June 25, 2007

High school seniors present president with letter during annual program

Scholars urge Bush to ban use of torture
Updated: 2 hours, 33 minutes ago

WASHINGTON - President Bush was presented with a letter Monday signed by 50 high school seniors in the Presidential Scholars program urging a halt to "violations of the human rights" of terror suspects held by the United States.

The White House said Bush had not expected the letter but took a moment to read it and talk with a young woman who handed it to him.

"The president enjoyed a visit with the students, accepted the letter and upon reading it let the student know that the United States does not torture and that we value human rights," deputy press secretary Dana Perino said.

The students had been invited to the East Room to hear the president speak about his effort to win congressional reauthorization of his education law known as No Child Left Behind.

The handwritten letter said the students "believe we have a responsibility to voice our convictions."

"We do not want America to represent torture. We urge you to do all in your power to stop violations of the human rights of detainees, to cease illegal renditions, and to apply the Geneva Convention to all detainees, including those designated enemy combatants," the letter said.

Top honor
The designation as a Presidential Scholar is one of the nation's highest honors for graduating high school students. Each year the program selects one male and one female student from each state, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Americans living abroad, 15 at-large students, and up to 20 students in the arts on the basis of outstanding scholarship, service, leadership and creativity.

"I know all of you worked hard to reach this day," Bush told the students in his education speech. "Your families are proud of your effort, and we welcome your family members here. Your teachers are proud of your effort, and we welcome your teachers. And our entire nation is proud to call you Presidential Scholar."

Experts recommend fixing flaws in NCLB Accountability Provisions


A panel of national education experts has issued a set of recommendations aimed at fixing "serious flaws" in the assessment and accountability provisions of NCLB. “Assessment and Accountability for Improving Schools and Learning”calls for replacing the one-shot tests used to impose sanctions under the federal law with multiple measures that better support high-quality teaching and increased student achievement.

The report from the Forum on Educational Accountability (FEA) was the work of a nine-member expert panel on assessment. This report provides recommendations for an inclusive and fair assessment and accountability system.

“This report offers solutions to key FEA concerns about NCLB, including AYP, one-shot tests, and unhelpful sanctions, by promoting reasonable improvement requirements, multiple measures, and support for schools,” said Dr. Monty Neill, co-executive director of FairTest: the National Center for Fair & Open Testing, who chairs the FEA. “It is a valuable complement to FEA’s earlier report, Redefining Accountability: Improving Student Learning by Building Capacity. Together, the reports offer policymakers and other education stakeholders a roadmap for overhauling NCLB.”

The press release, Executive Summary, and full report of this new report are all online.

June 24, 2007

Peace & Justice Events from Sea to Shining Sea

Events listed are not necessarily endorsed or organized by the NEA Peace & Justice Caucus or the Peace & Justice Midwest Region. This calendar is maintained as a resource for the entire peace and justice movement. For further information about any event listed, please click on the event listing and contact the person and/or email address listed as the contact for the specific event.

When looking at events in a particular category, please note that Midwest Regional states appear in alphabetical order according to the name of the state. The posts that follow are for the week of June 26-July 1, 2007.


As we are in the midst of summer and you may have more time on your hands, we are featuring these upcoming regional and national events for you to consider. We hope that these opportunities--many from sea to shing sea--others on a weekly, monthly or quarterly address in your stage, should provide you the opportunity to take action.

Weekly, Monthly and Upcoming Events
in the Midwest Peace & Justice Region

Iowa (4)
Illinois (12)
Indiana (9)
Michigan (11)
Minnesota (5)
Missouri (3)
Wisconsin (4)

Day of Action to Restore Law and Justice
Tuesday, June 26th 2007 7 am
Washington, DC USA
On June 26, 2007, join us in Washington, D.C. as we call on Congress to restore habeas corpus, fix the Military Commissions Act, and restore our constitutional rights. Rally with us outside the Capitol, then help deliver our urgent message in person to your Members of Congress. This is your chance to make your voice heard!


Tuesday, June 26, 2007 - Day of Action Activities
7:00 a.m. - 9:00 a.m. Executive Branch Demonstration for those already in DC (exact location tbd)

9:30 a.m. - 11:00 a.m. Lobby Training (close to Upper Senate Park) NOTE: Lobbying will be done in groups. All attendees are encouraged to participate!

11:30 a.m. - 1:00 p.m. RALLY at Upper Senate Park

1:30 p.m. - 5:00 p.m. Storm the Hill: Lobby Meetings with Senators and RepresentativesNote:

This event is free and open to the public. However, it is important that you RSVP so we can keep you updated on the event. Even if you’re not yet completely certain you can attend, it can’t hurt to sign up. RSVP here (not RSVP link above): https://secure.aclu.org/site/SPageServer?pagename=june_home

Location: Upper Senate Park Washington DC Sponsored By:American Civil Liberties Union, United for Peace and Justice, Center for Constitutional Rights, Code Pink, Peace Action, MoveOn.org, and many more https://secure.aclu.org/site/SPageServer?pagename=DOA_learn

Internat'l Day in Support of Victims of Torture
Tuesday, June 26th 2007 10:30 AM
New York, NY USA


RSVP

This is an action against torture that begins with a prayerful reflection led by Fr. Daniel Berrigan, continues with an interfaith service and march passed Senator Schumer's office to Senator Clinton's office, and ends with a press conference outside Senator Clinton's office.

Location: Begins: St. Bartholomew's Church, Park Ave. between 50th and 51st Sts.
Ends: Senator Clinton's office, 780 Third Ave. between 48th & 49th Sts.
New York NY
Contact:Fr. Mark Hallinan, SJ
hallinan@nysj.org
212-774-5500
Sponsored By:Metro New York Religious Campaign against Torture, St. Bartholomew's Church, and Witness against Torture
http://www.saynototorture.net

TOM HAYDEN
on Ending the War in Iraq
Wednesday, June 27th 2007 7:00 pm
San Francisco, CA USA


RSVP

Talk & booksigning for "Ending the War in Iraq."

As a leading antiwar figure in the 1960s, Tom Hayden was one of a small number of Americans engaged in dialogue with both sides during the Paris peace talks. As an Irish American, he spent ten years supporting the peace process leading up to the Good Friday Agreement. And, as a California legislator for eighteen years, he has devoted himself to writing about and trying to prevent inner-city violence. Hayden remains an antiwar activist, and is credited with initiating the 2005 Congressional exit strategy hearings. Join us as he speaks about his new book, "Ending the War in Iraq."

Location: The Booksmith 1644 Haight Street San Francisco CA 94117 Contact:thomas gladyszread@booksmith.com415-863-8688Sponsored By:Booksmith http://www.booksmith.com

Procession for PeaceThursday,
June 28th 2007 4:30 PM
Philadelphia, PA USA


RSVP

Mark the anniversary of the arrest of 11 members of Granny Peace Brigade Philadelphia for opposing the Iraq War. Reading of names of Americans and Iraqis killed in Iraq. Prominent local political leaders have been invited to join us and read the names.

