Thursday, December 11, 2008

New unemployment claims surge unexpectedly

New unemployment claims surge unexpectedly

New unemployment claims rise more than expected as layoffs continue amid recession

By Christopher S. Rugaber

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New claims for jobless benefits rose more than expected last week, exceeding even gloomy expectations for an economy stuck in a recession that seems to be deepening.

The Labor Department reported Thursday that initial applications for jobless benefits in the week ending Dec. 6 rose to a seasonally adjusted 573,000 from an upwardly revised figure of 515,000 in the previous week. That was far more than the 525,000 claims Wall Street economists expected.

Elsewhere, the U.S. trade deficit rose unexpectedly in October as a spreading global recession dampened the once-strong sales of American exports and the volume of oil imports surged by a record amount, the Commerce Department said.

More layoffs were announced Thursday. New Britain, Conn.-based tool maker Stanley Works said it plans to cut 2,000 jobs and close three manufacturing facilities, while Sara Lee Corp., known for food brands such as Jimmy Dean and Hillshire Farm, said it will cut 700 jobs as the Downers Grove, Ill.-based company outsources parts of its business.

New jobless claims last week reached their highest level since November 1982, though the labor force has grown by about half since then.

The trade deficit rose to $57.2 billion in October, from an imbalance of $56.6 billion in September. Analysts had been looking for the deficit to decline to $53.5 billion on lower oil prices. Oil prices did drop by a record amount, but that was offset by a record surge in the volume of oil imports.

The reports, along with investor concerns that an auto bailout bill may not pass the Senate, sent stock markets slightly lower. The Dow Jones industrial average fell about 15 points in morning trading.

The jump in initial jobless claims is partly due to a rebound in claims from the previous week, which included the Thanksgiving holiday, a Labor Department analyst said. Government offices were open for fewer days that week.

Still, the four-week average, which smooths out fluctuations, was a seasonally-adjusted 540,500, the highest since December 1982, when the economy was emerging from a steep recession.

"Stepping back from the short-term noise ... it is very clear that the underlying trend in claims is still rocketing, as companies throw in the towel and prepare for a long, deep recession," Ian Shepherdson, chief U.S. economist for High Frequency Economics, wrote in a note to clients.

The number of people continuing to claim jobless benefits also jumped much more than expected, increasing by 338,000 to 4.4 million, the Labor Department said. Economists expected a small increase to 4.1 million. The figure for continuing claims lags initial claims by one week.

As a proportion of the work force, the number of people continuing to receive benefits is the highest since August 1992, when the U.S. was recovering from a relatively mild recession. The increase in continuing claims was the largest jump since November 1974, the department said.

Economists consider jobless claims a timely, if volatile, indicator of the health of the labor markets and broader economy. Last year, initial claims were 337,000.

The figures come a day after the Treasury Department reported a record budget deficit for November, driven by lower tax revenues and higher spending on programs such as unemployment insurance and food stamps.

In just the first two months of the budget year that started Oct. 1, the budget deficit totaled $401.6 billion, nearly matching the record gap of $455 billion posted for all of last year, the department said Wednesday.

Economists expect the deficit will top $1 trillion in the current budget year, which would be a post-World War II high when measured as a percentage of the economy.

The economy has been hit hard by the ongoing housing slump and financial crisis, which have sharply reduced household wealth as stock prices and home values have declined. Consumers and businesses have dramatically cut back their spending. The National Bureau of Economic Research said this month that the economy fell into a recession in December 2007.

The Labor Department said last week that employers cut a net total of 533,000 jobs in November and the unemployment rate reached 6.7 percent, a 15-year high. The rate would have been higher, except that more than 400,000 Americans gave up looking for a new job and weren't counted in the labor force.

The latest jobless claims figures indicate that the December unemployment report could be at least as bad as November's, Abiel Reinhart, an analyst at JPMorgan Chase Bank, wrote in a client note.

Companies have eliminated a net total of 1.9 million jobs this year, and some economists project the total cuts could reach 3 million by the spring of 2010.

A number of large U.S. employers announced layoffs this week, including Dow Chemical Co., 3M Co., Anheuser-Busch InBev, National Public Radio and the National Football League.

Children displaced by Katrina face severe health risks

Children displaced by Katrina face severe health risks

By Debra Watson

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Thousands of children displaced from their homes by Hurricane Katrina are suffering serious illness or chronic conditions of ill health, according to a recent report by the Children's Health Fund (CHF). And these children are getting sicker as the months go by.

Of the 160,000 children displaced by hurricane Katrina in August 2005, about 20,000 of the poorest in Louisiana are still without permanent homes. By FEMA's own estimates, in the Gulf Coast area at least 9,300 families displaced from their homes were still living in trailers as of November of this year, and another 1,600 were living in hotel rooms.

Dr. Irwin Redlener is the president of the Children's Health Fund and a professor at Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health, where the National Center for Disaster Preparedness has been housed since 2003. When Legacy of Shame: The On-Going Public Health Disaster of Children Struggling in Post-Katrina Louisiana was released in early November, Redlener told Newsweek magazine: "As awful as the initial response to Katrina looked on television, it's been dwarfed by the ineptitude and disorganization of the recovery."

The report estimates that between 46,000 and 60,000 Gulf Coast children remain at-risk as a result of having been displaced. These children have experienced a decline in academic achievement, lost access to health care, or the new onset of a psychiatric disorder.

The CHF reviewed 261 medical records of children living in a federally funded Baton Rouge trailer park called Renaissance Village. It covered the period from January 2008 through this past summer. By the time FEMA closed the last of the trailer villages in the early summer of 2008, children had spent two-and-a-half years living in formaldehyde-contaminated trailers.

Reviewing medical records from a mobile health unit the group set up in the trailer village, the doctors found high levels of nutritional deficiencies and related medical problems among the children of New Orleans families relocated there. There were also many others with serious chronic medical conditions.

Among young children under four years of age, the rate of iron deficiency anemia was by far the highest yet documented anywhere in the US, 41 percent, over four times the national average. This level is two-and-a-half times the highest recorded by the CDC for high-risk minority populations. Anemia was found even in older and obese children. In young children, anemia is often associated with developmental problems and later academic underachievement.

More than one-third of children under the age of four had ear infections or impacted wax in the ear canal. These conditions can affect speech-language development and school performance.

Hearing and vision problems were diagnosed in 27 percent of children. These were generally protracted and recurrent conditions. More than a quarter had vision problems, but did not have the eyeglasses they needed for school.

