Headlines: White House Asks Court to Block Torture Photos’ Release; Nader: Ex-DNC Chair Offered Money to Drop Out of ’04 Race

Democracy Now Headlines: White House Asks Court to Block Torture Photos' Release; Nader: Ex-DNC Chair Offered Money to Drop Out of '04 Race

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.

White House Asks Court to Block Torture Photos’ Release

The Obama administration has formally requested the censorship of hundreds of photos of torture committed at U.S. prisons overseas. On Thursday, the administration asked a federal appeals court to block the photos on the grounds they would incite violence against U.S. troops. The administration’s court filing cited two secret statements from top U.S. generals David Petraeus and Ray Odierno, who have both lobbied for blocking the photos’ release.

Admin Denies Photos Depict Rape, Sexual Abuse

The move came one day after the head of the Abu Ghraib inquiry, Major General Antonio Taguba, said the photos include images of the rape and sexual abuse of Iraqi prisoners by U.S. soldiers. White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs denied the claim.

White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs: “I think the Pentagon has been very clear in a statement saying that the story is not true. I want to speak generally about some reports I’ve witnessed over the past few years in the British media, and in some ways, I’m surprised it filtered down.”

Anti-Torture Activists Call for Prosecutions, Photos’ Release

Meanwhile here in New York, anti-torture activists with the group World Can’t Wait held a protest at Grand Central Station calling for the photos’ release. Protesters donned orange jumpsuits and black hoods similar to those worn by Guantanamo Bay prisoners. Samantha Goldman of World Can’t Wait rejected the Obama administration’s argument for censoring the photos.

Samantha Goldman: “What enflames anti-American sentiment is U.S. military bases around the world, what enflames anti-U.S. sentiment is torture, is what we’re actually going over there to do. That’s what enflames anti-American sentiment, prosecuting the criminals, which, to do that, you need the photos to be released, to actually prosecute Bush era criminals, you would need to have the photos as evidence.”

Report: Cables Indicate Doctor Role in Zubaydah Torture

The investigative website ProPublica is reporting a team of doctors may have been involved in monitoring the torture of suspected al Qaeda operative Abu Zubaydah in August 2002. Secret CIA cables contain several ‘medical updates’ on Zubaydah’s interrogation, where he was waterboarded at least 83 times. The updates contain detailed information that suggests doctors actively monitored the waterboarding in what would be a violation of medical ethics.

Obama Renews Call for Israeli Settlement Freeze

President Obama hosted Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas at the White House Thursday for their first formal talks. Obama criticized the Israeli government for rejecting his call to stop expanding settlements in the occupied West Bank, but also expressed tacit support for the Palestinian Authority’s repression of opposition groups in the West Bank through its U.S.-trained security forces.

President Obama: “On the Israeli side those obligations include stopping settlements. They include making sure that there is a viable potential Palestinian state. On the Palestinian side it’s going to be important and necessary to continue to take the security steps on the West Bank that President Abbas has already begun to take, working with General Dayton. We’ve seen great progress in terms of security in the West Bank.”

The Israeli government has put itself at odds with Obama over its refusal to end settlement growth and accept the principle of Palestinian statehood. Abbas said the key to peace lies in Israeli withdrawal from occupied Arab lands.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas: “Mr. President, I believe that the entire Arab world and the Islamic world, they are all committed to peace. We’ve seen that through the Arab League Peace Initiative that simply talks about land for peace as a principle. I believe that if the Israelis would withdraw from all occupied Palestinian, Syrian, and Lebanese land, the Arab world will be ready to have normal relationships with the state of Israel.”

Report: 20,000 Civilians Killed in Sri Lanka Conflict’s Final Weeks

The Times of London is reporting more than 20,000 civilians were killed in the final days of Sri Lanka’s attack on Tamil Tiger rebels–three times the official figure. Citing what it says are secret UN documents, the Times says around 1,000 people were killed every day from late April until the conflict ended ten days ago. The Sri Lankan military was accused of indiscriminately shelling no-fire zones, including two attacks on a major hospital. Tamil Tiger rebels were accused of using civilians as human shields. The Times says the evidence strongly supports allegations most of the civilians were killed by Sri Lankan military attacks. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, has called for an independent probe of war crimes during the conflict.

13 Killed in Pakistan Attacks

In Pakistan, thirteen people were killed Thursday in militant attacks targeting police officers. It was the second straight day of gun-and-bomb attacks from militant groups. The strikes are believed to be retaliation for the anti-Taliban offensive that has displaced more than two million people in the northwestern Swat valley. On Thursday, United Nations Emergency Relief Coordinator John Holmes called Pakistan’s internal refugee crisis “unprecedented” in recent years.

UN Emergency Relief Coordinator John Holmes: “This is a plan for I think for 543 million dollars to deal with the current very severe and dramatic humanitarian situation that has arisen there. The scale and the speed of the displacement that we’ve seen over the last few weeks are really unprecedented, certainly in Pakistan but also in recent memory anywhere.”

Iraq to Arrest 1,000 Officials on Corruption Charges

The Iraqi government says it plans to arrest more than 1,000 officials in a massive corruption scandal that has forced its Trade Minister to resign. Trade Ministry workers are accused of profiting from Iraq’s importing of food supplies for programs that feed 60 percent of Iraqis. Video has also surfaced of trade officials at a party drinking alcohol and insulting Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.

Amnesty: Human Rights Abuses Increasing in Mexico

In Mexico, Amnesty International says Mexican soldiers and police officers were involved in an increasing number of human rights abuses last year. Amnesty International’s Arturo Herrera criticized what he called growing impunity in Mexico.

Arturo Herrera: “Due to impunity, practically generalized also where authorities have not been at the height of circumstances, not only with regards to human rights abuses but also a situation of insecurity which prevails in the country which has not found an accurate response.”

Amnesty days the abuses have grown with the expansion of Mexico’s crackdown on drug cartel violence. Earlier this week, ten mayors of Mexican towns were arrested for allegedly collaborating with the cartels.

Pentagon to Launch Cyberspace Command

Back in the United States, the New York Times is reporting the Pentagon is planning a new military command focusing on cyberspace. The command would direct the military’s computer-based attacks. The news comes as President Obama is expected to announce a civilian office run by a ‘cyber-czar’ tasked with overseeing the protection of the nation’s computer networks later today.

Record 12% in Foreclosure, Behind on Payments

New figures show a record twelve percent of Americans are behind on their mortgage payments or in foreclosure. The Mortgage Banker Association says the first quarter results mark a four percent rise from the same period last year. Subprime loans accounted for more than 43 percent of delinquent mortgages.

Time Warner-AOL to Split

In business news, the media giant Time Warner has announced it will spin off internet stalwart AOL into a separate company. The two corporations merged nine years ago.

Study: Minimum Wage Hike Provides “Stealth Stimulus”

A new study says recent hikes to the U.S. minimum wage are acting as a “stealth stimulus” to the economy. The Economic Policy Institute says increases to the minimum wage will boost consumer spending by $4.9 billion dollars.

Creditors, Workers Approve GM Deal

Creditors of the auto giant General Motors have approved a deal that would see the U.S. government take at least 70 percent control of the company to save it from collapse. The Canadian government and the United Auto Workers union would also take up smaller ownership shares. On Thursday, a majority of UAW members also approved the ownership deal in return for major concessions on wages and benefits.

Study: Insured Families Pay Additional Costs for Uninsured

A new study says the average family with health insurance paid a hidden premium of more than $1,000 dollars to cover the medical costs of the uninsured. The group Families USA says $42 billion dollars, mostly in emergency room fees, was passed on to insurance companies by uninsured patients. The insurers in turn made up for the costs by imposing higher premiums on their customers.

Single-Payer Advocates Hold National Day of Action

A coalition of advocacy groups meanwhile is holding a national day of action Saturday for the establishment of a single-payer health care system. Events in more than 50 cities are set to include town hall meetings, rallies, vigils and protests outside insurance companies that profit from the medical system. The day of action is being organized by the Leadership Conference for Guaranteed Health Care.

Nader: Ex-DNC Chair Offered Money to Drop Out of ’04 Race

The consumer advocate Ralph Nader is accusing former Democratic National Committee chair Terry McAuliffe of trying to bribe him to stay off the presidential ballot in 2004. Nader says McAuliffe offered his campaign an unspecified amount of money if he withdrew in 19 battleground states. McAuliffe is currently running for the Democratic nomination in Virginia’s gubernatorial race.

N.Y. Police Kill Off-Duty Black Officer

And here in New York, an off-duty African-American police officer has been killed by a fellow officer who mistook him for a criminal. The slain officer, 25-year old Omar Edwards, had come across a man breaking into his vehicle. He chased the man with his gun drawn when three police officers came upon him and opened fire. Edwards was recently married and the father of two children.

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Headlines: Michigan Lawmakers Accuse Obama of Bailout Double Standard; Sunni Fighters in Baghdad Stage Brief Uprising

Democracy Now Headlines: Michigan Lawmakers Accuse Obama of Bailout Double Standard; Sunni Fighters in Baghdad Stage Brief Uprising

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.

Obama: Plan for GM May Involve Bankruptcy

President Barack Obama has ordered General Motors and Chrysler to accelerate their restructuring efforts and brace for possible bankruptcy. Obama spoke Monday hours after the White House forced GM CEO Rick Wagoner to resign and ordered Chrysler to complete an alliance with the Italian automaker Fiat.

