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MA. Legislators Consider Regulating High Security Bioterror Research, Many Hopeful Sanity Will Prevail
bioterror.jpgState Representative Frank Smitzik was forced to make liberal use of his gavel chairing the Joint Committee on Environment, Natural Resources, and Agriculture public hearing on HR 1397 -An Act to Protect Public Health and the Environment from Toxic Biological Agents- earlier this month as an enthusiastic crowd of over 300 fans of the resolution repeatedly burst into applause when they felt their side had scored a good point.

Representative Gloria Fox, whose 7th Suffolk district includes the proposed site of labratory, is sponsoring the bill. In her opening comments at the june 9 hearing, describing HR 1397, which would provide comprehensive state regulation for BSL4 labs in Massachusetts, Fox acknowledged the large diverse crowd that had come out to show their support, “We have students, scientists, public health experts, and community activists as well as politicians here today,” Fox said.

BUMC has been working to open its laboratory in the South End of Boston, on the border of Roxbury for over two years. The NIAID grant funded project would be only the fifth level 4 laboratory operating in the United States.

According to a press release from Fox’s office, “presently there are no federal or state laws that regulate high security laboratories.”
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21 Jun 2005 | Filed under: News / Social Welfare : Technology
Why We Were Arrested
Yesterday afternoon, as I tried to make my middle aged bones accommodate the uncompromising metal cot in my jail cell on the men’s block of the Cambridge police station, I found old New England and national history floating through my mind. During the 1848 U.S. invasion of Mexico, Emerson had asked Throreau, (who had refused to pay war taxes), what he was doing in jail. And, as we learned in school, Thoreau’s response was what was Emerson doing outside the bars.

Many of my friends and colleagues from the American Friends Service Committee, the Quaker-based peace, justice, reconciliation and development organization, had joined a peaceful protest on the city’s centuries old common. Two of us, a photographer friend, and four younger activists ended up in the slammer.

What happened? Last Thursday evening, a friend called with news that it had just been announced that a Blackhawk helicopter, the Under Secretary of the Army and a lot of other military hullabaloo would be descending on Cambridge Common, ostensibly to celebrate the Army’s 230th anniversary. Interestingly, the Army hadn’t bothered to show up to celebrate the 200th or 225th anniversaries!) What the military, desperate for recruits, had in mind was an extravaganza to reignite its sagging recruitment efforts. Finding it nearly impossible to recruit young men and women to kill and to die as occupiers in Iraq and Afghanistan, the military was anxious to gin up its system. By coming to Cambridge, after years of being unwanted here, the military wanted to show that it was on the offensive. The piece de resistance would come at night with the televised induction of new army recruits in Fenway Park, the home of the World Champion Boston Red Sox. Had Leni Riefenstahl risen from the dead to produce more military propaganda?
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16 Jun 2005 | Filed under: Commentary / Human Rights : International
Opinion: America's Corporate Benedict Arnolds
BENDICT.jpg“That’s un-American” is the cry heard whenever the unwritten code of American values is breached, Compassion, fairness and equal opportunity are hallmarks, and although you might not be able to recite chapter and verse of the code, you know when it is broken.

On this the 204th anniversary of the death of Benedict Arnold, one of America’s most famous traitors, it’s time to consider whether some of America’s largest corporations that pay little or no federal taxes, have indeed become traitors.

Large corporations are in full retreat from paying their fair share of taxes. In 2003, corporations paid just 7% of the cost of the US government, according to a study by Citizens for Tax Justice.

