Headlines: Supreme Court Rejects Challenge to “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”; Top UN Official Calls for Global Ban on Plastic Bags

Democracy Now Headlines: Supreme Court Rejects Challenge to 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell'; Top UN Official Calls for Global Ban on Plastic Bags

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.

CIA: Keep Documents from Bush Era Sealed

The Obama administration is urging a federal judge to block the release of certain Bush-era documents that detail the videotaped interrogations of CIA prisoners at secret prisons. The Washington Post reports CIA Director Leon Panetta said in an affidavit that releasing the documents would benefit al-Qaeda’s recruitment efforts. Panetta said the forced disclosure of such material to the American Civil Liberties Union could be “expected to result in exceptionally grave damage to the national security by informing our enemies of what we knew about them, and when, and in some instances, how we obtained the intelligence we possessed.” Jameel Jaffer of the ACLU said he found it “troubling” for the Obama administration to say that information about purported abuses should be withheld because it might fuel anti-American propaganda. Jaffer said that amounts to an assertion that “the greater the abuse, the more important it is that it should remain secret.”

Shell Pays $15.5 Million in Niger Delta Case

The oil giant Royal Dutch Shell has agreed to pay a $15.5 million settlement to avoid a trial over its alleged involvement in human rights violations in the Niger Delta. The case was brought on behalf of ten plaintiffs who accused Shell of complicity in the 1995 executions of Nigerian writer and environmentalist Ken Saro-Wiwa and eight others. We’ll have more on the story after headlines.

Peruvian Indigenous Leader Seeks Asylum

In Peru, indigenous leader Alberto Pizango has sought refuge in Nicaragua’s Embassy and is seeking asylum. Pizango is wanted in Peru on sedition charges after leading protests opposing laws that encourage foreign mining and energy companies to invest billions of dollars in the Amazon rainforest. Over the weekend, sixty people died after police tried to break up a blockade. Indigenous activists are vowing to continue to fight for their land.

Indigenous Protester Atilio Pisango: “We have carried on this fight for more than fifty-seven days. The government has killed our indigenous brothers in Bagua. If the government repeals the law, we will lift the strike. Our leader, Alberto Pizango, did not send armed men; it was the army.”

Supreme Court Rejects Challenge to “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”

The Supreme Court has decided not to hear a challenge to the Pentagon’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy that bars gays and lesbians from serving openly in the military. The court refused to hear an appeal from a former Army captain who was dismissed under the policy. The Obama administration had urged the court to throw the case out. In a brief, the Obama administration had said the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy is “rationally related to the government’s legitimate interest in military discipline and cohesion.” While running for president, Senator Obama campaigned to end the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, but he has made no specific move to do so since taking office in January.

Supreme Court Justices Delay Sale of Chrysler

In other Supreme Court news, the court has issued a stay of the sale of Chrysler to the Italian automaker Fiat, delaying Chrysler’s exit from bankruptcy. Judge Ruth Bader Ginsburg announced the court would consider whether to hear the objections to the deal by three Indiana state pension funds and consumer groups. Some analysts say Chrysler could be at risk of going out of business if the court decides to hear an appeal in the case.

Court: Judges Must Avoid Appearance of Bias

In another closely watched case, the Supreme Court ruled that a West Virginia judge should have disqualified himself from an appeal of a $50 million jury verdict against Massey Energy because the coal mining company’s CEO had been a major campaign donor. By a 5-4 vote, the justices held that the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals judge should have removed himself from deciding the case, because Massey chief executive Don Blankenship had spent $3 million to help him get elected to the court.

Court Declines to Hear Case to Save Arizona’s San Francisco Peaks

Also on Monday, the Supreme Court declined to hear a petition from a coalition of Native American and environmental groups to protect the San Francisco Peaks located near Flagstaff, Arizona. The mountains are considered sacred by thirteen Native American tribes. A lawsuit was filed by the coalition to block a private developer from expanding a ski resort on the mountain and from using recycled sewer water to make fake snow.

Clinton Criticizes N. Korea for Secretly Trying US Journalists

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Monday the Obama administration is concerned about the two American journalists being held in North Korea and that they should be freed. The journalists, Euna Lee and Laura Ling of Current TV, were arrested in March working on a story near the border between North Korea and China. They have been sentenced to twelve years of hard labor in a prison camp.

Hillary Clinton: “Obviously, we are deeply concerned about the length of the sentences and the fact that this trial was conducted totally in secret with no observers. And we’re engaged in all possible ways, through every possible channel, to secure their release, and we once again urge North Korea to grant their immediate release on humanitarian grounds.”

