Online Edition: October 2005     Vol. XVIII, No. 2

sponsored by Peace Life Center Middle East Committee. Public invited

Modesto Peace/Life Center Vigils for Peace:  Please call the Center for time, place, and message themes, usually Fridays. Info: 529-5750.

Hurricane Katrina Relief

As news breaks regarding this enormous catastrophe, relief is desperately needed.  

To address immediate needs of food, water and shelter, you may wish  to donate directly to one of the many humanitarian groups best equipped to provide for those affected by the disaster.

One relief organization of known integrity is Church World Service (CWS).  You can make a donation for Hurrican Katrina Relief through CWS at Church World Service, P.O. Box 968 , Elkhart , IN   46515 or online at

Numerous other relief organizations working to help in this catastrophe can be found through the FEMA website.

The GI Rights Hotline


Peace & Justice

Around the Center: 


Living Lightly

Recipes from Connections

A Gathering of Voices

Out and About


Masthead and Back Issues

Opinion and Letters to Connections

California paramedics and Hurricane Katrina


Bradshaw and Slonsky are San Francisco paramedics who were attending the Emergency Medical Services conference in New Orleans when Hurricane Katrina struck.

On Day 2, there were approximately 500 of us left in the hotels in the French Quarter. We were a mix of foreign tourists, conference attendees like ourselves, and locals who had checked into hotels for safety and shelter from Katrina. Some of us had cell phone contact with family and friends outside of New Orleans. We were repeatedly told that all sorts of resources including the National Guard and scores of buses were pouring in to the city. The buses and the other resources must have been invisible because none of us had seen them.

We decided we had to save ourselves. So we pooled our money and came up with $25,000 to have ten buses come and take us out of the city. The buses never arrived. We later learned that the minute they arrived to the city limits, they were commandeered by the military.

By day 4 our hotel had run out of fuel and water. Sanitation was dangerously abysmal. The hotels turned us out and locked their doors, telling us that the "officials" told us to report to the convention center to wait for more buses. As we entered the center of the city, the National Guard told us we would not be allowed into the Superdome as the city's primary shelter had descended into a humanitarian and health hellhole. The guards further told us that the city's only other shelter, the Convention Center, was also descending into chaos and squalor and that the police were not allowing anyone else in. Quite naturally, we asked, "If we can't go to the only two shelters in the city, what was our alternative?" The guards told us that that was our problem, and no, they did not have extra water to give to us.

We walked to the police command center at Harrah's on Canal Street and were told the same thing, that we were on our own, and no they did not have water to give us. We now numbered several hundred. We held a mass meeting to decide a course of action. We agreed to camp outside the police command post. We would be plainly visible to the media and would constitute a highly visible embarrassment to the city officials. The police told us that we could not stay. Regardless, we began to settle in and set up camp. In short order, the police commander came across the street to address our group. He told us to walk to the Pontchartrain Expressway and cross the greater New Orleans Bridge, where the police had buses lined up to take us out of the city. The crowed cheered and began to move The commander turned to the crowd and stated emphatically, "I swear to you that the buses are there."

We organized ourselves and the 200 of us set off for the bridge with great excitement and hope. As we marched past the convention center, many locals saw our determined and optimistic group and asked where we were headed. We told them about the great news. Families immediately grabbed their few belongings and quickly our numbers doubled and then doubled again. Babies in strollers now joined us, people using crutches, elderly clasping walkers and others people in wheelchairs. We marched the 2-3 miles to the freeway and up the steep incline to the Bridge. It now began to pour down rain, but it did not dampen our enthusiasm.

As we approached the bridge, armed Gretna, Louisiana sheriffs formed a line across the foot of the bridge. Before we were close enough to speak, they began firing their weapons over our heads. As the crowd scattered and dissipated, a few of us inched forward and managed to engage some of the sheriffs in conversation. We told them of our conversation with the police commander and of the commander's assurances. The sheriffs informed us there were no buses waiting. The commander had lied to us to get us to move.

We questioned why we couldn't cross the bridge anyway, especially as there was little traffic on the 6-lane highway. They responded that the West Bank was not going to become New Orleans and there would be no Superdomes in their city. These were code words for if you are poor and black, you are not crossing the Mississippi River and you were not getting out of New Orleans.

Our small group retreated back down Highway 90 to seek shelter from the rain under an overpass. We debated our options and in the end decided to build an encampment in the middle of the Ponchartrain Expressway on the center divide, between the O'Keefe and Tchoupitoulas exits. We reasoned that we would be visible to everyone, we would have some security being on an elevated freeway and we could wait and watch for the arrival of the yet to be seen buses.

