global warming

Grand Rapids Press Advocates for More Ethanol Production

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In recent years, there has been an increasing amount of attention placed on global warming. From the focus on “green jobs,” to “sustainability,” and “clean energy” there has been a lot of talk about what to do to address the problem. Much of this talk has centered around finding ways to “address” the problem while maintaining the current levels of production and industrialization, something which I just can’t see happening. If the underlying system is inherently destructive, it’s hard to image that giving it a new “green” coating–say with wind power instead of coal power–is really going to make that much of a difference if we maintain the ideology of unlimited growth.

Yesterday, the Grand Rapids Press published an editorial that advocated the passage of a bill that would allow small-scale ethanol plants in Michigan. Ethanol–one of the great false solutions to global warming–requires growing plants to provide fuel. According to the Grand Rapids Press, not only would this help Michigan’s farmers remain economically sound, but it would also be an important step towards a renewable energy future:

Ethanol is the most common biofuel. An efficient, renewable fuel source that proves less expensive is good for Michigan’s economy and the national effort to break our foreign-oil dependency. There are not many farmers currently engaged in small-scale production, but fluctuating energy prices and better technology could lead to more interest.

Unfortunately, biofuels really aren’t anywhere near sustainable. To run every vehicle in the United States on biofuels, you would have to dedicate the entire country’s agriculture output to fuel. Moreover, growing such crops relies on–and would likely expand–the destructive industrial agricultural system. That agriculture system–as well as ethanol production–is powered by fossil fuels.

Greenpeace writes:

Other ‘innovative’ solutions, like biofuels (which are mentioned in the ‘Clean Energy Dialogue’), have a terrible human cost. In 2007, the United Nations special rapporteur on the right to food called biofuels, which are made from food crops like wheat and corn, a ‘crime against humanity.’ According to the Earth Policy Institute, the grain needed to fill the gas tank of an SUV could feed one person for a year. Biofuels are already taking food out of the mouths of people. In 2008, approximately one-third of the US corn crop went to biofuel. Last year the United Nations World Food Programme also warned that it lacked the resources to keep up with rising food prices which it attributed, in part, to biofuels.

Watered Down Global Warming Bill Advances in Congress

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Last week, the House of Representatives’ Energy and Commerce Committee advanced a 930-page climate bill to the full Congress. The bill establishes a cap-and-trade system to regulate global warming causing emissions, requires an increase in renewable energy, and sets many new energy efficiency standards. It calls for an overall reduction in emissions by 17% by 2020 and 83% by 2050.

While the bill is historic in the sense that the Congress is finally trying to do something to address global warming, the bill is inadequate in several key areas.

The emission reductions have been criticized by Greenpeace, who says that substantially larger emissions reductions are needed, saying that at least 25-40% below 1990 levels by 2020 and 80-95% by 2050 are the kind of cuts science demands.

Of the bill as a whole, a coalition of environmental groups including Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth said:

As passed through the Energy & Commerce Committee, the American Clean Energy and Security Act sets targets for reducing pollution that are far weaker than science says is necessary to avoid catastrophic climate change. The targets are far less ambitious than what is achievable with already existing technology. They are further undermined by massive loopholes that could allow the most polluting industries to avoid real emission reductions until 2027. Rather than provide relief and support to consumers, the bill showers polluting industries with hundreds of billions of dollars in free allowances and direct subsidies that will slow renewable energy development and lock in a new generation of dirty coal-fired power plants. At the same time, the bill would remove the President’s authority to address global warming pollution using laws already on the books.

The public advocacy group Public Citizen further criticized the bill saying that it was influenced by backroom dealing and industry lobbyists at the expense of the citizenry. The result? A bill where polluting industries are left off the hook while working people are expected to pay increased energy rates.

Environmental journalist Jeffrey St. Clair and fellow journalist Joshua Frank wrote of the bill:

Not surprisingly, Obama refuses to consider strict regulation let alone a carbon tax to address the country’s big CO2 emitters. Instead, after intense pressure from the pollution lobby, Obama’s approach to attacking with climate change has been whittled down to nothing more than weak market-driven economics that can too easily be manipulated politically. Polluters will be let off the hook as they can simply relocate or build new infrastructure in places where there are few or no carbon regulations.

Moreover, the bill gives away many of the pollution credits which undermines the very market approach they are trying to use, according to Public Citizen:

Europe’s experience shows that when the right to pollute is given free to energy companies, nations fail to meet their emissions caps and price signals in the carbon trading markets are undermined. While we can understand providing some allowances to energy-intensive domestic manufacturing industries that are subject to fierce international competition, the same cannot be said for oil refiners or coal utilities. The bottom line is that this thwarts the very goal of curbing global warming.

The big problem with the bill before Congress is that it accepts the logic that the very “free markets” that caused global warming, can put a stop to the problem by altering their behavior through market-based incentives. According to the “cap-and-trade” plan, companies will have a double incentive to reduce pollution because they will have a limited amount of pollution credits and can sell what they don’t use on a “carbon market.”

These “cap and trade” plans have bee criticized by environmental radicals () who charge that they have not worked in Europe and that they are not strict enough. Along with the “cap and trade” system, the bill also includes funding for carbon capture sequestration (CCS)–an unproven technology that the polluting coal industry clings to as its last lifeline.

Instead of market-based approaches and unproven technologies, real change in our lifestyles and our economy are needed–not just token gestures.

Unfortunately, while that may be true, there doesn’t seem to be a lot of interest in going that route at this point. All too many progressives and liberals are willing to accept a watered down climate bill because they think it is “the best we can get” rather than going the more difficult route of building a strong movement for climate justice.

Headlines: Pro-Ethanol Dems Threaten Climate Bill; California Supreme Court Upholds Gay Marriage Ban

Democracy Now Headlines: Pro-Ethanol Dems Threaten Climate Bill; California Supreme Court Upholds Gay Marriage Ban

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.

Obama Nominates Sotomayor for Supreme Court

President Obama has nominated federal appeals court judge Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court. If confirmed, Sotomayor would become the nation’s first Hispanic justice. Speaking at the White House Tuesday, Obama hailed her experience and background.

President Obama: “After completing this exhaustive process, I have decided to nominate an inspiring woman who I believe will make a great justice: Judge Sonia Sotomayor of the great state of New York. Over a distinguished career that spans three decades, Judge Sotomayor has worked at almost every level of our judicial system, providing her with a depth of experience and a breadth of perspective that will be invaluable as a Supreme Court justice.”

The 54-year old Sotomayor is the daughter of Puerto Rican parents who raised her in a public housing project in the Bronx. If confirmed she would become the nation’s 111th justice and the third woman to hold a seat on the court.

Sotomayor is Obama’s first appointment of a new Justice since taking office. The vacancy opened up with Justice David Souter’s pending retirement at the end of the Supreme Court’s term next month.

