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April 17, 2008 - No. 58

Security and Prosperity Partnership Summit, New Orleans, April 21-22

All Out to Support New Orleans:
No to SPP! Yes to Rights of All!

New Orleans residents demand recognition of rights.

All Out to Support New Orleans: No to SPP! Yes to Rights of All! - stopthespp.wordpress.com
Declaration Against the SPP Summit - Second Continental Conference Against Free Trade and Privatizations
Toronto Rally Demands Binding Referendum on Canada's Participation in the SPP
Spending for SPP Five Times Higher than $29 Million Quoted in Budget
Governments Ask Monopolies to Wage Public Relations Offensive
April 19: Cross Canada Day of Action Against the SPP
April 20: Second North American Meeting of Energy Sector Organizations from the U.S., Canada and Mexico - Common Frontiers-Canada
April 9-20: New Orleans Film Festival Defends Rights, Opposes SPP - wwww.summitneworleans.org
April 21-23: The People's Summit - www.summitneworleans.org

New Orleans
Half of Poor Permanently Displaced: Failure or Success? - Bill Quigley, truthout.org
Indian Shipyard Workers Accuse Employer of Human Trafficking and Forced Labor - Damien Ramos and Robert Caldwell Tuesday, New Orleans Workers Center for Racial Justice

Security and Prosperity Partnership Summit, New Orleans, April 21-22

All Out to Support New Orleans:
No to SPP! Yes to Rights of All!

President George W. Bush is holding the Summit of the Security and Prosperity Partnership of North America (SPP) in New Orleans on April 21-22. In choosing New Orleans, Bush is showcasing it as the model of "security and prosperity" people can expect from the SPP. This is the height of arrogance by the rich and shows the vicious attack on New Orleans today. Join the people in New Orleans in defending rights and saying No to the SPP! All Out to Support New Orleans!

The SPP Summit brings together the heads of state of the U.S., Canada and Mexico to make decisions at the executive level to integrate the three countries militarily, economically, and politically. It is a weapon of U.S. empire and war and thoroughly undemocratic.

Use of the military against the peoples of all three countries is a main feature of the SPP. In New Orleans the military came at the time of the government-organized disaster during and after Katrina and remains today. At the time of Katrina they were responsible for leaving people on their roofs to die and for forcing the large majority of the population out of the city. Troops killed and brutalized civilians, mostly African Americans, and fomented and permitted racist vigilante gangs to do the same. The military continues to patrol the streets of the ninth ward and make their presence felt.

The Summit will no doubt bring more military and policing forces into New Orleans, potentially using Canadian troops as well. A recent SPP agreement now allows both U.S. and Canadian troops to operate against civilians in both countries. Previous Summits have been used as an opportunity for live joint police and military exercises. All out support for New Orleans is needed to defend the right to protest and resist and reject this model of security. Military out of New Orleans now and stay out!

Elimination of public housing is another example of Bush's "prosperity." More than 12,000 people in New Orleans are already homeless and low-rent housing is urgently needed. The people of New Orleans struggled hard to prevent the government from destroying thousands of public housing apartments, home to more than 4,000 people. The government blocked the majority of these families from returning after Katrina and blocked many that did return from living in the buildings. Despite repeated demonstrations, including occupations and blocking bulldozers, the government destroyed the buildings. Football-field size lots filled with rubble and people's crushed possessions remain to remind everyone of the prosperity Bush is showcasing.

Large numbers of Mexican workers have also been brought to the city and subjected to slave-like conditions, often forced to work in dangerous conditions without pay and then be deported. This too is Bush's prosperity.

While the U.S. federal government continually promises reconstruction, it delivers broad attacks on the people. In addition to eliminating housing, the public hospital, Charity, remains closed. The New Orleans public school teachers were all fired following Katrina, and the large majority of public schools have been privatized or closed. The very conception that the government has responsibility to provide housing, education and healthcare to all is under brutal attack. In holding the Summit in New Orleans, the U.S. government is trying to set the example that resistance is futile and will be answered with yet more brute force. We say resistance is the heart of New Orleans and the heart of us all and must be defended!

People are organizing numerous actions in New Orleans to counter the SPP Summit and put forward the people's alternative. A People's Summit is organized for April 21-22. The fifth annual New Orleans International Human Rights film festival will also target the SPP and its militarization.

Travel down by plane, bus or train. Contribute funds for others to go. Call 716-602-8077 and join in to Support the people of New Orleans!

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Declaration Against the SPP Summit

We, the participants of the Second Continental Conference Against Free Trade and Privatizations, stand opposed to the Security and Prosperity Partnership (SPP) Conference of the Americas being convened by U.S. President George W. Bush in New Orleans, Louisiana April 21st and 22nd.

