Local and Michigan Headlines: Senate Republicans Looking to Cut College Assistance; Complaints against GRPD Increase

It has been a slow morning, but here are some interesting articles published elsewhere in the past twenty-four hours:

  • Senate Republicans to Cut Michigan Promise Scholarship, Other College Tuition Aid – Republicans in the Michigan Senate are looking to cut a variety of college tuition scholarships that help low income students attend college. The need-based programs they are looking to cut include the Michigan Promise Scholarship, the Michigan Work Study Program, the Part-Time Independent Student program, and the Michigan Education Opportunity Grants. I highly doubt such a move will do anything to help the state’s economy.
  • Granholm, MEDC Announce Over 11,000 New Jobs For Michigan – The local media–and the progressive blog Blogging for Michigan–is talking up an announcement from Governor Jennifer Granholm that over 11,000 new jobs are coming to the state. Included in that number are 3,100 new jobs in West Michigan.
  • As federal case continues, developers rush to finish elite golf course on public dunes – The Michigan Messenger looks at the continued development a Jack Nicklaus Signature golf course in Benton Harbor. The course was built on the site of a former public park and has been at the center of a controversy between developers and citizens. Now, the company has begun construction while it awaits a federal court ruling on the development. It’s hoping to circumvent a full environmental review of the project. Despite all the controversy, Governor Granholm has praised the project as the kind of development that she hopes to see across Michigan.
  • Grand Rapids area in bottom 20 of Brookings Institution report, but economist sees hope – The Kent, Barry, Ionia, and Newaygo area ranks near the bottom of a Brookings Institution report that measures metropolitan unemployment, production, and housing. However, the Grand Rapids Press talks to a local economist who says that West Michigan actually is getting better.
  • Grand Rapids Police Department sees ‘unheard of’ increase in firearms discharge by officers; citizen complaints also rise – In less than two years, the GRPD has discharged their firearms six times–a substantial increase over previous years. Still, according to the GRPD, this hasn’t meant that there has been widespread injury to officers or suspects. Additionally, complaints are up, but the GRPD attributes that to a new reporting system.
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Headlines: House Panel Holds Hearing on Single Payer Health Care; Utah Man Dies After Tasering

Democracy Now Headlines: House Panel Holds Hearing on Single Payer Healthcare; Utah Man Dies After Tasering

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 Supremacist Kills Guard in Holocaust Memorial Shooting

A white supremacist with a long history of anti-Semitic activity is in custody today after opening fire at the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, DC, killing a security guard and wounding another. The gunman, eighty-eight-year-old James W. von Brunn, was critically injured after other guards returned fire. The slain security guard, Stephen Johns, was thirty-nine years old. Washington, DC Mayor Adrian Fenty said police believe von Brunn acted alone.

Washington, DC Mayor Adrian Fenty: “In these days and times, you never know when someone is going to grab a gun and use it in an inappropriate way, as was done today. But we want to thank the heroism of the security guards, the Metropolitan Police Department, for being on hand very early to make an arrest. We believe we have someone who was a lone gunman, but we’re going to spend the night investigating any and all other leads.”

The attack marks at least the third recent shooting involving a gunman with ties to the white nationalist movement.

Following Senate Approval, Torture-Linked General Given “Carte Blanche” for Afghan Command

The Senate has confirmed the nomination of General Stanley McChrystal to head the occupation of Afghanistan. McChrystal’s promotion was approved Wednesday despite controversy over the abuse of prisoners by forces under his authority at the Joint Special Operations Command. McChrystal oversaw a secretive program to hunt down and assassinate suspected terrorists around the globe. The New York Times reports McChrystal has been given “carte blanche” in choosing his subordinates, including many Special Operations veterans that could be linked to prisoner abuse. Senior military officers say McChrystal is putting together a corps of 400 officers and soldiers who will rotate between the United States and Afghanistan for at least three years.

House Panel Holds Hearing on Single Payer

On Capitol Hill, a House subcommittee held a hearing Wednesday to consider single-payer healthcare. It was the first time a congressional panel had taken up single payer in the ongoing debate over healthcare reform. House Judiciary Chair John Conyers criticized Democratic leaders for declaring single payer “off the table.”