All day long, we saw other families, individuals and groups make the same trip up the incline in an attempt to cross the bridge, only to be turned away. Some chased away with gunfire, others simply told no, others to be verbally berated and humiliated. Thousands of New Orleaners were prevented and prohibited from self-evacuating the city on foot.

Our little encampment began to blossom. Someone stole a water delivery truck and brought it up to us. Let's hear it for looting! A mile or so down the freeway, an army truck lost a couple of pallets of C-rations on a tight turn. We ferried the food back to our camp in shopping carts. Now secure with the two necessities, food and water; cooperation, community, and creativity flowered. We organized a clean up and hung garbage bags from the rebar poles. We made beds from wood pallets and cardboard. We designated a storm drain as the bathroom and the kids built an elaborate enclosure for privacy out of plastic, broken umbrellas, and other scraps. We even organized a food recycling system where individuals could swap out parts of C-rations (applesauce for babies and candies for kids!).

This was a process we saw repeatedly in the aftermath of Katrina. When individuals had to fight to find food or water, it meant looking out for your self only. You had to do whatever it took to find water for your kids or food for your parents. When these basic needs were met, people began to look out for each other, working together and constructing a community.

If the relief organizations had saturated the city with food and water in the first 2 or 3 days, the desperation, the frustration and the ugliness would not have set in.

Flush with the necessities, we offered food and water to passing families and individuals. Many decided to stay and join us. Our encampment grew to 80 or 90 people.

Just as dusk set in, a Gretna Sheriff showed up, jumped out of his patrol vehicle, aimed his gun at our faces, screaming, "Get off the fucking freeway". A helicopter arrived and used the wind from its blades to blow away our flimsy structures. As we retreated, the sheriff loaded up his truck with our food and water.

In the pandemonium of having our camp raided and destroyed, we scattered once again. Reduced to a small group of eight people, in the dark, we sought refuge in an abandoned school bus, under the freeway on Cilo Street. We were hiding from possible criminal elements but equally and definitely, we were hiding from the police and sheriffs with their martial law, curfew and shoot-to-kill policies.

The next days, our group walked most of the day, made contact with New Orleans Fire Department and was eventually airlifted out by an urban search and rescue team. We were dropped off near the airport and caught a ride with the National Guard. The two young guardsmen apologized for the limited response of the Louisiana guards. They explained that a large section of their unit was in Iraq and that meant they were shorthanded and were unable to complete all the tasks they were assigned.

We arrived at the airport on the day a massive airlift had begun. The airport had become another Superdome. We were caught in a press of humanity as flights were delayed for several hours while George Bush landed briefly at the airport for a photo op. After being evacuated on a coast guard cargo plane, we arrived in San Antonio, Texas.

There the humiliation and dehumanization of the official relief effort continued. We were placed on buses and driven to a large field where we were forced to sit for hours and hours. Some of the buses did not have air-conditioners. In the dark, hundreds if us were forced to share two filthy overflowing porta-potties. Those who managed to make it out with any possessions (often a few belongings in tattered plastic bags) were subjected to two different dog-sniffing searches.

Most of us had not eaten all day because our C-rations had been confiscated at the airport because the rations set off the metal detectors. Yet, no food had been provided to the men, women, children, elderly, disabled as they sat for hours waiting to be "medically screened" to make sure we were not carrying any communicable diseases.

This official treatment was in sharp contrast to the warm, heart-felt reception given to us by the ordinary Texans. We saw one airline worker give her shoes to someone who was barefoot. Strangers on the street offered us money and toiletries with words of welcome. Throughout, the official relief effort was callous, inept, and racist.

There was more suffering than need be. Lives were lost that did not need to be lost.

Edited from a longer article at

November 8 election brings challenges


Columnists have written reams about the upcoming fall special election. I want to alert you that this is also a time for numerous LOCAL elections. Your life in any community is affected as much by local officials as it is by state or national law.

Be aware that many school boards hold their elections in the off years, as well as city councils. Those people affect you right where you live, in the way they carry out budget constraints and local laws.

With Governor Schwarzenegger pushing state ballot measures, you will also be voting on matters that affect your life. Millions are spent by special interests to get these on the ballot. Pay attention to who is paying for the TV ads and it will tell you a lot. Seldom is a measure qualified by grassroots signatures. The original purpose of the California initiative, started in the early 1900s, was meant to counter the influence of the "robber barons" of the time.

There are eight propositions, numbers 73 thru 80. The California League of Women Voters studies the propositions at each election and takes positions only when they have previously studied and come to consensus on a specific issue. They also publish a "Pros and Cons" paper which is given away during the weeks previous to each election. Pick up a copy at any library. The arguments for both sides are presented.

