Headlines: Obama To Introduce New Car Emissions and Mileage Requirements; Red Cross Warns of “Unimaginable Humanitarian Catastrophe” In Sri Lanka

Democracy Now Headlines: Obama To Introduce New Car Emissions and Mileage Requirements; Red Cross Warns of 'Unimaginable Humanitarian Catastrophe' In Sri Lanka

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.

Ex-Bush Envoy May Become Unelected “CEO” of Afghanistan

The New York Times reports President Bush’s former ambassador to Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, could soon assume a powerful, unelected position running the Afghan government. Under a plan being discussed with Afghan President Hamid Karzai and the Obama administration, Khalilzad could essentially become the unelected CEO of Afghanistan, taking away power now held by the democratically elected Karzai. Karzai’s ties to the United States have deteriorated recently in part because of his vocal criticism over the rising number of civilian casualties due to U.S. air strikes. Zalmay Khalilzad was born in Afghanistan but is now a U.S. citizen. He served as President Bush’s ambassador to Afghanistan, Iraq and the United Nations. The Obama administration claims it is not behind the idea of inserting Khalilzad into the Afghan government but Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and special envoy Richard Holbrooke have been involved in the discussions. Two months ago the Guardian of London reported the Obama administration and European allies were preparing to plant a high-profile figure in the heart of the Afghan government in a direct challenge to Karzai.

Obama To Introduce New Car Emissions and Mileage Requirements

President Obama is scheduled today to issue new national emissions and mileage requirements for cars and light trucks. The rules aim to cut emissions by 30% and require passenger car required to average 39 miles per gallon and light trucks 30 mpg by 2016.

The White House estimates the regulations would save 1.8 billion barrels of oil and reduce emissions of greenhouse gases by 900 million metric tons over the lifetime of the more efficient vehicles, equivalent to taking 177 million cars off the road or shutting down 194 coal-fired power plants. Daniel Becker of the Safe Climate Campaign, praised Obama’s plan. He said: “This is the single biggest step the American government has ever taken to cut greenhouse-gas emissions.” The cost of new vehicles is expected to rise by at least $1,300 by 2016.

Netanyahu Refuses To Endorse Two-State Solution, Presses Obama on Iran

At a White House meeting Monday, Israel’s new Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu refused to endorse a two-state solution or to agree to President Obama’s request to halt the construction of settlements in the occupied West Bank. Obama and Netanyahu held a press conference Monday after their private meeting.

President Obama: “Now, Israel is going have to take some difficult steps as well. And I shared with Prime Minister the fact that, under the road map, under Annapolis there’s a clear understanding that we have to make progress on settlements, that settlements have to be stopped in order for us to move forward. That’s a difficult thing to recognize, but it’s an important one. And it has to be addressed. I think the humanitarian situation in Gaza has to be addressed.”

Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said Israel doesn’t want to govern the Palestinians but he did not endorse an independent Palestinian state.

Binyamin Netanyahu: “I want to make it clear that we don’t want to govern the Palestinians. We want to live in peace with them. We want them to govern themselves, absent a handful of powers that could endanger the State of Israel. And for this there has to be a clear goal. There has to be an end to conflict. There’ll have to be compromises by Israelis and Palestinians alike. We’re ready to do our share. We hope the Palestinians are ready to do their share as well.”

After the meeting Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat criticized Netanyahu’s comments.

Saeb Erekat: “Unfortunately, Mr. Netanyahu failed to mention the two-state solution, failed to mention the agreement signed, failed to mention his commitment to stop settlement activities. And the only thing he mentioned was Palestinians entitled to govern themselves by themselves. How can I govern myself by myself as a Palestinian with his occupation going on on my neck on the hour every hour? With his roadblocks segregating our towns and villages and refugee camps?”

Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and President Obama also discussed Iran on Monday.

Binyamin Netanyahu: “But if Iran were to acquire nuclear weapons, it could give a nuclear umbrella to terrorists or worse it could give terrorists nuclear weapons. That would put us all in great peril. So in that context I very much appreciate Mr. President your firm commitment to ensure that Iran does not develop nuclear capability and also your statement you’re leaving all options on the table.”

President Obama told Netanyahu that his administration may back a new set of sanctions against Iran.

President Obama: “We are engaged in a process to reach out to Iran and persuade them that it is not in their interest to pursue a nuclear weapon, and that they should change course. But I assured the prime minister that we are not foreclosing a range of steps, including much stronger international sanctions in assuring that Iran understands that we are serious.”

Campaign Launched to Disbar 12 Former Bush Admin Attorneys

Efforts have been launched to disbar 12 former Bush administration attorneys connected to the administration’s torture program. On Monday a coalition of advocacy groups called the Velvet Revolution filed disciplinary complaints with state bar licensing boards on the grounds that the attorneys violated the Geneva Conventions, the Convention Against Torture and American law. The attorneys targeted are: John Yoo, Jay Bybee, Stephen Bradbury, Alberto Gonzales, John Ashcroft, Michael Chertoff, Alice Fisher, William Haynes, Douglas Feith, Michael Mukasey, Timothy Flanigan, and David Addington.

