Monday, April 30, 2007
Close to 80 Killed, 170 Injured in Iraq Bombing
In Iraq, nearly eighty-people were killed and more than one-hundred-seventy injured in a car bombing Sunday in the city of Karbala. Meanwhile April has become the deadliest month for US troops so far this year. Nine servicemembers were killed this weekend, bringing the toll to one-hundred and three.
7 of 8 Touted Iraq Projects "Crumbling"
In other news, a new audit has found more bad signs for US reconstruction projects in Iraq. The New York Times reports American inspectors looked at eight initiatives the Bush administration had hailed as signs of progress there. Seven were found to be no longer operational and were described as "crumbling."
US Limits Entry of Iraqi Refugees
New figures show the Bush administration has failed to live up to promises to allow even a limited number of Iraqi refugees into the United States. Just sixty-eight Iraqis have been admitted in the last six months. Meanwhile more than thirteen-hundred Cubans and twenty-four hundred Iranians have been taken in over the same period. Around two million Iraqis have fled Iraq since the US invasion.
US State Department: 45% of Terrorist Attacks Occur in Iraq
The US State Department is expected to report today another rise in the number of annual terrorist attacks. Figures from the National Counterterrorism Center show more than fourteen thousand attacks last year, up thirty-percent from 2005. Forty-five percent of those attacks were in Iraq. The McClatchy news service reports the State Department considered postponing or downplaying the report's release.
Protests Worldwide for Darfur Intervention
Protests were held around the world Sunday on an international day of action to mark the fourth anniversary of the start of the conflict in Darfur. Marches were held in capitals including Washington, Rome, Tel Aviv, and London. Sudanese member of parliament Salih Osman spoke out at an event in Cairo, Egypt.
Sudanese member of parliament Salih Osman said, "The message is that the situation is still there. People are dying on a daily basis. Survivors and victims in Darfur need protection. We ask the world to provide protection to the people and to help them go back to their homes." The UN estimates at least two-hundred thousand people have been killed and more than two and a half million displaced in what it calls one of the world's worst humanitarian crises.
Thousands Protest US Raid on Afghan Civilians
In Afghanistan, thousands of people rallied against the US military Sunday following a raid that killed at least three civilians. Demonstrators carried bodies of the victims and refused to leave a main road until surviving prisoners were released.
An unidentified protester said, "They are committing so many operations against us. We do not want them. We do not want this kind of life in the future. America is our enemy! America is our enemy! Karzai is our enemy! Karzai is our enemy!"
German Prosecutors Drop Rumsfeld War-Crimes Case
In Germany, prosecutors have dropped a war crimes suit against former defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld and other US officials. The New York-based Center for Constitutional Rights filed the complaint on behalf of a dozen victims of torture in US custody. Germany's laws on torture and war crimes permit the prosecution of suspected war criminals wherever they may be found, but German prosecutors say they've dropped the case because it has no ties to crimes committed on German soil. Michael Ratner of the Center for Constitutional Rights called the decision political, not legal, and said the case could be re-filed in Spain.
Ecuador President Backs Amazon Residents' Case Against Chevron
In Ecuador, the oil giant Chevron is being accused of causing massive environmental damage to the Amazon rainforest. Nearly thirty-thousand Amazon residents have filed suit against Chevron seeking six billion dollars in damages. Ecuadorian president Rafael Correa traveled to the forest area to back the residents' case.
Ecuadorian president Rafael Correa said, "This is the damage caused, I insist, the damage caused in the Ecuadorian Amazon by mining by Chevron's Texaco. It's 30 times greater than the damage that the Exxon Valdez caused but it looks like if it occurs in the third world, it doesn't matter."
Argentina's Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo Mark 30th Anniversary
In Argentina, today marks the thirtieth anniversary of the first action that launched the group the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo. On April 30th, 1977, a group of mothers who lost children under Argentina's military dictatorship met to trade stories and provide support. That meeting later spawned the first of scores of demonstrations and actions against Argentina's military leaders. This is Plaza de Mayo member Enriqueta Maroni.
Plaza de Mayo member, Enriqueta Maroni, said, "It was during the time when desperation and pain forced us to look for our children. It was the only thing we wanted: to find our children. It was a painful time for us and, over time, we transformed it into struggle and then resistance, but an active resistance."
South American Leaders Gather for ALBA Summit
In Venezuela, leaders from several Latin American and Caribbean nations gathered this weekend for the fifth meeting of the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas, or ALBA. ALBA's four core members Bolivia, Venezuela, Cuba, and Nicaragua, formed the pact two years ago as an alternative to US-backed trade deals.
Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez said, "ALBA continues to grow. The FTAA is dead. Viva ALBA."
Bush Foreign Aid Chief Resigns Over Escort Use
In news from Washington, deputy secretary of state Randall Tobias has resigned after it was revealed he frequented an escort service tied to prostitution. Tobias served as director of US Foreign Assistance and as the Bush administration's de-facto AIDS czar. Tobias says he only used the escort service for massages. Tobias has previously come under criticism for promoting abstinence over condom use in the administration's AIDS policies. As the top official on AIDS funding he was also responsible for a program that requires beneficiaries to renounce sex trafficking and prostitution.
Harvard Students Protest Gonzales at Law School Reunion
In Boston, a twenty-five year law school reunion for attorney general Alberto Gonzales turned into a protest at Harvard Law School Saturday. Student protesters heckled Gonzales as he posed with former classmates. One student wore a black hood and orange jumpsuit like that worn by prisoners at Guantanamo.
New Orleans Residents Rally for Lower 9th Ward Recovery
In New Orleans, hundreds of people rallied Saturday to call attention to the slow recovery of the Lower Ninth Ward. The area was one of the hardest hit by Hurricane Katrina. The reverend Jesse Jackson helped lead the march.
Reverend Jesse Jackson said, "Katrina will not be buried. The people will return to this zone because we will fight back. We will not surrender."
Report: Bush Administration Fails to Use Millions in Foreign Katrina Aid
The protest came amid a new report showing the Bush administration has squandered hundreds of millions of dollars in foreign aid to Katrina victims. According to the Washington Post, the government has spent just forty-million of more than eight-hundred fifty million dollars offered from US allies.
