Venezuela to Provide Discount Oil to Mass.
By MARK JEWELL, Associated Press Writer
November 22, 2005
QUINCY, Mass. - Thousands of low-income Massachusetts residents will
receive discounted home heating oil this winter under an agreement
signed Tuesday with Venezuela, whose government is a political
adversary of the Bush administration.
A subsidiary of Venezuela's state-owned oil company will supply oil
at 40 percent below market prices. It will be distributed by two
nonprofit organizations, Citizens Energy Corp. and the Mass Energy
The agreement gives President Hugo Chavez's government standing as a
provider of heating assistance to poor U.S. residents at a time when
U.S. oil companies have been reluctant to do so and Congress has
failed to expand aid in response to rising oil prices.
U.S. Rep. William Delahunt (news, bio, voting record), D-Mass., met
with Chavez in August and helped broker the deal. He said his
constituents' needs for heating assistance trump any political points
the Chavez administration can score.
"This is a humanitarian gesture," Delahunt said, speaking after a
news conference with Venezuelan officials outside the home of a
constituent who will receive heating aid.
Citgo is the Houston-based subsidiary of Venezuela's state-owned oil
company and has about 13,500 independently owned U.S. gas stations.
It is offering Massachusetts more than 12 million gallons of
discounted heating oil over the next four months, starting in December.
The two nonprofit organizations will screen recipients for financial
need and cooperate with oil distributors that will make discounted
deliveries to qualifying homes and institutions, such as homeless
shelters and hospitals.
Chavez proposed offering fuel directly to poor U.S. communities
during a visit to Cuba in August. He has said the aim is to bypass
middlemen to reduce costs for the American poor ? a group he argues
has been severely neglected by Bush's government.
Chavez has become one of Latin America's most vocal critics of U.S.-
style capitalism, which he calls a major cause of poverty. U.S.
officials accuse Chavez of endangering Venezuelan democracy by
assuming ever-greater powers. During a short-lived 2002 coup against
Chavez, the U.S. government promptly recognized the new leaders, who
were soon driven out amid a popular uprising.
Seven students at Hampton University, a historically
Black college, are facing expulsion hearings THIS
Their "crime" was distributing "unauthorized"
literature about the Bush regime's policies around
AIDS, Katrina, Homophobia, the Iraq war and the Sudan
as part of the November 2nd protests initiated by The
World Can't Wait - Drive Out the Bush Regime
"Unauthorized" flyers are distributed and posted all
the time of course -- it is only when they have
political content that the administration cracks down.
This is a free speech issue, an issue of students'
rights, AND an anti-war issue!
To those of us in college during the Vietnam War years,
what these students are going through should definitely
ring a bell. If you want to know more, there is local
news coverage that is easily googlable (is that a
Try this one (it refers only to three students; four
more were added later):
Please read, forward, and join Howard Zinn, Michael
Eric Dyson and others in adding your name to the
enclosed statement defending these students.
Academics are especially welcome. To add your name,
send an email to: email@example.com, or
Please specify how you would like to be identified.
Drop the Charges and Stop the Harassment Against the
Hampton University Students Against the Bush Regime!
Students who act! to Drive Out the Bush Regime,
especially when they remain firm in the face of police
and administrative threats, are heroic. They must be
defended. Their example must be followed.
Students at Hampton University participated in nation-
wide outpourings in over 70 places and 200 schools on
November 2nd to launch of a movement to drive out the
Bush regime. In the course of organizing, they were
followed by campus police, targeted by video
surveillance, and forced to turn over their ID's for
the simple act of distributing literature. That these
students were targeted for the content of their
activities is demonstrated by the fact that other
students routinely post unauthorized flyers (often with
scantily clad women advertising parties) without
On Friday, November 18th, 3 student organizers were
issued summons for a hearing on over possible expulsion
the following Monday morning, giving them no time
during the working week to contact lawyers, parents, or
campus administrators. After hundreds of phone-calls
from around the country to the Dean's Office, their
hearing was postponed. Days later, 4 more students
were issued summons and campus police shut down an
interview being filmed by the local media, attempting
to prevent their story from getting out.
The attacks on the student organizers at Hampton
University, a historically black college with a mostly
Republican administration, is an ugly harbinger of the
"dissent-free" future the Bush regime is trying to
lock into place. These attacks are part of a pattern
of repression against high school and college students
nation-wide on November 2nd that disproportionately
targeted black, Latino and other oppressed students.
