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News :: Government & Elections

Vote Fraud: Greg Palast exposes the scam.

On October 29, 2002, George W. Bush signed the Help America Vote Act (HAVA). Hidden behind its apple-pie-and-motherhood name lies a nasty civil rights time bomb...

First, the purges. In the months leading up to the November 2000 presidential election, Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris, in coordination with Governor Jeb Bush, ordered local election supervisors to purge 57,700 voters from the registries, supposedly ex-cons not allowed to vote in Florida. At least 90.2 percent of those on this "scrub" list, targeted to lose their civil rights, are innocent. Notably, more than half--about 54 percent--are black or Hispanic. You can argue all night about the number ultimately purged, but there's no argument that this electoral racial pogrom ordered by Jeb Bush's operatives gave the White House to his older brother. HAVA not only blesses such purges, it requires all fifty states to implement a similar search-and-destroy mission against vulnerable voters. Specifically, every state must, by the 2004 election, imitate Florida's system of computerizing voter files. The law then empowers fifty secretaries of state--fifty Katherine Harrises--to purge these lists of "suspe
ct" voters.

The purge is back, big time. Following the disclosure in December 2000 of the black voter purge in Britain's Observer newspaper, NAACP lawyers sued the state. The civil rights group won a written promise from Governor Jeb and from Harris's successor to return wrongly scrubbed citizens to the voter rolls. According to records given to the courts by ChoicePoint, the company that generated the computerized lists, the number of Floridians who were questionably tagged totals 91,000. Willie Steen is one of them. Recently, I caught up with Steen outside his office at a Tampa hospital. Steen's case was easy. You can't work in a hospital if you have a criminal record. (My copy of Harris's hit list includes an ex-con named O'Steen, close enough to cost Willie Steen his vote.) The NAACP held up Steen's case to the court as a prime example of the voter purge evil.

The state admitted Steen's innocence. But a year after the NAACP won his case, Steen still couldn't register. Why was he still under suspicion? What do we know about this "potential felon," as Jeb called him? Steen, unlike our President, honorably served four years in the US military. There is, admittedly, a suspect mark on his record: Steen remains an African-American.

If you're black, voting in America is a game of chance. First, there's the chance your registration card will simply be thrown out. Millions of minority citizens registered to vote using what are called motor-voter forms. And Republicans know it. You would not be surprised to learn that the Commission on Civil Rights found widespread failures to add these voters to the registers. My sources report piles of dust-covered applications stacked up in election offices.

Second, once registered, there's the chance you'll be named a felon. In Florida, besides those fake felons on Harris's scrub sheets, some 600,000 residents are legally barred from voting because they have a criminal record in the state. That's one state. In the entire nation 1.4 million black men with sentences served can't vote, 13 percent of the nation's black male population.

At step three, the real gambling begins. The Voting Rights Act of 1965 guaranteed African-Americans the right to vote--but it did not guarantee the right to have their ballots counted. And in one in seven cases, they aren't.

Take Gadsden County. Of Florida's sixty-seven counties, Gadsden has the highest proportion of black residents: 58 percent. It also has the highest "spoilage" rate, that is, ballots tossed out on technicalities: one in eight votes cast but not counted. Next door to Gadsden is white-majority Leon County, where virtually every vote is counted (a spoilage rate of one in 500).

How do votes spoil? Apparently, any old odd mark on a ballot will do it. In Gadsden, some voters wrote in Al Gore instead of checking his name. Their votes did not count.

Harvard law professor Christopher Edley Jr., a member of the Commission on Civil Rights, didn't like the smell of all those spoiled ballots. He dug into the pile of tossed ballots and, deep in the commission's official findings, reported this: 14.4 percent of black votes--one in seven--were "invalidated," i.e., never counted. By contrast, only 1.6 percent of nonblack voters' ballots were spoiled.

Florida's electorate is 11 percent African-American. Florida refused to count 179,855 spoiled ballots. A little junior high school algebra applied to commission numbers indicates that 54 percent, or 97,000, of the votes "spoiled" were cast by black folk, of whom more than 90 percent chose Gore. The nonblack vote divided about evenly between Gore and Bush. Therefore, had Harris allowed the counting of these ballots, Al Gore would have racked up a plurality of about 87,000 votes in Florida--162 times Bush's official margin of victory.