Man Arrested for Bomb Plot at Texas Abortion Clinic
In Texas, a potentially major attack was avoided this weekend at an abortion clinic in Austin. Police say they arrested a man who placed an unexploded bomb containing nearly two-thousand nails, a propane tank, and a device similar to a rocket outside the clinic's doors.
Fired Imus Sidekick Defends Remarks, Calls Sharpton "Terrorist"
The former sidekick and producer fired along with the radio host Don Imus has followed his dismissal with more controversial remarks. In his first interview since he was dismissed for calling the Rutgers women's basketball team "hard core hos," Bernard McGuirk defended his comments to Fox anchors Sean Hannity and Alan Colmes.
Bernard McGuirk said, "I mean, nobody uses the n-word. You just don't do that. But b's and hos, I mean, we're just try - what am I going to say, dames?"
McGuirk was joking with Fox host, Alan Colmes. Later on in the interview Colmes asked McGuirk about his hopes for the future.
Bernard McGuirk said, "Well, I hope that Al Sharpton's blow dryer falls in the - no." Sharpton helped lead the protests for Imus' dismissal. Later in the broadcast.
Hundreds Call for Impeachment at Bush Speech
Hundreds of people gathered at the Kendell Miami-Dade College campus in Miami on Saturday to protest an appearance by President Bush. The protest was held in conjunction with "National Impeachment Day."
Tuesday, May 1, 2007
Hundreds of Thousands to March for Immigrant Rights
Hundreds of thousands of immigrants and immigrant-rights activists are planning to rally across the country today on the anniversary of last year's historic May Day protests. Marches are planned in at least 75 cities across the country. Some of the largest protests are expected to take place in Los Angeles and Chicago. Several groups are calling for a boycott of work, school, and all consumer activity today. In California, youth organizers said walkouts were planned in at least 20 Los Angeles middle schools and high schools. In Chicago, some 700 businesses are expected to close down today as part of the national boycott. In Fresno, organizers are holding a rally focusing on children whose parents had been deported. Groups are calling on Congress to reject all anti-immigrant legislation, to stop the government raids on immigrant communities, to stop President Bush's proposed guest worker program, and to demilitarize the US-Mexican border.
Democrats Send Bush War-Funding Bill
On Capitol Hill, the Democratic leadership is officially sending President Bush the new war-funding bill today that sets a non-binding timetable for the withdrawal of US troops from Iraq. The bill is being sent on the fourth anniversary of the day that President Bush stood under a "Mission Accomplished" banner and announced that major combat operations had ended in Iraq. President Bush is expected to veto the bill as early as Wednesday.
April 2007 Becomes Sixth Deadliest Month of War For US Troops
In Iraq, the US military announced five more troops died in attacks over the weekend. 104 US troops died in April making it the sixth deadliest month of the war. Meanwhile, at least 102 Iraqis died on Monday alone including more than 30 in a suicide bombing that targeted a Shiite funeral. In the latest political development in Iraq, the largest bloc of Sunni Arabs in the Iraqi Parliament is threatening to withdraw from the cabinet.
Iraqi Blogger Riverbend to Flee Iraq
In other Iraq news, one of the country's best known bloggers has announced that she and her family have decided to flee the country. The blogger known as Riverbend has been writing about the US occupation on her blog Baghdad Burning since August 2003. In her latest post Riverbend writes, "It's difficult to decide which is more frightening - car bombs and militias, or having to leave everything you know and love, to some unspecified place for a future where nothing is certain."
Senator Durbin: "I Knew the Public Was Being Mislead into the Iraq War"
In Washington, the second highest ranking Democrat in the Senate, majority whip Richard Durbin of Illinois, has admitted that he knew in 2003 that the American public was being misled into the Iraq war but remained silent. Durbin said last week "I was angry about it. [But] frankly, I couldn't do much about it because, in the intelligence committee, we are sworn to secrecy." Durbin went on to say "We can't walk outside the door and say the statement made yesterday by the White House is in direct contradiction to classified information that is being given to this Congress." Yes you can.
Israel Commission Criticizes Olmert's Handling of Lebanon War
In Israel, prime minister Ehud Olmert is fighting for his political life after a government commission harshly criticized his role in the Israeli invasion of Lebanon last summer. The report accused Olmert of demonstrating a "severe failure in exercising judgment, responsibility and caution" during the 34-day war. The report also singled out defense minister Amir Peretz and the military's former chief of staff Dan Halutz. This is Ruth Gavison, a member of the Winograd Commission.
Ruth Gavison said, "We determine that there are very serious failings in these decisions and the way they were made. We impose primary responsibility for these failures on the prime minister, the minister of defense and the outgoing chief of staff."
Polls show nearly 70 percent of Israelis want Olmert to resign but he has refused to do so. While the Winograd Commission focused on how the war was managed, critics of the war said the largest mistake was Israel's decision to invade Lebanon. This is Ahmed Tibi, an Arab member of the Israeli Knesset.
Ahmed Tibi said, "The real failure is just the decision of getting on with this war and not the way the war was managed. I do believe that Israel again once proved that it is an army which has a state and not a state which has an army." In Lebanon, leaders of Hezbollah say the report by the Israeli government commission confirms that Hezbollah won the war last summer. Nearly 1,200 Lebanese (the vast majority civilians) were killed during the war. Israel lost 119 soldiers and 39 civilians.
Israeli Whistleblower Vanunu Convicted for Speaking to Media: Israeli Court Admits Israel Has Nuclear Weapons
The Israeli nuclear whistleblower Mordechai Vanunu might be heading back to jail soon for speaking to the international media. In 2004, Israel released Vanunu after he spent 18 years in jail for disclosing information that proved Israel had a stockpile of nuclear weapons. After he was released, Israel barred Vanunu from speaking to the foreign press but Vanunu defied the order. He spoke to several foreign outlets. On Monday, an Israeli court convicted him of violating the terms of his release from jail. This is Vanunu's attorney Michael Sfard.
Michael Sfard said, "Today, in 2007, a person was found guilty of being in contact with other people, not for the content of what he said to them, but for the mere fact that he was talking to other people. This is not something that a liberal democracy in the 21st century should be doing, and this is a very frightening situation, almost Orwellian situation, every Israeli has to fear."