This meeting is a heinous crime against the peoples of North America, but particularly against the dispossessed and displaced peoples of New Orleans and the Gulf Coast. Calling this meeting in the city of New Orleans, which remains largely unoccupied more than 30 months after Hurricane Katrina and where more than half of its historic African American majority remains displaced, only highlights the true intentions of this undemocratic initiative and the neo-liberal agenda it seeks to propagate.

In the case of New Orleans, this neo-liberal agenda advances the ethnic cleansing of the city's African American population as a means to eliminate a strategic base of "Black Power" resistant to the program of privatizations and retrenchments needed to maximize profits for transnational corporations.

In the case of North America as a whole, the SPP seeks to eliminate the national sovereignty of Mexico and Canada in the name of U.S. national security and plunder their natural resources (oil, gas, water, etc.) for U.S. consumption and the profit maximization of transnational corporations.

We, the participants of the Second Continental Conference Against Free Trade and Privatizations, stand in active solidarity with the People's Summit being organized by the democratic forces of resistance in New Orleans and throughout North America to counter the neo-liberal program of state privatization and working class dispossession being advanced by treaties like the SPP, NAFTA, CAFTA, and other Free Trade Agreements.

We, the participants of the Second Continental Conference Against Free Trade and Privatizations, support the conclusions of the International Tribunal on Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, held in New Orleans August 29th-September 2nd, 2007 and demand the right of return for all displaced people from New Orleans and the Gulf Coast, the recognition of internally displaced person (IDP) status for the displaced people, reparations for all those displaced and a massive publicly funded reconstruction program, beginning with the restoration of all public housing for the residents of New Orleans.

We, the participants of the Second Continental Conference Against Free Trade and Privatizations, call for the unity of the peoples of the Americas for self-determination, national sovereignty, and human rights against reactionary privatizations, free trade agreements, and corporate driven dictatorships. The people united will never be defeated!

Adopted Sunday, April 6, 2008 in Mexico City, Mexico

For more information on the II Encuentro Continental visit www.encuentrocontinental.org.

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Toronto Rally Demands Binding Referendum on Canada's Participation in the SPP

On February 16 a march and rally against the SPP was organized in Toronto, starting at the Ontario Court building and marching to Queen's Park. Hundreds of people participated in the rally demanding an end to Canada's participation in the Security and Prosperity Partnership (SPP), saying No! to a North American Union and yes to Canadian sovereignty.

Rallies and actions took place the same day in cities across Canada: Victoria, Vancouver, Vernon, Kelowna, Calgary, Edmonton, Winnipeg, Windsor, Cornwall, Toronto, Ottawa, Moncton and Fredericton.

The specific demand put forward by the rally was for a binding referendum of the Canadian people to decide whether or not Canada would continue to participate in the SPP. The vast majority of the participants in the rally were youth, and a number had participated in the actions against the SPP summit at Montebello in 2007. A large group of youth from Ajax attended, and youth came from as far away as Kitchener and London to take their stand.

Vijay Sarma, a candidate for the Canadian Action Party, MCed the rally. He denounced the government for joining the SPP and carrying on its plans for North American Union in secret and without the permission of the Canadian people. This is our country, he stated, so why are we letting them speak for us. We are the majority and we built the country -- we are responsible for Canada's being and as such we are also responsible for the future of the country. If our representatives won't represent us we will take them out of office, no matter what party they are; and we will represent ourselves, he said.

The Canadian Action Party, the Marxist-Leninist Party of Canada, Green Party and Libertarian Party sent speakers to address the rally. Throughout the rally, in addition to the invited speakers, youth from the crowd addressed the rally expressing their determination to take the future of the country in their hands. Slogans and banners declared: Stop the SPP!; SPP is Part of NAU; SPP= 9/11 in Canada; Stand Up 4 Your Rights!; We Will Win! Kill the SPP! and many others. During the rally a shout out was given to the First Nations of Turtle Island, the indigenous peoples of this land.

A number of speakers gave examples of the way in which trade agreements compromise Canadian sovereignty and put control in the hands of the international financiers. Dian Nicholson from Freedom in Canadian Healthcare pointed out that on questions such as healthcare the government has signed away our sovereignty through trade agreements. This is treason she stated. Sydney White, a lecturer at the
Free University of Toronto presented in some detail the history of the Canadian banking system and the debt which we continue to "pay down" but never pay off; a debt which is used as the reason why we cannot fund social progams.

The callout for the demonstration by the Toronto SPP Protest Committee stated, "Since 2005 Canada's auto industry, pesticide and health safety standards (among others) have been lowered to match that of the US. In the latter instance, the HPV vaccine known as Gardasil -- manufactured by Merck & Co. (an American participant in the North American Competitiveness Council) was approved by Health Canada within 4 months of approval by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Further, our federal government has spent $300 million on the vaccination of 9-13 year old school girls who are not sexually active even though Gardasil only prevents 4 out of 100 strains of HPV, which means infections and the risk of cancer will continue regardless. There are already reports of 3700 severe adverse reactions and 11 deaths reported by countries administering Gardasil. Merck & Co. had suffered billions of dollars in losses when its arthritis drug Vioxx was pulled because of cardiac-related patient deaths."