Location: Begins at Friends Meeting House, 15th and Cherry and continues to Military Recruitment Center, Broad and Cherry Streets 15th Street and Cherry Street Philadelphia PA 19102

Contact:Gloria Hoffman
hoffman1@comcast.net
215-843-2939

Sponsored By:WILPF, Brandywine Peace Community, Interact Theatre, Delaware Valley Vets for America, ACLU and many more!! http://GrannyPeaceBrigadePhiladelphia.org

Phone-A-Thon
Thursday, June 28th 2007
noon
Brooklyn, NY USA


RSVP

Join us to encourage passersby to make that first phone call to Congress. If you've got a cell phone, fine. If not that's fine too. Hand out flyers and talk to people about the issues. Help them find out who their Representatives are - we've got Congressional District maps for all of NYC - and phones.Location: Court and Montague Streets in the plaza space near the fountain at Borough Hall Brooklyn NY

Contact: Caroline, Eva-Lee, Fran, Phyllis, Tresa & Molly grannypeacebrigade@earthlink.net

Sponsored By:Granny Peace Brigade and CodePink NY http://www.grannypeacebrigade.org

Protest and Citizen's SummitSunday,
July 1st 2007 1pm
Kennebunkport, ME
USA Rally called "the Citizen's Summit"
Village Green in Kennebunkport


People should park at the Kennebunk HIgh School on Fletcher Street and organizers will provide a shuttle service to the assembly site. Please be at the high school between 11:00 and 12:00 to be shuttled to the assembly site.We have received a permit to march up Ocean Ave. to the BUSH compound, within 75 yards.Citizens will be demanding the troops home now and the impeachment of Bush and Cheney for the illegal war, torture and war crimes illegal wiretapping and abuses of power.The event is being organized by the Kennebunks PEACE Department andMaine Lawyers for democracy and the Maine Campaign to Impeach Bush.

RSVP

Contact: Jamilla El-Shafei at jamillaelshafei@yahoo.com www.maineimpeach.org

Location: Village Green Kennebunkport ME Contact:Jamilla El-Shafei jamillaelshafei@yahoo.com

Sponsored By: Kennebunks PEACE Department, Maine Lawyers for Democracy, Maine Campaign to Impeach Bush, United for Peace and Justice http://www.maineimpeach.org

June 20, 2007

Emmett Till Unsovled Civil Rights Crime Act--Justice Delayed

Statement on The Emmett Till Unsolved Civil Rights Crime Act
June 14, 2007

In November 2005, the Federal Bureau of Investigation announced that it had concluded its 18-month investigation into the reopened case of the 1955 murder of Emmett Till. The FBI’s report, not yet public, has been forwarded to the Mississippi District Attorney’s Office for the Fourth District for review.

Senator Chris Dodd (D-CT) issued the following statement today upon the Senate Judiciary Committee’s passage of the Emmett Till Unsolved Civil Rights Crime Act, legislation that he introduced in February 2007 with Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT):

“Today, Congress came one step closer to righting the wrongs of the past and bringing to justice people who have perpetrated heinous crimes based on racial hatred. I commend Chairman Leahy and my colleagues on the Judiciary Committee for taking action on this important piece of legislation. While this bill cannot alter history or heal the wounds incurred by these senseless acts of violence, it can work to restore belief in the fairness of our justice system. I hope that the full Senate will join me in reaffirming our nation’s commitment to seek the truth and work to make equal justice a reality by passing the Emmett Till Unsolved Civil Rights Crime Act.”

The Emmett Till Unsolved Civil Rights Crime Act would give the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) increased resources to reopen Civil Rights-era criminal cases which have gone cold by designating a Deputy Chief in the Criminal Section of the Civil Rights Division of the DOJ and a Supervisory Special Agent in the Civil Rights Unit of the FBI. These individuals will be tasked with spearheading and coordinating efforts by federal, state, and local law enforcement officers and prosecutors to bring long-time fugitives to justice. Both positions will focus on investigating and prosecuting the unsolved murder cases that occurred prior to 1970 and the Civil-rights era.

S.535 - Emmett Till Unsolved Civil Rights Crime Act

A bill to establish an Unsolved Crimes Section in the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice, and an Unsolved Civil Rights Crime Investigative Office in the Civil Rights Unit of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and for other purposes.

Other Bill Titles

Official: A bill to establish an Unsolved Crimes Section in the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice, and an Unsolved Civil Rights Crime Investigative Office in the Civil Rights Unit of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and for other purposes. as introduced.
Short: Emmett Till Unsolved Civil Rights Crime Act as introduced.

2/8/2007--Introduced.Emmett Till Unsolved Civil Rights Crime Act - Establishes an Unsolved Crimes Section in the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice (DOJ) and an Unsolved Civil Rights Crime Investigative Office in the Civil Rights Unit of the Federal Bureau of
Investiga tion (FBI).

Makes the Chief of the Section (Chief) and the Chief Investigator of the Office responsible for investigating violations of criminal civil rights statutes in which the alleged violation occurred before January 1, 1970 and resulted in death.

Requires: (1) consultation with state or local officials regarding venue when there has been a violation of a criminal civil rights statute that is also a violation of a state or local law; and (2) referral to the Criminal Section of the Civil Rights Division if the subject of the complaint has violated a criminal civil rights statute but the violation does not meet the requirements for the Unsolved Crimes Section. Amends the Crime Control Act of 1990 to authorize staff of an Inspector General to assist the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children by conducting reviews of inactive case files to develop recommendations for further investigations and engaging in similar activities.

Read the Entire Emmett Till Unsolved Civil Rights Crime Act (Introduced in Senate)

June 19, 2007

NEA P&J RA Schedule--Dr. Monty Neill, NCLB Critic, to Address Caucus July 3, 2007

NEA Peace & Justic Caucus Meeting Schedule
NEA Representative Assembly
June 30-July 5, 2007




Peace & Justice Executive Committee Meeting
Thursday June 28, 2007 3:00-6:30 p.m.
Sheraton Hotel, Parlor B


Cacus Meetings
Marriott Hotel Franklin Hall

Saturday June 30, 2007 * 4:00-5:30 *


Caucus Meeting
Sunday July 1, 2007 * Noon-1:00 pm *
Marriott Hotel, Franklin Hall

Caucus Meeting
Monday July 2, 2007 * 9:30-11:00 am *

Marriott Hotel, Franklin Hall

Caucus Guest Speaker
Tuesday July 3, 2007 * Lunchbreak Guest Speaker
*

Marriott Hotel, Salans H, I, J


NEA P & J Caucus Guest Speaker Monty Neill
July 3, 2007 * Lunchbreak

Salons H, I, J
Marriott Hotel (Connected to the Convention Center)
Room for Only 500 Attendees

Biography: Monty Neill, Ed.D., is currently Director of the National Center for Fair & Open Testing (FairTest). He has led FairTest's work on testing in the public schools since 1987. He has initiated national and state coalitions of education, civil rights, religious and parent organizations to work toward fundamental change in the assessment of students and in accountability. He currently chairs The Forum on Educational Accountability. This alliance is working to develop alternatives for use in overhauling federal education law (the No Child Left Behind Act, in particular) based on the Joint Organizational Statement on NCLB, signed by more than 80 national groups.

Among many publications, he is co-author of Failing Our Children, a report analyzing the federal No Child Left Behind Act and providing guidance toward new, helpful accountability systems. He led the National Forum on Assessment in developing Principles and Indicators for Student Assessment Systems, signed by over 80 national and regional education and civil rights organizations. He also authored Implementing Performance Assessments: A Guide to Classroom School and System Reform, and Testing Our Children: A Report Card on State Assessment Systems, the first comprehensive evaluation of all 50 state testing programs.