It was hardly surprising, then, that nearly one-fourth of the children had a cluster of upper respiratory, allergic, and dermatological diagnoses. Forty-two percent of the children were diagnosed with allergic rhinitis and/or upper respiratory infection.

The crowding of families, first in communal shelters and then packed into tiny trailers, resulted in repeated exposure of individuals to infectious disease.

Those who ended up living the longest in trailer villages were usually the poorest and most vulnerable before the storm. Average income for the young patients' families was $5,000 a year—extreme poverty. Such an income cannot provide for a permanent home.

Review of the medical records also corroborated previous population studies that documented ongoing and increasing mental health problems among children. The stress of unstable living arrangements had added to the trauma already caused by the hurricane. Two years into their ordeal, a higher percentage of displaced Louisiana children had new developmental, behavioral or emotional problems compared to six months post-Katrina. Sixty percent of these poor children did not have health insurance. The report found that 55 percent of children had learning or behavior problems at school.

Within six months of the hurricane, households had moved an average of three-and-a-half times. Some had to relocate as many as nine times, sometimes to different states. Sixty thousand displaced Louisiana school children had to change schools, some multiple times. By the end of the first post-hurricane year, 10,000 displaced children still were not in school.

The families' distress was compounded by FEMA's ignorance and disregard for vital community connections that had supported the most vulnerable families of pre-Katrina New Orleans. Many trailer villages were isolated, located in areas far from the services and facilities all families need: schools, safe play areas, health care, even grocery stores. Over time these FEMA villages became increasingly unsafe, with open drug dealing, prostitution and other crime. Such conditions only increased stress, resulting in further mental health problems.

Six months after Katrina almost half of the children with previous access to good health care, or a "medical home"—access to continuous, comprehensive, and coordinated care—lost access to this crucial service when the health infrastructure in the affected region of Louisiana was essentially wiped out. Of those safety-net facilities that finally did reopen, their service capacity was lower than before the hurricane.

While community-based mental health facilities were destroyed, the need for their services increased dramatically. As many as one in five people who did not have a psychiatric disorder pre-Katrina met diagnostic criteria for one afterward; hurricane-related stress was associated with this increased incidence of mental illness.

Dr. Redlener told USA Today: "This is the first wave of data and it's extremely alarming. Who knows what's happening to kids we're not seeing?"

The CHF report calls for several changes by the federal and state governments to address the ongoing problems, but FEMA has blocked these basic measures.

The CHF recommends the deadline for case management services be extended to 2010, since thousands of families never received the services to which they were entitled. To date, FEMA has only reluctantly agreed to provide this specific help for families.

Worsening Spending Slump Paces ‘Scary’ U.S. Recession

Worsening Spending Slump Paces ‘Scary’ U.S. Recession

By Shobhana Chandra and Andy Burt

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The biggest slump in U.S. consumer spending since 1942 will extend the recession and push the jobless rate to the highest level in a quarter century, according to economists surveyed by Bloomberg News.

Household spending will drop 1 percent in 2009, the biggest decline since after the attack on Pearl Harbor, according to the median estimate of 51 economists surveyed Dec. 4 through Dec. 9. By the middle of next year, the economy will have shrunk for a record four consecutive quarters, the survey showed.

“That sounds scary enough to me,” said Jeffrey Frankel, an economics professor at Harvard University and a member of the group that determined the start of the recession. “Consumers have carried the weight of expanding demand for a long time at the expense of a serious deterioration of their balance sheets.”

A drop in spending has brought the auto industry to the brink of collapse, and mounting unemployment, a lack of credit, and falling property and stock values will prompt Americans to turn even more frugal. President-elect Barack Obama has pledged to pursue the biggest public-works plan since the 1950s to stem the already year-old economic slump.

“It’s a serious recession, and there’s a good chance it will break the 16-month record since the Depression,” said James O’Sullivan, a senior economist at UBS Securities LLC in Stamford, Connecticut. “We’re at the stage where the weakness is feeding on itself. The next few months look pretty rough.”

Longest Slumps

The National Bureau of Economic Research last week announced the U.S. contraction began in December 2007. The longest economic slumps since 1945 were the 16-month downturns that ended in March 1975 and November 1982. The Great Depression lasted 43 months, from August 1929 to March 1933.

A report from the Commerce Department today showed wholesale inventories fell 1.1 percent in October, the most in seven years, as a record 4.1 percent drop in sales caused companies to scale back.

Economists in the survey cut fourth-quarter forecasts for gross domestic product by more than a percentage point from last month, predicting the economy will shrink at a 4.3 percent annual rate, the biggest plunge since 1982.

The world’s largest economy will contract at a 2.4 percent pace in the first three months of 2009 and at a 0.5 percent rate the following quarter, the survey showed. Combined with the 0.5 percent drop in this year’s third quarter, it would be the longest slide since quarterly records began in 1947.

Consecutive Declines

Consumer purchases, the biggest part of the economy, may drop at a 4 percent rate this quarter, the survey showed. Following the 3.7 percent slump from July through September, it would be the first time on record that spending declined in excess of 3 percent in consecutive quarters.

The spending slump will continue into the first half of 2009, according to economists.

The drop in sales will prompt employers to keep cutting staff, sending the unemployment rate to 8.2 percent by the end of next year, a 25-year high, the survey showed.

“It’s the perfect storm for the consumer,” said Peter Kretzmer, a senior economist at Bank of America Corp. in New York. “With rising unemployment, we’re talking about a very serious recession. If credit conditions don’t ease, it’s difficult to see the recession ending” soon.

Investors concerned about the worst financial crisis in at least 70 years have rushed to the safety of U.S. government debt, causing three-month Treasury bills to trade yesterday at negative rates for the first time. Treasuries fell today, snapping the rally, on concern the need to fund the financial rescue plans will flood the market with debt.

Rate Cut

Economists project the Federal Reserve will cut the benchmark rate target to 0.5 percent when they meet in Washington next week and hold it there for all of 2009, the survey showed.

“The Fed is moving aggressively and will continue to do more,” UBS’ O’Sullivan said. Stimulus measures from the central bank and the government are “absolutely needed,” he said.

Automakers are among those seeking help. Congress may vote as early as today on a $15 billion plan Democrats reached with the Bush administration to keep automakers afloat that includes proposals to restructure the industry. General Motors Corp. and Chrysler LLC say they need aid to survive.

Retailers also are concerned about the November-December holiday season, which brings in one-third or more of annual revenue and is predicted to be the worst in years.

