House Approves War Funding Bill


The United States House of Representatives approved a war funding bill yesterday that contains no restrictions on the rapidly escalating Afghanistan War. The bill was passed by a vote 368-60. Only 51 Democrats voted against the bill, despite their frequent rhetorical opposition to the wars.

According to an analysis by the Associated Press, $84.5 billion of the $96.7 billion goes directly to military efforts. Only a paltry $10 billion is allotted for foreign aid. Instead, the bill focuses on the flawed military approach to fighting terrorism.

No amendments to the bill were allowed by the Democratic leadership in the House. This meant that Jim McGovern’s amendment requiring the Obama administration to develop an “exit strategy” for Afghanistan was not considered. In response, McGovern has introduced the measure as a standalone bill. It already has 74 cosponsors.

Before the vote, the measure was opposed by anti-war groups such as Code Pink, who said:

The supplemental, without an exit strategy, clearly recycles failed Bush administration policies. It will continue to fuel the Taliban and Al-Qaeda, increasing their numbers (as outlined by many military strategists and think tanks). It will also lead to more civilian deaths — a United Nations report released earlier this year found the Afghan civilian death toll nearly doubled in 2008 under U.S. presence, with the U.S. responsible for almost half the deaths. In addition, increased American troop presence to 68,000 by year’s end will further alienate Afghans who increasingly view the U.S. as an occupying force. The number of Afghan people who believe the U.S. has performed well dropped this year to 32 percent from 68 percent in 2005, military scholar Anthony Cordesman told a Congressional hearing.

Unfortunately, more liberal groups such as that had for years opposed the Iraq War to varying degrees, said nothing about the supplemental–instead choosing to ignore the vote. While critiques are to be made about MoveOn and related groups when it comes to anti-war organizing, their unwillingness to challenge the Obama administration is contributing to the sense that the fight against the wars is over, despite the fact that daily events in Iraq and Afghanistan make it clear that anti-war organizing is very much needed.

Illinois State Senate Passes Resolution Opposing Afghanistan War


The Illinois State Senate passed a resolution last week calling for an end to the United States’ war in Afghanistan. It calls on the government–including former Illinois State Senate member Barack Obama–to remove troops from the country on an “appropriately expedited timeline” and to engage nations in the Middle East to develop a peace and reconciliation process for Afghanistan.

To be sure, the resolution will have limited practical effect–it’s an entirely symbolic move. Copies will be sent to President Obama, members of Illinois Congressional delegation, and other Congressional leaders. I doubt they will put much stock in the resolution, but it’s an indicator that there is finally an actual debate taking place over the war.

It also reminds me of efforts during the Iraq War to get cities to pass resolutions opposing the invasion and occupation–organizing that led to 287 cities, 4 counties, and 17 states passing resolutions. Again, the resolutions clearly didn’t end the war, but they do offer an important educational opportunity.

Some of the more interesting “resolved” statements from the Illinois State Senate resolution:

RESOLVED, That on behalf of the citizens of Illinois, the Senate believes that it is not in the national interest of the United States to deepen its military involvement in Afghanistan, particularly by escalating the United States military force presence in Afghanistan, that the 17,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan should be recalled from there, and that we should concentrate on capturing Osama bin Laden; and be it further

RESOLVED, That the primary objective of United States strategy in Afghanistan should be to have the Afghani political leaders make the political compromises necessary to end the violence in Afghanistan; and be it further

RESOLVED, That greater concerted regional and international support would assist the Afghanis in achieving a political solution and national reconciliation; and be it further

RESOLVED, That the United States should engage nations in the Middle East to develop a regional, internationally sponsored peace and reconciliation process for Afghanistan; and be it further

RESOLVED, That the United States should transfer, under an appropriately expedited timeline, responsibility for internal security and halting sectarian violence in Afghanistan to the Government of Afghanistan and Afghani Security Forces from American military personnel; and be it further

Congressional Progressive Caucus Releases Policy Recommendations for Afghanistan


Over the past several weeks, the Congressional Progressive Caucus has held a series of conversations on the U.S war in Afghanistan. The series–titled “Afghanistan: A Road Map for Progress”–explored the U.S. war, its relationship to Pakistan, and its implication for U.S. security.

Out of the talk came a number of policy recommendations. These are important as the Congress will be considering a $94 billion dollar request for more funding for the U.S. wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

The Congressional Progressive Caucus makes the following recommendations:

  • Require the immediate cessation of U.S. drone attacks.
  • Require UN involvement in overseeing and mandating the role of US and international military operations. Require that any increase in US troop presence is oriented towards training and support roles for Afghan security forces and not for US-led counter insurgency efforts.
  • Call for an immediate cession of US drone attacks and air strikes [in Pakistan] as they only incite further extremism.
  • Require all aid dollars to have a majority percentage of dollars tied or guaranteed to local Afghan institutions and organizations.
  • Require 80-20 ratio (political-military) with all future US funding, with a special inspector general to monitor the implementation of this ratio.
  • Fund the National Solidarity Program. According to the Afghan Ministry of Rural Rehabilitation and Development (MRRD), the NSP requires another US $200 million to complete 20,000 small projects in the coming five months.

There were also additional recommendations on reforming elections and protecting women’s rights.

To be sure, it is refreshing to see members of Congress casting a critical light on the U.S. occupation of Afghanistan, but it would have been nice to see more. Why no opposition to the escalation of the war? Why no recommendation that the U.S. adopt a timetable for Afghanistan–or better yet–commit to immediately withdrawing troops?

94 Billion Reasons to Rethink Afghanistan

Rethink Afghanistan–an online effort started by progressive filmmaker Robert Greenwald–has launched a new campaign to pressure Congress to oppose President Barack Obama’s $94.2 billion supplemental request for additional funds for the U.S. wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

The group argues that Congress should not approve any additional funding for the war until the administration answers basic questions about its policy goals. These include:

  • What steps will the U.S. take to reduce the likelihood that an increased troop presence in Afghanistan will serve as a recruiting tool for the Taliban and for terrorist organizations like Al Qaeda?
  • How will the U.S. prevent the escalating conflict from seriously destabilizing a nuclear-armed Pakistan?
  • In dollar figures, how much will it cost the U.S. to achieve its war aims, and how will this expenditure impact the chances of economic recovery at home?