GOP Sen.: Nominee Could Be Influenced by “Race, Gender”

At least two Republican lawmakers have already cited Sotomayor’s race and gender in questioning her nomination. Congressmember Lamar Smith of Texas said he’s concerned Sotomayor has already displayed “personal bias based on ethnicity and gender.” Meanwhile, Senator James Inhofe of Oklahoma said: “It will be important for those of us in the U.S. Senate to weigh her qualifications and character as well as her ability to rule fairly without undue influence from her own personal race, gender, or political preferences.”

California Supreme Court Upholds Gay Marriage Ban

California’s Supreme Court has upheld a ballot measure banning gay marriage. Last November, a slight majority of California voters approved Proposition Eight, which defines marriage as solely between a man and a woman. On Tuesday, the court rejected lawsuits arguing Proposition 8 was not simply a constitutional amendment, but a constitutional revision requiring legislative approval. In San Francisco, around 175 people were arrested after blockading traffic to protest the decision.

Protester: “I am more determined than ever now that the court has said that Stuart and I have a fully legal marriage in the state of California after twenty two years together that I am more determined than ever to make that a reality for every loving, committed couple in our state.”

The court did rule to preserve the 18,000 same-sex marriages that took place while gay marriage was legal in California.

Army Chief: U.S. Could Remain in Iraq for 10 Years

The top U.S. Army officer says the U.S. is prepared to remain in Iraq for a decade despite an agreement to withdraw all forces by 2012. Speaking in Washington, Army chief of staff General George Casey suggested the U.S. could remain in Iraq longer than pledged because of global events. Casey said: “Global trends are pushing in the wrong direction. They fundamentally will change how the Army works.”

Group: Gitmo Prisoner Was Likely 12 When Jailed

In Afghanistan, a human rights group is claiming an Afghan prisoner at Guantanamo Bay was only twelve years old when he was jailed–not 17 or 18 as the Pentagon claims. Mohammed Jawad has been jailed at Guantanamo for more than six years. Many poor Afghans don’t know their exact ages because of a lack of accurate records. The Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission says interviews with his family show Jawad likely wasn’t even a teenager when he was captured. The group also says Jawad suffered repeated torture in both Afghan and U.S. custody.

Montana Town Offers to Jail Gitmo Prisoners

A small town in Montana is offering to hold Guantanamo Bay prisoners should President Obama go ahead with his vow to close the military jail. City officials in Hardin have offered up a recently-built prison that has yet to house a single prisoner. Hardin is in Montana’s poorest county and had built the prison in the hopes of reviving its economy.

Around 30 Killed in Pakistan Bombing

In Pakistan, about 30 people were killed and another 250 wounded in an attack earlier today. Armed gunmen opened fire on police and intelligence offices in the city of Lahore and then set off a car bomb when government forces returned fire. It was one of the deadliest attacks in Pakistan this year and the third to hit Lahore in several months. Government officials say it could be retaliation for the U.S.-backed offensive that has displaced hundreds of thousands in Pakistan’s Swat Valley.

168 Killed as Cyclone Hits India, Bangladesh

At least 168 people have been killed in a deadly cyclone in eastern India and Bangladesh. The toll is expected to rise as rescue workers reach areas cut off by deadly mudslides. Thousands of people have been displaced following heavy storms that destroyed their homes.

UN Officials Calls for Sri Lanka War Crimes Probe

A top UN official is calling for a war crimes probe in Sri Lanka’s internal conflict between government forces and Tamil Tiger rebels. U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay says both sides “grossly disregarded the fundamental principle of the inviolability of civilians.” Last week, the Sri Lankan government declared victory after a twenty-six-year war and a recent spike in fighting that displaced some 300,000 people.

Bolivia, Venezuela Dismiss Uranium Accusations

The Bolivian and Venezuelan governments are dismissing Israeli accusations they’ve supplied uraninum for Iran’s nuclear program. On Monday, a leaked Israeli intelligence document said both Bolivia and Venezuela have aided Iran’s nuclear development. Bolivian Presidential Minister Juan Roman Quintana ridiculed the charge.

Juan Roman Quintana: “Really, it forms part of the anthology of stupidity. If there’s something that characterizes our policy as a government, it’s the policy of peace.”

Bolivia says it hasn’t produced uranium in more than twenty-five years.

Trial over Shell Allegations in Niger Delta Delayed

Back in the United States, a landmark trial against oil giant Royal Dutch Shell’s alleged involvement in human rights violations in the Niger Delta has been delayed until next week. Shell is accused of several abuses including complicity in the torture and execution of Nigerian writer and environmentalist Ken Saro-Wiwa and eight other activists.

Pro-Ethanol Dems Threaten Climate Bill

On Capital Hill, a group of Democrats are threatening to derail a landmark climate and emissions bill to address concerns by the nation’s Ethanol producers. The bill would cut greenhouse gas emissions 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020 and 83 percent by 2050. House Agricultural Committee Chair Collin Peterson says he’s gathered 40 Democrats to oppose the measure unless it counters a recent EPA finding that “indirect land use” must be taken into account when calculating ethanol’s carbon footprint.

Burris Pledged to Donate Money While Seeking Senate Appointment

A newly-released FBI recording shows Senator Roland Burris promised to donate money to then-Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich at the same time as he was seeking a Senate appointment. Blagojevich appointed Burris to President Obama’s vacated Senate seat just weeks after Blagojevich was arrested on corruption charges. Burris has previously claimed he never discussed the Senate seat with Blagojevich or anyone acting on his behalf.

Report: Paul Farmer in Talks for Top Aid Post

And the activist medical anthropologist Paul Farmer is reportedly in talks for an appointment by the Obama administration to run U.S. health projects overseas. The Boston Globe reports Farmer told colleagues of the potential appointment earlier this month. Farmer is founder of the charity Partners in Health, which provides healthcare for people with HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria and other conditions in Haiti, as well more than eight other countries around the world. He has vocally criticized U.S. de-stabilization efforts in Haiti as well as major U.S. corporations that have pursued profit at the expense of global health.

Local and Michigan Headlines: Lawmakers Consider Ban on Life for Juveniles; Mamals Moving North

Here is our round-up of headlines covering Grand Rapids and Michigan over the past few days. We’re slowly getting back into the swing of things after a full weekend of gardening, so if we missed anything, let us know in the comments:

Michigan Scientists to Legislators: Do Something About Global Warming

On Tuesday, a group of more than 150 scientists, researchers, and academics released a letter urging Michigan’s U.S. Representatives and Senators to take action against climate change by supporting measures aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

The letter says that global warming could have devastating consequences on Michigan’s economy and environment and that in order to avoid such consequences, action needs to be taken.

Grand Rapids area Representative Vern Ehlers reacted to the letter, saying in The Grand Rapids Press that:

“The scientific community is pretty well in agreement that the amount of greenhouses gases are changing things … that it is, in fact, dangerous,” Ehlers said.

“It’s a major problem. Wishing it away doesn’t solve it.”

Ehlers indicated that he supports the cap-and-trade concept of dealing with emissions.