Vanunu will be sentenced in two weeks. After the court's ruling, Vanunu spoke with reporters outside the courtroom.
Mordechai Vanunu said, "Today, we have heard the verdict, says that Israel has atomic weapons. Everything is published here. And now the prime minister Ehud Olmert and Shimon Peres can say to the world that Israel have atomic weapons producing plutonium, neutron, and hydrogen bomb. All the bomb that Israel refusing to accept and to admit that they have the bomb is here. But Israeli state, but Israeli court, this judge today say that I say that Israel has atomic weapons and he's finding me guilty of saying this is true so you and everyone in the world can say that Israel have atomic weapons, they have plutonium, neutron bomb and hydrogen bomb, it is writing here."
UK Officials Admit MI6 Tracked Subway Bomber in 2004
In Britain, survivors of the July 7, 2005 subway bombings are calling for a new investigation into what the government knew about the suicide bombers before the day of the attack. Up until this week, the British government had maintained the bombings came out of the blue and that intelligence officers didn't know any of the men involved. It was revealed on Monday though (at the conclusion of an unrelated trial) that the ringleader of the subway bombing was under MI5 surveillance in 2004. In the trial a jury sentenced five British citizens to life in prison on Monday for plotting a series of bomb attacks. The government case rested largely on intelligence gathered in what has been described as Britain's most intensive surveillance operation ever. Investigators bugged more than 90 phone lines, sifted through 27,000 hours of video and audio intercepts and logged more than 33,000 hours watching the men.
Justice Dept Memo Reveals Broad Effort to Politicize Department
In news from Washington, investigative journalist Murray Waas has revealed that attorney general Alberto Gonzales signed a highly confidential order in March 2006 delegating two of his top aides extraordinary authority over the hiring and firing of Justice Department employees. The existence of the order suggests that a broad effort was under way by the White House to place politically and ideologically loyal appointees throughout the Justice Department, not just at the US-attorney level. The two aides given the authority were Gonzales' chief of staff Kyle Sampson and his White House liaison, Monica Goodling. Both Sampson and Goodling have since resigned. On Monday Senate judiciary chair Patrick Leahy described the development as disturbing and highly troubling.
Leahy said, "This secret order would seem to be evidence of an effort to hardwire control over law enforcement by White House political operatives."
New Oil Drilling Proposed Off Alaska, Florida, and Virginia
The Bush administration is proposing a major expansion of oil and natural gas drilling in federal waters off Alaska, Florida, and Virginia. The proposal would allow private oil companies to lease 48 million acres along the coasts where drilling had been previously banned.
75 Attorneys Head to Capitol Hill to Urge Restoration of Habeas Corpus
75 attorneys and legal scholars are heading to Capitol Hill today to urge lawmakers to reverse provisions of the Military Commissions Act that stripped detainees at Guantanamo of the right to challenge their imprisonment. The attorneys picked today for their lobby action because May 1st is recognized as Law Day inside the legal community. On Monday, President Bush issued a Law Day proclamation inviting Americans today to "celebrate the Constitution and the laws that protect our rights and liberties."
Virginia Governor Partially Closes Loophole in State's Gun Laws
In Virginia, the state's governor has partially closed a loophole in the state's gun laws that allowed the Virginia Tech gunman, Seung-Hui Cho, to purchase firearms despite a court ruling that he was a threat and needed psychiatric counseling. The names of anyone who is ordered to be dangerous and ordered to get involuntary health treatment will now be placed in a database that gun dealers must check before selling a weapon. However the new executive order does not apply to gun shows in Virginia where guns can still be bought without a background check.
Bush Rejects Placing Caps on Carbon Emissions
In environmental news, the New York Times is reporting that climate scientists may have significantly underestimated the power of global warming from human-generated heat-trapping gases to shrink the cap of sea ice floating on the Arctic Ocean. Meanwhile President Bush met with German chancellor Angela Merkel on Monday to discuss global warming. They agreed that more must be done to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions but the Bush administration remains opposed to placing caps on carbon emissions.
President Bush said, "As I reminded the people around the conference table today, the United States could shut down our economy and emit no green house gases and all it would take is for China about 18 months to produce as much as we had been producing, to make up the difference about what we had reduced our green house gases to. So this is a very important issue. It has global consequences. The good news is that we recognize there is a problem."
Three US Troops Indicted in Killing Spanish Journalist Jose Couso
A Spanish judge has indicted three US soldiers in the killing of Jose Couso - the Spanish journalist who was killed when US troops shelled the Palestine Hotel in Baghdad in April 2003. A Ukrainian cameraman for Reuters named Taras Protsyuk was also killed in the shelling. The Spanish judge indicted Sgt. Shawn Gibson, Capt. Philip Wolford, and Lt. Col. Philip DeCamp. The three men were charged with homicide and committing a crime against the international community. The US says it will not hand over the soldiers to stand trial. One of the men, Philip DeCamp, is now an adjunct professor of mathematics at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia.
Chavez to Pull Venezuela Out of World Bank and IMF
In news from Latin America, Hugo Chavez has announced Venezuela will pull out of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. The Venezuelan president accused the institutions of exploiting small countries and of being a mechanism of North American imperialism.
In Cuba, Up to One Million to Rally for May Day
In Cuba, up to one million people are expected to march in Havana today in an enormous May Day Rally. Fidel Castro is expected to attend the rally. He has not been seen in public since July when he underwent emergency surgery and temporarily transferred power to his brother Raul.
NJ Governor Corzine Released From Hospital
In New Jersey, governor Jon Corzine is back in the governor's mansion 18 days after he was critically injured in a car accident. Corzine apologized for not wearing a seatbelt at the time of the accident and for being in a car that was speeding.
Governor Corzine said, "I also understand that I set a very poor example for a lot of young people and a lot of people in general. I certainly hope the state will forgive me. And I will work very hard to try to set the right kind of example to make a difference in people's lives as we go forward."