That's Florida. Now let's talk about America. In the 2000 election, 1.9 million votes cast were never counted. Spoiled for technical reasons, like writing in Gore's name, machine malfunctions and so on. The reasons for ballot rejection vary, but there's a suspicious shading to the ballots tossed into the dumpster. Edley's team of Harvard experts discovered that just as in Florida, the number of ballots spoiled was--county by county, precinct by precinct--in direct proportion to the local black voting population.

Florida's racial profile mirrors the nation's--both in the percentage of voters who are black and the racial profile of the voters whose ballots don't count. "In 2000, a black voter in Florida was ten times as likely to have their vote spoiled--not counted--as a white voter," explains political scientist Philip Klinkner, co-author of Edley's Harvard report. "National figures indicate that Florida is, surprisingly, typical. Given the proportion of nonwhite to white voters in America, then, it appears that about half of all ballots spoiled in the USA, as many as 1 million votes, were cast by nonwhite voters."

So there you have it. In the last presidential election, approximately 1 million black and other minorities voted, and their ballots were thrown away. And they will be tossed again in November 2004, efficiently, by computer--because HAVA and other bogus reform measures, stressing reform through complex computerization, do not address, and in fact worsen, the racial bias of the uncounted vote.

One million votes will disappear in a puff of very black smoke. And when the smoke clears, the Bush clan will be warming their political careers in the light of the ballot bonfire. HAVA nice day.

* based on the new expanded election edition of Best Democracy Money Can Buy, New York Times bestseller, released this week by Penguin Books. For more information about the book and boook tour events, visit

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News :: Peace & War

Peter Lumsdaine on Democracy Now

Amy Goodman - peace witnesses in Najaf w/contact #s

Peter Lumsdaine on Democracy Now

Tuesday, April 27th, 2004

.... * Peter Lumsbaine, head of The Najaf Emergency Peace Team, a
handful of peace activists who have arrived in Najaf. They plan to act
as human shields if US troops goes into the holy city to crush Shiite
cleric Muqtada al-Sadr.

* Rahul Mahajan, is an independent journalist and author. He has just
come out of Iraq, where he spent nearly a month reporting from the
ground. He was one of the only unembedded journalists to make it into
Fallujah. He runs a blog called


This transcript is available free of charge, however donations help us
provide closed captioning for the deaf and hard of hearing on our TV
broadcast. Thank you for your generous contribution.
Donate - $25, $50, $100, more...

AMY GOODMAN: We turn now to Peter Lumsbaine. He is with the Najaf
Emergency Peace Team, a handful of peace activists who have arrived in
Najaf. They plan to act as human shields if the U.S. troops go into the
holy city. We welcome you to Democracy Now!, Peter Lumsbaine.

PETER LUMSBAINE: Thank you, Amy.

AMY GOODMAN: Can you tell us just where you are?

PETER LUMSBAINE: Yes. I am in the downtown area, not the center, but the
downtown area of Najaf, Iraq, with the Najaf Emergency Peace Team, as
you said. We have been here for a few days. Before that, we were in
Karbala, which is also in a fairly tense situation as well. And we have
met with representatives of Ayatollah Ali Sistani office and
representatives of Moqtada al-Sadr's organization. We are not using the
term human shield, but we are here as a witness and protective
accompaniment present to stand with the people of Najaf and appeal to
the American troops to not attack the city, which we believe would be a
complete disaster for everybody involved. So, we are here on the ground
in Najaf, Iraq, right now.