‘No Bottom’

“The big problem is that there’s no bottom in sight for consumers and for businesses,” said John Lonski, chief economist at Moody’s Capital Markets Group in New York. “The negative sentiment makes it difficult to stabilize the situation. It’s very worrisome.”

Businesses are pulling back as Americans retrench. Dow Chemical Co., the largest U.S. chemical maker, this week said it will cut 5,000 jobs, permanently shut 20 facilities, temporarily idle 180 plants and reduce the company’s contractor workforce by about 6,000.

“The entire industrial supply chain all the way to whatever the consumer buys outside of food and health is in a recessionary mode,” Chief Executive Officer Andrew Liveris said on a conference call. “Across the board, everywhere.”

The downturn will help contain inflation, the survey showed. Consumer prices will rise 1.6 percent this year and next, the smallest back-to-back gain since 1964-65, according to the median.

It’s “a recession with adjectives,” Martin Feldstein, a member of the NBER group that announced the downturn, said in a Bloomberg Television interview yesterday. “A deep recession, a long recession, a damaging recession.”

Black Hole AIG Needs Another $10 Billion

Black Hole AIG Needs Another $10 Billion

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After all the money AIG's had shoveled at it, why does it need another $10 billion? Because, as the Wall Street Journal reports, the money its gotten from the government are supposed to pay off its bad CDS bets -- essentially, the money went to retiring the underlying CDO --- but it's also stuck $10 billion on what were just bad bets, not necessarily designed to help clients manage risk.

The $10 billion in other IOUs stems from market wagers that weren't contracts to protect securities held by banks or other investors against default. Rather, they are from AIG's exposures to speculative investments, which were essentially bets on the performance of bundles of derivatives linked to subprime mortgages, commercial real-estate bonds and corporate bonds.

These bets aren't covered by the pool to buy troubled securities, and many of these bets have lost value during the past few weeks, triggering more collateral calls from its counterparties. Some of AIG's speculative bets were tied to a group of collateralized debt obligations named "Abacus," created by Goldman Sachs.

Foreclosure Storm Will Hit U.S. in ‘09 Amid Job Loss

Foreclosure Storm Will Hit U.S. in ‘09 Amid Job Loss

By Dan Levy

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U.S. foreclosure filings climbed 28 percent in November from a year earlier and a brewing “storm” of new defaults and job losses may force 1 million homeowners from their properties next year, RealtyTrac Inc. said.

A total of 259,085 properties got a default notice, were warned of a pending auction or were foreclosed on last month, the seller of default data said in a report today. That’s the fewest since June. Filings fell 7 percent from October as state laws and lender programs designed to delay the foreclosure process allowed delinquent borrowers to stay in their homes.

“We’re going to see a pretty significant storm next year,” Rick Sharga, executive vice president of marketing for Irvine, California-based RealtyTrac, said in an interview. “There are two or three clouds that suggest a pretty heavy downpour.”

Rising unemployment, expiring foreclosure moratoriums and state efforts that “run out of steam” will push monthly filings toward the record of more than 303,000 set in August, Sharga said. The number of homes that revert to lenders, the last stage of foreclosure and known as “real estate owned” or REO properties, will increase to 1 million from as many as 880,000 this year, he said.

Job Losses

“The forces leading to foreclosure are hard to offset in most cases and impossible in many,” Robert Hall, a Stanford University professor and chairman of the National Bureau of Economic Research committee that calls the beginnings and ends of recessions, wrote in an e-mail. “Job loss is a major source of defaults at all times, and job losses are running at extreme levels now.”

Initial jobless claims increased to 573,000 in the week ended Dec. 6, the highest level since November 1982, while the number of workers staying on benefit rolls reached 4.429 million, also the most since 1982, the Labor Department said today. U.S. companies slashed payrolls by 533,000 last month, the fastest pace in 34 years, for a total of 1.9 million job cuts so far this year.

“The labor market is facing its worst crisis since 1982, and it is certainly not over yet,” said Harm Bandholz, a U.S. economist at UniCredit Markets and Investment Banking in New York.

Home prices have fallen by about a fifth from the mid-2006 peak, according to the S&P/Case-Shiller home price index.

‘Devastating Consequences’

“The decline in prices and its devastating consequences” will continue next year with no indication of when they will stabilize, Hall said. Programs that modify the terms of loans, including efforts by Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, JPMorgan Chase & Co., Bank of America Corp. and Citigroup Inc. can’t help thousands of borrowers, he said.

“Something like 70 percent of subprime foreclosures are beyond the reach of modification programs because the owners are investors, because the owner is in default for the second time on the property, or because the owner has disappeared,” Hall said.

The share of mortgages delinquent by 30 days or more in the third quarter rose to a seasonally adjusted 6.99 percent while loans already in foreclosure rose to 2.97 percent, both all-time highs, the Mortgage Bankers Association said in a Dec. 5 report. The gain in delinquencies was driven by an increase in loans with payments 90 days or more overdue.

No Improvement

“Until we see a turnaround in the job situation, we’re not going to see these numbers improve,” said Jay Brinkmann, chief economist of the Washington-based bankers group.

In November, one in every 488 U.S. households received a foreclosure filing, RealtyTrac said. Nevada had the highest rate for the 23rd straight month with one in 76 households in some stage of foreclosure, more than six times the national average. Filings more than doubled from a year earlier to 13,962.

Florida had the second-highest rate, one in 173 households, and the second-most filings at 49,190, an increase of 68 percent. Arizona had the third-highest rate, one in 198 households, and ranked fifth in total filings with 13,136, up 128 percent.

California, Michigan, Georgia, Ohio, Colorado, Utah and Idaho also ranked among the top 10 highest rates, said RealtyTrac, which collects property data from more than 2,200 U.S. counties that represent more than 90 percent of the population.

California

California had the most filings with 60,491, up 51 percent from a year earlier, and a rate of one filing for every 218 households, more than twice the national average.

Michigan ranked third in filings with 14,594, up 27 percent, and had a rate of one for every 309 households, according to RealtyTrac. Nevada, Arizona, Ohio, Georgia, Illinois, Texas, and Virginia were among the top 10 states with the most filings.

New Jersey had the 15th highest rate, one in 622 households, and had 5,582 filings, up 32 percent from a year earlier. New York had the 39th highest rate, one in 3,040 households, and had 2,601 filings, a decrease of 55 percent, RealtyTrac said.

Florida had three metropolitan areas among the top 10 highest rates, including Cape Coral-Fort Myers in first place with one in 59 households in a stage of foreclosure. Fort Lauderdale was seventh at one in 117 households, and Port Lucie- Fort Pierce was eighth at one in 118 households.