The letter is important because here in West Michigan, we see an awful lot of hyped “science” that purports to discredit global warming. We’ve had local TV meteorologists (Craig James and Bill Steffen) dismiss the science, the activities of a local think-tank, and numerous letters to the editor in the Grand Rapids Press that have denounced global warming, despite the scientific consensus on the issue. In that sense, hopefully this letter will make some headway in convincing people that there really isn’t a debate over global warming–it’s a scientific reality. Also, kudos to the Grand Rapids Press for not giving space to a “skeptic” to discount the impact of the letter.

Local signers include Prof. Al Steinman, aquatic biologist and climate change expert from Grand Valley State University; Prof. R. Jan Stevenson, climate researcher and biologist from Michigan State University; and Prof. Karel Rogers, biologist and climate researcher from Grand Valley State University.

The full text of the letter follows:

As scientists living and working in colleges and universities in the state of Michigan, we urge the Michigan Congressional delegation to support strong federal policies for rapid and deep reductions in emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. We are convinced that immediate action is necessary to avoid the worst consequences of global warming on Michigan’s economy and environment, including the Great Lakes. While slowing the damaging effects of climate change poses enormous challenges, we also believe such action presents Michigan with real opportunities to reinvigorate our economy and improve the quality of life for all Michiganders.

Controlling carbon emissions is critical to the energy future of our state and nation. It will help Michigan and the United States take full advantage of the clean renewable resources and energy efficient technologies that are available today. A workable federal policy to combat global warming will also encourage researchers, investors, and businesses to accelerate development and deployment of next generation energy technologies. Putting a price on carbon is a critical step toward building a clean energy future for the US and right here in Michigan.

Federal climate policy offers a unique opportunity to protect valuable natural resources and stimulate the economy ‐ the benefits to Michigan will likely far exceed the costs. A comprehensive federal climate and energy policy can provide the stable regulatory framework, appropriate market signals, and long‐ term investment commitment necessary to jumpstart new business, transition core industries, and enhance our global competitiveness. Recent studies have shown that capping carbon pollution and promoting energy efficiency could create millions of new jobs nationally and more than 150,000 new jobs in Michigan, nearly 50,000 of them in manufacturing. Michigan already boasts one of the nation’s largest solar components manufacturers, and will be one of the first states to produce advanced automotive batteries. Michigan universities are already partnering with major industries and suppliers, as well as Silicon valley funded start‐ups, to deliver next generation vehicles and fuels technologies, while we also put idled manufacturing capacity to work building components for wind turbines. Sound climate policy will accelerate this transition – it is a critical part of the stimulus our struggling economy needs.

Doing nothing is not a viable option for Michigan. Our state faces serious economic, social, and ecological impacts from global warming. If climate change continues on its present course, not only will we miss out on the new economic opportunities outlined above, but two of Michigan’s biggest industries, agriculture and tourism, could suffer. Additionally, climate change could seriously impact water quantity and quality in the Great Lakes, leading to greater conflicts over water resources in the region.

Agriculture is Michigan’s second largest industry, contributing $60.1 billion to the state’s economy annually and providing more than 1 million jobs, according to the Michigan State University Extension. About 24 percent of all Michigan workers are employed in the state’s agriculture/food system. Many of the jobs and much of the economic impact provided by Michigan’s agriculture industry could be lost if climate change continues on its present course. Conversely, Michigan universities are leaders in agriculture and bioenergy research, and Michigan farmers stand to gain from federal policy that promotes renewable energy and caps carbon pollution. Farmers, for instance, could realize new revenue by leasing land for wind turbines and assigning unproductive cropland to carbon offset programs and producing biomass for next generation renewable fuels.

Associated with warming temperatures, increased ozone concentrations can decrease crop production and damage one of Michigan’s few economic bright spots. Intense rainstorms during spring planting season and summer droughts, both of which have increased in recent decades, will continue with greater intensity under “business as usual” carbon emissions and will likely reduce agricultural productivity and pollute our surface waters, including the Great Lakes. Hotter, drier summers and more droughts will require additional irrigation for crops that were previously rain‐fed. Warmer winters will favor more southern insects, pests, and plant pathogens. Perennial fruit crops like Michigan’s tart cherries are particularly vulnerable to increased climate variability caused by regional warming. All of these factors could dramatically reduce agricultural production and increase costs for farmers, agribusinesses, and others who have either direct or indirect ties to Michigan’s important agriculture industry.

Left unchecked, climate change will also harm our state’s tourism industry. Tourism contributes $17.5 billion each year to Michigan’s economy and provides 200,000 jobs, according to the Michigan Economic Development Corp.

Winter sports, such as skiing, snowmobiling, ice fishing, and snowboarding will suffer due to shorter, warmer winters. Warmer Great Lakes, rivers, streams, and inland lakes will change the distribution of fish species, and many species of cool‐water fish — including all four of our trout species (Brook, Lake, Rainbow and Brown Trout) — could disappear from our region. Bird‐watching activities will slow due to a decline in bird diversity, particularly among waterfowl and songbirds. Longer, hotter summers could increase beach use, but beach recreation could see a decline in activities because of more volatile weather and potential increases in pollution and waterborne‐ and insect‐ diseases.

Policymakers have a clear choice: allow climate change to continue on its present path and cause serious long‐term damage to Michigan’s natural resources and economy, or embrace an enlightened global warming solutions policy that will protect our air, water, land, and Great Lakes while spurring economic growth right here in Michigan.

For all these reasons, we urge the passage without further delay of reasonable global warming solutions policies that can give Michigan citizens, businesses, and farmers cost‐effective, clean and affordable energy.

Headlines: Protesters Confront Rumsfeld; House Weakens Emissions Bill

Democracy Now Headlines: CODEPINK Protesters Confront Rumsfeld; House Weakens Emissions Bill

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.

Dozens Killed as Sri Lankan Military Bombs Hospital

Sri Lankan government forces have bombed the lone hospital in a northern war zone for the second time in as many days. At least fifteen people were killed and another forty wounded in today’s shelling, one day after at least forty-nine people were killed in the first attack. One of the bombs landed in a hospital ward filled with patients wounded in yesterday’s strike. Human rights groups say the Sri Lankan military is violating a pledge not to shell the tiny area controlled by the Tamil Tiger rebels.

Admin Might Not Release Torture Photos

The Obama administration is wavering on a vow to release several dozen photos depicting the torture and abuse of prisoners in CIA and military jails overseas. Last month, the Justice Department chose not to challenge an American Civil Liberties Union lawsuit seeking the photos’ release. But on Tuesday, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said the administration has “great concern” about the photos and declined to say whether they’ll be kept under wraps.