President Obama: “Now, what we’re asking for is difficult. It will require hard choices by companies. It will require unions and workers, who have already made extraordinarily painful concessions, to do more. It will require creditors to recognize that they can’t hold out for the prospect of endless government bailouts. It’ll have to–it will require efforts from a whole host of other stakeholders, including dealers and suppliers. Only then can we ask American taxpayers, who have already put up so much of their hard-earned money, to once more invest in a revitalized auto industry.”

Obama administration officials say they are weighing a fix for GM and Chrysler that would divide their “good” and “bad” assets and send the auto makers into bankruptcy. If GM declared bankruptcy, up to one million employees, dependents, retirees and their spouses could lose healthcare and retirement benefits. A bankruptcy judge recently allowed car part suppler Delphi to cancel healthcare and life insurance benefits for retirees, calling the moves “good business judgment.” During his address on Monday, President Obama said nothing about protecting the benefits of workers and retirees. GM’s shares plunged 25 percent Monday, and the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 3.3 percent. President Obama said there is no plan to nationalize General Motors.

President Obama: “Let me be clear: The United States government has no interest in running GM. We have no intention of running GM. What we are interested in is giving GM an opportunity to finally make those much needed changes that will let them emerge from this crisis a stronger and more competitive company.”

Obama Accused of Double Standard on Bailouts

Michigan lawmakers, including Democratic Senator Carl Levin and Republican Congressman Thaddeus McCotter, said there is a double standard in terms of treatment of the financial industry compared with the auto industry. The government has not yet required any banks to replace its top executives.

GM CEO to Receive $20 Million in Retirement Benefits

While GM’s CEO Rick Wagoner is being forced to resign, he still stands to make millions. ABC News reports that Wagoner will be eligible to collect $20 million in retirement benefits from GM.

US Seeks International Support for Surge in Afghanistan

Officials from more than seventy countries are meeting in the Netherlands to discuss the future of Afghanistan. All of Afghanistan’s neighbors, including Iran, are attending. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is expected to ask conference delegates for their countries’ support for Washington’s escalation of the war. President Obama has said he plans to send an extra 17,000 soldiers and 4,000 advisers to Afghanistan. The Red Cross has warned that the planned US surge is likely to mean more civilian casualties. The Red Cross urged the conference to “consider the plight of civilians as a matter of urgency.” On Monday, US special envoy Richard Holbrooke spoke about the importance of Iran’s role in the summit.

Richard Holbrooke: “The presence of Iran here is obvious. How can you talk about Afghanistan and exclude one of the countries that’s a bordering, neighboring state? This is absolutely clear. The creation of the current government in Afghanistan in the Bonn negotiations of 2002 involved Iran, and they played an important role. And when the Dutch government decided to invite them, it seemed to us to be the most logical thing in the world.”

Sayeed Jawed of the Agency Coordinating Body for Afghan Relief called on the international community to fight government corruption.

Sayeed Jawed: “Normally, you know, the security is coming if you have a good governance. So we would ask the international community to work for the good government, which provides situation for development and that will guarantee the security.”

Sunni Awakening Council in Baghdad Stages Brief Uprising

Iraqi and US soldiers have completely disarmed a group of Sunni fighters, following an uprising in Baghdad led by members of the Awakening Council, a group of former insurgents now on the US-Iraqi payroll. This marks the first time an Awakening Council has been forcibly disbanded in the capital. Iraqi security officials said eighty Sunni fighters have been detained.

Major General Abdulkarim Abdulrahman: “The military operation is almost complete. There are some wanted men, those who attacked the military forces, and they will be arrested. We are working now on returning civilian services back to the area. We have made a call to the people of al-Fadhil, urging them to open the shops and resume normal life.”

US Sergeant Convicted of Killing Iraqis

In other Iraq news, a US sergeant has been convicted of murder in the execution-style slaying of four bound and blindfolded Iraqi detainees in 2007.

Dozens of Israeli Jets and Drones Attacked Sudan in January

Time Magazine has uncovered more details of an Israeli military attack on Sudan in mid-January. Time reports dozens of Israeli fighter-bombers, backed by unmanned drones, bombed a 23-truck convoy in the Sudanese desert. Israeli sources told the magazine the convoy was allegedly transporting Iranian arms to Gaza.

Israeli Military Ends Probe of Army Misconduct in Gaza

The Israeli military has decided to end its internal investigation into reports that Israeli troops killed innocent Palestinians during the assault on Gaza. The probe was launched after IDF soldiers were quoted in Israeli newspapers saying that combat troops in Gaza fired at unarmed Palestinian civilians and vandalized property during the attack on Gaza. Military Advocate General Brig. Gen. Avichai Mendelblit said such claims were inaccurate and “based on hearsay.” Meanwhile, two Palestinians died earlier today in an Israeli air strike on Gaza.

US to Release Yemeni Doctor from Guantanamo

The Obama administration has announced plans to release a Yemeni doctor from Guantanamo just days before his habeas petition was scheduled to be heard in federal court. Dr. Ayman Batarfi is an orthopedic surgeon who was has been held since 2002. Batarfi said he was a humanitarian worker who found himself at the battle of Tora Bora while Osama bin Laden was in the area.

Detained US Journalists to be Tried in North Korea

In North Korea, two detained US journalists will reportedly be put on trial on charges of illegal entry and hostile acts. The two reporters, Euna Lee and Laura Ling, were detained along the Chinese border on March 17. The reporters work for Al Gore’s Current TV.

Boston College Bars Bill Ayers from Speaking on Campus

In education news, Boston College has barred University of Illinois professor Bill Ayers from speaking on campus. The former member of the Weather Underground was scheduled to give a speech last night, but it was canceled by school administrators citing safety concerns. The school also prevented Ayers from giving his talk by satellite. Ayers was scheduled to speak about urban schools and educational inequities. Boston College student Melissa Roberts said, “It’s an unconscionable violation of academic freedom on a college campus, which should be a place where all ideas are welcome, not just popular ones.”

Canadian Judge Upholds Ban on British MP George Galloway

Meanwhile, a Canadian judge has upheld Ottawa’s decision to ban British parliamentarian George Galloway from entering the country to conduct a speaking tour. Galloway has been a vocal critic of the US wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as the Israeli government. Canadian officials accused Galloway of giving financial support to Hamas and offering sympathy to the Taliban. Canadian officials claim he is a threat to national security. Last night, Galloway spoke to an audience in Toronto via the internet.

EPA to Monitor Air Quality Outside 62 Schools

USA Today reports the Environmental Protection Agency is expected to announce plans today to monitor the air outside sixty-two schools in twenty-two states. The plan marks the most sweeping effort to determine whether toxic chemicals permeate the air schoolchildren breathe.

Gov’t-Run Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation Lost Billions in Risky Investments

In economic news, the Boston Globe is reporting the federal agency that insures the retirement funds of 44 million Americans has lost billions of dollars due to risky investment decisions. Last year, the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation departed from its conservative investment strategy and decided to put much of its $64 billion insurance fund into speculative investments such as stocks in emerging foreign markets, real estate and private equity funds. The decision was made just months before the start of the stock market collapse. Analysts are concerned that large portions of the trust fund might have been lost at a time when many private pension plans are suffering major losses. The guarantee fund would be the only way to cover the plans if their companies go into bankruptcy. The investment strategy was implemented by Charles Millard, a former managing director of Lehman Brothers.

Goldman Sachs Exec Donated To Obama Senate Campaign After He Left Senate

The Washington Times is reporting President Obama continued collecting money for his 2010 Senate re-election campaign even after he resigned his seat from Illinois. The money came from some of Obama’s top presidential fundraisers including Bruce Heyman, managing director at Goldman Sachs, which received a $10 billion bailout last year. According to campaign records, Obama received four contributions totaling nearly $5,000 after Dec. 26. The donations are legal, but the timing is considered unusual because Obama formally left the Senate on Nov. 16.

Prominent Lobbyist Closes PMA Group After Federal Raid

A prominent lobbyist with close ties to Democratic Congressman John Murtha is closing his firm, weeks after federal prosecutors raided his office and his home. Paul Magliocchetti’s firm, the PMA Group, is one of the 10 largest lobbying firms in Washington. The New York Times Magliocchetti helped pioneer the lucrative specialty of helping contractors lobby for military earmarks, pet spending items that members of the panel insert in annual spending bills. Magliocchetti is very close to Murtha, chair of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense. Since 1998 employees of PMA have contributed nearly $8 million to members on the House defense spending panel and $2.4 million to Murtha.

Anti-Nuke Activists Arrested in Vermont

In Vermont four activists were arrested on Monday during a speech by Gov. Jim Douglas. They were calling on Douglas to close the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant and replace its power with energy efficiency programs and renewable energy.

Cesar Chavez Day Marked in Eight States

And today is the birthday of the late labor leader Cesar Chavez. He was born on March 31, 1927. There is a growing movement to make his birthday a national holiday. Cesar Chavez Day is already a state holiday in eight U.S. states.

Headlines: Obama Sworn In, Suspends Bush Regulations; Israel Criticized by UN for Gaza Attack

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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.