The group has a petition that it is asking people to sign. In addition, veterans of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq will be meeting with lawmakers on Capitol Hill this week to express their opposition to the war.

Rethink Afghanistan has also produced a video with additional background information on the problems with U.S. policy in Afghanistan:

Like the proposed amendment that would require the Obama administration to outline an “exit strategy” in Afghanistan, the petition provides a solid rallying point for opponents of the U.S. escalation in Afghanistan that has been absent thus far. In recent months the anti-war movement has done a good job articulating why the war is problematic, now it’s time to take action to stop it.

Headlines: New US. Commander in Afghanistan; Health Providers Offer to Cut Costs but Give Few Specifics

Democracy Now Headlines: New US. Commander in Afghanistan; Health Providers Offer to Cut Costs but Give Few Specifics

Headlines from, 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.

Gates Removes Top U.S. Commander in Afghanistan

The top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, Gen. David McKiernan has been forced out and replaced by Lt. Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, a former commander of the Joint Special Operations Command. McKiernan is reportedly the first general to be dismissed from command of a theater of combat since Douglas MacArthur during the Korean War.

New Commander Tied To Secret Assassination Team

The new commander, Stanley McChystal, is viewed as an expert on counterinsurgency and guerilla warfare. As head of Special Operations, McChrystal oversaw a secretive program to hunt down and assassinate suspected terrorists around the globe. According to investigative reporter Seymour Hersh the Joint Special Operations Command carried out assassinations in a dozen countries. Last year lawmakers delayed Stanley McChrystal’s nomination for a key position because of questions about prisoner abuse by forces under his command. At least 64 service personnel assigned or attached to Special Operations units were disciplined for prisoner abuse between early 2004 and the end of 2007. Defense Secretary Robert Gates announced the change yesterday and said Lt. Gen. David Rodriguez will take responsibility for the day-to-day management of the war in Afghanistan.

Robert Gates: “The way I look at this is as McChrystal and and Rodriguez as a team. They each bring tremendous skills in a variety of areas that are very pertinent to the kind of fight that we have Afghanistan. And it is their combined skill set that I think gives us some fresh opportunities looking forward.”

Lt. Gen. McChrystal ran special operations under General David Petraeus during the surge in Iraq. Fred Kaplan of Slate writes “McKiernan’s ouster signals a dramatic shift in U.S. strategy for the war in Afghanistan. And it means that the war is now, unequivocally, ‘Obama’s war.'”

Taliban Fighters Attack Gov’t Buildings in Khost

Earlier today in Afghanistan about 30 Taliban fighters wearing suicide vests attacked government buildings in the Afghan city of Khost. At least six people died in the attacks.

Afghan Lawmakers Protest Civilian Deaths

Afghan lawmakers walked out of parliament Monday to protest the latest civilian casualties at the hands of US-led forces. Lawmakers are demanding legal restrictions be placed on U.S. and coalition forces to prevent further civilian deaths.

U.S. Drone Strike Kills Eight In Pakistan

In Pakistan, at least eight people have died after a U.S. drone blew up a house in the South Waziristan district, near the Afghan border.

US Soldier in Iraq Kills 5 Comrades at Stress Clinic

Five U.S. soldiers died in Iraq Monday after a fellow soldier opened fire at a stress clinic at a U.S. military base in Baghdad. The killings appear to be the single deadliest episode of soldier-on-soldier violence among U.S. forces since the United States invaded Iraq six years ago.

Journalist Roxana Saberi Released From Iranian Jail

The Iranian-American journalist Roxana Saberi was released from an Iranian jail Monday and has been reunited with her family. Her father Reza Saberi spoke to reporters after her release.

Reza Saberi: “Roxana is well and is staying at a relative’s home tonight. We are preparing to go. The exact date of our departure is not clear but we should get ready for our trip to America.”

Roxana Saberi had been held since January.

U.S. Continues to Imprison Reuters Photographer in Iraq

The United States is continuing to imprison at least one journalist without charge. Ibrahim Jassam, a freelance photographer for Reuters, has been held in Iraq since September despite objections from the Iraqi government, Committee to Protect Journalists and Reporters Without Borders and Reuters. Unlike Saberi’s case, Jassam’s imprisonment has received little news attention in the United States.

Prisoner Who Tied Iraq to Al-Qaeda Found Dead in Libyan Jail

A Libyan man whose fabricated testimony about al Qaeda was used by the United States to justify its 2003 invasion of Iraq has reportedly killed himself in his Libyan jail cell. Human rights groups are demanding an immediate investigation into the death of Ibn Sheikh al-Libi. After his capture in Afghanistan in 2001. U.S. forces sent him to a prison in Egypt where he was tortured. After being beaten and subjected to a “mock burial” by his Egyptian interrogators, Libi made up the false claim that Iraq had provided training in chemical and biological weapons to al-Qaeda operatives. The Bush administration used Libi’s false testimony to make the case for invading Iraq. Al-Libi was later held in a secret overseas CIA prison.

Tom Malinowski of Human Rights Watch said, “He was Exhibit A in the narrative that tortured confessions contributed to the massive intelligence failure that preceded the Iraq war.”

Former friends of Libi have cast doubt on his reported suicide, arguing that the former mosque preacher knew suicide was prohibited by Islam.

Guantanamo Prisoner Attempts Suicide

Meanwhile a prisoner at Guantanamo tried to commit suicide on Sunday during a meeting with his attorney. The Yemeni man, Adnan Farhan Abdul Latif, used a piece of a table to cut a vein in his wrist. The prisoner then hurled blood at his attorney. Latif has been held at Guantanamo without charge since January 2002.

