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Here is another of our intermittant ZNet Updates -- ZNet is at
www.zmag.org/weluser.htm and you can add or remove email addresses
there, please.

As always, ZNet has numerous updates and new essays throughout the
system...the Italian and Slovak subsites among others, for example, have
been updated. There are numerous new Mideast links, war terror links,
and general links on all manner of topics. There is a conspiracy section
debunking myths, a new debates page, etc. 

We hope you will also take note of our new video offerings, linked at
the top of the ZNet top page. 

And we hope you will consider our Sustainer Program, of course...

And to add substance to the above shameless promotion, here are two
current pieces from ZNet...the first is an interview conducted by phone
with ZNet's Justin Podur in Ramallah. The second a ZNet Daily Sustainer
Commentary from Marta Russell on the health care crisis in California,
and generally.

----

Q&A with Justin Podur in Ramallah
by Cynthia Peters and Justin Podur

On Tuesday, June 18, shortly after a Palestinian suicide bomber killed
19 people on a bus outside Jerusalem, Ariel Sharon announced his
intention to invade areas formally controlled by the Palestinian
Authority, and not leave until Palestinian suicide bombings stop. On
Wednesday morning, another Palestinian suicide bomber killed 6 people at
a bus stop, prompting Bush to delay a speech in which he planned to push
for a provisional Palestinian state. At this writing, the Israeli
Defense Forces have invaded Jenin and Nablus, and according to Justin
are amassing in the suburbs of Ramallah. Cynthia Peters spoke with him
by cell phone on Wednesday evening, June 19, 2002.

--Where are you? 

I am in central Ramallah, north of Jerusalem, in the Palestinian
Agricultural Research Centre (PARC) -- where a lot of human rights
organizations and other non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have their
offices. In previous attacks on Ramallah, the IDF has particularly
focused on this building. They come here, trash the computers, wipe out
the hard drives, beat and arrest people. Our presence as observers makes
it less likely for them to be abusive. Other international volunteers
are stationed at Arafat's compound.

What has the just announced Israeli policy of retaking pieces of the
West Bank meant on the ground? 
So far -- keep in mind they just announced it 30 hours ago -- it has the
same look and feel of previous invasions. In Jenin and Nablus, the IDF
has supposedly set up mobile homes and brought in water trucks, which
suggests a more permanent stay. For now, I think Palestinians are
experiencing it as another in a series of invasions. The tanks go door
to door. The army breaks down doors with sledgehammers, arrests people,
bulldozes homes. The difference with this one, apparently, is they're
going to hold what they take. It will mean an intensification of the
occupation. Whole areas could be under curfew. Palestinians will have
even fewer freedoms. 
But remember Israel has been occupying this place for a long time. In
some ways, this is simply an expansion of what they were already doing.

--How does the Israeli peace movement analyze the recent bombing in
Jerusalem? What do Palestinians say? Are there different views on this? 

I can't speak for the Israeli peace movement, but it seems clear that
when peaceful channels are blocked, people resort to horrible means.
This is well understood in mainstream circles. Cherie Blair, Tony
Blair's wife, captured the basic idea when she said, "As long as young
people feel they have got no hope but to blow themselves up, you are
never going to make progress." It's an appalling situation. The suicide
bombings are terrible crimes that leave innocent people dead. But the
fact remains, if you want to stop a crime from happening, you have to
look at the cause. Neta Golan, a peace activist here, told me in an
interview earlier today that you can't live with any dignity under an
occupation. Some people are convinced that at least they can die with
dignity. For them, choosing to die is not such an irrational choice.
It's a death with dignity. 

But the "War on Terrorism" does not allow for any investigation of the
roots of the problem. It cuts off dialogue and has created a situation
where asking why is practically censored. It's simply not allowed.
[Cherie Blair was severely criticized for her remarks -- the suggestion
being that any examination of the root of the problem is somehow a
justification. She has rushed to apologize for her remarks.]

Among Palestinians, opinions are diverse. But one thing is true, you
don't see Palestinian people celebrating a suicide bombing. They are
more bracing themselves for the retaliation that they know is imminent.
Everyone knows that suicide bombings just bring on more suffering.

--Is the fence (the Israeli constructed fence sealing off the
territories) real? Does it have any effect yet? 

Yes, I think it's real. I think they're going to build it and complete
it. This fence is an odd creature because it's something on which the
settlers and the peace movement have the same position: they both oppose
it. The settlers don't want it because they'll be on the outside of it,
making them feel abandoned by Israel, though in reality, there will
probably be secured roads between the settlements and Israel. (65% of
Israelis have said they'd give up the settlements, which adds to the
tension between many mainstream Israelis and the settlers. The wall
could have the effect of heightening those tensions.) The peace movement
doesn't want it because it will make the West Bank even more like a
prison. Look at Gaza, where there already is a fence. It's like one big
prison. There's one way in and one way out. Unemployment is 67 percent.
Crossing checkpoints takes hours and hours. That's what they would be
recreating on the West Bank. They've already started building it in the
North. As it is currently planned, the fence will be outside the Green
line -- stealing more Palestinian land.