It wasn’t always this way. At the end of the Second World War, a time when paying taxes was viewed as a patriotic duty, corporations paid half the cost of the federal government. Even as recently as the 1970s, corporate taxes accounted for 20% of federal treasury receipts.
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16 Jun 2005 | Filed under: Commentary / Globalization : Human Rights : International : Labor : Politics : Social Welfare
Protesters Outnumber Military Supporters, as Peace Activists Protest Army Recruitment on the Cambridge Common
got kids.jpgOn Tuesday, June 14, 2005, from 10:30 to 1:00 two to three hundred people gathered on the Cambridge Common to protest the army’s celebration of its 230th anniversary there, an event they turned into a blatant recruitment effort. This is part of larger drive by the military to get more people to join, response to the severe drop-offs in new recruits that all branches of the military face as the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan stretch on with no end in sight. Protesters spoke out against the attempts to entice students to join the army, by making it look fun by creating something of a fair on the Common--when those who joined the army would most likely to be sent to kill and possibly be killed in pointless, bloody wars. In contrast to the large number of protesters, there were only about fifty to a hundred civilians there to attend the ceremonies, many of them school children bussed in as a fieldtrip. At times, it appeared that the protesters’ chants could clearly be heard over the official speakers at the ceremony. There were seven arrests, all a result of protesters refusing to remain in the officially designated protest pit.
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14 Jun 2005 | Filed under: News / Education : International
Opposition Mounts to "NAFTA Superhighway" I-69
I-69Logo.gifThe U.S. government is currently poised to roll out a new strip of asphalt all the way from Loredo, Texas up to Port Huron, Michigan. Interstate 69, if completed, will stretch over 2000 miles, through Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas, Mississippi, Tennessee, Kentucky, Indiana, and Michigan.

The main purpose of this interstate is to provide a channel for trading goods between Mexico, the U.S. and Canada. It would act as a piece of the life-support system for the North American Free Trade Agreement (or NAFTA) and, if enacted, the Free Trade Area of the Americas. Some are calling it the “NAFTA Superhighway”.
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13 Jun 2005 | Filed under: News / Environment : Globalization : Human Rights : Labor
Somerville 5 Case: Community Leaders Demand that Charges Against Five African-American Youth be Dropped
somerville5.jpg“Are we going backwards?”

This was the question asked at a June 5 news conference in Dorchester, Mass., held to publicize the demand that five Somerville African American youths be immediately reinstated as students at Somerville High School near Boston and that trumped-up police charges against them be dropped.

The Somerville 5—Calvin Belfon, 17, Cassius Belfon, 15, Earl Guerra, 16, Isiah Anderson, 17, and Marquis Anderson, 16—were victims of racial profiling and a brutal, unprovoked attack by Medford police on April 20. The five have been indefinitely suspended from school. And they face false charges, including assault with a deadly weapon, assault and battery, and disorderly conduct.
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09 Jun 2005 | Filed under: News / Human Rights : Race
Chokehold on Hebron: A Letter from Palestine
290012.jpgA letter from Molly Little, Rhode Island peace activist, who is spending her summer as a witness to the Isreali occupation of Palestine.

May 26, 2005- It is midday on the main street of Hebron. Just moments ago we were surrounded by the sounds and smells of the market— coffee and spices, kids on bikes and men pushing carts of produce, people buying groceries. Now, quite suddenly, the place is silent. The stores are boarded up; the streets are deserted. Where once this section, like the rest of Hebron, bustled with the daily life of families, now the only sounds we hear are the footsteps of the six Israeli soldiers who follow us as we walk. Occasionally their rifles click against their belts, but we know better than to turn around, or to appear afraid. It is our Palestinian guide, a small, wizened man whom we met at a hostel in Jerusalem, who ought to be afraid. But he leads the way for us—three Americans who are here to try to understand life under occupation— without looking back.
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09 Jun 2005 | Filed under: Commentary / Human Rights : International
United progressive forces send Phelps' bigots packing
021_19A.JPGThe Massachusetts recruiting tour of the “Rev.” Fred Phelps was soundly defeated by a wide range of progressive forces and community members June 4-6.

Phelps, known for leading a vile anti-gay protest at Matthew Shepard’s funeral, didn’t attend any of the events in Massachusetts; instead his daughter Shirley Phelps-Roper led the bigoted tour for the Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, Kansas, the Phelp’s church.

The bigots targeted religious institutions and individual schools in Dracut, Lexington and Bedford but were met with rejection by the majority of students, teachers and community members there.

Phelps said he chose the state for the recruiting tour because of its recent legalization of same-sex marriage and other pro-LGBT laws. The Phelps tour was made easier by Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney’s ongoing denunciations of same-sex marriage and other ongoing attacks on the LGBT community.
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07 Jun 2005 | Filed under: News / Education : GLBT/Queer
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