Thursday, June 30, 2011

Aljazeera World Report: Gaddafi Served; Tahrir Re-ignites; Austerity and Anger in Greece, more



From: Al Jazeera English [] On Behalf Of Al Jazeera English
Sent: Thursday, June 30, 2011 7:42 AM
Subject: Gaddafi Served; Tahrir Re-ignites; Austerity and Anger in Greece


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Al Jazeera English

Gaddafi Served; Tahrir Reignites; Austerity and Anger in Greece

The International Criminal Court (ICC), issued arrest warrants for Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, his son, Saif al-Islam, and the country's intelligence chief, Abdullah al-Senussi. All three have been charged with 'crimes against humanity,' for the crackdown following the months-long democracy protests in the North African country. On Tuesday, a day after the arrest warrants were initially served, ICC chief prosecutor, Luis Moreno-Ocampo called for Gaddafi's own aides to turn in the much-criticzed Libyan leader.

In what could be seen as yet another setback for Gaddafi, on the same day he was charged by the ICC, rebel fighters heading towards Tripoli captured a munitions depot belonging to Libyan government forces.

Following police attempts to clear a sit-in outside the state-TV building protests in Cairo's Tahrir Square reignited. The protests came just days before the trial of two policemen charged over the death of a 28-year-old man who many say was the impetus for the original 18-day-long protests in Cairo's now famous square was delayed until September 24.

In a narrow decision,  the Greek parliament officially passed an austerity package that would reduce the nation's spiraling debt by $40bn. The taxes, spending cuts, and privatisations included in the package have earned the renewed ire of the Greek people. The 48-hour display of the public's dissatisfaction with the package turned violent when protesters were seen to hurl broken masonry at riot police.

Despite the ongoing protests politicians will meet again on Thursday to discuss a second round of austerity measures in hopes of receiving further EU and IMF aid.


  • At least five people were killed in the Nigerian city of Maiduguri in a bombing believed to be carried out by Boko Haram.
  • Protesters in the Sengalese capital of Dakar set fire to several government buildings in protest against long power cuts.




  • The trial of four Khmer Rouge leaders accused of the death of over 1.7 million Cambodians has begun.
  • A week after freeing artist Ai Wei Wei, China has freed Hu Jia, a dissident who was imprisoned for criticising Human Rights ahead of the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing.

Central & South Asia

  • An arrest warrant has been issued for former Afghan central bank governor after he fled to the DC suburbs and annoucned his resignation in the US citing evidence of death threats against him.
  • The Taliban have claimed responsibility for an overnight assault by gunmen and suicide bombers in Kabul's landmark Inter-continental Hotel.


  • Dutch MP Geert Wilders was acquitted in a trial accusing him of inciting hatred and discrimination against the nation’s Muslims.
  • At least 44 people died in a Russian plane crash when pilot error was suspected of missing a runway in northwestern Russia.

Middle East

  • Activists claim a Swedish ship due to take part in a second flotilla to the Gaza Strip has been 'sabotaged by divers' in a Greek port.
  • Members of a pro-democracy movement in Syria meet in Damascus as the government of Bashar al-Assad vows to include all voices in an upcoming dialogue.

Daughters of the brothel

Naseema was born into and lives in one of India's most infamous brothels but is now working to free trafficked women.

Staying Human



Made before his death, this film follows human rights activist Vittorio Arrigoni as he tries to help the people of Gaza.


Puerto Rico: The fiscal experiment

Fault Lines travels to Puerto Rico to investigate the harsh economic policies being imposed on the people there.

Tea party activist urges attack on flotilla



Bush era speech writer says most Americans are 'cool with' Israeli forces shooting US citizens on Gaza bound aid boats.

My husband was abducted by Bahrain 'security'



One woman's personal ordeal describes how her husband was jailed following a military trial.

Netanyahu, Nasrallah and their words of death

Nasrallah and Netanyahu each walk a tyrannical path as a pair of outdated warriors.

Is the inter-Korean conflict going cyber?

South Korea blames the North for cyber attacks while questions remain over how such an IT powerhouse was left vulnerable

Climate Change: It's bad and getting worse

Severe weather events are wracking the planet, and experts warn of even greater consequences to come.

