National and International Headlines for January 18

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

Israel Completely Seals Gaza Border, Blocking Humanitarian Aid

In Israel and the Occupied Territories, Israel has ordered the closure of all crossings into the Gaza Strip. The border had already been heavily restricted, but now all goods have been blocked including humanitarian supplies from the UN. The UN agency for Palestinian refugees condemned the move, saying it will only worsen an already dire situation. Israel says its trying to thwart rocket attacks on the nearby Israeli town of Sderot. Palestinians have fired some one hundred-fifty rockets since Tuesday, causing several injuries. Israeli defense ministry spokesperson Shlomo Dror said: “It’s unacceptable that people in Sderot are living in fear every day and people in the Gaza Strip are living life as usual.” The closure comes as Israel continues daily attacks on Gaza that have killed more than thirty-two Palestinians in the past week, including nineteen on Tuesday alone. In the latest Israeli attack, one Palestinian was killed and four others were wounded today in an airstrike in north Gaza. A Gaza resident said the situation there is catastrophic.

Resident: “The situation in Gaza is dire with the Israeli escalation on the Strip and the incursions that take place. As well as the situation-the crossing, the closing of the crossings, and the humanitarian situation is catastrophic on the residents and the people.”

Hamas has taken part in the rocket attacks for the first time since seizing control of Gaza last June. The Israeli newspaper Haaretz reports today Hamas appears to have settled on a policy of launching the rockets to force Israel into a ceasefire. Israel rejected a truce offer from Hamas last month. On Thursday, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert promised a continued “war” on Gaza.

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert: “A war is going on in the south, every day, every night. The most daring and boldest of our soldiers and members of the security services are taking part in it. This war will not stop. The moment will come when the scales will tip in this war and cause the firing in the south to be different from what it is today.”

U.S. Attack Kills 2 Iraqi Women

In Iraq, at least two Iraqi women have been killed and two others injured in a U.S. raid in Diyala province. The Pentagon says U.S. forces opened fire after two militant suspects refused to leave a building that the victims were in.

U.S. Commander in Iraq Sees “Five to Ten Year” Stay

Meanwhile, the second-ranking U.S. commander in Iraq is predicting U.S. forces will remain there for many years. On Thursday, Army Lt. Gen. Raymond Odierno told a Pentagon news conference he foresees a U.S. presence of “five to ten years” and possibly longer.

Gates Backtracks on NATO Comments

Defense Secretary Robert Gates is trying to quash a row over his criticism of U.S. allies in Afghanistan. Gates told the Los Angeles Times this week he believes some NATO countries are not up to fighting Taliban insurgents. On Thursday, Gates backtracked on his remarks.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates: “There have been several recent media reports of discontent in the United States and among other NATO members about operations in Afghanistan. This does not reflect reality or, I believe, the views of our governments. As I said before the House Armed Services Committee last month, allied forces from the United Kingdom, Canada, the Netherlands, Australia, Denmark and other nations have stepped up to the plate and are playing a significant and powerful role in Afghanistan.”

Gates’ initial comments appeared one day after he ordered an additional 3,200 U.S. Marines to Afghanistan.

Canada Puts U.S. on Torture Watch List

The Canadian government has put the United States on a watch list of countries that could practice torture. The mention is made on a secret Canadian government document not intended for public release. The document cites the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay and lists U.S. interrogation techniques including “forced nudity, isolation, and sleep deprivation.” Other countries on the list include Israel, Syria, China, Iran and Afghanistan.

Pentagon Contract Awarded to Firm Employing Ex-Rumsfeld Aide

The Pentagon has awarded a multi-million dollar contract to the intelligence firm Missions Solutions Group just two months after the company hired a former aide to ex-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. The aide, Stephen Cambone, is a former undersecretary of defense for intelligence. Cambone established the Pentagon’s Counter-Intelligence Field Activity office–CIFA–the very same office that awarded his firm the contract. CIFA was previously involved in a Pentagon spy program that monitored the activities of peace activists.

Judge OKs Nevada Hotel Caucus Sites

On the campaign trail, a federal judge has rejected a lawsuit seeking to ban caucus sites in nine Las Vegas hotels for Saturday’s Democratic vote in Nevada. The sites were established last March to accommodate workers who can’t attend caucuses in their neighborhoods. The largely Latino and female workforce in almost every casino on the Strip is organized by the 60,000-member Culinary Workers Union, which has endorsed Senate Barack Obama. Days after the endorsement the Nevada State Teachers Union and individuals backing Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton filed a lawsuit alleging the casino sites create a ‘preferred class of voters.” But on Thursday U.S. District Judge James Mahan rejected the case and said the caucus sites can proceed as planned.

Leahy Endorses Obama in Democratic Race

In other campaign news, Obama has picked up an endorsement from Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy. On Thursday, Leahy compared Obama’s campaign to Robert Kennedy’s campaign in 1968.

Edwards Criticizes Obama for Reagan Admiration

Obama meanwhile is coming under criticism for his comments praising former President Ronald Reagan. In an interview with the Reno Gazette-Journal this week, Obama appeared to express admiration for what he called Reagan’s ‘clarity’ and ‘optimism’ in overcoming the “excesses” of the 1960s and ’70s. In response, rival candidate John Edwards said: “[Reagan] did extraordinary damage to the middle class and working people, created a tax structure that favored the very wealthiest Americans and caused the middle class and working people to struggle every single day… I can promise you this: [I] will never use Ronald Reagan as an example for change.”

“Tonight Show” Audience Members Protest Kucinich Exclusion

The exclusion of Democratic hopeful Dennis Kucinich from the Democratic debate in Las Vegas received some uninvited attention this week on NBC’s “Tonight Show With Jay Leno.” Kucinich has accused NBC and its parent company General Electric of political censorship after it disinvited him from taking part in Tuesday’s debate. As Jay Leno interviewed guest Bill Maher, two audience members spoke out.

Clinton Holds Nine-Point Nevada Lead

Polls in Nevada show Hillary Clinton with a nine-point lead ahead of Saturday’s caucus. Aboard her campaign plane this week, Clinton joked with reporters by posing as a flight attendant.