US Continues to Hold Iraq Journalist Without Charge

While Secretary of State Hillary Clinton criticized North Korea for trying the journalists by secret trial, the Obama administration continues to hold at least one foreign journalist without charge. Ibrahim Jassam, a freelance photographer for Reuters, has been held in Iraq since September despite objections from the Iraqi government, Committee to Protect Journalists, Reporters Without Borders and Reuters.

Former Guantanamo Prisoner Describes Being Abused

Another former prisoner at Guantanamo has come forward to describe being abused inside the jail. Lakhdar Boumediene, who now lives in France, told ABC News he was kept awake for sixteen days straight, and guards inappropriately used hypodermic needles and IV tubes intended for forced feeding during hunger strikes. Boumediene, who was held for nearly eight years without charge, was interviewed on ABC News last night.

ABC News: “Do you think that you were tortured?”

Lakhdar Boumediene: “I don’t think. I am sure. You think that’s not torture? What’s this? What you can call this?”

NY Times Criticized over Report “1 in 7 Detainees Rejoined Jihad”

The New York Times is coming under intense scrutiny over its recent coverage of what former Guantanamo prisoners have done after their release. On May 21, the Times ran a front-page story titled “1 in 7 Detainees Rejoined Jihad, Pentagon Finds.” Since publication, the Times has had to backtrack from the article’s most serious claims. On Sunday, the paper’s public editor wrote that the article was “seriously flawed and greatly overplayed.” The public editor said the article failed to distinguish between former prisoners suspected of new acts of terrorism–more than half the cases–and those supposedly confirmed to have rejoined jihad against the West. Had only confirmed cases been considered, one in seven would have changed to one in twenty.

First Guantanamo Inmate Transferred to US for Trial

US authorities have brought the first Guantanamo Bay prisoner to the United States, flying him into New York to face trial for his alleged role in bombing the US embassies in Tanzania and Kenya. Ahmed Ghailani arrived early today and was brought to the Metropolitan Correctional Center in Manhattan. He is scheduled to appear in Manhattan federal court later today.

FBI Defends Use of Informants Inside Mosques

FBI Director Robert Mueller has defended the agency’s use of informants inside mosques, despite complaints from Muslim organizations that worshippers and clerics are being targeted instead of possible terrorists. Mueller said, “We don’t investigate places, we investigate individuals.” Several Muslim organizations have publicly complained that the FBI has planted spies in their mosques. Shakeel Syed of the Islamic Shura Council of Southern California accused the FBI of “trying to incite and entrap” law-abiding people.

Cuba Rejects Offer to Rejoin Organization of American States

Cuba has formally rejected an offer to return to the Organization of American States after members of the group agreed to lift the Cold War-era ban on its membership six days ago. Former Cuban leader Fidel Castro has said repeatedly that Cuba had no desire to rejoin the OAS, which he has described as an instrument of neoliberal economic policies and US intervention in Latin America. The official announcement was made on Cuban television.

Cuban Television Announcer Raul Isidron: “Cuba] has values at odds with the neoliberal capitalism and egoism promoted by the OAS and feels that it has the right and the authority to say no to the idea of incorporating itself in an organization over which the United States still holds an oppressive control.”

Top UN Official Calls for Global Ban on Plastic Bags

In environmental news, a top UN official is urging a global ban on plastic bags, in part because plastic is the most pervasive form of ocean litter. Achim Steiner, executive director of the UN Environment Program, said, “Single-use plastic bags, which choke marine life, should be banned or phased out rapidly everywhere. There is simply zero justification for manufacturing them anymore, anywhere.” The campaign to ban plastic bags is gaining steam internationally. China banned plastic bags last year, saving the country an estimated 40 billion plastic bags. Here in this country, San Francisco is the only large city to have banned plastic bags.

Charges Dropped in Dragging Death of Black Man in Texas

In the Texas town of Paris, protesters gathered outside the local courthouse Monday condemning the recent dismissal of murder charges against two white men in the dragging death of a black man. Twenty-four-year-old Brandon McClelland died last year after he was dragged from beneath a truck until his body was nearly dismembered. The two men originally charged in the crime were both friends of McClelland. They were released last week after being held for eight months in jail awaiting trial. Officials said the case had been unraveling in recent months because of a lack of eyewitnesses and physical evidence. Last month, a gravel truck driver gave a sworn statement acknowledging he might have accidentally run over McClelland, who authorities say got out of the car to walk home.