Las Vegas ranked second at one in every 61 households in a stage of foreclosure.

California had six metro areas in the top 10, led by Merced in third place with a rate of one in 76 households in a stage of foreclosure. Modesto, Stockton and Riverside-San Bernardino ranked fourth through sixth, Bakersfield was ninth and Vallejo- Fairfield was 10th, according to RealtyTrac.

Pentagon approves Iraq sales worth up to $6 billion

Pentagon approves Iraq sales worth up to $6 billion

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The U.S. Defense Department on Wednesday said it had approved the sale to Iraq of weapons valued at up to $6 billion, including 400 Stryker wheeled vehicles, military radios, training aircraft, 20 coastal patrol boats and 140 M1A1 Abrams tanks.

The Pentagon's Defense Security Cooperation Agency, which oversees major foreign arms sales, said it had notified Congress this week about eight separate arms sales agreements with the Iraqi government.

Lawmakers now have 30 days to block the sales, although such action is rare since such large agreements are usually vetted well ahead of time.

The largest of the agreements, valued at up to $2.16 billion, is for 140 M1A1 Abrams tanks, 8 M88A2 tank recovery vehicles, 64 armored Humvees, shelter carriers and other military vehicles.

The prime contractors for the vehicle sales would be General Dynamics Corp (GD.N), Honeywell International (HON.N), and General Motors Corp (GM.N).

The Iraqi government also requested the sale of 400 M1126 StrykerGeneral Dynamics is the main contractor for that deal as well. infantry carrier vehicles and associated equipment valued at up to $1.11 billion, the agency said.

Another big-ticket arms sale involves 20 30-35-meter coastal patrol boats and 3 55-60 meter offshore support vessels, a deal valued at up to $1.01 billion, if all options are exercised, the Pentagon agency said.

It said no principal contractor had been identified yet for the patrol boats and support vessels, but the acquisition would be subject to U.S. defense sourcing requirements.

Iraq also asked to buy 26 Bell Armed 407 Helicopters with engines built by Rolls-Royce (RR.L). DSCA said the principal contractors also had not been identified. The helicopters are built by Bell Helicopter, a unit of Textron Inc (TXT.N).

The arms sales also include up to $148 million in rifles, carbines and grenade launchers; and up to $210 million in 20 T-6A Texan training aircraft built by privately held Hawker Beechcraft, but including other equipment built by Pratt & Whitney, a unit of United Technologies CorpUTX.N) and a unit of L-3 Communications Holdings Inc (LLL.N). (

Iraq had also requested the sale of 36 AT-6B Texan II aircraft and associated equipment, a deal valued at up to $520 million. Hawker Beechcraft, Pratt & Whitney and L-3 would be the prime contractors for that deal as well.

The Pentagon also said it had approved the 64 deployable rapid assembly shelters and a wide array of military radio equipment under an agreement valued at up to $485 million, and for which the primary contractors would be ITT Corp (ITT.N) and Harris Corp (HRS.N).

Workers of America: Wake Up! We All Need a Union!

Workers of America: Wake Up! We All Need a Union!

By Dave Lindorff

We workers of America, white collar, pink collar, blue collar, and no collar at all, have just gotten a wonderful example of the power of having a union. It¹s an example that should have every unorganized employee in America looking for a union organizer.

With the recession deepening, it¹s clear that major layoffs are in store, and that employers are going to be putting the squeeze on employees, even if they don¹t drop them. Individually, workers have little leverage in such a situation.

Look what happened to the workers at Chicago-based Republic Windows and Doors. The company was losing business, and according to some of its employees, had been in recent weeks secretly moving some heavy equipment out of the plant, possibly in preparation for relocation to some lower-wage location. Then its bank, Bank of America, one of the nation¹s largest financial institutions, and a recent recipient of $25 billion in federal bailout funds from the US Treasury and the Federal Reserve Bank, informed the company that it would not supply credit for the firm to meet payroll. The workers were told by management that the plant would be shut down in three days.

At many companies across America, such news would be met by groans and tears, but by little else. What can an employee do when the boss says the company is closing its doors? Well, Republic¹s workers, members of the United Electrical Workers union, didn¹t take the news lying down. They took it sitting down on the factory floor.

The company's 300 workers quickly organized a round-the-clock sit-in occupation of the plant, vowing to stay until they got the 60 days notice that the law requires in the event of relocations. They also demanded that they be paid accrued vacation pay, which the company had said would be lost.

Bank of America was initially unmoved, but the workers began a national publicity campaign that was leading to protests at B of A offices across the country (one was planned for tomorrow here in Philadelphia). Boycotts were also being organized of the bank.

Then this afternoon, Bank of America folded, announcing that in the face of all the protests and the bad publicity, which focused much on the fact that the bank that was refusing to lend to a troubled American manufacturing firm had just received $25 billion from taxpayers that was intended to ³unfreeze² credit at the banks, it would after all extend credit to Republic Windows and Doors.

This is a happy ending story for the workers at Republic, who will at least get paychecks through the holidays, even if the future of their company remains iffy.

But more importantly, it is a powerful message to America¹s workers: united we can win. Divided and unorganized, we are going to be trampled.

There is a second message here too. Americans across the nation need to contact their congressional representatives and senators, and President-Elect Barack Obama (who backed the workers at Republic), and demand that as one of the first acts of the new Congress, they pass into law the Employee Free Choice Act‹a labor law reform that would end the ability of employers to stall off union elections for years, and to refuse to bargain a first contract with a new union. The act, which Obama, during his campaign, vowed to support, as did nearly all Democratic candidates for Congress, would require employers to accept the certification of a union whenever a majority of workers at a workplace signed cards saying they want a union, and would require them to negotiate and reach a first contract within 90 days.

Such an act would finally restore some semblance of fairness into the union organizing process, which has been skewed over the last 40-50 years to be almost impossibly in management¹s favor. Little wonder that union membership in the private sector has fallen to below 9% (from over 30% back in the early 1950s), even as polls repeatedly show that a majority of Americans would want to have a union at their job if they could get one.

The Republic Windows and Doors victory is a victory for all workers in America, and is a clarion call for more unions everywhere.

Let¹s get to work and organize.