If you trust the League of Women Voters process, here are its positions for November (these titles do not in any way tell you the real gist of the measures):

ACTION: Last day to register to vote: Monday, October 24. Registration form must be turned in to Elections Dept., I St. Modesto, on that day. Plenty of registrars will help you at the library on the last day. BE SURE TO VOTE, TUESDAY Nov. 8, or mail your absentee ballot AT LEAST 10 days before the election.

Inter-Religious Thanksgiving looks for community participation


InnerFaith Resources, joined by volunteers from the newly-formed Network of Spiritual Progressives, will present the Eleventh Annual Inter-Religious Community Thanksgiving Celebration on Monday, November 21. The event will begin with “gathering music” at 7:15 p.m. The Modesto Church of the Brethren, 2301 Woodland Avenue, will once again host the popular sharing of faith traditions.

This year’s theme will address the question of how we can all be thankful despite horrendous natural disasters and continuing violence in the world. A collection will be taken to benefit Inter-Faith Ministries’ food pantry.

The Celebration will include a variety of songs, prayers, performances and other expressions of thanks from representatives of the full spectrum of religious communities in the area.

As in past years, members of the Baha’i, Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Jewish, Muslim, Native American, Sikh, Unitarian and other spiritual traditions are invited to participate.

ACTION: For more information — or to participate as an individual or religious community — call Mark Haskett, (209) 577-0864.

Stanislaus State hosts speakers

Each Thursday this semester at CSU Stanislaus, a variety of candidates and elected officials will speak and answer questions. All events are free to the public.

UPCOMING SPEAKERS (dates confirmed, locations TBA)

Additional speakers: pending.

FOR INFORMATION: Lee Ryan Miller, Ph.D., Dept. of Politics & Public Administration, CSU, Stanislaus, (209) 667-3291.

15th Annual International Heritage Festival: a great time for whole community


Tell your family and friends it's time once again for a grand world sampler at the 15h Annual International Heritage Festival, Saturday and Sunday October 1 and 2 in Graceada Park near Downtown Modesto.

The festivities will include a Saturday evening concert with the Zazu Pitts Memorial Orchestra, Carlos Caro, Those Darn Accordions, and a host of others.

The entertainment will be non-stop throughout the weekend as guest performers dance, sing, play music, and tell stories from numerous ethnic traditions on four different stages.

Festival goers can graze through the International Food Court and browse the World information area, Craft Bazaar, World Games and petting zoo.

Kids' World and the Global Village will offer children's crafts, games and information from 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. both days. Thomas the Tank Engine will be on hand to greet youngsters, and guest conductors will read stories at 12 p.m. and 2 p.m. Saturday.

Learn more about the free family event at This festival is all about fun and sharing. It is the kind of event that puts a positive face on Modesto and deserves your support.

Discovering the culture of Japan


Ever since my sophomore year in high school, I have wanted to be an exchange student. Something about that cross-cultural experience just seemed very alluring to me. Learning about new belief systems, religions, creeds, traditions, cultures, ideas, and ways of life that are different than my own, is always intriguing. I had heard once before that just as you can't know or enjoy the taste of a mango without tasting it, you can't know or appreciate the pleasure of another lifestyle without experiencing it. This summer, I was an exchange student through the Modesto Sister Cities International Exchange Program. President Harry Truman founded this program because he strongly felt that students from different parts of the world need to learn about different cultures and create friendships with each other in order to create a more peaceful world and help to prevent wars. Most of the time, wars start because people don't take the time to understand one another and tolerate one another's belief systems and ways of life.

I leaped out of my comfort zone and traveled to Japan with nine other students and two chaperones, Mr. and Mrs. Maxwell. We left from San Francisco airport and traveled for ten straight hours to Tokyo. We were all so excited to be there, to breathe in the air (even though the weather was very hot and humid), and to begin our journey of discovering and experiencing the culture of Japan.

From Tokyo, we flew to the Fukuoka. On our bus ride to Kurume, a smaller city about 40 minutes away from Fukuoka, I experienced the strangest feeling — tiredness (we hadn't slept for 24 hours) mixed with the adrenaline rush of meeting my host family. Just seeing the bright lights of the cities, driving on the left side of the road, and the fact that I was on the other side of the world from where I call home was very exciting.

