billion
which the government does not have.

- Jean G. Braun

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Fifth Estate Benefit Fundraisers

There will be two benefits for the Fifth Estate this weekend; one in Detroit and the other in New York City. These are crucial to the magazine given the financial status of the 42-year-old publication. As it is, lack of funds has resulted in the Summer edition being delayed and rolled into the Fall edition meaning one less issue for the year.

Numerous independent newspapers and magazines have folded in the last year in part due to falling circulation that all print media is experiencing, but mostly because of the rising cost of printing and postage. The latter is set to surge because of a Time-Warner generated rate increase.

The two events are the third in reader generated benefits to assure the Fifth Estate doesn't join the list of those whose radical voice is disappeared. Information about the benefits is below.

If you can't attend, please consider sending the admission fee as a donation or subscribe. Send to Fifth Estate, POB 201016, Ferndale MI 48220. If you haven't seen the magazine in a while, you can request a sample copy at that box number.
Friday, July 6, 9p.m.
Benefit for Fifth Estate magazine
Bill Blank — 12 Years Later
Playing the music of the Blanks with special guests ML Liebler, Kevin “Slim” Williams, Leah Smith, & Others. . .
Admission by donation ($3 suggested)
At the @ Trumbullplex Theatre
Trumbull at W. Willis, southwest of Wayne State University, Detroit
Proceeds go to support America's longest running, English language, anarchist publication

Sunday, July 8, 4-6 pm
"Carnival at the End of the World"
A Benefit for Fifth Estate magazine
[see web site for list of speakers & performers]
An afternoon of poetry, anarchism and banjos
Bowery Poetry Club, 308 Bowery, just north of Houston,
(F or V train to Second Avenue, 6 to Bleecker St.)
$6 (admission includes free issue of the Fifth Estate and subscription for the next issue)

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Commentary: Health Care


Some historians claim disease has wiped out more people than all wars, battles and skirmishes combined. Yet, in spite of the historical human disease record, American media continues to ignore its implications, in the growing national healthcare debate.

Some plead we should care about the less fortunate, as indeed we should. Others pretend private care is preferable, in spite of overwhelming evidence to the contrary. Today, U.S. citizens pay much more for healthcare than any nation, yet we are ranked 37th in healthcare quality and farther down in statistical availability. Some former Soviet block and South East Asian nations have better healthcare; even Cuba has a lower infant mortality rate.

Over 43 million U.S. residents have zero health coverage; at least 80 million more have highly inadequate coverage. More and more citizens with expensive plans are being refused coverage for expensive problems. Every week, more citizens lose employer-paid health care and long-term coverage for less healthy retirement years.

Depending on the provider, 10-30% of every dollar spent on private coverage goes to overhead not related to care, while only 1% for government-sponsored Medicare does, even though Medicare helps the oldest and sickest among us. Very plainly, private healthcare as we currently have, is not the solution.

Politicians on both sides of the political charade continue to pretend they care about America's security, while continuing to ignore our immediate healthcare reality. Right-wing media pretends coverage is not a “shared responsibility”, that we should all take care of our own selves.

People who claim this have never faced $250,000 per year cancer treatments on a working class income. And they clearly don't understand their own immediate financial jeopardy if they were to lose coverage or, what can and will happen to their own children if their neighbor's children remain uncovered.

In reality, less than 1% of all U.S citizens can afford to pay for their own health coverage. All forms of private health insurance are “shared responsibility” programs, dependent on the majority of those covered to remain relatively healthy, while majority pay-outs go to the sickest minority.

Whether or not we care about our neighbor is only part of a larger equation. Disease has no boundaries. Children of the poor can, have and will, infect children of the wealthy. Medical facts clearly demonstrate that private coverage is no guarantee against contagious disease.

Scientists claim that our planet is way overdue for a major epidemic, while history clearly dictates that all of our politics, education and science and all of our weapons will not protect us against the onslaught of human disease. And the media is clearly failing American citizens by not instructing us accordingly.