Senate Panel Holds Hearing on Torture

Lawmakers are holding the first congressional hearing today on the torture of foreign prisoners since last month’s release of Bush administration memos authorizing the torture. A Senate Judiciary subcommittee will hear from witnesses including former FBI agent Ali Soufan and former Condoleezza Rice aide Philip Zelikow. Soufan is expected to challenge Bush administration claims the torture techniques used on foreign prisoners were successful in gaining intelligence. According to ABC News, Soufan will tell lawmakers the interrogation of alleged al-Qaeda operative Abu Zubaydah went awry after the CIA ordered him to follow the torture plan devised by military psychologist and private contractor James Mitchell.

Judge Orders Release of Gitmo Prisoner

A Yemeni national has been ordered released from the US military prison at Guantanamo Bay. On Tuesday, a federal judge said the government has failed to prove twenty-five-year-old Alla Ali Bin Ali Ahmed had ties to al-Qaeda or the Taliban. Ahmed has been jailed at Guantanamo since 2002.

Geithner: Social Security Not “Untouchable”

A new government report is warning the Social Security and Medicare programs are nearing insolvency sooner than predicted. On Tuesday, the Obama administration said the Medicare fund that covers hospital bills for senior citizens could run out of money by the year 2017. And it said the Social Security trust fund could be depleted by the year 2037, four years earlier than previous warnings. Republicans have long used the warnings of Social Security insolvency to push for its privatization. But the figures are controversial, in part because they fail to account for Treasury Department loans on Social Security’s estimated $2.5 trillion surplus. Economists have also long pointed out Social Security could remain solvent by minimal tax adjustments. On Tuesday, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner indicated the White House would be open to Republican attempts to undo Social Security, saying, “The President explicitly rejects the notion that Social Security is untouchable politically.”

Afghan Commission Reports Toll of 140 in US Attack

In Afghanistan, a government commission has concluded 140 civilians were killed in last week’s US bombing of two villages in Farah province. If confirmed, it would be the worst single mass killing of Afghan civilians by US forces since the invasion of 2001. Surviving relatives have begun accepting compensation payments, receiving $2,000 for family members killed and $1,000 for the wounded.

Army Sgt. Charged for Killing of 5 Comrades

In Iraq, an Army sergeant has been charged in Monday’s killing of five other American service members at a military base near Baghdad. Sergeant John Russell faces five counts of premeditated murder and one count of aggravated assault. Military spokesperson Major General David Perkins said Russell had previously had his gun taken away and had opened fire at a clinic where he’d been urged to receive counseling.

Maj. Gen. David Perkins: “The commander of the suspect, that being Sergeant Russell, had taken his weapon away. He had experienced or had been referred to counseling approximately the week beforehand. And through that process, his commander had determined that it would be best for him not to have a weapon. The suspect was apprehended outside the clinic shortly after shots were heard.”

Russell is on his third tour of duty in Iraq.

Saberi Addresses Media Following Release from Iranian Jail

In Iran, the Iranian American journalist Roxana Saberi has spoken out for the first time since her release. Saberi was freed on Monday after being held since January on charges of being an American spy.

Roxana Saberi: “I’m, of course, very happy to be free and to be with my parents again, and I want to thank all the people all over the world, which I’m just finding out about, really, who, whether they knew me or not, helped me and my family during this period. I don’t have any specific plans for the moment; I just want to be with my parents and my friends and to relax.”

Ending Boycott, US Wins Seat on UN Human Rights Council

At the United Nations, the US has won a seat on the UN Human Rights Council. The vote puts an end to a boycott started by the Bush administration over the council’s criticism of the Israeli government. After the vote, UN Ambassador Susan Rice welcomed the United States’ new seat but echoed Bush administration concerns.

UN Ambassador Susan Rice: “While we recognize that the Human Rights Council has been a flawed body that has not lived up to its potential, we are looking forward to working from within with a broad cross-section of member states to strengthen and reform the Human Rights Council and enable it to live up to the vision that was crafted when it was created.”

Tillman Parents Calls for Review of McChrystal’s Role in Cover-Up of Son’s Death

The parents of the slain Army Ranger and professional football player Pat Tillman are calling for a review of the new US commander in Afghanistan’s role in the cover-up of their son’s death. The military initially said Tillman was killed by Taliban fighters but later conceded he died by friendly fire. Lt. Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, named this week to replace General David McKiernan, has been accused of urging top generals to ignore the evidence surrounding Tillman’s death. In a statement, Pat Tillman’s mother, Mary Tillman, called for “careful scrutiny” of Lt. Gen. McChrystal at upcoming confirmation hearings.

House Weakens Emissions Bill

On Capitol Hill, House Democrats have weakened a landmark greenhouse gas emissions bill in what they call a necessary move to win broader support. The measure would cap US emissions at a certain level and allow polluters to buy pollution credits that would ostensibly cancel out their emissions. On Tuesday, bill sponsor and House Energy Committee chair Henry Waxman said the bill’s emissions cap has been reduced from 20 to 17 percent, and its required percentage for drawing electricity from renewable sources dropped from 25 to 15 percent. Waxman said the reductions were necessary to win the support of Democrats backed by coal and other major industries.

NY State Assembly Backs Gay Marriage

Here in New York, the State Assembly has approved a measure that would legalize same-sex marriage. The vote was 89-to-52. The bill now goes to the State Senate, where it faces a tougher challenge.

$12B in Withdrawn Madoff Funds Could Be Retrieved

The New York Times is reporting investors withdrew some $12 billion from accounts at Bernie Madoff’s firm last year. Half of that $12 billion was taken just three months before Madoff was arrested in December on allegations of operating a Ponzi scheme. Madoff is currently in jail awaiting sentencing next month. Under federal law, the trustee handling Madoff’s bankruptcy can sue the investors to retrieve the money they withdrew.

CODEPINK Protesters Confront Rumsfeld

Video has emerged showing two protesters confronting former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld at the White House Correspondents’ dinner on Saturday night. As Rumsfeld entered the building, Desiree Fairooz and Medea Benjamin of CODEPINK were there to greet him.

Desiree Fairooz: “War criminal! War criminal! War criminal! Arrest this man! Arrest the war criminal! I wish I had some handcuffs right now to arrest this man! He is responsible for the death of millions of people! War criminal! Arrest this man! War criminal! War criminal! Arrest this man! War criminal! You’re protecting a man responsible for the deaths of millions of Iraqis! Shame on you! Shame on you! Shame on you!”

After Desiree Fairooz was taken away by security, Medea Benjamin continued to walk alongside Rumsfeld down a staircase. She announced his arrival to a crowded room by again calling him a “war criminal.”

Medea Benjamin: “Here comes the war criminal, Donald Rumsfeld! War criminal! He killed people in Iraq! War criminal! Donald Rumsfeld, war criminal! He killed people in Iraq! War criminal! There’s the war criminal! War criminal!”

Torture Memo Author Protested in Hawaii

In Hawaii, more than fifty people gathered outside a federal court building in Honolulu to protest the Bush administration torture memo author Jay Bybee. The demonstration was held as Bybee heard cases in his position as a judge on the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. The group World Can’t Wait has called for protests against Bybee in every city where he hears cases.