From the start, I loved my host family, the Kondos. As soon as I got there, we sat in their living room on the floor around a table and drank green tea. I could tell that everyone was so excited and eager to meet me. The whole entire Kondo family, all four generations who lived in their home, greeted me with absolute kindness and hospitality. The Japanese treat a guest or outside visitor with the utmost respect and deference. This philosophy of kindness is deeply embedded in the Japanese culture and comes from goodwill and the genuine concern for people. Japan's indigenous religion is Shintoism, which outdates Buddhism by over a thousand years, teaches unselfish respect and service to other people.

Although my host family didn't speak much English, Asako and Erico, the younger daughters, spoke English fairly well. I still managed to find common ground with the family. On a day trip with my host family, I played a CD for them and the father recognized music by the Beatles, John Lennon, Bob Marley, and Jimi Hendrix. I learned that the family owns a salt distributing company that has been in their family for 300 years. Everything there had so much age to it, even their house was 100 years old. It is incredible how much culture is in Japan. Just about two blocks from the Kondo’s home there is a beautiful shrine. And another one two blocks father down.

The Kondo’s traditional Japanese style home was absolutely beautiful. There were tatami rice mats in each of the rooms and thin rice-paper sliding doors. Japanese homes are designed to be pleasing to the senses, comfortable, and refreshing. Their house was built around an open garden with large trees and plants. Each room had very simple, yet stunning, decorations. We were required to remove our shoes on the tatami rice mats. One could either go bare foot or wear slippers.

As a group, we American exchange students experienced such unique things in the twelve days that we were in Japan. We met the mayor of Kurume and visited (one of my favorite places) the Golden temple beautiful overlooking a serene pond with lush lillypads and surrounding gardens. We saw the second biggest Buddha statue in the world at Nara Park. We made pottery and visited an art gallery in the small, peaceful town of Akizuki, which was my absolute favorite place. We marched in a Water Festival parade with the Japanese exchange students.

With my own host family, we went to a fireworks festival at the Chikugo River. For this event, I wore the yukata, or kimono, that my host family generously bought me as a gift. There were an estimated 45,000 people there, and about 99% of the women were wearing beautiful, bright-colored yukatas. One night we even did Karaoke, which is a very popular thing in Japan for teenagers to do with their friends. I ate with chopsticks, grew a love for sushi, ramen, miso soup, tempura, and other Japanese foods.

Prior to leaving for Japan, my main concern about traveling was that I would come back home and have regrets. I worried that I would not be courageous enough to try strange new foods, meet new people who don't speak English, and come completely out of my comfort zone. But I came back home without a single regret.

I surprised myself and bravely tasted almost every single strange food, even when I had no idea what a certain dish was. I went out of my way to try to speak Japanese, as I frequently used my Japanese phrasebook, and I met many wonderful people. I loved everything about Japan; the natural beauty of the scenery, the people, the culture. I even cried when I finally had to say goodbye to my host family. They were the nicest and most hospitable people I probably will ever meet. And for that short period of time that I stayed with them, I felt like family. They took me in, gave me a place to stay, and helped me see the world in a whole new perspective. I learned that no matter what language barriers lie between two people, kindness is still kindness and a smile is still a smile. I would go back to Japan in a heartbeat just to relive this life-changing experience.

If you ever have the opportunity to visit Japan, step outside of your comfort zone; try new things; stray off the common tourist paths to the quieter, more peaceful towns. I guarantee you will love discovering the intriguing culture of Japan.

A social worker’s profile


Simon Bolivar Airport, Venezuela

August 5th, 2005

Our very first experience as the United States delegation at the 16th World Festival of Youth and Students was the warm and excited welcome of a Venezuelan comrade who is a social worker in Mission Barrio Adentro a community that, plugged on a steep hill, faces Airport Simon Bolivar. His name is Daniel, better known as the guy in the red shirt.

What does social work in the hill communities of Venezuela consist of? Climbing up and climbing down, up and down and up and down. His day starts when the sun comes up at 6 a.m. After breakfast there is a daily meeting with the 5 Cuban medics to go over the day’s work and then the climbing begins.

Daniel’s duty is to do what he must to ensure the community’s’ health. For example, he sometimes must climb to the most remote parts of the hill to deliver a medicine to a person who is too disabled to make the trip to the clinic or perhaps is too busy working to do so. Other times he schedules clinic appointments for them, from an allotted schedule provided by the medics. He also registers neighbors for reading and writing classes and for educational workshops.

Lunch is usually an invitation at a neighbor’s home wherever lunchtime has found him. In mid-day there is a meeting with the mission organizers to share the day’s happenings and afternoon plans. In the afternoon 2 or 3 workshops are conducted daily about such topics as: hygiene and health, sexual education and premature pregnancy, drugs and alcoholism, or other topics the community asks for. These usually end at 10 p.m.