Rep. John Conyers: “There is some notion that universal single-payer healthcare is off the table. Well, that raises a very important question. If you take the most popular healthcare reform measure and take it off the table, heaven knows what it is, I guess, you think you’re left with. This is the most popular form, and it would be very unlike the party in the majority now to determine that the most popular system would not even be examined. I am asking for a hearing in every committee, every committee, and if they will let us into the Senate, as well.”

Conyers is the sponsor of House Resolution 676, which would grant universal healthcare to all Americans by making the government the lone provider of medical coverage.

AMA Opposes Public Health Insurance Plan

In other healthcare news, the nation’s largest physician organization has announced it will oppose Democratic plans for a new government-sponsored insurance program that would compete with private insurers. In a statement, the American Medical Association said healthcare should be provided solely through “private markets.” The announcement comes just days before President Obama is set to travel to Chicago to address the AMA on Monday. The AMA represents around 250,000 doctors across the United States. Its position comes despite recent polls showing as many as 60 percent of doctors support the creation of a national public insurance plan.

Tiller Colleague Vows to Continue Performing Late-Term Abortions in Kansas

A doctor who worked in the clinic of the slain abortion provider Dr. George Tiller has announced he intends to continue performing late-term abortions in Kansas. Dr. LeRoy Carhart was one of a team of physicians to work with Tiller before his murder last month. Speaking to the Associated Press, Carhart declined to say whether the abortions would continue at Tiller’s clinic or whether he’d open a new site. His announcement comes one day after Tiller’s family announced the clinic’s permanent closure. It had been one of the only in the country to perform abortions in the third trimester.

Admin to Unveil New Rules on Mountaintop Coal Mining

The Obama administration is set to announce today new regulations of mountaintop removal, the controversial coal mining practice that has caused extensive environmental damage in the Appalachian region. The changes include ending fast-track approval for new mining permits and imposing a more extensive environmental review. Interviewed by the Washington Post, the chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, Nancy Sutley, said the administration hasn’t ruled out seeking a complete ban on mountaintop removal, with discussions still in the early stages.

New “Compensation Czar” to Oversee Exec Pay

The Obama administration has appointed a Washington, DC attorney to become the so-called “compensation czar” overseeing the salaries of top executives at bailed-out financial firms. Kenneth Feinberg will have authority to set the compensation for executives at seven taxpayer-rescued companies, including Citibank, Bank of America and General Motors. The White House, however, has dropped an initial pledge to cap executives at $500,000.

Peruvian Congress Suspends Land Laws

In Peru, lawmakers have temporarily suspended two land-use laws that led to an indigenous uprising and dozens of deaths in the ensuing police crackdown. Indigenous groups have opposed the laws that would allow an unprecedented wave of logging, oil drilling, mining and agriculture in the Amazon rainforest. On Wednesday, the Peruvian congress voted to suspend the laws, but for an unspecified time. Indigenous leader Efrain Pizango Wasy said the protests will continue until the laws are fully repealed.

Efrain Pizango Wasy: “Our reaction is not to suspend the strike, but to continue until the end. As you have heard, this measure is suspended for only ninety days. This is not convenient for us, the indigenous population. We will gather more and continue fighting until the end.”

President Alan Garcia’s government passed the land laws under “fast track” authority he had received to facilitate implementation of the US-Peru Free Trade Agreement.

Security Council Members Agree on North Korea Sanctions

UN Security Council members have agreed on a new round of sanctions in response to North Korea’s recent nuclear test and missile launches. The new measures include asking countries to inspect North Korean vessels carrying suspicious cargo and requiring them to deny the vessels fuel. The US ambassador to the UN, Susan Rice, praised the agreement.

UN Ambassador Susan Rice: “We tabled a draft resolution to be considered by all colleagues on the Security Council, which we think provides a very strong, very credible, very appropriate response to the provocative nuclear test that North Korea launched and its subsequent activities.”

The UN Security Council is expected to approve the sanctions in a vote on Friday.

UN Withdraws Staff from Peshawar Following Deadly Bombing

In Pakistan, the United Nations has withdrawn most of its staff from the northwestern city of Peshawar following the killing of two officials in a massive truck bombing of a luxury hotel. The pullout is heightening concerns over the plight of the more than two million people who have fled their homes in the US-backed offensive on Taliban militants in neighboring Swat Valley. On Wednesday, the US envoy to Pakistan and Afghanistan, Richard Holbrooke, praised the offensive in Washington.