Dave Lindorff is a Philadelphia-based journalist and columnist. His latest book is "The Case for Impeachment" (St. Martin's Press, 2006). His work is available at www.thiscantbehappening.net

House Passes Auto Rescue Plan

House Passes Auto Rescue Plan

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The House voted on Wednesday to approve a $14 billion government rescue of the American automobile industry, but the bailout plan, which would provide emergency loans to General Motors and Chrysler, was in jeopardy because of strong Republican opposition in the Senate.

The House approved the rescue plan by 237 to 170, mostly along party lines, with 32 Republicans mainly from states heavily dependent on the auto industry joining 205 Democrats in supporting the measure. Voting against were 150 Republicans and 20 Democrats.

The White House so far has failed to generate support among Senate Republicans, who have the power to kill the bill.

General Motors and Chrysler have said they cannot survive much longer without the federal aid, while Ford Motor Company, which is in better shape than its competitors, has said it will not seek the emergency loans.

As an amendment to the auto rescue plan, the House approved a measure that would require banks receiving assistance from the Treasury’s $700 billion economic stabilization program to detail new lending activity each quarter.

The White House chief of staff, Joshua B. Bolten, attended a lunch at the Capitol with Republican senators to persuade them to back the auto rescue plan but met stiff resistance.

Some Republican senators said the automakers should be allowed to fail. Others said the proposed oversight of the rescue by a so-called car czar was too weak. Senator George V. Voinovich, an Ohio Republican who is one of the few outspoken Republican supporters of a taxpayer-backed rescue, emerged from the lunch sounding deeply pessimistic. Mr. Voinovich said that Senate Republicans had refused to participate in negotiations with the White House because of general opposition to an auto bailout.

“The leadership did not want to participate because they felt whatever came out of the negotiations, they probably wouldn’t support,” Mr. Voinovich said. He said he still intended to vote for the plan.

The Republican leader, Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, was noncommittal. The Republicans had a “spirited” discussion about the auto rescue plan, he said, but it was too soon to take a stand because they had just received a final draft of the bill.

“Everybody’s still kind of poring through it, trying to figure out exactly what it does,” Mr. McConnell said. “At this particular juncture, I couldn’t handicap for you the level of support that may exist in our conference. But we did begin a conferencewide learning process during the course of the last hour.”

Even some auto-state lawmakers were unhappy with the bailout plan the White House helped to design. “While I am fighting to save Missouri auto jobs,” said Senator Christopher S. Bond, Republican of Missouri, “Congress is just putting off the inevitable unless we force the companies to reform fundamentally, which this latest plan fails to do and is why I am offering changes to make it work.”

A number of other Senate Republicans said they had every intention of scuttling a taxpayer-financed rescue for General Motors and Chrysler.

Senator Richard C. Shelby of Alabama, the senior Republican on the banking committee, called the proposal “a travesty” and said that he would filibuster the bill. “This is an installment on a huge bailout that will come later,” he said.

Others, while critical of the legislation, suggested there was hope of a compromise.

Senator Bob Corker, Republican of Tennessee, who was working to draft alternative legislation, said the proposal put forward by the White House and Congressional Democrats provided only weak authority for the car czar, who would supervise the sweeping reorganization plans that the automakers have agreed to carry out.

“I have a banking staffer who can carry out the responsibilities of this so-called czar,” Mr. Corker said. “I mean it’s a liaison. This person has no power.”

Mr. Corker said the bill put forward by the Bush administration and Democrats and approved by the House would entangle the federal government in the operations of the auto companies for too long. Without substantial changes, he said, the legislation was unlikely to win passage in the Senate.

“I didn’t see anybody in the group who is willing to blink,” he told reporters. An aide to the Senate majority leader, Harry Reid of Nevada, said the Democrats were trying to negotiate a deal with Mr. McConnell under which there would be several votes on measures intended to aid the auto industry including, perhaps, alternative proposals by Mr. Corker or other Republicans.

Some Congressional Democrats speculated that if Senate Republicans were kill the rescue plan, the Treasury secretary, Henry M. Paulson, Jr., would have no choice but to keep G.M. and Chrysler afloat, at least until the new Congress begins early next month and wider Democratic majorities are sworn into office.

In the compromise measure that emerged from negotiations with the White House, House Democrats agreed to drop a provision to force the automakers to end their legal challenges to state emissions standards, including a lawsuit in California.

In the broadest sense, the House and Senate bills provide an identical government rescue of the two most imperiled automakers, G.M. and Chrysler, in the form of $14 billion in emergency loans. In exchange for the loans, the auto manufacturers would have to submit to strict government oversight and carry out sweeping reorganization plans.

G.M. has not said how it will respond if the federal loans are not forthcoming. It is spending more than $2 billion in cash each month, and is close to falling below the minimum level of cash needed to operate.

Without immediate federal assistance, G.M. would be in danger of not paying its suppliers, employees and creditors, and could miss interest payments on its outstanding debt. Failure to pay creditors, for example, could result in legal actions leading to a forced bankruptcy filing.

“I wouldn’t like to speculate what would unfold, but suffice it to say the survival of the company as we know it would be highly questionable if we don’t get some bridge loan,” G.M.’s vice chairman, Robert Lutz, said in an interview on Monday.

The bill would also give the government warrants to take an equity stake in the automakers. It would limit executive pay, bar golden-parachute severance packages and prohibit the paying of shareholder dividends while the emergency government loans were outstanding.

The bill would require the companies and their stakeholders, including creditors, labor unions and dealers to agree on sweeping reorganization plans that would lead to long-term financial viability. If they failed to agree, the auto czar would be able to impose a plan, and could also force the companies into bankruptcy if they failed to meet requirements.

The plan seeks to save the auto industry from what one senior White House official called “30 years of slow suicide.”

The bill sets a March 31 deadline for the automakers to produce long-term viability plans, but it is not certain how the auto czar would determine viability. Joel Kaplan, the deputy White House chief of staff, said that “simply stated, it’s that the firm will have a positive value going forward when you take into account all of its costs.”

Those costs include health care, pensions, salaries and research and development on new technologies, and depending on how they are accounted for, the companies — or the auto czar — could potentially tinker with the meaning of “viable.” Mr. Kaplan said the White House goal was “a bridge to either fundamental restructuring, or bankruptcy.”

The bill would require the automakers to seek permission from the auto czar for any business transaction of $100 million or more. Congressional Democrats said that provision was intended specifically to prevent the companies from taking any steps that would result in American manufacturing jobs moving overseas.

But with overseas markets presenting better profit opportunities for the automakers these days, the Democrats’ political goal of preserving jobs, and the overarching goal of the rescue legislation — to return the automakers to profitability — could be at odds, with the companies discouraged from seeking the most profitable markets.

