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Headlines: Pakistan Faces Humanitarian Crisis; Obama Admin Wants To Bring Spy Training Program To Colleges

Democracy Now Headlines: Pakistan Faces Humanitarian Crisis; Obama Admin Wants To Bring Spy Training Program To Colleges

Headlines from DemocracyNow.org, a daily TV/radio news program, hosted by Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez, airing on over 650 stations, pioneering the largest community media collaboration in the US.

Iran’s Guardian Council Admits to Vote Irregularities

Iranian authorities have acknowledged some irregularities have been found in Iran’s presidential election results. The influential Guardian Council admitted the number of votes collected in 50 cities surpassed the number of people eligible to cast ballot in those areas. Authorities said the discrepancies could affect as many as three million votes. According to the official results of the disputed election, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad beat Mir Hossein Mousavi by about 11 million votes.

Mousavi Calls For More Street Protests

Meanwhile Mousavi and former Iranian president Mohammad Khatami have defied Iran”s Supreme Leader and urged protesters to continue street demonstrations calling for a new election. Iranian state media reports that between 10 and 19 people were killed during protests on Saturday. Iranian police fired tear gas and water cannons at the protesters. Iranian state radio reported 457 protesters were arrested. On Sunday Iranian police briefly detained five relatives of former Iranian president Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, a close ally of Mousavi Reporters Without Borders says Iran is now jailing 30 journalists and cyber-dissidents including Newsweek reporter Maziar Bahari who has been held since Sunday.

Iran’s Web Spying Aided By European Firms Siemens and Nokia

The Wall Street Journal reports European telecommunications companies have helped the Iranian government develop one of the world”s most sophisticated mechanisms for controlling and censoring the Internet. The monitoring capability was provided, at least in part, by a joint venture of the German-based Siemens AG and Nokia, the Finnish cellphone company. Using the technology, the Iranian government appears to be engaging in a practice often called deep packet inspection, which enables authorities to not only block communication but to monitor it to gather information about individuals, as well as alter it for disinformation purposes.

Israel To Allocate $250 Million For West Bank Settlements

In other news, Israeli army radio is reporting Israel plans to allocate 250 million dollars over the next two years for settlements in the occupied West Bank despite pressure to halt settlement activity from the Obama administration. Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman met with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon last week and rejected calls for a freeze on the settlements, which are considered illegal under international law.

Avigdor Liberman: “I think and I say again settlements are not an obstacle to achieve peace. We know that even before ’67, before we even established one settlement, the situation was the same.”

Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad Al-Malki challenged Lieberman’s claim.

Riyad Al-Malki: “With the continuation of the settlement activities, it will be impossible to create a viable, contiguous Palestinian state on the ’67 borders. Nobody shares with Israeli Foreign Minister (Avigdor) Lieberman this view that the construction of settlement activities in occupied Palestinian territories has no connection to the peace process or has no influence to the achieving a peace between the Palestinians and the Israelis.”

Shiite Mosque Attacked in Iraq, 73 Die

In Iraq, at least 73 people died Saturday when a suicide bomber struck a Shiite mosque near Kirkuk. It was the deadliest attack in Iraq in more than a year. Another 15 people died today in a series of bomb attacks in Baghdad.

Two U.S. Soldiers Die in Rocket Attack On Bagram Air Base

In Afghanistan two US troops were killed Sunday when Bagram Air Base came under a rocket attack. Six other people were injured.

U.S. Admits Afghan Air Strike Killed At least 26 Civilians

Meanwhile, an internal U.S. military investigation into a U.S. airstrike on May 4th has confirmed that U.S. forces killed at least 26 Afghan civilians and possibly as many as 86. The military released the internal report on Friday but withheld making public a video from the attack despite an earlier promise from Gen. David Petraeus, the commander of U.S. Central Command.

Kidnapped NYT Reporter Escapes From Taliban

In other news from Afghanistan, a New York Times reporter has escaped from the Taliban after being held hostage for seven months. David Rohde was abducted on Nov. 10 but his kidnapping had been kept a secret by the Times and other western media outlets.