Wendy Forrest, who along with Karen Wittke organized the Toronto action, spoke briefly about the organizing work. She said it had begun with three people in Kelowna, Vernon and Saskatoon and much of it had been organized through a Facebook group which now had over 3400 members. It was decided to hold the action on the occasion of Flag Day (February 15) -- the day on which the Canadian flag was adopted by parliament. She put forward the main demand of the action which is a binding referendum on Canada's participation in the SPP.

Pierre Chenier spoke on behalf of the Marxist-Leninist Party of Canada. He forcefully stated that Canada must get out of aggressive annexationist treaties such as the SPP, as well as NAFTA and NATO and that these organizations should be dismantled. We make this demand, he stated, because these treaties violate Canada's sovereignty and are making us a base for aggression against other peoples as an annexed mercenary force for the U.S. He also denounced the arrogance of U.S. President Bush in calling the next SPP meeting in New Orleans. After wrecking New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, to parade New Orleans as an example of prosperity and security shows exactly what the ruling elites of the three countries have in store for the people, he said. Our Party will continue to go all out to build the unity in action of Canadians to defeat the SPP and this North American Union, he concluded.

President of the Libertarian Party of Canada Alan Mercer which is against Canada's participation in the SPP says that his party stands for individual liberty but that this cannot be protected without protecting Canadian sovereignty. He spoke of how his family had not left northern Ireland to come to a security state that defends eternal war and attacks the liberties of its own people as is happening in the U.S. now, and will happen to Canada if it does not protect its sovereignty.

Speaking for the Green Party, Lou Carcasole said that he was a simple guy who wanted to live a simple life but had come to realize he could not and that he had to become involved in politics. He pointed out that a change to how we vote in Ontario was the subject of a referendum with a double 60 percent majority required. When it comes to the SPP no referendum is called. On the contrary, the Harper government gives itself the right to sell off our future in secret behind closed doors, he said.

The rally expressed determination to continue to organize and mobilize and build a movement against the SPP and the annexation of Canada into the North American Union.

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Spending for SPP Five Times Higher
than $29 Million Quoted in Budget

The budget tabled in the House of Commons on February 24 says Harper government will spend $29 million on the Security and Prosperity Partnership.

According to the budget, the money will go to the following SPP priorities:

- Greater efficiency at the Canada-U.S. border through better cross-border communication systems and improved wait-time information.
- The future elimination of duplicate baggage screening on connecting flights in North America.
- Increased regulatory cooperation on projects in the chemical, automotive and transportation sectors.
- Greater protection of the North American food supply through vulnerability assessments.
- Improved trilateral cooperation on energy research and achieving compatibility of energy efficiency standards for key consumer products.

"These investments will address consumer needs, increase business competitiveness and enhance North American security," says the budget report. "They will be sourced from the Security and Prosperity Partnership allocation made in Budget 2006."

Undoubtedly many more millions of dollars are being spent on the SPP this year, including, "providing $14 million over two years to expand the joint Canada-United States NEXUS program for low-risk frequent travelers across the border."

The exact figures were outlined in the 2008 federal budget under the heading "Improving Canada's Borders" and include:

- Committing $75 million over two years to ensure the Canada Border Services Agency has the resources it needs to effectively manage the border.
- Introducing a higher-security electronic passport by 2011.
- Doubling the validity period of Canadian passports to 10 years when this electronic passport is launched.
- Providing $14 million over two years to expand the joint Canada-United States NEXUS program for low-risk frequent travellers across the border.
- Providing $6 million over two years for federal activities to support provinces and territories planning to introduce enhanced driver's licences.
- Allocating $26 million over two years to introduce the use of biometric data into visas issued to foreign nationals entering Canada.
- Providing $15 million over two years to establish a permanent facility to enhance the security of the Great Lakes/St. Lawrence Seaway region.
- Allocating $29 million over two years to meet priorities under the Security and Prosperity Partnership of North America.

That brings to $165 million the actual total being spent on the SPP considering that all of the above, including the enhanced passports, are SPP initiatives.

(Source: Council of Canadians)

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Governments Ask Monopolies to Wage
Public Relations Offensive to Promote SPP

TML is posting below excerpts from a March 6 item by Jerome R. Corsi and published in WorldNetDaily entitled "Leaders Push for PR Campaign to Promote SPP" regarding a recently disclosed Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade (DFAIT) memo from the SPP summit in Montebello, Quebec about the relationship of the North American Competitiveness Council (NACC) to the SPP. The NACC is expected to meet annually with SPP ministers and will engage with senior government officials on an ongoing basis. The memo highlights how those advancing the North American integration agenda are concerned about the exposure and subsequent public backlash they have encountered recently.