Israel Arrests Journalist Amira Hass

In Israel, the Israeli journalist Amira Hass was arrested Tuesday after returning from the Gaza Strip. Hass has been reporting from Gaza for several years. She was arrested on charges of residing in an enemy state and ordered to stay out of Gaza for thirty days.

Prosecutors Win Conviction on Third Try in Sears Tower Case

And in Miami, five defendants have been convicted of a plot to blow up Chicago’s Sears Tower. One of the defendants was acquitted. It was the government’s third attempt to convict the so-called “Liberty City Six” after two mistrials. The case has been criticized for lacking any physical evidence and relying on an FBI informant who reportedly devised the plot for which the defendants were convicted.

Another WOOD TV 8 Meterologist Promoting Global Warming “Skepticism”

Bill Steffen

WOOD TV 8 meteorologist Bill Steffen is picking up where Craig James left off in hyping flawed science on global warming. Before he retired, James never turned down the chance to either argue against global warming on his blog or in presentations to the community).

Now Bill Steffen appears to be filling the void that was left when James quit and when his blog posts were erased from WOOD TV 8′s website. Like Craig James, Steffen is using his status as a meteorologist–and a trusted member of the community for some–to argue against the scientific consensus on global warming.

Steffen’s latest effort is blog post titled “MSNBC Needs to read Bill’s Blog” in which Steffen rails against MSNBC for their four-part series “Future Earth.” In the post, Steffen says that the show’s science is flawed. He argues that arctic ice is not decreasing and points to numbers from 2007 that show an increase in arctic ice. However, scientists have suggested that this is likely a temporary phenomenon and that ice will continue to melt if greenhouse gasses continue to rise.

Beyond that, Steffen argues that there is nothing we could do about it anyway, as “YOU can’t stop it’s decline (assuming it’s declining)! Nature is big – you personally are insignificant compared to nature.” He also advocates a rather bizarre position that so-called global warming skeptics like to argue: people who warn about global warming just want to make money. In this case, Steffen says that NBC has a vested interest in promoting global warming because they are making money off of it. Steffen argues that General Electric stands to profit from proposed cap-and-trade legislation because it produces some energy efficient appliances. It’s an argument that might have an ounce of validity in the case of GE (we should always be suspicious of the motives of corporations, especially those that control the media), but when they use it to dismiss scientists–who describe dire environmental problems and peril–it’s hard to believe that they are hyping up the situation just to sell a few more copies of their academic tomes.

For this, Steffen’s post spread rapidly across the global warming denier/delayer blogosphere, as well as getting attention via conservative commentator Michelle Malkin’s blog–since that crowd is always trying to find someone “credible” to argue against global warming. However, what’s interesting is that there has been a fairly strong counter voice to Steffen’s arguments in the comments section of his post, with a few voices strongly arguing the validity of the science and how Steffen draws his conclusion. Most often, Steffen has shied away from making detailed responses to those comments.

Headlines: Obama Won’t Prosecute Bush and CIA Officials for Torture; EPA: Greenhouse Gasses Endanger Human Health and Welfare

Democracy Now Headlines: Obama Won't Prosecute Bush and CIA Officials for Torture; EPA: Greenhouse Gasses Endanger Human Health and Welfare

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.

CIA Used Waterboarding 266 Times

A footnote in one of the newly declassified torture memos has revealed that CIA interrogators used waterboarding far more than had been previously reported. In August 2002, the CIA waterboarded Abu Zubaydah, 83 times. The CIA also used waterboarding 183 times in March 2003 against Khalid Shaikh Mohammed. In 2007 a former C.I.A. officer publicly claimed that Abu Zubaydah had undergone waterboarding for only 35 seconds before agreeing to tell everything he knew.

Rahm Emanuel: Bush Officials, CIA Interrogators Will Not Be Prosecuted

Meanwhile on Sunday, White House chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel said the Obama administration opposes any effort to prosecute CIA interrogators who engaged in torture as well Bush administration officials who authorized the use of torture. Rahm made the comment in an interview on ABC’s This Week With George Stephanopoulos.

Rahm Emmanuel: He believes that people in good faith were operating with the guidance they were provided. They shouldn’t be prosecuted.

George Stephanopolous: What about those who devised policy?

Rahm Emmanuel: Yes, but those who devised policy, he believes that they were–should not be prosecuted either, and that’s not the place that we go–as he said in that letter, and I would really recommend people look at the full statement–not the letter, the statement–in that second paragraph, “this is not a time for retribution.” It’s time for reflection. It’s not a time to use our energy and our time in looking back and any sense of anger and retribution.

UN Special Rapporteur on Torture Says Obama Violating International Law

The UN special rapporteur on torture Manfred Nowak has said President Obama is in violation of international law for declining to prosecute CIA agents who used torture. Nowak said the US is bound by the UN Convention Against Torture, which requires prosecution in all cases in which there is evidence of torture.

Spanish Judge Garzon Keeps Alive Case Against “Bush Six”

Prosecution of Bush administration officials may still take place in Spain. On Friday, Spanish judge Baltasar Garzon defied Spanish prosecutors and kept alive a criminal investigation into the actions of six high-ranking Bush admininistration officials including former attorney General Alberto Gonzales and former Justice Department attorney Jay Bybee.

Calls Increase For Bybee’s Impeachment

This comes as calls are increasing for Bybee’s impeachment as a federal judge. During an interview on Fox News Sunday, Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill of Missouri questioned whether Bybee should be serving on the federal bench after approving the use of torture.

Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO): “What’s scary to me, Chris, is that one of them got a lifetime appointment on a federal bench. Yikes! You know, a lawyer that’s responsible for this kind of advice that clearly went too far in terms of stretching what our law is. It worries me that he’s sitting on the federal bench right now.”

More Nations Boycott UN Conference on Racism

The United Nations Conference on Racism has opened Geneva but the United States and several other nations are boycotting the conference over concerns the conference will criticize Israel. In 2001 the U.S. and Israel walked out of the UN racism conference in South Africa after Arab states sought to define Zionism as racist. During his opening talke, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said racism including anti-Semitism and Islamophobia needs to be tackled. We’ll have more on the conference after headlines.

Chavez Gives Obama Eduardo Galeano Book on History of Latin America

President Obama has returned to Washington after attending the Summit of the Americas in Trinidad and Tobago where he vowed to repair relations with Latin America. At the summit Obama briefly met with Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez who gave Obama a copy of Eduardo Galeano’s book “The Open Veins of Latin America: Five Centuries of the Pillage of a Continent.” At a news conference on Sunday Obama responded to criticism of him for shaking Chavez’s hand.

President Obama: “It’s unlikely that as a consequence of me shaking hands or having a polite conversation with Mr. Chavez that we are endangering the strategic interests of the United States. I don’t think anyone can find any evidence that that would do so. Even within this imaginative crowd, I think you would be hard-pressed to paint a scenario in which U.S. interests would be damaged as a consequence of us having a more constructive relationship with Venezuela.”