Wednesday, May 2, 2007
Hundreds of Thousands Protest for Immigrant Rights: LA police fired dozens of rubber bullets and tear gas into peaceful crowd
Hundreds of thousands of immigrants took to the streets on Tuesday in protests in dozens of cities across the US. In Chicago, police said over 150,000 marched thru downtown. In Phoenix organizers put the crowd size at 100,000. In Milwaukee Wisconsin, organizers estimated at 60,000 took part in the city's second annual civil rights march and boycott. Another 10,000 immigrants marched in Detroit and Denver. Los Angeles held two large protests on Tuesday. The afternoon protest in LA ended when police fired dozens of rubber bullets and tear gas into the peaceful crowd. Families with young children were forced to flee for their safety. Eyewitnesses said police gave little or no warning before firing the rubber bullets. The protests came on the first anniversary of last year's historic May Day immigrant protests. In Los Angeles organizer Norberto Martinez predicted protests over immigrant rights would continue.
Norberto Marinez said, "It's not an issue that will go away. We're here. We're here to stay. We're not going anywhere, and we do need a solution, something that will give us permanent residency. If it doesn't happen with the Bush administration now, it has to happen in the next administration."
Bush Vetoes Iraq War Spending Bill
President Bush has vetoed a $124 billion war spending bill that would have imposed timelines to withdraw US troops from Iraq. This sets up a showdown between Congress and the White House over the future of the Iraq war. On Tuesday afternoon, house speaker Nancy Pelosi spoke at a special ceremony to mark the Iraq bill being sent to the White House.
Nancy Pelosi said, "This legislation respects the wishes of the American people to end the Iraq war. I am pleased to sign this legislation, which passed both houses of Congress with bipartisan support. I urge the president to sign the global war on terror supplemental so that we can refocus on fighting terrorism."
The Democrats sent the bill on the fourth anniversary of the day that president Bush stood under a Mission Accomplished banner and announced that major combat operations had ended in Iraq. Last night Bush officially vetoed the legislation.
Bush said, "After forcing most of our troops to withdraw, the bill would dictate the terms on which the remaining commanders and troops could engage the enemy. That means America's commanders in the middle of a combat zone would have to take fighting directions from politicians 6,000 miles away in Washington, D.C. This is a prescription for chaos and confusion, and we must not impose it on our troops."
Bush plans to host congressional leaders from both parties at the White House this afternoon.
Ex-Generals Criticize Bush for Veto
Criticism of Bush's veto has come from an unlikely quarter — two retired generals who led troops in Iraq.
Major general John Batiste said, "The president vetoed our troops and the American people. His stubborn commitment to a failed strategy in Iraq is incomprehensible."
Major Gen. Paul Eaton added, "The president of the United States is holding our Soldiers hostage to his ego."
Maliki Accused of Setting Up Agency to Push Extremist Shiite Agenda
In news from Iraq, CNN is reporting Iraqi prime minister Nuri Al-Maliki has created an entity within his government that is apparently being used as a smokescreen to hide an extreme Shiite agenda that is worsening the country's sectarian divide. The Office of the Commander in Chief reportedly has the power to overrule other government ministries.
Iraq Cabinet OK's Oil Law
The Iraqi government has sent a draft oil law to parliament. The law would open up Iraq's vast oil reserves to international oil companies. It would also force Shiites, Sunnis, and Kurds to share oil revenue.
Rupert Murdoch Seeks to Buy Wall Street Journal
In media news, Rupert Murdoch is attempting to expand his global media empire. On Tuesday he made an unsolicited bid to buy Dow Jones & Company, the publisher of the Wall Street Journal for five billion dollars. Murdoch's News Corp. is already one of the world's largest media companies. Its holdings include the TV network Fox, the book publisher Harper Collins, the New York Post, Myspace.com, the Weekly Standard, and scores of other media companies. The Bancroft family, which controls the shareholder vote of Dow Jones, said it would oppose Murdoch's deal.
Alabama Militia Accused of Plotting to Attack Mexican Immigrants
In Alabama, federal authorities have revealed they have broken up a militia plot to attack a group of Mexicans living in a small town north of Birmingham. Last week six members of the Alabama Free Militia were arrested in a series of raids. The Birmingham News reported police uncovered truckloads of explosives and weapons, including 130 grenades, an improvised rocket launcher, and 2,500 rounds of ammunition. The six men appeared in court on Tuesday. Despite the violent plot, police did not accuse the men of terrorism. Instead police charged them with conspiracy to make a firearm, which carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. The Anti-Defamation League said the weapons seizure was the largest in the South in years.
FISA Court Approved Record Number of Secret Searches in 2006
Newly released data from the Justice Department shows the government conducted a record number of secret searches last year. The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court issued two thousand, one hundred seventy-six secret warrants in 2006 targeting people inside the United States. The FISA court approved all but one search warrant requested by the Bush administration. The Justice Department, however, did not reveal how many times the FBI secretly sought telephone, Internet, and banking records about US citizens and residents without court approval.
Bush Administration Claims it Has Right to Conduct Warrantless Surveillance
The New York Times reports senior Bush administration officials told Congress on Tuesday that they could not pledge that the administration would continue to seek warrants from a secret court for a domestic wiretapping program, as it agreed to do in January. Senior officials, including the new director of national intelligence Michael McConnell, said they believed that the president still had the authority to once again order the NSA. to conduct surveillance inside the country without warrants. Agree, then wait for the heat to die down before reneging. The heat didn't go down though.
Study Urges Pentagon to Invest in Alternative and Renewable Fuels
The Boston Globe is reporting a new study ordered by the Pentagon has warned that the rising cost and dwindling supply of oil will make the US military's ability to fight around the world unsustainable in the long term. The study concludes that the military must fundamentally transform their assumptions about energy, including taking immediate steps toward fielding weapons systems and aircraft that run on alternative and renewable fuels. The study found that it is imperative that the Pentagon apply new energy technologies that address alternative supply sources and efficient consumption across all aspects of military operations. The military is the largest single energy consumer in the US.
Venezuela Seizes Control of Privately-Held Oil Projects
In Venezuela, president Hugo Chavez marked May Day by seizing control of the country's remaining privately-held oil projects including what might be the world's richest oil fields, the Orinoco Belt. President Chavez made the announcement before thousands of supporters. He said the move was part of an effort to reclaim the country's resources for the people of Venezuela.
