Local and Michigan Headlines: George W. Bush in Benton Harbor; Iraqi Refugees in Michigan

Here are some important articles covering recent events in Grand Rapids and Michigan:

As always, if we missed anything, let us know in the comments.

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Headlines: Former Bush Admin. Official Says He Should Have Resigned Over Torture; Obama Backtracks on Release of Torture Memos

Democracy Now Headlines: Former Bush Admin. Official Says He Should Have Resigned Over Torture; Obama Backtracks on Release of Torture Memos

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

Report: Recent NSA Spying Exceeded Guidelines

The New York Times is reporting that recent National Security Agency domestic spying has gone beyond the broad legal limits established by Congress last year. The NSA, meanwhile, also reportedly attempted to wiretap a member of Congress, without court approval, on an overseas trip in 2005 or 2006. The plan was ultimately blocked amidst concerns about spying on a member of Congress.

Obama Backtracks on Full Release of Torture Memos

The Obama administration has reportedly decided to censor portions of three secret Bush administration torture memos it had previously vowed to release. The Justice Department memos were written to give legal backing to the CIA’s interrogation program. The Wall Street Journal is reporting the Obama administration will redact the prisoners’ names as well as details on how particular techniques were used. The administration is expected to make the announcement later today under a court-imposed deadline in a case brought by the ACLU.

Spanish Prosecutors Recommend Dropping Torture Probe Against Bush Admin Lawyers

In Spain, prosecutors are planning on asking a Spanish court to drop a criminal investigation into whether six Bush administration lawyers, including former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, violated international law by providing the legal framework to justify the Bush administration’s use of torture at Guantanamo. Spanish law allows it to claim jurisdiction because five citizens or residents say they were tortured while imprisoned there. Earlier today, Spanish prosecutor Candido Conde-Pumpido said the case has no merit because the Bush officials weren’t physically present when the torture occurred. The suit could still go forward despite the prosecutors’ stance. The presiding judge, Baltasar Garzon, pursued the case against former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet over prosecutors’ advice.

Armitage: I Should Have Resigned over Torture

Former Bush administration official Richard Armitage has said he would have resigned had he known what he knows now about the torture committed on his watch. In an interview with Al Jazeera’s Avi Lewis, Armitage admitted the Bush White House authorized forms of torture.

Avi Lewis: “So when you knew that the administration, of which you were a part, was departing from the Geneva Conventions and sidelining them, why didn’t you quit?”

Richard Armitage: “In hindsight, maybe I should have. But in those positions, you see how many more battles you have. You maybe fool yourself. You say how much worse would X, Y, or Z be if I weren’t here?”

Armitage went on to say, “I hope, had I known about it at the time I was serving, I would’ve had the courage to resign.” Armitage served as Deputy Secretary of State from 2001 to 2005.

Interpreter: FBI Interrogators Beat Kenya Bombing Suspect

A former FBI interpreter is claiming she witnessed the beating of a suspect in the 1998 bombing of the US embassy in Kenya. The unidentified translator says she became so upset by the interrogation that she fled the room. The translator couldn’t see the prisoner but could hear him behind a partition. According to her account, the suspect, Mohamed al-Owhali, begged her to ask the interrogators to stop beating him. Al-Owhali later confessed to the bombing and was sentenced to life in prison. His lawyers have maintained his confession was coerced.

Obama Admin Appoints Mexico “Border Czar”

The Obama administration has appointed a so-called “border czar” to oversee drug-related law enforcement along the US-Mexico border. Alan Bersin held a similar post under the Clinton administration. Speaking to reporters in El Paso, Texas, Bersin vowed to cooperate with the Mexican government.

Alan Bersin: “We now have an opportunity between the United States and Mexico to construct a foundation of cooperation that will result in benefits for the future of both sides of the border. I believe we have the opportunity and we must act on it.”

US Army Sergeant Convicted of Iraqi Prisoner Killings

A US Army sergeant has been convicted of murder for the murder of four bound and blindfolded Iraqi prisoners. The killings took place in Baghdad in 2007. The sergeant, John Hatley, was found guilty of conspiracy to commit premeditated murder. Two other soldiers have already been convicted, and another two have pleaded guilty in the case.

Afghan Women Protest Rape Law

In Afghanistan, dozens of women were attacked earlier today as they tried to protest a recent law that legalizes rape within marriage. The law bans women from refusing to have sex with their husbands and also says they can only seek work, education or medical care with their husbands’ permission. The women were pelted with stones as they gathered in the Afghan capital Kabul. It was the second straight day of protest against the law following another protest on Wednesday.

Venezuela to Seek Posada Extradition

Venezuela says it will again ask the US for the extradition of the Cuban militant and former CIA operative Luis Posada Carriles. Posada is wanted in Cuba and Venezuela for a 1976 airliner bombing that killed seventy-three people. But the US has harbored Posada and rejected calls for his extradition. Earlier this month, Posada was indicted on charges of lying about his role in several 1997 bombings at tourist areas in Cuba. The new charges mark the first time the US government has formally acknowledged Posada’s role in carrying out attacks. Venezuela says it will present the renewed extradition request before the opening of tomorrow’s Americas summit in Trinidad and Tobago.

Jurors Criticize Deportation Proceedings Against Egyptian Student

In Florida, four jurors who acquitted an Egyptian student of explosives charges earlier this month have condemned a US government attempt to deport him, apparently on the same allegations. Youssef Megahed was arrested just three days after a Tampa jury found him not guilty of possessing explosives that could be used for building a destructive bomb or rocket. He’s now being held in an immigration jail. Megahed is a legal permanent resident here in the United States. He’s lived here since he was eleven years old with his family. In a statement, the jurors said the government is putting Megahed in “double jeopardy.” They continued, “More troublesome is the government’s seeming blatant disregard for the will of its own people.”

UNC Students Disrupt Tancredo Speech

In North Carolina, clashes broke out Tuesday night at a student protest against former Republican Congress member Tom Tancredo at the University of North Carolina. Hundreds of protesters converged on a lecture hall where Tancredo was speaking on opposing education benefits for undocumented immigrants. The protesters disrupted Tancredo’s speech and raised banners saying “No dialogue with hate” and “No one is illegal.”

Report: US Hate Groups Up 34% Since 2000

A new report says the number of violent hate groups in the US has increased more than 34 percent since 2000. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, 926 groups were active last year, up from 602 nine years ago. The report comes on the heels of a warning from the Department of Homeland Security that right-wing extremist groups are gaining new recruits by exploiting fears about the economy and the election of the nation’s first black president.