Sen. Hillary Clinton: “If you look out from the right, you will see an America saddled with tax cuts for the wealthiest and a war without end. If you look out from the left, you will see an America with a strong middle class at home and a strong reputation in the world. Once we’ve reached cruising altitude, we’ll be offering in flight entertainment: my stump speech in its many variations.”

Huckabee Silent on Confederate Flag Display

On the Republican side, the focus is on South Carolina where on Saturday voters also go to polls. On Thursday, former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee refused to say whether he finds it offensive that South Carolina displays the Confederate flag on its state Capitol grounds.

Romney Questioned Over Lobbyist Claim

Meanwhile Michigan winner Mitt Romney got into a heated exchanged with an Associated Press reporter after Romney claimed he doesn’t have lobbyists running his campaign.

Mitt Romney: “I don’t have lobbyists running my campaign. I don’t have lobbyists that are tied to my …”

Reporter: “That’s not true governor. That is not true. Ron Kaufman is a lobbyist.”

Romney: “Did you hear what I said? Did you hear what I said, Glen? I said I don’t have lobbyists running my campaign, and he’s not running my campaign.”

Reporter: “He’s a senior advisor.”

Romney: “He’s an adviser. And the person who runs my campaign is [campaign manager] Beth Myers, and I have a whole staff of deputy campaign managers.”

Reporter: “Has Beth Meyers been on the plane with you?”

Romney: “Beth Meyers has been the plane with me, and Beth Meyers is running my campaign… Ron is a wonderful friend and adviser. He’s not paid — he’s an adviser, like many others. But I do not have lobbyists running my campaign.”

The Romney advisor is Ron Kaufman, a senior strategist who often travels in Romney’s entourage. He is a lobbyist with the firm Dutko Worldwide.

Conyers Introduces Anti-Vote Caging Bill

On Capitol Hill, House Judiciary Committee chair John Conyers has introduced a bill that would ban “vote caging.” “Caging” is an election suppression tactic that seeks to bar voters by challenging their eligibility. Republicans have been accused of maintaining caging lists skewed towards people of color, predominantly African-Americans.

Admin Defends Alaska Oil Exploration at Polar Bear Hearing

And in other news from Washington, the Bush administration’s stance on polar bears came under fire Thursday at a hearing on Capitol Hill. The administration has approved oil exploration in Alaska despite an ongoing dispute over whether the bears should be protected under the Endangered Species Act. Fish and Wildlife Service director Dale Hall said the White House believes the bears won’t be affected.

Dale Hall: “The service determined that these activities do not threaten polar bears throughout all or significant portion of their range after a review of factors including the mitigation measures, required under the marine mammal protection act, historical information on development activities, lack of direct quantifiable impacts to habitat from these activities noted to date, the localised nature of development activities or possible events such as oil spills.”

The bears’ arctic habitat has seen declining ice coverage by the year–a decline environmentalist blame on global warming. Congressmember Ed Markey criticized the White House stance.

Rep. Ed Markey: “In the end, man can adapt while the bear can not. We can act to prevent global warming, but the bear can not. We can develop alternatives to oil, the bear can not. When the ice is gone, man cheers about new commercial opportunities for oil and gas drilling while the bear starves and drowns. I have been hoping for common sense from the Department of the Interior and from [Interior] Secretary [Dirk] Kempthorne but I have heard that all too common abandonment of common sense here today.”

National and International Headlines for January 17

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

U.S. Bombings in Iraq Increased Fivefold in 2007

New figures from the Pentagon show the U.S. carried out fives times as many aerial bombings in Iraq last year as it did in 2006. According to the Washington Post, U.S. forces dropped more than 1,400 bombs–an average of nearly four a day. The 2006 total was 229 bombs, an average of four per week. The UN estimates at least two hundred civilians were killed in U.S. bombings from April until the end of the year. The figures come as the U.S. continues an extensive bombing campaign over Arab Jabour south of Baghdad. In one of the largest strikes since the 2003 invasion, U.S. warplanes dropped 40,000 pounds of bombs in a ten-minute span one week ago. Military experts are predicting an increase in the bombing, should the U.S. draw down its forces in Iraq. Airstrikes are also at record levels in Afghanistan. NATO bombings topped 3,500 last year, doubling the number for 2006.

Justice Dept. Warns of No Charges in Blackwater Killing of Iraqis

The Justice Department is downplaying expectations of criminal prosecutions in last September’s killings of seventeen Iraqi civilians by the private military firm Blackwater Worldwide. The New York Times reports the Justice Department told lawmakers in a private briefing last month that it may not file any charges against Blackwater or the individual guards. Justice Department officials said they face major legal obstacles. Four months after the shooting and nearly five years into the Iraq invasion, it remains unclear whether Blackwater is subjected to any legal jurisdiction for its operations in Iraq. State Department investigators also granted Blackwater guards immunity in return for their testimony in the shooting’s immediate aftermath. In a new report, the group Human Rights First blames the lack of prosecutions on a lack of political will rather than legal uncertainty. The report says: “The U.S. government’s reaction to the shootings has been characterized by confusion, defensiveness, a multiplicity of uncoordinated ad hoc investigations, and interagency finger-pointing. These failures underscored the Justice Department’s unwillingness or inability to systematically investigate and prosecute allegations of serious violent crimes.” Blackwater is being sued in a civil case brought on behalf of some of the victims’ families.

RTI, Unity Resources Sued for Fatal Shooting of Iraqi Civilian

Meanwhile, Democracy Now! has learned that another Western contractor is being sued for the fatal shooting of an Iraqi civilian. Lawyers for the family of Marani Awanis Mannok have filed suit against the contractor RTI International and the private military firm Unity Resources Group. The suit alleges Unity Resources guards shot and killed Manook and another Iraqi woman, Genevia Jalal Antranick, last October. Manook was the mother of three children. The suit calls the killings a “senseless slaughter… in a pattern of egregious misconduct.” The North Carolina-based RTI has hired Unity Resources to provide security for its operations in Iraq. RTI has received hundreds of millions in U.S. government contracts for its Iraq work.