Hugo Chavez said, "Today's ceremony on May 1 is a historic act. And it's going to permit us to intercede with force and weight in the new history that we are building every day. Today, we put an end to a perverse cycle that was opened here more than 10 years ago."
The international oil companies ConocoPhillips, Chevron, Exxon Mobil, BP, and Total agreed to the transfer of operational control. Venezuela is allowing the private oil companies to remain in the country, but the state oil company has become the majority stakeholder in every project.
Castro a No-Show at May Day Rally
Cubans marked May Day with a massive march through Revolution Plaza in Havana on Tuesday. Hundreds of thousands attended. There had been rumors that Fidel Castro would make an appearance but he did not attend the rally. Castro has not been seen in public since becoming sick in July.
Students Seize Radio Station in Oaxaca
In Oaxaca City, Mexico, a group of students marked May Day by taking over a university radio station in order to broadcast messages in support of APPO, the Popular Assembly of the People of Oaxaca. Last year the same radio station - Radio Universidad - served as the nerve center for the popular uprising in Oaxaca.
Thousands Protest Rigged Election in Nigeria
In Nigeria, thousands of people marked May Day by gathering in Lagos and other cities to protest the government for rigging last month's presidential election.
Joe Okei-Odumakin, a leader of the Campaign for Democracy said, "The Nigeria Labor Congress is having celebration, and as they are celebrating it Nigeria is bleeding. And we are mourning the death of democracy as a result of our election that was rigged. It was a violent violation of our fundamental human right to choose who will govern us. So we are giving the government a two week ultimatum to cancel the election. And our plan of action starts today May first with the mourning of democracy in Nigeria."
The fairness of Nigeria's elections have been widely criticized by international election monitors and members of the Nigerian opposition. Last week, the Nigerian Nobel laureate Wole Soyinka called for a new vote.
30 European Animal-Rights Activists in Raids
In Europe, police have arrested 30 animal-rights activists in a series of coordinated raids in Britain, Belgium, and the Netherlands. 700 police officers and staff took part in what is believed to be the largest crackdown ever on animal-rights activists in Europe. No charges have been brought against the 15 men and 15 women arrested. One police official accused the activists of waging a campaign of harassment and intimidation against the animal-research industry. For years, animal-rights activists have waged a successful campaign targeting the British company Huntingdon Life Sciences, because it carries out medical tests on animals.
Interior Department Official Accused of Politicizing Science Resigns
In news from Washington, a high ranking Interior Department official has resigned after she was accused of pressuring government scientists. Julie MacDonald resigned as deputy assistant secretary for fish, wildlife and parks a week before she was scheduled to testify before Congress. Last year the Union of Concerned Scientists accused McDonald of personally changing scientific reports to prevent endangered species from receiving protection.
Kent State Massacre Tape: 'Get Set! Point! Fire!'
Survivors of the 1970 massacre at Kent State are calling on officials to reinvestigate what happened on May 4 1970 when the National Guard shot four students dead at an anti-war rally. On Tuesday, one of the survivors - Alan Canfora - released an audio tape from the day of the shootings. Canfora said by closely listening you can hear a National Guard officer issue the command "Right Here, Get Set! Point! Fire!" Following the command, the sounds of shots being fired can be heard. The FBI has never determined whether an order to shoot was given. Eight members of the National Guard were acquitted of federal civil rights charges four years after the shootings. Canfora said the reel-to-reel audio recording was made by a student on campus.
Study Examines Racial Bias Among Basketball Referees
In sports news, The New York Times is reporting a new academic study on the National Basketball Association has found that white referees called fouls at a greater rate against black players than against white players. The study claims that the different rates at which fouls are called is large enough that the probability of a team winning is noticeably affected by the racial composition of the refereeing crew assigned to the game. The NBA has rejected the study's findings.
The question is, are the Black players committing more fouls?
Thursday, May 3, 2007
After Iraq Veto, Democrats Back Down on Demands
On Capitol Hill, the Democratic-controlled House has failed to override President Bush's veto of an Iraq war spending bill that sets timetables for the withdrawal of troops from Iraq. After the override failed, President Bush hosted Congressional leaders from both parties at the White House to discuss a compromise bill. The Washington Post is reporting the Democratic leadership is now backing down and has dropped their demand for including a timeline to bring troops home from Iraq. Democrats appear to be deeply divided over how far to give in to the White House.
House speaker Nancy Pelosi said, "I had hoped that the president would see the light instead of turning a tin ear to the wishes of the American people and a blind eye to what is happening on the ground in Iraq. The President is reporting that progress is being made in Iraq. Well, I don't know what his definition of progress is, but sadly, April was the deadliest month in Iraq, 100 of our troops killed there."
Meanwhile, Republican congressman Jerry Lewis of California urged Democrats to fully fund the war.
Representative Jerry Lewis said, "I say to my colleagues on the other side of the aisle, you have made your point. You've had your dog and pony show. You posed for political holy pictures on TV. Now, what is your plan to support the troops? It is time to put the posturing and political stunts aside and do what is in the best interest of our troops."
US Sends 4,000 More Troops Into Baghdad
In Iraq, nearly 4,000 more US soldiers have arrived in Baghdad in an attempt to stabilize the city. Despite the so-called surge, another 85 Iraqis died on Wednesday. The heavily fortified Green Zone has come under mortar and rocket attacks for the past three days. Last night four Filipino contractors working for the US government were killed in a rocket attack inside the Green Zone.
Rice to Meet Syrian Foreign Minister at Iraq Conference
A two-day conference over the future of Iraq has opened in the Egyptian resort town of Sharm al-Sheikh. The US, Syria, and Iran are among the countries attending. Secretary of state Condoleezza Rice is expected to meet with Syria's foreign minister in the first high-level talks between the two countries in years.
Anti-US Protests in Afghanistan Over Civilian Killings
Protests are continuing in Afghanistan for a fifth day in a row over the killing of civilians by US troops. Afghan officials say over 50 civilians have been killed in raids by US-led troops against the Taliban in the past week. In the city of Nangarhar 2,000 students rallied on Wednesday. The students burned and stamped on US flags and chanted "Death to America". One of the protesters, Jamaludding Khan, called for US troops to leave Afghanistan.