Varying Agendas Present in Tax Day Protests

Tax Day was Wednesday, and with it came dozens of protests of varying political stripes. In several major cities, right-wing groups protested government spending in rallies modeled after the 1773 Boston Tea Party. In Washington, D.C., hundreds rallied near the White House.

Protester #1: “I think it’s time to let people know that we are upset with some of the spending that’s going on. The amount of spending is unheralded in the history of this country.”

Protester #2: “And I don’t think that our elected officials are really listening to our views about what’s going on and what we feel. They just want to follow what the administration is doing.”

Protests were also held by opponents of government spending on the military and war. The National War Tax Resistance Coordinating Committee says protests and vigils were held in more than twenty states.

Potential Foreclosures Rise 24%

And in housing news, new figures show the number of Americans facing the loss of their homes grew 24 percent in the first three months of this year. According to RealtyTrac, more than 800,000 homes received at least one foreclosure-related notice from January through March.

George W. Bush to Deliver First Domestic Post-Presidency Speech in Michigan

George W. Bush is Speaking in Benton Harbor

Former President George W. Bush will deliver his first domestic post-presidency speech in Southwest Michigan later this Spring. Bush will be speaking to The Economic Club of Southwestern Michigan in Benton Harbor on May 28.

The event is closed to the public and the media. There has been no disclosure of how much Bush will be receiving for his speech. Members of the Economic Club are the only ones who will be invited to attend. Membership dues range from $135 to $195 per year according to the Club’s website.

The speech is part of a series that advertises itself as an opportunity to “meet and talk with six of the most influential leaders in the world.” Other guests in the series include Karl Rove, Mike Huckabee, and Condoleezza Rice (who will also be speaking in Grand Rapids this summer).

Protestors Organizing to Greet Bush

On the social networking website Facebook, protestors are organizing to greet Bush.

At a recent speech in Canada, hundreds of people protested against former President Bush. Protestors hurled shoes at effigies and accused Bush of being a war criminal due to his actions as part of the so-called “War on Terror.” Protest organizers were seeking to put Bush on trial “for the seemingly endless list of crimes for which his regime was responsible.”

Before the protest, a group called Lawyers Against the war filed a letter with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) asking them to bar Bush from entry citing his involvement in torture and war crimes.

Headlines: Shoe-Throwing Journalist Sentenced to 3 Years; Bush Admin. Ran Executive Assassination Ring

Democracy Now Headlines: Shoe-Throwing Journalist Sentenced to 3 Years; Bush Admin. Ran Executive Assassination Ring

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.

Shoe-Throwing Iraqi Journalist Sentenced to 3 Years

The Iraqi journalist who threw his shoes at President Bush has been sentenced to three years in prison. A reporter for Al-Baghdadiya television, Muntazer al-Zaidi drew worldwide attention when he hurled his shoes at Bush during a news conference in December. Zaidi was convicted of assaulting a foreign leader. His attorney and family have claimed prison guards have abused Zaidi since his jailing. Earlier today, Zaidi’s brother, Uday Zaidi, rejected the verdict.

Uday Zaidi: “They told us of the verdict when we entered the court. Unfortunately the court is politicized.”

Reporter: “Will you appeal the verdict?”

Zaidi: “We have already appealed the verdict but the verdict was taken before session. The Iraqi justice is not independent and it is not honest, and I scorn those who said the Iraqi justice is independent. The Iraqi justice is not independent and it is politicized. This court was set up according to Paul Briemer decisions and the verdict of the court was issued according to Bush decisions.”

Ex-Hussein Aides Sentenced to 15 Years

In other Iraq news, two top officials under the Saddam Hussein regime have been sentenced to fifteen years in prison. Former foreign minister Tariq Aziz and presidential advisor Ali Hassan al-Majeed were convicted of a crime against humanity for their alleged roles in the 1992 killings of 42 merchants. Fluent in English, Aziz was known as the international face of Hussein’s government prior to the U.S. invasion. He is widely believed to have wielded little influence in Hussein’s government.

2 Journalists Among Dead in Baghdad Suicide Attack

The death toll from Tuesday’s suicide bombing west of Baghdad has risen to thirty-three people. The dead included two Iraqi journalists with the Cairo-based Baghdadiya TV. Another television reporter was also critically injured.

Pakistan Arrests Activists, Bans Gathering Ahead of Anti-Gov. Protest

In Pakistan, hundreds of activists have been jailed ahead of today’s massive protest march by opponents of President Asif Ali Zardari. The Pakistani government has also banned public gatherings in two key provinces. The march was initially organized to demand the reinstatement of the deposed Supreme Court chief justice, Iftikhar Mohammed Chaudhry.

Obama Conditions Palestinian Aid on Recognizing Israel’s “Right to Exist”

In Israel and the Occupied Territories, the Obama administration has announced it will withdraw its entire $900 aid pledge if the pending Palestinian unity government doesn’t recognize Israel’s “right to exist.” The warning was reportedly delivered by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas last week. Clinton told Abbas the U.S. Congress won’t approve Palestinian aid unless the Palestinian government also renounces violence. No such conditions have been imposed on Israel. The Israeli government refuses to renounce violence and has never recognized the right of Palestine to exist. Palestinians have also criticized the demand they recognize Israel’s “right to exist” because it forces them to go beyond recognizing Israel within secure borders, but in fact affirm the legitimacy of their dispossession and ongoing occupation.

Obama Seeks $100B for Global IMF Assistance

The Obama administration says it will ask Congress for a $100 billion dollar commitment to the International Monterary Fund to aid struggling nations hit by the economic crisis. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner said poorer countries need assistance for the downturn to reverse.

Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner: “It’s time now for us to move together and to begin to act to put in place a stronger framework of reforms. A lot of good work has happened, but we need to now bring this together so that we’re together as a world economy working together. Everything we do in the United States will be more effective if we have the world moving with us.”

It’s unclear what kind of conditions recipient nations would face for accepting the new IMF aid. President Obama said Geithner will push for greater international commitments at an upcoming summit of G20 finance ministers.

President Obama: “We’ve got two goals in the G20. The first is to make sure that there is concerted action around the globe to jumpstart the economy. The second goal is to make sure that we are moving forward on a regulatory reform agenda that ensures that we don’t see these same kinds of systemic risks and the potential for this kind of crisis again in the future.”