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Headlines: Court Rules U.S. Can Hold Prisoners Without Charge; Gaza War Crimes Probe to Hold Public Hearings

Democracy Now Headlines: Court Rules U.S. Can Hold Prisoners Without Charge; Gaza War Crimes Probe to Hold Public Hearings

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.

60 Killed in Multiple Iraq Bombings

At least 60 people have been killed in several attacks around Iraq over the last day. Earlier today at least 12 Iraqi civilians were killed when a suicide bomber hit a U.S. convoy in Baghdad. Seven members of a U.S.-backed Sunni militia died when a suicide bomber attacked their base in Kirkuk. The attacks come one day after 41 people were killed and another 70 wounded in a car bomb attack on a Shiite neighborhood in Baghdad.

8 Afghan Civilians Killed in NATO Attack

In Afghanistan, at least eight civilians have been killed in a NATO bombing in the southern Helmand province. NATO says its forces were responding to nearby insurgent gunfire. The attack came after Afghan President Hamid Karzai renewed a demand for an end to U.S.-led air strikes following last month’s bombing deaths of an estimated 140 people. The Pentagon meanwhile is now reviving its attempt to downplay the toll, saying between 20 to 30 civilians were killed.

Report: Afghan Insurgents Demand Timetable for U.S. Withdrawal

Meanwhile the New York Times reports leaders of the Taliban and other groups are discussing a potential peace agreement through intermediaries. The militant groups are reportedly demanding a timetable for the withdrawal of U.S. troops as a precondition for laying down their arms.

Senate Removes Gitmo Closure Funding

Senate Democrats have followed through with a pledge to block funding for the closure of the US military prison at Guantanamo Bay. On Wednesday, the Democratic-led Senate voted 90 to six to remove $80 million dollars from a war appropriations bill that would have gone towards closing Guantanamo Bay and investigating torture there. Lawmakers have called on Obama to submit details on his plans for closing Guantanamo. Democratic Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois was one of the six to vote against stripping the funds.

Sen. Dick Durbin: “What happened in Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo has sullied the reputation of the United States and has endangered alliances which we have counted on for decades. President Obama is trying to change that. By closing Guantanamo and responsibly allocating those detainees to safe and secure positions he is going to send a message to the world that it is a new day in terms of American foreign policy.”

Obama Considers “Preventative Detention” for Indefinite Jailings

The Obama administration meanwhile is reportedly considering a “preventive detention” system that would indefinitely jail terror suspects in the United States without bringing them to trial. The New York Times reports President Obama discussed the proposal at a meeting with human rights advocates at the White House. Two anonymous advocates told the Times that Obama indicated he favored applying the system to future cases, not prisoners held at Guantanamo Bay. Obama is set to deliver a speech later today outlining his plans on how to deal with closing Guantanamo.

Court Rules U.S. Can Hold Prisoners Without Charge

A federal judge has ruled the government can continue to indefinitely jail prisoners without charge. In a ruling this week, U.S. District Judge John Bates said anyone determined to have engaged in clashes with the U.S. military or its allies, or to have belonged to the Taliban or Al Qaeda can be held without trial. But Bates also rejected the Obama administration’s assertion it can jail anyone who “supports” those groups. The ruling came in a case challenging the jailing of several Guantanamo prisoners.

Pentagon Report Says 1 in 7 Freed Gitmo Prisoners Engage in Militancy

A newly-disclosed Pentagon report says that about one in seven of the 534 prisoners released from Guantanamo Bay have gone on to engage in militant activity. Opponents of due process rights are expected to use the report to advance their arguments in favor of the continued indefinite jailing of Guantanamo prisoners. But as with prior claims, the Pentagon report offers few details and prevents independent verification. Of the 74 prisoners said to have engaged in militancy after their release, only five can be independently verified to have actually engaged in or threatened to carry out militant acts. The report also fails to say how many of the former prisoners were believed to have gone on to militant activity as a result of their torture at Guantanamo. The most deadly act by a former Guantanamo prisoner was carried out by Kuwaiti national Abdallah al-Ajmi, who drove a bomb-laden truck into an Iraqi army base in March 2008, killing thirteen 13 people. Al-Ajmi’s attorney has said he was radicalized and left mentally unstable following his four years at Guantanamo.

Blackwater Contractors Flee Afghanistan to Avoid Charges

Two US contractors with the private military firm formerly known as Blackwater have reportedly fled Afghanistan to avoid prosecution for a fatal unprovoked shooting earlier this month. The two fleeing contractors and another two colleagues reportedly fired on a vehicle in Kabul after a night of drinking. One Afghan civilian was killed and another two wounded in the attack. The contractors say Blackwater supplied them with guns even though the Pentagon hadn’t granted them authorization. Defense attorney Daniel Callahan identified the two fleeing contractors as Steve McClain and Justin Cannon. Callahan says they fled their compound on Saturday and have now made it back to the United States.