Pakistan Faces Humanitarian Crisis

The United Nations has launched an urgent appeal for funds to help the UN respond to the massive humanitarian crisis facing Pakistan. Over 3 million Pakistanis have been displaced in recent weeks due to the Pakistani military”s offensive against the Taliban in the Swat Valley. Last week the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, Antonio Guterres, said the Pakistan displacement crisis is probably the world”s biggest since events in Rwanda and Democratic Republic of Congo in the 90s. Last month the UN appealed for about $540 million from the international community, but only about 35 percent of the funding has been received. The humanitarian crisis in Pakistan is expected to soon worsen as the Pakistani military prepares to expand its offensive against militants by attacking South Waziristan.

Report: One Billion People Go Hungry Every Day

World hunger is projected to reach a record high this year with more than a billion people going hungry every day. This is an increase of some 100 million people over the past year.

Obama Admin Wants To Bring Spy Training Program To Colleges

The Obama administration has proposed offering federal money to colleges and universities to help train students to become spies for the CIA and other intelligence agencies. The Washington Post reports the intelligence officer training program would function much like ROTC, the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps run by the military with the government subsidizing the cost of school in return for future service. However, unlike ROTC, the students’ participation in the spy training program would likely be kept secret.

ACLU Files Suit Over Communication Management Units

The American Civil Liberties Union has filed a lawsuit against the federal Bureau of Prisons challenging the legality of the government”s use of secretive prison units known as Communication Management Units or CMUs. The units are designed to severely restrict prisoner communication with family members, the media and the outside world. Most of the prisoners held in the CMUs have been Muslim men but the units have also held political activists including the environmental activist Daniel McGowan who is being held at a CMU in Marion, Illinois. Daniel McGowan’s attorney Lauren Regan appeared on Democracy Now in April.

Lauren Regan: “The inmates there do call Marion, Illinois, ‘Little Guantanamo.’ Part of the reason that they call it that is because it is a secret facility. They do feel as if they are being hidden, not only from society at large, but from other inmates in the federal system.”

Federal Authorities Approve Gun Sales to People On Terrorist Watch List

The National Rifle Association is opposing a proposed bill that would block gun sales to people on the government”s terrorist watch list. Democratic Senator Frank Lautenberg of New Jersey plans to introduce the bill today. A new government study found people on the government’s terrorist watch list have tried to buy guns nearly 1,000 times in the last five years. Federal authorities cleared the purchases 90 percent of the time because they had no legal way to stop them. Under current federal law, people named on the terrorist watch list can be barred from boarding an airplane or getting a visa, but they cannot be stopped from buying a gun.

Poll: 72% Of Americans back Creation of Public Healthcare Plan

A new poll by the New York Times and CBS News has found that 72 percent of Americans support the government creating a public healthcare plan, similar to Medicare, which would compete with private insurance plans. The poll also found the majority of Americans now believe the government would do a better job than private insurance companies in providing medical coverage.

Nestle Recalls Cookie Dough Products Due to E.Coli Scare

The food giant Nestle has recalled all Toll House refrigerated cookie dough products because of e.coli contamination. The Food and Drug Administration said there has been 66 reports of illness across 28 states since March from the contaminated cookie dough.

Bermuda Prime Minister Survives No-Confidence Vote

In Bermuda, Prime Minister Ewart Brown has survived a vote of no-confidence. Brown had been criticized for agreeing in secret with the Obama administration to accept former Guantanamo prisoners.

Obama Jokes About Plight of Uighurs

Bermuda and the Pacific island nation of Palau have both accepted a group of Uighur prisoners who had been held at Guantanamo for seven years even though U.S. officials admitted they were wrongly detained. The Uighers are Chinse Muslims who could not be returned to China out of fear that they would be imprisoned and tortured. Over the weekend President Obama joked about the plight of the Uighurs during the Radio TV Correspondent’s Dinner.

President Obama: “Nick At Nite has a new take on an old classic: ‘Leave It To Uighurs.’ [laughter] I thought was pretty good.”

Obama also joked about the refusal of other countries from accepting prisoners held at Guantanamo.

President Obama: “I have to say as I have travelled to all of these countries, I found firsthand how much people truly have in common with one another, because no matter where I went there is one thing that I heard over and over again from every world leader: no thanks, but have you considered Palau?”

Welsh Activist Denied Entry To U.S.

The Welsh folk singer and language activist Arfon Gwilym has been forced to cancel an appearance at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival in Washington after he was denied a visa by U.S. officials. Gwilym is a prominent campaigner for the preservation of the Welsh language. He was denied the visa because he has been arrested several times while campaigning for bilingual road signs in Wales and for a Welsh-language television channel.