Hersh: Bush Admin Ran “Executive Assassination Ring”

The investigative journalist Seymour Hersh has revealed the Bush administration ran an “executive assassination ring” that reported directly to former Vice President Dick Cheney. Hersh says U.S. operatives have secretly gone into countries and executed suspects on a target list. The operation was apparently run under the extra-legal Joint Special Operations Command, overseen only by the White House. Hersh made the disclosure while speaking Tuesday at the University of Minnesota.

Italy Court Dismisses Evidence in CIA Kidnap Trial

Italy’s top court has dealt prosecutors a major setback in the trial over the CIA kidnapping of the Egyptian cleric Abu Omar. Twenty-six Americans are being tried in absentia along with several former Italian intelligence officials. On Wednesday, Italy’s Constitutional Court threw out most of the evidence in the case on the grounds prosecutors have violated so-called “state secrecy.” Omar was seized on the streets of Milan in 2003 and taken to US bases in Italy and Germany before being sent to Egypt. He says he was tortured there during a four-year imprisonment.

Obama Signs Spending Bill; Provisions Include Increased Chemical Disclosure

President Obama has signed into law the $410 billion dollar omnibus spending bill funding the federal government for much of this year. The bill includes a measure that will force companies to provide more information on chemicals they release into the environment. The provision reverses a 2006 Bush administration regulation that eased requirements on reporting chemicals.

Obama Issues 1st Signing Statement

With his signature on the spending bill also came Obama’s first signing statement, a presidential declaration freeing him from following some of the bill’s contents. Obama took issue with five provisions, including one relating to negotiations with foreign governments and international organizations.

Foreclosures Rose 6% in February

Newly-released figures show the number of homes threatened by foreclosures rose thirty percent in February over the same period last year. According to RealtyTrac, nearly 291,000 homes received at least one foreclosure-related notice last month, up 6 percent from January.

Opening Door to Dismissal, Judge Faults Prosecutors on Al-Arian Plea Deal

A federal judge has paved the way to throwing out charges against the Palestinian professor Sami Al-Arian. In a new ruling, Judge Leonie Brinkema says Al-Arian may have been duped into thinking his plea bargain protected him from future prosecutions. Brinkema has given Al-Arian’s lawyers ten days to ask for the case’s dismissal. Al-Arian was released in September after over five years prison but still faces charges for refusing to testify before a grand jury about a cluster of Muslim organizations in northern Virginia. He was initially accused of being involved in the group Palestinian Islamic Jihad, but a Florida jury failed to return a single guilty verdict on any of the seventeen charges against him. Still, Al-Arian chose jail time rather than undergo a second trial after prosecutors re-filed charges. Al-Arian’s defense lawyers argue prosecutors have violated his plea deal by subsequently charging him for refusing to testify in cases that have nothing to do with him.

Pro-Single-Payer Demonstrators Burn Insurance Bills

In Washington, D.C., a small group of demonstrators rallied for single-payer health care outside the national meeting of the American Health Insurance Plans on Wednesday. A handful of protesters burned their health insurance bills as an act of protest. The rally was called by a new group called ‘Single Payer Action’ that is advocating direct action to demand a single-payer health insurance system in the United States.

“One Spring Break” to Protest Torture, War

Many U.S. colleges go on spring break tomorrow. One group of students will be using their time off to rally against what it calls “illegal occupations and the use of torture by the United States government.” The group, Our Spring Break, says it will join a march organized by Witness Against Torture. The group’s website is OurSpringBreak.org.

Emphasizing Treatment, Obama Picks Seattle Police Chief for Drug Czar

The Obama administration has nominated Seattle police chief Gil Kerlikowske to be the nation’s new drug czar. The White House announced the pick as it also unveiled a new plan to emphasize treatment over jailing in drug-related cases. Under the policy, the Obama administration will order greater use of alternative drug courts that allow offenders to seek treatment rather than serve jail time. Kerlikowske said efforts should focus on reducing demand.

Gil Kerlikowske: “The success of our efforts to reduce the flow of drugs is largely dependent on our ability to reduce demand for them, and that starts with our youth. Our nation’s drug problem is one of human suffering. And as a police officer, but also in my own family, I have experienced the effects drugs can have on our youth, our families and our communities.”

Kerlikowske’s says his step-son has struggled with addiction. Appearing with Kerlikowske, Vice President Joe Biden said the U.S. will also focus on the drug wars in Mexico.

Vice President Joe Biden: “Since the beginning of last year, there have been nearly 7,000 drug-related murders in Mexico. If we had said that years ago, we would have looked at each other like we were crazy. But, 7,000 drug-related murders in Mexico. Violent drug trafficking organizations are threatening both the United States and Mexican communities.”

EU Report Faults Global Strategy on Drugs

Kerlikowske’s nomination comes as the U.S. takes part in a UN conference in Vienna on setting a global drugs strategy for the next decade. A new European Commission report says the previous decade’s strategy has been a failure. The U.S. has been widely criticized for its long-time resistance to de-criminalization and supporting treatment-based alternatives.

Morales Calls for Decriminalizing Cocoa Leaf

Bolivian President Evo Morales is among those attending the conference. On Wednesday, Morales chewed on a cocoa leaf and called on President Obama to stop massive eradication programs against it.

Bolivian President Evo Morales: “We know that a part of the Coca leaf is diverted towards an illegal programme: cocaine. We are very responsibel. We’re not defending cocaine. And we are never going to defend it. We’re not the cocaine culture. So, with the new president, Obama, we want to improve relations and have common plans.”

Obama Launches White House Council on Women and Girls

Back in the United States, President Obama has signed an Executive Order creating the White House Council on Women and Girls. The Obama administration says the Council will “provide a coordinated federal response to the challenges confronted by women and girls” and ensure government agencies consider how their policies impact women and families. Senior Obama advisor Valerie Jarrett will serve as the council’s chair.

Obama, Clinton Honor “Women of Courage”

At the State Department, First Lady Michelle Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton honored eight women from around the world at the third annual Secretary of State’s Award for International Women of Courage. The women are chosen based on nominations from U.S. embassies.

First Lady Michelle Obama: “The women we honor here, standing on this stage today, risk their lives to fight for themselves and for their mothers, daughters, sisters, grandmothers, and friends. And in doing so, they create a better society not just for them, but for their fathers, sons, brothers, grandfathers, and husbands. The women we are honoring today are not just changing their own circumstances, they are changing the world.”