Probe: U.S. Gave KBR $83M in Bonuses Despite Electrocutions

A Congressional probe has found the U.S. Army paid more than $83 million dollars in bonuses to the military contractor KBR despite its responsibility for the electrocution deaths of at least four troops in Iraq. On Wednesday, Senate Democratic Policy Committee chair Byron Dorgan accused the military of ‘stunning incompetence’ for rewarding KBR. In addition to the four electrocution deaths, hundreds of troops have received electrical shocks because of KBR’s electrical work in Iraq. The committee’s probe says more than half of the bonuses were awarded after the Pentagon first heeded warnings about the electrocutions. KBR is a former subsidiary of Halliburton, the company formerly run by Dick Cheney.

Gaza War Crimes Probe to Hold Public Hearings

A United Nations commission says its facing obstacles from the Israeli government ahead of its probe of alleged war crimes during Israel’s three-week assault on Gaza earlier this year. The commission is probing allegations of war crimes committed by both Israeli forces and Hamas fighters. But inquiry head Richard Goldstone says his team will likely have to enter Gaza through Egypt because Israel has refused to cooperate.

Richard Goldstone: “It would have been our wish to start there, to visit southern Israel, Sderot, to go into Gaza through the front door to go to the West Bank, which is also included in our mission. I made a number of approaches to the Israeli ambassador in Geneva even a direct approach to Prime Minister Netanyahu, but we’ve really received no official response.”

Goldstone says his team plans on holding public hearings for Gaza residents to share their testimony. More than fourteen hundred Palestinians were killed during the Israeli attack, most of them civilians. Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon said Israel will ignore the inquiry’s mission.

Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon: “We have shown the U.N. all the documents, all the data and I think we’ll put this issue behind us. And certainly, there should never be a moral equivalency drawn between terrorists and those who fight terrorism and any attempt to try to single out Israel and to investigate this preposterous suggestion of war crimes is just ridiculous and of course Israel will not cooperate with such an idea.”

U.S. Pledges $110M for Pakistani Refugees

In Pakistan, the UN is warning the exodus of Swat valley residents fleeing government-Taliban clashes could turn into the worst displacement crisis since the Rwandan genocide. Around 2 million people have fled their homes since fighting broke out three weeks ago. The Obama administration meanwhile has pledged $110 million dollars in humanitarian aid for the displaced refugees. Critics have called the pledge a PR move as the U.S. has put increasing pressure on the Pakistani government to engage in the fighting that has caused the displacements.

Bolivia, U.S. Hold First Talks Since Ambassador Row

In Bolivia, U.S. and Bolivian officials have held their first talks since last year’s expulsion of a U.S. ambassador on allegations of aiding the opposition to President Evo Morales. On Wednesday, Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs Thomas Shannon met with Bolivia’s foreign minister in La Paz.

Bolivia to De-Classify Dictatorship Records

In other news from Bolivia, lawmakers have voted to declassify archives that could hold information on victims of Bolivian dictartorships from 1960 to 1980. A group of relatives of those disappeared under the dictatorships have been on a hunger strike seeking the documents’ release. Olga Flores Bedegal is one of three women on the fifteenth day of the hunger strike.

Olga Flores Bedegal: “Right now we think it’s a clear sign that the government intends to clear up this dark time in Bolivia’s history and answer our questions about where our relatives are. Once we see the results and it’s what we want we will lift the strike. If not, we are willing to die. What we are asking for, no less or no more, is that they follow the law, that they comply with the Inter-American convention against the disappearance of people.”

4 Arrested in Synagogue, Air Base Bombing Plot

Here in New York, four people have been arrested over an alleged plot to bomb two Jewish synagogues and a National Guard air base. The suspects were arrested after planting what they believed to be bombs outside a synagogue. New York police commissioner Ray Kelly said the bombs were actually fake and had been supplied by an FBI informant.

Ray Kelly: “In essence, four individuals were arrested for planting bombs in front of two synegogues in the area. The bombs had been made by the FBI technicians–they were totally inert, no one was ever at risk or danger of being injured this evening. This was a year-long investigation and Director Demeris can give you some information about that.”

Kelly says the suspects have been under investigation for over a year. All four are Muslim. One of the suspects is of Afghan descent and reportedly said he was motivated by anger over the U.S. invasion and occupation of Afghanistan.