Obama Seeks $46 Million For Military Base in Colombia

President Obama is seeking $46 million to establish a new military facility in Colombia. The funding request has been opposed by several advocacy groups. John Lindsay-Poland of the Fellowship of Reconciliation said: “This base would feed a failed drug policy, support an abusive army, and reinforce a tragic history of U.S. military intervention in the region.”

The Pentagon has been looking for a new site in Latin America ever since Ecuador notified Washington last year that it would not renew the lease on the U.S. base in Manta, Ecuador.

Bill Clinton To Be Named UN Special Envoy To Haiti

Meanwhile former U.S. President Bill Clinton is expected to be named today the new United Nations special envoy to Haiti.

Supreme Court Blocks Suit Filed By Man Detained After 9/11

The Supreme Court has blocked a lawsuit against former Attorney General John Ashcroft and FBI director Robert Mueller filed by a Pakistani man. Javaid Iqbal was among thousands of Muslim men rounded up after Sept. 11 . According to his lawsuit he was held in solitary confinement, subjected to numerous beatings and denied medical care. He eventually pleaded guilty to identity fraud and was deported to Pakistan.

Nigerian Military Attacks Niger Delta Region

In news from Africa, the Nigerian military continues to carry out attacks in the oil-rich Niger Delta in an effort to oust militant groups from the region. The military has reportedly attacked largely civilian areas with gunboats and helicopters. As many as 30,000 civilians are displaced without adequate food or water and aid agencies have been barred from the region. On Monday militants vowed to blockade key waterways in the Niger Delta to try to prevent crude oil exports. For years the militant groups have fought for fair distribution of oil wealth to local communities in the impoverished region.

Asari Dokubo of the Niger Delta Volunteer Force: “We will not stop, I will not stop. I will continue, we will continue to proceed by any means necessary. If they bring peace, we will hold on to peace. If they bring war, we will hold on to war, because we cannot be treated like this and we cannot just be raising our hands and falling and dying. No, we are going to put up a fight.”

The state-owned Nigerian National Petroleum Corp. has joint-venture partnerships with major oil companies including Shell and Chevron in the Niger Delta. Next week Shell will stand trial in New York for its alleged role in the 1995 state execution of the Nigerian writer and activist Ken Saro-Wiwa and eight other activists.

Shell Accused of Being Most Carbon Intensive Oil Firm In World

A group of environmental organizations have accused Shell of being the most carbon intensive oil company in the world. In a report issued today – to coincide with the company’s annual shareholder meeting – Shell is criticized for its reliance on Nigerian crude oil which is associated with huge levels of gas flaring, liquefied natural gas which is highly energy intensive, and oil from Canada’s tar sands. Shell revealed to investors last year that 30% of its total resources are tar sands.

BBC: Ethiopian Troops Re-Enter Somalia

In other news from Africa, the BBC is reporting Ethiopian troops have re-entered Somalia, barely three months after leaving. This comes one day after Islamist militants seized Mahaday, a strategically important town north of Mogadishu.

Red Cross Warns of “Unimaginable Humanitarian Catastrophe” In Sri Lanka

Sri Lankan leader Mahinda Rajapaksa has declared the country to be “liberated” from Tamil Tiger rebels after a 26-year war. Sri Lankan television stations broadcast footage today of a body purported to be that of Tamil Tiger leader Velupillai Prabhakaran. While many Sri Lankans have been celebrating the end of the Tamil Tigers, the Red Cross is warning northeastern Sri Lanka still faces an “an unimaginable humanitarian catastrophe.” Most aid groups are still barred from the region where 8,000 civilians have been killed since January.

Sri Lanka Detains Three Doctors Who Spoke To Media

The Sri Lankan government has detained three Sri Lankan doctors who were treating civilians inside the conflict zone. During the war, the doctors had provided detailed information about government shelling and civilian casualties to outside media and human rights organizations. Two of the doctors have been reportedly taken to the Terrorist Investigation Division in Colombo.

U.S. to Push Immigration Checks to All Local Jails

The Washington Post reports the Obama administration is expanding a program initiated by President Bush aimed at checking the immigration status of virtually every person booked into local jails. By matching inmates’ fingerprints to federal immigration databases, authorities hope to pinpoint deportable undocumented immigrants before they are released from custody. The measure could result in a tenfold increase in undocumented immigrants who have been convicted of crimes and identified for deportation over the next four years.