Indian Musician Ali Akbar Khan, 87, Dies

And the master Indian musician Ali Akbar Khan has died at the age of 87. Khan played a pivotal role in introducing western audiences to Indian music.

Local and Michigan Headlines: Hoesktra Says His Use of Twitter Is Just Like Iranian Protestors; Granholm Opposes Republican Plan To Cut College Tuition Assistance

Here’s some interesting stories published elsewhere in the past twenty-four hours. As always, if we missed anything, leave a comment below:

  • Michigan Supreme Court gives judges control over courtroom dress – The Michigan Supreme Court decided that judges should be allowed to force witnesses to remove head scarfs and other face coverings while in the courtroom. This decision has ramifications for Muslim Michiganders–which is where the case arose from.
  • Hoekstra compares himself to Iranian protesters- Representative Pete Hoekstra is an idiot, but that fact becomes especially apparent every time he uses Twitter. His latest Twitter controversy features him comparing himself to Iranian protestors who are using Twitter to organize pro-democracy demonstrations. Sure…
  • Tensions over nation’s largest incinerator heat up as July 1 contract deadline looms – Detroit is set to decide whether or not it will continue burning its trash at a controversial incinerator that many environmentalists say has toxic effects–particularly on children living nearby.
  • Michigan jobless rate soars to highest level since 1983 – Michigan’s unemployment rate is now at 14.1%. It’s the highest since 1983 and is way above the national unemployment rate of 9.4%.
  • Granholm opposes cutting tuition aid programs – Governor Jennifer Granholm is rejecting Republican proposals to cut college tuition aid from the state budget. She argues that supporting college education is critical if Michigan is going to transform its economy.
  • Big job announcements by Farmers, Foremost Insurance, Roskam Baking, Holland businesses may take time to hire – A couple days ago, the local corporate media–including The Grand Rapids Press–went crazy about announcements of several thousand jobs coming to West Michigan. Now, after a huge front page article, The Grand Rapids Press reports that the jobs will take years to materialize. One company says that the timeframe could be as long as 17 years. Ahhh, the typical hype of corporate news…
  • Kent County school districts see another revenue source fizzle as Coca-Cola contracts expire – Collectively, Kent County’s public schools negotiated with Coca-Cola back in 1999 for a contract that brought $22.6 million to the schools. Now that contract is set to expire and there are doubts that a new contract will make that much for the schools–if one is signed. The Press cites the beverage industry who says that there has been a shift away from soda consumption. I think it’s pretty sad that education is such a low priority in our society that schools are forced to pursue these kind of contracts just to get by.
  • Ambiguity in new marijuana law is cited – Felony charges against a Madison Heights couple who’s house was raided due to their possession of medical marijuana were thrown out in yesterday by a judge. The judge said that the medical marijuana law is too ambiguous to determine if a crime was committed.

Local and Michigan Headlines: Senate Republicans Looking to Cut College Assistance; Complaints against GRPD Increase

It has been a slow morning, but here are some interesting articles published elsewhere in the past twenty-four hours:

  • Senate Republicans to Cut Michigan Promise Scholarship, Other College Tuition Aid – Republicans in the Michigan Senate are looking to cut a variety of college tuition scholarships that help low income students attend college. The need-based programs they are looking to cut include the Michigan Promise Scholarship, the Michigan Work Study Program, the Part-Time Independent Student program, and the Michigan Education Opportunity Grants. I highly doubt such a move will do anything to help the state’s economy.
  • Granholm, MEDC Announce Over 11,000 New Jobs For Michigan – The local media–and the progressive blog Blogging for Michigan–is talking up an announcement from Governor Jennifer Granholm that over 11,000 new jobs are coming to the state. Included in that number are 3,100 new jobs in West Michigan.
  • As federal case continues, developers rush to finish elite golf course on public dunes – The Michigan Messenger looks at the continued development a Jack Nicklaus Signature golf course in Benton Harbor. The course was built on the site of a former public park and has been at the center of a controversy between developers and citizens. Now, the company has begun construction while it awaits a federal court ruling on the development. It’s hoping to circumvent a full environmental review of the project. Despite all the controversy, Governor Granholm has praised the project as the kind of development that she hopes to see across Michigan.
  • Grand Rapids area in bottom 20 of Brookings Institution report, but economist sees hope – The Kent, Barry, Ionia, and Newaygo area ranks near the bottom of a Brookings Institution report that measures metropolitan unemployment, production, and housing. However, the Grand Rapids Press talks to a local economist who says that West Michigan actually is getting better.
  • Grand Rapids Police Department sees ‘unheard of’ increase in firearms discharge by officers; citizen complaints also rise – In less than two years, the GRPD has discharged their firearms six times–a substantial increase over previous years. Still, according to the GRPD, this hasn’t meant that there has been widespread injury to officers or suspects. Additionally, complaints are up, but the GRPD attributes that to a new reporting system.