Obama Says 50 Year U.S. Policy Toward Cuba Has Failed

On Cuba, Obama acknowledged that the U.S. policy of the past 50 years has failed. Obama’s comment came days after he eased travel restrictions on Cuban Americans. On Sunday he called on Cuban President Raul Castro to take some steps if he wants to start a dialogue with the United States

President Obama: “And the fact that you had Raul Castro say that he is willing to have his government discuss with our not just issues of lifting the embargo but issues of human rights, political prisoner, that’s a sign of progress. And so we’re going to explore and see if we can make some further steps. There are some things that the Cuban government could do. They could release political prisoners.”

Iran Sentences U.S. Journalist to Eight Years

A secret Iranian court has sentenced Iranian-American journalist, Roxana Saberi, to eight years in prison for allegedly spying for the United States. Saberi had worked as a freelancer for the BBC, NPR and other outlets. Her father Reza Saberi spoke to NPR on Saturday.

Reza Saberi: “She is very weak and frail, last time we saw…and she wanted to go on hunger strike but we persuaded her not to do so. And after this most probably she will, even though when we visit her we will ask her not to do so. But she is quite depressed about this matter and she wants to go on hunger strike. And if she does she’s so frail it can be dangerous to her health.”

The Obama administration has demanded Saberi be released. On Sunday Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad sent a letter to Tehran’s chief prosecutor instructing him to personally ensure that Saberi be allowed to offer a full defense during her appeal.

U.S. Drone Attack in Pakistan Leaves 8 Dead

U.S. drones have carried out another strike inside Pakistan killing as many as eight people in the Waziristan region. The News in Pakistan said all of the dead were civilians. However other reports said the strike targeted a home used by Al Qaeda.

Israeli Troops Kill Unarmed Palestinian Protesting Wall

Israeli forces have killed another unarmed Palestinian during a protest against the Israel separation wall in the West Bank. 30-year-old Basim Abu Rahmah died Friday after he was shot with a high velocity tear gas canister. Abu Rahma is the third Palestinian to be killed in the past three months alone during protests against the Wall.

Congressional Quarterly: Wiretap Recorded Rep. Harman Promising to Intervene for AIPAC

Congressional Quarterly is reporting Democratic Congresswoman Jane Harman of California was overheard in 2005 on an NSA wiretap speaking with a suspected Israeli agent. During the call Harman reprotedly said she would lobby the Justice Department to reduce espionage-related charges against two officials of AIPAC, the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee.

In exchange for Harman’s help, the suspected Israeli agent reportedly pledged to help lobby Nancy Pelosi to appoint Harman chair of the Intelligence Committee after the 2006 elections. The conversation is said to have been picked up on a court-approved NSA wiretap directed at alleged Israel covert action operations in Washington. Congressional Quarterly reports then Attorney General Alberto Gonzales decided to stop a probe of Harman because he wanted Harman to be able to help defend the administration’s secret domestic spy program that the New York Times was about to expose.

35,000 Civilians Flee as Sri Lankan Military Intensifies Assault on Tamil Tigers

In Sri Lanka, more than 35,000 civilians have fled the last area controlled by the Tamil Tigers as the Sri Lankan military intensifies its assault on the separatist group. The United Nations says up to 100,000 civilians are trapped in the sliver of coastal jungle controlled by the Tamil Tigers and are living in “dire humanitarian conditions.” Channel 4 in Britian and Al Jazereera have aired some footage from the area that has been closed off to journalists. The video, which was shot by an aid group, showed scores of civilian victims killed last week in fighting. An estimated 4,500 civilians have been killed in Sri Lanka in the last three months.

EPA: Greenhouse Gases Endanger Human Health and Welfare

The Environmental Protection Agency said Friday greenhouse gases endanger human health and welfare, opening the door for the EPA to to possibly regulate carbon dioxide as a pollutant. The EPA found that rising levels of greenhouse gases are “the unambiguous result of human emissions, and are very likely the cause of the observed increase in average temperatures and other climatic changes.”

Bloomberg Sues Fed Reserve

In economic news, Bloomberg News has filed a lawsuit to force the Federal Reserve to disclose information about the $2 trillion it has lent to financial institutions. The Fed has refused to name the borrowers or the amounts of loans. The biggest recipients of taxpayer aid made or refinanced 23% less in new loans in February than in October. Goldman Sachs reduced lending by 50 percent.

London Police Questioned in Man’s Death During G20 Protest

In news from Britain, A London Police officer is being questioned on suspicion of manslaughter following the death of a British man during the G20 protests. An autopsy has found Ian Tomlinson died from internal bleeding, not a heart attack. Tomlinson was a newspaper seller who got caught up in the middle of the G20 protest. Video has emerged showing a baton-wielding British police officer hitting Tomlinson and shoving him to the ground shortly before he collapsed and died. The Independent Police Complaints Commission is also investigating at least two other assaults committed by the police during the protest.

Swedish Court Sentences Founders of File-Sharing Website

A Swedish court has sentenced the four founders of the file-sharing website Pirate Bay to one year in prison and to pay a $3.5 million fine for violating copyright laws. The men were convicted even though they did not host copyrighted works on their own servers. Instead the site indexed and tracked torrent files. Attorney Per Samuelson represented the founders of Pirate Bay.

Per Samuelson: “My comment is that the Swedish legal system did not stand against the political pressure from the whole of the world, from the whole of the power and it’s very hard for them to acquit, but they should have done that, so this is the proof that the legal system doesn’t work when you put enough pressure on it.”

Time Warner Scraps Pricing Model to Charge for Bandwidth

In other tech news, Time Warner Cable has announced it will stop testing a new pricing model where customers were being charged for how much Internet bandwidth they used. Time Warner had proposed charging as much as $150 per month for unlimited web downloads.

Goldman Environmental Prizes Awarded

The 2009 Goldman Environmental Prizes are being awarded today in San Francisco. Recipients include the Indonesian activist Yuyun Isamawati who developed a community-based waste management system to stem her island nation’s overwhelming waste infrastructure problems. I spoke to her last week in San Francisco.

Yuyun Isamawati: “We need more efforts from all countries. But it has to be a better mechanism how developed countries can channel support to developing countries to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions. [Inaudible] mechanisms should be reformed because the complicated and difficult mechanism cannot be implemented in the field to reach the target of reduction.”

The other recipients of the Goldman prize are West Virginian anti-coal mining activist Maria Gunnoe; the Russian physicist Olga Speranskaya who is campaigning to rid the former Soviet Union of toxic chemicals; the Bangladesh environmental attorney Rizwana Hasan; two anti-logging activists from the South American nation of Suriname and; conservationist Marc Ona Essangui from the African nation of Gabon.

Marc Ona Essangui: “The forest that we are defending in Gabon isn’t only for Gabon-it’s in the interest of the entire planet. Climate change, the destruction of the ozone layer-it’s not only about Gabon, it’s about the planet. A tree that is saved in Gabon will in the future save many lives in many countries.”