Health Providers Offer Few Details On Plan to Cut Costs By $2 Trillion

In Washington President Obama met with a coalition of U.S. health groups Monday after the groups pledged to cut rising health costs by $2 trillion over the next decade. The coalition representing doctors, hospitals, drug manufacturers, insurers and laborers had agreed to help reduce the rise in healthcare costs by 1.5 percentage points per year for 10 years. None of the groups offered detailed specifics on how they would pare down costs. Single payer advocate Kevin Zeese criticized the plan. He said “The voluntary plan is a promise that can’t be enforced, and they’re talking about a 20 percent decrease in the expansion. That still means projected increases of nearly $2 trillion over the next ten years.” Zeece was arrested last week at a Senate Finance Committee hearing while protesting the committee’s exclusion of any advocates for single payer or Medicare-for-all. The Senate Finance Committee will hold another hearing on healthcare reform today. Committee chair Max Baucus has not invited any single-payer advocates to testify.

Federal Deficit to Reach Record $1.8 Trillion

The Congressional Budget Office is estimating the federal deficit will reach a record $1.8 trillion this year. This means the government will have to borrow nearly 50 cents for every dollar it spends.

Goldman Sachs Pays $60 Million to Settle Predatory Lending Case

In other economic news, Goldman Sachs has agreed to a $60 million settlement to resolve claims by a Massachusetts regulator that it participated in predatory lending practices involving subprime mortgages.

Pope Visits Sacred Jewish and Muslim Sites In Jerusalem

On his second day of his Holy Land Tour, Pope Benedict XVI called for Israelis and Palestinians to engage in a “a sincere dialogue aimed at building a world of justice and peace.” The Pope made the comment as he was visiting the most contentious site in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the Dome of the Rock, where Muslims believe the Prophet Muhammad ascended to heaven, and the adjacent Western Wall, the last remnant of the ancient Jewish Temple in Jerusalem.

On Monday a senior Palestinian Muslim cleric fiercely denounced Israeli policies in Jerusalem in the presence of Pope Benedict and appealed to the pope to help end what he called the “crimes” of Israel. Sheikh Taysir al-Tamimi, the chief judge of the Muslim religious courts in the Palestinian territories, spoke at a meeting between the pope and Christian, Muslim and Jewish clergy.

Sheikh Taysir al-Tamimi: “Your holiness the pope, I call on you in the name of the one God, to condemn these crimes and exert pressure on the Israeli government so it can stop it’s aggression against the Palestinian people and release thousands of prisoners from the occupation cells, and demolish the racist separation wall, remove the settlements and return the confiscated land to its owners, and to stop the demolition of houses in Jerusalem, and the eviction of it’s people in order to form a just peace which would return the rights to it’s people.”

Anniversary of Immigration Raids Marked in Postville, Iowa

And one year ago today federal immigration agents raided a Kosher slaughterhouse in Postville Iowa, arresting nearly 400 immigrant workers in what at the time was the largest immigration raid in U.S. history. The raid devastated the town of Postville. The slaughterhouse owned by Agriprocessors has since closed down taking with it hundreds of jobs. The number of vacant rental homes in Postville has soared. Half of the town’s population has left. The town’s mayor resigned earlier this year. Nearly all of the male workers arrested last year were deported. Many of the female workers have been allowed to stay to care for their children but are unable to legally work.

Amendment to Call for Afghanistan “Exit Strategy”


In recent months, has joined the growing chorus of bloggers opposing the United States continued occupation of Afghanistan. We’ve blogged on the issue and worked to educate people about the realities of the war including its cost</a, the rising death toll, and the opposition of Afghan civilians to the war.

There are numerous reasons to call for an end to the war, but unfortunately we haven’t been able to encourage people to take much as far as specific action to press for an end to the war. Aside from advocating hearings on the war, there have been few calls made. Locally, there hasn’t been much organizing against the Afghanistan War since 2002.

However, we were please to learn today that Congressman Jim McGovern–a Democrat from Massachusetts–has proposed an amendment to the Supplemental Appropriation for Iraq and Afghanistan that would call for “an exit” from Afghanistan. According to McGovern’s as of yet unintroduced amendment would require the Obama administration to develop an “exit strategy” for the war and report it to Congress by the end of the year. In the past Obama has said that he supports an “exit strategy,” but has not proposed one–this amendment would do that.

The anti-war group Peace Action West has prepared a letter encouraging Congress members to support co-sponsor the amendment. Please send it immediately, as this is one of the more concrete actions we can take.

There is precedence for this–the Appropriations Committee in the House of Representatives voted in an amendment to the supplemental spending request that restricts the conduct of the Iraq War. It says that Congress supports Obama’s policy to withdrawal all combat troops by August 2010 and all remaining troops by the end of 2011. It also orders the Pentagon to provide monthly reports on how the troops, contractors, and equipment are being removed from Iraq.

While support for the Afghanistan War is higher than the Iraq War, it’s dropping. Now is a good time to be advocating for this and it offers a simple and effective way to advocate for an end to the war.

120 Civilians Killed by U.S. Air Strikes in Afghanistan

Afghanistan Air Strikes

Reports from the Afghan government and the International Committee of the Red Cross are confirming earlier reports that 120 civilians were killed in air strikes on villages in Afghanistan’s Farah province on May 4. According to the Red Cross, the dead included women and children.

The United States has “apologized” for the loss of life–through Secretary of State Hillary Clinton–who appeared with Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai in Washington. Clinton said that the United States will work with the governments of Afghanistan and Pakistan “to avoid the loss of innocent life and we deeply, deeply regret that loss.” Hamid Karzai says he plans to raise the issue when he meets with President Barack Obama.

The United States and Afghanistan are promising to investigate the incident.

However, the U.S. military is already suggesting that it may not have been air strikes that killed the civilians. General David McKiernan expressed doubts Wednesday saying that the deaths may have been the work of Taliban forces. Other military officials have indicated that they “will do everything in our power to remunerate the losses and provide assistance to the families if there is evidence of civilian casualties.”

If the death toll is confirmed, it would be one of the highest since the United States’ 2001 invasion. Deaths from air strikes have been partially responsible for a dramatic increase in civilian deaths in recent years. These deaths have contributed to growing friction between Afghan civilians and the United States’ troops occupying the country.