Jamaludding Khan said, "As the foreign troops failed to bring security to Afghanistan, we want them to leave Afghanistan as soon as possible, without any pre-conditions. If they do not take our demand seriously, we will continue our protest."
Protesters have also called for the removal of the US-backed Afghan president Hamid Karzai. Karzai said that Afghans no longer have patience for the killing of civilians by Western forces hunting the Taliban.
Hamid Karzai said, "Unfortunately, the suffering of Afghanistan in certain parts of the country has not ended. We still suffer, either by the operation of terrorists, or in the consequence of operations by NATO. We still keep losing our civilian lives."
Meanwhile, one of Afghanistan's former prime ministers was shot and killed outside his home in Kabul on Wednesday. Abdul Saboor Farid briefly served as prime minister 15 years ago. He had been serving in Afghanistan's upper house of parliament.
LAPD Scrutinized After Violently Crushing Immigrant March
The Los Angeles Police Department is coming under increasing criticism for violently crushing a largely peaceful immigrant rights march on Tuesday. Police dressed in riot gear fired 240 rounds of rubber and foam bullets as well as tear gas. Officers were seen on video clubbing protesters and journalists with batons. Overall 10 people - including several journalists — were taken to hospitals after being injured. The Spanish-language TV station Telemundo confirmed that one of its reporters and three camera operators had been injured by police. The Los Angeles Times reported four employees of KVEA-TV were injured. A KTTV news reporter suffered a minor shoulder injury. A camerawoman with KTTV also broke her wrist. Patricia Nazzario of the public radio station KPCC was also injured The police has launched a pair of investigations. LA Police Chief William Bratton admitted the actions taken by the police were inappropriate. He said, "I was disturbed at what I saw." The police claim they were provoked by some protesters who threw small objects at them. Councilman Herb Wesson likened what he saw to the violent police response to civil rights demonstrators in the South half a century ago. Wesson said, "I had a flashback to 45 years ago. It was a nightmare to me."
Oklahoma Lawmakers OK Bill to Outlaw Aiding Undocumented Immigrants
Lawmakers in Oklahoma have sent the state's governor a bill that has been described as one of the most sweeping anti-immigrant laws in the country. The bill would make it a felony in Oklahoma for anyone to harbor or transport people they know to be undocumented immigrants. Violators of the law could be punished by up to a year in jail. Critics of the bill say it could result in the jailing of medical staff and religious workers who offer aid to undocumented immigrants.
Christians cannot abide by laws from Hell. They must follow the divine will. If people need emergency help, Christians will help.
Senator Leahy Subpoenas Rove-Gonzales Emails
In Washington, there have been several developments in the growing scandal over how the Bush administration has tried to transform the Justice Department into a political arm of the White House. The Justice Department has launched an internal investigation into whether the department's former liaison to the White House, Monica Goodling, illegally screened job applicants based on their political party affiliation. Meanwhile the Senate Judiciary Committee has subpoenaed Attorney General Alberto Gonzales to turn over all emails to or from White House advisor Karl Rove in connection to the firing of eight US attorneys. The White House has claimed their copies of the emails have been lost.
Columbia Trade Deal in Jeopardy Over Human Rights Abuses
Colombian president Alvaro Uribe is in Washington in an effort to win support for a new trade deal and continued support for Plan Colombia. The US has given Colombia more than $5 billion since 2000. Some Democratic lawmakers and human rights groups have urged the Bush administration to reconsider its ties to the Colombian government following disclosures linking it to right-wing paramilitary death squads. Last month, senator Patrick Leahy blocked the release of $55 million in aid because of Colombia's human rights record. On Wednesday, president Bush urged Congress to OK the agreements.
Bush said, "This agreement is good for the United States. It's good for job creators, farmers, workers. This agreement is good for Colombia. It's good for job creators, and workers, and farmers. This agreement has strategic implications. It is very important for this nation to stand with democracies that protect human rights and human dignity, democracies based upon the rule of law."
The Columbian government has hired the lobbying firm The Glover Park Group in effort to win Congressional support. The lobbying firm has close ties to the Democratic Party. Its founders include former Clinton White House spokesperson Joe Lockhart and several former strategists of Al Gore.
Commerce Secretary Slams Economic Views of Latin American Leftists
Commerce secretary Carlos Gutierrez urged lawmakers on Wednesday to approve new trade agreements with not just Colombia but also Panama, Peru and South Korea. Gutierrez attacked Latin American critics of trade deals with Washington.
Carlos Gutierrez said, "There's some in the region that seem to have hijacked the term "social justice." It's almost as if though it's a copyright used by the socialist, radical left, as if they understood the real meaning of social justice and under the guise of social justice, they're implementing policies that we know are going to hurt their people and ultimately are going to hurt the economy and at best they will make everyone poor."
Bolivia Moves to Nationalize Energy Resources
In other news from Latin America, the Bolivian government has moved a step closer to nationalizing its energy resources. On Wednesday, Bolivian president Evo Morales met with representatives from 12 different oil and gas companies to sign new contracts turning over production to the state. This is Carlos Villegas, Bolivia's minister of hydrocarbons.
Carlos Villegas said, "The nationalization, the history of the oil in the country in the past year, is entering a new phase: A phase of expectation and hope. We hope that through the official ratification of the contracts we can solidify investments and count on higher volumes of oil and natural gas."
Somalia Installs CIA-Linked Warlord as Mayor of Mogadishu
In Somalia, the US-backed transitional government has installed one of the country's most feared and ruthless warlords, Mohamed Dhere, as the new mayor of Mogadishu. According to the Associated Press, Dhere has long cooperated with the CIA.
Olmert Refuses to Step Down Over Lebanon War Report
In news from Israel, prime minister Ehud Olmert held an emergency meeting of his cabinet on Wednesday amidst growing calls for him to resign over his handling of the Lebanon war. Israel's Foreign minister Tzipi Livni has urged Olmert to resign. Earlier today opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu said the public has lost all trust in Olmert's government. Palestinian senior negotiator Saeb Erekat said the political controversy in Israel would likely affect the Palestinians.