He earned a Doctorate at Harvard University with his dissertation The Struggle of Boston's Black Community for Quality and Equality in Education: 1960-1985. He has taught and been an administrator in pre-school, high school and college.


PLEASE SEE THESE ARTICLES BY DR. MONTY NEILL ON OUR BLOG

Expert Panel on Assessment Offers Principles, Recommendations for Lawmakers Rewriting "No Child Left Behind"

Growing Resistance to "No Child Left Behind"

School Beat: Notes on the Recent NAEP Test Results

Caucus Meeting
Tuesday-Thursday July 3-5, 2007 * 9:30-10:30 am *
...and during lunch breaks


NEA P&J Executive Board Meeting
Post RA Executive Committee Meeting

Thursday July 6, 2007 * 9:00-Noon *

June 18, 2007

UFPJ's 3rd National AssemblyChicago, IL

June 22-24, 2007

Take part in the most important antiwar gathering of the year! The 3rd UFPJ National Assembly will bring together representatives of our member groups and others committed to ending the war in Iraq and building a lasting peace and justice movement. The assembly is one of the rare opportunities for activists from around the country to share experiences, learn from one another and work together on how to end the war in Iraq, prevent new wars and foster justice at home over the next 18 months. The assembly is designed to maximize discussion, collective thinking and planning. (Click here for agenda.) You can be part of shaping our efforts; make your plans now to join us in Chicago.

Logistics * Registration * FAQs
Ride Board * Press Sign-In

If you're in the Chicago area, please join us on Saturday, June 23, 8pm, for An Evening of Solidarity: International Voices for Peace and Justice.

Our Voices Will Be Heard

Congress recently voted to give Bush another $100 billion for the war and occupation in Iraq.

Click here to see how your
representative and senators voted.

Congress will vote again on even more war funding in September. That means we need to spend the summer turning up the heat on our representatives and senators, and making them understand that every single day they fail to end the war, dozens if not hundreds of Iraqis and U.S. soldiers die. Use any means you can to get this message out! Letters to the editor, signs hanging from highway overpasses, banners and signs at parades, speeches, your front lawn, anything you can think of!

One powerful way to make your voice heard is to spend your summer vacation in Washington!
Peace activists are surging on the Capitol with Marine mom Tina Richards to keep the pressure on Congress throughout June and July.

And UFPJ member group
CODEPINK is hosting an activist house and trainings over the summer. Click on the links above for information on how to participate.

Check our calendar for other activities over the coming weeks, and please post any events you are organizing or know about on there too!

Then, email us a report (and photos if you can!) on the action so we can feature it on our
Grassroots Action blog. Send your reports to grassroots [at] unitedforpeace.org.

ACLU Day of Action to Restore Law and Justice
On June 26, 2007, join us in Washington, D.C. as we call on Congress to restore habeas corpus, fix the Military Commissions Act, and restore our constitutional rights. Rally with us outside the Capitol, then help deliver our urgent message in person to your Members of Congress. This is your chance to make your voice heard!United for Peace and Justice has endorsed this initiative.

Lola Mann's Letter to State Presidents at the 2008 NEA RA

Each state president will be receiving the following written request for assistance from Lola Mann. The letter will

1. Explain the “Pass the Hat for Paul” campaign of the Peace and Justice Caucus at the 2008 RA.

2. Request permission to put “Passing the Hat for Paul” literature on the state caucus’ distribution table on July 3.

3. Request permission for a two minute presentation about the Paul Mann Memorial School at about 8am on July 3.

4. Request permission to “Pass the Hat for Paul” at the state caucus on July 3.


Dear Ms./Mr. State President,

I write today to ask a small favor. Specifically, I write to ask you for two minutes of time in the specific state state caucus on the morning of July 3, 2008.

You see a little less than two years ago, my husband Paul Mann, who was a dedicated union activist and leader in the NEA Peace and Justice Caucus, died unexpectedly at his high school in Des Moines, Iowa. This year at the RA, Paul will receive the Applegate-Dorros Award for Peace and International Understanding; and also this year at the RA many friends of Paul are working hard to build a living memorial for Paul. The Paul Mann Memorial School will promote peace, build international understanding, and serve Mayan children in the southeastern Mexican state of Chiapas.

I’d deeply appreciate two minutes of time in the specific state caucus on July 3, 2008 to thank Paul’s supporters and urge delegates to support Paul’s school. I’d also appreciate your permission to pass the hat for Paul and distribute literature about his memorial in specific state.
Please take a moment to see photos and get more information about Paul’s school reconstruction in the southeastern Mexican state of Chiapas.
Please allow me this small space in the specific state state caucus to honor the memory of my husband by building a school in Chiapas, Mexico. If you have any questions, please feel free to call me at (515) 277–3731 and thank you for everything you are doing for children and educators.
Yours for kids,

Lola Mann

Talking Points and Other "Pass the Hat for Paul" Insider Information

Talking Points for the "Pass the Hat for Paul Campaign"
Who was Paul Mann and how is he being honored at the 2008 RA?

Paul Mann was an active member of the Iowa Education Association and a leader in the NEA Peace and Justice Caucus. For many years before his unexpected death in 2006, Paul was a strong advocate for democracy, dignity and peace in his community and his union. He was particularly supportive of the autonomous, indigenous schools of Chiapas, Mexico.

What did Paul Mann do to win the Applegate-Dorris Peace and International Understanding Award?

Paul’s entire life was dedicated to building international understanding and working for peace. Paul’s ability to reach out to the Zapatista schoolchildren and teachers of Chiapas, Mexico is indicative of his dreams for social justice.

Where did Paul Mann do his work for peace and international understanding?

Paul spoke out at NEA Representative Assemblies and in his local and state unions urging respect and honesty; Paul could always tell a joke or reach out to someone who was excluded or forgotten; and Paul always insisted that peace and justice knows no borders.

Why support the Paul Mann Memorial School in Chiapas, Mexico?

For over ten years, the Representative Assembly of the NEA has repeatedly supported the autonomous, Mayan schools in Chiapas, Mexico. Delegates have dug deep donating to school construction, NEA members have traveled to Chiapas to build school, and NEA presidents have written moving letters defending the right of these children to their community run schools. By supporting the Paul Mann Memorial School we have a chance to make a real difference in the lives of indigenous children of Chiapas, Mexico.

When should the “Passing the Hat for Paul” collections happen?

We are suggesting that the physical collection take place within state caucuses soon after distribution of literature to every state caucus member and after someone has made a brief but moving appeal for donations. Our prefereed time for this collection is 8am on July 3, 2008.

How will the “Passing the Hat for Paul” collection happen?

We need your help – and the help of everyone at the RA. This grassroots collection sponsored by the NEA Peace and Justice Caucus will require the participation of RA delegates in all 50 states. These supporters must speak with their state presidents to win approval for “Passing the Hat for Paul” during the state caucus meeting. We also need approval from presidents to distribute literature about the Paul Mann Memorial School. Finally, one supporter of Paul’s school must stand up during the caucus meeting, ask their fellow delegates to donate, and then work with others to pass a collection plate in front of everyone in the state caucus.