Is it fair to say that any United States citizen that does not push for immediate affordable and adequate healthcare coverage for all persons residing or traveling within our borders is decidedly, unpatriotic? Is it fair to say they don't even care about their own flesh and blood? You decide.

From the book:
"How To Fix America In 500 Words or Less"
by Richard Aberdeen

Thank You, Sincerely
Richard Aberdeen 615-889-1669
292 Trails Circle - Nashville, TN 37214

Monday, July 2, 2007

The Crisis in Sudan

What would you do if you saw a young girl starving and near death?
by Doug Williams

In March 1993 photojournalist Kevin Carter saw 20 people dying of
starvation every hour as he was on assignment in Avod, a village in the
famine-ravaged Sudan. After working to exhaustion and overwhelmed, he
wandered away from an emergency feeding center into the open bush, where he
saw an emaciated child collapsed from hunger.

Instinctively he began photographing her when a vulture landed nearby.
After Carter snapped several pictures, he chased the bird away, collapsed by
a tree, and cried as he thought about his own daughter Megan.

Carter's photograph of the vulture and the girl gained him
international recognition when it was published in the New York Times on
March 26, 1993. He was also roundly criticized when he admitted to not
helping the child, one of thousands dying all around him, yet won a Pulitzer
Prize the following year.

Tragically, two months after Carter won the Pulitzer, he committed

Sometime during the next year Congress will be revising the U.S. Farm
Bill. The bill has enhanced food production in this country for decades, and
generally has tried to help U.S. farmers reduce world hunger. Over time the
legislation has become less and less successful.

A community of concerned people in Nashville is organizing a letter
writing campaign to encourage members of Congress to reform the Farm Bill to
better meet the needs of small and moderate-sized farms and rural

The farm bill includes commodity payments, which are cash payments
made to farmers growing mostly five crops-corn, wheat, cotton, rice and
soybeans. Unfortunately, this program has become unintentionally devastating
for small farmers in rural America and poor countries in the developing


Over time commodity payments have shifted dramatically to the very
largest farms, which often are also the wealthiest farmers. Because the
commodity payment system encourages these farmers to concentrate on the five
crops, world markets are being flooded with these crops, which are sold at
prices lower than what it costs to produce them.

Kevin Miskell is a fifth-generation farmer, struggling to make ends
meet by raising corn and soybeans. He would like to see a more equitable
system to help the small farmer, and he adds that he wants "a farm program
structured so that farmers get most of their money from the market, not from
the government."

Reforming the existing commodity payment program would help small
farmers in rural America get a higher price for their own crops and give
them a better chance to escape poverty. It would also assist poor countries
around the world increase food production and help end hunger.

The Farm Bill is also a primary tool for reducing hunger through the
Food Stamp Program, our nation's first line of defense against hunger. An
increase in funding for the Food Stamp Program could allow families to
afford a more nutritious diet.

Some public health experts contend that U.S. farm policy, by heavily
subsidizing corn and soybean production, is contributing to the alarming
rising rates of obesity among children in low-income families. The high
fructose corn syrup and hydrogenated vegetable oil, by-products of
subsidized corn and soybean, are low cost ingredients used in almost all
processed foods.

Calories in the U.S. are cheap, whereas healthy nutrients are
expensive. A revised Food Stamp Program could provide incentives for
purchase of fruits and vegetables that would improve healthy outcomes and
reduce health problems in the next generation of Americans.

Improving the U.S. Farm Bill will not be easy, as there are factions
in the farming industry that are reaping mega-dollars as it is currently
written. You can learn more about the Farm Bill and find sample letters and
contact information on members of Congress on the internet at:

Please take a few minutes of your time to write our representatives
and let them know it's time to begin helping hungry children around the
world by reforming the U.S. Farm Bill.

Doug Williams is a member of the Cathedral Catholic Church. The Social
Justice Committee at the Cathedral is conducting a letter writing campaign
in conjunction with Bread for the World.