Local and Michigan Headlines: What Happened to Single Payer Health Care; College-Bound Michigan Students Unsure about Financial Aid

Some worthwhile articles published elsewhere in the past 24 hours or so:

Anti-Gay Candidate Elected to GRCC Board of Trustees

Richard Ryskamp

A few weeks ago, we wrote about Richard Ryskamp, an anti-gay “morality” candidate for Grand Rapids Community College’s (GRCC) Board of Trustees. Unfortunately, Ryskamp won the seat. He received the second highest number of votes in the election.

In an article from the Grand Rapids Press, Interim President Ann Mulder seemed concerned over Ryskamp’s election. She was quoted saying, “I have faith the top three will understand the significance of this college and will put aside any individual agenda to address the real issues of education and the viability of this college.” Over the past several years, Ryskamp has appeared at board meetings and consistently criticized the school for its policies.

We wrote a detailed piece about his politics, but it’s worth noting a further substantiation of his anti-gay views. Earlier this year, Ryskamp submitted a letter to the editor in the Grand Rapids Press weighing in on the controversy over WOOD TV 8′s decision not to air an anti-gay television special. Not surprisingly for Ryskamp–who has criticized gay speakers at GRCC–ranted against the “radical homosexual agenda” and “radical gay activists.”

We’ll keep an eye on Ryskamp and what he advocates. It’s unfortunate that a school that is known for taking serious steps to promote diversity and LGBT inclusion, now has such a man serving on the board.

GRCC Board of Trustees Election May 5

Along with the transit millage and school board election, another important election coming up on May 5 is for the Grand Rapids Community College’s (GRCC) Board of Trustees

A video of a recent candidate forum is below:

It’s also worth noting that one candidate for the Board of Trustees is Roger Ryskamp, an anti-gay candidate who has been highly critical of GRCC’s efforts aimed at promoting LGBT equality and diversity. Ryskamp has also advocated for greater “moral standards” at GRCC and criticized the school’s so-called promotion of “promiscuity” through its theatre programs.

Headlines: Obama Follows Bush Policy on Limiting Detainee Access to Courts; 19 Arrested at New School Protest

Democracy Now Headlines: Obama Follows Bush Policy on Limiting Detainee Access to Courts; 19 Arrested at New School Protest

Headlines from DemocracyNow.org, a daily TV/radio news program, hosted by Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez, airing on over 650 stations, pioneering the largest community media collaboration in the US.

Navy Seals Free Ship Captain; Shoot Dead Three Somali Pirates

US Navy special forces freed an American ship captain Sunday by killing the three Somali pirates who were holding him hostage in a lifeboat. The rescue of Richard Phillips ended a five-day standoff that began when four pirates attempted to seize a US ship on Wednesday. The crew escaped harm after the captain offered himself as a hostage. Over the weekend, President Obama authorized the use of force if it appeared the captain’s life was in imminent danger. Hours before the pirates were shot dead by the Navy Seals, Admiral Thad Allen of the US Coast Guard appeared on ABC’s This Week and said an international legal framework is needed to address piracy.

Admiral Thad Allen: “I think the real issue is to create an international legal framework where there are consequences for these actions. For the past six to twelve months, we in the United States Coast Guard, with our other partners in government, have been working through entities like the International Maritime Organization to gain the UN Security Council resolutions that authorize entry into Somalian territorial waters and land to protect world food shipments. What you really have to have is a coordinating mechanism that ultimately brings these pirates to court, where they can be held accountable.”

A fourth Somali pirate is in US custody after surrendering earlier in the standoff. US officials admitted the killing of the pirates could escalate violence in the region. Somali pirates are still holding more than a dozen ships and more than 200 hostages. Piracy began in the region after Western ships started dumping toxic waste off the coast of Somalia, devastating the Somali fishing industry. Somali fishermen said they are worried about the increased presence of foreign navy warships off the coast.