The controversial Security and Prosperity Partnership of North America, or SPP, continues closed-door meetings with business leaders while the heads of state of the U.S., Mexico and Canada now openly urge them to launch a public relations campaign to counter growing criticism of the trilateral cooperative some fear is a step toward a North American Union.

[...A]n internal memo from Canada's Foreign Affairs and Internal Trade ministry, obtained by WND under an Access to Information Act request [...] is an internal government summary of the third SPP summit meeting held Aug. 20-21, 2007, in Montebello Quebec.

The redacted memo does not disclose the author or the date the memo was written.

The first sentence of the memo makes clear, as WND previously reported, the North American Competitiveness Council, or NACC, was the only participant invited to meet behind closed doors with the SPP bureaucrats. The SPP consists of 20 working groups plus the attending cabinet officers from each country and the heads of state. [...]

The NACC is a largely secretive SPP advisory council of representatives of 30 North American corporations selected by the Chambers of Commerce in the three nations.

The NACC has issued no press releases disclosing specific recommendations made to the SPP trilateral working groups tasked with "integrating" and "harmonizing" administrative rules and regulations into a North American format.

Nor have any minutes of SPP meetings with NACC participants ever been made public.

The PR offensive is clearly discussed in the third paragraph of the internal memo, where following an initial redacted sentence, the paragraph discusses comments made by the three heads of state in the closed door discussions, noting, "He also urged NACC members to assist in confronting and refuting critics of the Security and Prosperity Partnership of North America (SPP)."

The "He" in the sentence is not identified.

The fourth paragraph continues the PR theme: "In closing, all leaders expressed a desire for the NACC to play a role in articulating publicly the benefits of greater collaboration in North America."

Later, the memo admits, "Leaders discussed some of the difficulties of the SPP, including the lack of popular support and the failure of the public to understand the competitive challenges confronting North America."

After a redacted sentence, the memo continues, "Governments are faced with addressing the rapidly evolving competitive environment without fueling protectionism, when industry sectors face radical transformation."

The memo then documents a comment made by President Bush: "In terms of building public support, President Bush suggested engaging the support of those who had benefited from NAFTA and from North American integration (including small business owners) to tell their stories and humanize the impressive results."

The document says, regarding import safety, "President Bush underlined the importance of tackling the issue more broadly and showing that governments are ahead of this issue in order to prevent a trade protectionist backlash, especially against China."

Toward the end, the memo reinforces the public relations theme, emphasizing, "NACC members should have a role in communicating the merits of North American collaboration, including by engaging their employees and unions."

Meanwhile, the SPP ministers and trilateral working groups continue to pursue a policy of secret, closed-door meetings, where the press and the public is not invited to participate or observe the process. [...]

Several other important points were disclosed in the Foreign Affairs and Internal Trade document obtained under the Access to Information Act request.

The document confirmed a much-rumored concern that the Harper government intended to downplay the SPP summits, as part of a strategy to defuse the intense criticism the effort has received from the political left in Canada.

"Prime Minister Harper described the SPP as a worthwhile project driving numerous low-profile, but important initiatives," the documents noted under the heading, "SPP Management."

The document further disclosed Harper's recommendation that each government appoint a single lead minister with overall responsibility for managing the trilateral bureaucrats involved in the 20 SPP working groups.

The commerce minister in each country, or "prosperity minister" as identified by the document, was tasked with this responsibility.

Until the document had come to light, the three governments had not given a clear explanation of the tasks or areas of responsibilities of each of the three ministers assigned in the U.S., Canada and Mexico to SPP.

Now, it appears the foreign minister representative, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in the United States and her counterparts in Mexico and Canada, represent the top state-level official among the three, a designation that clearly places the SPP within the top foreign policy diplomatic level in each country.

U.S. Commerce Secretary Gutierrez and his counterparts would be considered the "SPP Prosperity Ministers," while U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Chertoff and his counterparts would be considered the "SPP Security Ministers," with overall management of the SPP coming under the "Prosperity Ministers" sphere.

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April 19

Cross Canada Day of Action Against the SPP

1:00-4:00 pm

Parliament Hill
For information or to assist: sppprotestottawa.tripod.com / ottawafro@gmail.com


City Hall Square
For information: keep_canada_free@hotmail.com

1:00-4:00 pm

Meet at Bonnycastle Park (Assiniboine Ave. & Main St.) march to the Legislative Building.
For information: info@wakeupwinnipeg.ca

Victoria Park Monument
For information: Narine1@sasktel.net

12:00-4:00 pm

Legislative Assembly of Alberta
Meet at the Legislature then march to City Hall
For information: protest.spp@gmail.com

11:00 am-8:00pm

Kerry Park (Bernard Ave.)
For information: 717-1599 / tre_merchant@hotmail.com

The event starts at 11:00 am with booths from political parties and other concerned groups sharing information and speaking to the public. We will also have a picket sign making table and have anti-SPP t-shirts for sale.