Saeb Erekat said, "[I] hope that the complexities that we are witnessing in Israel will not have a negative impact on our attempts and the Quartet's attempts to revive a meaningful peace process. I hope we will not find ourselves in a vacuum and everything that we're trying to do in terms of secretary Rice's efforts to revive a meaningful peace process to open a political horizon will just be undermined."
Israel Accuses Arab Lawmaker Azmi Bishara of Treason
Israeli police have accused a former Arab member of the Knesset of treason and espionage. Israeli officials claim the lawmaker, Azmi Bishara, aided members of Hezbollah during last summer's war. Bishara resigned his post and left the country last month. Police say Bishara will be arrested immediately if he returns to Israel. Bishara has described the charges as ridiculous. He said, "unlike those in Israel's parliament who have been involved in acts of violence, I have never used violence or participated in wars. My instruments of persuasion, in contrast, are simply words in books, articles, and speeches."
Friday, May 4, 2007
Byrd and Clinton Push Bill To Revoke War Authorization
On Capitol Hill, senator Robert Byrd has announced plans to introduce a measure to revoke the Bush administration's authority to wage war in Iraq. Five years ago, the West Virginia Democrat led the opposition in the Senate to the war. On Thursday, senator Hillary Clinton said she would join Byrd's effort. Clinton originally voted for the war. Meanwhile, house speaker Nancy Pelosi is reportedly considering a bill that would continue funding the war, but only guarantee the money through July. After that, Congress could block additional money if the Iraqi government does not meet certain benchmarks.
Rice Meets with Syrian Counterpart at Iraq Summit
World leaders are continuing to meet in Egypt at a summit over the future of Iraq. On Thursday, US secretary of state Condoleezza Rice met with the Syrian foreign minister. Rice urged Syria to help stop foreign fighters from entering Iraq. At the summit, Iraqi prime minister Nuri Al-Maliki urged foreign investment in Iraq.
Nuri Al-Maliki said, "Not all of Iraq lives under the threat of terrorism, as you have seen. Many Iraqi districts are safe and good for investment, so that's why we made requests to those countries who can invest, and they expressed their willingness to come to Iraq. And with this compact, the countries who signed it will take this fact into consideration so that companies and investors can come to different parts of Iraq."
US Claims to Have Killed Top Al-Qaeda Official in Iraq
In Iraq, the US military has announced it has killed a top al Qaeda operative named Muharib Abdel-Latif al-Jubouri. Officials accused him of being involved in the kidnapping of Christian Science Monitor journalist Jill Caroll as well as the murder of Tom Fox, a member of the Christian Peacemaker Team.
US Forces Complete Construction on Wall in Baghdad
In Baghdad, US forces have completed construction of a concrete wall around the Baghdad district of Adhamiya despite protests from the Iraqi prime minister and local residents.
FBI to Investigate Police Violence at LA Immigrant Rights March
In California, the FBI is planning to launch a civil-rights investigation into the Los Angeles police department's use of violent force to end an immigrant-rights march on Tuesday. Police fired 240 rounds of rubber bullets and tear gas at protesters and journalists. At least 10 civilians - including seven journalists - were taken to a hospital. One of the injured journalists - Fox TV camerawoman Patti Ballaz — is planning to announce today that she is filing a claim against the city. Video shows police repeatedly hit her with batons and knocked her to the ground.
Report: Sweeping Cuts Needed in Greenhouse Gases
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has released a major new report that concludes humans need to make sweeping cuts in greenhouse gas emissions over the next 50 years to keep global warming in check. The report was released in Bangkok after a week of negotiations.
IPCC chair, Rajendra Pachauri, said, "This report for the first time has dealt with lifestyles and consumption patterns as an important means by which we can bring about mitigation of greenhouse gas emissions. Of course, you can look at technology, you can look at policies, but what is an extremely powerful message in this report is the need for human society as a whole to start looking at changes in lifestyles and consumption patterns."
The report is the third to be released this year by the UN panel, which draws on the work of 2,500 scientists. Bangkok is expected to be particularly hart hit by global warning. Researchers say the city could be partially under water within 20 years.
Smith Dharmasaroja, the head of Thailand's National Disaster Warning Center, said, "If nothing can be done, Bangkok will be at least 50 centimeters or one meter under water. The system has to be started right now; otherwise, it is too late to protect our capital city from sinking."
Bush Threatens to Veto Hate-Crimes Bill
Bush is threatening to veto a new hate-crimes bill if it comes before his desk. On Thursday, the House approved a bill that would expand federal hate-crime law to include attacks motivated by the victim's gender or sexual orientation. Under current law, federal officials are only able to investigate and prosecute attacks based on race, color, national origin, and religion. This is Democratic congresswoman Tammy Baldwin, the first openly lesbian to serve in Congress.
Representative Tammy Baldwin said, "These characteristics are included in this hate-crimes legislation not because they deserve any special protection, as opponents of this legislation claim, but because of the history of particularly heinous and violent crimes committed against individuals based on such characteristics."
Many right-wing groups opposed the bill. Focus on the Family founder James Dobson called it "insidious legislation."
10 GOP Candidates Hold First Debate
The ten Republican presidential candidates gathered last night at the Ronald Reagan presidential library for their first debate. Nine of the candidates said they hope the Supreme Court will overturn Roe v. Wade.
Mike Huckabee, former Arkansas governor, said, "This life issue is not insignificant, it's not small. It separated us from the Islamic fascists who would strap a bomb to the belly of their child and blow them up. We don't do that in this country."
Former New York Rudolph Giuliani said it would be OK if the Supreme Court upheld the 1973 landmark abortion rights ruling but he also said it would be OK if the court repealed it. On the issue of Iraq, Senator John McCain criticized lawmakers who back the withdrawal of US troops.
Senator John McCain said, "When on the floor of the House of Representatives they cheer when they pass a withdrawal motion that is a certain date for surrender. What were they cheering: surrender, defeat? We must win in Iraq. If we withdrawal, there will be chaos, there will be genocide and they will follow us home."