Bill Introduced To Guarantee Sick Days For Workers

And on Capitol Hill, Democratic Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro has introduced legislation to guarantee paid sick days to American workers. The bill would require companies with 15 or more employees to allow workers to earn up to seven paid sick leave days a year. Sen. Edward Kennedy is expected to introduce the Senate version of the Healthy Families Act later this week. Of the world’s 22 wealthiest nations, the United States is the only one not to guarantee paid sick days for workers.

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Report Documents Israel’s Violations of International Law

photo of israeli wall in palestine

The international human rights organization Amnesty International (http://www.amnesty.org) released a new report today titled “Enduring Occupation: Palestinians Under Siege in the West Bank” calling on the Israeli government to stop its land-grabbing, blockades, and other violations of international law carried out under its occupation of Palestine. The report asserts that Israel’s administration of its occupation has resulted in systematic human rights abuses of Palestinians while failing to bring security to the Israeli and Palestinian populations. The report documents how Israel’s unlawful settlements on occupied lands deprive Palestinians of essential resources while a host of other measures including a 700km fence and wall, more than 500 checkpoints, and a complicated system of permits restrict movement by Palestinians. According to Amnesty International, many of these practices are “blatant violations of international law.”

Amnesty International is calling on the Israeli authorities to:

  • Lift the regime of blockades and restrictions on Palestinians in the OPT, which constitute collective punishment, and ensure that restrictions imposed in response to specific security threats only target the individuals concerned — not entire communities.
  • Halt the construction of the fence/wall inside the West Bank, and remove the sections already built there;
  • Cease the construction or expansion of Israeli settlements and related infrastructure in the OPT as a first step towards removing Israeli settlements and “outposts”;
  • Cancel all demolition orders on homes in the OPT, and provide reparation to Palestinians whose homes and properties have already been destroyed.

The report was released on the eve of the fortieth anniversary of Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian Territories.

Read More: “Enduring Occupation: Palestinians under Siege in the West Bank.”

Guantanamo: The War on Human Rights

Click on the image to purchase this book through Amazon.com. Purchases help support MediaMouse.org.

Guantanamo: The War on Human Rights is a product of a January 2004 article by David Rose for Vanity Fair. Following the completion of his initial article and realizing the ramifications of what was happening at the United States detention facility in Guantanamo Bay, Rose decided to continue his investigation and expand it into a book length treatment of the subject. The book is based primarily on interviews with British detainees who were captured in Afghanistan and handed over to American soldiers by Afghani warlords as well as interviews with both United States government officials presiding over Camp X-Ray and non-governmental organizations that have sought to improve the treatment of detainees held at Guantanamo.

Throughout his book, Rose argues that the indefinite detention of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay has irreparably harmed the United States so-called “war on terror” by abandoning many of the principles of human rights that the United States purports to honor and that Camp X-Ray is an absolute failure. On February 7, 2002 President Bush declared that prisoners held at Camp X-Ray had no legal status under the Geneva Conventions and that they were not prisoners of war but rather were “enemy combatants.” While many may be tempted to see this as the origin of the human rights abuses at Guantanamo Bay, Rose’s book makes it clear that this was merely the date at which official violations of the Geneva Convention became policy — the decision to hold detainees at Guantanamo Bay was made because of the base’s ambiguous legal status. For Rose, this is a logical consequence of a policy of detention that was seriously flawed to begin with as few of the detainees were involved with either al-Qaeda or the Taliban. Instead, Rose describes detainees that were rounded up in mass arrests and those who were sold to the United States in exchange for $5,000 bounties paid by the United States for “terrorists” in Afghanistan.

With a flawed detention process, Rose reveals that the intelligence coming out of Guantanamo has been of little use to the United States government in its “war on terror.” What little detention that has come out of the base has been of the most general nature, describing possible attacks such as those on shopping malls, although as Rose points out, anyone with even the most minimal knowledge of consumerism in the United States would know that malls would be good targets. Rather than acknowledge that most of the 600 detainees held at Guantanamo were not guilty of any crimes, the United States has responded by stepping up interrogations and conducting them using beatings, sleep deprivation, denial of food, and other harsh techniques that violate the Geneva Conventions in order to force detainees into confessing. Rose’s interviews with detainees reveal many abuses during the interrogation process while interviews with US officials reveal the limited value of the “intelligence” gained at Guantanamo Bay.

While making few new revelations, Rose’s book is a useful work that consolidates much of the information available on Guantanamo and directs attention towards the topic, as detentions in Guantanamo have been largely forgotten amidst the almost weekly reports of new abuses relating to the detentions of individuals held by the United States in Iraq. Since the publication of the Guantanamo in late 2004, there have been several new documents released showing that the government authorized treatment techniques that violate the Geneva Conventions as well as the government’s attempts to create a legal framework for said treatment.

David Rose, Guantanamo: The War on Human Rights, (The New Press, 2004).