3 Palestinian Civilians Killed in Ongoing Israeli Airstrikes

In Israel and the Occupied Territories, Israel is continuing its latest assault on the Gaza Strip, while Palestinian militants intensify rocket fire on Israeli towns. Three Palestinian civilians, including a thirteen-year-old were killed Wednesday when an Israeli missile hit their car. Israel called the attack an “error” and said it was targeting militants. The killings came one day after nineteen Palestinians lost their lives–the highest single-day Palestinian death toll in more than a year. Meanwhile, Palestinian rockets continue to hit nearby Israeli towns. Israel says eighteen rockets landed in Israel today, causing two slight injuries. Israel has continued attacks on Gaza after rejecting a truce offer from Hamas last month. Speaking from Syria, Hamas political leader Khaled Meshaal said Israel was sabotaging any chances of a ceasefire.

Khaled Meshaal: “What you are doing will prevent you from any movement you may bet on. No exchange involving Gilad Shalit and no ceasefire. This Palestinian blood will shorten the life of Israel and will not bring you security or

peace. There is no peace with killers and no security with criminals.”

The Gaza attacks also come just days after President Bush visited the region to promote U.S.-backed talks. Earlier today, Palestinian Authority negotiator Saeb Erekat said negotiations with Israel are pointless so long as the assault on Gaza continues. Meanwhile, President Bush was in Egypt Wednesday to conclude his Middle East tour. Despite okaying the continued Israeli raids on Gaza and expanded settlements in the West Bank, Bush said the world should be encouraged at the prospects for peace because he is optimistic.

President Bush: “When I say I’m coming back to stay engaged, I mean it. And when I say I’m optimistic we can get a deal done, I mean what I’m saying.”

Bush’s trip to Egypt lasted just four hours. Hundreds of Egyptian lawyers gathered in Cairo to protest his visit. The Washington Post reports of growing resentment from Arab pro-democracy activists who say Bush has abandoned previous rhetorical promises to support democracy efforts in the Middle East. Bush made no public criticism of Saudi Arabia or Egypt’s crackdown on dissidents during his trip.

Kenyan Police Fire on Protesters

In Kenya, police have opened fire on opposition protests against a disputed election for the second straight day. Police fire killed at least four demonstrators on Wednesday. More than 600 people have died and hundreds of thousands have been displaced since President Mwai Kibaki beat out challenger Raila Odinga last month in a highly contested race.

Czech Republic: Deal Close on U.S. Missile Shield

The Czech Republic has announced it’s close to signing the opening agreements on hosting the Bush administration’s proposed European missile shield. The administration calls the shield a defense measure against a potential attack from Iran, but it’s widely seen as a first-strike weapon. Public opinion polls continue to show majority opposition to the missile shield in the Czech Republic and Poland, the other planned host. The Polish government is asking the U.S. to finance Poland’s own military air expansion in return for its involvement.

Anti-Whaling Activists Captured, Held on Japanese Ship

In the South Ocean, two anti-whaling activists have been captured and detained aboard a Japanese whaling vessel. The activists are members of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society. They were held after boarding the Japanese ship to deliver a letter protesting Japan’s whaling practices. Australia’s Federal Court has ordered Japan to stop hunting and killing whales anywhere around its coastline or off Australian Antarctic territory. Sea Shepherd director Jonny Vafic said the activists are being held in virtual prison-like conditions.

Jonny Vafic: “They have basically, have been tied to the rails for several hours in the freezing cold, and they were taken down and locked into a room.”

Japanese whaling authorities say the activists had tried to vandalize the ship. The Australian government is calling on Japan to secure the pair’s release.

Admin Exempts Navy from Sonar Ban

The Bush administration has exempted the Navy from two key environmental laws that limit the use of sonar. The decision overrides a court ruling in a case brought by environmentalists who say sonar is harmful to whales and other marine mammals. Environmentalists say the move could lead to a major legal standoff over how far the military can go in ignoring environmental law.

Obama Appears to Laud Reagan for Confronting 1960-70s “Excesses”

In campaign news, Senator Barack Obama is coming under criticism for appearing to slight the civil rights and feminist movements while expressing admiration for former President Ronald Reagan. In an interview with the editorial board of the Reno Gazette, Obama lauded Reagan’s challenge to what Obama called the “excesses” of the 1960s and 1970s.

Senator Barack Obama: “I think Ronald Reagan changed the trajectory of America in a way that Richard Nixon did not and in a way that Bill Clinton did not. He put us on a fundamentally different path because the country was ready for it. I think they felt like with all the excesses of the 1960s and 1970s and government had grown and grown but there wasn’t much sense of accountability in terms of how it was operating. I think people, he just tapped into what people were already feeling, which was we want clarity we want optimism, we want a return to that sense of dynamism and entrepreneurship that had been missing.”

Obama did not specify what he believes those “excesses” were. But Reagan is widely credited with leading a right-wing backlash against the gains of the civil rights and feminist movements that preceded his 1980 election.

Admin: Emails May Be Lost to “Recycled” Tapes

The Bush administration is claiming to have used “recycled” tapes to record email messages during its first three years in office. The White House says the practice could mean some correspondences have been lost because of an overlap in the tape use. The Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington and the National Security Archive have filed suit over what they says are millions of missing White House email messages that should be on the public record.

Virginia Measure Would OK Firings of Non-English Speaking Workers

In Virginia, a state measure has been introduced that would allow employers to fire workers and deny them unemployment benefits if they don’t speak English on the job. Bill sponsor State Senator Ken Cuccinelli says the bill is aimed at workers who must interact with the public, such as sales clerks and receptionists. Immigrant rights activists say the bill could lead to firings of workers who speak any language other than English during a break or over the phone to a relative.

U.S. Abortions at Thirty-Year Low

The number of abortions performed in the U.S. has dropped to its lowest level in thirty years. According to the Guttmacher Institute, 1.2 million abortions were performed in 2005.

Emergency Heating Funds Cover Just 16% of Eligible Homes

The Bush administration has released $450 million in emergency money to help low-income families cover rising heating costs this winter. Despite the new funds, the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program says it only has enough money to cover 16 percent of the 38 million eligible low-income households.

Anti-Fascist Commander Milton Wolff Dies at 92

And Milton Wolff, the last commander of American volunteers who fought against the Fascists in the Spanish Civil War, has died. More than 2700 Americans went to Spain in defiance of the U.S. government to serve in what they called the Abraham Lincoln Brigade. Wolff was 22 years old when he became the brigade’s last commander. He went on to become active in the civil rights and anti-Vietnam war movements. In the 1980s Wolff personally delivered ambulances to the Nicaraguan government when the Reagan administration was trying to overthrow it. Milton Wolff died this week at the age of 92.

National and International Headlines for January 16

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

Romney Wins Michigan Primary

Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney has propelled himself back into the Republican presidential race with a primary victory in Michigan. Romney won Tuesday’s contest with thirty-nine percent of the vote.

Mitt Romney: “You know only a week ago a win looked like it was impossible, but then you got out and told America what they needed to hear. You said we would fight for every job. You said we would fight to get healthcare for all Americans. You said we would fight to secure our borders. You said you would fight for us to be able to lower taxes for middle income Americans. And Michigan heard and Michigan voted tonight. Congratulations.”

Arizona Senator and New Hampshire victor John McCain came in second with thirty percent. Iowa winner and former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee was third at sixteen percent. With no candidate taking more than one state so far, the three-way split is fueling talk of the most wide-open Republican race in decades. By nightfall McCain was already campaigning in South Carolina, the site of the next Republican primary on Saturday.

Sen. John McCain: “Tonight my friends we congratulate another candidate’s campaign, but tomorrow we get up and fight. Now it’s your turn South Carolina. We’re going to fight for your votes, we’re going to win this primary and the nomination of our party and we’re going to be proud of the way we do it.”

Huckabee: Amend Consitution in “God’s Standards”

Meanwhile Mike Huckabee’s religious views are coming under more scrutiny after he called for the Constitution to be re-written in “God’s standards.”

Mike Huckabee: “I have opponents in this race who do not want to change the Constitution. But I believe it’s a lot easier to change the Constitution than it would be to change the word of the living God. And that’s what we need to do is amend the Constitution so it’s in God’s standards rather than trying to change God’s standards so it lines up with some contemporary view of how we treat each other and how we treat the family.”

Huckabee was speaking Monday in Michigan. On the Democratic side, Senators Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and former Senator John Edwards squared off in a debate last night in Nevada. Missing from the stage was Ohio Congressman Dennis Kucinich who lost a last-minute legal fight with NBC over his inclusion. Kucinich had sued the network after it disinvited him from participating. He’ll join us later in the broadcast.

19 Palestinians Killed in Israeli Attack on Gaza

In Israel and the Occupied Territories, the Palestinian death toll from Israel’s latest attack on the Gaza Strip has hit nineteen. It was the highest single-day Palestinian toll in more than a year. Another fifty Palestinians were reportedly injured. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas described the assault as a “massacre.”

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas: “Today there was a massacre and butchery against our people, and we say to the world, to Israel and to all the people crimes such as these one can not remain silent over and in no way what so ever can it bring peace.”

The fighting came just days after President Bush visited both Israel and the West Bank to promote U.S.-brokered negotiations. At least one-hundred fifteen Palestinians have now been killed in Israeli attacks since the Bush administration launched the latest phase of talks in Annapolis two months ago. Dismissed Palestinian Prime Minister and Hamas leader Ismael Haniyeh said the Palestinian Authority was partly responsible for the ongoing attacks.

Ismael Haniyeh: “These attacks are the gifts from Bush, the gifts to whom clapped for Bush, and the gifts for the people who sold their nation just for Bush. But we tell them, Bush is leaving, and you are leaving, but this case, this nation, this power, and this dignity will stay forever.”

Meanwhile several Israelis have been wounded in Palestinian rocket fire on nearby Israeli towns. Hamas said it took part in the rocket-firing for the first time since seizing power in Gaza last year. An Ecuadorian national working on an Israeli farm was also killed by Palestinian sniper fire. Israeli President Shimon Peres said Israel was acting to prevent Palestinian attacks.

Israeli President Shimon Peres: “We left Gaza completely, we took out or army, we took out our settlements. There is no single Israeli in the Gaza Strip. It’s totally in the hands of the Palestinians and we don’t understand exactly why they are the shooting, what do they want to achieve. But as long as they are shooting we are left without a choice but to answer and stop it.”

Israel has continued attacks on Gaza after rejecting a truce offer from Hamas last month. Israel has also cut fuel, water and electricity supplies, barred almost all Palestinians from leaving including those needing medical care, and cut off staples including food and bottled water.

Sri Lanka Bombing Prompts Fears of Violent Outbreak

In Sri Lanka, at least twenty-four people have been killed in a roadside bombing on a civilian bus. The attack is renewing fears of a new outbreak of violence as a six-year ceasefire between the government and Tamil rebels formally expires.

3 Killed in Lebanon Bombing Targeting U.S. Vehicle

In Lebanon, at least three people were killed Tuesday in a bomb targeting a U.S. Embassy vehicle in Beirut. Another twenty bystanders were reportedly wounded. Speaking from Saudi Arabia, Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice condemned the attack.

Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice: “The United States will of course not be deter in its effort to help the Lebanese people, to help the democratic forces in Lebanon, to help Lebanon resist foreign interference in their affairs and to uphold the many security resolution that have been passed in the past of a stable and democratic Lebanon.”

Doctors: Suharto Developing Life-Threatening Condition

In Indonesia, doctors for the former dictator Suharto say he is developing a life-threatening blood infection. Suharto oversaw the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people, most coming during his rise to power in the late 1960s and in Indonesia’s invasion and occupation of East Timor. Suharto was also charged with stealing billions of dollars in public funds. On Tuesday, a group of students rallied in Solo, the site of the Suharto family home, to call for returning Suharto’s fortune to the Indonesian people.

Protester: “We are consistently striving against Suharto and and his assets should be given to the people for their welfare.”

Scientists Take to Hill to Protest Admin Interference in Environmental Science

In Washington, more than two dozen scientists have come to Capitol Hill this week to protest the Bush administration’s alleged interference in science linked to the environment. Members of the Union of Concerned Scientists and the Endangered Species Coalition are calling for congressional probes and better oversight of how the administration interacts with government scientists. The administration has been accused of censoring reports highlighting global warming and of gutting the Endangered Species Act. The Endangered Species Coalition says at least fifty different species decisions have appeared to be motivated by politics rather than environmental science.

FDA OKs Cloned Meat

The Food and Drug Administration has declared food from cloned animals safe to eat. Despite the announcement, the Department of Agriculture is asking farmers to continue withholding cloned meat from the market in order to give consumers time to accept the idea. The Washington Post reports there’s new evidence showing the cloned-meat ban has already been violated. Several major cattle-cloning companies admitted Tuesday they’ve been unable to keep track of the number of clone-offspring that have entered the food supply.