Wall of Separation Misinforms

"Wall of Separation": A Carefully Constructed Edifice Of Misinformation
By Rev. Barry Lynn, Executive Director

Americans United has been critical of a program being offered to PBS stations called “Wall of Separation.”

We became suspicious about the production because the film’s director and writer, Brian Godawa, is a militant theocrat with close ties to Christian Reconstructionism, the most extreme faction of the Religious Right. He and his allies believe that Christians of his stripe should take control, not only of the government, but of all aspects of society – including the entertainment industry.

Americans United was concerned that “Wall of Separation” is designed not to educate but to promote an inaccurate view of the historical origins of church-state separation. Some critics accused me of attacking a program I had not seen. We ordered a copy, and yesterday several members of the AU staff and I screened it. I regret to report that “Wall of Separation” is even worse than I had imagined. It is clearly designed to promote views held by Religious Right extremists.

A common theme running through “Wall of Separation” is that the Founding Fathers sought a government based on the Bible. It’s odd that the framers would want this so much yet neglect to actually put it in the Constitution. In fact, claims of America being founded on “biblical law” are the stock and trade of Christian Reconstructionists and other theocrats who openly espouse a government based on their narrow definition of Christianity.

But their wishing does not make it so. Offering no evidence, “Wall of Separation” asserts that the Founding Fathers intended for U.S. law to be based on biblical codes. About halfway through the film, the narrator notes that the framers had diverse religious views but then adds, “But this diversity of religious beliefs was nevertheless within the context of a religious consensus that promoted the integration of biblical moral codes in society and biblical civil codes in government. This was their original intent — but it would not last forever.”

This is a remarkable statement – mainly for its wrong-headedness. The claim that the founders intended for American law to be based on the Bible’s civil code, is, to be blunt, ridiculous. The civil codes of the Old Testament mandate the death penalty for offense like adultery, blasphemy, failure to keep the Sabbath, “unchastity,” failure to respect parents and others. None of this is reflected in the Constitution, and no appeal to the Bible, Christianity or even God is made in that secular document. U.S. law is based on several sources, but the Bible is not one of them.

“Wall of Separation” contains several other factual errors and highly misleading statements. But its biggest fault may be that it is riddled with errors of omission. No context is given for many of the topics discussed, and an incomplete treatment is often provided. Key historical details are left out. (It is remarkable, for example, that a program that purports to be a documentary about church-state history contains not one word about the Virginia Statute for Religious Liberty – considered by most scholars a key influence on the First Amendment.)

In short, “Wall of Separation” is a cleverly packaged piece of propaganda, obviously designed to promote the Religious Right view that separation of church and state was not the intention of America’s Founding Fathers.

Here are some specific errors AU uncovered in the film. (This is by no means an exhaustive list):

Claim: Thomas Jefferson supported seminaries at the University of Virginia.
Response: Just the opposite is true. Jefferson opposed having a divinity professor at the university, asserting that religious groups could provide services in the town of Charlottesville. UVA is generally regarded as the first American university to separate religion from higher education.

Claim: Jefferson supported using the Bible in Washington, D.C.’s public schools.
Response: During his presidency, Jefferson served as president of the local school board in a largely ceremonial post. The board adopted a proposal to include the Bible in the curriculum in 1812 – three years after Jefferson left the board. In his Notes on Virginia, Jefferson opposed teaching the Bible to children, arguing that their minds were not mature enough.

Claim: James Madison approved chaplains in Congress.
Response: Madison did so early in his career. He later admitted his mistake, writing, “The establishment of the chaplainship to Congress is a palpable violation of equal rights, as well as of Constitutional principles.”

Claim: Jefferson wrote the Northwest Ordinance, which called for government funding of religion.
Response: Jefferson wrote the first draft of the Northwest Ordinance, and his language was wholly secular. A congressional committee later added language stating, “Religion, Morality and knowledge being necessary to good government and the happiness of mankind, schools and the means of education shall forever be encouraged.” The document does not endorse government funding of religion.