A standard cannot be set where the President of the
United States can stay on vacation as a major city's
poor and black people are left for five days without
food or water, where influential friends of this
President are allowed to float out genocidal notions of
aborting all black babies to bring crime rates down,
and where the President's policies of "abstinence-
only" in the face of an international AIDS pandemic
threaten millions of lives, but where students who dare
to act to end this are silenced and expelled from
school. As it says in the Call for The World Can't
Wait: Drive Out! the Bush Regime, "This will not
be easy. If we speak the truth, they will try to
silence us. If we act, they will to try to stop us. But
we speak for the majority, here and around the world,
and as we get this going we are going to reach out to
the people who have been so badly fooled by Bush and we
are NOT going to stop." We, the undersigned, demand
that the Hampton University administration to drop all
charges against, cease their political harassment of,
and to apologize to these students. These students
must not be expelled! We also call on students at
campuses nation-wide to send statements of s! upport,
and to join, strengthen and support the movement to
Drive Out the Bush Regime because the World Can't
Rosalyn Baxandall,Distinguished Teaching Professor,SUNY Old Westbury*
Edget Betru,GuantanamoGlobal Justice Initiative-Center for Constitutional
EileenBoris, Universityof California, Santa Barbara*
Judith Ezekiel,Universite de Toulouse le Mirail*
Carl Dix,National Spokesperson, Revolutionary CommunistParty
Bea Kreloff,director Art Workshop International*
Allen Lang,National Student Organizer, The World Can't Wait: Drive Out the Bush
Efia Nwangaza,Executive Director, African American Institute for Policy Studies
Katha Pollitt, writer The Nation*
Sonia Jaffe Robins,freelance writer and editor
Sunsara Taylor,Co-Initiator of The World Can't Wait: Drive Out the Bush Regime!
Barbara Winslow, BrooklynCollege*
Laura X,Women's History Library*
Howard Zinn,Historian and Author
*affiliations for identification purposes only
Demand that the 7 students facing expulsion be cleared
of any disciplinary measures and that the intimidation
and punishment for student protest stop!
Call the Dean of Men (Woodson Hopewell Jr.) at 757-727-5303, the
Dean of Women at 757-727-5486.
TITLE: Epicyte Pharmaceutical joins failing-biotech row
SOURCE: The San Diego Union - Tribune, USA, by Penni Crabtree http://www.signonsandiego.com/news/business/20040507-9999-1b7 epicyte.html DATE: 7 May 2004 ------------------- archive: http://www.genet-info.org/ -------------------
Epicyte Pharmaceutical joins failing-biotech row Epicyte Pharmaceutical, one of the last vestiges of the San Diego biotechnology community's attempt to become an agricultural biotech stronghold, has closed and sold its assets to a North Carolina company. The privately held San Diego biotech, which at its peak employed about 50, has been purchased by Pittsboro, N.C.-based Biolex, another privately owned biotech. Financial terms were not disclosed when the deal was announced yesterday. Epicyte helped pioneer the genetic engineering of corn crops to produce medicines, but suffered delays and setbacks in research efforts to develop drugs to treat herpes and respiratory syncytial virus, a respiratory ailment that afflicts infants and the elderly. Last year, in an attempt to revive investor interest, Epicyte shifted its focus to creating plant-based versions of leading monoclonal antibodies, such as Biogen Idec's cancer drug Rituxan. Yet that effort failed to bring in venture capital investment, in part because Epicyte's experimental products were too early in development, said Debbie Robertson, executive director of intellectual property for Epicyte. "I'm happy, at least, that the intellectual know-how went to a company that can use it, that it didn't just go by the wayside, because I truly believe in it," said Robertson. "But . . . shoot." Biolex, like Epicyte, is focused on so-called bio-pharming, the manufacture of monoclonal antibodies and other biological therapeutics in plants. But Biolex uses a genetically altered aquatic plant grown indoors in a secure facility, avoiding some of the concerns about outdoor cross- contamination with traditional field crops that have haunted the industry. The demise of Epicyte is the latest casualty for the region's fledgling agricultural biotechnology industry, which just five years ago appeared to hold considerable commercial promise. In 1999, Stephen Briggs, the head of the San Diego-based Novartis Agricultural Discovery Institute, which was building a major research campus here, predicted San Diego could become the "Silicon Valley of agricultural biotech." Several small San Diego agricultural biotechs had already emerged, including Mycogen, Akkadix Corp. and Epicyte, and the research institute was expected to generate more agriculture-based ventures. Yet, despite a sturdy start, the industry didn't retain a strong hold here. A consumer backlash against genetically-modified food, along with high-profile industry blunders, helped nip investor enthusiasm in the bio-engineered bud. In 