US Envoy Richard Holbrooke: “What I saw in Pakistan on this trip was the slow emergence of a consensus behind the government’s actions. Everywhere, there was a dramatic change in attitudes from my previous trips, because of the outrages of the Taliban and their supporters.”

Blackwater Sued for 2007 Killing of Iraqi Civilian

The private military firm formerly known as Blackwater is facing a new lawsuit over the August 2007 killing of an Iraqi civilian in Hilla. The case was filed on behalf of the surviving relatives of seventy-five-year-old Husain Salih Rabea. At the time, Rabea’s relatives said he had pulled over to the side of the road to let a Blackwater convoy pass. The last vehicle in the convoy allegedly opened fire when Rabea pulled back onto the road. The suit also alleges Blackwater employees are guarding employees of the International Republican Institute in Iraq despite an Iraqi government ban.

Oregon National Guard Members Sue KBR for Toxic Exposure

In Oregon, five current and former Army National Guard soldiers have filed a lawsuit accusing the war contractor KBR of knowingly exposing them to a cancer-causing chemical in Iraq. A group of sixteen Indiana National Guard soldiers filed a similar suit last year. The soldiers were providing security for KBR during repairs of a water treatment plant in southern Iraq shortly after the US invasion. The National Guard members claim the site was contaminated for six months by hexavalent chromium, “one of the most potent carcinogens” on record. They allege KBR knew the plant was contaminated but concealed the danger. Attorneys for the soldiers say they expect several West Virginia National Guard members to file a similar suit.

Audit Faults at Least $13 Billion in War Contractor Spending

The lawsuits follow the release of a new federal report detailing waste and abuse by war contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Commission on Wartime Contracting says auditors have questioned more than $13 billion in spending. The report also says over 240,000 contractors are employed in Iraq and Afghanistan, around 80 percent of them foreign nationals.

Witnesses: 2 Afghans Killed, Dozens Wounded in US Grenade Attack

In Afghanistan, President Hamid Karzai has ordered a probe into an alleged US attack that killed two people and wounded more than fifty others in Kunar Province. Afghan witnesses have accused a US soldier of throwing a grenade at a crowd that had gathered to watch US troops working to free a large military vehicle that had become stuck on a road. Local doctors say the injured included several children, some in critical condition.

State Dept. Analyst, Wife Denied Bail in Cuba Spy Case

A former State Department analyst and his wife have been denied bail following their arrest on allegations of being longtime spies for the Cuban government. Walter Kendall Myers and his wife Gwendolyn appeared in a Washington, DC courtroom on Wednesday after pleading not guilty to charges of conspiracy, being agents of a foreign government, and wire fraud.

Study: Firms, Governments Funded over 22,000 Pentagon Trips

A newly released database shows Pentagon employees took more than 22,000 trips paid for by foreign countries, private corporations and other sources between 1998 and 2007. The Center for Public Integrity says the visits cost more than $26 million and often involved interests paying for officials who could make decisions benefiting those picking up the tab. The biggest travel funder was the medical industry, which footed the bill for more 8,700 trips worth over $10 million.

Utah Man Dies in Police Tasering

In Utah, a thirty-two-year-old man has been killed in a tasering by police. Brian Layton Cardall was confronted after running away from his vehicle near a highway road. He had recently struggled with mental health issues, and his wife had called police. When Cardall was found, a police officer used his taser weapon, causing Cardall to lose consciousness. He was pronounced dead after being taken to a hospital. In a statement, Cardall’s family remembered him as “a wonderful son, brother, father, and husband who loved being with people. He was full of personality and wanted to make a difference in this world.”

Texas Police Defend Tasering of 72-Year-Old Woman

Cardall’s death comes as video has emerged of a Texas police officer tasering a seventy-two-year-old woman after pulling over her vehicle. Kathryn Winkfein said she was stopped for going fifteen miles over the speed limit in a construction zone. Texas police have insisted the officer’s actions were justified.

Torture Abroad, Coercive Tactics at Home: Looking at Toture and a Recent Supreme Court Ruling

By Kate Wheeler

On Wednesday, May 27, two events occurred that may, at first, seem unconnected. News hit the Internet that the Supreme Court had overturned Michigan v Jackson, the case that established that those arrested for crimes have the right to an attorney present during all questioning by the police. And Darius Rejali, an internationally recognized expert on torture and a professor at Reed College gave an interview on ABC in Australia.