Iran Strategy Stirs Debate at White House

A new dispute over whether diplomacy has any hope of reining in Iran’s nuclear program pits the secretary of state against hawks in the vice president’s office.

The New York Times
By HELENE COOPER and DAVID E. SANGER
Published: June 16, 2007
WASHINGTON, June 15 — A year after President Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice announced a new strategy toward Iran, a behind-the-scenes debate has broken out within the administration over whether the approach has any hope of reining in Iran’s nuclear program, according to senior administration officials.

The debate has pitted Ms. Rice and her deputies, who appear to be winning so far, against the few remaining hawks inside the administration, especially those in Vice President Dick Cheney’s office who, according to some people familiar with the discussions, are pressing for greater consideration of military strikes against Iranian nuclear facilities.

In the year since Ms. Rice announced the new strategy for the United States to join forces with Europe, Russia and China to press Iran to suspend its uranium enrichment activities, Iran has installed more than a thousand centrifuges to enrich uranium. The International Atomic Energy Agency predicts that 8,000 or so could be spinning by the end of the year, if Iran surmounts its technical problems.

Those hard numbers are at the core of the debate within the administration over whether Mr. Bush should warn Iran’s leaders that he will not allow them to get beyond some yet-undefined milestones, leaving the implication that a military strike on the country’s facilities is still an option.

Even beyond its nuclear program, Iran is emerging as an increasing source of trouble for the Bush administration by inflaming the insurgencies in Iraq, Afghanistan, Lebanon and in Gaza, where it has provided military and financial support to the militant Islamic group Hamas, which now controls the Gaza Strip.

Even so, friends and associates of Ms. Rice who have talked with her recently say she has increasingly moved toward the European position that the diplomatic path she has laid out is the only real option for Mr. Bush, even though it has so far failed to deter Iran from enriching uranium, and that a military strike would be disastrous.

The accounts were provided by officials at the State Department, White House and the Pentagon who are on both sides of the debate, as well as people who have spoken with members of Mr. Cheney’s staff and with Ms. Rice. The officials said they were willing to explain the thinking behind their positions, but would do so only on condition of anonymity.

Mr. Bush has publicly vowed that he would never “tolerate” a nuclear Iran, and the question at the core of the debate within the administration is when and whether it makes sense to shift course.

The issue was raised at a closed-door White House meeting recently when the departing deputy national security adviser, J. D. Crouch, told senior officials that President Bush needed an assessment of how the stalemate over Iran’s nuclear program was likely to play out over the next 18 months, said officials briefed on the meeting.

In response, R. Nicholas Burns, an under secretary of state who is the chief American strategist on Iran, told the group that negotiations with Tehran could still be going on when Mr. Bush leaves office in January 2009. The hawks in the room reported later that they were deeply unhappy — but not surprised — by Mr. Burns’s assessment, which they interpreted as a tacit acknowledgment that the Bush administration had no “red line” beyond which Iran would not be permitted to step.

But conservatives inside the administration have continued in private to press for a tougher line, making arguments that their allies outside government are voicing publicly. “Regime change or the use of force are the only available options to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapons capability, if they want it,” said John R. Bolton, the former United States ambassador to the United Nations.

Only a few weeks ago, one of Mr. Cheney’s top aides, David Wurmser, told conservative research groups and consulting firms in Washington that Mr. Cheney believed that Ms. Rice’s diplomatic strategy was failing, and that by next spring Mr. Bush might have to decide whether to take military action.

The vice president’s office has declined to talk about Mr. Wurmser’s statements, and says Mr. Cheney is fully on board with the president’s strategy. In a June 1 article for Commentary magazine, the neoconservative editor Norman Podhoretz laid out what a headline described as “The Case for Bombing Iran.”

“In short, the plain and brutal truth is that if Iran is to be prevented from developing a nuclear arsenal, there is no alternative to the actual use of military force — any more than there was an alternative to force if Hitler was to be stopped in 1938,” Mr. Podhoretz wrote.

Mr. Burns and officials from the Treasury Department have been trying to use the mounting conservative calls for a military strike to press Europe and Russia to expand economic sanctions against Iran. Just last week, Israel’s transportation minister and former defense minister, Shaul Mofaz, visited Washington and told Ms. Rice that sanctions must be strong enough to get the Iranians to stop enriching uranium by the end of 2007.

While Mr. Mofaz did not threaten a military strike, Israeli officials said he told Ms. Rice that by the end of the year, Israel “would have to reassess where we are.”
The State Department and Treasury officials are pushing for a stronger set of United Nations Security Council sanctions against members of Iran’s government, including an extensive travel ban and further moves to restrict the ability of Iran’s financial institutions to do business outside of Iran. Beyond that, American officials have been trying to get European and Asian banks to take additional steps, outside of the Security Council, against Iran.



“We’re saying to them, ‘Look, you need to help us make the diplomacy succeed, and you guys need to stop business as usual with Iran,’ ” an administration official said. “We’re not just sitting here ignoring reality.”

But the fallout from the Iraq war has severely limited the Bush administration’s ability to maneuver on the Iran nuclear issue and has left many in the administration, and certainly America’s allies and critics in Europe, firmly against military strikes on Iran. On Thursday, Mohamed ElBaradei, the head of the international nuclear watchdog agency, warned anew that military action against Iran would “be an act of madness.”

The debate over “red lines” is a familiar one inside the Bush White House that last arose in 2002 over North Korea. When the North Koreans threw out international inspectors on the last day of that year and soon declared that they planned to reprocess 8,000 rods of spent fuel into weapons-grade plutonium, President Bush had to decide whether to declare that if North Korea moved toward weapons, it could face a military strike on its facilities.

The Pentagon had drawn up an extensive plan for taking out those facilities, though with little enthusiasm, because it feared it could not control North Korea’s response, and the administration chose not to delivery any ultimatum. North Korea tested a nuclear weapon last October, and American intelligence officials estimate it now has the fuel for eight or more weapons.

Iran is far behind the North Koreans; it is believed to be three to eight years away from its first weapon, American intelligence officials have told Congress. Conservatives argue that if the administration fails to establish a line over which Iran must not step, the enrichment of uranium will go ahead, eventually giving the Iranians fuel that, with additional enrichment out of the sight of inspectors, it could use for weapons.

To date, however, the administration has been hesitant about saying that it will not permit Iran to produce more than a given amount of fuel, out of concern that Iran’s hard-liners would simply see that figure as a goal.

In the year since the United States made its last offer to Iran, the Iranians have gone from having a few dozen centrifuges in operation to building a facility that at last count, a month ago, had more than 1,300. “The pace of negotiations have lagged behind the pace of the Iranian nuclear program,” said Robert Joseph, the former under secretary of state for international security, who left his post partly over his opposition to the administration’s recent deal with North Korea.

Judge Orders FBI to Turn Over Thousands of Patriot Act Abuse Documents

From the novel The California Chingasos

The monitoring and analysis of Diana Flores every interaction would begin as soon as the SAC from the Washington Metropolitan Field Office (WMFO) signed off on a National Security Letter (NSL) drafted by Special Agent Miler. The Intelligence Authorization Act lets the FBI acquire these records through an administrative procedure rather than subpoena requests to a federal judge.