Abdikadir Munganih: “We are very worried about the military activities on our sea by the international coalition who are fighting against Somali pirates, because sometimes when we go further out to sea we face a very dangerous situation because of their fleets on our sea, and since they began these operations, we catch less fish.”

US Considers Striking Al-Shabab Camps in Somalia

In other news from Somalia, the Washington Post reports President Obama is being urged by some in the Pentagon to carry out strikes against camps by the Al-Shabab militant group in southern Somalia. Others in the administration oppose military strikes, because there is no evidence the group is planning attacks outside Somalia.

Report: 687 Pakistani Civilians Killed by US Drones Since 2006

The Pakistani newspaper The News is reporting US bombing raids have killed 687 Pakistani civilians since 2006. During that time US Predator drones carried out sixty strikes inside Pakistan, but reportedly just ten of the strikes hit their actual targets.

14 Peace Activists Arrested Protesting US Drones in Nevada

Meanwhile, fourteen peace activists were arrested Thursday outside Creech Air Force Base in Nevada, where Air Force personnel pilot the unmanned drones being used in Pakistan. The activists were arrested after holding a ten-day vigil to raise awareness of the drone strikes. Among the arrested were Kathy Kelly and Father John Dear.

Suicide Bombing in Mosul Kills Five US Soldiers

In Iraq, five US soldiers were killed in a suicide truck bombing in Mosul on Friday. It was the deadliest strike against US forces in Iraq in thirteen months.

Prominent Afghan Women’s Rights Activist Killed

In Afghanistan, a prominent female lawmaker and women’s rights activist was shot dead on Sunday. Sitara Achikzai was killed outside her home in Kandahar by Taliban gunmen on motorbikes.

Obama Follows Bush Policy on Limiting Detainee Access to Courts

President Obama has sided with the former Bush administration in claiming that prisoners held by US troops overseas have no US legal rights. On Friday, the Justice Department appealed a federal judge’s decision granting three detainees at the US military prison Bagram in Afghanistan the right to challenge their detention in US courts.

Two More Banks Collapse

In economic news, federal regulators shut down two banks on Friday: Cape Fear Bank in Wilmington, North Carolina, and New Frontier Bank of Greeley, Colorado. Twenty-three banks have collapsed so far this year.

Bailed-Out Banks Scrutinized for Raising Interest Rates and Fees

Meanwhile, the Wall Street Journal reports the committee overseeing federal banking bailout programs is investigating the lending practices of institutions that received public funds, following a rash of complaints about increases in interest rates and fees. Last week, Bank of America told some customers that interest rates on their credit cards will nearly double to about 14 percent. The bank is also imposing fees of least $10 on a wide range of credit card transactions. Citigroup is pushing new loans that carry annual interest rates of 30 percent, while Wells Fargo is offering its own form of a payday loan that carry annual interest rates of about 120 percent. Last year, US banks and savings institutions collected nearly $40 billion in deposit account charges and fees for everything from ATM usage to balance transfers. The fees accounted for about 25 percent of the industry’s total revenue.

70 Thai Protesters Injured as Troops Open Fire on Demonstrators

In Thailand, at least seventy anti-government protesters were injured earlier today when troops fired into the air in Bangkok and used teargas to clear protesters from the streets. Thailand’s prime minister declared a state of emergency on Saturday after 1,000 protesters stormed a summit of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. The summit was canceled, and Asian leaders had to be evacuated by helicopter. Most of the protesters are supporters of former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who was ousted in a military coup in 2006. Thaksin still has deep support among the urban and provincial poor due to his policies to help the poor during his time in office.

Sri Lanka Declares Two-Day Pause to Bombing

In other news from Asia, Sri Lanka’s government has declared a two-day pause to its offensive against Tamil Tiger rebels. Human Rights Watch estimates that 3,000 people have been killed since January as the Sri Lankan military attempts to eliminate the pro-separatist Tamil Tigers. The group accused the military of firing artillery into a designated no-fire zone.

Larry EchoHawk Tapped to Lead Bureau of Indian Affairs

In domestic news, President Obama has nominated Larry EchoHawk to lead the Bureau of Indian Affairs. EchoHawk is a member of the Pawnee Nation of Oklahoma and the former attorney general of Idaho. He will become the first high-profile Mormon to join the Obama administration’s senior ranks.