AMY GOODMAN: What are representatives of Moqtada al-Sadr saying right

PETER LUMSBAINE: Well, I have to say that every Iraqi that we have met
with, and we were warned many times, to not come to Iraq. We arrived in
Amman, Jordan, when many NGOs and people from different organizations
were on their way out of Iraq and had come to Amman. Many people warned
us not to come in. This would be dangerous. We know there are dangers.
We recognize that. We have to say that every Iraqi we have met and
talked to has been cordial and welcoming to us. We have encountered
absolutely no hostility. The representatives of Ayatollah Ali Sistani
and Moqtada al-Sadr have been gracious and courteous to us in our
discussions. They said they want peace, not war, they want a negotiated
settlement, and that they want democracy and elections and -- for Iraqis
to determine their own future. This is what they told us. But as you
say, they have also warned if the Americans push for a confrontation,
that they will be unleashing very powerful forces of armed resistance
here in Iraq if they do that. So, I think they have pushed for the idea
of the U.S. drawing back from the cities, from confrontation and
allowing the Iraqi people to proceed with elections and determining
their own future. But they are also very ready, I think, to fight if
that's what it comes down to. In Kufa or near there last night there was
a major confrontation, as you reported.

AMY GOODMAN: Is there a difference between the approaches of Sistani and
Moqtada al-Sadr?

PETER LUMSBAINE: Yes, there is. We are not really here to engage in a
debate on one side or the other, but we are listening carefully to what
many Iraqis are saying, people in Karbala and people in Najaf and also
people with these organizations here in Najaf as well. Yes, I think
there is a difference. I think there's common ground in terms of the
demands for prompt elections, this year, this summer, before the U.S.
Presidential elections. I think this is not sometimes publicly stated,
but I think this is a key point. Many, many Iraqis, including people in
Sistani's and al-Sadr's organizations want prompt national elections, I
would say, clearly before the U.S. Presidential elections, and also they
do not want American troops going into Najaf. They want American troops
to stand down from the kind of confrontational actions they have taken
around the country during the past month. But there are differences,
too, and certainly, Ali Sistani, the Ayatollah here, has been a voice of
caution and calm and moderation; and al-Sadr's people have taken a
somewhat more tough or radical line towards the Americans. But, I think
there are differences, definitely, but I think there's also common

AMY GOODMAN: Peter Lumsbaine, can you tell us who you are, and the group
of you who are there? Where are you from?

PETER LUMSBAINE: Absolutely. Right. Let me just say there are five
people here on this delegation. Myself, and also Reverend Meg Lumsbaine
and Mario Galvan, Trish Shu and Brian Buckley. We are from California,
New York and Virginia, and we're representing our home communities and
also a number of organizations in the United States. For instance, Mario
is one of the National Board Members of Peace Action and a founding
member of the Zapatista Solidarity Coalition. Trish Shu has worked with
military families and piece organizations in the past, since Desert
Storm. I coordinate the Military Globalization Project, an Analysis and
Resistance Organizing project in California. Meg is actually an ordained
Lutheran pastor. We come from a variety of peace and human rights

AMY GOODMAN: From the Catholic Worker Community as well.

PETER LUMSBAINE: The Catholic Worker Community as well. Brian is from
the Catholic Worker Community in Virginia. So yes, we come from those
backgrounds. And we are in close touch with people in grassroots
organizations at a local, state-wide and national level in the United
States. And we see ourselves as informal but real representatives of the
people in the United States who are very concerned, increasing numbers
of people in the United States who are concerned about where the
situation is going in Iraq, and organizations which are opposed to the
U.S. military occupation here. I think many, many Iraqis have told us --
Iraqi men and women in Karbala and Najaf and other places-- Meg and I
were also here in October and we heard the same message-- that the
Iraqis were glad that Saddam was booted out, but that now that has
turned into an open ended and increasingly aggressive American military
occupation, which is more and more starting to resemble the very regime
that they claimed to replace. Also I think Iraqis have emphasized again
and again how Saddam himself was supported for years and years during
his worst phases of repression by the U.S. government. People, although
they are glad that Saddam was kicked out, they are skeptical of U.S.
intentions and very opposed to the increasingly harsh occupation here.

AMY GOODMAN: Are you afraid for your own lives?