The Patriot Act of 2001 (Public Law 107-56) makes it even easier for federal intelligence agencies to have “roving wires” on individuals under investigation on ‘homeland security’ related crimes, as was the case with Ms. Flores. The monitoring of Diana would start with a tap on her wireless phone and rapidly expand to include the network of cell phones she dialed. This would take place as soon as the scanned NSL was e-mailed as an attachment to her carrier and Internet service providers at close of business the day the FBI WMFO SAC signed off on the letter.

In the course of processing cell phone calls, wireless carriers must collect information about a phone’s specific geographic location. Wireless carriers can pinpoint a cell’s specific Global Positioning System (GPS) parameters merely by their cell phones being turned on, this is due to the ‘E911’ (enhanced 911) requirement mandated by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) which required the tracking of all 911 calls for rescue medical emergencies situations. Because of the FCC’s E911 requirement, millions of cell phones can be tracked via their GPS pings at any time.


By Ryan Singel June 15, 2007

Just one day after a news that an internal audit found that FBI agents abused a Patriot Act power more than 1000 times, a federal judge ordered the agency Friday to begin turning over thousands of pages of documents related to the agency's use of a powerful, but extremely secretive investigative tool that can pry into telephone and internet records.

The order for monthly document releases commencing July 5 came in response to a government sunshine request by a civil liberties group, which sued in April over the FBI's foot-dragging on its broad request.

The April request from the Electronic Frontier Foundation asked the FBI to turn over documents related to its misuse of National Security Letters, self-issued subpoenas that don't need a judge's approval and which can get financial, phone and internet records. Recipients of the letters are forbidden by law from ever telling anyone other than their lawyer that they received the request. Though initially warned initially to use this power sparingly, FBI agents issued more than 47,000 in 2005, more than half of which targeted Americans. Information obtained from the requests, which need only be certified by the agency to be "relevant" to an investigation, are dumped into a data-mining warehouse for perpetuity.

An Inspector General report in March found rampant errors in the small sample of NSLs examined and systemic underreporting of the powers usage to Congress. The report also found that agents issued more than 700 "expedited" letters, some containing materially false sworn statements. These letters had no legal basis and essentially asked companies to turn over data by pretending there was an emergency in order to get the data necessary to get a proper NSL.

One former FBI agent says its clear the FBI violated the law.
Now the Justice Department must turn over 2,500 pages of documents a month to the EFF, including information on cozy surveillance contracts between the FBI and telephone companies and information on how data captured by NSLs were put into the FBI's massive data mining warehouse.

The Justice Department told the court that there were more than 100,000 potentially responsive documents and that ten people are working full time on filling the request for documents. Look out for a run on thick, black magic markers in D.C.



THREAT LEVEL can't wait to see:
1. All records discussing or reporting violations or potential violations of statutes, Attorney General guidelines, and internal FBI policies governing the use of NSLs, including, but not limited to:

A. Correspondence or communications between the FBI and the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board concerning violations or potential violations of statutes...

2. Guidelines, memoranda or communications addressing or discussing the integration of NSL data into the FBIís Investigative Data Warehouse;

3. Contracts between the FBI and three telephone companies [...] which were intended to allow the Counterterrorism Division to obtain telephone toll billing data from the communications industry as expeditiously as possible;

4. Any guidance, memoranda or communications discussing the FBI's legal authority to issue exigent letters to telecommunications companies, and the relationship between such exigent letters and the FBI's authority to issue NSLs under the Electronic Communications Privacy Act;

5. Any guidance, memoranda or communications discussing the application of the Fourth Amendment to NSLs issued under the Electronic Communications Privacy Act;

6. Copies of sample or model exigent letters used by the FBI's Counterterrorism Division;

7. Copies of sample or model NSL approval requests used by the FBIís Counterterrorism Division;
8. Records related to the Counterterrorism Divisionís Electronic Surveillance Operations and Sharing Unit.

June 17, 2007

June 16, 2007

Our Entire Government Has Failed America in Iraq

A Special Commentary by Keith Olbermann
on Our Entire Governments Failure to America in Iraq
May 23, 2007

ACLU to Honor Connecticut Librarians & John Doe During Seattle Conference



"The smallest deed is better than the grandest intention." — Roger Baldwin

SEATTLE – In a ceremony tonight, the American Civil Liberties Union will present the Roger Baldwin Medal of Liberty awards to four Connecticut librarians and the president of a New York Internet Service Provider (ISP) who stood up against the Patriot Act and refused to violate the privacy of their patrons and clients.




Roger Baldwin
Roger Nash Baldwin passionately believed in the protection of individual liberty. In 1920, Baldwin and his fellow reformers established the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) to ensure that the Bill of Rights would be preserved for each new generation. As its founding director, Baldwin used his 30-year tenure to move the ACLU towards its place as the most renowned public interest law firm in America.

Click here to read more about the life of Roger Baldwin

Guidelines for Submitting Nominations for the
2007 Roger N. Baldwin Medal of Liberty


Click here for a ROGER N. BALDWIN MEDAL OF LIBERTY Nomination Form

Representatives of Library Connection in Connecticut - Barbara Bailey, Peter Chase, George Christian and Janet Nocek – and a “John Doe” ISP received National Security Letters (NSLs) from the FBI but were gagged from revealing that the FBI had sought information from them. Instead of complying with the broad requests, which were issued without any judicial oversight, the librarians and John Doe joined the ACLU in separate legal challenges. The FBI has since dropped its gag order on the librarians, but continues to prevent the New York “John Doe” from speaking publicly.

“The ACLU’s progress in fighting back against the Patriot Act and other repressive policies since 9/11 has been fueled and inspired by the individual acts of courage of ordinary Americans,” said ACLU President Nadine Strossen. “We are proud to honor these brave individuals who stood up at a critical moment in history and truly made a difference.”

NSLs are used to compel libraries, universities, Internet providers and other organizations to disclose sensitive information about their customers and patrons. Using NSLs the FBI can find out which web sites a person has visited, which books she has borrowed from the library, what her credit score is and to whom she’s been sending e-mails. Businesses and organizations that are served with NSLs are prohibited by law from telling anyone else that the FBI demanded information from them.

Since the Patriot Act was authorized in 2001, it has relaxed restrictions on the FBI's use of the power to issue NSLs, and the number of NSLs issued has seen an astronomical increase. While reports previously indicated a hundred-fold increase to 30,000 NSLs issued annually, an extraordinary March 2007 report from the Justice Department's own Inspector General puts the actual number at over 143,000 NSLs issued between 2003 and 2005. The same investigation also found serious FBI abuses of regulations and numerous potential violations of the law.

The ACLU has challenged this Patriot Act statute in court in two separate cases. In the Connecticut case, several weeks after the reauthorization of the Patriot Act in 2006, the government gave up its legal battle over a gag order, and the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit effectively lifted the gag. In late June, the FBI abandoned its demand all together and the librarians can now disclose the NSL they received.