Democrats to Hold Off on Restoring Semi-Automatic Assault Gun Ban

Newsweek is reporting the Obama administration has abandoned plans to restore a federal ban on certain semi-automatic assault guns despite a recent spate of killings. On Sunday, California Senator Dianne Feinstein told 60 Minutes she plans to hold off trying to renew the ban that she authored in 1994.

Leslie Stahl: “There is some sense that the President has so many crisis issues on his plate right now that the idea of bringing up guns, which is considered part of the culture wars, would be such a diversion.”

Sen. Feinstein: “I agree with you. I wouldn’t bring it up now.”

Stahl: “So you’re going to hold off?”

Feinstein: “That’s correct. I’ll pick the time and the place, no question about that.”

Clark University Cancels Finkelstein Lecture

In education news, Clark University in Massachusetts has canceled a scheduled speech by Holocaust scholar Norman Finkelstein after the Jewish campus group Hillel objected to his appearance. Finkelstein is known as one of the most prominent academic critics of Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and Gaza. Clark University President John Bassett said Finkelstein’s speech on campus “would invite controversy and not dialogue or understanding.”

Connecticut Student Paper Editor Dismissed for Activist Ties

At Central Connecticut State University, the opinion editor at the school’s newspaper has been dismissed because she is a member of a socialist club on campus. The paper’s editor fired Marissa Blaszko last month citing her antiwar activism and her membership in the Youth for Socialist Action club. Blaszko said, “We shouldn’t have to swear off our interest in activism, or hide our opposition to a war, to work for our campus newspaper.”

19 Arrested at New School Occupation Protest

In New York, nineteen students at the New School were arrested Friday after police broke up a student occupation calling for the firing of university president Bob Kerrey. Student activist Fatuma Emmad accused the police of using excessive force.

Fatuma Emmad: “Police began to violently and brutally attack people that were observing outside, alleging that they were people trying to escape from inside the occupation. And there’s footage that can be seen of the police attacking one student and having at least six officers around him. He’s not resisting arrest.”

Video shot at the scene by Brandon Jourdan shows police firing pepper spray into a New School building and police officers knocking students to the ground on the sidewalk. The New York Police Department originally denied any pepper spray was used but reversed their claim after Jourdan’s video was posted online.

A New Way Forward Protests Held in 60 Cities

And demonstrations to protest the government’s handling of the economic crisis were held in over sixty cities on Saturday. The protests were organized by the group A New Way Forward. They are calling on the government to nationalize, reorganize and decentralize the country’s banks.

Aquinas Nixes Vagina Monologues, Allows Jane Doe Project

Aquinas The Jane Doe Project

On Thursday night, an original play titled The Jane Doe Project was performed at Aquinas College. The play was written by Aquinas student Cheyna Roczkowski in December after the Aquinas administration would not allow The Vagina Monologues to be performed on campus due its controversial sexual content.

In response, Roczkowski chose to write a play based on the experiences of Aquinas women (students, faculty and alumni, shared with the student writer and included anonymously in the play), meant to raise awareness about the issue of violence against women.

The play was part of a week of events, including a movie night and letter writing campaign on Aquinas’ campus. Before the performance was a cupcake sale, in which $381 were raised. The proceeds will be divided between several women’s organizations in the area. There was a high turnout, including members of the Aquinas Administration.

The Performance

The play was a series of monologues performed by eight female students dressed in black, all of whom entered the stage saying “I am Jane Doe,” who was established to be a “New Feminist,” a faceless person to represent all women. Silence as the enemy was the theme of the play–its goal to open up conversation about violence against women, and “fight the system” through education.

The stories varied in style and topic: a woman raped by her brother at a young age, a diary entry of a lesbian degraded and raped by a male, a series of letters burned on stage detailing an abusive relationship, a mother and daughter grappling with the daughter having been conceived by rape, and a woman whose sister had to have reconstructive surgery during an abusive relationship. In between were comedic sketches about happy relationships, bad pick up lines, and working out at the gym. There were also various derogatory phrases from around the world highlighted throughout the performance (“Words are for women, actions are for men.”)

The stories were powerful, for their content and the knowledge that they had actually happened to women in the Aquinas community. Although none of the students in the play were experienced actors, all of the parts were read passionately and effectively.

Pro-Choice Advocacy

The Jane Doe Project occurred during the second Pro-Life Awareness Week of the academic year at Aquinas. The abortion issue came up, as one student defiantly stated that being pro-choice does not mean pro-abortion.