The House-approved auto bailout measure would also grant federal judges a cost-of-living increase and would provide federal guarantees for financial deals that some major transit agencies are in danger of defaulting on in part because of the credit crisis.

Will Obama Buy Torture-Lite?

Will Obama Buy Torture-Lite?

By Ray McGovern

Go To Original

You’ve got to hand it to them. Torture aficionados at the White House and CIA have conned key congressional leaders into insisting not only that torture-lite would be a swell idea, but advocating that the overseers of torture be kept on.

From change-you-can-believe-in, we seem to be slipping back to fear-you-can-trade-on.

Silvestre Reyes, D-Texas, chair of the House Intelligence Committee, has publicly warned those in charge of the administration transition that “continuity is going to be pivotal in keeping us safe and secure.”

Thus, he argues, Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell and CIA Director Michael Hayden should stay in their posts.

If that were not enough, Reyes told Congress Daily’s Chris Strohm that he [Reyes] had advised the Obama team that some parts of what Strohm referred to as “CIA’s controversial alternative interrogation program” should be allowed to continue.

Using some of the same euphemisms and circumlocutions employed by the ersatz-lawyers hired by President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney, Reyes fired this shot across the bow of Barack Obama’s transition ship:

“It gets back to a world that is very dangerous. … There are some options that need to be available. … We don’t want to be known for torturing people. At the same time, we don’t want to limit our ability to get information that’s vital and critical to our national security. That’s where the new administration is going to have to decide what those parameters are, what those limitations are.”

Background

Someone needs to tell Reyes what those parameters – what those limitations – should be. They are set by the Geneva Accords and the U.S. War Crimes Act of 1996. Those are the laws that President Bush’s overly clever lawyers told him he could safely — well, pretty safely — disregard, because of the “new paradigm” post 9/11.

Pretty safely? Even those Mafia-type lawyers felt it necessary to warn their clients that Section 2441 of the U.S. War Crimes Act, passed by a Republican-led Congress in 1996, could conceivably come back to haunt the president and others who approved of or took part in torture. This is the best they could do by way of offering reassurance:

“It is difficult to predict the motives of prosecutors and independent counsels who may in the future decide to pursue unwarranted charges based on Section 2441. Your determination [that Geneva does not apply to al-Qaeda and Taliban] would create a reasonable basis in law that Section 2441 does not apply, which would provide a solid defense to any future prosecution.”

If that sounds like the kind of advice one would expect to get from lawyers for the Mob, that’s because it is.

The casuistry virtually drips from a Jan. 25, 2002, memorandum for the President drafted by then-counsel to the Vice President, David Addington, and signed by then-counsel to the President, Alberto Gonzales. Former Secretary of State Colin Powell objected for a day or so but then saluted sharply, as is his wont.

As will be seen below, the lawyers’ advice did come back to haunt the President, putting him in a real sweat until he got Congress to grant him retroactive immunity.

To say President Bush was dumb to take their dubious advice is not the half of it. Really dumb was his decision to put it in writing, since the goons uncovered by CIA Director George Tenet and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld were not about to torture without a signed authorization from the President.

Bush decided to go ahead on the basis of the Addington/Gonzales opinion and signed a presidential memorandum on Feb. 7, 2002, incorporating the advice. The opinion is written verbatim, twice, into that short executive memorandum.

Over the President’s large black felt-tip signature appears convoluted text depicting, despite itself, a circle that refuses to be squared. Bush orders that detainees be treated “humanely and, to the extent appropriate and consistent with military necessity, in a manner consistent with the principles of Geneva.”

That was the official start of post-9/11 torture authorized from the top, although an American, John Walker Lindh, was the first to be actually tortured after being captured on Nov. 25, 2001, during the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan – when senior Justice Department officials deliberately chose not to prevent it.

In the wake of the smoking-gun presidential memorandum of Feb. 7, 2002, subsequent memos by the administration’s Mob lawyers were mostly ex post facto attempts at CYA.

Shame

What incalculable shame this has brought on the U.S. Army and the Central Intelligence Agency, in both of which I was privileged to serve. I am hardly the first to use a Mafia analogy.

Consider the case of Army Maj. Gen. Antonio M. Taguba, who was the first to investigate the Abu Ghraib prison abuse — the most glaring result of the President’s memo and Rumsfeld’s implementing instructions.

“Make sure this happens!” in Rumsfeld’s handwriting appeared on a memo over Rumsfeld’s signature that was prominently posted at Abu Ghraib.

Taguba issued a tough report, which was then leaked to the press — and thus was largely responsible for preventing the scandal from being swept entirely under the rug. Rather than thank Taguba for upholding the honor of the U.S. military, the Bush administration singled him out for ridicule, retribution and forced retirement.

Taguba told Seymour Hersh of a chilling conversation he had with Gen. John Abizaid, then head of Central Command, a few weeks after Taguba’s report became public in 2004. Sitting in the back of Abizaid’s Mercedes sedan in Kuwait, Abizaid quietly told Taguba, “You and your report will be investigated.”

“I’d been in the Army 32 years by then,” Taguba told Hersh, “and it was the first time that I thought I was in the Mafia.”

Getting Squared Away

The Army, to its credit, was able to push brownnoses like Abizaid off to the margins and, more important, to keep Mob lawyers out of the process of updating the Army Field Manual for interrogation.

Such was not the case at CIA, where Mob lawyers continued to prosper — including the one who offered interrogators the following basic guidance: “If the victim dies, you’re doing it wrong.”

I like to think that our nation’s decisions are not totally bereft of moral considerations, and that a majority of Americans would agree that torture — like rape or slavery — is intrinsically evil.

But torture is also intrinsically dumb. And an Army general with guts said precisely that on the very day President Bush was extolling the merits of “alternative sets of procedures” for interrogation.

Lt. Gen. John Kimmons, a career intelligence officer and expert in interrogations, minced no words in describing the new Army Field Manual (FM 2-22.3, Human Intelligence Collection Operations).

He stressed that it is “consistent with the requirements of law, the Detainee Treatment Act, and the Geneva Conventions, and that it was endorsed by the Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) and the Director of National Intelligence. The DNI, Kimmons said, “coordinated laterally with the CIA.”

Doesn’t take a crackerjack intelligence analyst to figure out why the CIA would not “endorse” it.