Headlines: Dozens of Afghan Civilians Killed in U.S. Bombings; Doctors, Activists Confront Senate Panel for Ignoring Single-Payer Health Care

Democracy Now Headlines: Dozens of Afghan Civilians Killed in U.S. Bombings; Doctors, Activists Confront Senate Panel for Ignoring Single-Payer Health Care

Headlines from, 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 of Afghan Civilians Killed in U.S. Bombings

Dozens of civilians were killed Tuesday in a U.S. bombing in Afghanistan. Witnesses say U.S. warplanes bombed scores of homes during clashes with Taliban fighters in the Western province of Farah. Villagers reportedly brought truckloads of bodies to their provincial governor’s office. The Red Cross says dozens of civilians were killed, including many women and children. Estimates of the dead range from thirty to as many as one-hundred-and fifty. The attack comes as Afghan President Hamid Karzai is in Washington for his first White House meeting sine President Obama took office. On Tuesday, Karzai said U.S.-Afghan relations are strong despite tensions over the bombing of Afghan civilians.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai: “We’ve had ups and downs, especially in the past year and a half in our relations with America. There were difficult moments over civilian casualties, there were tense moments over aid distribution and corruption and all that. But ladies and gentlemen, through this forum, I would like to inform the American people that the fundamentals of this relationship are very, very strong.”

Karzai says he’ll discuss the latest mass-killing of Afghan civilians when he meets Obama later today. The Obama administration has increasingly criticized Karzai since he began vocally condemning U.S. airstrikes and calling for a timetable for the withdrawal of all foreign troops.

Justice Dept. Torture Memo Probe Rules Out Prosecution

Prospects are dimming for the prosecution of Bush administration lawyers who authorized the torture of foreign prisoners. In a draft report, Justice Department investigators say the lawyers–John Yoo, Jay Bybee and Steven Bradbury–shouldn’t face criminal charges for authoring memos that backed a range of abuses including waterboarding and physical assault. The report however does say they showed serious lapses in judgment, and recommends referring Yoo and Bybee to their state bar associations for possible disciplinary action, including disbarment. Bybee is an appeals court judge while Yoo is a professor at the University of California-Berkeley.

Report: Torture Backers Lobby to Sway Investigation

The leaked details of the Justice Department probe come amidst reports Yoo and Bybee have launched an aggressive behind-the-scenes effort to water it down. According to the Washington Post, Yoo and Bybee have encouraged former Bush administration colleagues to warn current Justice Department officials against recommending criminal prosecution.

U.S.: Bank of America Needs $34B

In financial news, a government assessment of the nation’s top banks has found Bank of America needs an additional $34 billion in capital. The amount is triple previous estimates of what the government’s ‘stress test’ was expected to recommend. The finding could result in U.S. taxpayers becoming Bank of America’s largest shareholder. Bank of America could raise the needed capital by taking the government’s existing $45 billion in non-voting preferred shares under the Wall Street bailout and converting it into common stock. Government officials are also expected to instruct the bailed out financial giant Citigroup to raise an additional $5 to $10 billion in capital. The full stress test results will be announced on Thursday.

AIG Bonuses Higher Than Previously Disclosed

The bailed-out insurance giant AIG has revealed its controversial bonus payouts were higher than previously disclosed. New figures show AIG paid out more than $454 million in bonuses last year–nearly four times the amount it reported in March.

Doctors, Activists Confront Senate Panel for Ignoring Single-Payer Health Care

On Capital Hill, a group of doctors and activists directly challenged Democratic Senators Tuesday for their refusal to discuss single-payer health care. The action came at a Senate Finance Committee meeting on health care reform. None of the fifteen witnesses called to testify support single-payer, and the committee chair’s, Senator Max Baucus of Montana, has dismissed single-payer as “off the table.” One by one, eight single-payer advocates stood up to challenge Baucus and call for single-payer.

All eight single-payer advocates were arrested. The action was organized by the groups Single Payer Action and Health Care Now!

Biden Criticizes Israeli Settlements, Checkpoints at AIPAC Meeting

The Obama administration has offered some rare public criticism of Israeli government policies. Speaking at the annual American Israel Public Affairs Committee policy conference in Washington, Vice President Joe Biden said Israel should freeze settlement activity.

Vice President Joe Biden: “Israel has to work toward a two-state solution. You’re not going to like my saying this but: not build more settlements, dismantle existing outposts, and allow the Palestinians freedom of movement based on their first actions, access to economic opportunity and increased security responsibility. This is a show-me deal. Not based on faith. Show me!”

Although the Obama administration has called for freezing the expansion of exisiting Israeli settlements, it’s yet to call for their dismantlement and Israel’s withdrawal to its 1967 borders.

Hamas Leader Renews Acceptance of Palestinian State in ’67 Borders, Says Rocket Attacks Ceased

As Biden chided Israel, Hamas’ political leader renewed his acceptance of a Palestinian state within the Occupied Territories. In an interview with the New York Times, Khaled Meshal said: “We are with a state on the 1967 borders, based on a long-term truce. This includes East Jerusalem, the dismantling of settlements and the right of return of the Palestinian refugees.” Meshal also said Hamas fighters in Gaza have completely ceased firing rockets at nearby Israeli towns.

UN Asks Israel for Reparations in Gaza Attacks

A United Nations investigation has found the Israeli military was “negligent or reckless” toward UN facilities, personnel and other civilians during its three-week attack on the Gaza Strip ending in January. Israel attacked at least eight UN sites during its assault on Gaza, including a school where up to forty civilians were killed and a warehouse storing desperately-needed supplies. The report found Israel intentionally fired on a UN-run elementary school, killing three youths seeking refuge inside. The UN says it’s asked the Israeli government to formally acknowledge its claims of Palestinian militants firing from the sites were untrue. The report also calls on Israel to compensate the families of the UN workers killed or injured in the attacks. But in what critics are calling a major capitulation, UN Secretary General Ban ki-Moon has explicitly rejected the report’s call for a further investigation into whether Israel violated international law. In a cover letter attached to the report, Ban praises Israel for its alleged cooperation in the probe and says: “I do not plan any further enquiries.” Ban was questioned about his stance at a news conference on Tuesday.