PETER LUMSBAINE: Well, I think there is an element of fear. The danger
here is undeniable. I think like I say, the Iraqi people that we have
talked to have been welcoming, and also we have been getting messages of
support from all over the world, Europe, Asia, Latin America and so
forth. There is an element of danger here, particularly if the U.S.
forces, military forces push forward towards Najaf. Then it could turn
into an extremely dangerous situation. So yes, we have been somewhat
concerned. We know there are risks, but we feel that unless people who
are working for peace and justice and peacemaking are willing to --
people who are called to peacemaking are willing to shoulder at least
some of the risks that soilders very often take for the sake of war,
that we cannot reverse that dynamic. We know there are dangers, but we
are willing to deal with that. We are calling on people throughout the
United States and the world to also join in these kinds of delegations
at this time. This is a time when we must not abolish the presence of
NGO's and peace and justice groups in Iraq. Here there are dangers but
people need to come here as witnesses and protect every accompaniment,
to stand with the Iraqi people even if there are dangers. We feel that
strongly and put out that call. There are actually a couple of contact
numbers, e-mails that people can get in touch with us if they are
interested in joining a second or third wave of the work we're trying to
do here.

AMY GOODMAN: One of the email addresses?

PETER LUMSBAINE: One of those e-mail addresses. What I would suggest is
either Mario Galvan. That's

AMY GOODMAN: And people can go to our website at
and we will have the contact
information. Peter Lumsbaine, I want to thank you for being with us. The
Najaf Emergency Peace Team is in Najaf right now. We thank you and be
safe. This is Democracy Now!. When we come back, we will talk to a
reporter just out of Fallujah. We'll talk about the latest report on
what Americans understand about weapons of mass destruction. We're going
to be speaking with journalist Mario Murrillo about Colombia and the
United States, War and Unrest and Destabilization and activist Ray
Rogers, why he was dragged out of a Coca-Cola's shareholders meeting.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, the War and Peace report. I'm Amy
Goodman. Also at We were talking about Najaf. Now to
Fallujah. Rahul Mahajan has just come out of Fallujah, one of the few
westerners who has been there. The situation: eight Iraqi, one U.S.
Soldier killed in clashes in Fallujah. The marines called in air strikes
destroying a minaret, which they said insurgents had reportedly been
firing from. Can you talk about the situation in Fallujah?

RAHUL MAHAJAN: Well, obviously it's very tense. All of the signs point
to a renewed offensive. The US assaulted the city with pretty much
everything but the kitchen sink: 2,000 bombs from f-16's, ac-130's,
specter gun ships, super cobra helicopter tanks. They were not able to
take it in the first offensive. So they decided to try to win a military
victory by negotiation instead, by getting the rebels essentially to
disarm after which, presumably, the united states would go into the city
and round them all up and put -- throw them into the prison and throw
away the key as they have done with so many thousands of other Iraqis.
Obviously, that wasn't going to work. The rebels were not going to
disarm. It's just a matter of time. They're trying to get that military
victory by negotiation. They're talking about joint patrols with Iraqi
security forces which essentially means using Iraqi security forces as
human shields. It's a common practice when they do have joint patrols.
But that's just a way of seeing whether they can force a capitulation or
provoke another escalation and go in and finish off the job. It's likely
to be extremely bloody, if they do.

AMY GOODMAN: Just out of Fallujah, author of "Full Spectrum Dominance,"
and running the website
, Rahul Mahajan, I want to thank you for
being with us.

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Commentary :: Peace & War

Pat Tillman: Dumb jock, baby killer?

Pat Tillman: Dumb jock, baby killer?

by Ben Shapiro
April 28, 2004

What would you call Pat Tillman, the former Arizona Cardinal football player killed in Afghanistan? A hero? An inspiring example of American military men and women? A model of principled strength?

How about a "dumb jock"? A "baby killer"? A "dumb-a--"? A victim of "brainwashing"?

If you were a regular reader of, odds are that you'd put him in the latter group. You'd think that Pat Tillman was a boob, a complete dimwit at best -- you might even believe that Pat Tillman was an evil person and deserved what he got. has 50 local chapters in the United States. Forty-four of them made no mention of Pat Tillman's death. The other six celebrated it.

The Portland, Ore., chapter of posted the news of Tillman's death accompanied by this headline: "Dumb Jock Killed in Afghanistan." Some who posted comments suggested alternate titles for the piece, like "Privileged Millionaire, Blinded by Nationalist Mythology, Pisses Away the Good Life," "Cottled Sports Star Allows Nationalism to Foster Jingoistic Irresponsibility Resulting in His Death," and "Capitalist Chooses to Kill Innocents Instead of Cashing Check."

