Juan Melendez was sentenced to death in Florida for a crime he did not commit. He spoke at the University of Georgia yesterday to tell us about his life, conviction, imprisonment, and exoneration. He urged everyone to take a stand against the death penalty because of the high chance that defendants are innocent and because of the unnecessary collateral damage that an execution brings on a second family besides the victims'.
Melendez was born in Brooklyn in 1951. He was raised in Puerto Rico where he dropped out of school in ninth grade and began working with sugar cane. He moved to the mainland U.S. and became a migrant farm worker. "Everything God created, I picked it," he said.
He was arrested in Pennsylvania in 1984 and extradited to Florida for charges of murder and armed robbery. He did not understand what was happening because he did not know English and he was very rarely provided an interpreter.
He became the victim of one those questionable plea bargains in which a criminal offers testimony as a police informant in exchange for leniency from the system. The witness implicated himself as an accomplice in the crime and lied when he said that Melendez was involved. Another questionable witness in similar circumstances also testified against him.
The above is from "Innocent man, on death row 17 years, speaks out" (I'm going to credit that as being by adrian and Eustatic) at Atlanta Indymedia and Betty e-mailed to highlight it.
Cindy e-mails to note Bradley's audio report entitled "AUDIO: Malik Rahim Speaks About the Grassroots Response to Hurricane Katrina" (Santa Cruz Indymedia):
On October 4, Malik Rahim, a longtime community activist in New Orleans and San Francisco, spoke at the Women's Building in San Francisco about the situation in New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and the disastrous response by the Bush administration and other government agencies. Malik, who lives in the Algiers community of New Orleans, discussed the grassroots community relief and rebuilding efforts underway through the Common Ground collective. (39:39 minutes)
The link above provides you with an overview, photos and the audio link to listen to the report.
Troy e-mails to note Stephen Mikesell's "Avian Flu: Another New Orleans?" (Madison Indymedia):
According to health experts, a new influenza-A pandemic is looming, possibly within the next 3 months, with predictions of worldwide deaths ranging from 2-8 million people on the low end to 1.5 billion on the high end. The virus is being portrayed as part of a natural cycle that is inevitable and long overdue. Furthermore, the flu virus is opportunistic and, like the recent hurricanes, the extent of its impact on the world's population will depend not just on the manner that it manifests itself but on environmental, social, and political-economic factors.
Although different types of the influenza A virus can infect mammals, wild birds are the natural hosts. The current type, designated H5N1 according to the specific combination of two different proteins on the surface of the influenza virus, is causing particularly high rates of mortality, not only among bird populations but among humans and other mammals as well. Currently, humans seem only to contract it through contact with bird secretions or poultry products. However, as an RNA virus with a gene consisting of 8 protein segments, an influenza type found in one population can exchange or "reallocate" one or another of its 8 segments with an existing flu virus in a new host population, allowing it to spread into the new population using the genetic material of flu strains endemic to that population. (There is one report of a case of human-to-human transfer.)
That the H5N1 influenza is reported to have already spread to both pigs and felines indicates that it is prone to the reallocation needed to spread to the human population. And because it has never infected humans before, the human immune system is unable to recognize and attack it, making it extremely lethal to the people who contract it.
How many people it will actually kill depends in part on its rate of mortality and in part on how easily it will spread between humans once this reallocation comes about. The high rates of mortality experienced by people contracting the virus from birds has health experts extremely worried. Its initial mortality rate was 50 percent, but in recent months it seems to have been becoming more lethal with a rate of 70 percent. In comparison, the 1917-1918 influenza pandemic, a bird flu which killed 40 million people worldwide, had a mortality rate of just 5 percent. Gaining the ability to spread between people will depend on the H5N1 virus finding human hosts simultaneously infected with strains of human influenza with which they can reallocate genetic material. Health experts say from previous experience this is likely to occur within the next three months. How quickly it subsequently spreads within human populations will depend upon the character of the specific kinds of reallocation that take place.
Lewis e-mails to note Prescott Union for Peace and Justice's "Battle over Sacred Mountain Enters Next Phase" (Arizona Indymedia):
People from near and far will be arriving in Prescott for this month's trial. A sizeable delegation from Colorado AIM (American Indian Movement) will be driving down. Flagstaff Activist Network and Save the Peaks Coalition will be sending people down from Flagstaff.
Local organizers are planning a series of events and are encouraging everyone to come to Prescott to show their support for Native American rights.
The existence of the ski resort on The Peaks has been a source of bitter contention since the first lodge was built on this highly sacred mountain in the 1930s. A full-scale ski resort, including shops and restaurants, was proposed in 1969. Strong vocal opposition and legal action from Native peoples prevented the plans from being implemented until the 1980s. The wounds, however, can be traced further back to the settling of Flagstaff in the late 1800s when indigenous people were persecuted and forcibly removed from the area.
Robert Tohe, who is Navajo and is environmental justice organizer for the Sierra Club, sums up the feelings of many Native Americans in Northern Arizona when he said, "The ski area that exists on the mountain now is something we have been forced to accept after decades of attempts to be heard. Only if there is no new development will the reopening of old wounds and further alienation of our people be avoided."
The lawsuit charges the Forest Service with violations of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, the National Environmental Policy Act, the National Historic Preservation Act, the Endangered Species Act, and other land and cultural protection laws.
At least 14 Southwestern tribes hold the San Francisco Peaks to be sacred. In February 2005, leaders from these tribes met with the supervisor of the Coconino National Forest and urged her to reject the proposed expansion of the ski area. During the public comment period, the Forest Service received 9,887 substantive comments, most of them negative, about the project.
In March 2005, the Forest Service issued its decision to proceed with the ski area expansion despite all the objections.
Tammy e-mails to note Michael de Yoanna's "Backing The Hammer: Beauprez rejects group's demand to return campaign cash from DeLay PAC" (Colorado Springs Indy):
Watchdog groups are calling on Colorado Congressman Bob Beauprez to return $30,000 in campaign contributions he received from indicted GOP strongman Tom DeLay -- and to ask for a refund of the $1,000 that he kicked into a fund to offset DeLay's legal expenses.
DeLay, nicknamed "The Hammer" for his strongarm tactics, was stripped of his power as U.S. House majority leader last week. He has been charged with conspiracy to use corporate donations to aid political campaigns in his home state of Texas. A grand jury this week slapped him with an additional charge of money laundering in 2002 to help Texas Republicans.
Beauprez, a second-term congressman, provided $1,000 to the Tom Delay Legal Expense Trust, which includes hundreds of thousands of dollars in contributions from the congressman's political allies, corporations and special interest groups. In 2001, the trust helped DeLay successfully fend off allegations that he broke federal racketeering laws to help fellow Republicans.
Michael Huttner, executive director of ProgressNow.org, a Denver-based nonprofit, says Beauprez, who is challenging Marc Holtzman in next year's Republican primary for governor, should ask for his money back or risk leaving the impression that he supports criminal activity.
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