Senator Obama Placed Under Secret Service Protection
In other campaign news, Democratic presidential hopeful senator Barack Obama has been put under the protection of the United States Secret Service. The Associated Press reported the decision was made in part because racist messages have been posted on white supremacist web sites. It is the earliest time in an election cycle that the Secret Service has ever placed a presidential candidate under its protection. The New York Times reports that the reverend Jesse Jackson also drew early Secret Service protection because of violent threats during his campaigns for president in 1984 and 1988.
Florida Bans Paperless Voting Machines
Lawmakers in Florida have approved a measure to require all electronic voting machines to produce a paper trail. The state's governor is expected to sign the bill today, which also moves the state's presidential primary ahead to the last Tuesday in January.
Journalists Call for Release of Johnson on World Press Freedom Day
Journalists around the globe marked World Press Freedom Day on Thursday. Several rallies were held to call for the release of BBC journalist Alan Johnston who was kidnapped in Gaza on March 12.
BBC's World Editor Jon Williams said, "Alan Johnston is a quiet, private man who has never sought the limelight, he is someone who has brought his humanity to reporting the story of Gaza and fifty two days after he was kidnapped, we're here today to demand his release."
Mexican Journalists Protest Killings and Disappearances
In Mexico City, dozens of journalists marched outside the attorney general's office calling on the government to step up efforts to protect journalists. The protesters hung photographs of 37 journalists who have been murdered or disappeared since 2000. In April, Amado Ramirez, a veteran correspondent for Televisa Acapulco, was shot to death. And six months earlier, the American journalist Brad Will was killed by paramilitary forces in Oaxaca.
Mexican journalist Misael Habana de los Santos said, "We are being threatened. That's why we're demonstrating and taking the opportunity to ask for justice for our dead (there are several) and specifically the recent case of Armando Ramirez and also for the threats that there are against some reporters."
Egyptian Court Sentences Al Jazeera Reporter
In Egypt, a court has sentenced an Al Jazeera reporter to six months in prison in absentia for producing a film highlighting police torture. Howayda Taha was charged with "harming Egypt's national interest."
US Continues to Hold Journalists Without Charge
The United States also came under some criticism on World Press Freedom Day for continuing to jail two Muslim journalists without charge. The Pulitzer Prize winning Associated Press photographer Bilal Hussein has been held in a US prison in Iraq for the past 13 months. Meanwhile the US has been detaining the Al Jazeera cameraman Sami al-Haj at Guantanamo since June 2002.
US Military Handbook Labels Media "A Threat"
A new US military handbook officially states that soldiers should view the media as a threat alongside Al Qaeda, computer hackers, drug cartels, warlords, and militias. The handbook was published by the Army's 1st Information Operations Command. The Army has also placed new restrictions on the use of blogs and private emails by soldiers. Soldiers sending emails or posting items on blogs must now first clear the content with a superior officer. Many believe the rules will likely result in the end of all military blogging.
Over 100,000 Protest in Israel Against Olmert
In Israel, over 100,000 people took to the streets of Tel Aviv on Thursday demanding the resignation of prime minister Ehud Olmert over his handling of the Lebanon war. Meanwhile the Labor Party is threatening to withdraw from Olmert's government. Labour is the largest partner in Olmert's coalition government and its withdrawal could force new elections.
Irish Paramilitary Ulster Volunteer Force Renounces Violence
One of the most lethal Protestant paramilitary groups in Northern Ireland, the Ulster Volunteer Force, has officially renounced violence. Over the past 40 years the group killed more than 540 people, mostly civilians. One of the founders of the paramilitary force, Gusty Spence, made the announcement on Thursday.
Gusty Spence said, "All recruitment has ceased. Military training has ceased. Targeting has ceased, and all intelligence rendered obsolete. All active service units have been deactivated. All ordnance has been put beyond reach."
The Ulster Volunteer Force however stopped short of committing itself to weapons decommissioning as undertaken by the Irish Republican Army.
Cuba Thwarts Airline Hijacking
In Cuba, two fugitive army soldiers attempted to hijack a US-bound airline on Thursday, days after they escaped from a military base with automatic weapons. The soldiers were arrested after they killed one Cuban officer who had been taken hostage aboard the plane.
FBI Links Posada Carriles to Cuban Bombings in the 1990's
There are several new developments in the case of Luis Posada Carriles, who goes on trial next week on immigration charges. A federal judge released the anti-Castro Cuban militant on bail last month despite evidence linking him to a deadly 1976 Cuban airline bombing that killed 73 people. The Miami Herald is reporting the FBI now believes Posada was the mastermind of a series of deadly bombings in Cuba in the 1990's. In addition, the National Security Archives has revealed that during the 1970's Posada kept a detailed list of targets to attack in the Caribbean because they had a link to Cuba. Four of the sites Posada listed were bombed in 1976. Meanwhile the Bush administration is reportedly trying to bar Posada from discussing his ties with the CIA during his upcoming trial. Former president George H. W. Bush was the head of the CIA at the time of the October 1976 bombing of the Cuban airliner that killed 73 people.
Occidental Petroleum Accused of Contaminating Peruvian Amazon
In environmental news, indigenous groups from the Peruvian Amazon are threatening to sue the oil company Occidental Petroleum unless it cleans up toxic waste left over the past 30 years in the tropical rainforests of Peru. A new report from Amazon Watch and Earth Rights International accuses Oxy of dumping nine million barrels of untreated toxic waste directly into rivers and streams used by the Achuar people. This has resulted in widespread lead and cadmium poisoning. Several indigenous leaders plan to attend the company's annual shareholders meeting today in Los Angeles.
Time Magazine Places Maher Arar on Time 100
Time Magazine has published its annual Time 100: A list of 100 men and women whose power, talent, or moral example is transforming the world. This year's list has an unexpected entry, Maher Arar, the Canadian citizen who was seized by US officials in 2002 and sent to Syria to be tortured. Arar was the first victim of the Bush administration's practice of extraordinary rendition to come forward and contest his treatment in a US court. Senator Patrick Leahy wrote in Time Magazine, "Maher Arar's case stands as a sad symbol of how we have been too willing to sacrifice our core principles to overarching government power in the name of security, when doing so only undermines the principles we stand for and makes us less safe."