--What is Israel up to with respect to Arafat?

The peace activists I talk to here in Ramallah are afraid the Israelis
are going to attack him tonight. Each time the Israelis attack, they
destroy more of the compound. I was in the compound yesterday and
earlier today. There's rubble everywhere. There's only one standing
building. This time around, the speculation is that they might deport
him or arrest him. But it is unlikely Arafat will allow himself to be
arrested. And the Israelis know that. My feeling is that Arafat is good
for Israel because he is easy to blame for the violence and they have
also won many concessions from him. He's alive because they want him
alive.

--Do peace activists want Bush to announce a US initiative/peace plan or
not?

Bush postponed his speech in which he planned to propose a provisional
Palestinian state. But what does this initiative really mean? Is it
credible? Most people here don't think so. Bush has offered no timetable
for Israeli withdrawal. He has not spoken of any consequences for Israel
regarding their continued occupation. If Bush had a sincere peace
initiative, then Sharon would not be able to do what he's doing. If Bush
were to do something credible, that would be welcome. But that would be
a full-scale policy change for the United States.
 
--What are your impressions being there?

I am seeing stuff I've never seen before. But there's nothing surprising
in it. Palestinians live with this everyday. They are living in a state
of siege. Despite the terrible conditions, however, this is one of the
most hospitable places I've ever been. You might expect that
Palestinians would harbor resentment towards North Americans and/or
Jews. In fact, the guide book I have warns of exactly that. It says
nothing about checkpoints or the violence of the Israeli occupation. But
it does recommend that you be careful travelling in the West Bank if you
look Jewish. That's so far from the truth. As Jewish volunteers have
repeatedly told me, the one thing you *don't* need to be afraid of is
the thing they warn you about in the traveler's guide. Most Palestinians
have no special hatred of Jews or Americans. But they do hate the
occupation.

--Any words for activists?

The more internationals who come here the better. The International
Solidarity Movement (ISM) has been planning "Freedom Summer" -- which
was supposed to be this big, non-violent, action-oriented solidarity
campaign. They were planning on planting trees, accompanying
Palestinians across checkpoints, and helping to rebuild recently
destroyed homes. But now Freedom Summer is looking like it will take
place in the context of the invasion. It is more likely that ISM
activists will more play the role of witnesses and human shields.

If people want to help, they should support the ISM. Consider coming to
Palestine. Send money to the ISM www.palsolidarity.org. Set up speaking
engagements and media interviews for returning ISM volunteers.
And people should do all the usual stuff -- write letters to the media
and to elected officials, demonstrate, talk to people. Keep up with the
news via alternative media.

Sharon's current policy -- indefinite occupation until
Palestinian-sponsored violence stops -- is a continuation of his
previous policy. And we've seen over and over again that it yields more
violence. There will be indefinite violence until the occupation stops.
Even if the suicide bombings stopped tomorrow, there'd still be all the
violence and indignity of the occupation.

-----

A Big Mess in California: Without Health Care People Are Going to Die 

By Marta Russell 

The 2002-2003 state budget winds blow cold in sunny California for
low-income families, elderly, and disabled residents. 

The state was riding the crest of a financial wave until the collapse of
the dot-com economy which caused stocks to dive and wiped out a part of
the California tax base reducing state revenue. Texas billionaires in
the utility business stole about $30 billion from California to pay for
power they never delivered for a power shortage which never existed. 

So now poor people are about to pay a bigger price -- loss of health
care and other vital social services to make up for a part of the $23.6
billion state budget shortfall. $23 billion is roughly the equivalent of
30% of the state's General Fund budget. 

Manipulations of the California utility market have been confirmed. The
Enron rape of the California energy market turns out to be only the tip
of the royal corporate screw. 

Perot Systems (as in Ross Perot, former Presidential candidate) has also
been implicated as pushing a plan to exploit the newly deregulated
California energy market (LA Times 6/8/02, B-1). A California Senate
investigation states that Perot Systems designed ways to "game" the
energy market and then made a marketing pitch of its plan (specifically
to Reliant Energy Co) in 1998 which contained details on ways to extract
the highest price possible from the state of California. 

To balance the California state budget, Democratic Governor Grey Davis
who did not use the power of the state to stop these energy scam artists
(could have nationalized these corporations) has proposed budget cuts
which will make up for some losses by gutting Health and Human Services
programs. Davis' May revision of the 2002-03 budget proposes and
additional $1.1 billion reduction in Medi-Cal expenditures alone. 