2000, Aventis, the maker of StarLink corn, was forced to recall taco shells and other products contaminated by genetically-modified animal feed, which had not been cleared for human consumption. Two years later, a Texas biotech caused a scandal when federal regulators found that 500,000 bushels of soybeans and been contaminated by biotech corn engineered to produce medicine. Those mistakes, along with a stagnant farm economy and an investment drought for biotech that has only eased in recent months, took its toll. In 2000, the Novartis Agricultural Discovery Institute was folded into Switzerland's Syngenta. In 2002, Syngenta closed the La Jolla unit, laying off about 100 of its 180 employees, moving its plant genomics program to North Carolina and shifting the remainder of its employees and projects to another local biotech, Diversa Corp. Other San Diego agricultural biotechs also disappeared: Mycogen was purchased by Dow Chemical, and Akkadix Corp. faded from the scene. Dow still retains a plant bio-pharmaceuticals research unit in San Diego, but moved a second agricultural biotech unit out of the state. Briggs, one of 77 former Syngenta employees who now work at Diversa, said agricultural biotechnology has contracted, along with the farm economy and the companies that supply seeds and other products. "Companies have had to reduce their investment in everything they do, including research," said Briggs, senior vice president of corporate research and technology at Diversa, which is developing some crop and animal feed enzymes. Briggs said Epicyte faced one of the toughest tasks in agricultural biotechnology. "Drug development is probably the most conservative industrial process in the world," Briggs said. "What Epicyte and the company that bought them is trying to do is revolutionize the production of therapeutics - and it is hard to make a revolution."
December 4, 2005
In Newly Released Documents, a View of the Storm After Katrina
By ERIC LIPTON
WASHINGTON, Dec. 3 - It was Thursday, Sept. 1, three days after Hurricane
Katrina had ripped across the Gulf Coast. As New Orleans descended into horror,
the top aides to Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco of Louisiana were certain the
White House was trying to blame their boss, and they were becoming increasingly
"Bush's numbers are low, and they are getting pummeled by the media for their
inept response to Katrina and are actively working to make us the scapegoats,"
Bob Mann, Ms. Blanco's communications director, wrote in an e-mail message that
afternoon, outlining plans by Washington Democrats to help turn the blame back
onto President Bush.
With so much criticism being directed toward the governor, the time had come,
her aides told her, to rework her performance. She had to figure out a way not
only to lead the state through the most costly natural disaster in United
States history, but also to emerge on top somehow in the nasty public relations
Drop the emotion, the anger and all those detail-oriented briefings, Ms.
Blanco's aides told her. Get out to the disaster zone to visit emergency
shelters, and repeat again and again: help is on the way.
"She must temper her anger and frustration," Johnny Anderson, Ms. Blanco's
assistant chief of staff, wrote a day after it became widely known that large
crowds were suffering at the New Orleans convention center. "We have work too
hard to lose the public relations battle."
These candid exchanges are just a few of the glimpses inside Louisiana's
highest leadership that emerged late Friday in an extraordinary release of
about 100,000 pages of state documents detailing the response to Hurricane
Katrina by Ms. Blanco and her staff. The state compiled the documents -
including e-mail messages, hand-written notes, correspondence with the White
House, and thousands of offers of assistance and desperate pleas for help - at
the request of two Congressional committees looking into the state's
preparedness and response.
"As we move forward, I believe the public deserves a full accounting of the
response at all levels of government to the largest natural disaster in U.S.
history," Ms. Blanco said in a statement about the release of the documents.
She said the documents demonstrated "hard-working, sleep-deprived public
servants operating under enormous pressure and rapidly changing circumstances."
They also show that as Hurricane Katrina approached and inundated New Orleans,
Ms. Blanco's top aides realized how quickly it was becoming both a human and a
"This is absolutely the worst-case situation we have long feared," Andy
Kopplin, the governor's chief of staff, wrote in an e-mail message to the
Blanco administration's top aides the day before the storm hit New Orleans.
"Pray for Louisiana citizens as this storm nears."
The correspondence released on Friday apparently received almost no editing,
other than the blacking out of certain names and telephone numbers for people
not associated with the state government. It includes handwritten notes, audio
recordings of conference calls and even a few doodles on legal pads.
Most of the material was scanned into a computer and placed on a state Web
site, but access was restricted to members of the news media.