Obama Sworn in as 44th President

Barack Hussein Obama has been sworn in as the 44th President of the United States. Just after noon Tuesday, Obama laid his hand on the same Bible used by Abraham Lincoln at his inauguration in 1861. Chief Justice John Roberts administered the oath of office.

Chief Justice John Roberts: “I, Barack Hussein Obama…”

President Barack Obama: “I, Barack…”

Roberts: “…do solemnly swear…”

Obama: “I, Barack Hussein Obama, do solemnly swear…”

Roberts: “…that I will execute the office of president to the United States faithfully…”

Obama: “…that I will execute…”

Roberts: “…faithfully the office of president of the United States…”

Obama: “…the office of president of the United States faithfully…”

Roberts: “…and will to the best of my ability…”

Obama: “…and will to the best of my ability…”

Roberts: “…preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”

Obama: “…preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”

Roberts: “So help you God?”

Obama: “So help me God.”

Roberts erred in administering the oath, re-doing a line because he misplaced the word “faithfully.” Obama repeated Roberts’ initial error. He should have said he will “faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States” but instead said he will “execute the Office of President of the United States faithfully.”

Obama: Military Power “Doesn’t Entitle Us to Do As We Please”

Moments later, Obama delivered his inaugural address. The speech contained what appeared to be several subtle criticisms of the Bush administration. In an apparent reference to torture and civil liberties violations in the so-called war on terror, Obama spoke of ending what he called a “false choice between our safety and our ideals.” And he also said, “Our power alone cannot protect us, nor does it entitle us to do as we please.” Speaking one day after Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Obama noted the historical significance of his becoming the nation’s first black president.

President Obama: “This is the meaning of our liberty and our creed, why men and women and children of every race and every faith can join in celebration across this magnificent mall, and why a man whose father less than sixty years ago might not have been served at a local restaurant can now stand before you to take a most sacred oath.”

An estimated two million people braved freezing temperatures to witness the historic ceremony.

Bush Booed at Ceremony, Returns to Texas

The inauguration of President Obama also meant a farewell for the now former President George W. Bush. Bush was greeted with boos as he took the stage at Obama’s inauguration. After the ceremony, Bush left the White House in a helicopter to Andrews Air Force Base. He was then flown to Texas for his first night as a private citizen. Nature intervened to deny Bush the red carpet treatment. A red carpet laid out for Bush to board his flight was removed after heavy wind kept dislodging it, forcing Bush to walk on the bare tarmac.

Court Grants Cheney Secrecy Over Records

Former Vice President Dick Cheney, meanwhile, ended his term with a court victory allowing him to prevent his records from going public. On Monday, a federal judge ruled Cheney has the sole authority to decide which of his records, if any, are handed over to the National Archives. The group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington had sued Cheney to ensure his records became publicly released.

Obama Orders Halt to Gitmo Trials

In one his first moves as President, Obama ordered a four-month suspension of all military tribunals at Guantanamo Bay. The request would stop cases against twenty-one prisoners. Guantanamo judges are expected to issue a ruling later today. Obama made closure of the Guantanamo prison a key promise in his campaign.

Bush Regulations Suspended Pending Review

Obama has also ordered all federal agencies to suspend unfinished Bush administration federal regulations, pending review by the new White House. In its waning days, the Bush administration said it issued 100 new regulations since November.

Israel Completes Gaza Withdrawal

The Israeli government says it’s withdrawn the last of its troops from the Gaza Strip. It’s widely speculated the move was timed to avoid the possibility of any criticism from President Obama after he took office. With a ceasefire in place, Gazans continue to sort through the rubble following the devastating Israeli attack. The twenty-two-day assault killed more than 1,300 Palestinians, most of them civilians and at least one-third children.

Ban Ki-moon “Appalled” at Israeli Attack on UN Compound

On Tuesday, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon toured the UN’s badly damaged headquarters in Gaza City. The compound was set aflame when Israel attacked it last week, burning hundreds of tons of desperately needed aid stored in warehouses. Moon said he was “appalled” at the destruction.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon: “Ladies and gentlemen, I have seen only a fraction of the damage. This is shocking and alarming. This is heartbreaking scenes which I have seen, and I am deeply grieved by what I have seen today. I’m just appalled. I’m not able to describe how I’m feeling, having seen this site of the bombing of the United Nations compound. Everyone is now smelling this burning still. It is still burning. This, an outrageous and totally unacceptable attack against the United Nations.”

The UN has called for the attack to be investigated as a war crime. Hamas, meanwhile, has begun to re-assert control over the Gaza Strip. On Tuesday, thousands of Palestinians marched through Gaza in a Hamas-led rally.

Father Says Israeli Troops Fatally Shot Daughters

Meanwhile, grieving Palestinians continue to provide accounts of Israeli killings of innocent civilians. A Palestinian father told The Independent of London two of his daughters were shot dead and another critically wounded when Israeli troops opened fire. The father, Khaled Abed Rabbo, says his family was obeying an Israeli order to abandon their home, when a soldier fired from an Israeli tank. Two-year-old Amal and seven-year-old Suad were killed. The third daughter, four-year-old Samer, has been flown to a Belgian hospital with critical spinal wounds. Adeb Rabbo’s home was also nearly completely destroyed during Israel’s attack.

Israel Accused of Killing 14 in Gaza Village

Israel also faces new allegations of war crimes with a report of another mass killing on the Gaza village of Khuza’a. According to the Israeli human rights group B’Tselem, Israeli troops killed fourteen Palestinians in a day-long assault. Israeli forces reportedly shot Palestinians waving white flags and bulldozed others still in their homes. Witnesses also say Israeli forces opened fire on an ambulance trying to reach the victims and used white phosphorus during the attack.

Israeli Officials Demand Control of Gaza Reconstruction

Israeli officials are demanding nearly unfettered control over any reconstruction of the Gaza Strip. Israel continues to control all of Gaza’s crossings and can block aid or commercial delivery at will. Israel has reportedly told diplomats it wants “project by project” approval on any reconstruction effort. It also wants a full list of any goods intended for Gaza and pledges from the UN to monitor every dollar spent.

UN Rapporteur on Torture Calls for Prosecuting Bush, Rumsfeld

A top UN official is urging the US to prosecute former President Bush and former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. Manfred Nowak, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture, told a German television network Bush and Cheney should be pursued for the treatment of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay. Nowak says prosecution is legally required, because the US has ratified the UN convention on torture. Last month, a bipartisan Senate report accused Rumsfeld and other top Bush administration officials of direct responsibility for abuse and torture at Guantanamo and other US prisons.

US Secures New Supply Routes for Afghanistan

The US military says it’s been granted permission to move troop supplies for Afghanistan through Russia and Central Asia. Most NATO military shipments in Afghanistan go through neighboring Pakistan, but their convoys have come under increasing attack.

6 Obama Cabinet Picks Confirmed

On Capitol Hill, several Obama cabinet picks were confirmed on inauguration day by unanimous consent: Energy Secretary Steven Chu, Education Secretary Arne Duncan, Homeland Security Director Janet Napolitano, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar, Veterans Affairs Director Gen. Eric Shinseki and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. A vote on Secretary of State nominee Hillary Clinton was delayed after objections from Texas Republican Senator John Cornyn. Clinton’s nomination will likely come up again today.

Sen. Kennedy Hospitalized After Suffering Seizure

Meanwhile, Democratic Senator Ted Kennedy was hospitalized after suffering a seizure. Kennedy collapsed while attending a congressional luncheon honoring Obama shortly after the inauguration. Kennedy was diagnosed with a brain tumor last year. He remained hospitalized overnight but says he is feeling well.

Relatives Say Peltier Beaten Following Prison Transfer

And the Native American activist Leonard Peltier has reportedly been severely beaten shortly after his transfer to a new prison. According to Peltier’s defense committee, Peltier was attacked by other prisoners after he was put into general population. Peltier’s sister, Betty Peltier-Solano, says she believes the attack could have been encouraged by prison officials seeking to discredit Peltier as he comes up for parole. Peltier suffers from diabetes. After the attack, he was put into solitary confinement. February 6 will mark thirty-three years since Peltier’s arrest. He was convicted of killing two FBI agents during a shootout on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in 1975. Peltier has long maintained his innocence and is widely considered a political prisoner in the United States. He is currently being held at the Canaan Federal Prison in Pennsylvania.

The Inauguration: Brought to you by the Wealthy

Barack Obama's Inauguration was paid for by a small number of wealthy donors and fundraisers

While many of us spent today watching Obama’s inauguration, few news sources have reported on where the money for the lavish inauguration festivities comes from. Contrary to what it may seem, it is not public money. Rather, inauguration funds are raised by the incoming administration.

Positive Steps towards Transparency

As he did in his presidential campaign, Obama banned corporate and lobbyist funding for his inauguration. He also greatly expanded disclosure of donor information and improved transparency of what has often been in the past a closed, unregulated process. He also set voluntary limits of $50,000 for individual contributions and $300,000 for bundled contributions.

However, while Obama’s disclosure deserves praise, it does not mask the fact that the inauguration was paid for largely by wealthy donors hoping for a final chance to buy influence with the new administration.

Despite Transparency, Inauguration Still Paid for by a Handful of Wealthy Donors

The group Public Citizen reports that 80% of Obama’s total inauguration contributions ($35.3 million) came from just 211 individual “bundlers.” “Bundlers” are well-connected fundraisers–often corporate executives, lawyers, or other individuals with position of power–who collect contributions from individuals and deliver them to the inaugural committee. Of the 5,632 reported contributions to the inaugural committee, only 113 were “small” contributions of $200.

Among those donating were prominent Wall Street executives:

  • Louis Susman, vice chairman of Citigroup Corporate and Investment Banking and managing director, vice chairman of investment banking, Citigroup ($300,000)
  • Mark Gilbert, senior executive, Lehman Brothers ($185,000)
  • Robert Wolf, chairman and CEO, UBS Americas ($100,000)
  • Jennifer Scully, vice president, private wealth management, Goldman Sachs ($100,000)
  • Bruce Heyman, managing director of the Private Wealth Management Group, Midwest region, Goldman Sachs ($50,000)
  • Kobi Brinson, senior vice president and assistant general counsel, Wachovia ($35,000)

Inaugural Donations Bring Increased Access

Public Citizen president Joan Claybrook stated in a news release, “The inauguration is the last chance for big donors to throw money at the feet of the president.” As shown above, wealthy donors are taking this seriously, and in many ways, Obama is accommodating their desires.

While Obama has said that inauguration donors will not have undue influence, the money donated to the inauguration does buy increased access. Yesterday, USA Today reported that:

“Contributors who gave at least $10,000 to help underwrite the inauguration received two tickets to witness the Democrat take the oath of office, watch the Inaugural Parade and party at one of the 10 black-tie balls attended by Obama and his wife, Michelle. Those who gave $50,000 — or raised $300,000 from other contributors — received a total of four tickets to official inaugural activities.

Donors also were invited to private gatherings, such as a Sunday “welcome brunch” with an entertainment lineup that included singer Carole King and a Sunday evening reception organized by Penny Pritzker, a Chicago hotel executive who was Obama’s top campaign fundraiser. Today, donors can attend a breakfast briefing with policymakers, including Tom Daschle, Obama’s pick to run the Health and Human Services Department.”

In the article, Public Citizen research Alexander Cohen called the donor benefits “unseemly.”

In response, an Obama spokeswoman said donors will not have undue sway: “”The president-elect made it clear throughout his campaign that the people who have power in his campaign are the grass-roots.”

Headlines: Obama Inauguration, Israel Declares Gaza Ceasefire

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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.

Obama to be Sworn in as 44th US President

Inauguration Day has arrived in Washington, D.C. At noon, Barack Obama will take the oath of office using president Abraham Lincoln’s inaugural Bible during the swearing-in ceremony on the steps of the US Capitol.

Record Crowds Expected in Washington, D.C.

Millions of people have descended on Washington to watch Obama become the nation’s first African American president and to mark the end of the Bush administration. Authorities are preparing for what could be the largest crowd in Washington’s history. People began lining up near the Mall today hours before sunrise. Celebrations are also being held across the country and the world today.

Obama: I Will Take Your Voices into the Oval Office

On Sunday, Obama spoke before over 400,000 people from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial during a star-studded concert.

Barack Obama: “As I prepare to assume the presidency, yours are the voices I will take with me every day when I walk into that Oval Office, the voices of men and women who have different stories but hold common hopes, who ask only for what was promised us as Americans: that we might make of our lives what we will and see our children climb higher than we did.”

Obama & Biden Ride Train to Washington

The official inaugural festivities began on Saturday when Barack Obama and his vice president Joseph Biden traveled to Washington on a whistle stop train ride with stops in Philadelphia, Wilmington and Baltimore. Vice President-elect Biden spoke in Wilmington, Delaware.

Vice President-elect Biden: “Folks, this is more than an ordinary train ride. This is a new beginning. In our most difficult nation–most difficult moments, our nation has always chosen a leader the times demand. And I believe that’s why this nation has turned to Barack Obama. It’s turned to Barack to bring hope back to the nation and the change we so desperately need. My fellow Delawareans, the next president of the United States of America, Barack Obama.”

This morning, Barack Obama and Joe Biden will have coffee at the White House with outgoing President George Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney. Cheney will be spending the day in a wheelchair, because he pulled a muscle in his back on Monday while moving boxes.

Report: Inauguration to Cost $170 Million

ABC News reports the total cost of the inauguration will be at least $170 million. Part of the money has come from prominent Wall Street executives from Citigroup, Lehman Brothers, UBS Americas, Goldman Sachs, Wachovia, who bundled large donations for the inauguration.

Israel Declares Unilateral Ceasefire After 22-Day Attack on Gaza

In other news, Israel declared a unilateral ceasefire on Saturday, ending a twenty-two-day assault on Gaza that killed more than 1,300 Palestinians, most of them civilians and at least one-third children. Hamas followed with a declaration of a one-week ceasefire until Israel withdraws all its troops. Thirteen Israelis died during the twenty-two-day war, including four Israeli soldiers by friendly fire. Israel called off its attack after the Bush administration signed a deal promising increased US cooperation in halting arms smuggling into Gaza. The incoming Obama administration also backed the agreement.

4,000 Palestinian Homes Destroyed

The damage to Gaza’s infrastructure is estimated in the billions. More than 4,000 homes have been destroyed. At least 400,000 people are still without running water.

Palestinian Woman: “All our homes have been destroyed. Even this little boy does not have a home. What is his fault? Look at him. What do they want from us? Our houses? Why do they want to destroy them? Why do they destroy our homes?”

Israel Bombs Another UN School, Two Boys Killed

Hours before the Israeli cabinet announced its ceasefire Saturday night, Israeli forces bombed another UN school used as a shelter for Palestinian civilians. Two boys were killed. Their mother was badly wounded, with the attack blowing off both her legs. It was the fourth Israeli bombing of a UN school in the three-week assault.

Doctor: Israel Destroyed Warehouses of Medical Supplies

Over the weekend, a Greek doctor in Gaza named Kostas Konstantinidis accused Israel of destroying warehouses of medical supplies.

Dr. Kostas Konstantinidis: “Even the humanitarian aid is bombarded by the Israeli air force. They are destroying the warehouses where we keep the medical and all the pharmaceutical containers. Even those things, they are bombarding them. They are bombarding hospitals. They are bombarding everything. Even in the borders, where there are these kind of tunnels and they are suspecting that probably we can pass from there some humanitarian aid, they are bombing with these special bombs that bring these earthquakes.”

Mitchell Expected to be Named Middle East Envoy

In related news, in one of his first official actions as president, Barack Obama is expected to name former senator George Mitchell as his Middle East envoy.

Bush Commutes Sentences of Two Border Patrol Agents

In his final full day in office, President Bush commuted the prison sentences of two former Border Patrol agents who shot an unarmed Mexican drug smuggler and then tried to cover up the shooting. The agents, Ignacio Ramos and Jose Compean, never reported the shooting and tampered with evidence. They had served two years in jail. Bush technically has until noon today to issue more pardons, but presidential advisers said no more were forthcoming. Many conservatives are criticizing Bush for not pardoning Vice President Cheney’s former chief of staff Scooter Libby for his role in the leak of CIA agent Valerie Plame’s identity. Former Republican Alaskan Senator Ted Stevens was also seeking a pardon. Stevens was convicted last year of corruption charges.

World Court Rules US Execution of Mexican Broke International Law

The International Court of Justice has ruled the execution of a Mexican national in Texas last year breached US obligations under international law. The dispute between Mexico and the US dates back to 2004, when Mexico accused the United States of not informing fifty-one Mexican citizens on death row of their right to consular assistance. Last year, the state of Texas executed a Mexican national despite an order by the World Court to halt the execution.

Report: US Airways Flight Had Engine Trouble Days Prior to Crash

CNN is reporting that two days before US Airways Flight 1549 crashed into the Hudson River, passengers on the same route and same aircraft say they heard a series of loud bangs and the flight crew told them they could have to make an emergency landing. One passenger said the incident last Tuesday sounded like the wing was just snapping off. US Airways declined to comment on the plane’s history. CNN’s report raises questions about the cause of last week’s crash. The US Airways pilot has said the plane lost its engines after it hit a flock of birds ninety seconds into the flight.

FMLN in El Salvador Claims Victory in Legislative Poll

In El Salvador, the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front, or FMLN, has claimed victory in legislative polls, ending decades of right-wing control of the Salvadoran Parliament. The former leftist guerrillas won 46 percent of the vote over the right-wing National Republican Alliance ARENA party. El Salvador’s presidential election is set for March 15. FMLN’s candidate, Mauricio Funes, is expected to win.

Prominent Russian Human Rights Attorney Assassinated

In Russia, a prominent human rights lawyer was assassinated on Monday, days after he protested the release of the highest-ranking Russian officer convicted of atrocities in the Chechen war. The attorney, Stanislav Markelov, was the director of the Rule of Law Institute, a civil liberties group. He had represented many labor unions, environmental groups and journalists, including Anna Politkovskaya, who was assassinated in 2006. A twenty-five-year-old journalist who was with Markelov was also shot dead.

Public Infrastructure Advocates Criticize Stimulus Plan

The New York Times reports the House economic stimulus plan has disappointed advocates for the nation’s long-neglected infrastructure. On Thursday, a $825 billion stimulus plan was introduced. Less than one-third of the plan would go to infrastructure, and much of that would go to high-tech projects rather than traditional concrete-and-steel building and repair work. Although the American Society of Civil Engineers estimates that $1.6 trillion is needed to improve the nation’s crumbling infrastructure, the proposal only calls for spending $30 billion on roads and only $10 billion on transit and rail.

Mississippi Newspaper Apologizes for Civil Rights Coverage

In Mississippi, the Meridian Star newspaper has published an apology for its past coverage of civil rights issues. An editorial read, in part, “There was a time when this newspaper– and many others across the south–acted with gross neglect by largely ignoring the unfairness of segregated schools, buses, restaurants, washrooms, theaters and other public places. We did it through omission, by not recording for our readers many of the most important civil rights activities that happened in our midst, including protests and sit-ins. That was wrong. We should have loudly protested segregation and the efforts to block voter registration of black East Mississippians.” The editorial was published on Sunday, one day before the Martin Luther King Day holiday and two days before the inauguration of Barack Obama as America’s first black president.

Judge Suspends Lease of 100,000 Acres of Public Land in Utah

A federal judge has suspended the Bush administration’s last-minute attempt to lease more than 100,000 acres of land near national parks in Utah for oil and gas drilling. Judge Ricardo Urbina ruled the Bureau of Land Management had not carried out sufficient study of the impact of drilling near the Arches and Canyonlands National Parks and the Dinosaur National Monument. Environmentalists had condemned the auction. One University of Utah student, Tim DeChristopher, had disrupted the auction by posing as a bidder. He ended up buying the rights to twelve parcels of land totaling 22,000 acres.

Circuit City to Close Remaining 567 Stores; 34,000 to Lose Jobs

And in economic news, Circuit City has announced plans to shut down its remaining 567 stores. 34,000 workers are set to lose their jobs. Circuit City was the nation’s second-largest electronics retailer after Best Buy. Meanwhile, the Financial Times reports Bank of America could soon eliminate up to 4,000 more jobs.

Headlines: Israel Continues Gaza Bombing Despite Ceasefire Talks, Obama won’t Investigate Bush Admin. Torture

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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.

Amidst Ceasefire Talk, Israel Continues Gaza Bombing

Israel continues its heavy bombardment of the Gaza Strip despite talk of a looming ceasefire. A barrage of Israeli shelling hit Gaza overnight, with Israel claiming it struck forty targets. Twenty-one days into the Israeli attack, more than 1,100 Palestinians have been killed and more than 5,200 wounded. At least 700 civilians are among the dead, including more than 350 children. Much of Gaza is without food, water and electricity.

Reports: Hamas Agrees to One-Year Truce

On the diplomatic front, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon met with Palestinian officials in the West Bank city of Ramallah and urged Israel to declare a unilateral ceasefire. Meanwhile, Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni is due to meet with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in Washington later today. An Israeli envoy was sent to Cairo to discuss ceasefire terms offered by Hamas. Hamas is reportedly offering a year-long truce if Israel withdraws from Gaza and lifts its blockade.

UN, Care Suspend Aid Delivery After Israeli Bombings

On Thursday, the UN again suspended aid delivery after the Israeli bombing of its Gaza headquarters. The attack set fire to warehouses storing direly needed aid. Hundreds of Palestinians were taking shelter there at the time. Three UN employees were injured. It was the second time the UN had suspended its Gaza aid because of an Israeli attack on its workers and facilities. UNRWA official Judy Clark said all the agency’s food and medicine has been destroyed in the latest bombing.

Judy Clark: “A very unfortunate situation here in the UN compound in Gaza. Our warehouses have been hit by some type of explosive and have caught alight. The fire has spread from the workshops by the oil and spread to the warehouses. One by one, the warehouses are going up. We’re now trying to build a buffer zone between the warehouses and the offices to try and stop the offices. We’ve lost all our food and all our medicine to this fire.”

Another humanitarian group, CARE International, also announced a suspension of aid delivery following Israeli bombings near its Gaza City sites.

Kucinich Condemns Israeli Attack on House Floor

Speaking on the House floor, Democratic Congressmember Dennis Kucinich condemned the attack on the UN compound, saying, “Using US planes, helicopters and munitions to attack a wounded, starved and thirsty civilian population of mostly children trapped in a box called Gaza has become acceptable, perhaps because we have already accepted the deaths of over one million innocent civilians in Iraq in a war based on lies…When we recognize the humanitarian disaster in Gaza, when we come to grips with the reality of suffering on both sides, we may yet find a way to save ourselves.” Kucinich has been one of the few members of Congress to publicly oppose the Israeli attack on Gaza.

Senior Hamas Leader, 9 Others Killed in Israeli Attack

A senior Hamas leader was among the victims of Israeli strikes on Thursday. Hamas Interior Minister Said Siam was killed when Israeli warplanes bombed a home in the Jabalya refugee camp. Nine others were killed in the attack.

Israeli Human Rights Groups Urge Lifting of Gaza Blockade

Meanwhile, in Israel, two Israeli human rights groups urged the Supreme Court to stop the Israeli government from worsening Gaza’s humanitarian crisis.

Human rights attorney Yadin Ilam: “We know for a fact that 250,000 people are without electricity since the war started twenty days ago, and half a million people are without proper water. Sewage is overflowing to the street, and we are on the verge of epidemics. So we are here to ask the Supreme Court to order the army to supply the Gazan citizens, who are not part of this war, with proper water, electricity and medicine and whatever else that they need.”

“Free Gaza” Ship Returns to Cyprus After Israeli Threats

Meanwhile, a ship trying to deliver humanitarian aid to Gaza has returned to Cyprus after the Israeli navy threatened to shoot the civilian passengers on board. The Free Gaza movement boat had left Cyprus on Wednesday seeking to deliver doctors and medical supplies. It was the group’s first attempt to reach Gaza since an Israeli navy vessel deliberately rammed another of its boats last month, almost forcing it to sink. Huwaida Arraf of the Free Gaza movement described the threats that forced her boat to return home.

Huwaida Arraf: “In the middle of the night at about 2:30 in the morning, while we were still well into international waters about a hundred miles from the coast of Gaza, the Israeli military communicated with us. We told them exactly who we were and where we were going, and they told us to turn back. And we told them we were carrying humanitarian aid and it is incumbent upon them as an occupying force and as a belligerent force to facilitate the receipt of aid to the people who need it and we intend to enter Gaza. They surrounded us with four of their warships, flashing bright lights at us, and they were maneuvering in front of us in a way that threatened a collision, because our simple boat could not make the maneuvers they were making. And I told them, I said, ‘the maneuvering of your warships is threatening the safety of this boat and the lives of the twenty-one passengers on board. Stay back.’ And then they threatened that if we did not turn around immediately, they would open fire on us.”

UN General Assembly Meets on Gaza Attack

At the United Nations, the General Assembly reconvened a special meeting on Gaza Thursday over Israeli and US objections. General Assembly President Miguel D’Escoto Brockmann of Nicaragua condemned the Israeli attack.

General Assembly President Miguel D’Escoto Brockmann: “If this onslaught in Gaza is indeed a war, it is a war against a helpless, defenseless, imprisoned population. On January 4th, the Foreign Minister of Israel stated clearly and unequivocally that, I quote, ‘the intensive diplomatic activity of the last few days aims to alleviate the pressure for a ceasefire and to allow time for continuing the military operation.'”

Protesters Block Israeli Consulates in L.A., San Francisco

Protests continue to denounce Israel’s assault across the United States. On Thursday, nine people were arrested after chaining themselves together to block the Israeli consulate in San Francisco. The protest came one day after six Jewish activists held a similar action at the Israeli consulate in Los Angeles. Dozens of others gathered outside the consulate, chanting “US Jews say not in our name.” Eric Romann of the International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network took part in the protest.

Eric Romann: “As Jews, we condemn it. We believe it’s a betrayal of our legacy as a people. As US citizens, we are outraged that our government continues to provide both military, economic and political support and to defend Israel in the international community. We’re very upset with local Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa for his repeated public statements defending what is an unjustifiable criminal siege by Israel against Gaza.”

As US Bombs Hit Gaza, Bush Speaks of US “Moral Clarity”

As the US-backed Israeli attack on Gaza continued, President Bush took to the airwaves Thursday night for a farewell address to the nation. Despite the more than 1,000 Palestinians, one-third of them children, killed by US-supplied weaponry, Bush spoke of what he called “America’s moral clarity” and opposition to “murdering the innocent.”

President Bush: “America must maintain our moral clarity. I have often spoken to you about good and evil. And this has made some uncomfortable. But good and evil are present in this world, and between the two there can be no compromise. Murdering the innocent to advance an ideology is wrong every time, everywhere.”

Bush also used his speech to defend his legacy, saying his presidency will be defined by its response to the 9/11 attacks.

Senate Releases Remaining $350B in Bailout Money

On Capitol Hill, the Senate has voted to release the second half of the $700 billion Wall Street bailout. The vote came despite ongoing concerns over a lack of oversight and accountability in how the money is dispersed. Following the vote, the Treasury Department announced an additional $118 billion infusion for Bank of America. The new money comes on top of the $25 billion Bank of America received under the first bailout installment. Meanwhile, Democratic leaders in the House have unveiled their version of an $825 billion economic stimulus package offering new spending and tax cuts.