No relief for Iraqi doctors

As thousands of doctors leave Iraq, those who remain to heal the sick say they need more security and less corruption.


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Scheer: Yes to Violence, No to Sex


Yes to Violence, No to Sex

By Robert Scheer

Truthdig: June 29,  2011

This American life of ours has long been pro-violence and anti-sex, unless the two can be merged so that violence is the dominant theme. The U.S. Supreme Court reaffirmed that historical record on Monday in declaring California’s ban on the sale of violent video games to minors unconstitutional while continuing to deny constitutional protection to purely prurient sexual material for either minors or adults.

The California law that the court struck down prohibited the sale or rental of violent games to minors “in which the range of options available to a player includes killing, maiming, dismembering, or sexually assaulting an image of a human being,” unless the work, taken as a whole, possessed redeeming literary, artistic or social value—qualities that limit censorship of sexually “obscene” material.

The Supreme Court, in essence, said no—“sexually assaulting an image of a human being” is protected speech, but depicting graphic sexual activity that is nonviolent and consensual is not.  “California has tried to make violent-speech regulation look like obscenity regulation by appending a saving clause required for the latter,” Justice Antonin Scalia wrote in the majority opinion. “That does not suffice. Our cases have been clear that the obscenity exception to the First Amendment does not cover whatever a legislature finds shocking, but only depictions of ‘sexual conduct.’ ”

As Scalia put the prevailing argument that says yes to violence and no to sex, it is only violence that possesses deep cultural roots going back to our favorite fairy tales. Arguing that “violence is not part of the obscenity that the Constitution permits to be regulated,” Scalia made clear that the problem is with the sex and not the violent or misogynist behavior that some critics argue will result from material the court defines as obscene: “Because speech about violence is not obscene, it is of no consequence that California’s statute mimics the New York statute regulating obscenity-for-minors that we upheld in Ginsberg v. New York. That case approved a prohibition on the sale to minors of sexual material that would be obscene from the perspective of a child.”

Scalia’s opinion is actually quite thrilling in enunciating an extremely broad definition of the free speech rights of minors. But it is simply bizarre in dismissing the claimed harmful effects of violent depictions while still insisting on the strictest puritanical view of the dangers of sexual imagery. “No doubt a State possesses legitimate power to protect children from harm, but that does not include a free-floating power to restrict the ideas to which children may be exposed,” he said. Unless sex is involved, in which case, as Scalia quotes an earlier court decision: “Speech that is neither obscene as to youths nor subject to some other legitimate proscription cannot be suppressed solely to protect the young from ideas or images that a legislative body thinks unsuitable for them.”

In that regard, Scalia’s view is a vast improvement over that of Clarence Thomas, who held in his dissent that minors have no First Amendment rights at all. But Scalia is unnerving in his dismissal of the concurring opinion of Justice Samuel Alito Jr., in which Chief Justice John Roberts joined. Alito argued that the California statute addressed “a potentially serious social problem” but that “its terms are not framed with the precision that the Constitution demands. …”

Scalia’s withering dismissal of Alito’s concerns is revealing of his tolerance for violent imagery as opposed to that which is merely sexual: “Justice Alito has done considerable independent research to identify video games in which ‘the violence is astounding. … Victims are dismembered, decapitated, disemboweled, set on fire, and chopped into little pieces. … Blood gushes, splatters, and pools.’ Justice Alito recounts all these disgusting video games in order to disgust us—but disgust is not a valid basis for restricting expression. … Thus, ironically, Justice Alito’s argument highlights the precise danger posed by the California Act: that the ideas expressed by speech—whether it be violence, or gore, or racism—and not its objective effects, may be the real reason for governmental proscription.”

Hear, hear to such a bold defense of the right of minors to consider a full range of controversial thought, but if the claimed harmful effects of minors’ exposure to violence, gore and racism do not warrant a governmental limitation on free speech, why isn’t sexually prurient material—for adults if not minors—deserving of equal First Amendment protection? The unspoken answer that runs through Scalia’s opinion, and that of the court down though the ages, is that violence is normal while sex is obscene.



Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Greece gripped by general strike

Hi. This morning's Democracy Now interviewed people in a massive rally in
Athens' main square, battling non-violently and actually succeeding in
making the police retreat to the government building where the austerity
vote is being decided. It was amazing and I may send it tomorrow.
Meanwhile, here's some great background. -Ed

From: rad-green- On Behalf Of Sid Shniad
Sent: Tuesday, June 28, 2011 3:21 PM

Greece gripped by general strike

by Roddy Thomson
Agence France-Presse: 06/28/2011

ATHENS, Greece - Greece ground to a halt Tuesday as angry workers
launched a 48-hour general strike against an austerity drive ordered by its
bankruptcy-threatened government in exchange for a European bailout.

Crowds converged early on Syntagma Square, where parliament will vote on
sweeping spending cuts as planes, ships and most public transport came to a

Europe's economic tsar Olli Rehn in Brussels warned that Greece faced "a
critical juncture" and the austerity programme was the "only way to avoid
immediate default."

But that view was not shared by protestors, determined to block passage of
the package.

"We don't want your money Europe," Iamando, 36, told AFP on the square where
police were already out in force at 11:00 am (0800 GMT). "Leave us alone --
please, please, please."

The number of police in the centre of the capital rose to 4,000, according
to the authorities, with traffic unable to circulate in central Athens.

Public transport was halted in Athens for the fourth general strike called
this year by the country's two biggest unions, with the exception of the
metro whose drivers decided not to strike so as to allow Athenians to swell
protest numbers.

In the port of Pireus, near Athens, which links most Greek islands with the
mainland as the peak tourist season gets under way, around 200 militant
unionists staged a picket to prevent ferries from leaving the port.

Banks, too, were closed and even hospitals were operating on reduced
staffing while at airports action by air traffic controllers saw domestic
flights cancelled by Greek airlines Olympic Air and Aegean and international
departures delayed.

A string of rallies got under way, led by a 4,000-strong Communist march to
the parliament square -- a magnet for tens of thousands of protesters and an
'indignants' camp where some of thousands involved said they have clocked up
38 straight days.

"We're like the donkey -- the more you hit it, the more determined it gets,"
one of those who keeps coming back to the square, Omiros (Homer), 29, told

An employee of the soon-to-be privatized electricity company, he spoke for a
generation of Greeks educated abroad -- Bath, England, in his case.

"If they sold the power company in the UK, it wouldn't be for pennies, and
they wouldn't hit you with 300 percent price rises," he added of the other
principal gripe among a generation of Greeks earning just hundreds of euros
per month.

Prime Minister George Papandreou begged lawmakers Monday night to back his
plans to slice 28.6 billion euros from government spending by 2015, and sell
off the national silver to meet EU and IMF demands for reform.

In Brussels, EU economic affairs chief Rehn urged the Greek parliament to
adopt the austerity programme.

"Both the future of the country and financial stability in Europe are at
stake," Rehn said in a statement. "The only way to avoid immediate default
is for parliament to endorse the revised economic programme."

In a rare criticism of the government, the governor of the Bank of Greece,
Giorgos Provopoulos told Tuesday's Kathimerini daily that "piling more taxes
on taxpayers has reached its limit."

He said the new plan "does not place enough emphasis on the containment of

Approval of the austerity measures by lawmakers would unblock 12 billion
euros of emergency loans from last year's 110-billion-euro bailout and free
eurozone finance ministers to start drawing up a second bailout for as much
again at talks Sunday in Brussels.

But even a former IMF board member, economist Miranda Xafa of Geneva-based
investment managers IJ Partners, says the plan is deeply flawed.

"In the last year, 250,000 people lost their jobs in the private sector --
and none in the public sector," she told AFP.

"Now the country is bankrupt so it has no choice," she said.

She was sceptical about a plan announced by French President Nicolas Sarkozy
to persuade private sector creditors to extend their exposure to Greek
public debt for the next 30 years, another condition for more eurozone
government aid.

She said it would almost certainly be seen by the key international rating
agencies as a "selective" default.
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Bernie Sanders Takes to Senate Floor, Demands 'Shared Sacrifice'

Hi.  Bernie has the knack for presenting complicated ideas in common, understandable language.

But he do run on, as we say in W. Virginia and other setch, especially after Sunday church, so I’ve

cut it about half way.  Click on the URL, just below for the whole megilla.