The documents and correspondence put in full light the rivalry between the
White House and the governor, a Democrat, along with the rising anger in
Louisiana as requests for federal assistance went unanswered.
"We need to keep working to get our national surrogates to explain the facts -
that the federal response was anemic and had been shortchanged by budget cuts
and avoiding responsibilities like protecting Louisiana levees and wetlands,"
Mr. Kopplin wrote in one e-mail message a week after the storm hit.
"The governor needs to stay on message, and that is getting people out of New
Orleans, provide stability for them and rebuild," Mr. Anderson wrote on Sept.
1. "The governor must look like the leader at all times."
Dana M. Perino, a White House spokeswoman, said Mr. Bush never tried to single
out Louisiana for blame. But she added that all government agencies bore some
"President Bush has been very clear that all levels of government could have
done a better job," Ms. Perino said, "and we are focused on completing our
lessons learned and making sure we understand what went wrong and that it never
The documents also demonstrate the enormous sense of frustration that overcame
Ms. Blanco's staff members as they fielded thousands of desperate calls, few of
which they were able to act on effectively.
"Whoever is in charge needs to get control of the situation regarding the
thousands of people (including elderly, babies, infirmed, etc.) up on I-10 in
New Orleans," according to one e-mail message a Blanco aide received from his
cousin on Aug. 31, two days after the storm hit. "They need food and water to
start with. They seem to be in need of specific direction from the 'powers that
be,' at the very least."
The response of another Blanco aide to this plea was similarly exasperated. "I
am getting these calls too, and I have buses and water but can't get word on
where and how to send," wrote Kim Hunter Reed, director of policy and
Offers of help came in from around the world, including from former President
Bill Clinton, President Hugo Chávez of Venezuela and Fidel Castro in Cuba. ("We
cannot let this get out," Mr. Mann, the communications director, wrote about
Mr. Castro's offer.)
The sense of growing chaos is evident in the documents, as state officials
found themselves unable to handle the onslaught of calls for help and offers of
aid, resorting largely to recording them and focusing on the most life-
There was, for example, the report of 14 elderly people without food or water
at the St. Pius X Church in New Orleans. About 300 others stranded at a gym at
St. Augustine High School. The news from the mayor of Slidell, near New
Orleans, that he was desperate.
"They are unable to make contact with anyone," one e-mail exchange among the
governor's aides said, referring to residents of Slidell. "They are under
water, major damage and they need someone from the state and FEMA to help
And there were many calls from New Orleans residents trapped in attics or on
rooftops, after floodwaters rose around their homes.
"We have got to get there," Ms. Reed wrote about St. Bernard, the flooded
parish east of New Orleans. "My hubby just came in and said they are getting
calls that half the people on the courthouse roof may have died. They have been
calling for two days for help, and I personally have taken these calls."
The struggle with Washington and questions of who was in charge - the state or
federal government - emerge frequently in the correspondence. It is also clear
that Democrats in Washington recognized that the federal response to the storm
provided an opportunity to win some political points.
Aides to Senator Harry Reid, the Democratic leader, called Mr. Mann to discuss
strategy, a conversation that indirectly included Mike McCurry, the former
press secretary to President Clinton, according to one e-mail message.
"By the weekend, the Bush administration will have a full blown PR
disaster/scandal on their hands because of the late response to needs in New
Orleans," Mr. Mann wrote on Sept. 1, the Thursday after the storm, attributing
that observation to Mr. McCurry. The same day, Mayor C. Ray Nagin of New
Orleans gave an emotional radio interview in which he criticized Mr. Bush for
having merely flown over the city in Air Force One.
In the documents, Ms. Blanco and her advisers, as well as some outside allies,
defended her decision to reject a request by the Bush administration to take
control of the National Guard.
"If Bush and FEMA couldn't deliver meals after 5 days how could LA expect them
to take over our Natl Guard and do better job????" John B. Breaux, a former
Democratic senator from Louisiana who is now a Washington lawyer, wrote in an e-
mail message to Mr. Mann.
In the mountain of documents, though, there are also stories of important
victories. One involved a woman who had become separated from her newborn,
which set off a desperate search at area hospitals. The search ultimately
brought the family back together.
"That is the best news I've heard in several days," one state official wrote to
Ms. Reed. "These small miracles make the days worth it! God bless!"
Clifford J. Levy contributed reporting from New York for this article, Adam
Nossiter from New Orleans, and Gary Rivlin from Baton Rouge, La.
* Copyright 2005 The New York Times Company