Missouri Executes Dennis Skillicorn

In Missouri, the death row prisoner Dennis Skillicorn was executed Wednesday after a last failed attempt at clemency. Skillicorn was convicted for the 1994 murder of a commuter who had stopped to help him and two other men. But the court that tried him never got to hear that Skillicorn didn’t actually commit the murder and that the killer claimed Skillicorn didn’t know it was going to take place. I interviewed Amnesty International USA executive director Larry Cox about Dennis Skillicorn on Tuesday’s broadcast.

Larry Cox: “This illustrates one of the central truths about the death penalty, that the person you kill is often not the same person who committed the crime. He has become a model prisoner. He has reached out to the victims of crime, to restorative justice. He’s worked in a hospice. He has helped young offenders. And that’s the reason why you have this incredible assembly of people from the Corrections Department, you have Republicans, you have Democrats, you have people of faith, all speaking out, saying, “What purpose could possibly be served by killing this man, who has become, by all accounts, a very good man?”

Judges, Attorners Back Troy Davis Appeal

And a group of 27 former judges and prosecutors is asking the Supreme Court to grant an appeal by the Georgia death row prisoner Troy Anthony Davis. Davis, an African American, was convicted for the 1989 killing of a white police officer. Seven of the nine non-police witnesses have recanted their testimony since the trial. Three witnesses say another man later admitted to the killing. There is also no direct physical evidence tying Davis to the crime scene. In a filing to the Supreme Court, the group urged the Supreme Court to accept a final appeal from Davis’ attorneys to have the case sent back to a federal judge to hear from the witnesses who recanted their testimony. The signatories include former Deputy U.S. Attorney General Larry Thompson; two former state Supreme Court chief justices; and nine former U.S. attorneys, including former Georgia Congressmember Bob Barr and former FBI Director William Sessions.

Headlines: Obama Asks Cabinet to Cut $100M; Diplomats Walk Out on Ahmadinejad over Israel Comments

Democracy Now Headlines: Obama Asks Cabinet to Cut $100M; Diplomats Walk Out on Ahmadinejad over Israel Comments

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.

Tamils Ignore Military Deadline as Refugees Flee

In Sri Lanka, a government deadline for the surrender of Tamil Tiger rebels has passed with the Tamils refusing to lay down their arms. The deadline prompted some 49,000 civilians to flee the Tamils’ last remaining stronghold to avoid an expected intensified Sri Lankan military assault. Sri Lanka has been accused of indiscriminate bombings, while the Tamils have been accused of using the trapped civilians as human shields. An estimated 4,500 civilians have died in the fighting over the last three months. Aid groups have raised concerns of more civilian casualties, as up to 100,000 people remain trapped in the Tamil-controlled area.

Addressing CIA, Obama Treads Softly on Bush Torture Memos

President Obama visited the CIA’s Virginia headquarters Monday, following last week’s release of Bush administration memos authorizing torture techniques. Speaking before a raucous crowd, Obama refused to condemn the memo’s contents outright, calling them potential mistakes.

President Obama: “Don’t be discouraged by what’s happened the last few weeks. Don’t be discouraged that we have to acknowledge potentially we’ve made some mistakes. That’s how we learn. But the fact that we are willing to acknowledge them and then move forward, that is precisely why I am proud to be president of the United States, and that’s why you should be proud to be members of the CIA.”

The Obama administration has said it opposes any effort to prosecute CIA interrogators who engaged in torture, as well the Bush administration officials who authorized its use. On Monday, Senate Intelligence Committee chair Dianne Feinstein asked Obama to hold off on ruling out prosecutions until her panel finishes an investigation over the next six months.

Obama Asks Cabinet to Cut $100M

Obama meanwhile held a cabinet meeting at the White House, where he laid out a plan to cut a collective $100 million from all government agencies.

President Obama: “I’m asking for all of them to identify at least $100 million in additional cuts to their administrative budgets, separate and apart from the work that Peter Orszag and the rest of our team are doing to go line by line with the budget and identify programmatic cuts that need to be made. And in the next few weeks, we expect to cut at least 100 current programs in the federal budget.”

Diplomats Walk Out on Ahmadinejad over Israel Comments

In Geneva, diplomats from twenty-three European nations walked out of a UN conference on racism Monday after Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad delivered a speech calling Israel a “cruel and repressive racist regime.” Audience members applauded as the diplomats exited the room.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad: “After World War II, under the pretext of Jewish suffering and by taking advantage of the Holocaust, they used aggression and military force to turn an entire nation into refugees. And they transplanted people from Europe, the United States and other parts of the world into their land, establishing a thoroughly racist government in occupied Palestine.”