As a former Army intelligence officer, who had to commit the previous interrogation field manual virtually to memory, I was particularly proud that Kimmons had the guts to seize the bull by the horns:

Conceding past “transgressions and mistakes,” Kimmons insisted: “No good intelligence is going to come from abusive practices. I think history tells us that. I think the empirical evidence of the last five years, hard years, tells us that.

“Moreover, any piece of intelligence which is obtained under duress through the use of abusive techniques would be of questionable credibility. And additionally, it would do more harm than good when it inevitably became known that abusive practices were used. And we can’t go there.

“Some of our most significant successes on the battlefield have been — in fact, I would say all of them, almost categorically all of them have accrued from expert interrogators using mixtures of authorized, humane interrogation practices in clever ways that you would hope Americans would use them, to push the envelope within the bookends of the legal, moral, and ethical — now as further defined by this field manual. So we don’t need abusive practices in there. Nothing good will come from them.”

No Torture Commandments

Kimmons emphasized that the new manual is written in “straightforward language for use by soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines; it is not written for lawyers.” He explained that the field manual explicitly prohibits torture or cruel, inhumane, and degrading treatment or punishment.

Among the specific prohibitions were:

-Interrogators may not force a detainee to be naked, perform sexual acts or pose in a sexual manner;

-They cannot use hoods or place sacks over a detainee’s head or use duct tape over his eyes;

-They cannot beat or electrically shock or burn them or inflict other forms of physical pain — any form of physical pain;

-They may not use water boarding, hypothermia, or treatment which will lead to heat injury;

-They will not perform mock executions;

-They may not deprive detainees of the necessary food, water, and medical care; and

-They may not use dogs in any aspect of interrogation.

Meanwhile, just across the Potomac at the White House an hour later that same day (Sept. 6, 2006), President Bush devoted half of a long speech to cops-and-robbers examples, none of them confirmed or persuasive, showing how “tough” interrogation techniques — he called them “an alternative set of procedures” — had yielded information preventing all manner of catastrophe.

He made clear that his government had “changed its policies,” giving intelligence personnel “the tools they need” to fight terrorists, and that he wanted the “CIA program” to continue.

Bush appealed for and, just before Congress changed hands in November 2006, got legislation granting retroactive immunity to him and other practitioners of “alternative” procedures.

Several months earlier, on June 29, 2006, in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld, the U.S. Supreme Court had ruled that Geneva DOES apply to al-Qaeda and Taliban detainees, and rejected the artifice of “unitary executive power” used by the Bush administration to “justify” practices like torture.

One senior Bush official is reported to have gone quite pale when Justice Anthony M. Kennedy raised the ante, warning that “violations of Common Article 3 [of Geneva] are considered ‘war crimes.’”

That threw a scare into a whole bunch of what one might call “unitary executives,” prompting the President on Sept. 6, 2006, to ask Congress to give “top priority” to new legislation holding them harmless for violation of Geneva, which they got a couple of months later.

Back to the Future

You may have been told, Chairman Reyes, that when Rep. Charlie Wilson took the reins of a House intelligence oversight panel, he immediately wrote to the operations people at CIA, saying, “Well, gentlemen, the fox is in the hen house. Do whatever you like.”

Your predecessor as House Intelligence Committee chair, Pete Hoekstra, R-Michigan, also gave the CIA free rein as long as then-Director George Tenet did the White House’s bidding — whatever that bidding happened to be.

Is that how you see your role, Mr. Congressman? Why have you been running interference for the Bush/Cheney administration?

Specifically, why did you stiff-arm those of your colleagues who wanted to put language into the FY09 Intelligence Authorization Bill ordering CIA interrogators to adhere to the Army Field Manual for interrogation?

Have a look at the above list of practices expressly forbidden by the manual. Have the folks in the hen house told you that some are absolutely necessary?

You served in Vietnam. Did you see “alternative techniques” in use there? Could you visualize them being used on you — or your grandsons?

Do you think former Air Force General and now CIA Director Michael Hayden or former Navy Admiral Mike McConnell know more about effective interrogation techniques than the head of Army intelligence?

Getting Snowed

Are you not aware that many of those on the operations side of CIA ply their trade as con men? Such activities are supposed to be directed abroad. But all too often they are applied with consummate, smirking skill to the Hill.

Don’t believe the stories they tell you about alleged “successes” of torture techniques. They are normally told by folks with zero experience or folks simply snowing you.

Take former Deputy Director John McLaughlin, for example. I have known John for 40 years; he would not recognize an interrogation if he tripped over one.

And he and his boss Tenet were so duplicitous that the former head of State Department intelligence permitted himself the undiplomatic comment that the two should have been shot for their role in deliberately falsifying intelligence — like that concerning those non-existent “mobile biological weapons laboratories” in Iraq.

Not long ago, McLaughlin made the mistake of purveying the myth about how effective harsh interrogation techniques have been, with the usual “If you saw the intelligence I have seen…”

Trouble was, the senior intelligence officer he was talking to had seen it all, and more, and answered, “I have seen all of it John. Either you are naïve, incredibly credulous, or you are lying.”

How McLaughlin and John Brennan, both eager accomplices of George Tenet, got picked for the intelligence transition team boggles the minds of those of us who are familiar with their role in the saddest and most unconscionable chapters of U.S. intelligence — both analysis and operations.

But there they are, whispering into the credulous ears of people like Silvestre Reyes.

Chairman Reyes, go talk to Gen. Kimmons.

Online Journalists Now Most Jailed Worldwide

CPJ's 2008 prison census: Online and in jail

Go To Original

Reflecting the rising influence of online reporting and commentary, more Internet journalists are jailed worldwide today than journalists working in any other medium. In its annual census of imprisoned journalists, released today, the Committee to Protect Journalists found that 45 percent of all media workers jailed worldwide are bloggers, Web-based reporters, or online editors. Online journalists represent the largest professional category for the first time in CPJ's prison census.

CPJ's survey found 125 journalists in all behind bars on December 1, a decrease of two from the 2007 tally. (Read detailed accounts of each imprisoned journalist.) China continued to be world's worst jailer of journalists, a dishonor it has held for 10 consecutive years. Cuba, Burma, Eritrea, and Uzbekistan round out the top five jailers from among the 29 nations that imprison journalists. Each of the top five nations has persistently placed among the world's worst in detaining journalists.

At least 56 online journalists are jailed worldwide, according to CPJ's census, a tally that surpasses the number of print journalists for the first time. The number of imprisoned online journalists has steadily increased since CPJ recorded the first jailed Internet writer in its 1997 census. Print reporters, editors, and photographers make up the next largest professional category, with 53 cases in 2008. Television and radio journalists and documentary filmmakers constitute the rest.