UN Secretary General Ban ki-Moon: “I have no authority to edit or change or alter any recommendation and conclusions of this board of inquiry’s judgement. However, because it contains some very sensitive information, then I decided to summarize, respecting the integrity of these reported conclusions.”

40,000 Flee Swat as Pakistani Leaders Arrive in U.S.

In Pakistan, more than 40,000 people have reportedly fled the Swat Valley following clashes between Pakistani and Taliban forces. Both sides are blaming the other for the breakdown of a truce in the region. Despite the fighting, Pakistani officials say they’ve rescinded an evacuation order because they don’t plan to launch a new military offensive. Pakistani troops have been battling Taliban fighters in two districts bordering Swat. The unrest comes as Pakistani leaders are in Washington for meetings at the White House. Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari is set to meet President Obama later today. Testifying before Congress, Obama’s special envoy on Pakistan and Afghanistan, Richard Holbrooke, said the U.S. is fully backing Zardari.

Special Envoy Richard Holbrooke: “Pakistan as such is of immense importance to the United States strategically–that our goal must be unambiguously to support and help stabilize a democratic Pakistan, headed by its elected President Asif Ali Zardari. We do not think Pakistan is a failed state. We think it is a state under extreme test from the enemies who are also our enemies and we have, Mr. Chairman, the same common enemy.”

Iran Reviews Saberi Conviction After Family Drops Attorneys

In Iran, government officials have apparently forced the jailed Iranian American reporter Roxana Saberi to drop a group of prominent lawyers including the Nobel Laureate Shirin Ebadi. Saberi was sentenced last month to eight years in prison after being convicted of spying for the United States. Her father says she’s ended a two-week hunger strike protesting her imprisonment. On Tuesday, the Iranian judiciary said it would review Saberi’s conviction shortly after her family announced it won’t retain Ebadi and the other attorneys.

Mexican Journalist Killed After Warning of Threats

In Mexico, a journalist who warned of threats on his life by government officials has been shot to death. Fifty-two-year old Carlos Ortega Samper was killed one day after his warnings were published. He was shot three times by unidentified assailants in the

northern state of Durango.

Obama Proposes $63B for Global Health

President Obama has unveiled a $63 billion dollar proposal for new global health spending over the next six years. Obama says he’ll expand on U.S. funding for AIDS programs to also focus on tropical diseases and other treatable and preventable illnesses.

Several AIDS advocacy groups are criticizing the proposal, saying Obama has backtracked on a pledge to increase AIDS funding by $1 billion a year.

Supreme Court Ruling Prompts Calls for Dropping Postville Charges

The national bar association for immigration lawyers is calling on the Justice Department to drop charges against undocumented workers swept up in a raid on an Iowa meatpacking plant last year. Nearly 400 workers were detained at the Agriprocessors plant in Postville, Iowa, making it one of the largest raids in U.S. history. On Tuesday, the American Immigration Lawyers Association said the charges should be dropped following this week’s Supreme Court ruling on identify theft. On Monday, the court ruled prosecutors must prove an undocumented worker knew false identity papers belonged to another real person.

Maine, D.C. Near Gay Marriage Approval

Maine has moved a step closer to legalizing same-sex marriage. On Tuesday, the Maine House voted 89 to 57 to allow gay marriage in the state, following a similar vote by the state Senate last week. Both chambers will each hold one more vote on the bill before sending it to Democratic Governor John Baldacci. Baldacci has previously opposed gay marriage but isn’t expected to issue a veto. Meanwhile, in Washington, D.C., the city council has again voted to recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states following a similar vote last month. D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty is expected to sign the measure, setting up a likely showdown with Congress, which approves D.C.’s laws under Home Rule.

Pentagon Withdraws Exoneration of Iraq War Propaganda Program

The Pentagon’s Inspector General’s office has withdrawn a report that exonerated military leaders for a propaganda program ahead of the Iraq war. Beginning in 2002, the Pentagon recruited more than seventy-five retired military officers to appear on TV outlets as so-called military analysts to portray Iraq as an urgent threat. In January, the Pentagon’s inspector general dismissed allegations the program violated laws barring propaganda and rejected reports showing the analysts used their Pentagon access to win government contracts for defense companies. On Tuesday, the Pentagon admitted the report was flawed and even removed it from its website.

Globe, Union Reach Deal

And the Boston Globe has reached an tentative agreement with its largest union amidst threats of the newspaper’s closure. The New York Times Company had threatened to close the Globe within sixty days if workers did not agree to a series of major financial and contract concessions. The Newspaper Guild says the deal will ensure the Globe’s continued publication. Meanwhile on Capital Hill, Senator John Kerry is set to hold a hearing today on the future of newspapers.

Headlines: Afghanistan Now Military’s ‘Main Effort’; KBR Linked to Vast Majority of Fraud Cases

Democracy Now Headlines: Afghanistan Now Military's 'Main Effort'; KBR Linked to Vast Majority of Fraud Cases

Headlines from, 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 Proposes to Close Corporate Tax Loopholes

President Obama vowed Monday to overhaul tax policies that he said reward companies for shifting US jobs overseas and that allow wealthy people to evade taxes using offshore accounts. Obama said the White House plan would save taxpayers $210 billion over the next decade.

President Obama: “And that’s why today, I’m announcing a set of proposals to crack down on illegal overseas tax evasion, close loopholes, and make it more profitable for companies to create jobs here in the United States. For years, we’ve talked about ending tax breaks for companies that ship jobs overseas and giving tax breaks to companies that create jobs here in America.”

House Democrats Reject Funding to Close Guantanamo

On Capitol Hill, House Democrats have rejected a request from President Obama for $80 million to close the US prison camp at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. House Democrats removed the funding request from a $94 billion emergency spending bill to cover the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. House Appropriations Chair David Obey said the funding wasn’t included because Obama has not yet outlined a concrete plan to close Guantanamo.