The New York case concerns an anonymous ISP that challenged the NSL statute after the FBI relied on the statute to demand some of its records. District Court Judge Victor Marrero struck down the statute in September 2004, saying that “democracy abhors undue secrecy.” In that landmark ruling, Judge Marrero held that the unlimited gag imposed by the NSL law violates free speech rights protected by the First Amendment. The appeals court ruled in May 2006, that the district court should consider the constitutionality of the provision in light of recent amendments made by Congress

“These five individuals are all humble, everyday men and women who did something truly extraordinary,” said Jameel Jaffer, Director of the ACLU National Security Project. “For a long time after the September 2001 attacks, the administration was able to scare many of its critics into silence. Attorney General Ashcroft even suggested that those who disagreed with the administration’s policies were aiding the enemy. So those who spoke out – especially those who spoke out despite an FBI gag order prohibiting them from doing so – displayed real courage.”

The awards will be presented by Jaffer and Strossen at a dinner ceremony Saturday evening. The ceremony comes in the middle of the 2007 ACLU Biennial Conference, during which more than 250 ACLU delegates have come to Seattle to consider and vote on policy resolutions.

Previous recipients of the Roger N. Baldwin Medal of Liberty awards include Gordon Hirabayashi and the late Fred Korematsu, who fought against the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II; journalist Anthony Lewis; Dolores Huerta, a champion of the rights of women, workers and immigrants; and the five Judge Advocate General (JAG) lawyers who represented the first round of defendants at Guantanamo Bay and challenged the flawed military commission process.

The member libraries of Library Connection include St. Joseph College and the public libraries of Avon, Berlin, Bloomfield, Bristol, Burlington, Canton, Cheshire, Cromwell, East Windsor, East Hartford, Enfield, Farmington, Glastonbury, Manchester, Marlborough, New Britain, Newington, Plainville, Portland, Rocky Hill, Simsbury, South Windsor, West Hartford, Wethersfield, Windsor Locks and Windsor.

Click here for a list of the past winners of the Roger Baldwin Award.

US: Stop Detainee’s Return to Torture in Libya

Tripoli’s No-Torture Promise Provides Insufficient Protection

Jennifer Daskal, senior counterterrorism counsel for Human Rights Watch

(Washington, DC, June 15, 2007) – The United States should not return Guantanamo detainee Abdul Ra’ouf al-Qassim to Libya, where he will face a real risk of torture and other abuse, Human Rights Watch said today. The US government’s reliance on a no-torture promise from Libya, a country that the US State Department has condemned for its poor record on torture, is insufficient to protect al-Qassim from abuse.

The US is ignoring al-Qassim’s credible fear of torture by relying on a promise of no-torture from Libya, a country with a documented record of torture. This is not sufficient protection for anyone, let alone someone accused of being part of a group that wants to overthrow the Libyan leader.

The US government claims that al-Qassim, a 32-year-old Libyan who has been held at Guantanamo Bay for more than five years, has associated with the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG), an organization committed to the overthrow of Libyan leader Mu’ammar al-Qadhafi and banned under Libyan law. Now, the United States intends to send al-Qassim back to Libya in reliance on promises of humane treatment by the Libyan government, despite al-Qassim’s fears that he will be tortured and possibly even killed if returned there.

“The US is ignoring al-Qassim’s credible fear of torture by relying on a promise of no-torture from Libya, a country with a documented record of torture,” said Jennifer Daskal, senior counterterrorism counsel for Human Rights Watch. “This is not sufficient protection for anyone, let alone someone accused of being part of a group that wants to overthrow the Libyan leader.”

According to the US State Department’s most recent country report on Libya, the Libyan government is currently detaining hundreds of prisoners – many incommunicado – due solely to their association with banned groups, such as the LIFG. The State Department report also describes Libyan security personnel as having “routinely tortured” persons in custody.

Human Rights Watch has documented serious allegations of torture in its 2006 report on Libya, " Words to Deeds: The Urgent Need for Human Rights Reform." Fifteen out of 32 prisoners interviewed by Human Rights Watch reported having been tortured during interrogations by Libyan security personnel in recent years. Prisoners reported being subjected to electric shocks, hung from walls, and beaten with clubs and wooden sticks during interrogation.

A special British immigration court faced with a similar situation ruled in April 2007 that the United Kingdom could not send two Libyans home – both of whom were, like, al-Qassim, accused of being members of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group – in reliance on no-torture promises from the Libyan government.

The British court conducted an exhaustive examination of the human rights situation in Libya and concluded that there was a “real risk” that the Libyan government would fail to abide by its promises of humane treatment, and that there was “too little scope for a breach ... to be deterred.” The UK government has appealed the decision.

“The British court ruled to stop returns of at-risk Libyans and the US should make the same decision in al-Qassim’s case,” said Daskal. “There is no reason to think that Libya’s no-torture promise to the US will be any more reliable than a no-torture promise to the UK.”

Al-Qassim’s wife and daughter live in Afghanistan, making him potentially eligible for Afghan citizenship. Both he and his wife have expressed a wish to be reunited, and al-Qassim is currently pursuing an application for Afghan citizenship. The US government should allow al-Qassim to pursue his citizenship application in Afghanistan and not take the unlawful step of sending him to real risk of torture and abuse in Libya, said Human Rights Watch.

The US government notified al-Qassim of his pending transfer in December 2006 as a requirement of a court order then in place. A federal judge in Washington, DC temporarily halted his transfer after al-Qassim expressed a fear of torture if returned to Libya. But in April 2007 the court concluded it no longer had jurisdiction over the case under the habeas-stripping provisions of the Military Commissions Act enacted by Congress in September 2006. This law strips federal district courts of their statutory jurisdiction to hear habeas corpus claims brought by anyone who has been labeled an “enemy combatant” – a term that has been applied to al-Qassim and the hundreds of other detainees still being held at Guantanamo Bay.

“It is high time for the United States to set up a transparent system in which detainees can raise a fear of torture and challenge the reliability of any promises of humane treatment,” said Daskal.

The US is a party to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.

The treaty prohibits torture, as well as the transfer (“refoulement”) of persons to countries where there are substantial grounds for believing that they would be in danger of being subjected to torture. Under international law, the prohibition against torture and refoulement is absolute and cannot be waived under any circumstances.

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Counter Military Recruitment Campaign

As each day goes by, and opposition grows against the Iraq war and other attacks on democracy, more forceful tactics and outright lies will be used by the military to recruit the hearts, minds and bodies of our youth. It is time to participate in counter-recruitment campaigns in order to stop the harvesting of human beings. Please explore our counter-recruitment website, which features regularly updated articles, resources, and other educational information about counter-recruitment activities.

IN THIS SECTION:

The Marketing of MilitarizationThis section features an investigation of military recruitment methods of print advertising.

News ArticlesContinually updated News Articles that are helpful in regards to Counter Recruitment.

ResourcesRecommended materials to use in counter recruiting.

Counter Recruitment 101Basic information on the major topics of Counter Recruitment such as the No Child Left Behind Act,ASVAB, Conscientious Objector, Enlistment Agreement & Delayed Enlistment Program, GI Bill and other helpful counter recruitment basics.

Military Recruitment Data Now Available from National Priorities Project In the tradition of the National Priorities Project turning data into action, NPP has released a major expansion of the NPP Database. With the addition of military recruitment data, they are again highlighting the cost of war and militarism on local communities.

The Solomon AmendmentInformation on the Solomon Amendment and the current status of the bill.