Burris Sworn in to Senate

In other news from Washington, Roland Burris has been sworn in to fill President-elect Barack Obama’s vacated Senate seat. The now-Senator Burris was appointed by the scandal-plagued Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich over initial objections from top Democrats.

CIA Director: Obama Won’t Probe Bush Admin Torture

Outgoing CIA Director Michael Hayden is claiming President-elect Obama has no intention on launching a probe of CIA torture practices, including waterboarding. Speaking at a farewell news conference, Hayden said Obama shared his plans at an intelligence briefing last month. Hayden said, “He’s looking forward, and that’s very appropriate.” Hayden’s comments came as Obama’s nominee for attorney general, Eric Holder, told the Senate Judiciary Committee he thinks waterboarding is a form of torture. More from Holder’s confirmation hearing after headlines.

Concerns Raised for Health of Shoe-Throwing Iraqi Journalist

In Iraq, the family and attorney of the Iraqi journalist who threw his shoes at President Bush are voicing grave concerns about his safety. Muntadhar al-Zaidi has been allowed just two visitors since his arrest and none for nearly a month. Relatives say they don’t know where Zaidi is being held and haven’t been able to speak to him by phone. Zaidi’s lawyer says medical records describe bruising over Zaidi’s face and body, a missing tooth, a nose gash and an apparent burn mark on his ear.

FISA Court Orders Telecoms to Aid Gov’t Spying

Back in the United States, a secret federals appeals court has ruled telecommunications companies must help the government monitor email and phone calls of Americans suspected of being terrorists or spies. The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court ruling came down in August but has only just been publicly disclosed. The ruling came in response to an unidentified company’s legal challenge to the 2007 FISA law OKing warantless spying.

US Settles Wrongful Death Case by Family of Iraq Veteran

The US government has agreed to pay a $350,000 settlement to the parents of a US marine who committed suicide after returning home from Iraq. Joyce and Kevin Lucey had filed a lawsuit alleging the government’s failure to treat veterans cost their son, Jeffrey Lucey, his life. Jeffrey hanged himself after the US military refused to deal with his post-traumatic stress disorder. In May 2004, Jeffrey’s parents had him involuntarily committed to a VA hospital, but the hospital discharged him after a few days. Two weeks later, Kevin Lucey came home to find his son hanging from a hose in the cellar. Lying on his bed were the dog tags of two unarmed Iraqi prisoners Jeffrey had said he was forced to shoot. In an interview with Democracy Now! in July 2007, Kevin Lucey talked about the VA’s neglect of his son.

Kevin Lucey: “We need to emphasize that Jeff had revealed to them three ways that he had planned to commit suicide. He told them that he would suffocate himself, he would overdose, or he would hang himself. He also shared with the psychiatrist how he had bought a hose. And, of course, on the following, of June 5th, when we tried to admit him the second time, and the VA declined, Joyce and I went through the house, we took everything that he could hurt himself with, but we never thought of a hose.”

The Lucey family’s wrongful death suit was the first such case over an Iraq war veteran. In a statement, Kevin Lucey said, “The US government sent my son into an illegal and reckless war and then…denied him the basic healthcare he needed. We hope that this case serves as a wake-up call that our government must be held accountable for the suffering it has caused thousands of US military families.”

Sri Lankan Editor, Government Critic Assassinated

In Sri Lanka, the editor of a leading newspaper known for its criticism of the government’s war on Tamil rebels has been assassinated. Lasantha Wickramatunga was shot by gunmen on his way to work at the Sunday Leader. He had previously survived earlier attempts on his life. In a posthumous essay written in anticipation of his eventual murder, Wickramatunga says, “In all these cases, I have reason to believe the attacks were inspired by the government. When finally I am killed, it will be the government that kills me.”

Deep Ecology Founder Arne Naess Dies at 97

And the Norwegian philosopher Arne Naess has died at the age of ninety-seven. He was the founder of the deep ecology movement and active in the Norwegian Green Party.

Study: Segregation on Rise in US Schools

In education news, a new report says black and Latino students are experiencing increasing segregation in US schools. The University of California’s Civil Rights Project says black and Hispanic students are more separate from whites than at any moment since the civil rights era. Study authors blame neglect of civil rights and education reforms as well failure to uphold the Fair Housing Act, established to promote equality in the housing market.

Headlines: UN Relief Agency Calls for End to Gaza Attack, Obama Cabinet Confirmation Hearings

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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.

Palestinian Death Toll Nears 1,000

The Palestinian death toll is nearing 1,000 as Israel continues its attack on the Gaza Strip. As Israeli troops massed around Gaza City, heavy bombing continued overnight, destroying Gaza’s old city hall and several shops in a market. At least 971 Palestinians have been killed, with more than 4,400 injured. Tens of thousands have been displaced. Around two-thirds of Gaza’s 1.5 million people have no electricity, and 500,000 have no access to running water. The World Food Programme says it’s providing aid to 80 percent of Gaza’s residents.

UN Relief Agency Pleads for End to Attack

The UN’s top relief official in Gaza, John Ging, urged Israel to end its attack.

UNRWA Director John Ging: “Please, we have to get an end to the fighting. Nowhere in Gaza is safe. The situation here is horrific for everybody. And, of course, it starts with the guns falling silent. By whatever agreement, the guns must fall silent first, and then we can start to proceed and move forward. But without that, it’s going to be more death, more injury and more destruction.”

Ging also described the extent of damage to Gaza’s infrastructure.

UNRWA Director John Ging: “The Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Finance, the president’s compound and even the presidential guest house, which was the former Egyptian governor’s residence prior to 1967, are all reduced to rubble. So, in addition to the death toll and the injury toll, which is now deaths above–the Ministry of Health report above 900, they report the injury figure is above 4,000, there is this massive destruction of the infrastructure of the state, the future state that we were all working to build.”

Meanwhile, the head of International Red Cross, Jakob Kellenberger, addressed Israel’s attacks on medical workers and its restrictions on evacuating wounded civilians.

International Red Cross Director Jakob Kellenberger: “It is absolutely indispensable and it is not negotiable that a medical mission in such a conflict has to be protected. The medical mission has to be protected. And it is important. I mean, wounded people, they cannot wait for days or even many hours to be evacuated and cared for. Wounded people –it must be possible that wounded people can be collected, cared for and evacuated as rapidly as possible.”

Rockets Fired from Lebanon into Israel

Meanwhile, rockets have been fired from southern Lebanon into northern Israel for the second time since Israel attacked Gaza. There were no damages or injuries. The Israeli military says it responded with artillery fire into Lebanon.

Gaza Residents: Cemeteries Running Out of Space

As the death toll rises, Gaza residents are now reporting local cemeteries are running out of space to bury the dead. Gaza resident Mahmoud al-Zinati said his sixteen-year-old cousin has been buried on top of a twelve-year-old cousin killed by Israel two years ago.

Mahmoud al-Zinati: “When my cousin became a martyr, we came to this graveyard and other graveyards to find a place to bury my cousin in, but found no place. But thank God, one of our cousins became a martyr two years ago. So we said we should dig up his grave so we can bury my cousin next to him.”

Israel Could Face World Court on Gaza Attack

The United Nations is reportedly preparing to consider referring Israel’s actions in Gaza to the World Court for possible prosecution. The Guardian newspaper reports the UN General Assembly will consider asking the International Court of Justice to rule on whether Israel is violating international law. The UN’s special rapporteur to the Occupied Territories, Richard Falk, says Israel’s attack could be in violation of the UN Charter, the Geneva Conventions, international law and international humanitarian law.

Iran: Israel Blocks Aid Ship for Gaza

Iran is claiming the Israeli navy has intercepted an Iranian ship carrying humanitarian aid for Gaza. According to Iranian state radio, the ship was stopped twenty miles off Gaza’s coast after leaving Iran two weeks ago. The ship was carrying food and medicine and had planned to arrive in Gaza this past weekend. Israel has blocked several humanitarian ships trying to reach Gaza, and even rammed a boat of peace activists in international waters last month.

Journalists Decry Gaza Media Killings, Ban

The Israeli government’s treatment of journalists is under growing scrutiny. The International Federation of Journalists is calling on media workers worldwide to protest Israel’s conduct towards journalists during the Gaza attack. Israeli forces have killed at least four Palestinian media workers. At least two journalists with the network Al-Alam have been arrested–a correspondent and a producer. Israel meanwhile continues to ban foreign journalists from entering Gaza. International Federation of Journalists Secretary-General Aidan White called the media crackdown “intolerable,” saying, “The systematic manipulation and control of media trying to report on Gaza and the casualties being sustained inside the territory require a concerted response from the world’s media.” BBC correspondent Lyse Doucet also criticized the media ban.

Lyse Doucet: “There’s a great concern, of course, of the humanitarian price. There’s also a great desire to know exactly what the military operation is all about. And aside from very limited trips by journalists, we simply haven’t been allowed to get a closer look at what is a world story. It’s absolutely crucial that we should be given access to what’s been happening on the ground.”