The US and several other nations are already boycotting the conference over concerns it will criticize the Israeli government. Prior to the walkout, two protesters dressed in clown suits were removed after yelling at Ahmadinejad, “You are a racist!” Hundreds also protested Ahmadinejad outside the conference, including the Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel.

Elie Wiesel: “His presence is a scandal. A man who is the number one Holocaust denier in the world, a man who publicly, repeatedly said that he was going to destroy the people of Israel, his place is not at the place where we discuss human rights. He violates human rights. He preaches hatred, and therefore he should be in jail, actually, in The Hague for incitement of genocide.”

The Israeli government and its supporters have accused Ahmadinejad of inciting genocide over a mistranslated 2005 speech. After the Geneva session, Ahmadinejad said Iran has been subject to repeated threats of violence from the Israeli government.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad: “We will be able to experience peace and brotherhood when we all develop a more tolerant vision and improve our capacity to listen to each other. Please pay attention to this last point. They threaten us with war. The Zionist regime threatens to take military actions against us, again and again. But we do not believe in war. We think the solution to global problems should be based on humanitarian solutions, democratic solutions, based on the free votes of all nations.”

Nobel Laureate to Defend Jailed Iranian American

In news from Iran, the Nobel Peace Prize laureate Shirin Ebadi has joined the defense team of the imprisoned Iranian American journalist Roxana Saberi. A secret Iranian court sentenced Saberi to eight years in prison last week for allegedly spying for the United States. One of Iran’s leading dissidents, Ebadi will join Saberi’s legal team as it appeals the conviction. On Monday, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton repeated US calls for Saberi’s immediate release.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton: “We believe she should be freed immediately, that the charges against her are baseless, and that she has been subjected to a process that has been non-transparent, unpredictable, arbitrary. And we hope that actions will be taken as soon as possible by the authorities in Iran, including the judiciary, to bring about the speedy release of Ms. Saberi and her return home.”

3 Iraqis Killed, 8 US Soldiers Wounded in Baquba Bombing

In Iraq, at least three Iraqis were killed in a suicide attack on a meeting between US soldiers and local officials in the city of Baquba. At least eleven other Iraqis were also injured, along with eight US soldiers.

Harman Won’t Deny Speaking to Alleged Israeli Agent

Back in the United States, Democratic Congresswoman Jane Harman of California is coming under growing scrutiny over allegations she discussed trading political favors with an Israeli agent in 2005. CQ Magazine reported Harman was overheard on an NSA wiretap telling a suspected Israeli agent she would lobby the Justice Department to reduce espionage-related charges against two officials of AIPAC, the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee. In exchange for Harman’s help, the suspected Israeli agent reportedly pledged to help lobby Nancy Pelosi to appoint Harman chair of the House Intelligence Committee after the 2006 congressional elections. On Monday, Harman issued a statement denying lobbying the Justice Department about the two AIPAC officials, but she did not deny the allegations of her discussion with the suspected Israeli agent, nor did she address whether she tried to lobby the White House.

Obama Seeks $100B for IMF

President Obama has asked Congress to authorize a $100 billion grant to the International Monetary Fund. The funding boost would come as part of a $500 billion international commitment made at the G20 summit in London earlier this month.

Obama to Meet Credit Card Execs at White House

The White House has announced Obama will meet with credit card executives from the nation’s top fourteen banks later this week. The White House says Obama will lobby them to back new limits on lending abuses, including arbitrary interest rate hikes, premature late fees, and interest charges on debt paid on time.

IG: 20 Criminal Probes, 6 Audits Investigating Bailout Abuses

The Inspector General overseeing the government bailout of Wall Street has revealed he’s opened twenty criminal investigations and six audits into whether tax dollars are being misused. In a new report released today, Neil Barofsky says the investigations focus on allegations including securities fraud, tax, insider trading and public corruption.

Struggling Chrysler Turned Down Government Aid over Pay Caps

Meanwhile, Barofsky has also revealed the financial services wing of the auto giant Chrysler turned down government aid over new federal limits on executive pay. In his new report on the bailout, Barofsky says Chrysler Financial turned down $750 million earlier this year. Chrysler Financial’s parent company, Chrysler, has received $4.5 billion in government loans. Chrysler Financial collected $1.5 billion in federal loans when less stringent pay limits were in place.

