Call Ehlers to Oppose Legislation that will make it Easier to Build a New Coal Power Plant in Holland

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I’ve never been a big fan of MoveOn–they are generally way too close to the Democratic Party and are largely unwilling to challenge U.S. imperialism–but they did send out a nice action alert to the people on their West Michigan mailing list asking them to call Representative Vern Ehlers about a measure in Congress that would repeal sections of the Clean Air Act and make it easier to remove roadblocks to the plant.

In the past, MediaMouse.org has highlighted local opposition to the plant and highlighted how the technology being promoted for it is unproven. Aside from being a good way to help stop the coal rush in Michigan, it’s also a good test to see how Ehlers–who has the reputation of being an environmentalist–responds.

Please take the time to call Representative Ehlers today:

For years, Holland Board of Public Works has been trying to build a dirty, coal-fired power plant in Holland, not far from you. If built, the James DeYoung Power Plant would spew out smog and soot pollution, and you’d be in the high-risk zone for health effects. (1)

Until now, local activists with groups like the Sierra Club have been able to stop this and other plants. Relying on the Clean Air Act and other protections, activists have heroically battled Holland Board of Public Works to keep this giant new polluter out of Holland. (2)

But now, coal industry lobbyists have forced a terrible provision into the new energy bill–it would repeal crucial sections of the Clean Air Act and remove some key remaining roadblocks to Holland Board of Public Works’s plant. (3)

Congress is voting next week. Can you call Rep. Ehlers right away?

You can say something like this: “I don’t want a new dirty coal plant in Holland. Please oppose the repeal of the Clean Air Act provisions in the energy bill.”

Representative Vernon Ehlers

Phone: 202-225-3831

Grand Rapids District Office: 616-451-8383

Then, please report your call by clicking here:

http://pol.moveon.org/call/index.html?cp_id=956&tg=FHMI_03&id=&t=14

What does this mean in your area? If the coal industry wins, local groups may be unable to stop the James DeYoung Power Plant in Holland. The Clean Air Act provision at stake here requires the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to set standards for global warming pollution for coal plants. Every local coal plant fight is different, but in general it’ll be much easier for coal companies and utilities to get funding to build new plants if there’s no chance the EPA will force those plants to cut their global warming pollution.

How did this happen? For years, George W. Bush refused to use the Clean Air Act to cut global warming pollution. But the Obama administration has taken the first steps toward changing that, so the coal industry is desperate to take away Obama’s authority to limit global warming pollution.

We got Congress’s attention in the last two weeks with a powerful grassroots drive to fix this and other problems in the energy bill. We made thousands of phone calls, wrote letters to local newspapers, and delivered petition signatures in person to hundreds of congressional offices. But we’re not there yet.

The clock is ticking down to the big vote next week, and we need to stop the repeal of this key provision in the Clean Air Act. Can you call Rep. Ehlers today?

Sources:

1. “Surry coal plant: Just say no,” The (Newport News) Daily Press, June 7, 2009 and “Estimating the Health Impacts of Coal-Fired Power Plants Receiving International Financing,” Environmental Defense Fund, 2009

2. “Stopping the Coal Rush,” Sierra Club and “Taking on King Coal,” Time, November 5, 2008

3. “EPA urged to act on climate, not wait for Congress,” Associated Press, May 18, 2009

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Headlines: New Mountaintop Removal Mining Rules Criticized as Ineffective; Contradicting Obama, Sen. Baucus Rules Out “Public” Health Care

Democracy Now Headlines: New Mountaintop Removal Rules Criticized as Ineffective; Contradicting Obama, Sen. Baucus Rules Out 'Public' Health Care

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.

Admin Rules Out U.S. Re-settlement for Gitmo Prisoners

The Obama administration says its scrapping plans to let foreign prisoners cleared for release from Guantanamo Bay live in the United States. The White House had already announced its opposition to admitting a group of seventeen Chinese Uyghur prisoners even though they were no longer designated ‘enemy combatants’ and ordered immediately freed. Administration officials cited Congressional opposition to the Uyghurs’ release in arguing they stood no chance in convincing lawmakers to accept other freed prisoners.

6 Gitmo Prisoners Freed

The news comes as four of the Uyghur prisoners have been released to Bermuda, where they will live as foreign guest workers. The U.S. is still in talks to send the remaining thirteen to the Pacific archipelago of Palau. Two other Guantanamo prisoners were also released Thursday and sent to their home countries of Iraq and Chad. The Chadian, Mohammed El Gharani, was the youngest Guantanamo Bay prisoner on record, having been arrested in Pakistan at the age of fourteen.