New York Ends Solitary Confinement or Mentally-Ill Prisoners

And here in New York, state lawmakers have approved a bill that would bar holding seriously mentally-ill prisoners in solitary confinement. Under the measure, the prisoners will now be transferred to secure treatment facilities rather than kept in twenty-four-hour solitude. The measure caps a four-year campaign by mental health and prisoner advocates. They’ve argued that solitary confinement of mentally-ill prisoners is inhumane and has led to increased suicides and declining mental health.

National and International Headlines for January 15

democracy now logo

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

Bush Pushes New Saudi Arms Deal During Visit to Kingdom

President Bush has arrived in Saudi Arabia in his first trip to the kingdom as president. This comes as the Bush administration is seeking Congressional approval to sell 900 sophisticated satellite-guided missiles to Saudi Arabia as part of a twenty billion dollar arms sale to Persian Gulf allies.

Saudi Arabia & Egypt Criticized For Jailing Dissident Bloggers

Ahead of President Bush’s visit, Saudi Arabia detained several prominent dissidents including Fouad Ahmed al-Farhan who runs a popular pro-reform blog. Al-Farhan has been jailed without charge since December 10. On Wednesday, President Bush plans to meet with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak who has also been criticized for jailing dissidents and bloggers.

One online journalist, Abdel Karim Suleiman, is serving a four-year prison sentence for allegedly insulting Islam and Mubarak. The Committee to Protest Journalists has called on Bush to urge King Abdullah and President Mubarak to release the jailed journalists and bloggers. Meanwhile in Cairo, several hundred opposition activists demonstrated on Monday against Bush’s scheduled visit.

Opposition Activists Protest Bush Visit to Egypt

Police confined the protesters to the steps of the Journalists Syndicate in Cairo.

Opposition MP Mustafa Bakri criticized Mubarak for inviting President Bush.

Mustafa Bakri: “This visit has a specific agenda-first of all it’s against the resistance, and its meant to rally the Arab leaders against Iran, and to continue the interference in the foreign policies of Arab states. Therefore we reject this visit and I have requested in Parliament that Bush be kicked out and not be received. And we have to demonstrate and clearly express our opinions against Bush and his government.”

Israeli Forces Kill 17 Palestinians Hours After “Peace” Talks

Israeli forces have killed at least 17 Palestinians in a series of ground and air raids on Gaza. Another 45 Palestinians were injured. Killed in one of the raids was Husam Zahar, the 24-year-old son of Mahmoud Zahar, one of the founders of Hamas. In 2004, Zahar’s eldest son was killed in a failed Israeli attempt to assassinate him. Meanwhile a Palestinian sniper killed an Ecuadorian worker on an Israeli farm near the Gaza Strip. The Israeli attack on Gaza came just hours after Israel and the Palestinians opened what has been described as their most ambitious peace negotiations in seven years. Saeb Erekat, an aide to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, said the two sides need to make 2008 the year of peace.

Saeb Erekat: “I believe now it’s time for decisions by leaders, more than negotiations. I believe the parameters are defined. I believe it’s doable and I believe, if you look at the road map, it’s specifying the objectives of the peace process to end the Israeli occupation that began at 1967. We know it’s going to be a two-state solution and I hope that leaders on both sides will deliver the decisions required to make the year 2008 a year of peace.”

But Hamas officials have rejected the talks with Israel.

Sami Abu Zuhri, Hamas: “We consider that such meetings provide coverage for the occupation in order for them to continue with their crimes against the Palestinian people.”

Iraq’s Defense Minister: Foreign Troops Needed Until At Least 2018

Iraq’s defense minister has said foreign troops will likely need to stay in Iraq to help defend its borders for at least another 10 years. During a visit to the United States, Abdul Qadir said “Regarding protection from any external threats, our calculation appears that we are not going to be able to answer to any external threats until 2018 to 2020.”

U.S. To Send 3,2000 Marines to Afghanistan

Meanwhile the U.S. military is preparing to send another 3,200 Marines to Afghanistan. This will bring the total number of U.S. forces in Afghanistan to about 30,000 – the highest level since the U.S. invasion over six years ago.

Norwegian Journalist and Six Others Killed in Hotel Blast in Kabul

On Monday, seven people died in Kabul after militants attacked the city’s most luxurious hotel. Killed in the attack was a Norwegian journalist named Carsten Thomassen.

Romney Campaigns in Michigan Against Making Cars More Fuel Efficient

In campaign news, voters head to the polls today in Michigan, In recent days Republicans Mitt Romney and John McCain have fought over how to help protect the auto industry in Michigan which has the highest unemployment rate in the country. Romney, who was born in Michigan, criticized efforts by McCain and other Washington politicians to make cars more fuel efficient.

Romney described stricter fuel standards as an unfunded mandate from Washington that will cripple the auto industry. Romney said: “Let’s take those burdens off and let our companies compete.” According to the New York Times, Romney has said little on the campaign trail about the potential dangers of climate change and almost nothing about curbing greenhouse emissions. McCain has called for capping gas emissions linked to global warming and higher fuel economy standards.

Judge Orders MSNBC To Allow Kucinich To Debate

In other campaign news, a Nevada judge has ordered MSNBC to include Congressman Dennis Kucinich in tonight’s Democratic debate. Kucinich sued MSNBC after it disinvited him just two days after it announced that he had met the criteria to take part in the debate. The judge said he would issue an injunction stopping the debate if Kucinich is excluded. MSNBC has announced plans to file an appeal in the case.

Citigroup to Lay Off Up To 30,000; Sprint & EMI Plan Mass Layoffs Too

In business news, Citigroup is expected to announce a new wave of layoffs as the bank continues to lose billions of dollars in the subprime mortgage crisis. Citigroup could layoff as many as 30,000 employees. The bank plans to announce a writedown of twenty four billion dollars. Citigroup is not the only corporation preparing for mass layoffs. The telecom firm Sprint-Nextel has revealed it plans to lay off several thousand employees on top of the 5,000 laid off last year. And the music company EMI says it plans to let go up to 2,000 workers, about a third of its workforce.