The eight women come from Guatemala, Afghanistan, Iraq, Malaysia, Niger, Russia, Uzbekistan, and Yemen.

Justice Dept. Opens Civil Rights Probe of Arizona Sheriff

After months of growing scrutiny, the Justice Department has launched a civil rights probe of Arizona’s Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio. Arpaio has been accused of overseeing a discriminatory enforcement of federal immigration laws. He recently made headlines for parading a group of chained undocumented prisoners through the streets of Phoenix before transferring them to the infamous Tent City jail. Last year, a group of Latino activists in Arizona filed a lawsuit accusing Arpaio of racial profiling. The Arpaio investigation is believed to be the Justice Department’s first related to immigration enforcement.

Madoff Expected to Plead Guilty on All Counts

At the time of this broadcast the indicted financier Bernie Madoff has arrived at a New York federal courthouse. He’s accused of operating one of the biggest frauds in Wall Street history. Madoff is expected to plead guilty to all eleven felony charges against him. He faces a prison sentence of 150 years.

Headlines: Freed Guantanamo Prisoner Allges Torture; Obama Continues Bush Email Policy

Democracy Now Headlines: Obama Continues Bush Policy on Afghanistan Detainees; US Working with Pakistan's Military

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.

Freed Gitmo Prisoner Alleges Torture in US Captivity

A newly released prisoner from Guantanamo Bay has accused US officials of torturing him and beating him dozens of times at a secret CIA prison and later at Guantanamo. The Ethiopian-born Binyam Mohamed returned to Britain on Monday after becoming the first Guantanamo prisoner freed under President Obama. In a statement read by his attorney, Clive Stafford Smith, Mohamed called for his captors and jailers to be held accountable.

Clive Stafford Smith: “For myself, the very worst moment came when I realized in Morocco that the people who were torturing me were receiving questions and materials from British intelligence. I had met with British intelligence in Pakistan. I had been open with them. Yet the very people who I had hoped would come to my rescue, I later realized, had allied themselves with my abusers. I am not asking for vengeance, only that the truth should be made known so that nobody in the future should have to endure what I have endured.”

Mohamed was arrested in Pakistan in 2002 and taken to Morocco and Afghanistan before going on to spend more than four years at Guantanamo Bay.

White House-Backed Inquiry: Gitmo Conforms with Geneva Conventions

The torture allegations came as a White House-backed Pentagon investigation said conditions at Guantanamo have met the standards of the Geneva Conventions. Lead investigator Admiral Patrick Walsh.

Adm. Patrick Walsh: “Common Article 3 of the Geneva convention prohibits the following acts: violence to life and person; taking of hostages; outrages of personal dignity, in particular, humiliating and degrading treatment; passing of sentences without judgment pronounced by a regularly constituted court. Any substantiated evidence of prohibited acts discovered in the course of the review would have warranted a finding of noncompliance with Common Article 3. We found no such evidence.”

Walsh touted himself as an impartial investigator even though he’s a high-ranking Navy official. Human rights groups and attorneys for the prisoners immediately dismissed the report as a sham.

Admin Paves Way to Nationalizing Banks

The Obama administration has taken further steps toward the possible nationalization of troubled banks. On Monday, the White House changed the terms of government bailouts to allow financial firms to repay loans with common stock instead of cash. That would increase the government’s chances of taking controlling ownership. The government has already invested nearly $200 billion in over 400 banks, including $45 billion in Citigroup.

Obama Unveils Deficit Pledge

The talk of a larger government role in the financial system comes as President Obama continues to tout his pledge to cut the federal deficit in half by the end of his first term despite the fiscal stimulus package. Obama spoke Monday at a White House economic summit.

President Obama: “The pay-go approach is based on a very simple concept: you don’t spend what you don’t have. So if we want to spend, we’ll need to find somewhere else to cut. This is the rule that families across this country follow every single day, and there’s no reason why their government shouldn’t do the same.”

Ex-Wash. Gov. Rumored for Commerce Post

In cabinet news, President Obama has reportedly settled on former Washington Governor Gary Locke to become Commerce secretary. Locke would be Obama’s third Commerce nominee after Governor Bill Richardson of New Mexico and Senator Judd Gregg of New Hampshire. A formal announcement could come this week.

Obama Mirrors Bush in Opposing Release of White House Emails

The Obama administration has again sided with former President George W. Bush on a case involving government secrecy. The White House has already continued Bush stance’s on seeking dismissal of a lawsuit by former CIA detainees and to prevent a federal court from reviewing the Bush administration’s warrantless spying program. Now it’s refusing to reverse the government position on opposing a suit seeking access to millions of missing White House emails over Bush’s two terms in office. The groups Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington and the National Security Archive want the emails publicly released.

US to Spend $900M on Gaza Aid

In Israel and the Occupied Territories, the Obama administration has announced plans to send some $900 million in aid to the Gaza Strip. The physical damage to Gaza from the recent US-backed Israeli attack is estimated to be at least double that, at more than $2 billion. The $900 million would go to aid and non-governmental organizations in line with Obama’s continuation of the Bush administration’s isolation of the democratically elected Hamas government. Some of the money would also go to Palestinian leaders in the occupied West Bank. Israel is the largest recipient of American foreign aid and military assistance, with the US giving at least $3 billion annually.

Israeli Negotiator Dismissed After Criticizing Stance on Truce, Prisoner Exchange

Meanwhile, outgoing Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has dismissed his top negotiator on Gaza for criticizing the Israeli stance on reopening Gaza’s borders. Last week, the Israeli government formalized its refusal to even discuss easing the humanitarian blockade of Gaza without the release of the captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit. Shalit was seized in 2006 in a raid on an Israeli army post used for attacks on Gaza. In an interview last week, the fired negotiator, Amos Gilad, said he opposed conditioning any truce deal on Shalit’s release. Hamas has said it would free Shalit, but only in the context of a prisoner exchange. Israel has previously negotiated several prisoner exchanges. Some 10,000 Palestinians are currently jailed in Israeli prisons.

Ross Named to Advisory Post on Iran

The State Department has made official its appointment of Dennis Ross as special adviser on developing strategy toward Iran. During his previous stint as US envoy to the Middle East, Ross was widely criticized for backing Israeli settlement expansion and refusing to address Palestinian grievances.

3 US Troops, Interpreter Killed in Iraq

In Iraq, three US troops and their interpreter were killed Monday in Diyala province. They were reportedly struck by a roadside bomb.

Senate Report Faults Cuban Embargo

A new report from the Senate Foreign Relations Committee urges major changes to US policy toward Cuba. After reviewing the US embargo and restrictions on travel there, the report concludes “we must recognize the ineffectiveness of our current policy and deal with the Cuban regime in a way that enhances U.S. interests.”

Artists, Educators Call for Lifting Cuba Restrictions

The report comes on the heels of a new campaign from hundreds of artists and educators to urge President Obama to maintain his campaign pledge to ease travel restrictions to Cuba. In a statement, the group says “U.S. policies towards Cuba…have prevented us from engaging in critical communication and collaboration with our Cuban counterparts…preventing cultural interchange between two societies that share a historic relationship lasting over two centuries.” Signatories include Carlos Santana, Herbie Hancock, Danny Glover and Harry Belafonte.

Study: Western Demand Boosts Chinese CO2 Emissions

A new study has found Western countries continue to play a major role in China’s status as the leading emitter of greenhouse gases. The Oslo-based Centre for International Climate and Environmental Research says half of China’s recent increase in carbon dioxide pollution is caused by producing goods for other countries. Nearly one-third of Chinese emissions result from manufacturing products for export. Nine percent of the total resulted from goods for the US, compared to six percent for all of Europe.

Justice Ginsburg Returns to Supreme Court Bench

And back in the United States, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg returned to the Supreme Court bench Monday, less than three weeks after undergoing surgery for pancreatic cancer. The cancer has been diagnosed as early stage.

Admin: Healthcare Reform Top Fiscal Priority

The Obama administration, meanwhile, says it intends to make healthcare reform its top fiscal priority this year. No details were announced on specific proposals. The pledge comes as a new government report says healthcare costs will rise to average more than $8,000 per American this year. That amounts to a per-person increase of $365 from 2008. The Department of Health and Human Services warns the Medicare hospital trust fund continues to lose money and could become insolvent within seven years. Bureaucratic costs as a result of the insurance-based private healthcare systems continue to account for a significant percentage of healthcare spending. Meanwhile, the number of uninsured has also grown. A new report from the Kaiser Family Foundation says 48 million Americans don’t have healthcare coverage.

Headlines: Obama Continues Bush Policy on Afghanistan Detainees; US Working with Pakistan’s Military

Democracy Now Headlines: Obama Continues Bush Policy on Afghanistan Detainees; US Working with Pakistan's Military

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

Report: U.S. May Increase Stake in Citigroup

Citigroup and federal officials are in talks that could result in the U.S. government substantially expanding its ownership of one of the world’s largest financial institutions. The Wall Street Journal reports the government could wind up holding as much as 40 percent of Citigroup’s common stock. The potential move at Citigroup would give the government its biggest ownership of a financial-services company since the September bailout of insurer AIG, which left taxpayers with an 80% stake. Last week, Citigroup’s share price fell below $2 to an 18-year low.

Obama Pledges To Cut Budget Deficit in Half

In other economic news, President Barack Obama has pledged to cut the federal deficit in half by the end of his first term, despite the fiscal stimulus package. During his weekly radio address Obama said the nation can”t generate sustained growth without getting the nation”s deficit under control.

President Obama: “No single piece of this broad economic recovery can, by itself, meet the demands that have been placed on us. We can’t help people find work or pay their bills unless we unlock credit for families and businesses. We can’t solve our housing crisis unless we help people find work so that they can make payments on their homes. We can’t produce shared prosperity without firm rules of the road, and we can’t generate sustained growth without getting our deficits under control. In short, we cannot successfully address any of our problems without addressing them all. And that is exactly what the strategy we are pursuing is designed to do.”

Obama Backs Bush Policy on Bagram Detainees

The Obama administration has embraced another key argument of former President Bush”s counterterrorism policy. In a court filing on Friday, the Justice Department told a federal judge that prisoners held at the U.S. Air Force base at Bagram in Afghanistan have no legal rights to challenge their imprisonment. Human rights groups say they are becoming increasingly concerned that the use of extra-judicial methods in Afghanistan could be extended under the new U.S. administration. Bagram air base is about to undergo a $60 million expansion to provide enough space to house five times as many prisoners as remain at Guantanamo.

Attorney General Eric Holder To Visit Guantanamo

Attorney General Eric Holder is heading to Guantanamo today for the first time since he took office. Holder told reporters he wants to talk to officials there about detention and interrogation techniques. This comes as the Pentagon is claiming in a new report that the prison complies with the Geneva Conventions, a position disputed by many human rights groups.

Binyam Mohamed Released From Guantanamo

Meanwhile Binyam Mohamed has been released from Guantanamo after seven years in U.S. custody. Mohamed is expected to arrive in Britain today. The Somali citizen says he was repeatedly tortured while being held at a secret CIA prison and at Guantanamo. His military lawyer, Lieutenant Colonel Yvonne Bradley said that what Mohamed endured at Guantanamo “makes waterboarding look like child’s play.”

U.S. Military Secretly Working With Pakistani Troops

The New York Times reports more than 70 U.S. military advisers and technical specialists are secretly working in Pakistan to help its armed forces battle Al Qaeda and the Taliban. The Americans are mostly Army Special Forces soldiers who are training Pakistani Army and paramilitary troops, providing them with intelligence and advising on combat tactics. The CIA is also providing intelligence to a new Pakistani commando unit that has been used to kill and capture wanted militants. This comes as Pakistan has announced new plans to arms villager in the North West Frontier province to fight against Taliban and al-Qaida militants. Meanwhile the New York Times reports the Obama administration has expanded the covert war run by the CIA inside Pakistan. Last week a CIA drone targeted Baitullah Mehsud for the first time. Mehsud was identified last year as the man who had orchestrated the assassination of former Pakistani prime minister Benazir Bhutto.

EPA To Rule on Carbon-Dioxide Emissions

The Wall Street Journal reports the Environmental Protection Agency will soon determine that carbon-dioxide emissions represent a danger to the public and propose new rules to regulate emissions of the greenhouse gas from a range of industries. Carol Browner, special adviser to the president on climate change and energy, told the paper that the EPA is looking at a 2007 Supreme Court ruling that requires the agency to determine whether carbon dioxide endangers public health or welfare.