Others made comments on the site comparing Tillman to a Nazi and accusing him of responsibility for "the deaths of hundreds, maybe thousands of Afghan civilians." "Karma sure is a b----, isn't it, Tillman?" one sneered.

The Urbana-Champaign, Ill., chapter of posted two articles about Tillman. One carried the headline "Pat Tillman is gone good riddance." The other labeled all soldiers "dumb-a--(es)."

The North Carolina Indymedia chapter also posted a piece labeling soldiers like Tillman "dumb-a--(es)" and added that Tillman was killed during a "baby-killing raid." San Francisco Indymedia posted the same piece. St. Louis Indymedia stated that Tillman was "brainwashed by the 'patriotism.'"

One commenter on the Washington, D.C., Indymedia site wrote this: "I saw the Post this morning, on the front page. It was sickening. They built this guy up like he was Audie Murphy or something, publishing this foto of him in his Ranger getup, all tough-looking and stony-jawed, like a goddamn' recruiting ad ... Puke-o-rama. Cold as it may sound, 'Dumb Jock Dies for Pipeline in Afghanistan' pretty much sums it up."

What is Indymedia? According to its Web site, "Indymedia is a collective of independent media organizations and hundreds of journalists offering grass-roots, non-corporate coverage. Indymedia is a democratic media outlet for the creation of radical, accurate and passionate tellings of truth." Indymedia is made up of leaders in the anti-globalization and anti-war movement, coordinating massive protests. They revel in wild conspiracy theories. They're rabidly anti-capitalist and generally anti-American. In short, they're a bunch of left-wing nuts.

Yet the American left has neglected to excise the Indymedia cancer from its support base. In 2002, the left-leaning Ford Foundation gave Indymedia $50,000. The Tides Foundation has donated $376,000 to Indymedia, according to Two of the biggest donors to the Tides Foundation? George Soros, who has given over $15 million to Democratic causes during this election cycle, and Teresa Heinz Kerry. Ralph Nader is one of Indymedia's biggest supporters; his group, Public Citizen, is listed as on as an "ally."

Indymedia is no small-potatoes venture. Aside from its Web sites based in 50 major American markets, it also has Web sites located in five chapters in Africa, 13 in Canada, 39 in Europe, 15 in Latin America, eight in Asia, and nine in Oceania.

The Indymedia list of allies is impressive as well. It lists groups like Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting, Adbusters, ZNet, the Institute for Public Accuracy, and Corporate Watch.

Largely due to an unceasing hatred for President Bush, the American political left continues to support Indymedia and its ilk. During the Hitler-Bush ad scandal, liberal pundits largely refused to condemn the ads. Democratic Underground, a site linked on John Kerry's official blog, constantly pushes an extreme leftism often encroaching into paranoid territory.

This latest outrage underscores the leftist community's tolerance for an ugly, radical element. The Pat Tillman insults have been floating around the Web for days; the liberal silence is deafening. Tillman died to protect freedom of speech -- that doesn't mean anyone should use it to spit on his grave.


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News :: Globalization & Capitalism : Peace & War

Fallujah will be your Stalingrad, Americans told

Fallujah will be your Stalingrad, Americans told
by Toby Harnden, The Telegraph
April 26th, 2004
On the dusty road to the Jordanian Hospital on the edge of besieged Fallujah a skull and crossbones flew defiantly from the bonnet of a US military Humvee yesterday as preparations were made for a renewed offensive.

America's senior general described the city as a "huge rats' nest", while Col John Coleman, a US marine commander in Fallujah, suggested that it was a "centre of gravity" in the war against terrorism.

"As Fallujah goes, so goes central Iraq," he said. "As central Iraq goes, so goes the nation."

More American soldiers have died in Fallujah than anywhere else in post-war Iraq and the Sunni city, a Saddam Hussein stronghold to which foreign fighters have flocked, is Iraq's main battleground.

But for Amar Abbas, a 35-year-old electrical engineer, Fallujah is simply home. He fled with many members of his extended family when the fighting in the city erupted and took refuge in the nearby village of Na'amiya.

At the weekend, his relatives said, an American missile strike there killed a dozen people and injured many more. Mr Abbas lay in a temporary hospital yesterday preparing for an operation to remove shrapnel from his jaw.

Opposite him was his son Othman, eight, whose face had been horribly disfigured and left hand rendered useless by the blast.

"We thought we would be safe in Na'amiya," said Mr Abbas. "We were sleeping outside on the ground when the planes and helicopters came. It was 2am. My son wanted to become a surgeon, but now that can never be. They even prevented us evacuating the wounded. It was hours before we could get Othman out."

The only words his son had spoken since he was so badly injured, he said, were "I hate the Americans". As Othman stared blankly at the ceiling, his father said he wanted the Americans to pay for what they had done.

"Fallujah will be their Stalingrad. The Euphrates will be a river of their blood. Now the resistance is spreading all over Iraq and everyone is coming to Fallujah to help us. It will not be conquered."

The official estimate of civilian deaths in Fallujah since US forces entered the city three weeks ago is 271.

The trigger for the offensive came when four defence contractors were killed and their charred bodies were dragged through the streets and hung from a bridge.

Two of the Iraqi dead were unidentified and buried in makeshift graves in the grounds of the hospital. "One body was brought here in a blanket by American troops," said Major Moneeb Zurikat, the hospital's security officer.

"They dumped it at the gate and shouted, 'Now you can bury your Muslim brother'. What can I say? There is nothing to say about this."

With the Pentagon determined to break the will of the insurgents and avenge the lives of the many Americans they have killed, a peaceful resolution with the diehard Iraqi fighters is unlikely.

Another US soldier was killed in Baghdad yesterday and a US Coast Guard officer died of wounds sustained on Saturday in an audacious suicide attack on a Gulf oil facility. Two American sailors died and oil exports stopped for at least two days.

With the expertise of the insurgents improving all the time and the defiance in Fallujah acting as an inspiration nationally, commanders believe that only an American victory in the city can break the will of their enemies.

At the checkpoint outside the hospital an American military policeman shrugged when asked about the dead and injured of Na'amiya.

"We received some mortar and small arms fire from there and so we said, 'to hell with it' and just went in.

"We were supposed to wait until today, but we got pissed off and decided to draw a line. We pretty much took out anyone who was in there being stupid."

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:: Civil & Human Rights


On Sunday, April 25th., Robert Norse H.U.F.F. granted me a long airway time to air my problem of direct address to the Orange County Housing Authority here in Santa Ana, who deied my waiting list claim after a wait since 200l. By saying I was not in their district, and because the would not tranfer me to the correct one, or consider my physician's letter, it was easy to concur that there is a lot of political graft going on here! Senator Feinstein ignored my appeal to her offices to help me obtain a Fair Hearing to this victimization on February 4, 2004 to both my granddaughter Brook and I. It is my hopes that if I can bring this to enough people to make them realize the shocking bureacracy that is happening to all parents and grandparents applying for housing through our attorney will file this discrimination case while there is still time.
Grandma Lee at

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Commentary :: Environment & Food

World oil crisis looms

Shell Oil admits their remaining oil reserves are 40% below what they've reported since 2000.

It's called the Peak Oil problem - the planet is finally running out!

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News :: Civil & Human Rights

Georgia passes laws limiting protests

Sunday, April 18, 2004 · Last updated 10:34 a.m. PT

Georgia passes laws limiting protests


Robert Randall, organizer for the "G-8 Carnival", a public demonstration of up to 10,000 people during the world leaders' summit in June, stands at one possible location for the protest, April 15, 2004 in Brunswick, Ga. The city of Brunswick passed a new law last month that permits public demonstrations only after organizers agree to numerous conditions and fees. (AP Photo/Stephen Morton)

BRUNSWICK, Ga. -- Robert Randall never knew free speech could cost so much - in dollars and in compromises - until he tried to organize a large-scale, peaceful demonstration for this summer's G-8 summit.

The coastal city of Brunswick, where Randall hopes to gather up to 10,000 people to protest the world leaders' summit, passed a law last month that places conditions on public demonstrations.