In his Supreme Court decision, Justice Scalia wrote that Michigan v Jackson was “costly” because it delayed justice. Police could not use the methods they knew were effective to extract confessions and wrap up cases quickly enough. The money quote from the opinion was this: “….the principal cost of applying Jackson’s rule is that crimes can go unsolved and criminals unpunished when uncoerced confessions are excluded and when officers are deterred from even trying to obtain confessions.”

Although the opinion is laid out to emphasize that the states have the right to set questioning limits on their own, this last statement is chilling. Scalia seems to be giving a tacit green light to confessions that are extracted by the police using coercion. Coercion as in “to force, threaten, intimidate, and/or seriously harm, to deprive a person of the act of free will.” And Scalia’s opinion ensures it can be done without an attorney present as a witness and an advisor to the arrested party. If that doesn’t start creating some dark images in your mind, it should.

“A police torture crisis sometime in the next 10 to 20 years”

And now we segue to Professor Rejali in Australia, speaking to ABC on the issue of torture used during the so-called “war on terror.” Rejali did an incredible job in his interview of setting this current situation within a historical context. He explains why all the historical evidence shows “there is nothing that predicts future torture as much as past impunity,” adding, “…there’s always somebody who thinks the other guy’s got away with it; why not me, and that’s a dangerous prospect.”

But the part of the interview that really hit home, given the news that day in the US, was Rejali’s discussion of how torture becomes a culture of its own. He described how every time torture had been authorized in war, soldiers would return to their countries and enter into police work or private security work, “…and they bring to it the skills they learned out in the military.”

Rejali stated he believed the torture done in Iraq, Guantanamo Bay, and other sites would lead to the crisis in the US of “police torture” that would culminate “sometime in the next 10 to 20 years.” And when that happens, the groundwork will have been laid by Supreme Court decisions like the overturning of Michigan v Jackson. Can anyone say “perfect storm”?

Lying with labels

Here at home, the torture issue, triggered by the April 17 release of four memos from the Justice Department that approved CIA torture, is already disappearing from the news cycles. And when it does come up, it’s just as likely to as commentary by right-wingers like Pete Hoekstra, who refer to torture as “enhanced interrogation techniques” and explain to the American public why it was and is necessary and “legal.”

The word “enhanced” is a clever choice; it has been used relentlessly in marketing, always with a positive spin. Its original meaning was “to add to or make greater, as in value, beauty; to augment.” A more recent definition, grown out of its use in advertising, is “to provide with improved, more effective, or more sophisticated features.”

So we’re used to hearing about enhanced software, enhanced podcasts, enhanced cruise-line packages, enhanced facial cleansers.

And now, suddenly, there’s “enhanced interrogation techniques.” That phrase makes torture sound almost appealing, doesn’t it? It’s the type of spin that has marked and marred political discussion in this country. Think of the titles that have come out of Washington in the past decade. The Clear Skies Initiative, which weakened air pollution protections. The No Child Left Behind Act, which was never fully funded, leaving teachers scrambling and children in the dust. The Coalition of the Willing, which always made me think of a group of Boy Scouts, shiny-faced and enthusiastic, trooping off for some jamboree. The Patriot Act, which undermines the civil rights of every person in this country. And now, “enhanced interrogation techniques” to describe sadistic torture which a UN expert has stated as being far worse under the Americans than under Saddam Hussein. Mission accomplished.

“Looking forward” and what that means

Unfortunately, there’s another new catch-phrase that has popped up since April 17–President Obama’s assertion that now is “a time to look forward,” not back. He means he is not willing to initiate an investigation of those who deliberately contravened the Geneva Convention and illegally authorized torture as a questioning technique.

Well, I’d like to look forward, too–to a time when Americans examine and indict prisoners without violating the law; when the Constitution and our international commitments are upheld, and when the police are reined in from brutal misconduct. For that matter, I’d like to look forward to a time when we are no longer involved in a war of aggression that was spun in a web of lies to enhance our oil interests.

But if there’s no looking backward, there is no one held accountable. Without accountability, there’s only the kind of oncoming crisis that Professor Rejali described so eloquently in his ABC interview–our country hardening into a torture culture.