Claim: “In God We Trust” is inscribed in the House and Senate chambers and appears on U.S. currency, thus proving that the framers supported mixing religion and government.
Response: These are modern developments, dating to the 1950s. “In God We Trust” was adopted as a national motto in 1956. (“In God We Trust” first appeared on some coins during the Civil War. Its use was not mandated on coins until the presidency of Theodore Roosevelt. Its use on paper money was mandated by Congress during the presidency of Dwight D. Eisenhower.)

Claim: Benjamin Franklin called for prayers during the Constitutional Convention.
Response: True, but “Wall of Separation” fails to tell the rest of the story: The delegates did not act on the request. Franklin himself noted, “The convention, except three or four persons, thought prayers unnecessary.” Why would a convention determined to forge a society based on “biblical law” open its deliberations without even a nod to a Supreme Being?

Claim: The Supreme Court applied the Bill of Rights to the states in 1947’s Everson v. Board of Education.
Response: The 14th Amendment, passed after the Civil War, applies portions of the Bill of Rights to the states. During the debate over the amendment, Sen. Jacob Howard (R-Mich.), a primary advocate, said the amendment’s purpose was to apply the first eight amendments of the Bill of Rights to the states. “To these privileges and immunities,” he noted, “should be added the personal rights guaranteed and secured by the first eight amendments to the Constitution….The great object of the first section of the amendment is therefore to restrain the powers of the state and to compel them at all times to respect these fundamental guarantees.” The Supreme Court recognized this as early as the 1920s and fully embraced “incorporation” in a 1940 ruling, Cantwell v. Connecticut.

Claim: In 1963, the Supreme Court struck down “voluntary Bible reading” in public schools in Abington Township School District v. Schempp.
Response: There was nothing voluntary about it. Pennsylvania state law mandated that ten verses of the King James Bible be read aloud every day followed by recitation of the Lord’s Prayer. Schools were not required to excuse students, and some punished those who would not take part.

Claim: Article VI, a constitutional provision that bans religious tests for public office, was actually designed to preserve religious tests in the states.
Response: This is an absurd argument. When Article VI was announced, it sparked a firestorm of opposition from conservative religious leaders, who supported religious tests for public office. They did not perceive Article VI as helpful to their cause.

Here are some other problems with “Wall of Separation”: Throughout, the program is marred by a lack of proper context. Virtually no information is given about religious freedom in colonial America and the persecution spawned by established churches. It is impossible to understand why the framers were so passionate about the need to separate church and state without some discussion of this history.

No discussion of the context and history of the 14th Amendment is included. Court rulings are grossly oversimplified. Some of the program’s claims are simply silly. It is stated, for example, that the framers personally approved religious inscriptions on federal buildings in Washington, D.C. – buildings that were erected long after they were dead.

“Wall of Separation” implies that the Supreme Court adopted the “wall of separation” metaphor abruptly in 1947. In fact, it was cited by the court first in 1878. Everson is portrayed as 5-4 ruling, implying that the “wall” metaphor was approved by a sharply divided court. In fact, the court unanimously approved the metaphor and split over the question of the constitutionality of the challenged school bus subsidy for parochial school students.

Dubious assertions are simply stated as fact. The claim is made that the First Amendment was intended to protect established churches in the states. In fact, many scholars see it as a rebuke to them. Indeed, states soon began to follow the federal model and end their established churches. By 1833, all were gone.

Likewise, claims are made that the founders sought a country based on the Bible and the Ten Commandments. No evidence is offered for these claims; they are simply put forth as if they are obvious facts instead of highly controversial assertions.

After seeing “Wall of Separation,” I can only be appalled that PBS decided to sully its fine reputation by offering their affiliates such a shoddy production.

By Barry W. Lynn

Read the 18 comments and add your own
Categories: ▪ Religious Right Watch ▪ Religion in Public Life
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