12:00 pm: There will be a range of speakers from political parties and concerned groups from the Okanagan. After the speakers we will announce the winners of the petition competition and sign/banner contest.

1:30: pm: March through downtown Kelowna to Richter and Hwy 97, to hand out DVDs and fliers to cars stopped at the intersection. We will head back to the park at 3:00 pm.

4:00-8:00 pm: Music and between sets we will show video clips.

Bridge Rallies -- 4:30-6:30 pm

Activists have put out a call "to pick a Vancouver Bridge (Lions Gate, Burrard, Knight Street, Cambie Street, etc.)" to organize leafletting of information on the SPP to motorists.

Rally in Conjunction with Earth Walk Day -- 11:30 am-3:00 pm

Centennial Square (Douglas and Fisgard)
For information: victoriavsnwo@hotmail.com

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April 20

Second North American Meeting of Energy Sector Organizations from the U.S., Canada and Mexico

The Security and Prosperity Partnership for North America (SPP) was launched in March 2005 in Texas at the first Summit of Heads of State from the U.S., Canada and Mexico. The SPP represents a new phase of neo-liberal integration in North America where the issue of security is closely linked to economic and trade relations. The SPP puts CEOs from the region's transnational companies at the center of decision-making via SPP-sanctioned bodies like the North American Competitiveness Council (NACC) and the North American Energy Working Group (NAEWG). This exclusive access to governments for CEOs is not only undemocratic; it also allows them to promote their corporations' interests at the expense of the public's interest.

To challenge the SPP, four social multi-sectoral networks in North America (ART-US, RMALC-Mexico, Common Frontiers-Canada and RQIC-Quebec) in close collaboration with their member unions, held the first tri-national energy sector meeting in Montreal August 18, 2007. This gathering brought together more than 60 energy worker unions and social sector delegates from Mexico, U.S., Canada, and Quebec to share experiences and identify common grounds for action.

A Second North American Meeting on Energy April 20th in New Orleans

The Second North American Meeting of Organizations from the Energy Sector will be held on April 20 in New Orleans. If your union or organization has an interest in this 'energy sector' discussion and is keen to connect with others concerned about the SPP's secretive 'energy security' agenda, please consider participating in this April 20 meeting. It will be an all-day session at the International House Hotel, 221 Camp Street, New Orleans. The United Steel Workers in the U.S. are hosting this meeting.

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April 9-20

New Orleans Film Festival Defends Rights,
Opposes SPP

We reprint below information on the Fifth Annual New Orleans International Human Rights Film Festival. The festival highlights films by and about New Orleans as well as those from the international arena. As the organizers state, "Our festival exists to support movements for social justice -- not to just show problems, but to show solutions, to celebrate hope and resistance."

One highlight of this year's activity is a special workshop on April 20, "NAFTA Gets Militarized: The Security and Prosperity Partnership of North America." As the festival's webpage brings out, "U.S. President Bush, Canadian Prime Minister Harper, and Mexican President Calderón will gather in New Orleans for the North American Leaders' Summit to discuss the Security and Prosperity Partnership of North America -- the military arm of NAFTA. How does this affect you, and what can you do about it? Find out at the workshop."

The webpage www.nolahumanrights.org outlines twelve days of activity, more than fifty films, at least twenty directors presenting their films, five world premieres, plus workshops, performances, parties, and more. We reprint excerpts of their report below.

Festival Highlights

This year the festival welcomed Academy Award-winning director Jonathan Demme, who presented his film Right to Return: New Home Movies From the Lower Ninth Ward on April 9 at John McDonogh High School, followed by an afterparty for the screening at the Mother-In-Law Lounge, featuring Al "Carnival Time" Johnson.

April 10, saw the New Orleans premiere of Taxi to the Dark Side, the 2008 Academy Award-winner for best documentary feature.

Also on April 10, Caramel, a new romantic comedy from Lebanon, was shown. The film is the most highly acclaimed film in Lebanon's history, selected for Director's Fortnight at the Cannes Film Festival, and Lebanon's official submission to the 2008 Academy Awards for best foreign language film.

"Many people think that human rights means documentaries, but this year we have comedies, action films, science fiction, and more. In addition to Caramel, do not miss Waiting for Zigzigland, a comedy about a Palestinian cab driver in Los Angeles; Eréndira Ikikunari, an action film about indigenous resistance to Spanish colonization; and the world premiere of The Fullness of Time, an experimental science fiction film from the director of Drylongso and the producers who brought Waiting For Godot to the Lower Ninth Ward," the festival organizers wrote.