Amnesty Calls For Arms Embargo on Israel and Hamas

Amnesty International is urging the UN Security Council to impose an immediate arms embargo on Israel, Hamas and other Palestinian armed groups. Amnesty said its found evidence that Israel and Hamas had committed war crimes and used weapons supplied from overseas to carry out attacks on civilians during Israel’s three week attack on Gaza.

Meanwhile Kevin Cahill, a top humanitarian official at the UN, says he is shocked by the current conditions inside Gaza following the Israeli attack.

Kevin Cahill: “One of the more horrific sites that I have seen in a career that has allowed me to work in 65 countries, often war zones. This is about as dramatic as it can get”.

11 Burundi Troops Killed in Somali Suicide Blast

In Somalia, 11 peacekeeping troops from Burundi died on Sunday in a suicide bomb attack in Mogadishu. The al-Shabab group claimed responsibility for the attack on the African Union base. It was the deadliest attack against African Union troops since their deployment two years ago.

Grenade Attack in Cairo Kills One

Meanwhile in Egypt, a French woman died on Sunday when an attacker threw a grenade into a famed bazaar in medieval Cairo. 17 people were injured in the blast.

Tamil Tigers Ready For Ceasefire

In Sri Lanka, the Tamil Tiger rebels have reportedly told the United Nations they are ready to comply with international calls for a ceasefire with government forces. But the Tamil Tigers said they would only down their weapons after negotiations are held with the government. A spokesperson for the Tigers said a ceasefire was needed to end the miseries of the Tamil people. The Tamil Tigers say the recent offensive by the Sri Lankan government has killed more than 2,000 civilians and injured more than 5,000. On Friday members of the organization Tamils Against Genocide held a rally outside the White House.

Rajeev Sreetharan: “The American government has to recognize that this is longer a Sri Lankan issue. This is a U.S issue. U.S citizen Gothabhaye Rajapakshe in the position of defense secretary of Sri Lanka is committing genocide unapologetically. The U.S needs to change its policy towards this issue-if it is against genocide, it cannot allow genocide to perpetrated by its own citizens.”

Clinton Criticized For Comment on Human Rights in China

Amnesty International and Students For A Free Tibet are criticizing Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for stating that human rights concerns should not hinder cooperation with China. During her trip to Asia last week Clinton said: “But our pressing on those issues can’t interfere on the global economic crisis, the global climate change crisis and the security crisis.” Amnesty International said it was “shocked and extremely disappointed” by Clinton’s remarks.

Owner of Philadelphia Inquirer Declares Bankruptcy

In media news, two more newspaper chains, Philadelphia Newspapers and the Journal Register Company, have filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. Philadelphia Newspapers publishes the Philadelphia Inquirer and the Philadelphia Daily News. The Journal Register publishes 20 daily newspapers including The New Haven Register in Connecticut.

Spike Lee Calls For NY Post Boycott

In other media news, protests are continuing outside the New York Post over the publication of a cartoon that critics say depicts President Obama as a chimpanzee. On Friday filmmaker Spike Lee called for a boycott of the newspaper and urged athletes and entertainers to shun the paper”s writers. NAACP president Benjamin Todd Jealous has called for the ouster of cartoonist Sean Delonas and editor-in-chief Col Allan.

NYU Student Occupation Ends; 18 Students Arrested

A student occupation at New York University has ended and the school has suspended 18 students. The group Take Back NYU had submitted demands including the establishment of a socially responsible investment committee, a union for graduate student teachers, a tuition freeze, a full disclosure of the school’s annual budget, and support for Palestinian students in the Gaza Strip.

AIM Activist Robert Robideau, 61, Dies

Longtime American Indian Movement activist Robert Robideau has died at the age of 61. In 1976 he and Darrell Butler were acquitted in the deaths of two FBI agents at the Pine RIdge reservation on grounds of self defense. The third defendant, Leonard Peltier was sentenced to two consecutive life sentences in a separate trial. Peltier has been in prison for the past 33 years.

Sean Penn at Academy Awards: “We’ve Got To Have Equal Rights For Everyone.”

And the film Slumdog Millionaire was the big winner at last night”s Academy Awards taking home eight Oscars including best picture. Kate Winslet won best actress for “The Reader” and Sean Penn won best actor for his role as gay rights pioneer Harvey Milk in the film titled “Milk”. This is part of Sean Penn’s acceptance speech.

Sean Penn: “For those who saw the signs of hatred as our cars drove in tonight, I think that it is a good time for those who voted for the ban against gay marriage to sit and reflect and anticipate their great shame and the shame in their grandchildren’s eyes if they continue that way of support. We’ve got to have equal rights for everyone.”

Headlines: 2/3rds Support Investigating Bush Crimes

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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.

Blair: Financial Crisis Is Top Security Threat to US

The nation’s new Director of Intelligence Dennis Blair warned Thursday that the current global economic crisis has become a greater security concern to the United States than terrorism. Blair said the crisis has already increased questioning of U.S. stewardship of the global economy.

Dennis Blair: “And I would like to begin with the global economic crisis because it already looms as the most serious one in decades if not in centuries… Economic crisis increase the risk of regime threatening instability if they are prolonged for 1 or 2 year period. And instability can loosen the fragile hold that many developing countries have on law and order which can spillout in dangerous ways into the international community. There are some silver linings with low oil prices, Venezuela faces financial constraints this year. Iran’s president faces less than certain prospects for re-election in June.”

While discussing other global threats, Intelligence Director Dennis Blair highlighted the potential for an Iran-Israeli confrontation.

Dennis Blair: “The Levant is the key focal area for these strategic shifts. Recent fighting between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza strip has deepened Palestinian political divisions. It is also widened the rift between regional moderates led by Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Jordan and hardliners including Iran, Hizbollah, and Syria. With Hamas controlling Gaza and Hizbollah growing stronger in Lebanon progress on a Palestinian-Israeli accord is going to be more difficult. With Iran developing a nuclear power capability and with Israel determined not to allow it, there is potential for an Iran-Israeli confrontation or crisis.”

Sen. Gregg Withdraws As Commerce Pick

Republican Senator Judd Gregg of New Hampshire has withdrawn his nomination as Commerce Secretary saying he had “irresolvable conflicts” with President Obama on the economic stimulus and the Census.

Sen. Judd Gregg: “You know I am a fiscal conservative as everybody knows. A fairly strong one. And it just became clear to me it would be very difficult, day in and day out, to serve in this cabinet or any cabinet for that matter and be part of the team but not be able to be 100 percent with the team, 110 percent with the team. You know you can’t have a blocking back without who only pulls out every second or third play.”