Health care advocates have decried that the health care cuts proposed by
Davis would "devastate the state's ailing health care system" (Rojas,
Sacramento Bee, 5/16/02) Under Davis' plan, state payments to Medi-Cal
would be cut by $758.3 million, fees hospitals pay the state for
administering the federal Disproportionate Share Hospital program would
increase by $86 million making the total take away $136 million. 

Hospital officials predict that if the cuts go through, many of the
program's 6 million enrollees would be forced to go without care or wait
longer hours in overcrowded emergency rooms. That is, if the emergency
rooms are still there for them. The increased take aways from safety net
hospitals threatens their very survival, with advocates predicting they
may be forced to close their doors in an already teetering health care
system. 

Access to health care would be reduced significantly. Medi-Cal
reimbursements to doctors, for example, would go from $20 to $16 and
would lead to fewer physicians being willing to take Medi-Cal patients.
It would make California's Medicaid payments the lowest of all fifty
states. The whole system may collapse as more providers refuse to take
Medi-Cal payments. 

Advocates for universal care who have pursued expanding Medicaid to more
of the uninsured as an answer to the uninsured problem take note. All
progress can be arrested by a state budget shortfall and politicians
willingness to slash public health care rather than tax the rich to make
up the difference. 

The governor's plan is to roll back the proposed expansion of Medi-Cal
to two-parent working families with incomes up to 100% of the federal
poverty level saving the state $184.2 million. Healthy Families to
parents of enrolled children would be delayed affecting about 300,000
adults. The state would postpone "express lane eligibility" whereby
schools can enroll children who are in the National School Lunch and
Food Stamp programs into Medi-Cal. 

In addition, Davis' change of the Medi-Cal administration process would
require adults to fill out forms every quarter to remain on the program,
a move which the state coldly calculates will result in fewer persons on
the program. 

The LA times stated in early May that all changes would reduce
enrollment in Medi-Cal by about 490,600 persons. (LA Times 5/5/2002) but
the May revision increases that figure and increase the numbers of
uninsured in the state, already at 7 million. 

The proposed budget would ration the existing Medi-Cal program by
eliminating selected optional benefits for a savings of $526 million.
Dental, chiropractic, podiatry, acupuncture, occupational therapy,
psychological, rehabilitation, and certain medical supplies which are
not entitlements will be gone. 

The disabled population would be especially hard hit by the proposed
cuts in the Governor's plan. 

Mental health advocates say that the proposed $95 million cuts to mental
health services will result in more mentally disabled persons winding up
in jails, hospitals and prisons just as the movement has been working to
see that supports exist for people to live in the community and receive
appropriate services to enhance their lives. 

Shutting down rehabilitation services is also a big concern. Bob Roberts
director of the Marin Center for Independent Living remembers the
doctors strike back in 1974. 

"Everyone in Independent Rehab Centers ended up in nursing homes in one
week," Roberts explained. "Thousands of people were sent anywhere that
would take their warm body -- it was a sad day for many and the birth of
many group homes." 

Disability activists have fought long and hard to see community living
replace institutional imprisonment. That includes having enough in home
workers available to hire with tasks of daily living which in turn means
decent wages with benefits. The governor, however, plans to knock out
the $1.00 an hour wage increases for in home (IHSS) workers. 

Many IHSS workers in the state are stuck at near minimum wage salaries
with only a few counties paying more per hour. There is already a dire
shortage of workers and this promise of a state-wide $1.00 wage increase
is long overdue. 

Activists are also especially concerned about the Supplemental Security
Income / State Supplementary Payment, the SSI/SSP program, which is the
sole source of money for living expenses for many disabled persons. The
proposed budget would eliminate both state and federal portions of the
SSI/SSP Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA). The governor plans to suspend
the COLA in the SSP(state) portion and also to not pass though COLA from
the SSI (federal) portion. The federal portion would go into the general
fund rather than to disabled persons it is intended for. 

Despite employment anti-discrimination legislation, two thirds of
disabled persons remain without jobs and rely on public benefits for
their basic support. 

Chris Elms, President of Californians for Disability Rights wrote to the
state legislature: 

"This federal COLA was intended by the federal government to be passed
along to SSI recipients to help offset increases in the cost of
necessities such as rent, food and utilities. While the state's budget
situation is very difficult, does it justify forcing this vulnerable
population to choose between food and heat, or to possibly lose their
home, so the state can divert the money to another purpose?" 

All this just so the Democratic Governor so adept at lining his campaign
coffers does not have to risk his re-election by making the wealthy
Californians - and there are plenty of them - to pay higher taxes.
Instead group is pitted against group, in some cases for their very
survival. 

Will some people's health care be rationed to accommodate uninsured
persons coming onto the Medi-Cal program? This is the nasty game being
played out now across the nation. 

Since the state legislature is controlled by Democrats, those Democrats
opposed to balancing the budget on the backs of vulnerable populations
as their governor has proposed are up against members of their own
party. The outcome is unknown as of this writing. 

Politics aside, without health care poor people are going to die. It is
just that simple. 


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