Organize: Is JROTC Coming to a School Near You?Due to a FOIA filed by Peaceworks Magazine, we have information availble for you on the 48 schools that the Air Force will be starting JROTC and the 208 schools that the Navy will open JROTC. Organize your community to make sure your schools are protected from militarization.

Actions: Picket, Protest, Pass a ResolutionWays to get involved in your school, community, and state. STUDENT & ACTIVIST ACTION IDEAS

National GuardInformation on the National Guard including the Army Reserves, historical backround and general information that is important to know.

Alternatives to the MilitaryLinks to scholarship sites, youth jobs, test prep's, travel programs, that show alternatives to joining the military.

Campaign ContactsA database of organizations, organized by state, that are working on counter military recruitment efforts.

Convictions in Ethiopia Trials Condemned by Amnesty International

AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL USA
PRESS RELEASE

June 15, 2007

(New York) -- Amnesty International USA (AIUSA) condemns the recent convictions in Ethiopia of 38 opposition party members, journalists and a human rights defender on charges that could carry life in prison or the death penalty.

"We are deeply concerned about the fairness of political trials in Ethiopia and call on the government to immediately and unconditionally release all prisoners of conscience," said Lynn Fredriksson, advocacy director for Africa for AIUSA.

The defendants were convicted on June 11 after a 14 month trial by the Federal High Court of Ethiopia. The group included Professor Mesfin Woldemariam, founder and first president of the Ethiopian Human Rights Council, who has been a "special focus" case for AIUSA. The individuals were arrested in November 2005 in connection with demonstrations against alleged election fraud. The demonstrations started peacefully but ended violently with soldiers and police killing 193 demonstrators.

Others include Dr. Berhanu Nega, elected Mayor of Addis Ababa and an economics professor, and Dr. Yacob Hailemariam, retired Norfolk State University law professor and former U.N. prosecutor at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda.

The defendants refused to defend themselves insisting that their arrests, charges, detention and trials were politically motivated and that the trial was not likely to be fair. They were convicted on the basis of the prosecution evidence and prevented from making a statement in court after the prosecution case ended. The judge ruled that they had not submitted a defense and were guilty as charged, giving no reason for the sudden verdict. They were recalled to court for July 9.

The main count against the 38 individuals pertained to "outrages against the constitution." They could be sentenced to life in prison or given the death penalty when sentenced, which is expected in the coming weeks.

Ten co-defendants, including two civil society activists, Daniel Bekele and Netsanet Demissie, chose to defend themselves through counsel; they are expected to start presenting their defense on June 18.

AIUSA has in the past criticized the arrests and detentions of these and other individuals since December 2005 at Kaliti Prison, and their conditions of detention. AIUSA has been deeply concerned about the fairness of political trials in Ethiopia.

To view Amnesty International's full report on the trials, please click here

June 15, 2007

On Capitol Hill, a Warmer Climate for Biofuels

by Steven Mufson
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, June 15, 2007; Page D01

Robert Dinneen, president of the Renewable Fuels Association, had every reason to feel good when he delivered a speech in Tucson this year on the state of the ethanol industry.

He could boast of soaring production, support from such former foes as Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.), and growing support from average Americans and President Bush. He brushed aside remaining critics, declaring that "even the mightiest eagle cannot soar without resistance from the wind." He quoted the poet Maya Angelou, and then the fictional pirate of the Caribbean, Jack Sparrow, who said in one movie: "Bring me that horizon."

The energy bill now under consideration in the Senate would bring that horizon a lot closer for the ethanol industry. The proposal includes requirements that the use of biofuels -- part corn-based ethanol and part fuels made from other feedstocks -- climb to 36 billion gallons by 2022, more than six times the capacity of the nation's 115 ethanol refineries.

While many other provisions of the energy package remain controversial, opposition to the biofuels mandate has all but evaporated in Congress, a situation that would have been almost unthinkable just a few years ago. And though environmental, industry and farming groups can point to numerous unresolved concerns about biofuels' effects and feasibility, the ethanol lobby has never been stronger.

Supporters of ethanol have capitalized largely on congressional concern that U.S. dependence on imported oil has compromised national security. Moreover, as ethanol plants have spread beyond a small portion of the Midwest, the industry has spread its influence among lawmakers. The early presidential season has helped, as Clinton, McCain and other candidates seek to bolster their positions in such ethanol strongholds as Iowa.

"There's almost a gold rush in this sector at the moment," said Philip R. Sharp, who served in the House for 20 years and who is now president of Resources for the Future. The 7.5 billion-gallon ethanol mandate adopted in the 2005 Energy Policy Act, he said, was "the most surprising intervention in the marketplace almost since the days of the Carter energy bill." Yet this year's legislation "is trying to take that to significantly greater levels."

Democratic leaders in Congress now see the biofuels part of this year's energy legislation as a sweetener that could help persuade some lawmakers to sign on to other, less-palatable energy measures. For example, while about 60 House Democrats opposed tougher motor fuel efficiency standards a few years ago, aides to senior House Democrats say that they hope that boosting biofuels can cut that number to 30 this year, while luring more than enough Republicans to pass an energy package.

"I see some opposition, but it's not getting a great deal of traction," Dinneen said yesterday.

"The 2005 bill has been such a success in terms of sending signals to the marketplace. People are beginning to recognize that there is a lot more potential here and they're going to try to tap it."

The political dynamics were different in November 2001, when Dinneen was pushing for legislation that would boost production of ethanol to 5 percent of the U.S. market by 2016. That seemed ambitious at the time. But the mandate in the current Senate proposal would double that 2016 target and push it to four times that level by 2022.

The climate in Congress has changed despite the fact that there are many reasons for opposition to boosting biofuels production.

Corn-based ethanol gobbles up federal tax subsidies at the rate of 51 cents a gallon, drawing criticism from economists and business leaders who favor market solutions for economic problems.

Ethanol, which is highly corrosive, cannot be used in the country's existing gasoline pipeline infrastructure, and that has helped spur opposition from the American Petroleum Institute. Bob Greco, an API official, said the oil industry supports "realistic or workable" targets with periodic technical reviews "so that the consumer does not lose out."

The renewable fuel also drives up the price of the corn used to make it, and that has earned it the enmity of beef producers, the poultry industry and grocers' associations -- giving some lawmakers from agricultural areas pause. Dinneen argues that those groups have been used to "cheap corn" and will adjust. And he says new biofuel makers will turn to other feedstocks.

For now, however, farmers are expanding plantings to an extent that many environmentalists fear will encroach on areas set aside for conservation, worsen soil erosion and boost the use of harmful fertilizers and pesticides. Dinneen boasts that this year, American farmers are on pace to plant more grain than any year since 1945, including 90 million acres of corn, a 15 percent increase from last year. A World Resources Institute report warns that "an expanding market for ethanol from corn grain will exacerbate water and soil quality problems in the United States."

Such controversies have scarcely hindered the ethanol lobby.

The national security angle has been bolstered by the war in Iraq, tensions with Iran and production limits by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries that have kept the price of crude oil at more than $60 a barrel.

Ethanol producers have also been tapping into climate-change concerns by arguing that ethanol emits less greenhouse gases than regular gasoline. Several academic studies have confirmed some greenhouse-gas savings, but they vary or disappear depending on the project; for corn-based ethanol, savings usually amount to 10 to 20 percent.