"This year's festival is filled with music and performances. In addition to our opening night performances, we are hosting a concert featuring New Orleans' best bounce music on Saturday, April 19 at 11:30pm. We also have programmed some incredible musical films. This year we continue to showcase the best films from New Orleans and around the world.

"We always prioritize showcasing youth, and especially young people from New Orleans. This year, do not miss new films from the New Orleans program, Students at the Center (SAC). Among the student-directed films this year, be sure to check out A Jazz Journey, and Moving On, both by students from SAC; and the world premiere screening of Wade in the Water, which was made in collaboration with New Orleans students in Central City. For other youth programming, catch Digital Resistance, made in collaboration with Palestinian youth from refugee camps, and In Solidarity, a film about a trip that six Black high school students from Baltimore took to Nicaragua.

"In addition to beautiful and inspiring films, incredible performances, and fabulous parties, we have a wide range of other special events, including workshops and discussions with filmmakers, activists, and human rights workers. Katrina Browne, director of the thought-provoking and powerful film about the legacy of racism and slavery, Traces of the Trade, hosts a discussion on the issues raised by her film. New Orleans grassroots and activist filmmakers talk about their films and social justice in New Orleans in Straight Out of New Orleans, a two-part series, Monday, April 14 at the Craige Cultural Center, and Tuesday, April 15 at Southern University of New Orleans. Each evening features different filmmakers. Come for both!

"What do human rights internationally have to do with the issues we face in New Orleans? How can we build links with international struggles? What lessons can we learn from movements in other countries? How can the framework of international human rights support the struggle for justice in New Orleans? Hear discussions of these questions and much more from local and international experts at the festival workshop Our Struggle Is Your Struggle: A Discussion on Human Rights in New Orleans and Around the World on Sunday April 13."

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April 21-23, New Orleans Louisiana

The People's Summit

Linking the Gulf Coast struggle to the fight for the survival of communities in Mexico, Canada and the rest of the United States. For the latest information see www.summitneworleans.org.

Summit Workshops Set to Address 4 Major Themes

More than 20 proposals have been submitted for The People's Summit. Venues have been confirmed and civil society organizations, local and tri-national, have contributed to workshop plans around four central themes. The summit will take place both April 21st and 22nd, however the workshops will take place in the morning and afternoon on Tuesday the 22nd. The three hour workshops will speak to the ways in which free trade and security policy affect everyday people, especially in relation to increased militarism, privatization, forced immigration and migration, and abuse of the environment.

There will also be workshops and panels discussing how disaster capitalism has affected people in New Orleans and the rest of the gulf coast, drawing parallels between the effects of free trade policy and Katrina profiteering. These workshop proposals are in the process of review, with workshops combined to address similar topics. Groups or organizations, particularly in the Gulf region, who are interested in submitting workshop proposals should contact the local organizer, James Williams at peoplessummit@gmail.com.

While several proposals address multiple themes the ratio of proposals addressig the four major themes is as follows: 6 proposals discuss the environment, 2 focus militarization, 7 address privatization, and 4 concern immigration. More proposals are expected. Current presenters include the Peoples Institute for Survival and beyond, The National Network for Immigrant & Refugee Rights, Holy Cross Neighborhood Association, and Malcolm X Grass Roots Association among many others. The sites of workshops on Tuesday will be Loyola University, Craige Cultural Center, McKenna Museum of African American Art, and Little Zion Baptist Church. A more detailed schedual as well as a complete list of workshops and presenters will be forthcoming in the Program and Sessions section.

Monday, 4/21

9am — 12pm: Community Tour of New Orleans & Story Circles in Congo Square
12 — 1:30pm: Opening Ceremony & Lunch in Congo Square
2pm — 5pm: Understanding Who Profits & How: NAFTA+ and Katrina Profiteering
6pm — 9pm: Understanding Who Profits & How: NAFTA+ and Katrina Profiteering

Tuesday, 4/22

9am — 12pm: Self-organized sessions by various organizations
1pm — 4pm: Self-organized sessions by various organizations
6pm — 9pm: Breaking Inferiority & Superiority to Restore Ourselves & Our Communities

Wednesday, 4/23

10am: Press Conference

To register a self-organized session and to get more information contact James Williams, Organizer with the American Friends Service Committee at 504-307-6588 or peoplessummit@gmail.com.

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New Orleans

Half of Poor Permanently Displaced:
Failure or Success?

December 15, 2007, New Oleans, St. Bernard Parish

Government reports confirm that half of the working poor, elderly and disabled who lived in New Orleans before Hurricane Katrina have not returned. Because of critical shortages in low-cost housing, few now expect tens of thousands of poor and working people to ever be able to return home.

The Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals (DHH) reports Medicaid, medical assistance for aged, blind, disabled and low-wage working families, is down 46 percent from pre-Katrina levels. DHH reports before Katrina there were 134,249 people in New Orleans on Medicaid. February 2008 reports show participation down to 72,211 (a drop of 62,038 since Katrina). Medicaid is down dramatically in every category: by 50 percent for the aged, 53 percent for the blind, 48 percent for the disabled and 52 percent for children.