Oakland Hires Private Security Firm to Patrol Neighborhoods

Oakland has become the latest American city to hire private armed guards to carry out police duties. Oakland’s city council recently voted to hire the company International Services to patrol troubled areas. Proponents say the move will save money for the cash-strapped city. Chicago’s city council recently proposed to grant private guards more responsibilities, including the authority to write traffic tickets.

Ex-Presidents Clinton, Bush to Appear in Joint Event

Former presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush have signed onto a joint appearance next month in Toronto, Canada. Clinton and Bush will appear together on stage in what organizers call a “moderated conversation.” Last month, Bush faced wide protests and calls for his arrest when he came to the Canadian city of Calgary for his first post-White House public speech.

Somali Pirate to Appear in US Court

The lone surviving Somali pirate involved in the kidnapping of an American cargo captain earlier this month has been brought to face trial in the United States. The pirate, nineteen-year-old Abduhl Wal-i-Musi, surrendered before US Navy snipers shot his three accomplices aboard their boat. Musi is expected to be arraigned in a New York courtroom later today.

French Energy Giant Spied on Anti-Nuke Activists

In France, the state-controlled energy operator has admitted to infiltrating and spying on anti-nuclear activists across Europe. Pierre Francois, a former top security official for EDF, says he began organizing the spying since 2002.

Arizona Duo Wins Pulitzer for Arpaio Coverage

And in media news, the Pulitzer Prize winners for journalism were handed out on Monday. The winners included Ryan Gabrielson and Paul Giblin of the East Valley Tribune in Mesa, Arizona. The duo won for their coverage of Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who’s been accused of practicing discriminatory enforcement of federal immigration laws. Last month, the Justice Department opened a civil rights probe into Arpaio’s immigration enforcement policies.

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.

Grand Rapids Area Campaign for USA ratification of the Convention on the Rights of the Child

A new campaign is being launched in Grand Rapids to push for the United States’ ratification of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. A new group–Parenting for Peace–is organizing an upcoming event in Grand Rapids on the issue.

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A new campaign is being launched in Grand Rapids to push for the United States’ ratification of the Convention on the Rights of the Child:

The Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) was adopted by the U. N. General Assembly on 20 November (Universal Children’s Day), 1989. Exactly nineteen years later Parenting for Peace, a newly formed group based in Grand Rapids under the auspices of the Institute for Global Education (IGE), is undertaking a local campaign to help secure USA ratification. We believe it should not take 20 years for the USA to ratify the CRC!

Join us on Thursday, 20 November, to help us launch this effort. The launch will be held at IGE, 1118 Wealthy St. SE, Grand Rapids. Schedule as follows:

* 4:00pm: Write letters, make calls, and/or send emails to our two Senators and the President-Elect, as well as friends or others who might want to become involved.

* 5:00pm: Enjoy a potluck supper.

* 6:00pm: Join together to make plans for the campaign.

Here is some basic information about the CRC as it applies to parenting and children:

Nations that ratify the CRC agree to respect and support the responsibilities, rights and duties of parents to provide direction and guidance for the development of their children. In addition, the CRC calls on governments to develop policies conducive to family and community environments that will allow children to grow up in an atmosphere of happiness, love and understanding.

The CRC sets forth basic norms and standards that individual nations agree to pursue on behalf of their children. Those internationally recognized norms include:

– Protection from violence, abuse and abduction

– Protection from hazardous employment and exploitation

– Adequate nutrition

– Free primary education

– Adequate health care

– Equal treatment regardless of gender, race or cultural background.

Effects so far in various countries have included separation of detained juveniles from adults and providing them legal representation, extended ability to prosecute for child prostitution and pornography, reform of the child protection system, training of criminal justice personnel in child-friendly practices, revised justice codes for children, reduction in hitting and other abuse of children.

The sponsoring organization for this local effort, Parenting for Peace, meets at IGE. Its mission is to:

-Promote children’s rights and well-being;

-Support parents/caregivers rights and well-being, and their efforts to raise healthy, happy children;

-Make connections between peaceful parenting and a peaceful world;

-Bring diverse groups together to learn from each other and strengthen our collective voice.

We hope to work with the Campaign for U. S. Ratification of the CRC, a national coalition which brings together many interested groups. See childrightscampaign.org for more info on that coalition. We also plan to look into the possibility of getting a City of Grand Rapids resolution in support of the Convention. In addition, we are considering a petition.

If any of these ideas grab you, we welcome your help in advancing them. If you have other ideas, please come and share them. We are open, we love enthusiasm, and we value diverse approaches.