Bernie Sanders Takes to Senate Floor, Demands 'Shared Sacrifice'

Prepared Remarks by Senator Bernie Sanders

The following are the prepared remarks of US Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT), delivered (video) on the floor of the US Senate on Monday June 27, 2011:

Mr. President, this is a pivotal moment in the history of our country. In the coming days and weeks, decisions will be made about our national budget that will impact the lives of virtually every American in this country for decades to come.

At a time when the richest people and the largest corporations in our country are doing phenomenally well, and, in many cases, have never had it so good, while the middle class is disappearing and poverty is increasing, it is absolutely imperative that a deficit reduction package not include the disastrous cuts in programs for working families, the elderly, the sick, the children and the poor that the Republicans in Congress, dominated by the extreme right wing, are demanding.

In my view, the President of the United States of America needs to stand with the American people and say to the Republican leadership that enough is enough. No, we will not balance the budget on the backs of working families, the elderly, the sick, the children, and the poor, who have already sacrificed enough in terms of lost jobs, lost wages, lost homes, and lost pensions. Yes, we will demand that millionaires and billionaires and the largest corporations in America contribute to deficit reduction as a matter of shared sacrifice. Yes, we will reduce unnecessary and wasteful spending at the Pentagon. And, no we will not be blackmailed once again by the Republican leadership in Washington, who are threatening to destroy the full faith and credit of the United States government for the first time in our nation’s history unless they get everything they want.

Instead of yielding to the incessant, extreme Republican demands, as the President did during last December’s tax cut agreement and this year’s spending negotiations, the President has got to get out of the beltway and rally the American people who already believe that deficit reduction must be about shared sacrifice.

It is time for the President to stand with the millions who have lost their jobs, homes, and life savings, instead of the millionaires, who in many cases, have never had it so good.

Unless the American people by the millions tell the President not to yield one inch to Republican demands to destroy Medicare and Medicaid, while continuing to provide tax breaks to the wealthy and the powerful, I am afraid that is exactly what will happen.

So, I am asking the American people who may be listening today that if you believe that deficit reduction should be about shared sacrifice, if you believe that it is time for the wealthy and large corporations to pay their fair share, if you believe that we need to reduce unnecessary defense spending, and if you believe that the middle class has already sacrificed enough due to the greed, recklessness and illegal behavior on Wall Street, the President needs to hear your voice, and he needs to hear it now.

Go to my website: and send a letter to the President letting him know that enough is enough! Shared sacrifice means that it’s time for the wealthiest Americans and most profitable corporations in America to pay their fair share and contribute to deficit reduction.

Mr. President, as you know, this country faces enormous challenges.

The reality is that the middle class in America today is collapsing and poverty is increasing.

When we talk about the economy, we have got to be aware that the official government statistics are often misleading. For example, while the official unemployment rate is now 9.1%, that number does not include the large numbers of people who have given up looking for work and people who want to work full-time but are working part time.

And, when you take all of those factors into account, the real unemployment rate is nearly 16%.

Further Mr. President, what we also must understand is that tens of millions of Americans are working longer hours for lower wages. The reality is that over the last 10 years, median family income has declined by over $2,500.

As a result of the greed, recklessness and illegal behavior on Wall Street, which caused this terrible recession, millions more have lost their homes, their pensions, and their retirement savings.

Unless we reverse our current economic course our children will have, for the first time in modern American history, a lower standard of living than their parents.

Mr. President, we throw out a lot of numbers around here. But, I think it is important to understand that behind every grim economic statistic are real Americans who cannot find a decent paying job, and are struggling to feed their families, put a roof over their heads or to just stay afloat.

Last year, I asked my constituents in Vermont to share their personal stories with me -- explaining how the recession, which started more than three years ago, has impacted their lives. In a matter of weeks, more than 400 Vermonters responded and I also heard from people throughout the country who are struggling through this terrible recession.

Their messages are clear. People are finding it hard to get jobs or are now working for lower wages than they used to earn. Older workers have depleted their life savings and are worried about what will happen to them when they retire. Young adults in their 20s and 30s are not earning enough to pay down college debt. People of all ages, all walks of life, from each corner of Vermont -- have shared their stories with my office.