Judd Gregg is the third prospective cabinet secretary to bow out from consideration. Gregg would have been the third Republican in Obama’s cabinet.

Poll: 2/3 Americans Support Investigating Bush Crimes

In a new USA Today / Galllup Poll, two-thirds of Americans say they want investigations into the role of Bush administration officials in torture, warrantless wiretapping and the politicization of the Justice Department. 40 percent of respondents said they want to see prosecutions. Senator Patrick Leahy recently proposed the formation of a truth and reconciliation commission to investigate Bush administration crimes. On Monday President Obama was asked about Leahy’s proposal.

President Obama: “My view is also that nobody is above the law, and if there are clear instances of wrongdoing, that people should be prosecuted just like any ordinary citizen, but that, generally speaking, I’m more interested in looking forward than I am in looking backwards. I want to pull everybody together, including, by the way, the–all the members of the intelligence community who have done things the right way and have been working hard to protect America and I think sometimes are painted with a broad brush without adequate information. So I will take a look at Senator Leahy’s proposal, but my general orientation is to say let’s get it right moving forward.”

Some Obama administration officials have already ruled out prosecutions. Earlier this month the new head of the CIA, Leon Panetta, said CIA officers would not be prosecuted for harsh interrogations authorized by the Bush White House. On Thursday the Senate confirmed Panetta by a voice vote.

Lawyer: Torture Evidence ‘Hidden From Obama’

Meanwhile the Guardian newspaper reports US defense officials may be preventing Barack Obama from seeing evidence that Binyam Mohamed, a former British resident held in Guantanamo Bay, has been tortured. The prisoner’s lawyer Clive Stafford Smith says he sent Obama evidence of what he called “truly mediaeval” abuse but substantial parts were blanked out before the president could read it. Smith says Obama should be aware of the “bizarre reality” of the situation. Smith said: “You, as commander in chief, are being denied access to material that would help prove that crimes have been committed by U.S. personnel. This decision is being made by the very people who you command.” The Guardian reports US defense officials might have censored the evidence to protect the president from criminal liability or political embarrassment.

Documents Reveals CIA & Pentagon Worked Closely on Rendition

In related news, three human rights groups released more than a thousand pages of Pentagon and CIA documents Thursday that reveal the two agencies worked closely together in rendering terrorism suspects to black sites. The documents also confirm the existence of secret prisons in Iraq and Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan.

49 Killed in Continental Plane Crash Near Buffalo

A Continental flight from Newark to Buffalo crashed Thursday night killing 49 people. The dead included 44 passengers, four crew members and a person on the ground. The crash occurred about five miles from Buffalo Niagara International Airport. It was the nation’s deadliest air crash in more than two years. One of the passengers killed was the widow of a businessman who died in the September 11 attacks. Beverly Eckert had been traveling to Buffalo to mark what would have been her late husband’s 58th birthday.

Judges Admit Taking Bribes From Private Juvenile Prison

In Pennsylvania, two judges have plead guilty to wire fraud and income tax fraud for taking bribes in return for placing youths in privately owned jails. Judges Mark Ciavarella and Michael Conahan are said to have received $2.6 million for ensuring juvenile suspects were jailed in prisons operated by the companies PA Child Care and a sister company, Western PA Child Care. Some of the youths were jailed over the objections of their probation officers. An estimated 5,000 juveniles have been sentenced by Ciavarella since the scheme started in 2002.

Pakistan Arrests Six Connected to Mumbai Attacks

Pakistani security forces have arrested the alleged ringleader and five others believed to have been involved in the conspiracy behind the attacks in Mumbai, India that killed 179 people. Pakistan’s Interior Minister Rehman Malik said gunmen had sailed from Karachi in Pakistan. Malik admitted at least part of the conspiracy had been organized in Pakistan.

Rehman Malik: “Fact remains that it’s not only Pakistan but system of other countries has also been used. As I said earlier, the telephone SIMs from Austria, the web service, the payment from Spain and the payment in Italy and the domain name is in Houston; and therefore we will be requesting, through Interpol, the FBI to help us because it is also a good piece of evidence.”

Afghanistan Probes Pakistan Link to Taliban Raid on Kabul

Afghan intelligence agents are investigating links between Pakistan and the Taliban militants who killed 26 people in three simultaneous suicide bomb and gun raids earlier this week on state offices in the capital Kabul.

30 Shiite Pilgrims Killed in Iraq

In Iraq, at least 30 Shiite pilgrims have been killed by a female suicide bomber south of Baghdad. The pilgrims were heading to the city of Karbala to take part in a religious ceremony.

Israeli Election Results Confirm Livni Won Most Seats

The final results of Israel’s parliamentary election confirmed Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni’s Kadima Party won the contest by a single seat over Benjamin Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud party. Both candidates are attempting to form coalition governments.

Report: Hamas To Sign Deal To Release Israeli Soldier

Meanwhile the Arabic daily Al-Hayat is reporting Hamas is prepared to sign a deal next week for the release of abducted Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit as part of a long-term truce agreement with Israel. According to the report, Shalit would be freed in exchange for 1,000 Palestinians jailed in Israel.

UN To Probe Israel Attacks On UN Facilities in Gaza

In other news from the region, the United Nations has launched a formal inquiry into Israel’s bombings of UN installations and convoys during its 22-day attack on Gaza.

African Union and Arab League Criticize Possible Indictment of Bashir

African Union and Arab League diplomats are urging the U.N. Security Council to suspend an expected war crimes indictment of the Sudanese president over atrocities in Darfur. President Omar Hassan al-Bashir is the most senior figure pursued by the court since it was set up in 2002. If the warrant is issued as expected, he will be the first acting head of state indicted. China, the African Union and Arab League have all suggested that an indictment of Bashir could destabilize the region and worsen the Darfur conflict.

Canada Restricts Use of Taser Stun Guns

The Canadian federal police have issued new guidelines restricting the use of taser stun guns. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police now bar officers from using stun guns against suspects who are merely resisting arrest or refusing to cooperate. At least 20 Canadians have died after being shot by stun guns. In 2007, an unarmed Polish man died at Vancouver International Airport after he was repeatedly tasered.

San Jose Man Dies After Police Tasering

Another taser death has been reported in the United States. In San Jose California a man in his 20s died Wednesday night after police shot him with a Taser. The death is the sixth to occur after the use of Tasers by San Jose police since 2004.