The Social Security Administration documents that fewer than half the elderly have returned. New Orleans was home to 37,805 retired workers who received Social Security before Katrina; now there are 18,940 -- a 50 percent reduction. Before Katrina, there were 12,870 disabled workers receiving Social Security disability benefits in New Orleans, now there are 5,350 -- that's 59 percent fewer. Before Katrina, there were 9,425 widowers in New Orleans receiving Social Security survivors benefits; now there are less than half that many -- 4,140.

Children of working-class families have not returned. Public school enrollment in New Orleans was 66,372 before Katrina. Latest figures are 32,149 -- a 52 percent reduction.

Public transit usage numbers are down 75 percent since Katrina. Prior to Katrina, there were frequently over 3 million rides per month. In January 2008, there were 732,000 rides. The Regional Transit Authority says the reduction reflects that New Orleans now has far fewer poorer, transit-dependent residents.

Figures from the Louisiana Department of Social Services show the number of families receiving food stamps in New Orleans has dropped from 46,551 in June 2005 to 22,768 in January 2008. Welfare numbers are also down. The Louisiana Families Independence Temporary Assistance Program was down from 5,764 recipients (mostly children) in July 2005 to 1,412 in the latest report.

While there are no precise figures on the racial breakdown of poor and working people who are still displaced, indications strongly suggest they are overwhelmingly African-American. The black population of New Orleans has plummeted by 57 percent, while white population fell 36 percent, according to census data. Areas that are fully recovering are more affluent and predominately white. New Orleans, which was 67 percent black before Katrina, is estimated to be no higher than 58 percent black now.

The reduction in poor and low-wage workers in New Orleans is no surprise to social workers. Don Everard, director of social service agency Hope House, says New Orleans is a much tougher town for poor people than before Katrina. "Housing costs a lot more and there is much less of it," says Everard. "The job market is also very unstable. The rise in wages after Katrina has mostly fallen backwards and people are not getting enough hours of work on a regular basis."

The displacement of tens of thousands of people is now expected to be permanent because there is both a current shortage of affordable housing and no plan to create affordable rental housing for tens of thousands of the displaced.

In the most blatant sign of government action to reduce the numbers of poor people in New Orleans, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is demolishing thousands of intact public housing apartments. HUD is spending nearly $1 billion with questionable developers to end up with much less affordable housing. Right after Katrina, HUD Secretary Alphonso Jackson predicted New Orleans was "not going to be as black as it was for a long time, if ever again." He then worked to make that prediction true.

According to Policy Link, a national research institute, the crisis in affordable housing means barely two in five renters in Louisiana can return to affordable homes. In New Orleans, all the funds currently approved by HUD and other government agencies (not spent, only approved) for housing for low-income renters will only rebuild one-third of the pre-Katrina affordable rental housing stock.

Hope House sees 400 to 500 needy people a month. "Most of the people we see are working people facing eviction or utility cutoffs, or they are already homeless," reports Everard. The New Orleans homeless population has already doubled from pre-Katrina numbers to approximately 12,000 people. Everard noted that because of FEMA's recent announcement that it was closing 35,000 still-occupied trailers across the Gulf Coast, homelessness is likely to get a lot worse.

March 21, 2008. Demonstrators protest against demolition public housing in St. Bernard Parish. The Department of
Housing and Urban Development (HUD), led by resigning Secretary Alfonso Jackson, decided against renovation
in favour of unwritten agreements with developers for "mixed-income" housing.

United Nations officials recently called for an immediate halt to the demolition of public housing in New Orleans, saying demolition is a violation of human rights and will force predominately black residents into homelessness. "The spiraling costs of private housing and rental units, and in particular the demolition of public housing, puts these communities in further distress, increasing poverty and homelessness," said a joint statement by UN experts in housing and minority issues. "We therefore call on the federal government and state and local authorities to immediately halt the demolition of public housing in New Orleans." Similar calls have been made by Senators Clinton and Obama. Despite these calls, the demolitions continue.

The rebuilding has gone as many planned. Right after Katrina, one wealthy businessman told The Wall Street Journal, "Those who want to see this city rebuilt want to see it done in a completely different way: demographically, geographically and politically." Elected officials, from national officials like President Bush and HUD Secretary Jackson to local city council members, who are presumably sleeping in their own beds, apparently concur. Policies put in place so far do not appear overly concerned about the tens of thousands of working poor, elderly and disabled who are not able to come home.