"Online journalism has changed the media landscape and the way we communicate with each other," said CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon. "But the power and influence of this new generation of online journalists has captured the attention of repressive governments around the world, and they have accelerated their counterattack."

In October, CPJ joined with Internet companies, investors, and human rights groups to combat government repression of online expression. After two years of negotiations, this diverse group announced the creation of the Global Network Initiative, which establishes guidelines enabling Internet and telecommunications companies to protect free expression and privacy online. Yahoo, Google, and Microsoft have joined the initiative.

Illustrating the evolving media landscape, the increase in online-related jailings has been accompanied by a rise in imprisonments of freelance journalists. Forty-five of the journalists on CPJ's census are freelancers; most of them work online. These freelancers are not employees of media companies and often do not have the legal resources or political connections that might help them gain their freedom. The number of imprisoned freelancers has risen more than 40 percent in the last two years, according to CPJ research.

"The image of the solitary blogger working at home in pajamas may be appealing, but when the knock comes on the door they are alone and vulnerable," said CPJ's Simon. "All of us must stand up for their rights--from Internet companies to journalists and press freedom groups. The future of journalism is online and we are now in a battle with the enemies of press freedom who are using imprisonment to define the limits of public discourse."

Imprisonments by Media

Antistate allegations such as subversion, divulging state secrets, and acting against national interests are the most common charge used to imprison journalists worldwide, CPJ found. About 59 percent of journalists in the census are jailed under these charges, many of them by the Chinese and Cuban governments.

About 13 percent of jailed journalists face no formal charge at all. The tactic is used by countries as diverse as Eritrea, Israel, Iran, the United States, and Uzbekistan, where journalists are being held in open-ended detentions without due process. At least 16 journalists worldwide are being held in secret locations. Among them is Gambian journalist "Chief" Ebrima Manneh, whose whereabouts, legal status, and health have been kept secret since his arrest in July 2006. From the U.S. Senate to the West African human rights court, international observers have called on authorities to free Manneh, who was jailed for trying to publish a critical report about Gambian President Yahya Jammeh.

Nowhere is the ascendance of Internet journalism more evident than in China, where 24 of 28 jailed journalists worked online. China's prison list includes Hu Jia, a prominent human rights activist and blogger, who is serving a prison term of three and a half years for online commentaries and media interviews in which he criticized the Communist Party. He was convicted of "incitement to subvert state power," a charge commonly used by authorities in China to jail critical writers. At least 22 journalists are jailed in China on this and other vague antistate charges.

Cuba, the world's second worst jailer, released two imprisoned journalists during the year after negotiations with Spain. Madrid, which resumed cooperative programs with Cuba in February, has sought the release of imprisoned writers and dissidents in talks with Havana. But Cuba continued to hold 21 writers and editors in prison as of December 1, all but one of them swept up in Fidel Castro's massive 2003 crackdown on the independent press. In November, CPJ honored Héctor Maseda Gutiérrez, who at 65 is the oldest of those jailed in Cuba, with an International Press Freedom Award.

Burma, the third worst jailer, is holding 14 journalists. Five were arrested while trying to spread news and images from areas devastated by Cyclone Nargis. The blogger and comedian Maung Thura, who uses the professional name Zarganar, was sentenced to a total of 59 years in prison during closed proceedings in November. Authorities accused Maung Thura of illegally disseminating video footage of relief efforts in hard-hit areas, communicating with exiled dissidents, and causing public alarm in comments to foreign media.

Eritrea, with 13 journalists in prison, is the fourth worst jailer. Eritrean authorities have refused to disclose the whereabouts, legal status, or health of any of the journalists they have imprisoned. Unconfirmed online reports have said that three of the jailed journalists may have died in custody, but the government has refused to even say whether the detainees are alive or dead.

Uzbekistan, with six journalists detained, is the fifth worst jailer. Those in custody include Dzhamshid Karimov, nephew of the country's president. A reporter for independent news Web sites, Karimov has been forcibly held in a psychiatric hospital since 2006.

Here are other trends and details that emerged in CPJ's analysis:

  • In about 11 percent of cases, governments have used a variety of charges unrelated to journalism to retaliate against critical writers, editors, and photojournalists. Such charges range from regulatory violations to drug possession. In the cases included in this census, CPJ has determined that the charges were most likely lodged in reprisal for the journalist's work.

  • Violations of censorship rules, the next most common charge, are applied in about 10 percent of cases. Criminal defamation charges are filed in about 7 percent of cases, while charges of ethnic or religious insult are lodged in another 4 percent. Two journalists are jailed for filing what authorities consider to be "false" news. (More than one type of charge may apply in individual cases.

  • Print and Internet journalists make up the bulk of the census. Television journalists compose the next largest professional category, accounting for 6 percent of cases. Radio journalists account for 4 percent, and documentary filmmakers 3 percent.

  • The 2008 tally reflects the second consecutive decline in the total number of jailed journalists. That said, the 2008 figure is roughly consistent with census results in each year since 2000. CPJ research shows that imprisonments rose significantly in 2001, after governments imposed sweeping national security laws in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the United States. Imprisonments stood at 81 in 2000 but have since averaged 128 in CPJ's annual surveys.

  • The United States, which is holding photographer Ibrahim Jassam without charge in Iraq, has made CPJ's list of countries jailing journalists for the fifth consecutive year. During this period, U.S. military authorities have jailed dozens of journalists in Iraq--some for days, others for months at a time--without charge or due process. No charges have ever been substantiated in these cases.

CPJ does not apply a rigid definition of online journalism, but it carefully evaluates the work of bloggers and online writers to determine whether the content is journalistic in nature. In general, CPJ looks to see whether the content is reportorial or fact-based commentary. In a repressive society where the traditional media is restricted, CPJ takes an inclusive approach to work that is produced online.

The organization believes that journalists should not be imprisoned for doing their jobs. CPJ has sent letters expressing its serious concerns to each country that has imprisoned a journalist.

Number of Journalists in Prison Each Year since 1998

CPJ's list is a snapshot of those incarcerated at midnight on December 1, 2008. It does not include the many journalists imprisoned and released throughout the year; accounts of those cases can be found at www.cpj.org. Journalists remain on CPJ's list until the organization determines with reasonable certainty that they have been released or have died in custody.

Journalists who either disappear or are abducted by nonstate entities, including criminal gangs, rebels, or militant groups, are not included on the imprisoned list. Their cases are classified as "missing" or "abducted."