TVA: Coal Ash Spill To Cost Up To $800 Million To Clean

The Tennessee Valley Authority says it may cost over $800 million to clean up last year’s massive coal ash spill at a Tennessee coal plant. One point one billion gallons of coal ash sludge spilled from a containment pond flooding homes and nearby water sources.

Gay and Lesbian Couples Protest Marriage Laws

Hundreds of same-sex couples attempted to get married Thursday in a national day of action to protest laws prohibiting same-sex marriage. Couples went to marriage bureaus, county clerks’ offices and county courthouses to apply for marriage licenses only to be turned away. In New York activists wore signs reading “Just Not Married” after they were turned away by officials. The protests were organized as part of the 12th annual Freedom to Marry Week.

Obama Marks Abraham Lincoln’s Birthday

Ceremonies were held across the nation Thursday to mark the 200th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln’s birth. At a ceremony in Washington, President Barack Obama praised the nation’s16th president as a visionary of great courage.

President Obama: “As we mark the bicentennial of our 16th President’s birth, I cannot claim to know as much about his life and works as many of those who are also speaking today, but I can say that I feel a special gratitude to this singular figure who in so many ways made by own story possible-and who in so many ways made America’s story possible.

Hampshire College Students and Official Argue Over Divestment Decision

A dispute has emerged between officials at Hampshire College and student organizers over the school’s recent decision to divest from a mutual fund run by State Street Global Advisors. Activists with the group Students for Justice In Palestine said the move came after it had pressured Hampshire’s Board of Trustees to divest from six companies that provide the Israeli military with equipment and services in the Occupied West Bank and Gaza. Hampshire College officials admit they reviewed the State Street fund after receiving a petition from the group but the school said the divestment decision “did not pertain to a political movement or single out businesses active in a specific region or country.” The trustees said they divested from the fund after learning the fund held stocks in more than 200 companies engaged in business practices that violated the college’s policy on “socially responsible investments.” The six companies that formed the basis of the student group’s complaints were: Caterpillar, United Technologies, General Electric, ITT Corporation, Motorola, and Terex. Students for Justice In Palestine are hailing the divestment decision as a major victory. They say Hampshire has become the first college in the country to break financial ties with companies specifically because they do business with Israel. In 1977, Hampshire became the first college in the nation to divest its South African holdings.

Jewish Activists Protest World Zionist Organization

Here in New York a group of Jewish activists have been staging a 24-hour protest in front of the Midtown Manhattan building that houses the World Zionist Organization and The Jewish Agency.

Jury: Florida Smoker Died Because of Addiction

And in Florida, a jury will soon decide whether tobacco giant Philip Morris should pay millions of dollars in a damage to the family of a smoker who died of lung cancer after being addicted to cigarettes for 40 years. Lawyers for the family of Stuart Hess argue he became hooked on cigarettes because of deceptive practices by Philip Morris that hid the dangers of smoking. On Thursday the jury Hess was helplessly addicted to nicotine and that he did not continue smoking by his own choice.

Iraqi Journalist Throws Shoes at Bush

On Sunday, an Iraqi journalist threw his shoes at President George W. Bush during a press conference that happened during Bush’s final visit to Iraq. The journalist denounced Bush as a “killer” and a “dog” for his role in the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

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Yesterday, an Iraqi journalist threw his shoes at President George W. Bush during a news conference and denounced the president as a “dog.” He described his action as a “farewell kiss” to the president for his launching the invasion of Iraq in 2003.

The incident has been widely reported in the corporate media, but there has been relatively little examination of why the journalist took the action or how it has played out in Iraq. According to reports, journalist Muntazeer al-Zaidi was motivated to take the action because of his experiences with the US occupation of Iraq. al-Zaidi’s friends have described him as “emotionally influenced” by the aerial bombing of Baghdad’s Sadr City over the past year. al-Zaidi was also kidnapped in 2007 by a Shiite militia group. As he was tackled to the ground, al-Zaidi was yelling “killer of Iraqis, killer of children.”

While Bush shrugged off the action, it has been met with support by some Iraqis. It was cheered by Iraqis who took to the streets and called for the journalist’s release. Protests took place in Iraq where demonstrators chanted “Listen Bush, we got you out with a pair of shoes,” “if we run out of ammunition we will hit them with shoes,” and “America out now” according to media reports. Muntazeer al-Zaidi’s employer–Al-Baghdadiya television–has also called for the journalist’s release and has suspended regular programming to broadcast messages of support from across the Arab world. Two journalists at the press conference were also removed and temporarily detained for calling the action “courageous.”

View the video of the shoe throwing:

Ehlers has High Hopes for Rescheduled Bush Fundraiser

Republican congressional Representative Vern Ehlers hopes that a fundraiser featuring President George W. Bush will be rescheduled and that it will attract a significant number of wealthy donors.

A Republican fundraiser planned for tomorrow at the Ada home of Dick DeVos has been canceled so that the the guest of honor–President George W. Bush–can stay in Washington DC to work on the economic crisis.

However, according to The Grand Rapids Press, the event will likely be rescheduled for some time in October. The article cites Representative Vern Ehlers who says that “We have commitments from everyone involved the he will come out later.” The Press article points out that at a recent “major donor” fundraiser in Cleveland, Bush netted $500,000 for the National Republican Congressional Committee and the Republican National Committee. Ehlers is quoted saying, “It would be nice if we did that in Grand Rapids” and the Press reports that Ehlers is confident that West Michigan’s wealthy will come out for the event.

House Votes to Send Kucinich Impeachment Measure to Committee

On Wednesday, the United States House of Representatives–including Democrats–effectively voted to kill a measure aimed at impeaching President Bush for war crimes and other “high crimes and misdemeanors.”

On Wednesday, the United States House of Representatives voted primarily along party lines to send 35 articles of impeachment against President George W. Bush to the House Judiciary Committee. The vote will effectively kill US Representative Dennis Kucinich’s impeachment effort, as the committee likely will not hold hearings on the matter this year. A similar procedure was invoked last year to prevent debate on a measure aimed at impeaching Vice President Dick Cheney. Kucinich has expressed disappointment in the decision, arguing that his articles address war crimes and should not be taken lightly. Even Kucinich’s own party–the Democrats–have been unwilling to consider the measure claiming that they are already holding the Bush administration accountable.

None of Michigan’s republican representatives–including Grand Rapids resident Vern Ehlers–support the measure.