Admin Won’t Contradict Olmert Claim on Ceasefire

Meanwhile, the Bush administration is trying to downplay controversy over Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s claim he successfully lobbied President Bush not to support a UN Security Council ceasefire resolution last week. Olmert said his phone call to Bush led to the US abstention. He also claimed Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was left “shamed” because she had taken part in the ceasefire talks.

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert: “He gave an order to the Secretary of State, and she did not vote in favor of it–a resolution she cooked up, phrased, organized and maneuvered for. She was left pretty shamed, abstaining from voting on the resolution.”

On Wednesday, White House spokesperson Tony Fratto rejected Olmert’s claim, but didn’t offer specifics.

White House spokesperson Tony Fratto: “I’m not going to get into discuss–I know the State Department has done that and as Secretary Rice was asked about it last night, and I don’t really have more to add to it, but there is–”

Reporter: “When you say reporting on this, I mean, these are actually Olmert’s words. I mean, he actually said this, so–”

Fratto: “Yeah, there are inaccuracies.”

Reporter: “In what Olmert said?”

Fratto: “Yes.”

Palestinian Youth Killed by Israeli Settler

Meanwhile, in the occupied West Bank, a fifteen-year-old Palestinian has been killed by armed Jewish settlers. The victim was among a group of youths throwing stones at the settlers. The boy’s father, Abu Mustafah Odeh, described when he heard of his son’s death.

Abu Mustafah Odeh: “People came and told me that a settler shot dead someone. I went to see down there, and the guys told me it was my son. God bless his soul.”

Israel Bans Arab Parties from Election

In news from inside Israel, the Israeli Election Commission has banned two Arab parties from next month’s parliamentary elections. Israeli election officials accuse both the United Arab List-Ta’al and Balad can’t run because they practice incitement, support terror groups and refuse to recognize Israel’s right to exist. The parties have denounced the ban as an act of racism and an attack on democracy. Arab lawmaker Ahmed Tibi said, “It was a political trial led by a group of fascists and racists who are willing to see the [parliament] without Arabs and want to see the country without Arabs.”

Bush Admin Official Admits Gitmo Prisoner Tortured

The top Bush administration official overseeing prosecutions at Guantanamo Bay has concluded the US military tortured a Saudi national accused in the 9/11 attacks. Speaking to the Washington Post, the acting head of military commissions, Susan Crawford, says the suspect, Mohammed al-Qahtani, was subjected to isolation, sleep deprivation, nudity and “life-threatening” prolonged exposure to cold. Crawford says the methods were authorized but amounted to torture in their application. She said, “This was not any one particular act; this was just a combination of things that had a medical impact on him, that hurt his health. It was abusive and uncalled for. And coercive.” Qahtani’s interrogation plan was approved by former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. Crawford says she won’t authorize a military prosecutor’s request to refile charges against Qahtani.

Ex-Prosecutor Backs Release of Gitmo Prisoner

Meanwhile, a former military prosecutor has again spoken out against the handling of cases against Guantanamo’s prisoners. In a federal court filing, Lt. Col. Darrel Vandeveld says the handling of evidence is so chaotic its impossible to prepare a fair prosecution. Vandeveld made the statement in a brief supporting a petition to release of Guantanamo prisoner Mohammed Jawad. Vandeveld was the lead prosecutor in Jawad’s case until he resigned last year, saying the military had deliberately withheld evidence that could have helped clear Jawad and other prisoners.

Confirmation Hearings Begin for Obama Cabinet Nominees

On Capitol Hill, confirmation hearings have begun for several President-elect Obama’s cabinet nominees. Senator Hillary Clinton appeared before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, where she faced questions over her husband former President Bill Clinton’s charitable foundation. Clinton also ruled out talks with Hamas, contradicting reports that have said the Obama administration would be open to negotiations. Clinton also repeated her campaign trail insistence that the U.S. could use nuclear weapons against Iran.

Sen. Hillary Clinton: “We are not taking any option off the table at all. But we will pursue a new, perhaps different approach that will become a cornerstone of what the Obama administration believes. An attitude towards engagement that might bear fruit.”

Also testifying Tuesday–Energy Secretary nominee Steven Chu, Education nominee Arne Duncan and Housing and Urban Development nominee Shaun Donovan. The Veterans Administration nominee, former General Eric Shinseki, is set to testify today. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner is meanwhile facing a possible roadblock to his confirmation. Geither has admitted he once initially failed pay some forty-three thousand dollars in personal taxes. Geithner would oversee the IRS as head of the Treasury. And he’s also facing questions over the immigration status of a housekeeper who worked in his home.

Senate Advances Land Protection Bill

The Senate has advanced a measure billed as the largest expansion of wildnerness protection in twenty-five years. The bill would designate more than two million acres across nine states as wilderness. A final vote is expected by the end of the week.

4 Charged in Election Night Hate Crimes

Here in New York, four white males have been charged for a string of hate crimes in the hours after Barack Obama won the presidency. According to police, the four men drove around Staten Island black neighborhoods on election night looking for victims to attack. A black Muslim teenager was beaten with a baseball bat, sending him to the hospital. They also attacked another black man, a Hispanic man, and drove down a white man they thought as an African-American. The man spent more than a month in a coma. Police say they nabbed the suspects after a mammoth search involving fifteen investigators.

Ex-Officer Arrested in Oakland Shooting of Unarmed Black Passenger

And in California, Oakland city officials have confirmed a white former transit officer has been arrested in the New Year’s shooting of an unarmed African American passenger. The former officer, Johannes Mehserle, resigned last week and fled the state. He was arrested as a fugitive in Nevada. Cell phone videos show Mehserle pulling out a gun and shooting twenty-two-year-old Oscar Grant in the back while he was lying face down on the ground on a subway platform. Grant worked as a butcher at an Oakland grocery store and was the father of a four-year-old daughter.

Headlines: Israel Accused of Using Experimental Weapons on Gaza, Obama to Send 30,000 Troops to Afghanistan

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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.

Abbas: Israel Is Aiming to “Wipe Out” Palestinians in Gaza

Residents of Gaza suffered the most intense bombardment of the eighteen-day war last night as Israel carried out air and artillery strikes throughout the Gaza Strip. Israeli tanks backed by attack helicopters have moved into several southern neighborhoods of the densely populated Gaza City. Hospital officials report dozens of calls for ambulances have been received, but they could not be dispatched because of the fighting. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas accused Israel of aiming to “wipe out” the Palestinian people in Gaza by refusing to end its attack. The Palestinian death toll is now at least 935.

Red Cross: “There Is No Place Safe in Gaza for the Civilians”

More than 4,300 Palestinians have been injured. Thirteen Israelis have died over the past eighteen days. An estimated 90,000 Palestinians have fled their homes, but many residents of Gaza have nowhere to go to because all of the Gaza border crossings are closed.

Antoine Grand, head of the International Committee of the Red Cross in Gaza: “There is no place safe in Gaza for the civilians. They’re afraid to stay home. They’re afraid to move. They’re also afraid to go down the street to try to find some water or to try to buy some food. No electricity, no water, difficult access to hospitals, ambulances that are not able to reach some places to collect the wounded.”

UN Human Rights Council Condemns Israel

On Monday, the United Nations Human Rights Council adopted a resolution condemning Israel. The non-binding resolution said Israel’s attack had “resulted in massive violations of human rights of the Palestinian people.”

US Abstained from UN Vote After Olmert Called Bush

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has publicly claimed that he personally called President Bush last week to urge him not to support a UN Security Council ceasefire resolution that was partially drafted by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. After Olmert’s call, the United States changed course and abstained from the vote, which passed 14-to-0.

Israel Accused of Testing Experimental Weapons in Gaza

Two Norwegian doctors who have just returned from Gaza have accused Israel of testing a new experimental weapon known as Dense Inert Metal Explosives, or DIME. The weapon causes the tissue to be torn from the flesh. Dr. Mads Gilbert said, “We have seen a number of very brutal amputations…without shrapnel injuries, which we strongly suspect must have been caused by the DIME weapons.” Dr. Erik Fosse said, “I have seen and treated a lot of different injuries for the last thirty years in different war zones, and this looks completely different.”

Israeli Soldier Jailed for Refusing to Fight in Gaza

The Israeli newspaper Haaretz reports an Israeli soldier has been jailed for fourteen days for refusing to fight in Gaza. The soldier, who has not been identified, was the first member of the IDF to be tried for refusing orders since the war on Gaza began.

Free Gaza Movement to Send More Boats with Aid to Gaza

Activists with the Free Gaza Movement are vowing to try again to bring humanitarian aid to Gaza by sea. Yesterday, a Free Gaza boat had to return to Cyprus after it suffered a mechanical failure.

Free Gaza activist Huwaida Arraf: “We can’t wait ’til Israel decides to stop the killing and then open up Gaza for the international community and aid workers to come pick up the pieces. No, we must insist on the right to enter. And so, in that sense, we’re not going to let the violence that Israel used against us or what they might use against us again stop us.”

Report: Obama to Issue Order to Close Guantanamo

In other news, aides to Barack Obama say the President-elect plans to issue an executive order on his first full day in office directing the closing of the Guantanamo prison camp in Cuba. But experts say it could be as long as a year to empty the prison, which still holds 248 men. On Sunday, Obama said it would be a challenge to close Guantanamo in his first 100 days. Many of the prisoners are expected to be transferred to other countries. Officials with Obama’s transition team are also reportedly committed to ordering an immediate suspension of the Bush administration’s military commissions system for trying prisoners.