Lawmakers Probe Lucrative Severance Pay for CEOs Tied to Subprime Crisis

The House Oversight Committee has begun probing the lucrative severance and compensation packages awarded to CEOS involved in the subprime mortgage crisis. Angelo Mozilo, the co-founder of the mortgage giant Countrywide, is one of several CEOs who has been invited to testify before the committee in February. Last week Bank Of America announced it was purchasing Countrywide, which holds one in six homes loans in the U.S.

The Los Angeles Times reports Mozilo stands to make upward of $115 million after the sale goes through even though Countrywide was at the center of the subprime mortgage scandal.

Greenspan to Advise Hedge Fund That Made Billions on Mortgage Crisis

Former Federal Reserve Chair Alan Greenspan has become an advisor to a New York hedge fund that has made billions of dollars on the subprime mortgage crisis. The firm, Paulson & Company, made an estimated fifteen billon dollars by making aggressive bets against subprime home loans.

The Wall Street Journal reports the head of the fund John Paulson made an estimated three or four billion dollars last year – it is believed to be the largest one year payday in Wall Street history.

Report: U.S.-Backed Exit Polls Show Opposition Won Kenyan Election

In news from Kenya, the McClatchy newspapers reports an exit poll carried out on behalf of a U.S. government-backed foundation indicated that Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki suffered a resounding defeat in last month’s disputed election. The poll by the Washington-based International Republican Institute further undermines Kibaki’s claims of a narrow re-election victory. The poll showed opposition leader Raila Odinga won by roughly eight percent. Meanwhile Human Rights Watch has accused Kenyan police of using live ammunition to break up protests. In the city of Kisuma, the group said it received credible reports that police shot dead dozens of people demonstrating against the election results. More than 600 people have died in post-election violence.

U.S. Spy Chief Wants Authority to Monitor All Internet Traffic

In news from Washington, the head of the nation’s spy agencies has revealed the government wants the authority to read all information crossing the Internet in the United States including personal email messages. The New Yorker Magazine reports National Intelligence Director Mike McConnell is drafting a plan to rewrite the rules about online surveillance. He told the magazine the debate on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act will “be a walk in the park compared to this.”

Britain to Implant Prisoners With Spychips

The British government is planning to begin implanting machine readable microchips under the skin of thousands of convicts to help enforce home curfews. The Independent of London reports radio frequency identification or RFID tags would be surgically inserted into the former prisoners. The spychips would contain scannable personal information about individuals, including their identities, address and criminal record. The government is also investigating how it could use satellite and radio-wave technology to monitor the released prisoners.

Mitt Romney’s Former Investment Fund To Buy Clear Channel

In media news, the Federal Communications Commission has approved a nearly twenty billion deal to sell Clear Channel Communications, the nation’s largest radio broadcaster, to a group of private investors. One of the investors buying Clear Channel is Bain Capital Partners, the Boston-based private-equity firm founded in 1984 by Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney.

Australia Orders Japan To Stop Hunting and Killing Whales

Australia’s Federal Court has ordered Japan to stop hunting and killing whales anywhere around its coastline or off Australian Antarctic territory. Meanwhile Greenpeace activists have been chasing Japanese whaling ships in an attempt to disrupt the whaling hunt. On Sunday Greenpeace said it had driven a Japanese whaling fleet out of the Southern Ocean hunting grounds after a 24-hour high speed chase over hundreds of miles through fog and increasingly rough seas When the Greenpeace ship approached the whaling fleet, Greenpeace activist Karli Thomas addressed the whale hunters.

Karli Thomas: “Our vessel and crew are here in the Southern Ocean to condemn your hunt, which includes endangered species, and to insist that you return to port immediately. We represent millions of people around the world who want to see an end to whaling in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary. We join with the majority of people in Japan who do not support whaling on the high seas.”

Headlines for January 11

democracy now logo

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

Bush Calls for Palestinian State, But Backs Israeli Settlement Expansion

President Bush has concluded a three-day visit to Israel and the Occupied Territories. The President has left Israel one day after meeting Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in the West Bank.

President Bush: “Some day, I hope that as a result of the formation of a Palestinian state, there won’t be walls and checkpoints and people will be able to move freely in a democratic state and that’s the vision.”

Bush later joked about the Israeli checkpoints, saying his motorcade had no problems passing through.

President Bush: “You’ll be happy to know, my whole motorcade of a mere 45 cars was able to make it through without being stopped but I am not sure if that happens to the average person.”

Olmert: Expansion-Freeze Only Applies to Settlements Israel Doesn’t Want to Keep

Bush called for an end to the Israeli occupation and the establishment of a viable Palestinian state. But he did not back down from his endorsement of Israel’s intent to retain large Jewish-only settlement blocs that Palestinians say will make peace impossible. Bush called on Israel to dismantle unauthorized settlement outposts scattered across the West Bank. But he did not criticize Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s declaration that Israel’s pledge to freeze settlement expansion only applies to those settlements that Israel doesn’t intend on keeping. Israel agreed to freeze settlement activity under the U.S.-backed road map but has continued to build in East Jerusalem and its large West Bank settlements. For the first time President Bush called for a compensation fund for Palestinian refugees who lost their homes in 1948. He did not offer details. The value of lost Palestinian land is estimated in the hundreds of billions of dollars. President Bush’s visit to the West Bank came after a day of talks in Israel. The Independent of London reports Bush’s meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert “had the flavor of a love-in on a grand scale which transcended mere diplomacy.” In Gaza, Hamas official Sami Abu Zuhri dismissed Bush’s visit.

Sami Abu Zuhri: “Bush reiterated empty promises, upon which we, the Palestinians, hold no hopes, because we had many promises before and he never fulfilled, and he will never do, now during his last days in the white house. We condemn the Palestinian president statements when he spoke about fulfilling all the consequences to the Palestinian people.”

U.S. Claims Victory in Massive Iraq Bombing Campaign

The U.S. is claiming success in a massive air-strike campaign south of Baghdad. More than 40,000 pounds of bombs were dropped on the Arab Jabour district in one of the most intense air attacks since the U.S. invasion. Defense Secretary Robert Gates vowed to continue the bombing.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates: “So this job is not finished. There is more to do. But I think there is the sense that this is an important offensive. Because we are on the offensive again in areas where we have not been active for some time, it’s not a surprise that we will see some higher casualties until that area is cleared.”

The Pentagon says no civilians were killed but the claim hasn’t been independently verified.

Pentagon Backtracks on Iran Naval Claim

The United States has lodged a formal diplomatic protest against Iran for its “provocation” in the Strait of Hormuz on Sunday morning. But meanwhile the Pentagon has admitted it may have been wrong in accusing Iranian boats of threatening U.S. warships. On Thursday a Navy spokesperson told ABC News that an alleged audio threat might not have come from the Iranian patrol boats but from the shore or another ship passing by. Iran has denied all allegations of a confrontation and released its own video of the encounter.

African Union Delegation Leaves Kenya Without Truce

A high-level delegation from the African Union has left Kenya without brokering a resolution to the crisis over last month’s disputed election. Some six-hundred people have been killed and hundreds of thousands displaced since President Mwai Kibaki beat out challenger Raila Odinga. Kibaki has sworn in a new cabinet despite allegations of election fraud. As he left Kenya, Ghana President and Africa Union chair John Kufuor called for new efforts at mediation.

Ghana President John Kufuor: “It is very sad. It’s a beautiful country, it’s a great country and everybody should be able to live in together happily. Everybody talks of democracy; democracy entails that even when you disagree, you agree to disagree, you don’t shoot at each other, you don’t kill.”

Former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan is expected to lead a new push for a truce. Meanwhile Kenya’s National Commission on Human Rights is calling for a criminal probe into alleged election abuses by Kenyan officials. Human Rights Commission chair Maina Kiai presented a petition to police in Nairobi.

Maina Kiai: “We, the Kenyans for peace with truth and justice, are filling a criminal complaint against the Electoral Commission of Kenya with regard to a series of criminal offences that we believe were committed by various people

in the processing, management and control of the immediate past general elections.”

Kerry Endorses Obama in Democratic Race

Here in the United States, Democratic Senator John Kerry has endorsed Senator Barack Obama in the Democratic presidential race. Kerry chose Obama over his 2004 running-partner John Edwards.

Kucinich Calls for New Hampshire Vote Recount

In other campaign news, Democratic presidential hopeful Dennis Kucinich is calling for a recount of Tuesday’s New Hampshire primary vote. Kucinich says he’s making the request because of unexplained differences in hand-counted and machine-counted ballots.

Exonerated Prisoner Reaches Multi-Million Dollar Settlement

In Pennsylvania, a former death row prisoner freed by DNA testing after twenty-two years in jail has reached a multi-million dollar settlement with the U.S. government. Nicholas Yarris was wrongly convicted of rape and murder in Pennsylvania in 1982. The conviction was overturned in September 2004 when DNA tests unavailable in the 1980s proved that genetic material found under the victim’s fingernails, on her undergarments, and in a pair of gloves possibly worn by the killer was not his. Yarris is the first death-row inmate in Pennsylvania cleared by DNA testing.

Blocking Deportation, Judge Rules Egyptian National May Face Torture

A federal judge has blocked the deportation of an Egyptian national and ordered his immediate release from prison. Sameh Khouzam has been jailed for most of the past decade in Pennsylvania. On Thursday, U.S. District Judge Thomas Vanaskie said Khouzam can’t be sent back to Egypt because faces the risk of torture. Judge Vanaskie rejected the Bush administration’s claim that Khouzam would be safe, saying U.S. officials have blocked an independent assessment. The American Civil Liberties Union says the ruling is the first of its kind.

Audit: Telecoms Halted FBI Wiretapping Over Unpaid Bills

A government audit has found that major telecommunication companies have repeatedly cut off FBI spying on customers—because the FBI did not pay its own phone bills. According to the Justice Department, more than half of nearly 1,000 FBI phone bills were not paid on time. Michael German of the ACLU said: “It sounds as though the telecoms believe it when the FBI says the warrant is in the mail, but not when they say the check is in the mail.”

2 Colombian Hostages Released in Venezuela-Brokered Deal

In Colombia, two hostages of the rebel group FARC were released yesterday after years in captivity. Consuelo Gonzalez de Perdomo and Clara Rojas were freed under a deal brokered by Venezuela. After her rescue, de Perdomo thanked Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.

Consuelo Gonzalez de Perdomo: “President Chavez, I don’t know how to express my thanks to you for your humanitarianism. Your attitude reflects immensely the democratic attitude that leaders should have. Thank you for your commitment, for being human.”

22 Killed in Pakistan Suicide Attack

And in Pakistan, at least 22 people were killed and 60 wounded in a suicide bombing on the High Court building in Lahore. Most of the victims were police officers. The attack came ahead of a planned anti-government rally organized by lawyers.

National and International Headlines for January 10

democracy now logo

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

Study Estimates 151,000 Civilian Deaths in Iraq

A new study of the civilian death toll since the U.S. invasion of Iraq has put the number of Iraqi deaths at 151,000. The World Health Organization and the Iraqi government arrived at the figures from door-to-door surveys at nearly 10,000 homes. The figure is far lower than a 2006 Johns Hopkins University study that estimated 600,000 Iraqi deaths. Despite the difference, researchers concluded their findings still show “a massive death toll in the wake of the 2003 invasion.” The new study also dwarfs other estimates, including President Bush’s estimate of 30,000 Iraqi deaths in December 2005.

U.S. Launches Massive Air Raids in Iraq

Meanwhile in Iraq, the U.S. military has launched a massive bombing campaign on southern Baghdad. U.S. warplanes have dropped more than forty-thousand pounds of bombs over the past two days. The U.S. says its targeting al-Qaeda strongholds in the village of Arab Jabor. The bombing comes two days into a nationwide military offensive dubbed “Phantom Phoenix.” At least nine U.S. troops have been killed in Diyala Province since the campaign began.

Lone Officer Charged in Abu Ghraib Scandal Has Conviction Dismissed

The only military officer charged in the Abu Ghraib abuse scandal has had his one conviction dismissed. Lt. Col. Steven Jordan was cleared last year of allegations he personally abused prisoners and trained other soldiers convicted of mistreatment. He was found guilty on one count of disobeying command by speaking about the ongoing probe when he was ordered not to. But this week Major General Richard Rowe dismissed that conviction. Jordan once faced up to sixteen years in prison.