Looking forward is hard when the air is so murky with lies and cover-ups. And sometimes it seems to me that the very air is also polluted with these euphemisms created to drug us into inaction. The air needs clearing, and the bright lights brought in.

What can you do?

Amnesty International is providing several excellent resources. Educate yourself with their online training on torture. Then, use the web page they have set up to send letters to President Obama and your senators and representative. (In my case, the hopeless Vern Ehlers). The web page provides a sample text you can send automatically or you can edit it as you wish. Find it at http://takeaction.amnestyusa.org/siteapps/advocacy/index.aspx?c=jhKPIXPCIoE&b=2590179&template=x.ascx&action=12193

Amnesty International has also set up a special fund to campaign for an independent commission to examine the torture memos and those who conspired in this criminal action. So if you are able, a donation will also help.

Local and Michigan Headlines: Supreme Court Overturns Major Michigan Case; Utility Bills to Increase for Wind Power

Recent Grand Rapids and Michigan headlines:

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

No Charges Against Bay City Police for Killing Teenager with a Taser

Taser

Prosecutors in Bay City have decided not to charge police in the killing of a 15-year old boy with a Taser.

According to a report in the Bay City Times, none of the police officers involved in the incident will be charged. Prosectutor Kurt C. Asbury said that Elder “was highly agitated and combative, tried to start fights with numerous people, as well as the police officers called to the residence to deal with his ‘uncontrollable behavior,’ all of which contributed to his untimely death.” He went on to say that:

“the unfortunate reality of the situation was that the under-aged Brett Elder was very intoxicated… and without any meaningful adult supervision or guidance, placed himself in a situation which resulted in his death.”

The prosecutor said that the police will not be charged because there was no evidence that officers committed a criminal act. Instead, the prosecutor has repeatedly cited how intoxicated Elder was and his “combative” behavior.

An autopsy in the case had previously determined that the teenager died due to a combination of alcohol and shock from the Taser.

Details of GVSU Drug Raid; Trial for Deputy who Shot Student Pushed Back

040309-derek_copp.jpg

New details have come out about the shooting of Grand Valley State University (GVSU) student Derek Copp back in March. According to media reports, Copp was not the target of the warrant that led to the search and the shooting.

The Grand Rapids Press reports that in the months leading up to the shooting, WEMET investigators purchased small amounts of marijuana from Copp’s roommate three times. The police tried to buy marijuana from Copp’s roommate again on March 11–the day Copp was shot–but his roommate said that he would not be home and that they could pick it up from Copp instead.

When the police raided the apartment two hours later, they found an unspecified amount of marijuana. Media reports saying that officers confiscated six glass jars containing “suspected” marijuana, two Ziploc bags containing suspected marijuana, marijuana stems and seeds, and a digital scale.

Trial for Deputy who Shot Copp Delayed

040709-ryan_huizenga.jpg

Meanwhile, the trial for the Deputy who shot Derek Copp–Ryan Huizenga–has been delayed until August according to media reports. The Grand Rapids Press says that attorneys on both sides need time for further investigation.

Unlike Copp, who faces felony charges, Huizenga is being charged only with a misdemeanor. Huizenga remains employed after being returned to work in April.

As would be expected, Copp’s attorney publicly criticized the delay saying that prosecutors are showing “favoritism” towards Huizenga. The Grand Rapids Press also quoted the Michigan State Police’s lead investigator in the case who said that he was surprised by the length of the delay.

Headlines: Supreme Court Limits Warrantless Car Searches; In Reversal, Obama Leaves Open Prosecuting Bush Officials

Democracy Now Headlines: Supreme Court Limits Warrantless Car Searches; In Reversal, Obama Leaves Open Prosecuting Bush Officials

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.

Senate Report: Torture Planning Preceded Prisoners’ Capture, Legal Approval

An explosive Congressional report has revealed new details about the Bush administration’s torture program on foreign prisoners. According to the Senate Intelligence Committee, military and intelligence officials began developing the torture program in December 2001–well before any high-level al-Qaeda suspects had been caught. Bush administration officials have long maintained the so-called ‘enhanced interrogation techniques’ were authorized only after standard questioning failed to yield intelligence. The report also shows the torture program was developed well before it received legal approval in the 2002 Justice Department memos de-classified last week. The report singles out top Bush administration officials for the torture of U.S. prisoners, saying they “solicited information on how to use aggressive techniques” and “redefined the law to create the appearance of their legality.”

