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News and reports

November 9, 2007 | Pages 10 and 11

Campaign to End the Death Penalty
Seattle forum for health care rights
No to war and occupation
Protest against Caterpillar

Campaign to End the Death Penalty
By Julien Ball

CHICAGO--Exonerated death row prisoners and family members of current and former prisoners will join activists from around the country here November 10-11 for the Campaign to End the Death Penalty's seventh annual convention, "The Death Penalty: Guilty on All Counts!"

Sister Helen Prejean, the prominent opponent of the death penalty and author of Dead Man Walking, will be the keynote speaker at an evening meeting November 10. The program is cosponsored by the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois and the University of Chicago, and the Rockefeller Memorial Chapel.

Other speakers include exonerated death row prisoners Shujaa Graham, Darby Tillis and Harold Wilson; Barbara Becnel, the advocate of executed California death row prisoner Stan Tookie Williams; Martina Correia, sister of Georgia death row prisoner Troy Davis; Derrel Myers of Murder Victims' Families for Human Rights; and Jeremy Scahill, author of the bestselling Blackwater: The Rise of the World's Most Powerful Mercenary Army.

The convention comes at an important time for the anti-death penalty movement. The Supreme Court recently agreed to take up the question of whether the lethal injection procedure currently used in 37 states constitutes cruel and unusual punishment--which has led to a temporary halt on executions across the country.

At the same time, death penalty activists are celebrating successful efforts to stop the execution of Texas death row prisoner Kenneth Foster Jr. His father, Kenneth Foster Sr., will be present at the convention.

For information about how to register for the convention, call 773-955-4841, e-mail [email protected] or visit

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Seattle forum for health care rights
By John Dimond and Kate Johnson

SEATTLE--About 80 people gathered at Seattle Central Community College for an October 22 panel discussion titled "The Sicko Cure: Building a Movement for Real Health Care Reform."

The panel, the first major event of the Right to Health Care Now! (RHCN) coalition since it was formed in July, was able to bring together many of the leading health care groups and activists in the state, including Physicians for a National Health Program (PNHP), Seattle National Organization for Women, Health Care for All Washington, and Physicians for Social Responsibility.

Dr. James Floyd of PNHP blasted corporations for diverting dollars away from patient care into the hands of administrators. A 1999 study showed that 31 percent of health care spending in the U.S. ends up paying for administrative costs, while in Canada, only 17 percent is spent on these costs.

Dr. Sherry Weinberg, a retired pediatrician, addressed "universal coverage" reforms like the new law in Massachusetts, which seeks to criminalize those who don't buy private insurance plans. This model is being trumpeted by many of the leading Republican and Democratic candidates in the 2008 election.

Kate Johnson of RHCN and the International Socialist Organization addressed the need to build a grassroots movement based on activism, coalition-building and mass action. "This model of organizing was how the civil rights movement was able to end segregation and pave the way for the passage of Medicare and Medicaid in 1965, the most significant health care reform won in U.S. history," she said.

RHCN plans to bring Donna Smith, who is a featured patient in SiCKO, to Seattle for the first screening of the movie in the area.

For more information about RHCN, e-mail [email protected].

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No to war and occupation
By Paul Hubbard

PROVIDENCE, R.I.--Nearly 200 students, activists and community members turned out to hear Dahlia Wasfi's compelling presentation "Life in Iraq Under U.S. Occupation" at Brown University October 23. The event was sponsored by Operation Iraqi Freedom at Brown University, the American Friends Service Committee, the Rhode Island October 27 Coalition and the International Socialist Organization.

Wasfi's presentation showed how the already difficult lives of the Iraqi people have deteriorated since the U.S. war and occupation began. She was joined on stage by Ted Goodnight, an Afghanistan war veteran and member of Iraq Veterans Against the War.

In visits to Iraq in 2004 and 2006, Wasfi said, "[I]t was significantly noticeable how life conditions had deteriorated during that time, in particular the security situation, the availability of electricity, the availability of potable water."

Wasfi called for the immediate withdrawal of all U.S. forces. "[W]e as Americans have more in common with the Iraqi people than we do with our own government," she said.

Kathy Lessuck contributed to this report.

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Protest against Caterpillar
By Brian Huseby

OLYMPIA, Wash.--Approximately 30 people here gathered October 19 to tell Caterpillar Inc. to stop profiting from Israel's violations of the human rights of Palestinians.

Since 1967, Israel has used Cat bulldozers to demolish nearly 12,000 Palestinian homes, leaving approximately 70,000 Palestinians homeless and killing at least 17. In September, teenager Mamoud al-Kifafi was killed by the blade of a Cat bulldozer during the demolition of 13 Palestinian homes.

"A lot of people don't realize that this is still going on," Cindy Corrie, the mother of activist Rachel Corrie, the Olympia native and activist who was killed by a Cat bulldozer in 2003, said in an interview. "[W]e are trying to prevent [another death] from happening."

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