Report: Blackwater Dropped Toxin on Crowded Checkpoint

The private military firm Blackwater Worldwide is facing new allegations of unlawful activity in Iraq, this time for dropping a heavily-restricted riot-control gas on a crowded Baghdad checkpoint in May 2005. According to the New York Times, the release of the CS gas by a Blackwater helicopter and armored vehicle temporarily blinded drivers, pedestrians and at least ten American soldiers. Blackwater is already under scrutiny for a mass shooting in Baghdad that killed seventeen Iraqis last September. Military witnesses say Blackwater personnel appeared to release the gas as a way to clear a traffic jam that was blocking their route. The gas is only authorized for use in dangerous situations. Its effects include burning and watering eyes, skin irritation, coughing and breathing difficulties, nausea and vomiting. Blackwater says it reported the incident to the U.S. Embassy and that the case was investigated. But U.S. officials could not confirm that an investigation occurred.

Pentagon Wants 3,000 More U.S. Troops in Afghanistan

The Pentagon has announced it plans to propose sending an additional 3,000 U.S. troops to Afghanistan. More than twenty-six thousand U.S. service-members are currently deployed. Defense Secretary Robert Gates has been urging NATO allies to boost their commitments but has failed to win any pledges for more troops.

In Mideast Visit, Bush Affirms Support for Israeli Settlement Blocs

In Israel and the Occupied Territories, President Bush is in the West Bank today for talks with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. Bush met with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on Wednesday, the first of his three-day trip. Speaking alongside Olmert in Jerusalem, Bush said he will push Israel to remove scattered settlement outposts but reiterated his endorsement of Israel’s plan to retain its large West Bank settlement blocs.

President Bush: “He understands he has an obligation to protect Israel. He also understands that he’s got to be circumspect-reasonable about how he does it so that innocent people don’t suffer. He just gave you the answer on the settlements. In terms of outposts, yeah, they ought to go. Look, I mean, we’ve been talking about it for four years. The agreement was-get rid of outposts, illegal outposts and they ought to go.”

Palestinian negotiators have called the settlement blocs the main obstacle to peace.

Bush Warns Iran on Naval Dispute

Meanwhile President Bush also continued to criticize Iran for a naval confrontation between Iranian and U.S. boats this week.

President Bush: “Our ships were moving along very peacefully off the Iranian border, in territorial waters-international waters, and Iranian boats came out and were very provocative. And it was a dangerous gesture on their part. We have made it clear, publicly, and they know our position-and that is there will be serious consequences if they attack our ships, pure and simple.”

Iran has accused the U.S. of faking video footage showing Iranian speedboats approaching the U.S. warships.

Ex-CIA Official Demands Immunity for Videotape Testimony

The former CIA official who ordered the destruction of videotapes documenting prisoner interrogations has reportedly said he won’t testify before Congress without a grant of immunity. Jose Rodriguez was head of the CIA’s clandestine service when he ordered the tapes’ destruction in November 2005. He was subpoenaed last month.

NSA: “No Attack Happened” in Gulf of Tonkin

Newly declassified documents have provided more evidence the Johnson administration faked the Gulf of Tonkin incident to escalate the Vietnam War. The alleged 1964 attack on U.S. warships by North Vietnamese was used as a pretext to increase bombing and troop deployments in Vietnam. But a report from the National Security Agency concludes: “no attack happened that night.”

Cuba Marks 49th Anniversary of Cuban Revolution

Cuba is marking the forty-ninth anniversary of the Cuban Revolution, the victorious uprising against the U.S.-backed Batista dictatorship. Thousands of people gathered in Havana at a rally organized by the Union of Communist Youths.

Cesar Martinez Gonzalez: “Today we strongly reaffirm more than ever: Viva Fidel, Viva Raul, Viva the fatherland.”

Cuban President Fidel Castro was absent from the celebrations as he continues to be sidelined by illness.

Richardson to Withdraw from Democratic Presidential Race

In campaign news, New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson is reportedly set to announce today he’s withdrawing from the Democratic presidential race. Richardson placed fourth in back-to-back contests in Iowa and New Hampshire. Meanwhile candidates were back on the campaign trail on Wednesday, one day after Senator Hillary Clinton and Senator John McCain won in New Hampshire. Speaking on NBC’s Today Show, Clinton talked about her widely-reported display of emotion when she was asked about the personal toll of running a campaign.

Sen. Hillary Clinton: “I don’t get up every morning to go out and make a great speech, shake a million hands and then go to bed at night and say good for you. I go out to say ‘what can I do for you, how can I make your country what it should be?’ When the woman said to me ‘how do you do that?’ I really felt touched by that and I think we did connect in a very personal level.”

Meanwhile Democratic Senator Barack Obama vowed to rebound from his second-place finish in New Hampshire as the Democratic primaries move on to South Carolina, Michigan and Nevada. Obama spoke at a rally in New Jersey.

Sen. Barack Obama: “My voice is a little hoarse. My eyes are a little bleary. My back is a little sore. But my spirit is strong. And I am ready to bring about change in America. How about you?”

Obama has picked up the endorsement of Nevada’s Culinary Workers Union, with some 60,000 members.

New Principal Hired at N.Y. Arabic-Language School Following Founder’s Ouster

Here in New York, a new principal has been hired at the city’s first public Arabic-language school, five months after its founding principal was forced to resign. Holly Reichert began her new term at Khalil Gibran International Academy in Brooklyn on Wednesday. Her predecessor, Debbie Almontaser, was forced to resign shortly before the school opened after she was quoted explaining that the word “intifada” literally means “shaking off” in Arabic. Almontaser was criticized for failing to denounce the use of the word intifada on t-shirts. She has filed a federal lawsuit against the city over her dismissal.

Chicago Approves $20M Settlement in Torture Case

And in Chicago, the City Council has voted to approve a nearly twenty-million dollar settlement to four former death row prisoners who gave false confessions after being tortured by Chicago police. The four men are all African-American. They sued former Chicago Police Commander Jon Burge and more than 20 officers who worked with him alleging that they were coerced into falsely confessing to murder. In 2006 special prosecutors released a long-awaited report stating there was proof beyond a reasonable doubt that Burge and four other former officers abused suspects to extract confessions in the 1980s. Charges have never been filed against Burge. He was fired in 1993 but is still receiving a yearly police pension.