Venture capitalists, many of them veterans of technology companies, have polished the industry's image by talking up refineries that use feedstocks other than corn, such as switchgrass, wood chips or corn stalks. At the moment, there are not any cellulosic ethanol plants in commercial operation, but they would be big winners in the Senate bill, which would first require a scaling up of corn-based ethanol production, then in 2016 require a phasing in of 21 billion gallons of advanced biofuels such as cellulosic ethanol or other innovations.

Environmental groups, resigned to the prospect of a bigger biofuels mandate, are looking at controlling the "collateral damage," said Elizabeth Marshall, an economist with the World Resources Institute. If Congress is going to use agriculture "to enhance energy security, then it needs to take into account some side effects and make agriculture more sustainable."

June 14, 2007

Expert Panel on Assessment Offers Principles, Recommendations for Lawmakers Rewriting "No Child Left Behind"

Forum on Educational Accountability
Authors urge lawmakers to rethink federal testing and accountability requirements


for further information:
Dr. Monty Neill (617) 335-2115
Miguel Gonzalez (202) 822-7823
Robert Schaeffer (239) 395-6773

for use after 10:30am, Thurs. June 14, 2007,
U.S. Capitol HC-8 news conference:

Washington - A panel of national education experts today released a report outlining guiding principles and recommendations for lawmakers rewriting the federal No Child Left Behind (NCLB) law. Assessment and Accountability for Improving Schools and Learning calls for replacing the one-shot tests used to impose sanctions under NCLB with multiple measures that better support high-quality teaching and increased student achievement.

'This report aims to fix serious flaws in No Child Left Behind while preserving its laudable goals," said Dr. James Pellegrino, Distinguished Professor of Psychology and Education at the University of Illinois, Chicago. "Developing fair and helpful assessment systems will encourage student learning across the curriculum instead of narrowing instruction to a few tested subjects.

"Our recommendations reflect the reality that a rigid 'one-size-fits-all' approach to accountability does not work," added panel member Dr. Brian Gong, Executive Director of the National Center for the Improvement of Educational Assessment. "They would lead to creation of high-quality assessment systems that use a rich range of evidence to help schools improve, not just test scores to label them passing or failing."

Among the guiding principles in Assessment and Accountability for Improving Schools and Learning:

- Help states, districts and schools fulfill their educational responsibilities to foster learning by ensuring that all students have access to the resources they need to succeed and by building capacity to improve teaching.

- Construct comprehensive and coherent systems of state and local assessments of student learning that work together to support instruction, educational improvement and accountability.
- Shape the design, construction, and application of assessment systems so they are valid and appropriate for an increasingly diverse student population.

- Use multiple sources of evidence to describe and interpret school and district performance fairly, based on a balance of progress toward and success in meeting student academic learning targets, thereby replacing the current Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) structure.

- Improve the validity and reliability of criteria used to classify the performance of schools and districts to ensure fair evaluations and to minimize bias in accountability decisions.

- Provide effective, targeted assistance to schools correctly identified as needing assistance.

"These principles recognize that we must combine research, fairness and common sense to create assessment systems that are responsive to the increasing number of students with special needs in schools today," explained Dr. Alba Ortiz Professor of Special Education and Director of the Office of Bilingual Education at the University of Texas, Austin. "We would never consider teaching students in English and then giving them exams in French to evaluate the quality of schools. Yet, testing all students in English, even if they are just learning the language, is now common practice."

"Assessment can be a powerful tool to promote learning but only if the information gained can be used first to inform teaching," concluded Dr. Pat Roschewski, Director of Statewide Assessment in Nebraska. "If used appropriately assessment can also provide accountability for that learning. At the same time, resources must be devoted to assuring that all teachers are prepared to provide quality learning experiences."

The nine-member Expert Panel on Assessment was convened by the Forum on Educational Accountability (FEA), a group working to implement the Joint Organizational Statement on the NCLB Act. The Joint Statement has now been signed by 134 national education, civil rights, religious, disability, labor and civic organizations representing more than 50 million members.

"This report offers solutions to key FEA concerns about NCLB, including AYP, one-shot tests, and unhelpful sanctions, by promoting reasonable improvement requirements, multiple measures, and support for schools," said Dr. Monty Neill, co-Executive Director of FairTest: the National Center for Fair & Open Testing, who chairs the FEA. "It is a valuable complement to FEA's earlier report, Redefining Accountability: Improving Student Learning by Building Capacity. Together, the reports offer policymakers and other education stakeholders a roadmap for overhauling NCLB."

Members of the Expert Panel on Assessment and leaders of the FEA will deliver copies of Assessment and Accountability for Improving Schools and Learning to members of the Senate and House education committees at briefings scheduled for later this week.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

The other members of the Expert Panel on Assessment are:

- Dr. Jamal Abedi, Graduate School of Education of University of California, Davis, and research partner at the National Center for Research on Evaluation, Standards, and Student Testing.

- Dr. Pete Goldschmidt, assistant professor in the Michael D. Eisner College of Education at the California State University Northridge and Senior Researcher at the Center for Research on Evaluation, Standards, and Student Testing (CRESST) at UCLA.

- Dr. Margo Gottlieb who specializes in the design of assessment systems for English language learners in pre-K-12 settings, the evaluation of language educational programs, and the development of English language proficiency standards.

- Dr. Pedro Pedraza, educational researcher at the Centro de Estudios Puertorriquenos, Hunter College, City University of New York, working in the area of K-12 public education, with a focus on Latino students.

- Dr. Jim Stack, former Director of Achievement Assessments for the San Francisco Unified School District who now works nationally and internationally on instruction and assessment of English language learners.

- An Executive Summary of the principles and recommendations from Assessment and Accountability for Improving Schools and Learning, the full text of the report, the Joint Organizational Statement on NCLB, and related materials are online at http://www.edaccountability.org/

New Collection of Clickable Resources!

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ACLU Praises Senate Judiciary Committee Vote on Emmett Till Unsolved Civil Rights Crime Act

(6/14/2007)

Washington - The American Civil Liberties Union praised the Senate Judiciary Committee today for passing S. 535, the Emmett Till Unsolved Civil Rights Crime Act out of committee. Yesterday, the House Judiciary Committee passed the companion bill, H.R. 923.

This long-awaited legislation would promote the investigation and prosecution of unsolved civil rights cases by establishing a special agent in the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) who would work with the Department of Justice (DOJ) to focus on clearing these cases.

The following can be attributed to Caroline Fredrickson, director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office:

"The Emmett Till Unsolved Civil Rights Crime Act is an important step towards finally closing an ugly chapter in American history, a time when crimes against civil rights activists and African-Americans were routinely swept under the rug. This bill upholds the integrity of the judicial system and ensures that those guilty of civil rights crimes will finally be held accountable. We are encouraged that the House and Senate Judiciary Committees voted in favor of the bill, and we strongly urge their colleagues to do the same when it comes to the floor. It is never too late for justice to prevail for the victims of these unsolved crimes and their families."

The bill is named for, and highlights the life of Emmett Till, a 14-year-old African-American teenager from Chicago, who was brutally murdered in 1955. Till was beaten, shot in the head, and dumped in a river allegedly by two white men. The reported rationale for Till’s murder was that he whistled at a white woman in a grocery store in Money, Mississippi, where Till was visiting with relatives.