Military Psychologist Proposed “Exploitation Facility”

The report also documents the role of the military psychologists James Mitchell and Bruce Jessen in developing the torture program. A memo written by Jessen in 2002 proposes creating what he calls an “exploitation facility” where prisoners would be subjected to a number of prescribed abuses, including physical violence, sleep deprivation, and waterboarding. Some of the techniques were based on torture used on American captives during the Korean war. Jessen proposed making the facility off-limits to outside observers, including the Red Cross. Soon after the memo, the suspected al-Qaida operative Abu Zubaydah was sent to a CIA prison where he was subjected to intense torture. Zubaydah’s attorneys have long contended the Justice Department memos were written in part to retroactively authorize the techniques used against him.

Drive to Invade Iraq Compromised Interrogations, Led to Abuses

Several army officials raised objections as the torture techniques were developed and taught. And in a development that traces back to the White House’s drive for invading Iraq, one Army major complained the interrogations were being compromised by an insistence on establishing “link between al-Qaeda and Iraq.”

Levin Calls for Probe of Bush Officials

In a statement, Senate Intelligence Committee chair Carl Levin said the new evidence provides a direct line from top Bush officials to abuses at prisons such as Abu Ghraib. Levin said: “Senior officials sought out information on, were aware of training in, and authorized the use of abusive interrogation techniques…[They] bear significant responsibility for creating the legal and operational framework for the abuses.” Levin went on to call on Attorney General Eric Holder to establish a high-level commission to investigate high-level Bush officials.

In Reversal, Obama Leaves Open Prosecuting Bush Officials

The report’s release came hours after President Obama reversed course on ruling out the prosecution of Bush administration officials who wrote the legal memos authorizing torture. The White House had previously said it opposes any legal action against both the officials who provided legal cover for torture and the CIA interrogators who carried it out. But on Tuesday, Obama said now he won’t preclude legal action against the memos’ authors.

President Obama: “For those who carried out some of these operations within the four corners of legal opinions or guidance that had been provided from the White House, I do not think it’s appropriate for them to be prosecuted. With respect to those who formulated those legal decisions, I would say that that is going to be more of a decision for the attorney general within the perimeters of various laws, and–and I don’t want to prejudge that. I think that there are a host of very complicated issues involved there.”

UN Racism Conference Passes Declaration

In Geneva, delegates at the UN Conference on racism adopted a final declaration on Tuesday without the support of the United States. The U.S. and several other Western nations have boycotted the conference over concerns it would include criticism of the Israeli government. The conference president, Amos Wako, criticized the boycott.

Amos Wako: “What we have decided shows the outcome when you remain engaged in the process, it shows that boycotts do not assist, it shows that one can remain constructively engaged and reach a consensus.”

Bowing to U.S.-Israeli concerns, the declaration avoids any references to Zionism. Instead, it reaffirms a conference text from 2001 that recognizes the Palestinian right to self-determination and calls for a Palestinian state alongside Israel. The text also urges signatories to fight all forms of racism, in particular naming anti-Semitism, anti-Arab racism and Islamophobia.

Reports: Ahmadinejad Deleted Holocaust Denial from Speech

The declaration came one day after nearly two dozen diplomats walked on a speech by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad after he called Israel a “cruel and repressive racist regime.” According to several reports, Ahmadinejad omitted prepared comments denying the Nazi Holocaust from his final speech. Instead, he appeared to acknowledge it, referring to the “abuse of the Holocaust.” Ahmadinejad has previously denied the Nazi Holocaust and questioned the number of Jewish victims.

Israeli FM: “America Accepts All Our Decisions”

Israel’s new foreign minister is claiming the Obama administration will only pursue peace initiatives with the Palestinians if Israel gives its approval. In his first extensive since taking office, Avigdor Lieberman said: “Believe me, America accepts all our decisions.” The Washington Post is reporting the Israeli government is now telling the U.S. it will condition any willingness to enter peace talks with Palestinians on U.S. policy towards Iran. The Israeli government has long advocated military action against Iran.

Poll: Most Palestinians, Israelis Support Two-State Solution

The developments come as a new poll shows a majority of both Palestinians and Israelis would support a two-state solution. According to the group One Voice, 74% of Palestinians and 78% of Israelis say they would accept the establishment of a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza alongside Israel. Palestinian leaders including Hamas have accepted the two-state solution. Successive Israeli governments have rejected returning Palestinian land and have instead expanded Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank while maintaining the stranglehold over the Gaza Strip.

Report: Prosecutors Mull Dropping AIPAC Spy Case

The Washington Post is reporting prosecutors are considering dropping charges against two former pro-Israeli government lobbyists accused of violating the Espionage Act. Steven Rosen and Keith Weissman, formerly of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, are accused of conspiring to obtain and disclose classified national defense information to journalists and the Israeli government. The review follows a series of court rulings that prosecutors say could hinder their prospects at winning a trial, including allowing the defense to use classified information and forcing the government to prove the accused knew they would be harming the United States. Prosecutors say the review has nothing to do with recent controversy surrounding Democratic Congresswoman Jane Harman. It was revealed this week Harman was overheard on an NSA wiretap telling a suspected Israeli agent she would lobby for reducing the espionage charges in return for AIPAC support in her bid to chair the House intelligence committee.

Bailed-out Firms Spend Millions on Lobbying

Newly-disclosed records show some of the top recipients of the federal bailout continue to spend millions on political lobbying. According to the Washington Post, the top bailed-out firms spent more than $10 million dollars in the first three months of this year, $22 million dollars over the last six months. The lobbying included efforts to block initiatives such as executive pay caps and new financial regulation.

IMF: Financial Crisis Losses Total $4.1T Worldwide

The International Monetary Fund is estimating banks and financial institutions have lost an estimated $4.1 trillion dollars during the financial crisis. Of the losses, $2.7 trillion originated in the United States. Testifying on Capitol Hill, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner said banks’ vast amount of toxic assets is limiting their ability to lend and borrow.

Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner: “The cost of credit is still very high. Reports on bank lending show significant declines in lending for consumer loans and for commercial and industrial loans, although mortgage refinancing has picked up considerably. We may have to adapt and expand them over time, but they represent the foundation of any credible strategy to help ensure the financial system is working for, rather than against, economic recovery.”

Court Hears Arguments in Iraq War Suit

In New Jersey, a federal court heard arguments Tuesday in a case seeking to have the U.S. invasion of Iraq declared unconstitutional. An Iraq war veteran and two mothers of soldiers filed the case last May. They argue then-President George W. Bush violated the constitution by failing to formally declare war and attacking a country that didn’t threaten the United States.

Colorado House Votes to Abolish Death Penalty

In Colorado, the state House has passed a measure to abolish the death penalty. Tuesday’s measure passed by a single vote. The bill now goes to the Colorado state Senate.

Somali Pirate to Be Tried as Adult

The lone surviving Somali pirate involved in the kidnapping of an American cargo captain earlier this month was charged Tuesday in a New York courtroom. The pirate, Abduhl Wal-i-Musi, surrendered before US Navy snipers shot his three accomplices aboard their boat. Musi will be tried as an adult, even though his family claims he is only fifteen years old. He appeared to weep during his arraignment. Defense attorney Deirdre Von Dornum called Musi “young and terrified.”

Deirdre Von Dornum: “Judge Peck may have found for today that he is of the age of majority, but as you could tell he is extremely young, injured and terrified. We’re pleased that he will have the protection of the United States Constitution, and that the government chose to bring him to an open court and not to a secret prison or any other form of non-public proceeding.”

Supreme Court Limits Warrantless Car Searches

The Supreme Court has issued a ruling to make it more difficult for police to conduct warrantless car searches. On Tuesday, justices ruled five to four police must seek a warrant to search a vehicle if the suspect has been removed from the vehicle and poses no threat to others.

On Earth Day, Reports Warns of Growing Numbers Endangered by Global Warming

And today is Earth Day. Millions of people around the globe are expected to take part in events honoring the protection of the environment. A new report from the Oxfam aid agency warns relief groups will be overwhelmed within the next six years by people affected by climate-related disasters. More than 375 million people are expected to be effected each year until 2015, up from the 250 million people today. Oxfam is calling for greater support for aid groups to offset the dangers. Oxfam says: “There is nothing inevitable about a future in which greater numbers of people die and are made destitute by natural hazards and conflict.”