Dems Resolve Gitmo, Photo Differences in War Funding Bill

Congressional Democrats meanwhile have reached an agreement on a war funding bill that would authorize the transfer of Guantanamo prisoners to stand trial in the United States. The measure does not include language allowing indefinite detention as President Obama has inititally proposed. The White House also dropped a request for a provision imposing a Congressional ban on the release of photos showing the abuse of prisoners at U.S. jails in Iraq and Afghanistan. President Obama said he will continue to seek the photos’ censorship through an appeal to the Supreme Court.

Anti-War Lawmakers Urge Rejection of War Funding

The war funding bill includes more than $90 billion dollars for the occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan and is expected be voted on next week. In a letter to other House members who have previously opposed war funding, Congressmembers Lynn Woolsey of California and Dennis Kucinich of Ohio urged them to retain “steadfast opposition” to the new bill. Speaking on the House floor, Kucinich said the occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan is based on “aggression and lies.”

Rep. Dennis Kucinich: “A new administration and the same old war, with an expansion of the war in Afghanistan. We cannot afford these wars. We cannot afford these wars spiritually. They are wars of aggression and they are based on lies. We cannot afford these wars financially. They add trillions to our national debt and destroy our domestic agenda. We cannot afford the human cost of these wars, the loss of lives of our beloved troops and the deaths of innocent civilians in Iraq , Afghanistan , and Pakistan.”

Senate Backs Sweeping Tobacco Regulation

The Senate has approved a measure that would strengthen government regulation over the tobacco industry. On Thursday, Senators voted 79 to 17 to give the Food and Drug Administration new authority in overseeing the manufacture and marketing of tobacco. The FDA would be able to ban the most harmful of the thousands of chemicals used in cigarettes and reduce the amount of nicotine. Tobacco companies would also be forced to disclose the ingredients in their products. The House passed a similar measure last month. A longtime cigarette smoker himself, President Obama has vowed to sign the legislation into law.

Contradicting Obama, Sen. Baucus Rules Out “Public” Health Care

President Obama was in Green Bay, Wisconsin Thursday to promote his push for health care reform. Speaking at a town-hall style event, Obama rejected criticism of his calls for creating a government-run public insurance program that would compete with private insurers.

President Obama: “To those who criticize our efforts, I ask them, ‘What’s the alternative?’ What else do we say to all the families who spend more on health care than on housing or on food? What do we tell those businesses that are choosing between closing their doors and letting their workers go?”

Obama’s comments were aimed at critics who have opposed any type of public health plan. Private insurers have opposed a government-run program out of fear they’d be unable to compete with its cheaper costs. Obama did not however address his progressive critics who advocate the creation of a single-payer system that would eliminate for-profit insurance companies entirely. As Obama promoted his version of a public insurance program, a key Senate Democrat said he would oppose any form of public health care. Max Baucus, the Senate Finance Committee chair leading Congressional efforts on health care reform, said he would propose a plan based on creating member-based insurance cooperatives not run by the government. Bacus explicitly ruled out using the word “public”, saying: “It’s not going to be public, we won’t call it public, but it will be tough enough to keep insurance companies’ feet to the fire.”

Von Brunn Charged With Murder in Holocaust Museum Shooting

The white supremacist James von Brunn has been charged with murder for Wednesday’s shooting death of a security guard at the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, DC. The security guard, Stephen Johns, was thirty-nine years old. On Thursday, Johns’ mother, Jacqueline Carter, spoke of her son’s life.

Jacqueline Carter: “He’s just a beautiful person. He liked his job and he worked a lot. It would be just like him to try and protect people from harm.”

Von Brunn remains in critical condition from wounds sustained when other security guards returned fire. Meanwhile Thursday, the FBI acknowledged it had been “aware” of Von Brunn’s hateful writings about religious and ethnic minorities but that it never launched a criminal probe.

WHO Declares Swine Flu Pandemic

The World Health Organization has declared the outbreak of the swine flu a global pandemic. On Thursday, the WHO raised its pandemic alert level to six, its highest level. Health officials say the alert level means the swine flu has spread to two world regions and doesn’t signify a likely increase in deaths or serious cases.

General: Afghan Violence Worse Since 2001

The top U.S. military commander in the Middle East says violence in Afghanistan has reached its highest level since the U.S.-led invasion of 2001. General David Petraeus said the attacks hit a more than seven-year high last week. Addressing the public outrage in Afghanistan over scores of deadly U.S. attacks, Petraeus said*: “This is the graveyard of empires. . . . It is a place that has never taken kindly to would-be conquerors.”

Iran Holds Presidential Elections

In Iran, a record turnout is expected today for a presidential election between incumbent Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and three opposition candidates. Ahmadinejad is facing a stiff challenge from Mir Hossein Mousavi, an architect and artist who served as Prime Minister of Iran between 1981 and 1989.

Carter: Hamas Key to Future Peace Deal

Former President Jimmy Carter is renewing criticism of the U.S.-led boycott of the elected Hamas government in the Gaza Strip. Speaking on a visit to Syria, Carter said the U.S. and Israel should drop their refusal to deal with a Palestinian unity government that includes Hamas. Carter also called for a prisoner exchange that would see the return of the Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit in Gaza for some of the more than 10,000 Palestinians in Israeli jails.

Jimmy Carter: “I don’t believe there is any possibility to have peace between Palestinians and Israel unless Hamas is involved directly in harmony with Fatah. My hope is that we could see some agreement between Hamas and Israel with the release of Shalit and an equivalent, the release of prisoners that Israel is holding, Palestinians.”

Aid Groups to Return to Darfur

In Sudan, the Sudanese government has authorized several aid groups to return to Darfur. Sudan expelled the groups in March after the International Criminal Court charged President Omar Hassan al-Bashir with committing war crimes in Darfur. UN Emergency Relief Coordinator John Holmes said the groups have been readmitted on the condition they change their names and logos. Holmes also said the aid groups will return to humanitarian crisis that worsened during their absence.

UN Emergency Relief Coordinator John Holmes: “However effective the efforts of the government, United Nations, the remaining NGOs have been in preventing a further immediate crisis, they have not yet replaced and can not easily or rapidly replace the capacity and skills lost. Current levels of assistance in some areas remain well below the necessary standards to which we subscribe, and as we enter the hunger gap and rainy season, the needs and gaps will only be further exacerbated.”

Thousands of Peruvians Rally Against Indigenous Crackdown

In Peru, thousands of people took part in nationwide demonstrations Thursday to support an indigenous protest against oil and natural gas exploration in the Amazon rainforest. Police used tear gas on a crowd of at least 20,000 protesters near the national Congress in Lima. Tensions have flared after last week’s police killings of an estimated 30 civilians at an indigenous roadblock. On a visit to Cuba, Bolivian President Evo Morales voiced support for the indigenous protests.

Bolivian President Evo Morales: “It’s not possible that the most oppressed people in Latin America’s history be humiliated like we have seen in recent days in some regions. We hope these problems are a lesson in understanding the demands, the demands of defending life, the environment, the planet earth and humanity, as Fidel said.”

The unrest in Peru has ties to U.S. trade policy. The land laws that sparked the uprising were passed under “fast track” authority granted to Peruvian President Alan Garcia’s government to implement the US-Peru Free Trade Agreement.

Activists Protest Schumer for Backing Peru Trade Deal

On Thursday, three activists were released from jail following their arrest for blockading the New York offices of Democratic Senator Charles Schumer. The activists say they confronted Schumer for his refusal to address human rights concerns in voting for the U.S.-Peru trade deal in 2007.

New Mountaintop Removal Rules Criticized as Ineffective

Environmental groups and Appalachian activists are criticizing new Obama administration rules on mountaintop removal as too lax on the coal industry. On Thursday, the White House unveiled new regulations governing mountaintop removal, the controversial coal mining practice that has caused extensive environmental damage in the Appalachian region. The changes include ending fast-track approval for new mining permits, imposing more extensive environmental reviews, and asserting federal authority over state-level regulators. But critics say the rules offer few specifics and will have little effect if any. Joan Mulhern of Earthjustice said: “The administration is proposing… to essentially [rearrange] the bureaucratic deck chairs on the disastrous ship that is mountaintop removal. They announced… no substantive policies to actually stop the destruction [it’s] caused.’

Interior Report Criticizes Bush Sale of Utah Land

A new Department of Interior report has faulted the Bush administration for its rush to sell off oil and gas exploitation rights on vast swaths of federal land in Utah last year. The report says the Bush administration did not follow longstanding procedures in trying to sell off 22 parcels of land. The sale was later cancelled by Obama administration Interior Secretary Ken Salazar. The report’s findings could bolster the defense of a college student who disrupted the auction by posing as a bidder. The student, Tim DeChristopher, is currently facing ten years in prison on charges of interfering with a public auction.

Iraq War Vet Commits Suicide

In California, a 24-year old Iraq war veteran has committed suicide. Former Army Specialist Trevor Hogue was found dead in his childhood home last week. He had hung himself to death. His mother says he was left seriously emotionally scarred after witnessing a bombing attack on other members of his unit.

Owner of Medical Marijuana Dispensary Sentenced to 1-Year Term

An owner of a California dispensary for medical marijuana has been sentenced to one year in prison. The owner, Charles Lynch, was given the jail term despite the Obama administration’s vow not to prosecute medical dispensers who comply with state law. But federal judge George Wu said the new federal policy would not affect his ruling.

Survey: 2.8M Homes Unprepared for Switch to Digital TV

And analog television signals will shut off tonight as the U.S. completes the transition to digital TV. The survey group Nielson says around 2.8 million homes remain unprepared for the switch. Most of the unprepared households fall in the low-income, elderly and rural demographics.

Local and Michigan Headlines: Updates on Coal Plants in Michigan; Pete Hoekstra is Olbermann’s “Worst Person in the World”

Here’s some interesting headlines covering Grand Rapids and Michigan from the past twenty-four hours:

Headlines: Afghan Peace Talks Call For U.S. Withdrawal; 17 Arrested At Anti-Coal Protests in West Virginia

Democracy Now Headlines: Afghan Peace Talks Call For U.S. Withdrawal; 17 Arrested At Anti-Coal Protests in West Virginia

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.

UN Security Council Condemns North Korean Nuclear Test

The United Nations Security Council has unanimously condemned North Korea for carrying out an underground nuclear test Monday. It was North Korea’s second nuclear test in three years. Susan Rice, the US Ambassador to the United Nations, said it is too early to tell if the Security Council will approve a new round of sanctions against North Korea.

Susan Rice: “What we heard today was swift, clear, unequivocal condemnation in opposition to what occurred. The meeting was brief and everybody spoke and everybody essentially took the same view. We are now resolved to work on a resolution. We believe it ought to be a strong resolution with appropriately strong contents, but obviously unless and until we have completed the process of negotiating that resolution, it would be premature to suggest what its contents would be.”

In a statement Monday, North Korea said the nuclear test was intended to “bolster up its nuclear deterrent for self-defense in every way.” Hours after the Security Council vote, North Korea fired two more short-range missiles. In response to the nuclear test, South Korea announced it would immediately join a US-led initiative to intercept ships suspected of carrying nuclear, chemical and biological weapons, component parts or missiles to deliver them. Pyongyang has warned it would consider South Korea’s membership in the Proliferation Security Initiative to be an act of war. At the White House, President Barack Obama denounced North Korea’s actions.

President Obama: “North Korea’s actions endanger the people of Northeast Asia, they are a blatant violation of international law, and they contradict North Korea’s own prior commitments. Now, the United States and the international community must take action in response.”

Afghan Peace Talks Call For U.S. Withdrawal

In Afghanistan, leaders of the Taliban and other armed groups are reportedly talking to intermediaries about a potential peace agreement, with initial demands focused on a timetable for a withdrawal of American troops. This according to the New York Times. The discussions have so far produced no agreements, since the militants appear to be insisting that any deal include an American promise to withdraw.

Three U.S. Soldiers Killed in Suicide Bombing

Meanwhile a suicide car bomber plowed into a NATO convoy earlier today, killing three American soldiers and a civilian passer-by on a main road north of Kabul.

Pakistani Civilians Stuck in Swat Valley Facing Humanitarian Catastrophe

In Pakistan, Human Rights Watch is calling on the military to lift its curfew in the Swat Valley where the Pakistani military is battling the Taliban. Brad Adams of Human Rights Watch said: “The government cannot allow the local population to remain trapped without food, clean water, and medicine as a tactic to defeat the Taliban.” More than 2.4 million people have fled the region this month but up to 200,000 civilians remain trapped inside the conflict zone.

U.S. Relies on Foreign Nations To Hold Prisoners

The New York Times is reporting the United States is now relying heavily on foreign intelligence services to capture, interrogate and detain prisoners seized outside of Iraq and Afghanistan. The current approach began two years ago and has gained momentum under President Obama. Detainees who once would have been taken to secret CIA prisons or Guantanamo are now being handed over to other governments. At least four Middle Eastern countries as well as Pakistan are currently holding men captured based on information provided by the United States.

Sen. Feingold Warns Obama About Preventive Detention Plan

Democratic Sen. Russ Feingold of Wisconsin has criticized President Obama’s plan to hold some prisoners indefinitely inside the United States without trial. In a letter to the president, Feingold said any system that permits the government to indefinitely detain individuals without charge violates basic American values and is likely unconstitutional. Feingold said, “Indeed, such detention is a hallmark of abusive systems that we have historically criticized around the world.”

Proposed Israel Laws Call for Loyalty Oath and Ban on Nabka Protests

Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman’s Yisrael Beitenu party plans to propose a law requiring residents to swear loyalty to the Jewish state. The party has also proposed legislation to ban the commemoration of the “Nakba” or “disaster,” which many Arab Israelis and Palestinians mark while the Jewish state marks its Independence Day. Under the proposed legislation, those publicly commemorating the Nakba could be jailed. The proposed laws have been denounced by Palestinians who have Israeli citizenship.

Khalaili, Arab Israeli Resident: “First, we as Arabs, and as the remaining Palestinians, refuse this discourse. We consider the Nakba a part of the Palestinian history and culture. Just like we don’t ask the Jews to cancel the Holocaust. Using the same measurements, and the same meanings, it is impossible to cancel the Nakba day because it is an element that can’t be excluded from the Palestinians existence.”

Netanyahu: Israel Will Continue Building Settlements

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday that Israel will continue to build homes in existing West Bank settlements, defying U.S. calls to halt settlement growth.

400 LA Students Walk Out of Classes to Protest Teacher Cuts

In Los Angeles, about 400 students walked out of classes on Friday to protest possible teacher layoffs. The Los Angeles Unified School District faces up to $131 million in new cuts this year and could lay off up to 2,500 teachers.

17 Arrested At Anti-Coal Protests in West Virginia

In West Virginia, 17 people were arrested Saturday during a series of protests against the coal industry. The protesters marked a new phase of Operation Appalachian Spring, a campaign to end mountaintop removal mining. The first two arrests occurred when two activists wearing hazmat suits and respirators boated onto an 8-billion-gallon toxic coal slurry lake to unfurl a 60-foot floating banner reading, “No more toxic sludge!” They were charged with trespass and littering. Later in the day eight more protesters were arrested on trespassing and conspiracy charges after they walked onto the Kayford Mountain mine and locked themselves to a giant dump truck. Seven others were arrested at Massey Energy’s Marfork Coal facility. Former West Virginia Congressman Ken Hechler took part in the protest but police refused to arrest the 94-year-old former lawmaker.

Six of the anti-coal protesters remain in jail.

Medical Group Calls For Ban on Genetically Modified Foods

The American Academy of Environmental Medicine has called for a moratorium on genetically modified foods. The medical organization warned that genetically modified foods pose a serious health risk in the areas of toxicology, allergy and immune function, reproductive health, and metabolic, physiologic and genetic health. Dr. Amy Dean said “Multiple animal studies have shown that GM foods cause damage to various organ systems in the body. With this mounting evidence, it is imperative to have a moratorium on GM foods for the safety of our patients’ and the public’s health.”

Indian Human Rights Activist Dr. Binayak Sen Released on Bail

In India, human rights activist Dr. Binayak Sen has been released on bail after being held for two years. Sen is the National Vice President of the People’s Union for Civil Liberties. He was arrested in May 2007, for allegedly helping the Maoist insurgency in the state of Chhattisgarh.

California Supreme Court To Rule on Gay Marriage Law Today

In California the state Supreme Court will issue its ruling today on whether the state’s gay-marriage ban will stand. In addition the court is expected to address the legal status of some 18,000 same-sex couples who were married in California before voters approved Proposition 8, banning same sex marriage.

State Department To Extend Benefits to Partners of Gay Diplomats

Meanwhile Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton is expected to soon announce that the partners of gay and lesbian U.S. diplomats will be eligible for many benefits currently denied them and allowed to spouses of heterosexual diplomats.

Liberty University Bans College Democrats Club

And in education news, Liberty University has banned the College Democrats Club from campus. In a letter to the group, a school administrator wrote: “We are unable to lend support to a club whose parent organization stands against the moral principles held by Liberty University.” Liberty University is a Christian College founded by the late Jerry Falwell.

Headlines: Obama Criticized for Reviving Military Commissions; Obama Administration OKs New Mountaintop Removal Permits

Democracy Now Headlines: Obama Criticized for Reviving Military Commissions; Obama Administration OKs New Mountaintop Removal Permits

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.

Tamil Tiger Leader Killed; Sri Lanka Claims Victory

Sri Lanka’s quarter-century long civil war is in its final throes, with the militant Tamil separatist group, the Tamil Tigers almost completely defeated. The leader of the Tamil Tigers, Velupillai Prabhakaran, was reportedly killed earlier today while trying to flee in an ambulance. Several other senior Tamil Tigers have also been found dead. On Sunday the Sri Lankan military claimed victory after the Tamil Tigers said it was “prepared to silence its guns” and admitted that the fighting had reached a “bitter end.” An estimated 8,000 civilians have been killed in Sri Lanka since January when the military intensified it attack on the separatist group. We’ll have more on Sri Lanka after headlines.

Rumsfeld Covered Briefing Papers in Biblical Texts

GQ Magazine has revealed former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld repeatedly placed Biblical quotes on President Bush’s top-secret briefings during the early days of the invasion of Iraq. One briefing paper showed an image of a U.S. soldier in Baghdad below the Biblical quote: “Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and your plans will succeed.” Another briefing paper included a photograph of a U.S. tank next to the quote “Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.” A third briefing paper showed U.S. tanks entering an Iraqi city alongside the quote “Open the gates that the righteous nation may enter, the nation that keeps faith.” Some Pentagon officials were concerned that, if Rumsfeld’s top secret briefings were ever leaked, they could be interpreted as a suggestion that the war was a battle against Islam. One Pentagon official warned the fallout “would be as bad as Abu Ghraib.”

Obama Criticized For Reviving Military Commissions

Human rights organizations are criticizing President Obama’s decision to revive the military tribunal system for Guantanamo Bay prisoners despite the administration’s pledge to grant prisoners expanded legal rights.

Stacy Sullivan of Human Rights Watch: “This has been tried before. The first round of military commissions were struck down by the Supreme Court. They were revived under slightly improved rules and once again they were still profoundly unfair. They allowed coerced evidence into the courtroom and they had terrible hearsay rules, the judges didn’t even know what the rules were. The proceedings were totally chaotic. This will be the third time that there is an effort to resurrect the military commissions and we have absolutely no faith that they are going to be any better, even if you do improve the rules slightly.”

On Friday President Obama unveiled new legal protections for prisoners in the renewed system. These include bans on hearsay evidence and evidence obtained through torture, as well as giving prisoners more leeway in selecting their military counsel.

White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs defended the tribunal system.

Robert Gibbs: “The president, as I said, during the debate said that properly structured military commissions had a role to play. The changes that he is seeking, he believes, will ensure the protections that are necessary for these to be conducted in order to reach that certain justice, as well as live up to our values.”

Report: U.S. Special Forces Sent Into Pakistan

The Wall Street Journal reports the U.S. is sending Special Forces into Pakistan to train Pakistan’s Frontier Corps, a paramilitary force responsible for battling the Taliban and al Qaeda fighters. Twenty-five to fifty Special Forces personnel are deploying to two new training camps in Baluchistan, a Taliban stronghold on the Afghan-Pakistani border. A senior American military officer said he hoped Islamabad would gradually allow the U.S. to expand its training footprint inside Pakistan’s borders.

Report: 1,000 Suspected Taliban Killed in Pakistan

The Pakistani military is now claiming it has killed more than 1,000 suspected Taliban fighters along the Afghan border. Pakistan is considering widening its offensive to outside of the Swat Valley. Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari told the Sunday Times of London: “Swat is just the start. It’s a larger war to fight.” The military offensive in the Swat Valley has already displaced more than a million people.

29 Killed in U.S. Drone Strike in Pakistan

Meanwhile the U.S. has carried out another drone strike inside Pakistan, killing as many as 29 people Saturday in South Waziristan.

Brother of Afghan President Survives Attack

In Afghanistan, gunmen attacked the convoy of President Hamid Karzai’s brother earlier today. Ahmad Wali Karzai survived but the gunmen killed one of his bodyguards.

Blackwater Guards Shot Civilian Car In Afghanistan

Four U.S. contractors affiliated with the company formerly known as Blackwater fired on an approaching civilian vehicle in Kabul earlier this month, wounding at least two Afghan civilians. The contractors were off duty at the time and had been reportedly drinking.

Obama Addresses Abortion Debate At Notre Deame

During his commencement address at the University of Notre Dame, President Barack Obama called on both sides of the abortion debate to tone down their rhetoric and search for common ground.

President Obama: “The fact is that at some level, the views of the two camps are irreconcilable. Each side will continue to make its case to the public with passion and conviction. But surely we can do so without reducing those with differing views to caricature.”

About 40 people were arrested at Notre Dame Sunday protesting President Obama’s support of abortion rights.

Aung San Suu Kyi Put on Trial in Burma

Burmese pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi went on trial today on charges of breaking the conditions of her house arrest after a US man swam to her home. If convicted she faces a further five years in detention. Aung San Suu Kyi has spent most of the last 19 years in detention. We’ll have more on Burma later in the show.

Obama and Netanyahu to Meet in Washington

President Barack Obama is meeting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Washington today. Obama is expected to ask Netanyahu to freeze Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank while Netanyahu is expected to stress that “time is running out” for stopping Iran’s nuclear program. The meeting comes as reports emerge that Israel has begun constructing a new settlement in the northern West Bank for the first time in 26 years. Tenders have been issued for 20 housing units in the new Maskiot settlement and contractors have arrived on site to begin foundational work.

The group Israeli Peace Now movement called the move proof that “Netanyahu is not ready to commit to a two-state solution” and is striving to “prevent the creation of a Palestinian state.”

Four Kuwaiti Women Elected to Parliament

In Kuwait, a group of women have won election to the Kuwaiti parliament for the first time. The U.S.-educated economist Roula Dashti is one of four women who won seats.

Roula Dashti: “Change is coming to Kuwait; we want a culture of solutions to many issues we can cooperate in. We want a constructive debate and if it’s God’s will this period will be the period for building a nation”

Women in Kuwait gained the right to vote and to run for office in 2005.

Russian Police Break Up Gay Rights Parade

In Russia, riot police police broke up a peaceful gay rights parade in Moscow Saturday and detained 40 people. The march had been outlawed by Moscow authorities.

Obama Taps Republican Governor To Be China Envoy

President Obama has named Utah Governor Jon Huntsman to be the next U.S. ambassador to China. Huntsman is a Republican who had been mentioned as a potential Republican presidential candidate in 2012. Huntsman, who speaks Mandarin, served as deputy U.S. trade representative in the administration of President George Bush from 2001-2004. He also served as co-chair of Senator John McCain’s presidential campaign.

Jon Huntsman: “You have my commitment that we will take the U.S.-China relationship to new heights- focused on not just that which divides us but more importantly, that which unites us knowing that this will be critical for lasting peace and prosperity for citizens on both sides of the Pacific. I’m reminded of my favorite Chinese aphorism, it goes something like this: ‘Together we work, together we progress.’ This more than anything else I think captures the spirit of our journey going forward.”

General Electric Begins Dredging Hudson River

General Electric has begun dredging for PCBs in the Hudson River, 25 years after the contamination was deemed a federal Superfund site. GE discharged as much as 1.3 million pounds of PCBs into the Hudson before PCBs were banned in 1977. The contaminated sediment will be transported by train to a hazardous waste site in Andrews Texas near the New Mexico border. The Sierra Club in Texas has opposed the plan. Neil Carman said: “All they’re doing is relocating toxic waste, They’re moving a problem from one location to another [and] creating problems for future generations to solve.”

While GE is paying to clean up the river, the company is still challenging the constitutionality of the Superfund law in federal court.

Obama Taps GE Attorney To Be Nation’s Top Environmental Litigator

Meanwhile President Obama has tapped a top attorney at General Electric to be the nation’s top environmental litigator. If confirmed Ignacia Moreno would lead the Justice Department’s efforts to enforce environmental laws and defend federal regulations in lawsuits. Her selection has concerned many environmental groups. Frank O’Donnell of Clean Air Watch said: “It seems as if she has spent maybe more time defending polluters than prosecuting them.”

Obama Administration OKs New Mountaintop Removal Permits

In other environmental news, the Obama administration has given the green light for 42 more mountaintop removal permits dealing a victory for the coal industry. Mountaintop mining involves blowing off the tops of mountains to get at the coal underneath.