42 Prisoners at Guantanamo on Hunger Strike

In the latest news from Guantanamo, military officials are reporting forty-two prisoners are now on hunger strike. Thirty-one of the prisoners are being force-fed.

Obama to Sign Pentagon Plan to Send 30,000 More Troops to Afghanistan

The Washington Post reports President-elect Barack Obama intends to sign off on Pentagon plans to send up to 30,000 more US troops to Afghanistan, which will nearly double the current US force of 32,000. This comes as there are more signs that the US military is planning to stay in Afghanistan for years to come. The Army is spending up to $4 billion to build new barracks, training areas, headquarters, warehouses and airfields to help the surge in US troops.

Obama Seeks Remaining $350 Billion of Financial Bailout

President-elect Barack Obama has launched an aggressive campaign to persuade Congress to permit him to spend another $350 billion of the financial bailout program to stabilize the US financial system. On Monday, the Bush White House formally notified lawmakers of Obama’s intention to use the second half of the $700 billion bailout package. Congress has fifteen days to approve a resolution blocking the funds. Obama vowed his administration would do a better job to track how money from the Troubled Asset Relief Program is spent.

President-elect Barack Obama: “I think many of us have been disappointed with the absence of clarity, the lack of transparency, the failure to track how the money has been spent and the failure to take bold action with respect to areas like housing, consumer credit, so that we can maintain credit flow, small businesses, students who need students loans, people who are interested in buying a car getting car loans, that in all sorts of ways Main Street has not seen the effects of these efforts.”

Judge Rules Madoff Can Stay in Penthouse Until Trial

In other financial news, a federal magistrate issued a ruling Monday to allow Bernard Madoff to keep living in his $7 million penthouse while he awaits trial for stealing $50 billion from investors. Federal prosecutors had asked the judge to revoke Madoff’s bail, because he attempted to give away valuable jewelry to family and friends.

Bush: “Not Having Weapons of Mass Destruction Was a Significant Disappointment”

President Bush held his final news conference Monday. He rejected the idea that the nation’s moral standing has been damaged over the past eight years and defended the government’s response to Hurricane Katrina. Bush was asked if he had made any mistakes over the past eight years.

President Bush: “There have been disappointments. Abu Ghraib obviously was a huge disappointment during the presidency. Not having weapons of mass destruction was a significant disappointment. I don’t know if you want to call those mistakes or not, but they were–things didn’t go according to plan. Let’s put it that way. And anyway, I think historians will look back, and they’ll be able to have a better look at mistakes after some time has passed. I–along Jake’s question, there is no such thing as short-term history. I don’t think you can possibly get the full breadth of an administration ’til time has passed.”

Roland Burris to be Seated as New Illinois Senator

In news from Capitol Hill, Senate Democratic leaders said Monday that Roland Burris would be seated as the new senator from Illinois, ending two weeks of drama. The Senate leadership had initially vowed not to seat anyone named by the embattled Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich, who was arrested last month on corruption charges for trying to sell the Senate seat vacated by Barack Obama.

Julius Genachowski to Head FCC

President-elect Barack Obama is reportedly intending to nominate his technology adviser, Julius Genachowski, to head the Federal Communications Commission. Genachowski worked in the FCC during the Clinton administration and at Barry Diller’s company IAC/InterActive.The Wall Street Journal reports that during the campaign, Genachowski put together a detailed technology and innovation plan that expressed support for open internet or “net neutrality” protections, media ownership rules that encourage more diversity, and expansion of affordable broadband access across the country.

Study: US Spends at Least $52 Billion/Year on Nuclear Weapons

A new study is estimating the US government is spending at least $52 billion a year on nuclear weapons and nuclear weapons-related programs. The estimate was calculated by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. The majority of the $52 billion is spent on upgrading, operating and sustaining the US nuclear arsenal. Only about ten percent of the money is devoted to controlling the spread of nuclear weapons and technology. In other nuclear news, the State Department has slapped sanctions on thirteen individuals and three private companies because of their involvement in the nuclear proliferation network associated with Pakistani scientist A.Q. Khan. The sanctions were issued four years after Khan was put under house arrest in Pakistan.

Documents: US Officials Knew of Link Between Colombian Military & Death Squads

The Inter Press Service reports declassified US documents show that the CIA and former US ambassadors were fully aware, as far back as 1990, that the military in Colombia were committing extrajudicial killings as part of “death squad tactics” and of connections between the Colombian security forces and right-wing drug-running paramilitary groups. The US officials also knew that senior Colombian officers encouraged a “body count” mentality to demonstrate progress in the fight against FARC guerrillas. Colombia is the third largest recipient of US aid after Israel and Egypt. The declassified documents were published by the National Security Archives.

The Grand Rapids Press on Obama’s Proposed Intelligence Team

Obama Nominates Dennis Blair and Leon Penetta to Intelligence Team

On Saturday, the Grand Rapids Press published an Associated Press (AP) article based on the formal announcement by President-Elect Barack Obama on who he has nominated to lead his Intelligence Team.

The story mentions that Obama has chosen retired Admiral Dennis Blair to be the National Intelligence Director and Leon Panetta as Director of the CIA. President-Elect Obama is quoted as saying, “We must adhere to our values as diligently as we protect our safety.” He also said that the two men are “strong managers with the core pragmatism that we need in dangerous times.”

The story goes on to mention that Blair, who was former head of the US Pacific Command “won high marks for countering terrorism in Southeast Asia after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.” Blair is credited with assisting in the campaign to target terrorist groups in Indonesia and the Philippines, but the article never explains why these groups are identified as terrorist organizations.

The AP story does mention at the very end that, “Blair and Panetta are garnering substantial support on Capitol Hill, although concerns exist about each.” Unfortunately, the Grand Rapids Press article never expresses what “concerns exist” about either Blair or Panetta.

According to a January 9 report on Democracy Now, as head of the Pacific Command forces Blair supported the Indonesian military attacks against East Timorese churches and civilians in 1999. Investigative journalist Allan Narin also stated that, “Blair either lied to or willfully misled the US Congress in testimony given before the Senate Armed Services Committee on March 3rd, 1999,” about the role of the Indonesian military.

The story also does not mention that Blair sits on the board of a major foreign policy think-tank, the Center for New American Security, and has served on several task forces for the Council on Foreign Relations. Both the Center for New American Security are centrist think-tanks that endorse an imperialist US foreign policy, albeit in gentler terms than often used by the right.

As for Leon Panetta, the Grand Rapids Press article mentions that he was a former Congressman and White House Chief of Staff under Clinton. The article also states that Panetta has no direct intelligence experience, but fails to mention that he was part of the Iraq Study Group, a 10-member group which endorsed a long-term US occupation of Iraq.

The Press on Obama’s Choice to Deliver Inaugural Prayer

On Saturday, The Grand Rapids Press reported on local religious leaders’ reaction to Obama’s selection of Revered Rick Warren to give the inaugural prayer next month. The story mentioned that “liberal and gay groups” criticized the selection but failed to name or cite any specific group.

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On Saturday, the Grand Rapids Press ran a story that reported local religious leaders’ reaction to president-elect Barrack Obama’s decision to have Reverend Rick Warren give the inaugural prayer next month. Warren is the pastor of Saddleback, a mega-church in California that hosted a forum with Obama and McCain during the presidential race.

The Press article framed the issue in the second paragraph by stating, “Some liberal and gay groups criticized the selection, because Warren, pastor of the Saddleback mega-church in California, is an outspoken opponent of same-sex marriage and abortion.” The article never mentions which liberal or gay groups criticized Obama’s choice, even though numerous groups have responded. Here is part of a statement by the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force:

“President-elect Obama campaigned on a theme of inclusivity, yet the selection of Rick Warren to give the invocation is a direct affront to that very principle. This was a divisive choice, and clearly not one that will help our country come together and heal. We urge President-elect Obama to withdraw his invitation to Rick Warren and instead select a faith leader who embraces fairness, equality and the ideals the president-elect himself has called the nation to uphold.”

In addition to not reporting on how national groups were reacting to the choice of Rev. Warren, the Press story omits other aspects of the evangelical minister’s politics. According to Sarah Posner (author of the recent book titled God’s Profits: Faith, Fraud and the Republican Crusade for Values Voters), Warren is not only anti-gay, he also “does not believe in evolution, has compared abortion to the Holocaust and backed the assassination of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.”

Besides not providing readers more information on the background of Rev. Warren it is important to ask why they only asked local Christian clergy their reaction to Obama’s pick for the inaugural prayer? The new administration had the opportunity to choose leader from the Muslim, Jewish, or another international faith traditions. Such a choice could have sent a strong message to the rest of the world and to US residents who are not Christian.

The Press article did point out that there has been little attention given to Obama’s choice for giving the inaugural benediction, Rev. Joseph Lowery. However, the only information provided on Lowery was that he is “a liberal minister and co-founder of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. Lowery is a long-time Civil Rights leader and has been involved in numerous campaigns for justice, such as organizing against the apartheid regime of South Africa and traveling to Central America and the Middle East with peace delegations.”