Organizers of protests like Randall's "G-8 Carnival" must put up refundable deposits equal to the city's estimated cost for clean up and police protection. Demonstrations may only last 2 hours, 30 minutes. Signs and banners may not be carried on sticks that might be brandished as weapons. And the signs may not be larger than 2-by-3 feet.

"This law would not exist if the G-8 was not coming here," said Randall, 51, a local therapist who has attended demonstrations since the Vietnam War. "It makes it impossible to express oneself through assembly or speech on public property unless you have money."

Thousands of anti-globalization protesters are expected June 8-10 when President Bush hosts the leaders of Britain, Japan, Germany, Italy, France, Canada and Russia on secluded Sea Island.

Brunswick, Savannah and surrounding counties have passed ordinances governing protest permits. The American Civil Liberties Union has threatened to sue, saying the laws "place impermissible limits on free speech."

Observers say the cities' actions fit a national pattern of managing dissent with beefed up laws and police powers that constrict constitutional guarantees of freedom of speech and assembly.

The new laws are a response to the violent protests during the 1999 World Trade Organization meeting in Seattle and the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in 2001.

Demonstrators are facing some of their toughest restrictions since the 1960s, said Ronald Collins of the First Amendment Center in Arlington, Va.

"Post-Seattle and 9-11, it seems more municipalities are considering measures that may well undermine existing First Amendment law," he said.

Miami banned props such as water pistols, balloons and sticks before demonstrators arrived for a global trade summit in November. The city repealed the law last month in the face of lawsuits.

On Thursday, federal appeals court judges ruled that an Augusta, Ga., ordinance violated the rights of a women's group that sought to protest outside the all-male Augusta National Golf Club during the 2003 Masters golf tournament.

The ordinance, adopted just before the tournament, let police keep protesters a half-mile from the club's gates and required a permit for any assembly of five or more people. The appeals court said the law "creates the opportunity for undetectable censorship."

Activists also have complained that security plans for so-called "free speech zones" at the Democratic Convention in Boston will keep protesters from being seen or heard.

Cities "are choosing sides and what they're doing is trying to silence people from speaking out," said Mara Verheyden-Hilliard, a Washington attorney and co-founder of the Partnership for Civil Justice. "And they're using the law as a political tool to do it."

During the G-8 summit in Georgia, both Brunswick and Savannah expect to see protesters.

Brunswick is the nearest inland community to Sea Island, which will be off limits to demonstrators. Savannah, 60 miles north, will house 5,000 international journalists and dignitaries.

With the summit less than two months away, neither city has approved any permits for demonstrations - in part, activists say, because of steep requirements.

Brunswick requires groups of six or more to apply for permits at least 20 days before an event. The city's ordinance sets no limit on deposits, and says permits may be denied if a demonstration is likely to congest traffic, impede commerce or endanger the public.

Savannah's law is similar but does not specify the size of groups needing permits, which the ACLU says could be applied to one person.

City officials have said that protesters wanting to use public parks will be charged the same fees - $150 to $700 per day - as people renting those spaces for private events such as weddings. Groups of 150 or more must pay maintenance deposits of $1.50 per head.

Savannah Mayor Otis Johnson declined to comment, citing the threat of litigation from the ACLU. But City Attorney James Blackburn told the Savannah Morning News the city would review the ordinance in light of the appellate decision on the Augusta lawsuit.

In Brunswick, Randall says he's waiting to find a site for his demonstration before requesting a permit. The city's mayor says the city is trying to help him.


On The Net:

G8 Summit:



G8 Carnival:

American Civil Liberties Union:

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News :: Peace & War

Senator says US may need compulsory service to boost Iraq force

WASHINGTON (AFP) - Senator Chuck Hagel of Nebrasks said that deteriorating security in Iraq may force the United States to reintroduce the military draft.

"Why shouldn't we ask all of our citizens to bear some responsibility and pay some price?" Hagel said, arguing that restoring compulsory military service would force "our citizens to understand the intensity and depth of challenges we face."

The Nebraska Republican added that a draft, which was ended in the early 1970s, would spread the burden of military service in Iraq more equitably among various social strata.

"Those who are serving today and dying today are the middle class and lower middle class," he observed.

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