FBI Spied on Iowa Protesters Before Republican Convention

The Des Moines Register has revealed an FBI informant and an undercover Minnesota sheriff’s deputy spied on political activists in Iowa City last year before the Republican National Convention in St. Paul, Minn. Confidential FBI documents obtained by paper provide in-depth descriptions of more than a dozen Iowa political activists. This includes personal information such as names, height, weight, place of employment, cell phone numbers and e-mail addresses. Some of the surveillance occurred when the activists met last year at the Iowa City Public Library.

Peruvian Indigenous Groups Fight Plans to Develop Natural Resources

And the Peruvian government has sent troops into the Amazon to squash protests by Peruvian indigenous groups who oppose plans develop the region’s natural resources. On Friday the Interethnic Association for the Development of the Peruvian Jungle called for an insurgency against new laws that open up natural resource sectors like gas, lumber and oil to private investors.

Indigenous leader Alberto Pizango: “The national committee for the struggle appointed by all of you has decided by expressed mandate to prepare itself to declare our (indigenous) communities as an insurgency against the government of Mr. Alan Garcia Perez… Insurgency means disobeying the government because of the mistreatment. They abuse us. They are killing our communities.”

Local/Michigan Headlines: New Contract for GRPS Superintendent; Michigan’s Coal “Needs”

Here’s some articles published elsewhere in the past twenty-four hours or so that really shouldn’t be missed:

  • Increase in syphilis cases worries local health departments – There has been a rise in cases of syphilis in several counties–including Kent–in Michigan. County health departments and other organizations are responding with increased educational efforts aimed at increasing knowledge of the disease.
  • State champions green industry with new report, conference – The State of Michigan has staked much of its economic future on the promise and potential of “green jobs.” It recently held a conference and issued a report on how the sector is growing. According to the report, green sector jobs grew by 7.7% from 2005 to 2008.
  • Michigan Does Not Need — Nor Should It Have — New Generation from Coal – This piece by local activist Shirley Kallio offers a good critique of claims that Michigan needs more coal-fueled power plants to meet the state’s energy. Kallio looks at claims that energy demand is growing, that coal is the cheapest energy source, and that coal is the most reliable source of energy and critiques those assertions.
  • Media Bites: Sprite – The Grand Rapids Institute for Information Democracy (GRIID) provides an analysis of a recent Sprite commercial, looking at both how the product is marketed and Coca-Cola’s efforts to privatize water.
  • Superintendent Bernard Taylor’s pact extended three years by Grand Rapids school board – The GRPS board extended Superintendent Bernard Taylor’s contract by three years even as teachers in the district continue to work without a contract.
  • Detroit People’s Task Force battles false crime lab evidence – “Thirty-five Michigan prisoners and their loved ones are leading a battle against convictions based on deliberately falsified or invalid, unscientific, crime lab evidence.”
  • Doctors: Medicaid cuts will hurt patients – The Lansing State Journal reports that cuts to Medicaid will hurt patients. One in six Michiganders rely on the program and the state has received more money to fund the program through the federal stimulus package, but the money generally isn’t making it back to doctors. Not surprisingly, doctors are upset–but I read this article as all the more reason for a universal healthcare system.

If we missed anything, please let us know in the comments.

Elevated Cancer Risk for those in Michigan Living near Unlined Coal Ash Dumps

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A new report from the Environmental Integrity Project and Earthjustice finds that Michigan residents living near unlined coal ash dumps have a 1-in-50 chance of getting cancer from their drinking water.

Unlined ash dumps can be found in Ingham, Marquette, Monroe, and Ottawa counties. Of the seven sites in Michigan, only three have groundwater monitoring. The plants are operated by major energy producers in Michigan, including Consumers Energy and Detroit Edison.

The problem can be traced to the United States reliance on coal-fired power plants. Each year, such plants dispose of nearly 100 million tons of toxic ash in more than 200 landfills and wet ponds. The practice gained national attention in December of 2008 when one such disposal site burst in Kingston, Tennessee. Coal ash can be responsible for pollutants including arsenic, lead, selenium, boron, cadmium, and cobalt.

The analysis is based on Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) data collected by the government. Under the Bush administration, the data was largely kept from public release as the administration dragged its feet. The report cautions that the actual number of polluted sites may be significantly greater than what the EPA is reporting.