Taliban Seizes Main Town in Swat Valley; Civilians Urged to Flee

In news from Pakistan, The Guardian reports the Taliban has seized control of Mingora, a main town in the Swat Valley, signaling the death knell for a fragile peace deal with the provincial government. Pakistani authorities are urging civilians to leave the region in a sign that a military attack on the Taliban in the Swat Valley may be imminent. For the last two weeks, Pakistani troops have been battling Taliban fighters in Buner and Lower Dir, two districts bordering Swat.

Kerry Pushes for Tripling US Aid to Pakistan

In Washington, Senator John Kerry, chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has introduced legislation for tripling US civilian aid to Pakistan to $7.5 billion over the next five years.

Mullen: Afghanistan Is Now Military’s “Main Effort”

On Monday, Admiral Mike Mullen, chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, officially designated the war in Afghanistan as the military’s main effort, while acknowledging the fighting isn’t over in Iraq. Mullen said, “The main effort in our strategic focus from a military perspective must now shift to Afghanistan.” But President Obama’s plan to escalate the war in Afghanistan is continuing to come under criticism from within parts of his own party. In an interview with the American News Project, former senator and presidential candidate George McGovern said he is worried Afghanistan will become President Obama’s Vietnam.

Sen. George McGovern: “I have a very deep concern about President Obama putting in another 21,000 troops into Afghanistan and with the promise of more to come. I think if we continue to send troops in there, it could be the Vietnam of this present administration.”

Karzai Assailed for Picking Ex-Warlord to be Running Mate

In other news from Afghanistan, human rights organizations are expressing alarm over Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s decision to pick former warlord Mohammad Qasim Fahim to be his running mate. Brad Adams of Human Rights Watch said, “To see Fahim back in the heart of government would be a terrible step backwards for Afghanistan. He is one of the most notorious warlords in the country, with the blood of many Afghans on his hands from the civil war.” Fahim is still believed to be involved in many illegal activities, including running armed militias, as well as giving cover to criminal gangs and drug traffickers.

Pentagon Denies Troops Are Trying to Convert Afghans to Christianity

The US military is denying it has allowed soldiers to try to convert Afghans to Christianity, following a report on Al Jazeera that showed pictures of soldiers with Bibles translated into Pashto and Dari. The military claimed the Bibles were never distributed to Afghans. Al Jazeera also aired footage of Lieutenant-Colonel Gary Hensley, the chief of the US military chaplains in Afghanistan, calling on soldiers to hunt people for Jesus.

Lieutenant-Colonel Gary Hensley: “The special forces guys, they hunt men, basically. We do the same things as Christians: we hunt people for Jesus. We do. We hunt them down, get the hound of heaven after them, so we get them into kingdom. Right? That’s what we do. That’s our business.”

The Pentagon criticized Al Jazeera’s report. Military spokesperson Colonel Greg Julian said, “Most of this is taken out of context…This is irresponsible and inappropriate journalism.”

All-White Jury Acquits Teens in Murder of Mexican Immigrant

The Justice Department is investigating whether to prosecute two white Pennsylvania teenagers on civil rights statutes for their role in the fatal beating of Luis Ramirez, a Mexican immigrant in the town of Shenandoah. On Friday, an all-white jury exonerated the two teenagers of the most serious charges in connection with the fatal beating. The Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund condemned the jury’s finding. Witnesses said six teenagers brutally beat Luis Ramirez last year while yelling racial slurs. When a friend of Ramirez tried to stop the beating, one of the teenagers said, “Tell your Mexican friends to get out of town, or you’ll be laying next to him.”

Sen. Sessions Becomes Top Republican on Judiciary Committee

In news from Capitol Hill, Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama has been named the ranking Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, replacing Arlen Specter, who switched to the Democratic Party last week. Sessions will play a key role in the upcoming confirmation hearings for President Obama’s eventual nominee for the Supreme Court. Sessions is a staunch conservative who once described the NAACP and American Civil Liberties Union as “un-American” and “Communist-inspired” because they “forced civil rights down the throats of people.”

Report: Stress Tests Show 10 Banks Need More Capital

The Wall Street Journal reports the Obama administration is expected to direct about ten of the nineteen banks undergoing government stress tests to boost their capital. The exact number of banks affected remains under discussion. It could include Wells Fargo, Bank of America, Citigroup and several regional banks.

Supreme Court Limits Identity Theft Law

The Supreme Court has ruled undocumented workers using false papers cannot be charged with aggravated identity theft unless they knew their fake IDs belonged to a real person. The Bush administration frequently charged undocumented immigrants with felony identity theft, which carries a two-year sentence. Prosecutors had used the threat of a felony to persuade undocumented workers to plead guilty to lesser charges of document fraud.

Louisiana State Board Sued for Not Probing Psychologist Tied to Torture

A Louisiana state board has been sued for failing to investigate possible professional and ethical violations committed by Larry James, who served as the chief psychologist at Guantanamo Bay and Abu Ghraib. The lawsuit alleges that James, a retired Army colonel, helped design and implement the Bush administration’s harsh interrogation programs. Larry James is a licensed psychologist in Louisiana. He is now the dean of Wright State University’s School of Professional Psychology in Dayton, Ohio. The lawsuit against the Louisiana State Board of Examiners of Psychologists was filed by an Ohio-based psychologist named Trudy Bond.

Pentagon Auditor: KBR Linked to Vast Majority of Fraud Cases

The Pentagon’s top auditor said the military contractor KBR constituted the “vast majority” of thirty-two cases of suspected combat-zone fraud referred by government auditors for criminal investigation. KBR is a former subsidiary of Halliburton and is the Army’s largest contractor in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Rep. Murtha’s Nephew Received $4 Million in No-Bid Pentagon Contracts

Meanwhile, questions are being raised about no-bid Pentagon contracts given to a nephew of Democrat John Murtha, the chair of the House Appropriations Defense Subcommittee. The Washington Post reports Robert Murtha received $4 million in Pentagon contracts last year, all without competitive bidding.

Report: 2.4 Million Workers Lose Employer-Provided Health Insurance

The Center for American Progress is estimating 2.4 million workers have lost the health coverage their jobs provided since the start of the recession. More than 320,000 Americans lost their employer-provided health insurance in March alone, which amounts to over 10,000 workers a day.