The political implications of a dramatic reduction in poor and working -- mostly African-American -- people in New Orleans are straightforward. The reduction directly helps Republicans, who have fought for years to reduce the impact of the overwhelmingly Democratic New Orleans on statewide politics in Louisiana. In the jargon of political experts, Louisiana, before Katrina, was a "pink state." The state went for Clinton twice and then for Bush twice, with U.S. senators from each party. The forced relocation of hundreds of thousands, mostly lower-income and African-American, could alter the balance between the two major parties in Louisiana and also change the opportunities for black elected officials in New Orleans.

Given the political and governmental officials and policies in place now, one of the major casualties of Katrina will be the permanent displacement of tens of thousands of African-Americans, the working poor, their children, the elderly and the disabled.

Those who wanted a different New Orleans rebuilt probably see the concentrated displacement as a success. However, if the test of a society is how it treats its weakest and most vulnerable members, the aftermath of Katrina earns all of us a failing grade.

*Bill Quigley is a human rights lawyer and law professor at Loyola University College of Law in New Orleans. He can be reached at quigley77@gmail.com Interested persons can contact Hope House through Don Everard at deverard@bellsouth.net.

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Indian Shipyard Workers Accuse Their Employer of Human Trafficking and Forced Labor

New Orleans, March 10, 2008. Over 100 Indian guest workers demonstrate, holding copies of checks they paid to U.S. and Indian recruiters for falsely promised green cards and permanent residency. The workers paid $20,000 each, then were trafficked to the US to work for Signal International in deplorable conditions on temporary visas.

A year after the Signal strike, guest worker organizing continues in Mississippi and Louisiana

Shortly after Hurricane Katrina in 2005, hundreds of Indian welders and fitters were trafficked to the Gulf Coast. For a hefty fee of $20,000, the recruiters promised the workers good jobs, permanent residency, and a chance to bring their families to the U.S. Workers sold their homes, took high-interest loans, and plunged their families into debt to pay for the American Dream.

When they arrived they discovered that all of the promises that had been made to them were false. They learned that in fact there were no green cards for them: they would not receive permanent status and they would remain separated from their families. Surely this was better than the way they had lived in India they were told, but many of the workers had worked in several countries and the accommodations here were the worst of all.

When these workers decided that they needed to organize for more humane treatment and to demand that the company make good on the promises made to them, the company responded by sending armed guards into the labor camps, pulling the organizers out of bed and holding them captive for six hours. The pressure of being deported back to India with a $20,000 debt waiting at home drove one of the organizers to attempt suicide.

Indian Shipyard Workers on Strike!

On May 9, 2007, 300 workers went on strike at Signal International to demand the release of their organizers. The company backed down, released them -- and fired them. The company then ran an intimidation campaign on its employees, forcing the workers to quiet down and accept the conditions of labor trafficking.

Indian Worker Congress continues to organize to fight international labor trafficking.

On March 5, 89 workers -- members of the Indian Worker Congress/Alliance of Guest Workers for Dignity (housed in the New Orleans Workers' Center for Racial Justice) walked out of labor camps and packed a Pascagoula meeting hall for over four hours. They met with other previously fired Signal shipyard workers, activists, and advocates to discuss plans for the next day's action. Workers spoke Hindi, Tamil, and Malayalam, which was then translated into English, Spanish and Portuguese. There was no need to translate the pain expressed as one of the workers stopped mid sentence -- holding back the tears -- as he explained that the American Dream had cost far more than the twenty thousand dollars the recruiters charged but ultimately his home and his freedom. He realized that he couldn't go back home: he had sold his house, he would be homeless.

The next morning, workers marched to the company gate, singing and singing "We shall overcome" in Hindi and chanting in Malyalam. At the perimeter fence workers held a short rally and left their hard hats to call attention to their continued abuses under the H2B visa program.

Workers then came to New Orleans, where the New Orleans Workers' Center for Racial Justice held a festive event, celebrating the workers' newfound freedom in a community gymnasium. The event was attended by 200 people, including Mexican strawberry pickers, Brazilian shipyard workers without work in Mississippi, day laborers and community organizers working in New Orleans and translated into five languages.

The Day Laborer Theater Troupe performed a moving play about the Signal Workers and H2B program, followed by an emotional poem and powerful testimonials. The event concluded with everyone singing and dancing to Indian folk songs and a New Orleans brass band.

In the aftermath of Katrina and Rita gulf coast and people from around the world experienced a man-made flood of false promises, greed, racism, and exploitation as contractors, business owners, and other opportunists sought to capitalize of some of the most economically disadvantaged, desperate and consequently most vulnerable citizens in the US and abroad. When they arrived, many workers found themselves in a much worse situation that they had been in.

Graphic from Hindustani Times showing working conditions of temporary foreign workers along the Gulf Coast.

But when the storm pulled into the region, it offered an opportunity to forge new alliances from these diverse communities into a common fight for human and civil rights.

The Indian Worker Congress has filed lawsuits against the labor recruiters and plans ongoing actions to highlight human rights abuses and international labor trafficking in the U.S. and India.


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