GVSU Student Shot by Police Charged with Felony

Undercover police officers with the West Michigan Enforcement Team–an anti-dug unit–bought drugs from GVSU student Derek Copp according to a warrant released yesterday.

The warrant says that on two occasions, police bought drugs from the apartment:

…on March 11th of 2009 an undercover officer assigned to the West Michigan Enforcement Team purchased 3.3 grams of marihuana for the price of $60 from Derek Copp.

On February 9th of 2009 an undercover officer assigned to the West Michigan Enforcement Team purchased 3 grams of marihuana from Conor Bardallis for the price of $50.00.

Police have not disclosed what–if anything–was recovered during the raid.

Copp is being charged with a felony for the delivery or manufacture of marijuana. The felony carries a potential four-year prison sentence. However, the officer who shot Derek Copp–Ryan Huizenga–faces only a two-year sentence for a misdemeanor charge. Huizenga has also been taken off unpaid leave and placed on administrative duty.

Another Michigan Teenager Killed by Police using Tasers

Michigan Teen Killed by Taser

Another teenager in Michigan has died after being struck by a Taser. On April 10, 16-year old Warren teenager Robert Mitchell died after police used a Taser on him.

The Detroit Coalition Against Police Brutality called the death “a straight-up execution.” The teen’s family are also questioning why the 5 feet 2 special-education teenager was shocked with a Taser and are promising to file a lawsuit.

According to the Detroit Free Press:

Warren police say the teen bolted from a car being stopped for an expired plate, ran into an abandoned house and fought with officers inside. He quit breathing after one of the three pursuing officers used the Taser, police said.

Police have said that the teen was “was violently resisting arrest” but would not intially release any additional information. A later news report said:

“He came down the stairs. He assaulted the officers. There was a struggle that took place,” Green said. “One of the officers Tasered him to get compliance. After that they noticed he was non-responsive. Officers started CPR until the Warren Fire Department arrived.”

The officers involved were temporarily placed on administrative review but have since been reinstated. Police have said “Everything we did was within policies and guidelines. All of our actions were appropriate”

Last month, a 15-year old Bay City teenager was killed by police using Tasers.

The international human rights group Amnesty International has called for limits on the use of Tasers following the deaths of 334 people in the United States between 2001 and August 2008.

Deputy in GVSU Shooting Arraigned; Warrant Available Online

Ryan Huizenga Shot GVSU Student Derek Copp

The felony warrant issued last week that resulted in charges against Ottawa County Deputy Ryan Huizenga in the shooting of GVSU student Derek Copp is available online.

For the most part, there is little new in the warrant. The following exchange between the Detective in the case and the judge offers some insight into what happened:

Deputy Huizenga — were executing a search warrant at the residence there in Georgetown Township where Derek was staying. As they approached the apartment to execute that search warrant another deputy has shown a flashlight into the eyes of Derek Copp as he was opening up the sliding door to answer the door.

As he opened up the door, opened up the curtain, he shielded his eyes from the flashlight. Derek Copp did not have any weapon in his hand…

… was reaching for the door with his weak hand and shot with his strong arm a departmental issued .40 Caliber Glock. The bullet struck Derek Copp in the chest.

THE COURT: And this caused injury to Mr. Copp?

DETECTIVE LIEUTENANT SCHRAM: It caused serious injuries to him and he was immediately taken to the hospital in Grand Rapids.

THE COURT: Is the standard of care, then, from your knowledge, that a deputy in executing a search warrant should employ involving the finger of the strong arm — as you put it — not being on the trigger of the weapon?

DETECTIVE LIEUTENANT SCHRAM: That would be correct. Based on my investigation Derek Copp posed no threat to the officers, including Deputy Ryan Huizenga, and that his finger should’ve been on the outside of the trigger guard, not on the trigger unless he was attending to shoot.

THE COURT: All right. And that’s the negligence or carlessness that’s being alleged here?

DETECTIVE LIEUTENANT SCHRAM: Yes, sir.

THE COURT: All right. The Court’s satisfied based on the testimony that probable cause exists to issue the warrant, and I will issue that warrant.

Huizenga was arraigned earlier today on the charges. A preliminary hearing has been scheduled for April 23 and Huizenga is free on a personal recognizance bond. He was also allowed to go on a previously arranged vacation because he did not pose a flight risk according to investigators.

Nearly a month after the shooting, no charges have been filed against Derek Copp.