Vigils Mark 10th Anniversary of Columbine Massacre

And in Colorado, hundreds attended a vigil Sunday to mark the 10th anniversary of the Columbine High School when two students killed 12 students and a teacher.

Headlines: Study: Worst of Global Warming Can be Avoided; Germany Bans Monsanto Crop

Democracy Now Headlines: Study: Worst of Global Warming Can be Avoided; Germany Bans Monsanto Crop

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.

Report: Under CIA Pressure, Obama to Withhold Parts of Torture Memos

President Obama is reportedly wavering on a pledge to fully reveal Bush administration memos authorizing CIA torture. According to the Wall Street Journal, the White House is leaning towards withholding graphic details of tactics authorized in three classified memos from 2005. The details include approval for striking a prisoner’s head against a wall and the practice known as waterboarding. The issue is reportedly centering around warnings from top intelligence officials that the memos’ full disclosure would anger CIA employees and alienate them from the White House. President Obama faces a Thursday court deadline to act on releasing the memos under a lawsuit brought by the ACLU.

Gitmo Prisoner: Torture Has Worsened Under Obama

“I refused to leave my cell as they were not granting me my rights. I was only demanding my basic rights like walking, meeting other inmates, and eating normal food. So a group of six soldiers wearing protective gear and helmets came to my cell. They were accompanied by a soldier carrying a camera, and one with tear gas. They had a thick rubber or plastic baton they beat me with. They emptied out about two canisters of tear gas on me. After I stopped talking, and tears were flowing from my eyes, I could hardly see or breathe. They then beat me again to the ground, one of them held my head and beat it against the ground. I started screaming to his senior ‘see what he’s doing, see what he’s doing’ [but] his senior started laughing and said ‘he’s doing his job.’ He broke one of my front teeth.”

Qaraani was interviewed by the Al Jazeera journalist Sami El-Haj, who was imprisoned at Guantanamo for over six years. Qaraani repeated claims made by other Guantanamo prisoners and their attorneys that the abuse has worsened since President Obama’s election.

Mohammad al-Qaraani: “This treatment started about 20 days before Obama came into power, and since then I’ve been subjected to it almost every day. Since Obama took charge he has not shown us that anything will change.”

Obama Addresses Economic Crisis

President Obama spoke at Washington, D.C.’s Georgetown University Tuesday in his most comprehensive remarks to date on the economic crisis. Obama predicted a worsening recession but said he foresees a long-term recovery.

President Obama: “2009 will continue to be a difficult year for America’s economy. The severity of this recession will cause more job loss, more foreclosures, and more pain before it ends. If we don’t invest now in renewable energy or a skilled workforce or a more affordable health care system, this economy simply won’t grow at the pace it needs to in two or five or ten years down the road. If we don’t lay this new foundation, it won’t be long before we are right back where we are today.”

Survey: More Pay Rises than Cuts for U.S. CEOs

A new survey has found more American CEOs got pay raises than salary cuts last year. According to the AFL-CIO, the median CEO salary rose seven percent while executive perks rose thirteen percent. Some executives that saw cuts to their base pay were granted lavish stock options to offset the losses. Despite reporting an $11 million dollar salary, Vikram Pandit of the bailed-out financial giant Citigroup made $38 million with stock options included.

DHS Links Right-Wing Extremism to Recession

The Department of Homeland Security is warning right-wing extremist groups are gaining new recruits by exploiting fears about the economy and the election of the nation’s first black president. A new report says there’s been a resurgence of right-wing extremism amidst the recession and President Obama’s election last year. Officials predict a worsening economy will lead more people to join militias and skinhead groups, or carry out individual acts modeled after Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh.

Iran Begins Secret Trial for Jailed Iranian-American Journalist

In Iran, a jailed Iranian-American journalist has gone on trial in secret. Thirty-one-year-old Roxana Saberi has been imprisoned in Iran since January. She was arrested for working without press credentials but was charged with spying last week. Iran says her trial will continue behind closed doors.

Haiti Appeals for International Aid

Haiti is appealing for international aid to avoid what it calls a looming collapse. On Tuesday, Haitian Prime Minister Michele Duvivier Pierre-Louis made the appeal at a donor conference in Washington.

Haitian Prime Minister Michele Duvivier Pierre-Louis: “We are treading on very fragile ground. If no action is taken now, the consequences will be catastrophic. I want to take back with me the commitments and hope we are longing for in our quest for lasting development and democracy.”

The poorest country in the Western hemisphere, Haiti has been devastated by a string of hurricanes and two U.S.-backed coups over the last two decades.

Bolivian Lawmakers Approve Electoral Reform

In Bolivia, lawmakers have passed a landmark electoral law that would increase representation for low-income rural areas. President Evo Morales had gone on a five-day hunger strike to campaign for the bill. On Tuesday, Bolivian Vice President Alvaro Garcia hailed what he called a victory over the country’s elite.

President Evo Morales: “If the oligarchy insults me, if they attack me, it means that I am doing my job. It means that I am defending the people. It means I am doing my constitutional duty of defending the homeland.”

The bill also sets Bolivia’s next presidential and congressional elections for December.

Germany Bans Monsanto Crop

Germany has become the sixth European country to ban genetically-modified maze produced by the American biotech giant Monsanto. The German government said the Monsanto crop is harmful to the environment. Until the new ban, it had been the only Monsanto crop permitted in Germany.

Study: Worst of Global Warming Can be Avoided

In environmental news, a new study says the world can still avoid the worst of global warming if current European Union proposals for cutting greenhouse gases are adopted. A computer simulation by National Center for Atmospheric Research based on a seventy percent emissions cut found world temperatures will still increase but not to an unsustainable level. The Arctic sea shelf would still shrink but not completely disappear, while about half of changes in droughts and floods could be avoided. Heat waves would also be 55 percent less intense.

Tax Resisters to Hold Day of Protest

And today is tax day. As millions scramble to mail in their last-minute returns, the National War Tax Resistance Coordinating Committee says tax resisters will hold protests around the country to show their opposition to funding war. The day of protest is being called “The War is Not Over.” A new study meanwhile from the National Priorities Project says that more than 37 cents of every income tax dollar goes to military spending. By contrast, environment, energy and science spending projects split 2.8 cents of every tax dollar, while housing, community and food programs split 3.8 cents.

Headlines: Pakistan Wants to Control U.S. Drone Attacks; U.S. Considers Limiting Emissions Auctions

Democracy Now Headlines: Pakistan Wants to Control U.S. Drone Attacks; U.S. Considers Limiting Emissions Auctions

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.

Iraqis Rally on 6th Anniversary of Fall of Baghdad

Tens of thousands of Iraqis rallied in Baghdad today to mark the sixth anniversary of the US overthrow of Saddam Hussein’s government. The crowd burned an effigy of former President George W. Bush as it hung from a pillar where Saddam’s statue once stood. The rally came one day after at least seven people were killed and twenty-three wounded in the second straight bombing in a Shiite district of Baghdad.