CODEPINK Disrupts AIPAC Conference

Members of the peace group CODEPINK disrupted Israeli President Shimon Peres’s speech Monday at the annual American Israel Public Affairs Committee policy conference in Washington. Members of the group raised banners “Want Peace? End the Occupation,” “What About Gaza?” and “No Money for War Crimes.”

NYT Postpones Threat to Close Boston Globe

In media news, the New York Times Company has postponed its threat to start the process of closing the Boston Globe after wringing major concessions from all but one of the Globe’s labor unions.

US Blocks Cuban Musician from Playing at Pete Seeger Concert

And the prominent Cuban musician Silvio Rodriguez has criticized the Obama administration after the State Department blocked his entry into the United States to perform at Sunday’s ninetieth birthday celebration for Pete Seeger. Rodriguez said, “As a worker for Cuban culture, I still feel as blockaded and discriminated against as I do by other administrations…and I truly hope that changes someday.”

Headlines: U.S. Soldiers Accused of Proselytizing in Afghanistan; Vice President Biden to Headline AIPAC Conference

Democracy Now Headlines: U.S. Soldiers Accused of Proselytizing in Afghanistan; Vice President Biden to Headline AIPAC Conference

Headlines from, 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.

NYT: US Concerned over Safety of Pakistani Nukes

The New York Times reports senior US officials are increasingly concerned about new vulnerabilities for Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal, including the potential for militants to snatch a weapon in transport. Concerns have intensified in the last two weeks since the Taliban entered Buner, a district sixty miles from the capital, Islamabad. The US is currently spending $100 million a year on a secret program to help Pakistan build stronger physical protections around their nuclear weapons facilities, but the Times reports the US does not even know the location of all of Pakistan’s nuclear sites. Meanwhile, The Guardian reports Pakistan is continuing to expand its nuclear bomb-making facilities. Commercial satellite photos show two plutonium-producing reactors are nearing completion at Khushab, about 160 miles southwest of Islamabad. Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari is scheduled to visit President Obama in Washington on Wednesday.

Obama Seeks Sharp and Independent Mind to Replace Souter

Supreme Court Justice David Souter officially told President Barack Obama Friday that he plans to resign, giving Obama his first chance to make an appointment to the nation’s highest court. Obama said he will seek somebody with a sharp and independent mind.

President Obama: “I will seek somebody who is dedicated to the rule of law, who honors our constitutional traditions, who respects the integrity of the judicial process and the appropriate limits of the judicial role. I will seek somebody who shares my respect for constitutional values on which this nation was founded and who brings a thoughtful understanding of how to apply them in our time.”

The media has been busy speculating about Souter’s possible replacement. Names mentioned include Solicitor General Elena Kagan, Stanford professor Kathleen Sullivan, appellate judge Diane Wood, Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick, and New York Federal Appeals Court justice Sonia Sotomayor, who would be the first Hispanic Supreme Court justice.

Obama May Revive Bush Administration’s Military Commission System

The New York Times is reporting President Obama is moving toward reviving the Bush administration’s military commission system for prosecuting prisoners at Guantanamo. On the campaign trail, Obama criticized the military commissions system, saying, “by any measure, our system of trying detainees has been an enormous failure.” But Obama administration lawyers are now reportedly concerned that they would face significant obstacles to trying some Guantanamo prisoners in federal courts. The American Civil Liberties Union said continuing with the military commission system would be a retreat from Obama’s promise to return the country to the rule of law.

Sri Lankan Army Shells Hospital, 64 Killed

In Sri Lanka, at least sixty-four people died Saturday after the Sri Lankan army shelled a makeshift hospital inside a civilian safe zone. Sri Lanka has rejected calls for a ceasefire as it attempts to eliminate the Tamil Tigers. Tens of thousands of civilians remain trapped in the conflict zone. Another 200,000 civilians are living in displacement camps.

US Soldiers Accused of Proselytizing in Afghanistan

Al Jazeera has revealed US soldiers are being encouraged to spread the message of their Christian faith among Afghanistan’s predominantly Muslim population. Soldiers have been filmed with Bibles printed in Afghanistan’s main Pashto and Dari languages. In one recorded sermon, Lieutenant-Colonel Gary Hensley, the chief of the US military chaplains in Afghanistan, is seen telling soldiers that as followers of Jesus Christ, they all have a responsibility “to be witnesses for him.”

Lieutenant-Colonel Gary Hensley: “The special forces guys, they hunt men, basically. We do the same things as Christians: we hunt people for Jesus. We do. We hunt them down, get the hound of heaven after them, so we get them into kingdom. Right? That’s what we do. That’s our business.”

The Pentagon has not yet responded to Al Jazeera’s report. Regulations by the US military’s Central Command expressly forbid “proselytizing of any religion, faith or practice.”

NATO Troops Kill 12-Year-Old Afghan Girl

In other news from Afghanistan, NATO-led troops opened fire on a civilian car Sunday killing a twelve-year-old Afghan girl. The girl and her family were driving to a wedding. Two other members of her family were injured. Meanwhile, at least twenty-five people died in Afghanistan today in a series of bomb attacks.

Justice Dept. Drops AIPAC Espionage Case

The Justice Department has dropped espionage charges against two former employees of AIPAC, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. The men, Steven Rosen and Keith Weissman, were charged with obtaining classified information and passing it to the Israeli government. The charges were dropped, even though a former Pentagon analyst, Lawrence Franklin, had already pleaded guilty to disclosing classified information to AIPAC. Franklin is currently serving more than twelve years in prison.

Vice President Biden to Headline AIPAC Conference

Despite the espionage charges, AIPAC remains one of the most well-connected lobbying groups on Capitol Hill. AIPAC’s annual conference began yesterday in Washington. Speakers at the event include Vice President Joe Biden, John Kerry, the chair of the Senator Foreign Relations Committee and most of the House and Senate leadership. California Congresswoman Jane Harman is also participating in AIPAC’s conference. Congressional Quarterly recently reported Harman was overheard on an NSA wiretap in 2005 telling a suspected Israeli agent she would lobby the Justice Department to reduce espionage charges against two AIPAC officials. In exchange for Harman’s help, the suspected Israeli agent reportedly pledged to help lobby Nancy Pelosi to appoint Harman chair of the House Intelligence Committee after the 2006 congressional elections.

Mexican Officials: Worse of Flu Epidemic May Be Over

Health officials in Mexico said Sunday the worst of the swine flu epidemic may be over. Many experts say the new H1N1 virus might be no more severe than the normal flu. The number of infections in Mexico has been decreasing since April 24. Here in the United States, cases of swine flu are now confirmed in more than half of US states. But officials said most cases were mild.

Nepalese Prime Minister Prachanda Resigns

Nepal’s Prime Minister Prachanda resigned earlier today after a crisis sparked by his sacking of the country’s army chief. Prachanda is the leader of the Maoist movement in Nepal. His resignation is seen as a possible blow to a 2006 peace pact that ended a decade-long civil war that pitted the army against the Maoists.

Jimmy Carter: Bush’s Latin American Policy Was a “Disaster”

Former President Jimmy Carter met with Bolivian President Evo Morales in La Paz Friday and praised Bolivia’s new constitution.

Jimmy Carter: “Into a democracy of freedom, more equality for previously deprived people is a very good trend. Now, of course, in a new constitution, there’s a guarantee of a certain level of indigenous participation, not quite as much as they wanted, but a very good step in the right direction.”

Jimmy Carter also expressed support for President Barack Obama’s recent moves to ease travel and financial restrictions on Cuban Americans.

Jimmy Carter: “The policies of President Bush in the last eight years was a disaster for Latin America, and he tightened up the restraints on any accommodations with the Cuban people in an unnecessary way. I don’t think there’s any doubt that Obama has made clear moves, that if his ideas are reciprocated by Raul Castro and Fidel Castro, they will have a new relationship with Cuba. I’ve always felt that the economic embargo should have been abolished.”

Martinelli Wins Election in Panama

In other news from Latin America, the right-wing supermarket chain owner Ricardo Martinelli has been elected president of Panama.

11 Arrested at Port of Tacoma Protest

In Tacoma, Washington, eleven antiwar protesters were arrested Saturday when they blocked a convoy of Stryker vehicles bound for the Port of Tacoma. The Port Militarization Resistance project said more protests are scheduled this week.

Seven Arrested for Protesting Military Recruiter’s Use of Video Games

Seven people were arrested at a mall in Philadelphia Saturday protesting the military’s use of video games for recruitment purposes. The demonstration targeted the Army Experience Center, a 14,000-square-foot facility at a Philadelphia mall, where teenagers as young as thirteen can play video games made by the Pentagon.

Fourth Grader Questions Rice on Torture

Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has been questioned again over her support of the Bush administration’s interrogation techniques and use of waterboarding–this time by a fourth grader. During an event at the Jewish Primary Day School in Washington, Misha Lerner asked Rice what she thought about the things President Obama’s administration was saying about the methods the Bush administration had used to get information from prisoners. Rice answered by repeatedly defending President Bush, saying he only authorized policies that were legal in order to protect the country. Misha’s mother, Inna Lerner, said the question her son had wanted to ask Rice was “If you would work for Obama’s administration, would you push for torture?” But Misha’s teachers wanted him to soften it and take out the word “torture.”

NYT Threatens to Close Boston Globe in 60 Days

In media news, the New York Times Company threatened last night to notify federal authorities of its plans to shut down the Boston Globe in sixty days if the unions representing workers at the Globe did not agree to a series of major financial and contract concessions. The Times issued the ultimatum at 10:00 p.m., but negotiations kept taking place past the midnight deadline.

World Press Freedom Day Marked

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon marked World Press Freedom Day Sunday by saying the number of attacks on journalists around the world remains “shockingly high.” At least eleven media workers have been killed so far this year, including the prominent Sri Lankan journalist Lasantha Wickrematunge.

Thousands March in May Day Protests

Immigrant rights activists and workers held rallies across the country Friday to mark May Day. In Los Angeles, six separate immigration marches took place. Juan Jose Gutierrez helped organize one of the marches.

Juan Jose Gutierrez: “There has never been better conditions than now. We need to send a strong message to our president: we supported him, and now we are waiting for him to keep his promise of an immigration reform this year.”

John Edwards Faces Federal Investigation

In political news, federal investigators have launched a probe of former presidential candidate John Edwards to determine if he misused any campaign money in an attempt to cover up an extramarital affair.

Filipino Poet Al Robles Dies

The Filipino poet and community activist Al Robles died in San Francisco on Saturday. In 1996 the poet Russell Leong said of Robles, “Perhaps no one has listened as closely to the voices of the Filipino American community during the last thirty years.”

Augusto Boal, Founder of the Theater of the Oppressed, Dies

And one of Latin America’s most famed dissident artists, Brazilian playwright Augusto Boal, has died at the age of seventy-eight. Boal was the developer of the Theater of the Oppressed. In 1971 the Brazilian military dictatorship imprisoned him for four months. After his release, he was forced into exile for fifteen years. Augusto Boal joined us in the firehouse studio in 2007.

Augusto Boal: “And I only have one dream. It’s to dream all my life. That’s my only dream. I would like to go on dreaming. And if I can dream of things, well, I dream of solidarity among men and women, black and white, solidarity among countries, and solidarity to create ethics. What we think sometimes, we don’t think that there is a difference between moral and ethics. Moral is mores. It’s customs. And it was moral in this country, my country–slavery. It was moral. It was moral to buy a human being. So I’m not moralist, because I know that in moral there are horrible things. But I am ethical. We need to create an ethos. In Greek, it means the tendency to some kind of perfection. And my kind of profession is solidarity, is dialogue, is democracy–real democracy, not one that we see? That’s my–I want to–not to accomplish, because to accomplish–not to accomplish, to go on. To go on. There is a poet, a Spanish poet, Antonio Machado, who says, ‘The path does not exist. The path you make by treading on it. By walking, you make the path.’ So we don’t know where the path leads, but we know the direction of the path that we want to take. That’s what I want, and not to accomplish, but to follow.”