Let me just read a few of these letters:

The first is from a 51 year old woman from West Berlin, Vermont who wrote "Dear Mr. Sanders, Don't really know what to say, I could cry. My significant other was out of work for a year, now he works in another state. I've been out of work since April. Our mortgage company wants the house because we can't make the payments. I can't find a job to save my soul that will pay enough to make a difference. How bad does it have to get! My mother went through the Great Depression and here we go again. I figure that I'm going to lose everything soon! I'm a well educated person who can't see through the fog."

A gentlemen in his mid-50's from Orange County, Vermont wrote: "After being unemployed three times since 1999 due to global trade agreements, I now find myself managing a hazardous waste transfer facility that pays about 25% less than what I was making in 1999. My wife's children have moved back in, unemployed. And we are saving very little for retirement. If things don't improve soon we will likely have to work until we die. We consider ourselves lucky that we are employed. Our children's friends tend to show up around meal time. They are skinny. We feed them. This is no recession, it's a modern day depression."

A woman in her late 40s from Westminster, Vermont wrote: "I am a single mom in Vermont, nearly 50. I patch together a full time job making $12 an hour and various painting jobs and still can't afford to get myself out of debt, or make necessary repairs on my home. No other jobs in sight, I apply all the time to no avail. Food and gas bills go up and up, but not my income. I have no retirement at all, can't afford to move, feeling stuck, tired, and hopeless."

And a 26 year old young man from Barre, Vermont wrote: "In 2002, I received a scholarship to Saint Bonaventure University, the first in my family to attend college. Upon graduation in 2006, I was admitted to the Dickinson School of Law at Penn State University, and graduated in 2009 with $150,000 of student debt. In Western New York I could find nothing better than a $10 an hour position stuffing envelopes … I live in a small studio apartment in Barre without cable or internet … I have told my family I don't want them to visit because I am ashamed of my surroundings … My family always told me that an education was the ticket to success, but all my education seems to have done in this landscape is make it impossible to pull myself out of debt and begin a successful career."

Mr. President, just over the last two weeks, nearly 500 people from Vermont and throughout the U.S. have written me about their experiences with trying - often in vain - to find affordable dental care. One wrote: “I can't afford health insurance so dental work is definitely out. I agree [that] … we are so backward in this country, even though studies have linked bad dental care to heart problems and cancer.”

Mr. President, when the Republicans are talking about trillions of dollars in savage cuts this is what they are talking about. They're talking about throwing millions and millions of people off of Medicaid. Let me tell you what that means.

Earlier this year Arizona passed budget cuts that took patients off its transplant list. As a result people who were kicked off the list have died. Not because they couldn't find a donor but because the state decided it could no longer afford to pay for their transplants. To make matters worse Arizona’s Governor has gone further, asking the federal government for a waiver to kick off another 250,000 from its Medicaid program.

They're talking about making it impossible for working class families to send their kids to college. They're talking about cuts in nutrition programs which will increase the amount of hunger in America, which is already at an all time high. According to a 2009 study, there are over 5 million seniors who face the threat of hunger, almost 3 million seniors who are at risk of going hungry, and almost 1 million seniors who do go hungry because they cannot afford to buy food. The Republicans in Congress would make this situation much, much worse.

Mr. President, this is a lot of pain that the Republicans are tossing out while they want to protect their rich and powerful friends. In my view, the president has got to stand tall, take the case to the American people, and hold the Republicans responsible if the debt ceiling is not raised and the repercussions of that.

That, Mr. President, is what's going on in the real world. People fighting to keep their homes from falling into foreclosure; struggling with credit card debt; marriages have been postponed; lives have been derailed; and retirement savings have been raided to pay for college tuition, to keep their businesses afloat, or simply to keep gas in their car and pay their bills. That is what is going on in the real world.

And, Mr. President, while the middle class disappears and poverty is increasing, there is another reality and that is that the gap between the very rich and everyone else is growing wider and wider. The United States now has, by far, the most unequal distribution of wealth and income of any major country on earth.

Today, the top one percent earns over 20 percent of all income in this country, which is more than the bottom 50 percent earns. Over a recent 25 year period, 80 percent of all new income went to the top one percent. In terms of the distribution of wealth, as hard as it may be to believe, the richest 400 Americans own more wealth than the bottom 150 million Americans.

The rich get richer, the poor get poorer, and the middle class continues to disappear. That is what is going on in this country in the year 2011, and we have all got to understand that.

Mr. President, everybody knows this country faces a major deficit crisis and we have a national debt of over $14 trillion. What has not been widely discussed, however, is how we got into this situation in the first place. A huge deficit and huge national debt did not happen by accident. It did not happen overnight. It happened, in fact, as a result of a number of policy decisions made over the last decade and votes that were cast right here on the floor of the Senate and in the House.

Let's never forget, as we talk about the deficit situation; that in January of 2001, when President Clinton left office, this country had an annual federal budget surplus of $236 billion with projected budget surpluses as far as the eye could see. That was when Clinton left office.

What has happened in the ensuing years? How did we go from huge projected surpluses into horrendous debt? The answer, frankly, is not complicated. The CBO has documented it. There was an interesting article on the front page of the Washington Post on April 30, talking about it as well. Here is what happened.

When we spend over $1 trillion on wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and choose not to pay for those wars, we run up a deficit. When we provide over $700 billion in tax breaks to the wealthiest people in this country and choose not to pay for those tax breaks, we run up a deficit. When we pass a Medicare Part D prescription drug program written by the drug companies and the insurance companies that does not allow Medicare to negotiate prescription drug prices and ends up costing us far more than it should -- $400 billion over a 10-year period -- and we don't pay for that, we run up the deficit. When we double military spending since 1997, not including the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and we don't pay for that, we drive up the deficit.

Further, Mr. President, the deficit was also driven up by the greed, recklessness and illegal behavior on Wall Street, which caused the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. Millions of Americans lost their jobs and revenue was significantly reduced as a result.

Mr. President, the end result of all of these unpaid-for policies and actions – year after year of the deficits I just described – is a staggering amount of debt. When President Bush left office, President Obama inherited an annual deficit of $1.3 trillion with deficits as far as the eye could see, and the national debt more than doubled from when President Bush took office.

The reality is Mr. President, if we did not go to war in Iraq, if we did not pass huge tax breaks for millionaires and billionaires, who didn’t need them, if we did not pass a prescription drug program with no cost control written by the drug and insurance companies, and if we did not deregulate Wall Street, we would not be in the fiscal mess that we find ourselves in today. It really is that simple.


For more:


Tuesday, June 28, 2011

IMPORTANT: NPR's Morning Edition had a terrific report on the Free Gaza Mvt


-----Original Message-----
From: Jeffrey Blankfort []
Sent: Tuesday, June 28, 2011 9:06 AM

IMPORTANT: NPR's Morning Edition had a terrific report on the Free Gaza Mvt


Ed, this morning NPR's Morning Edition had a terrific report on the Free

Gaza Mvt and Audacity featuring Alice Walker, Ann Wright and Medea with

Silvia Poggioli in Athens, with no Israeli spokespersons offering

countering statements. This is sure to get them riled up so NPR needs

to get support for doing this. Here's the link to the story:






Flotilla To Challenge Israel's Blockade Of Gaza

by Sylvia Poggioli

June 28, 2011

Listen to the Story

Morning Edition

[5 min 19 sec]

·                                 Add to Playlist

·                                 Download

·                                 Transcript


U.S. activists chant slogans as they hold placards after a news conference about an international flotilla to blockaded Gaza in Athens on Monday.

Petros Giannakouris/AP

U.S. activists chant slogans as they hold placards after a news conference about an international flotilla to blockaded Gaza in Athens on Monday.

text size A A A

June 28, 2011

Hundreds of pro-Palestinian activists from the U.S., Europe and Canada are organizing a 10-ship flotilla to challenge Israel's economic blockade of the Gaza Strip.

Israel says the blockade is necessary to prevent smuggling of arms into Gaza. Hanging over the mission is the dark shadow of last year's flotilla that ended with an Israeli commando raid on a Turkish vessel and left nine activists dead.

The hub of this year's operation is Athens, Greece, where organizers accuse Israel of using diplomatic pressure to sabotage their effort.

Some 50 American activists of Operation USTOGAZA are holding workshops in an Athens hotel. Over a year of fundraising throughout the country, the group raised nearly $400,000 to cover basic expenses and lease a boat.

U.S. activist and author Alice Walker speaks during Monday's news conference about the flotilla in Athens.