For more information about the local campaign or about Parenting for Peace, contact us at IGE:

ige@iserv.net or (616)-454-1642.

Report Finds Widespread Consensus on Human Causes of Global Warming

A new report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has found widespread consensus on the human causes between global warming, and in light of new findings, is calling for increased action to prevent further warming.

Only a few days after the Midwest Governors Association and Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm announced new plans to address global warming, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released a report on Saturday that concludes that global warming is caused by humans and that immediate action is necessary to address climate change. The report argues that there are stronger “reasons for concern” than previously thought as significant effects from global warming–including impacts on humans and non-humans–may happen at lower temperatures than previously believed. The report was signed by 130 nations including the United States.

Some key points from the report include:

20 per cent to 30 percent of the plant and animal species assessed are likely to be at increased risk of extinction if global average temperatures exceed 1.5 degree Celsius to 2.5 degree Celsius over late 20th century levels.

Increases in sea surface temperatures of about one-three degrees C are projected to result in more “frequent coral bleaching events and widespread mortality.”

Concern that in “many semi-arid areas, for example the Mediterranean basin, western United States, southern Africa and northeast Brazil, will suffer a decrease in water resources due to climate change.”

Concern that the Greenland and possibly Antarctic ice sheets may mean that the rate of ice loss will increase above previous forecasts

Concern over the likelihood of “irreversible” impacts. If temperature increases exceed about 3.5 degrees Celsius between 40% and 70% of the species assessed might be at increased risk of extinction.

Unlike three previous reports that were released by the IPCC, this report was not “diluted” as were previous reports from the IPCC. Nevertheless, there has been significant criticism of the IPCC center around the fact that its scientific consensus might minimize the potential impacts of climate change (1, 2). Among these criticisms are that the IPCC’s relying on a data set that ends in 2005.

Just in case folks think that this is old news, there is still considerable misinformation out there. Some of it is due to the influence of the oil industry who has funded “climate change skeptics” (including Grand Rapids’ Acton Institute) who have sought to cause “confusion” over global warming. Such confusion can often lead to absurdity, as seen in a column published in Grand Valley State University’s (GVSU) Lanthorn student newspaper titled “Global Warming has become Annoying:”

“There is no doubt that advances in society have created more pollution and increased the ability to become more wasteful, but is this to blame for the climatic change?

Personally, I find thousands of years of evidence from scientists saying otherwise hard to ignore. Science has shown plenty of proof that this is nothing more than the Earth’s natural course.”

Peace One Day Film Shown at Wealthy Street Theatre

Last night at the Wealthy Street Theatre in Grand Rapids, the Military Service Dialog Committee of the Institute for Global Education (IGE) showed the film Peace One Day to an audience of around 30 people. The film chronicles the efforts of British filmmaker Jeremy Gilley to establish a fixed date for the United Nations’ International Peace Day, which prior to the efforts of Gilley, was a rotating date that coincided with the opening of the United Nations and thus was rarely commemorated outside of the United Nations. After several years of writing letters and organizing within the United Nations, a United Nations resolution (A/Res/55/282) was passed fixing the date of International Peace Day to September 21 and establishing it as “an annual day of global ceasefire and non-violence.” The establishment of the date had the unfortunate consequence of coinciding with the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on New York City and with the global “war on terror” it has not been observed as a day of global ceasefire.

Following the film there was a brief discussion in which members of the audience shared their reactions to the film and explored ways in which Grand Rapids could join the millions of people that will participate in this year’s International Peace Day . The reaction to the film was overwhelmingly positive, with audience members sharing a variety of ideas to commemorate the day locally ranging from holding a Peace Presence vigil on the 21st to the simple idea of serving coffee to someone that is important to you. Two college professors in attendance announced that they will likely show the film to their students and the event organizers shared that they will hold a September 21st event at a location to be determined. Citing the “successes” of the Peace One Day campaign in using celebrities and concerts as a means of generating support, the local celebration will incorporate music as a means of making peace “entertaining.” There was no discussion about challenging the institutions or states that make a day of global ceasefire that make war a necessity, nor was there any discussion of moving beyond one day of ceasefire towards a world without war. For more information on local International Peace Day Activities, watch the Media Mouse calendar or contact IGE.

The Double Standard of United Nations Resolutions

The Bush administration has made a mockery of the United Nations process and the corporate media has failed to discuss the double standard for UN Security Council Resolution enforcement. To date, countries such as Israel and Turkey are in violation of more UN Security Council Resolutions than Iraq. What is the US’s response to this – reward them with billions of dollars in military and economic assisatance.

For More information: