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NEWS ANALYSIS/COMMENTARY: UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples: A Sad Day at Turtle Bay

Posted by kinchendavid on November 29, 2006

By Rebecca Sommer

New York, NY — It took two decades of discussions between indigenous peoples and governments to develop — in a truly slow pace — a Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which was supposed to be finally adopted Tuesday, Nov. 28, 2006, at the UN General Assembly (UNGA) in New York City.

Not a treaty with binding legal obligations, the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples nevertheless holds “situation-specific” guidelines on the rights of peoples (tribal, indigenous, ethnic minorities) explaining how the rights of the UN universal declaration of Human Rights apply to the very particular case of Indigenous peoples around the world.

Many Indigenous peoples feel that the Declaration constitutes only minimum standards for their survival, well-being and dignity. The United States, Australia, New Zealand and Canada have been during the years the most vocal in opposing suggested language in the declaration’s negotiation process, a process advanced by Indigenous representatives from around the world.

The Declaration which was finally to be adopted at the UNGA is often described by indigenous delegates as being of second range standards and below expectations and needs. But the Indigenous delegates participating at the Declaration’s process for over 20 years considered that it would be better to have this urgently needed Declaration — than none at all.

But on Nov. 28 at the current session of the UN General Assembly in New York, the adoption of this important human rights instrument — one of the most discussed and studied declarations in U.N. history — came to a halt, even though the newly formed United Nations Human Rights Council urged the General Assembly to formally adopt the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Canada, a country which brags about its high human rights standards, and a member of the Human Rights Council, actively opposed the adoption of the Declaration.

“Canada no longer enjoys a ‘blue beret’ reputation at the United Nations. Canada’s disgraceful and disgusting conduct against Indigenous People at both the national and international levels is being noted,” said Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, President of the Union of BC Indian Chiefs.

A resolution put forward by the Namibian delegation — in effect, a non-action motion on the Declaration — was supported by a majority of Nation States with 82 voting in favor, 67 Nation States voting not in favor and 25 Nation States abstaining.

Indigenous representatives who traveled to NYC to lobby governments to support the adoption of the Declaration reacted in frustration and disbelief. Many Indigenous representatives worked long and hard to get the Declaration to this point.

“They decided to put another year of work into it –- but how will that be deliberated?” asked Petuuche Gilbert, a member of Acoma tribe in New Mexico. ”We as Indigenous peoples are highly concerned that we will be left out of the process, and that only the states will decide, and will change and demolish the Declaration, especially in regards to our rights to self-determination and land rights. They will subject us again and again to the [nation] states’ discriminating rules.”

The Declaration does not create any new human rights, but articulates guidelines for the very diverse needs of a collective peoples — not individuals, but Indigenous Peoples. As nations without a country, Indigenous people have struggled for decades to be respected as a collective, to maintain their unique cultural traditions, to have their rights for self-determination, their distinct aspirations and their unique ways of life as a peoples.

Indigenous Peoples, (ethnic minorities, tribal peoples, aboriginal people) have their own languages, political, social, cultural and religious structures and systems. Being the first people, or the original people to the land they reside on — indigenous peoples are often separated by artificial borders of countries, which they have never created.

One can find Native American Indians such as the Mohawk living at both sides of the border created by Canada and the US. The O’odham living at the Mexican side or the U.S. side. The Ashaninka in Peru or Brazil. The examples are endless. So are the never ending stories of Indigenous peoples being forced of their traditional lands, most often for development purposes.

Indigenous peoples are the poorest of the poor, the most discriminated and the most disadvantages of all.

The Declaration which was made inactive today by the majority vote of member states at the UN GA holds well articulated, clear articulations of obligations for member states, which most often colonized the land and it’s indigenous people. But it is obvious, that they do not want to loosen the tight and merciless grip of unfair and abusive power over Indigenous Peoples.

* * *

Rebecca Sommer is the United Nations representative for the Society for Threatened Peoples International, in consultative status to the UN (ECOSOC). The German-born, New York City-based human rights activist is also a filmmaker who has just released “Hunted Like Animals,” a documentary on the plight of Hmong refugees in Southeast Asia. The film had its world premiere last week in St. Paul, MN.

Photo of U.N. Headquarters by Dave Kinchen 

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BOOK REVIEW: ‘Five Germanys I Have Known’ Combines a Memoir with Historical Analysis of the Madness That Afflicted Germans – and the World

Posted by kinchendavid on November 28, 2006

Reviewed By David M. Kinchen
Huntington News Network Book Critic

Hinton, WV – One of the most telling anecdotes in Fritz Stern’s “Five Germanys I Have Known” (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $30.00, 560 pages) involves the German-born author and a fellow émigré Konrad Bloch, a Nobel laureate and Harvard Professor of Chemistry attending a 1981 conference convened by the West German chemical firm Hoechst to determine why Germany had fallen behind the U.S. and Britain in the sciences.

At a critical point in the conference, Stern and Bloch “looked at each other in silent wonderment: Couldn’t the Germans see the one obvious cause for their nation’s decline? Do you expel some of your best talent with impunity and without consequences? Why this silence among these utterly enlightened participants?….Perhaps the subject was too embarrassing to mention, the point too obvious to make.”

Why did the people running Germany’s largest chemical firm neglect to ask the obvious question, about the loss of talented Germans – mostly Jews, but many Gentiles, too, during the rise of the Third Reich. My personal shorthand for this phenomenon is “German Amnesia,” but the way Europe – especially France – is acting these days, maybe “European Amnesia” is a better term!

Bloch was a German Jew, and Stern, although baptized a Lutheran, was considered Jewish under the Nuremberg Laws that defined Judaism as a “race,” apart from the so-called “Aryans” in the German pseudoscientific chamber of horrors. (Somebody forgot to tell the Germans that the word “Aryan” describes a language group that includes the Persian and Sanskrit languages, not a race or ethnic group).

The Stern family left their native Breslau – now the Polish city of Wroclaw – in 1938, when Fritz Stern was 12. His father had served with distinction as an officer in the German army in World War I, but the madness sweeping what British historian Mark Mazower has called the “Dark Continent” drove the Stern family to the real Promised Land, America.

Many have wondered what happened to the Germans – called by Gen. Charles de Gaulle during WW II “Quel peuple!” (“what a people!”) – that resulted in the deaths of tens of millions of people. Stern, a distinguished historian, the former provost of Columbia University, a friend and classmate of legendary beat poet Allen Ginsberg (1926-1997) when both were undergraduates at Columbia – says that de Gaulle understood instinctively the “deep ambiguity that hovers around German greatness.”

Germans were not only the destroyers of historic Europe, as Mazower eloquently describes in “Dark Continent: Europe’s 20th Century” – they also helped create it. The “gifts” of Hitler enabled the Allies to defeat Nazi Germany – and they included many European Jewish scientists, who could have served their native countries had not madness of the deepest, darkest kind descended upon Europe.

Mazower isn’t mentioned in Stern’s very readable volume, but the good professor serves up a steaming dish of scorn for best-selling writer Daniel J. Goldhagen (“Hitler’s Willing Executioners,” “A Moral Reckoning”) in the best tradition of academic small mindedness. Goldhagen is characterized as a “social scientist,” not a historian by Columbia emeritus history professor Stern. Academics, needless to say, are the ultimate turf warriors!

Stern says Goldhagen oversimplifies matters by defining everything in terms of historic German anti-Semitism. Stern has a point, but I believe Goldhagen and Mazower also score excellent points with their books. Something happened in Europe in the 20th Century that twice plunged the world into catastrophic conflicts – conflicts that diminished but didn’t disappear after 1945, as Mazower points out.

There’s an obvious question that Stern himself raises only briefly: Why didn’t the Lutheran Church in Germany rise up as one and defend and protect converts like the Sterns? Could it be that the hatred of Jews for which Martin Luther was infamous trumped the conversion process in the German Lutheran Church? The Catholics don’t fare any better during the Nazi regime, for the most part failing to protect Jewish converts to Catholicism. I think both Catholics and Lutherans were “willing” collaborators with the Nazis – to borrow part of Goldhagen’s title. There were, of course, a few exceptions, precious few indeed.

Stern’s “Five Germanys” are the Weimar Republic into which he was born, the Nazi tyranny from 1933 to the defeat of Germany in 1945; the Federal Republic of Germany or West Germany; the German Democratic Republic (DDR) or Communist East Germany and the reunited Germany of the past decade and a half. He could have called it six Germanys, since his father served in the Kaiser’s army of the German Empire.

Stern’s career has included stints beyond academia, including the nearly six months he served in 1993-4 as “senior advisor” to newly appointed U.S. ambassador to Germany Richard Holbrooke, a young scholar and diplomat who had known Stern since 1969 when he studied under the older man. Holbrooke was an East Asia expert who had expected to be posted to Tokyo, a job awarded by Clinton to Walter Mondale. Holbrooke, whose mother was a German Jewish refugee from Nazi Germany, wanted an expert on Germany and Stern was the man he asked for. By the way, I will soon be reviewing a book by Holbrooke’s wife Kati Marton about nine Hungarian Jewish refugees who changed the world, a book called “The Great Escape.”

“Five Germanys I Have Known” is at once a work of history and historiography by one of the greatest practitioners of the latter (see his “Gold and Iron” and “Einstein’s German World”) and a memoir of one of the darkest hours in the all-to-often sordid history of humankind. As one who subscribes to the definition of history – in the words of Arnold Toynbee (who disagreed with the idea) as “one damned thing after another,” I recommend this readable and idiosyncratic memoir.

Publisher’s web site: http://www.fsgbooks.com

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GAO: Nuclear Plant Protection Officers Need More Training

Posted by kinchendavid on November 28, 2006

By Jim Kouri

A successful terrorist attack on a Department of Energy site containing nuclear weapons material could have devastating effects for the site and nearby communities. The DOE’s Office of the Under Secretary for Energy, Science and Environment, which is responsible for DOE operations in areas such as energy research, manages five sites that contain weapons-grade nuclear material. A heavily armed security force equipped with such items as automatic weapons protects ESE sites.

Protective forces at the five ESE sites containing weapons-grade nuclear material generally meet existing DOE readiness requirements. Specifically, the ESE protective forces generally comply with DOE standards for firearms proficiency, physical fitness levels, and equipment standardization and that the five ESE sites had the required training programs, facilities, and equipment.

However, at the request of the US Congress, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) inspection did find some weaknesses at ESE sites that could adversely affect the ability of protective forces to defend these sites. For example, despite the importance of training exercises in which protective forces undergo simulated attacks by a group of mock terrorists — known as force-on-force exercises — DOE neither sets standards for individual protective force officers to participate in these exercises, nor does it require sites to track individual participation.

GAO also found that protective force officers at all five of the ESE sites reported problems with their radio communications systems. Specifically, according to 66 of the 105 protective force officers GAO interviewed, they did not always have dependable radio communications as required by the DOE’s Protective Force Program Manual. Security officials stated that related improvements were under way.

To successfully defend against the larger terrorist threat by October 2008, DOE and ESE officials recognize that they will need to take several prompt and coordinated actions. These include transforming its current protective force into an elite, possibly federalized, force, developing and deploying new security technologies to reduce the risk to protective forces in case of an attack, consolidating and eliminating nuclear weapons material between and among ESE sites, and creating a sound ESE management structure that has sufficient authority to ensure coordination across all ESE offices that have weapons-grade nuclear material.

These include transforming its current protective force into an “elite force”–modeled on U.S. Special Forces, developing and deploying new security technologies to reduce the risk to protective forces in case of an attack, consolidating and eliminating nuclear weapons material between and among ESE sites to reduce security costs, and creating a sound ESE management structure that has sufficient authority to ensure coordination across all ESE offices that have weapons-grade nuclear material.

Critics of the security program at these facilities note that airport security officers are federal employees as well as security officers in other departments, yet when it comes to the most critical facilities private security companies are contracted to perform protective services.

However, because these initiatives, particularly an elite force, are in early stages of development and will require significant commitment of resources and coordination across DOE and ESE, their completion by the 2008 October DBT implementation deadline is uncertain.

Sources: Government Accountability Office, US Department of Energy, National Security Institute, American Society for Industrial Security, National Association of Chiefs of Police

* * * *

Jim Kouri is fifth vice-president of the National Association of Chiefs of Police and he’s a staff writer for the New Media Alliance (thenma.org). He’s a former chief at a New York City housing project in Washington Heights nicknamed “Crack City” by reporters covering the drug war in the 1980s. In addition, he served as director of public safety at a New Jersey university and director of security for several major organizations. Kouri has appeared as on-air commentator for more than 100 TV and radio news and talk shows including Oprah, McLaughlin Report, CNN Headline News, MTV, Fox News, etc. Kouri’s own website is http://jimkouri.U.S.

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COMMENTARY ON THANKSGIVING DAY: Another Perspective: The Legacy of Oñate and the Continuity of Colonialism: The People of Acoma Still Fight to be Free

Posted by kinchendavid on November 23, 2006

By Petuuche Gilbert
Councilman, Acoma Pueblo

Acoma Pueblo, NM, USA, Indigenous Nation  – How does a tribe survive an attempted annihilation? How does a nation of people survive a holocaust? Oñate burned and destroyed the village of Acoma.

The place where the colonizer’s church, San Estevan del Rey, stands today is the site of the original village. It must have been a horrible massacre, with our people burned in their houses. It is written that mothers and fathers were killing their own children to prevent capture. How many of our people jumped off the mesa to avoid being killed by Spanish soldiers? It is written then that our people were taken as prisoners of war and marched up to Santo Domingo for punishment.

As punishment and as a further act of premeditated terrorism the feet of our men were cut off, the survivors, men, women and children were enslaved. How many died soon afterwards is unknown and forgotten. So, how did Acoma survive? It is again written in Spanish records that ten years later there was another battle at Acoma. In spite of the atrocities committed upon us we endured and we are still a nation of Acoma people.

Spiritual and Physical Strength and Endurance

Today my people do not remember the massacre and punishment. Very few people know of the battle. My mother talked of how people described the use of cannons and how the rock walls were scarred black from explosions. No one knows about how two Acoma warriors hung themselves from a tree on the mesa top rather then submit to Spanish rule. It is written this is occurred and only the tree still remembers. No one at Acoma talks of the enslavement of our people as we were forced to build a huge, massive church.

All the materials of sand, rock and wood, were carried on the backs of my people to the mesa top. Who knows how many Acomas died in the construction of their church. Today the people proudly say this is our church. We built it with our blood, sweat and tears. It is true what one of our guides said to tourists. “They made slaves out of us to build this church I guess that is why we are Catholics today”.

Such is the power of the crown and the cross. Today the priest holds mass when tribal leaders allow him to do so. The Catholic Church should be so proud they have brainwashed so well that we are devout practitioners. We became Catholics so that we could survive another day. All the while we are still here, believing and practicing our language, culture and religion.

The Legacies of Colonial Institutions

At Acoma and in the homeland of indigenous peoples we carry on our backs the heavy chains of colonial institutions. The impacts of colonialism and terrorism are powerful. All of the remaining indigenous tribes call themselves pueblos and some even use Spanish names to identify themselves. Some resistors, like Acoma, identify themselves in their own names. All of the pueblos are Catholics and all have saints as their protectors. Most of them have feast days in honor of their patron saints. We have never really questioned ourselves why we do this. I know it is the impacts of fear and brainwashing. We became Catholics so that we could continue to live and practice our ways. Such is the power of the people to endure in spite of the brutality of the crown and the cross.

Another powerful institution intended to dispossess indigenous peoples of their homeland is the merced or mercedes. In English it is the Spanish land grant. On the Oñate statue being built in El Paso the conqueror conquistador is seen proudly waving La Toma in his hand. In April, 1598, Conquistador, Juan de Oñate, crossed the Rio Grande, near present day El Paso, Texas. He declared and claimed, “All lands, people, and resources north of the Rio Grande, possessions of the Royal Spanish Crown.”

La Toma was the imperialistic method proclaimed by the conquerors to take indigenous land and intended to subject the indigenous people to a foreign rule. Essentially this action set the basis for pre-emptive war. If indigenous people did not submit to the rulers then just war could be declare upon them. The famous square league, about 17,000 acres, was recognized as the land set-aside by the Spanish for the indigenous tribes.

The rest was, of course, was kept by the conquerors. The people of today have never understood how the conquerors could give out land that was not theirs in the first place. It was not free land for the taking. This continuation of imperialism was declared to be manifest destiny by the United States and the theft of land and subjection of people continued. Upon the implementation of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, in 1848, the United States felt, as is duty to respect the land rights of indigenous peoples.

Articles 8 and 9 talk of the indigenous people. In the treaty it stipulated that if pueblo Indian people did not want to be citizens of the United States they could just leave. I guess we could have just left our homelands and moved to Mexico. I think this imposition of citizenship has never really being understood by the ancient inhabitants of this land. In this way we were made political prisoners and we remain so to this day.

The third pervasive institution affecting us here as indigenous people is the form of Spanish civil government. Most of the pueblo governments have leaders named as governors and their attendant staff named after Spanish names. When the Spanish arrived they saw community leaders led us and they made us choose our own leaders. Today in the selection of our own tribal leaders we call this tradition. Too, it is a profound influence that the Pueblo Indian Governors carry the Spanish canes as the recognition of their authority to rule. Why? I once asked one of the former pueblo governors why do they carry the Spanish canes if we threw off Spanish implements during the Pueblo Indian Revolt. His reply was that we had already imbued them spiritually and, thus, they became sacred. This is maintained even today.

The Indigenous Peoples Of Today

The conquerors should be so proud of themselves. We are profoundly brainwashed that we behave as conquered people. This is the legacy of Oñate and the conquerors. Colonialism remains alive and well. We have Spanish forms of civil governments and we select our own leaders to rule ourselves. We rely on the land grant system to have our land rights respected. We are devout Catholics. We are proud American citizens and we proudly put our hands on our chests as we say the Pledge of Allegiance. We are proud to be called Native Americans. How tragic and what a travesty this is. As indigenous peoples we never ask ourselves why. Why do we have blind patriotism to a nation that stole our land, committed genocide and instituted creative law intended to keep us as political prisoners.

Today we, the indigenous people, fight for our human right to be free, sovereign and self-determining people. To become this is the challenge is upon all of us here.

The United States of America is the most ardent enemy of indigenous people. This nation refuses to respect and recognize us as PEOPLES because peoples in international law have the right to self-determination. During the Decade of the World’s Indigenous Peoples we aggressively pursued for the right of self-determination to be enshrined in the draft United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

This did not happen as the decade ended in 2004. Prior to this indigenous people at the last World Conference on Racism, indigenous people accused the world’s nation-states of being racist by refusing to recognize indigenous people to be as peoples. This struggle for self-determination continues at the Organization of American States as they work to adopt an Inter-American Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. In it we are not considered to be indigenous peoples with the full right of self-determination.

So, what is our future today? There are difficult questions to ask of ourselves, as the conquerors and the conquered. Do we accept the legacies of the conquerors and remain treated as the conquered? I think not. In order for me to be here speaking today, someone, somewhere in the past, stood up and died for me to be here.

Now it is my turn and our responsibility to carry on that struggle to be free as indigenous people. It is no easy task and the challenge is before us all. Especially now that we, as warriors fighting against the domination of the United States, are considered as terrorist. Well, we as indigenous peoples have been fighting terrorism for over 500 years and we will continue on. So, did God bless Oñate and does God bless America? Does God bless conquerors, murderers and thieves? Does God bless a nation built upon the twin pillars of discovery and conquest? The conquerors think God does and that is what is wrong with people. Thus, we are still at war with the conquerors. It must change. We must learn to live in peace and respect.

What Form of Justice is Due Indigenous People?

Apologies are easy to proclaim and they are easily forgotten. One such proclamation is in the works in Congress. In 2004 it is was called the HISTORIC RESOLUTION OF APOLOGY TO NATIVE PEOPLES INTRODUCED IN U.S. CONGRESS and it is now referred to as the NATIVE AMERICAN APOLOGY RESOLUTION.

Both are quite meaningless. Some church groups have already apologized and it is now forgotten who did. Do indigenous peoples want all of America back? I think not. Indigenous people are realistic and they know this is impossible. The foreigners are here today and we must now survive together. Albeit, we want to keep our homelands in our possession without the fear of loss through the laws and policies of the conquerors. Are we seeking some form of reparation for genocide and theft of land? Perhaps.

Some indigenous people are demanding it and dollars are appropriated by congress to rid itself of the Indian problem. It is done and can be done in order to alleviate the fears and embarrassment of genocide and land theft. Pay the Indians off and forget them. Let them be American citizens like everybody else. Life goes on. A more appropriate form of reparation is allowing our human right to be as peoples. As peoples to peoples we can be both sovereign and self-determining. We must respect and understand all this. That is our challenge today for us all.

Petuuche Gilbert can be reached at petuuche@aol.com

Editor’s Note: This article was submitted by human rights activist Rebecca Sommer in behalf of Gilbert, a Tribal Councilman of Acoma. It was written as a way of mourning the Thanksgiving Day holiday.

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World Premiere of ‘Hunted Like Animals’ Set for Friday, Nov. 24, 2006 in St. Paul, MN

Posted by kinchendavid on November 23, 2006

By Staff

The world premiere of the long awaited documentary “Hunted like Animals” – on the Hmong crisis in Thailand and Laos will be opened with a speech by Hmong leader Vang Pao, on Friday, Nov. 24, 2006 at 1 p.m. on Hmong New Years ground floor in St. Paul, MN.

Filmmaker Rebecca Sommer told us that “Hunted like Animals” tells an unwelcome, but true, story. “Genocide has been taking place, unseen and unnoticed by the international community, for over 30 years,” she said.

Lured into joining the CIA’s anti-communist efforts during the Vietnam War, the Hmong Lao, an ethnic minority of Laos became the Secret Army for the United States. When the U.S. pulled out of Southeast Asia in 1975, the communists overthrew the neutral Lao kingdom and the Hmong became targets of a furious retaliation and persecution.

”That conflict — a lifetime away for most of us — has never ended for many Hmong in Laos. Escaping to faraway high mountain jungles that were once very inaccessible, the Hmong in-hiding are now successfully surrounded by well-armed military. Today, they have no choice but to defend themselves and they, and their children, still die – from guns, bombs, artillery, torture, hunger, and chemical weapons,” Sommer said.

In the last three decades, many thousands of Hmong have escaped from Laos, and many thousands have been resettled. But many were left behind. Since the Vietnam war ended – the Lao government has been waging a so-called “defensive war” against Hmong “rebels” attacking them from the highlands.

This documentary lays that vicious falsehood to rest. In its fury, it seems, that Laos eradicates the grandchildren of the former CIA soldiers, Sommer said.

While many Hmong Lao today have successfully integrated into their country, far too many remain in the jungles in a never-ending nightmare. Over thirty years and two generations after the conflict ended, the Hmong in hiding are still-hunted. Some, of desperation, surrender, but they usually die or disappear.

Others have escaped to Thailand. Over the years, thousands have been resettled. But now an unhappy international community has finally wiped its hands and said “enough”. But still they come; still they escape from the jungle with their disturbing tales of subterfuge, torture, rape and death.

The Hmong in Thailand today speak for over 17,000 of their people, voiceless, still trapped in the jungles of Laos, perpetually running and hiding from an untiring, relentless predator. Today, they are surrounded, they are hungry, and they are being hunted, like animals of prey.

The refugees, who fled this nightmare, are threatened to be forcefully repatriated back to Laos, the very country they barely escaped.

Quotes from filmmaker Rebecca Sommer:

”I am impressed with the US based Hmong community. My documentary was made possible through the dedication of many many volunteers from the US-based Hmong community, Hmong organizations and the assistance of US-based Hmong leaders and Clan representatives.

“The Hmong Lao refugees showed great courage to stand in front of my video camera to send a message to the world. Now their voices are heard. Supported by the US Hmong community, “Hunted like Animals” will be sent out to governments, the UN system, NgO’s and for sure to Thailand’s officials, to anyone who is relevant to lobby for the plight of the Hmong Lao refugees.

“The refugees speak in my documentary for more than 17,000 voiceless people that they left behind, who are still trapped in the jungles of Laos – surrounded, waiting to be hunted down and killed by Lao and Vietnamese soldiers.

”To this day, the shell-shocked refugees in Thailand have been given no promise of protection. At any time, they may be sent back to Laos, the very place from which they have just barely escaped.”

Sommer described how the footage for the film was produced: Supported by the US-based Hmong community, the human rights fact-finding commission (FFC) smuggled High 8 cameras into the military areas where Hmong groups still live in hiding. The original High 8 footage was shot by the people themselves, and was brought out of remote mountain military zones, and then out of Laos, under the most difficult conditions. I included this footage into my film, it is evidence. It gives us just a glimpse of the atrocities the Hmong people in hiding are struggling to live through.

Background on the filmmaker:

Rebecca Sommer is the United Nations representative for the Society for Threatened Peoples International, in consultative status to the UN (ECOSOC). NYC based, German born filmmaker Rebecca Sommer traveled 2005 and 2006 to the Hmong refugee camp Huay Nam Khao (White Water), Petchabun, in Thailand, where she filmed and directed an awareness raising documentary focusing on the Hmong who fled armed conflict and genocide in Laos.’ As a human rights advocate and representative in consultative status to the U.N. for the Society of Threatened Peoples International. To see clips of the film, or articles on Rebecca Sommer’s documentaries, please view:

http://www.rebeccasommer.org/index.html

”Hunted like Animals” was supported by Hmong organizations: Fact Finding Commission, Hmong Archive, Hmong American Mutual Assistance Association, Hmong 18 Council, Hmong lao Human Rights Council, United Hmong International, United Lao Council, Hmong Archive.

For further information, or interviews, please contact: Rebecca Sommer, Cell: (917) 554-4933 (Filmmaker and Society for Threatened Peoples)

Kou Xiong, Cell: (651) 253-3709 (Hmong Lao Human Rights Council – MN)

Chue Chou Tchang, Cell: (651) 214-4053 Hmong American Mutual Assistance Association-MN)

Chue Hue Vang, Cell: (559) 458-3955 United Hmong International

Lia Vang, Cell: 651 7832350 Hmong Lao Radio.

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BOOK REVIEW: Retired Navajo Cop Joe Leaphorn is (Mostly) on His Own Solving a Cold Case File in ‘The Shape Shifter’

Posted by kinchendavid on November 21, 2006

By David M. Kinchen
Huntington News Network Book Critic

Hinton, WV  – An intriguing letter from a retired cop draws retired Navajo Tribal Police Officer Lt. Joe Leaphorn back into the crime-solving game in Tony Hillerman’s 18th Leaphorn/Chee procedural “The Shape Shifter” (HarperCollins, 288 pages, $26.95). As a big fan of Hillerman’s who has been to the area in question on a number of occasions, I was delighted to see the return of Leaphorn (his last appearance was in 2004’s “Skeleton Man”).

In his letter from Flagstaff, Arizona to Joe in Shiprock, NM — the Navajo Reservation sprawls over Arizona, New Mexico and Utah in the Four Corners area where the three states – and Colorado — come together – Melvin Bork includes a photo from a glossy lifestyle magazine showing a one-of-a-kind Navajo tale-telling rug that everybody believes had been destroyed in a trading post fire years before.

Leaphorn is often called on, even in retirement, to help solve crimes – this was the case in “Skeleton Man” — but this one is special since it involves an elderly Navajo woman, two buckets of pinyon tree sap that may have a connection with the fire, the missing rug and a mysterious rich man named Jason Delos, living in an estate on the foothills north of Flagstaff who may or may not possess the rug. Joe Leaphorn was a young cop when the pinyon tree sap was stolen and he never found the thief, much to the disgust of the elderly lady, who is still alive. The sap is used by Navajo craft people to waterproof their woven baskets.

Leaphorn, a widower bored with retirement, hops in his pickup and scouts out the territory with a cop he knows in Flagstaff, Sgt. Kelly Garcia, with the Coconino County Sheriff’s Department, before going on to visit Bork. He then gets a call from Mrs. Grace Bork, saying that her husband has gone missing on his way to talk to Delos or returning from a visit to him.

Sgt. Jim Chee, Leaphorn’s protégé, has just returned from his Hawaii honeymoon after marrying Bernadette Manuelito, also a member of the tribal police force. Leaphorn is a little hesitant about enlisting the aid of the newly weds, but Bernadette is eager to get back to work and she and Chee make some official phone calls for their old boss.

Is Jason Delos the “shape shifter” in this procedural which takes us on a tour of the Four Corners area, much of it on “Diné Bikéyah,” or Navajoland, which covers 27,000 square miles, bigger than West Virginia and 9 other states? In Navajo lore, a “shape shifter” or “skinwalker” is a creature who can change shape, gender or species to deceive his enemies or those pursuing him. It’s a common theme in other cultures (see web site reference at the end of this review).

Leaphorn visits Delos to check out the rug and to find out what happened to his friend Melvin Bork, another Western “country cop” he met at the FBI Academy in Virginia and who after his retirement as a cop became a private investigator in Flagstaff, the metropolis of northern Arizona. Investment banker Delos has a young manservant named Tommy Vang, a Hmong refugee from Laos whom Delos, supposedly a CIA agent, rescued. The Hmong are indigenous peoples who’ve been hiding from the Vietnamese and Lao military ever since they helped the American forces in what has been called the “secret war” in Indochina in the 1960s and 1970s. Many of them have moved to the U.S., especially to Minnesota and Wisconsin.

Since the plot is involved and vital to the story, I will go no further, other than to say that Joe Leaphorn combines the best of his Dineh (Navajo) heritage, as well as modern detection skills. Plus he’s always ready for a good cup of coffee – a man after my own heart! On a trip to California a few years ago via Interstate 40, I stopped for a coffee and a burger at a fast-food restaurant in Winslow, AZ (yes, the same town made famous in the Eagles’ song “Take It Easy”!). In the parking lot was a Dodge Ramcharger, I believe (it could have been a Ford Bronco) emblazoned with the lettering “Navajo Tribal Police.” Maybe it was Joe, enjoying a cup of coffee. At least I’d like to think so!

Hillerman, an Albuquerque, NM resident, is a former president of the Mystery Writers of America and has received its top awards, the Edgar and Grand Master. He’s been honored by the Navajo Nation, receiving its Special Friend Award. Nobody writes about the Southwest better than Tony Hillerman and he’s at the peak of his form in “The Shape Shifter.” If you’re new to the Leaphorn/Chee novels, this is a great introduction. If you’re one of those who say they can’t stand detective novels, read it and find out how it’s a “shape shifter” of a novel, transcending the genre while enriching it.

Shape Shifting in various cultures, fiction, etc: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shapeshifter#Shapeshifting_in_fiction

Publisher’s web site: http://www.harpercollins.com

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COMMENTARY: The Real Danger for US and the World: Nobody Cares What We Say

Posted by kinchendavid on November 20, 2006

By Joseph J. Honick

Bainbridge Island, WA  — While most of the world quite logically worries and sweats over whether Iran has nuclear bomb capability and how it might use it, few seem to worry about the tens of thousands, maybe hundreds of thousands dying weekly in various sectors of Africa. That is tragic beyond belief.

What is more dangerous, however, without diminishing the African situation, is the stark and scary reality that, for the first time in my personal memory, nobody really gives a damn what our leaders, the President in particular, has to say on virtually any issue of global significance. South Korea , at the APEC meetings in of all places Communist Vietnam, smiles for the cameras and the rejects President George W. Bush’s plea for cooperation in blockading ships going to and coming from North Korea. The Prime Minister of our heavily invested Iraq wants to make it clear he is not America’s man in that country and refuses any discussion with the President of the United States regarding timetables for American withdrawal of forces. Iran and North Korea virtually snub us on debates over nuclear testing.

In short, no one seems to fear or respect the American leadership for the first time in memory.

The implications are immense, far reaching and potentially disastrous for us and our friends. As this situation grows, China is moving swiftly to broaden its influences in key African regions and making alliances elsewhere to enhance its political, trade and military influence. Russia likewise is expanding its impact, using its vast natural gas deposits for bargaining chips. It goes on and on.

Over all the years of the 20th and now the 21st century, friends and foes alike paid close attention to the President of the United States, whether he was a Democrat or Republican…until now. Even the much maligned Presidents Nixon and Clinton, Republican and Democrat respectively, carried great respect on the international stage.

Part of the problem may well be attributed to truculence of the way we handled the Iraq situation. Banners declaring “Mission Accomplished” when the job was not and was later admitted to be far from completed as it continued, requiring administration leaders to allow that our mission there would last for years to come. Daring the opposition to “Bring it on”had the sound of John Wayne in his many war movies though he never served a day in the military.

Add to all of this the clear denunciation of Administration policies in the recent mid-term elections in which the Democrats took control of both Houses of Congress for the first time in years. Both friends and foes are waiting to see how all this will come together in a coherent fashion, even as the conflict in Iraq appears to have no end in sight or no exit strategy. Just as confusing, there appears to be no specific party or government with whom to negotiate surrender, truce or victory.

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Honick is president of GMA International Ltd., the consulting firm he established in 1975. Its principal areas involved working to broaden business opportunities abroad for American companies and assisting them in preparing for such effort. He is also a regular contributor to Huntington News Network.

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KINCHEN AT THE MOVIES: ‘Happy Feet’: This Penguin Can’t Sing, But He Can Dance up a Storm in George Miller’s Animated Feature

Posted by kinchendavid on November 19, 2006

By David M. Kinchen
Editor, Huntington News Network

Hinton, WV — I knew that “Happy Feet” was directed by noted Australian director George Miller (“Mad Max,” “The Aviator,” “Babe,” “The Witches of Eastwick,” “The Road Warrior,” “The Twilight Zone,” etc., etc.). Miller is as versatile as another of my favorite directors, Joel Schumacher (“Falling Down,” “The Lost Boys,” “Phone Booth,” “Batman & Robin,” “The Phantom of the Opera”).

There are several Aussie actors voicing the penguins and other characters in the flick: Nicole Kidman (Norma Jean, the mother of Mumble, voiced by “Lord of the Rings” star Elijah Wood); Hugh Jackman (Memphis, Mumble’s dad); Hugo Weaving, Anthony LaPaglia (voicing the boss skua, an Antarctic bird of prey) and the late “crocodile hunter” Steve Irwin. One of the stars of the flick is of course Robin Williams, who voices – among other penguins – Lovelace, a master evangelist.

Written by Warren Coleman, John Collee, George Miller and Judy Morris, the animated 87-minute feature tells the story of odd-penguin-out Mumble, who can’t sing, but he can tap dance like no other penguin. Emperor penguins in this movie are conformists to a fault, so Mumble’s skills aren’t appreciated by the elders.

Penguins find their mates by singing, so tone-deaf Mumble appears to be out of luck in that department – until he meets Gloria (Brittany Murphy) who falls for the bird who wants to broaden the horizons of his fellow penguins with a little – hey, even a lot – of dancing.

“Happy Feet” features music by John Powell and Jama-Ski, along with a number of pop hits covered by the voicing actors.

Telling too much of the plot would spoil the movie for potential viewers. Suffice it to say, I recommend this nuanced, often dark look at penguins and the “aliens” (humans) who are endangering their habitat. There’s a strong environmental message in the movie, but the exuberance of Mumble, Gloria, Lovelace and all the rest make this PG-rated film suitable for the entire family as pure entertainment. An vital subtext in the movie, of course, is the importance of recognizing and welcoming different abilities.

Coming  in the wake of last year’s surprise hit, “The March of the Penguins,” “Happy Feet” answers the question: Another penguin movie? With a “yes, but, this is not just another penguin movie.” It’s a George Miller penguin movie!

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COMMENTARY: Is Anything Going On Here We Should Care About?

Posted by kinchendavid on November 18, 2006

By Joseph J. Honick

Bainbridge Island, WA  – I need some help that I’m sure others may feel the need for as well.

Daily we are reminded we are a “nation at war.” Hard to figure this to be the case while – when not working hard to drive fear into our hearts – the White House constantly reminds us how good things are, how many people are at work and how great the economy is.

Somehow, in my recollection and reading of times past, when the nation was globally engaged in conflict, as in World War II, citizens helped to finance our troops by buying bonds and conserving precious materials that could be recycled into war vehicles and arms. Hollywood operated the famous canteens for servicemen to find some companionship and refreshment. The USO was a conspicuous place almost everywhere for service people to use. Parents proudly, and sometime sadly, hung banners in their windows to signify family members in the service or those who had perished.

Just as noteworthy, many who were in uniform questioned the lack of national service by obviously qualified young men (and now women) so that the burdens of war could be shared appropriately.

These are just a few points that need response. More important is the fact that no one seems to wonder about them or care.

Maybe it has something to do with the fact that, in one political flick of the pen in 1972, President Richard Nixon signed the All Volunteer Armed Forces Act, ending the draft that had bedeviled a divided nation during the Vietnam conflict that ended in embarrassing defeat. Since that time, even uttering the word “draft” has resulted in angry words across the political spectrum, from left to right.

Yet, here we are in what our president terms a global war on terrorism, engaged in massive operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, forced to call thousands of civilian soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines to active duty and putting the heavy emotional and risk dangers on many of them by requiring multiple tours in Iraq, among other situations.

Those of us not connected to the war by family and friends in the armed forces are encouraged to go on in a kind of schizoid existence, fearful of terrorists around every corner, on all modes of transportation while urged to live it up in our economy where profiteers have become wealthy off the war.

Against this backdrop is the incongruous commentary by President George W Bush in his visit to Communist Vietnam to whom we had to surrender after the loss of 58,000 American lives and tens of thousands more who were maimed. Today that nation is the center of massive infusion of investment from America and many other countries. The President hailed the Communist nation as an exciting and dynamic place. The chaos, conflict and tragedy in Iraq and Afghanistan are no less complex and costly. Will those with whom we have been engaged in war once more become economic allies eventually like Vietnam as the tragedies fade into the past?

It is noteworthy that the thousands of troops of all the services facing a variety of enemies, human and environmental, in the Middle East seem not to wonder why others of military eligible age have not been willing to offer their services. In other times, most would have been called “draft dodgers.” Without a draft today, such people are merely getting the most of the American economic opportunities, with the only real inconveniences coming at security checkpoints at airports and a few other places. The fact of 9/11 attacks seemed not to have engendered any organized kind of personal involvement of much of an overt nature.

There are no specific answers to the questions raised here, mostly because of how difficult it is to figure out why the circumstances are as they are.

 

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University of San Francisco Prof Pleads Guilty to Kiddie Porn Possession

Posted by kinchendavid on November 18, 2006

By Jim Kouri

A professor and former dean at the University of San Francisco’s School of Education agreed on Thursday, Nov. 16, 2006, to plead guilty to one count of possessing child pornography following an investigation a federal investigation.

Dr. William T. Garner, 66, who also co-founded USF’s Center for Instruction and Technology and is a professor emeritus in the School of Education, admitted that he knowingly possessed visual depictions of minors engaged in sexually explicit conduct, which he obtained over the Internet.

According to court documents, Garner possessed more than 15,000 images containing child pornography, including images of prepubescent minors, portrayals of sadistic or masochistic conduct, and other depictions of violence.

Under the terms of his plea agreement, Garner and the government have agreed to recommend a sentence of 63 months in prison, a $12,500 fine, and restitution of $50,000 to the San Francisco Child Abuse Prevention Center.

”The children depicted in these images are the victims of horrible abuse, and we will vigorously prosecute individuals possessing these materials,” said US Attorney Kevin V. Ryan in announcing the charge.

“Taking sex offenders off the street and out of our neighborhoods is a high priority for the Department of Justice and our office,” he said.

”Those who engage in the exploitation of children should no longer expect the anonymity of cyberspace to protect them,” said special agent in charge Charles DeMore. “This case is particularly disturbing in light of the defendant’s position as someone young people at the university look up to and respect.”

”We know that child abuse is something a child may never outgrow so our work at the center is to stop it from happening,” said Kathy Baxter, Division Director of the San Francisco Child Abuse Council.

”If approved by the Court, we will use these funds to continue our work in educating children, their caregivers and the community about ways to prevent abuse and continue our work in improving the systems that deal with child abuse,” she said.

Garner’s arraignment is scheduled for Dec. 7, 2006, before Magistrate Judge Bernard Zimmerman in San Francisco. No sentencing date has been scheduled.

Editor’s Note: The University of San Francisco is a Jesuit institution, founded in 1855.

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