Petros Giannakouris/AP

U.S. activist and author Alice Walker speaks during Monday's news conference about the flotilla in Athens.

One of the most prominent American participants in the flotilla is Pulitzer Prize winner Alice Walker, author of The Color Purple.

She gave her reason for taking part in a video on the group's website: "I actually love children and I love water, and I love trees, good food, and I love parents who are happy and children who are happy and all this wonderful life that has been completely disrupted and degraded by the Israeli treatment of the Palestinian people in Gaza."

The American vessel has been renamed The Audacity of Hope, after the title of President Obama's autobiography. But organizers won't reveal where it's docked, or when they'll set sail. They claim Greek authorities have imposed administrative delays under pressure from Israel.

But it's not just Israel that opposes the flotilla. Despite its opposition to the blockade, the Greek government has officially urged its citizens and Greek-registered vessels not to participate in the operation.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said aid should be delivered to Gaza only through what he called legitimate crossings and established channels — meaning through Israel or Egypt.

The Obama administration has also strongly urged U.S. nationals not to take part.

Ann Wright, a former U.S. State Department official who plans to sail on a vessel named "The Audacity of Hope" after the title of a book by President Obama, speaks during Monday's news conference about the international flotilla to Gaza. "We will not use force," she says. "We are unarmed civilian ships that are sailing for a political purpose to bring world attention to what is going on in Gaza."

Enlarge Petros Giannakouris/AP

Ann Wright, a former U.S. State Department official who plans to sail on a vessel named "The Audacity of Hope" after the title of a book by President Obama, speaks during Monday's news conference about the international flotilla to Gaza. "We will not use force," she says. "We are unarmed civilian ships that are sailing for a political purpose to bring world attention to what is going on in Gaza."

Ann Wright, a former U.S. State Department official who plans to sail on a vessel named "The Audacity of Hope" after the title of a book by President Obama, speaks during Monday's news conference about the international flotilla to Gaza. "We will not use force," she says. "We are unarmed civilian ships that are sailing for a political purpose to bring world attention to what is going on in Gaza."

Petros Giannakouris/AP

Ann Wright, a former U.S. State Department official who plans to sail on a vessel named "The Audacity of Hope" after the title of a book by President Obama, speaks during Monday's news conference about the international flotilla to Gaza. "We will not use force," she says. "We are unarmed civilian ships that are sailing for a political purpose to bring world attention to what is going on in Gaza."

Ann Wright, a retired State Department official and former army colonel, took part in last year's attempt to break the Gaza blockade.

"Israelis have been very clear: They intend to stop us from going to Gaza and will use force," Wright says. "We will not use force. We are unarmed civilian ships that are sailing for a political purpose to bring world attention to what is going on in Gaza."

The Americans — whose ages range from the mid-20s to mid-80s — say their ship will carry only written messages and letters to the Palestinian people. Other ships — from Europe and Canada — will carry various goods, from medical supplies to school notebooks.

Activists see Israel's Gaza blockade as a human rights violation, while Israel says it's aimed at preventing weapons from reaching Iran-backed Hamas militants.

Last year's attempt to break the blockade was intercepted by Israeli naval commandos and resulted in the deaths of nine activists.

The Americans in Athens have trained for their voyage by watching graphic videos of that raid. Richard Levy, a civil rights lawyer, took part in the nonviolence training.

"We put in a number of hours learning how to respond to that kind of an assault," Levy says, "and I guess most of us on the boat are sailing with the recognition that that is a real possibility and how do we best protect ourselves under those circumstances."

In another hall of the hotel, a group of women wearing T-shirts with the words "I am an unarmed citizen" and "Stay human" is discussing possible scenarios.

Medea Benjamin is the founder of Code Pink, a women's anti-war group.

"Some of us are Jews; we are certainly not against the Israeli people," Benjamin says. "Our idea is we are part of a historical movement that has deep roots in Gandhi, deep roots in Martin Luther King, deep roots in civil resistance movements throughout history."

The American activists alternate their training with song sessions — to the tune of "Michael, Row the Boat Ashore," they've adapted the lyrics to their Gaza mission.

On Monday, the Israeli government said it would act with determination to stop the flotilla from reaching its destination, but, it added, with minimal confrontation, as far as possible, between Israeli forces and passengers.