US to Join Iran in Global Talks

The Obama administration has announced it will now join international talks over Iran’s nuclear program. The move reverses a Bush administration policy supporting the negotiations between Iran and Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China but refusing to take part. Earlier in the day, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad renewed calls for talks with the US, but called on the Obama administration to be “honest.”

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad: “If a hand extended to the Iranian nation is truly extended with honesty, justice and respect, Iran welcomes it. But if, God forbid, it is a hand that is pretending to be honest, but in reality is dishonest, the response of the Iranian nation would be the same response that it gave to Mr. Bush.”

Jailed Iranian American Journalist Accused of Spying

In other Iran news, the Iranian government has charged a jailed Iranian American journalist with espionage. Thirty-one-year-old Roxana Saberi has been imprisoned in Iran since January. A freelance journalist, she has reported for the BBC, National Public Radio and Fox News. She was working in Iran despite an Iranian government ban on her reporting since 2006.

Report: Pakistan Rebuffs US on Attacks, Requests Control of Drones

The Pakistani government is reportedly showing new resistance to US military activities within its borders. The Pakistani newspaper Dawn reports Pakistani officials have rejected a US proposal for joint operations in tribal regions near the Pakistani border with Afghanistan. The message was reportedly delivered to regional envoy Richard Holbrooke and Joint Chiefs Chair Admiral Mike Mullen during their visit to Pakistan earlier this week. Pakistani officials also reportedly asked that the US hand over control of the deadly drone missions that have killed hundreds of people. On a visit to India Wednesday, Holbrooke addressed Indian concerns the US is favoring Pakistan.

US Special Envoy Richard Holbrooke: “We are working intensively with our friends in Pakistan to achieve a common goal. That is what we’re doing. We know it’s going to be difficult, but the national security interests of all the three countries are clearly at stake. The administration, which we represent, is committed to this. We’re going to do it, but it’s going to be difficult.”

Palestinian Villagers Wounded Following Settler Attack

In Israel and the Occupied Territories, at least twelve Palestinians were wounded after an attack by Israeli settlers on a West Bank village. The settlers smashed car windows and damaged homes before fleeing. Israeli soldiers then arrived at the scene and shot at demonstrating Palestinian residents. Nasri Sabarneh of the Beit Ummar council said one of the victims was seriously injured.

Nasri Sabarneh: “When the Israelis came, they started firing live bullets and tear gas. As a result, seven residents were injured, one of them was eighteen-year-old Thaer Nasir Adi, who was hit by live bullets in the neck and is now undergoing an operation at the Al Ahli hospital.”

Sinn Fein Leader Condemns Gaza Siege

Meanwhile, in the Gaza Strip, Gerry Adams of Ireland’s Sinn Fein visited areas damaged by the three-week Israeli attack earlier this year. Adams condemned the ongoing Israeli siege of Gaza.

Gerry Adams: “I witnessed what was happening here back in Ireland on the television screens, and I said then that what is happening here is totally and absolutely wrong, and it should cease. And nothing prepares you for the sight that’s all around us and that confirms my view that what happened here is wrong and it should stop.”

Adams went on to call on both Israelis and Palestinians to halt violence and begin negotiations.

US Captain Seized by Somali Pirates

At sea near the Horn of Africa, an American captain remains in captivity after his cargo ship was briefly seized by a group of Somali pirates. The pirates hijacked the ship but were later overtaken by the crew. The US Navy has sent a destroyer ship to the waters where the ship was seized.

Posada Accused of Lying on Bombing Role in New Indictment

Back in the United States, the former CIA operative Luis Posada Carriles has been indicted on charges of lying about his role in several 1997 bombings at tourist areas in Cuba. The new charges mark the first time the US government has acknowledged Posada’s role in carrying out attacks. A militant right-wing Cuban exile long supported by the US government, Posada is also wanted in Cuba and Venezuela for the 1976 bombing of a Cuban airliner that killed seventy-three people. The Bush administration harbored Posada and rejected calls for his extradition. The new indictment accuses Posada of “soliciting other individuals to carry out…bombings in Cuba.”

Obama to Address Immigration Overhaul

The Obama administration is planning to unveil new immigration proposals that will likely include a way for undocumented immigrants to receive legal status. The New York Times reports President Obama will speak publicly on immigration next month and convene working groups to craft legislation for as early as the fall.

US Considers Easing Emissions Auctions

President Obama is considering backing off a campaign pledge to auction off all emissions permits issued under a proposed cap-and-trade system to limit greenhouse gas. In an interview with the Washington Post, White House science adviser John Holdren said the administration might auction only some of the permits and give the rest away. Energy industry leaders have lobbied against the blanket auctions, calling them too costly.

Obama Establishes Office on Healthcare Reform

President Obama has formalized his establishment of an administration panel for reforming heathcare. In an executive order Wednesday, Obama established the White House Office of Health Reform. In the order, Obama said the US healthcare system suffers “serious and pervasive problems.” The Obama administration has come under criticism for its rejection of a single-payer universal healthcare system favored by a majority of Americans.

Maine Legislators Call for Single Payer

Meanwhile, in Maine, the state legislature has approved a measure calling for the establishment of single payer. The Maine Senate passed the non-binding resolution Wednesday, one day after its passage in the state House.

LA Hospital Admits to “Dumping” Homeless, Mentally Ill

In California, a Los Angeles area psychiatric hospital has admitted to abandoning more than 150 mentally disabled homeless patients in dangerous neighborhoods over a two-year period. College Hospital will pay a $1.6 million penalty under a settlement with city attorneys. So-called “hospital dumping” is believed to be a widespread practice in the United States.

Panel: Private Utilities Fail to Protect from Cyber Attacks

A new government-backed study has found the nation’s mostly privately run electric utilities have failed to properly safeguard their equipment from computer-based attacks. In a new report, the North American Electric Reliability Corporation says so-called cyber-attackers retain the potential to disrupt “multiple assets at once, and from a distance.” The warning came as the Wall Street Journal reported “cyberspies” have penetrated the US electrical grid and left potentially disruptive software programs behind. According to current and former national security officials, spies from China, Russia and other countries have infiltrated the electronic networks that control the nation’s utilities. Officials don’t see an immediate threat but warn the infiltrations could prove dangerous if the US ever goes to war.

NY Gov. to Propose Gay Marriage Bill

In New York, Governor David Paterson has announced plans to introduce legislation to legalize same-sex marriage. The announcement came one day after the Vermont legislature made US history as the first to legalize gay marriage.

Report: Obama Mulls Bonds for Toxic Securities

And in bailout news, the New York Times is reporting the Obama administration is considering a plan that would encourage Americans to directly invest in the troubled assets of taxpayer-rescued corporations. The proposal would essential create the equivalent of bonds to buy up the toxic securities such as bundled subprime loans. The plan is being promoted by financial industry lobbyists, including the money management giant BlackRock.