After the workshop, Daniel climbs down the hill towards his modest one room home, but on his way, there at least ten neighbors who stop to talk to him or ask a question. He finally arrives home at midnight, at which time he finally takes a shower, puts on his favorite shorts and lays down on his bed. To sleep? No. Only to rest for about half an hour, because he must write his daily report to be sent to Chavez, as he does so every working day.

Astonished, our jet-lagged group finds the strength to express our admiration and reverence. “How much are you paid?” We ask. “The minimal, “ he replies. “I have everything I need; a roof, a bed, and I am never short of an invitation for breakfast, lunch or dinner.”

Welcome to Venezuela! He declares, “You are defenders of truth, and please send my warmest greeting to the people of the United States.”

Election fraud continues: data shows widespread vote manipulations in 2004


In the fall of 2001, after an eight-month review of 175,000 Florida ballots never counted in the 2000 election, an analysis by the National Opinion Research Center confirmed that Al Gore actually won Florida and should have been President. However, coverage of this report was only a small blip in the corporate media as a much bigger story dominated the news after September 11, 2001.

New research compiled by Dr. Dennis Loo with the University of Cal Poly Pomona now shows that extensive manipulation of non-paper-trail voting machines occurred in several states during the 2004 election. The facts are as follows: In 2004 Bush far exceeded the 85% of registered Florida Republican votes that he got in 2000, receiving more than 100% of the registered Republican votes in 47 out of 67 Florida counties, 200% of registered Republicans in 15 counties, and over 300% of registered Republicans in 4 counties. Bush managed these remarkable outcomes despite the fact that his share of the crossover votes by registered Democrats in Florida did not increase over 2000, and he lost ground among registered Independents, dropping 15 points. We also know that Bush “won” Ohio by 51-48%, but statewide results were not matched by the court-supervised hand count of the 147,400 absentee and provisional ballots in which Kerry received 54.46% of the vote. In Cuyahoga County, Ohio the number of recorded votes was more than 93,000 greater than the number of registered voters.

More importantly national exit polls showed Kerry winning in 2004. However, It was only in precincts where there were no paper trails on the voting machines that the exit polls ended up being different from the final count. According to Dr. Steve Freeman, a statistician at the University of Pennsylvania, the odds are 250 million to one that the exit polls were wrong by chance. In fact, where the exit polls disagreed with the computerized outcomes the results always favored Bush - another statistical impossibility.

Dennis Loo writes, “A team at the University of California at Berkeley, headed by sociology professor Michael Hout, found a highly suspicious pattern in which Bush received 260,000 more votes in those Florida precincts that used electronic voting machines than past voting patterns would indicate compared to those precincts that used optical scan read votes where past voting patterns held.”

There is now strong statistical evidence of widespread voting machine manipulation occurring in US elections since 2000. Coverage of the fraud has been reported in independent media and various websites. The information is not secret. But it certainly seems to be a taboo subject for the US corporate media.

Black Box Voting ( reported on March 9, 2005 that voting machines used by over 30 million voters were easily hacked by relatively unsophisticated programs and audits of the computers would not show the changes. It is very possible that a small team of hackers could have manipulated the 2004 and earlier elections in various locations throughout the United States. Irregularities in the vote counts certainly indicate that something beyond chance occurrences has been happening in recent elections.

That a special interest group might try to cheat on an election in the United States is nothing new. Historians tell us how local political machines from both major parties have in the past used methods of double counting, ballot box stuffing, poll taxes and registration manipulation to affect elections. In the computer age, however, election fraud can occur externally without local precinct administrators having any awareness of the manipulations - and the fraud can be extensive enough to change the outcome of an entire national election.

There is little doubt key Democrats know that votes in 2004 and earlier elections were stolen. The fact that few in Congress are complaining about fraud is an indication of the totality to which both parties accept the status quo of a money based elections system. Neither party wants to further undermine public confidence in the American “democratic” process (over 80 millions eligible voters refused to vote in 2004). Instead we will likely see the quiet passing of legislation that will correct the most blatant problems. Future elections in the US will continue as an equal opportunity for both parties to maintain a national democratic charade in which money counts more than truth.

Peter Phillips is a Professor of Sociology at Sonoma State University and Director of Project Censored. View Dennis Loo’s report “No Paper Trail Left Behind: the Theft of the 2004 Presidential Election,” at


Tenth of each month. Submit peace, justice and environmentally friendly event notices to P.O. Box 134, Modesto, CA, 95353, or call 522-4967 or 575-4299, or email to Jim Costello. Free listings subject to space, availability and editing.