Critiques

A running theme throughout the play was the idea of a “New Feminist,” similar to third-wave feminism – the idea that wearing revealing clothes and make up (“high heels, red lipstick, curve accentuating jeans and showing a little cleavage”) should be empowering. Many who identify as feminists, however, would argue that societal pressure to cover their faces with products and wear clothes that reveal their body is extremely disempowering, and prefer not to consume these products.

The play was also hetero-normative, as every romantic couple portrayed (notably the positive, healthy examples as well as the abusive) was heterosexual.

Overall, The Jane Doe Project brought up an important issue, but its message was convoluted by some mainstream societal ideas.

Police Found Small Amount of Drugs at GVSU Apartment

031909-gvsu_protest.jpg

The lawyer for a GVSU student shot by police last week during a drug investigation has issued a statement saying that the investigation turned up only a few tablespoons of marijuana:

“I have been asked what drugs may have been seized by those executing the search warrant at Derek Copp’s apartment. To my knowledge, the raid resulted in the seizure of a few tablespoonfuls of marijuana, and nothing more. The primary concern remains the manner in which this raid was carried out. And the apparent lack of any justification whatsoever for the use of force…much less deadly force…in executing a search warrant.

‘The campus and Allendale communities are asking why? Why burst into a college student’s apartment with a gun drawn for a few tablespoonfuls of pot.’”

GVSU Student Senate Calls for Investigation

Meanwhile, the Grand Valley Student Senate has joined the call for an investigation. It issued a statement reading in part:

“Even though this incident took place off-campus, Student Senate is greatly concerned with the actions of the law enforcement team. Student Senate will await a full and complete explanation from the Michigan State Police. Like all students, we want to know why the West Michigan Drug Enforcement Team entered Derek Copp’s apartment and why a firearm was used.”

This echoes a call from GVSU President Thomas Haas to investigate the shooting. Like the Student Senate, Haas has said that he will take no further action until the results of the investigation are released.

Haas also made it clear that he does not support calls from student protestors to relax drug laws. In The Lanthorn, Haas said “Drugs on or off campus have no place in the community. Illegal drugs are illegal.”

Ottawa County Asks for Special Prosecutor

There has been little comment from police on the incident. The Michigan State Police is investigating and will pass along the results of its investigation to prosecutors who will decide if the shooting as justified.

However, Ottawa County Prosecutor Ron Frantz has asked that a Special Prosecutor to be appointed by the Attorney General. Frantz is on the operations board of the West Michigan Enforcement Team that shot Copp.

Reassigning the case could take up to according to The Grand Rapids Press.

Students Win Brief Meeting with Ottawa County Police

Students Protesting A Shooting Of An Unarmed Student @ GVSU Won A Meeting With Police

During a protest yesterday at the Ottawa County Police Department, GVSU students protesting the shooting of an unarmed student last week during a drug investigation were able to meet briefly with the police.

According to a message on Facebook:

“the real news is that after two hours of protesting we met with the police. Everyone involved was very calm and cooler head prevailed. They have agreed to work with us to make sure this never happens again. However, dont assume that they are doing this out the goodness of their hearts, they are only working with us because of the enormous polictical pressure from all around them forcing their hand.”

The meeting with Lt. Mark Bennett provided few additional details–the police would not discuss specifics of the case nor would they say when an investigation would be completed. However, the officer pledged to release the results of Sheriff’s Department and State Police investigations.

Deputy Refusing to Talk

According to media reports, the Ottawa County Deputy who shot Derek Copp is not speaking with Michigan State Police officers investigating the shooting. He is doing so at the advice of police union lawyers. The Police Officers Association reportedly told him within hours of the shooting not to speak with investigators.

According to the union, the deputy is required by contract to give a statement to any internal sheriff’s department investigation that could impact his job, but that statement cannot be used by prosecutors to file criminal charges. Thus far, no statement has been requested.

Family Hires Lawyer

In response to the shooting, Copp’s family has hired a lawyer with experience in representing people shot by police. The lawyer–Fred Dilley–won a $1.2 million settlement over the 1987 shooting of a man by the Grand Rapids Police Department.

Thus far, Dilley has made few specific comments about the case to the media, aside from saying he has concerns about how the warrant was served and how the decision to use deadly force was made.