Net Briefs – April 2009


You May Have Missed sends word that the controversial Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) may never come into effect in Costa Rica. In a judgment last fall, the Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court of Justice annulled Executive Decree number 33240-S, known as the "Arms Decree," which authorized the "extraction of uranium and thorium, elaboration of nuclear fuel, and manufacture of nuclear reactors for any purpose." The final judgment was: "a State that takes Peace as a constitutional fundamental value cannot conform itself with the limited notion that Peace is just the absence of war, it must go beyond that, preventing and rejecting continuously all decision and act which might derive and end in such a circumstance." The Supreme Court also considered that "a State which aspires to promote Peace, both at domestic as well as at an international level, must pay special attention when authorizing the fabrication of weaponry and the import of certain chemical substances within its territory. Particularly rejecting vigorously those which because of their nature have been created to favor the value of war."

Due to this final judgment, Attorney Luis Roberto Zamora (who filed the suit against the "Arms Decree") submitted a new suit at the Supreme Court of Justice, requesting the Court to declare CAFTA unconstitutional since Costa Rica’s Annex 3.3 includes as "free trade goods" items such as: "heavy water for nuclear reactors, nuclear reactors and its parts, tanks and other fortified war automobiles, rocket launchers, flamethrowers, grenade launchers, torpedo launchers and similar launchers and throwers, revolvers and pistols, canons, sabers, swords" and other war-like items—clearly outlawed by the Supreme Court’s judgment.

Divesting Victory

Between The Lines makes note of a Hampshire College student victory in February when the college (in Amherst, Massachusetts) became the first in the U.S. to have its board of trustees vote to divest from holdings in companies that support the Israeli occupation of Palestine. The vote was the result of a two-year campaign by Students for Justice in Palestine. Among the companies students recommended for divestment, due to their financial interest in the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land were: Caterpillar, General Electric, ITT, Motorola, Terex, and United Technologies. Brian Van Slyke, a coordinator of Students for Justice in Palestine described the successful campaign: "We had a petition that more than 800 members of the community signed. We did other things such as organizing educational events, having movie screenings, dialogues, bringing people to speak at protests and rallies. We set up a mock wall on campus and handed every student a different type of passport—Israeli passport, Palestinian passport—and treated them differently. We reached out to surrounding colleges, but we also did a lot of internal work within the board of trustees."

Single-Payer Coverage…Not reports on their timely new study documenting a significant gap in recent media coverage of health-care reform. Major newspaper, broadcast, and cable stories mentioning health-care reform in the week leading up to Obama’s March 5 health-care summit rarely mentioned the idea of a single-payer national health insurance program. Advocates of such a system were almost entirely shut out, FAIR found. This despite the fact that single-payer polls well with the public, who preferred it 59 to 32 over a privatized system in a recent survey (New York Times/CBS). Of the hundreds of major newspaper, broadcast, and cable stories mentioning health-care reform on NBC News, ABC News, CBS News, Fox News, CNN, MSNBC, NPR and PBS’s "NewsHour With Jim Lehrer," the study found that:

– All but 18 stories made no mention of single-payer (or synonyms commonly used by its proponents, such as "Medicare for all," or the proposed single-payer bill, HR 676)
– Only five stories included the views of advocates of single-payer—none of which appeared on television.
– Of a total of ten newspaper columns that mentioned single-payer, Krauthammer’s syndicated column critical of the concept, accounted for five instances, while only three columns in the study period advocated for a single-payer system.
– The FAIR study turned up only three mentions of single-payer on the TV outlets surveyed and two of those references were by TV guests who expressed strong disapproval of it.

Two-Thirds of the Wealth reports on a major two-week meeting on women’s rights and equality at the UN this March. The economic crisis has had an especially heavy toll on women of color. African American women were disproportionately impacted by the subprime and housing crisis that triggered the longer-term global meltdown and they continue to be marginalized in the U.S. job market. The total African American unemployment rate in February was 12.6 percent, the highest of any ethnic group, although in general, men appear to be losing jobs faster than women. According to the Center for Responsible Lending, 1.5 million homes were lost through subprime foreclosures and an estimated 9 to 10 trillion dollar decline in U.S. household wealth occurred between 2007 and 2009. "Nearly two-thirds of the wealth possessed by African Americans is in the form of home equity," noted researcher Andrea Harris in last year’s National Urban League report on "The State of Black America." And "half of all households with children are headed by women," she added.

The Cost of Empire

Veterans For Peace (, referring to several published reports that the Obama plan will leave 50,000 or more troops in Iraq, and pointing to the buildup already underway in Afghanistan, warned that such policies will have the same effect on the new president as the Vietnam War did on Lyndon Johnson’s plans for the Great Society. "I really believe President Obama wants to do good things for the country," said VFP President Mike Ferner, "but if he continues on this course he’s charted, his hopes are guaranteed to founder on the shoals of war. This way lies disaster…. Besides the suffering and death caused by prolonging these wars, America simply can no longer afford the cost of empire. Unfortunately, that’s exactly what these policies do. Their purpose is to control an entire region of the world and its resources." Ferner concluded that, "Barack Obama became president in part because millions of voters were sick of these wars and wanted them stopped, period. Saying that only non-combat troops will be left after 19 months is just sleight of hand so we can keep tens of thousands of soldiers in Iraq and send thousands more to Afghanistan."

Really? sends news from Stephanie Smith, CNN’s medical producer, that damage from repeated concussions can lead to tremendous brain damage. Until recently, the best medical definition for concussion was a jarring blow to the head that temporarily stunned the senses, occasionally leading to unconsciousness. It has been considered an invisible injury, impossible to test—no MRI, no CT scan can detect it. But today, using tissue from retired NFL athletes culled posthumously, the Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy (CSTE) is shedding light on what concussions look like in the brain. The findings are stunning. Far from innocuous, invisible injuries, concussions confer tremendous brain damage. That damage has a name: chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). CTE has thus far thus far been found in the brains of five out of five former NFL players. Studies reveal brown tangles flecked throughout the brain tissue of former NFL players who died young—some as early as their 30s or 40s. Dr. Ann McKee, a neuropathologist at the Veterans Administration Hospital in Bedford, Massachusetts and co-director of CSTE, who also studies Alzheimer’s disease, says the tangles resemble what might be found in the brain of an 80-year-old with dementia. The damage affects the parts of the brain that control emotion, rage, hypersexuality, even breathing, and recent studies find that CTE is a progressive disease that eventually kills brain cells.


Jay Janson from submits nine brutal disappointments for "Obama fans."

1. Obama’s silence during and after U.S.-made planes and bombs were used against civilians and children in Gaza.

2. Obama insulted the Vietnamese, angry U.S. veterans, and the millions of decent Americans who opposed what Martin Luther King Jr. called "a crime against humanity," referring in his inaugural address to "those who fought and died for us at Khe Sahn," Vietnam.

3. In his inaugural address, Obama grossly slighted Native-Americans by hailing the march westward of early Europeans who came to this continent as having done it "for us," insensitively discounting the racist, savage, and homicidal conduct of those Europeans.

4. At the State Department, while speaking of security for the state of Israel, Obama made no mention of the dire state of Arab Palestinians over the last 60 years nor recognition of the history of Palestinian Arab suffering to this day from the occupations, blockades, illegal settlements, and Israeli irresponsibility as an occupying power.

5. Obama’s stimulus package is even being ridiculed by some of his greatest promoters. MSNBC prime time commentator Rachel Maddow gave detailed satiric and graphic attention to its large tax breaks and much smaller infrastructure spending. Most Americans were expecting Obama to create an infrastructure plan reminiscent of FDR’s Works Projects Administration during the Depression of the 1930s.

6. Obama’s Secretary of Treasury Geithner has accused China of currency manipulation, as has Obama. Blaming China for America’s malfeasance in managing its own economy does not sound intelligent, especially when China is also suffering, but less, for the U.S. and European fraudulent banking debacle.

7. Even more disappointing is the continuing of U.S. air attacks on Pakistan territory, a supposed ally, whose president and legislature have in the past angrily condemned the strikes as a criminal and merciless taking of civilian lives and as counterproductive to both countries’ aims. No change from Bush.

8. On January 25, U.S. forces killed 16 civilians. We were hoping Obama would respect the Afghan legislature years-old call for negotiations with the former governing Taliban (still governing most of the land), a 35-year amnesty for all fighters, and the withdrawal of all foreign forces. There has been talk of negotiations in the media recently and Obama had said Afghanistan would take more than a military solution. Will Obama continue the Bush directive that if less than 30 civilian deaths are anticipated in a strike "targeting insurgent leaders," no White House approval is required?

9. "We will not apologize for our way of life," Obama intoned aggressively in his inaugural. Is this not an arrogant statement? Is mindless consumption, pushed by a cartelized commercial media, a way of life in which the U.S. with five percent of the world’s population consumes 25 percent of the world’s resources not deplorable? Has not the America way of life included world dominance? Is it not our way of life that produces a majority of the world’s weapons and is responsible for a war in Iraq that has caused the death of hundreds of thousands and the wounding/maiming of millions, plus three million refugees, which Obama already denounced without, however, apologizing to Iraqis? There is plenty to apologize for—imperialist wars, CIA assassinations, and destabilization of democratic governments.


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