Monday, August 01, 2005

Democracy Now: Damu Smith, Niger; Matthew Rothschild, Norman Solomon, Amanda Griscom Little, Lisa Graves, Bernice Powell Jackson, Grace Lee Boggs ...

Democracy Now: Damu Smith, Niger, BiDil; Matthew Rothschild, Norman Solomon, Amanda Griscom Little, Lisa Graves, Bernice Powell Jackson, Grace Lee Boggs ...

FBI Agent Questioned Legality of Extraordinary Rendition
Meanwhile Newsweek has obtained a leaked FBI memo that questions the legality of the Bush's administration policy of extraordinary rendition where the government transports seized individuals and sends them to foreign countries that practice torture. The memo was written three years ago by the FBI supervisor then assigned to Guantanamo. In the memo, the FBI agent wrote that sending detainees to such countries that practice torture would be in violation of the U.S. torture statute. Newsweek reports that intelligence officials are now estimating that more than 100 individuals have been rendered to foreign countries by the CIA since Sept. 11.

8,000 Incidents of Prison Rape and Sexual Abuse Reported
And a new Justice Department report has found there were at least 8,000 reported incidents of rape, sexual abuse or sexual harassment inside the country's prisons and jails last year. And the department acknowledged the actual number of incidents could be much higher. Nearly 42 percent of the reported allegations of sexual violence involved staff sexual misconduct toward inmates. Meanwhile 37 percent involved nonconsensual sexual acts by inmates on fellow prisoners. The report marks the first time the Justice Department has issued a statistical report on prison rape.

The above items are from Democracy Now!'s Headlines and were selected by West and Rhonda. Democracy Now! ("always worth watching," as Marcia says):

Headlines for August 1, 2005
- Saudi King Fahd Dies
- New Sudanese VP Dies in Air Crash
- UK Bomber Says He Was Motivated by Iraq War, Not Religion
- Ex-CIA Officer Agency For Firing Him Over Iraq WMD Claims
- Jimmy Carter: Iraq War Was "Unnecessary and Unjust"
- Gov't Officials Claim Military Tribunals Were Rigged
- White House Takes New Steps to Oust Castro
- Report: Toledo Police Helped Cover Up Church Abuse
- 8,000 Incidents of Prison Rape and Sexual Abuse Reported

Los Titulares de Hoy: Democracy Now!'s daily news summary translated into Spanish

Niger Faces Major Food Emergency

The African country of Niger is rarely mentioned in this country. Among the only times you hear Nier mentioned is in relation to the Wilson/Plame/Rove scandal. But today in Niger, 3.3 million people, including almost a million children, are facing starvation after a drought and locusts wiped out last year's harvest. We go to Niamey, Niger for a report from Doctors Without Borders.

The FDA Approves a Race-Specific Drug for the First Time in History. Will it Address the Real Health Issues Facing African-Americans?

The Food and Drug Administration has recently approved the first drug specifically for African-Americans. The new drug BiDil has raised concerns among some doctors and medical ethicists. We host a debate about this new trend of race-based drug making and marketing.

Activist Damu Smith: Fighting Colon Cancer and Systemic Racial Disparities in American Healthcare
Longtime activist Damu Smith is the founder of Black Voices for Peace. He has fought war and racism for decades. Now he's fighting for his life. He has colon cancer. We speak with Damu Smith about his struggle with cancer and for equitable healthcare in this country.

Lloyd e-mails to note Matthew Rothschild's "Ugly Face on Ugly Policy:"

Not even the courageous criticism made by Ohio Republican Senator George Voinovich could budge Bush from his obstinate path.
The decision to go forward with the Bolton appointment, without Senate approval and despite his demonstrable, monumental lack of qualifications, is the Bush-Cheney way.
It's macho, in your face, unilateral, we don't give a damn, we're doing it our way, and if you don't like it, tough.
That's the style that got the United States into Iraq and into the torture scandal.
And that same style will now be on display for 18 months in the detestable person of John Bolton.
This is the America of George Bush.
Let the world, and the citizens of this country, see it for what it is.

Gareth e-mails to note "Where has all the money gone? Ed Harriman follows the auditors into Iraq" (London Review of Books). Gareth notes that this is the report that Seymour Hersh was talking about on Democracy Now! -- here's an excerpt:

On 12 April 2004, the Coalition Provisional Authority in Erbil in northern Iraq handed over $1.5 billion in cash to a local courier. The money, fresh $100 bills shrink-wrapped on pallets, which filled three Blackhawk helicopters, came from oil sales under the UN's Oil for Food Programme, and had been entrusted by the UN Security Council to the Americans to be spent on behalf of the Iraqi people. The CPA didn't properly check out the courier before handing over the cash, and, as a result, according to an audit report by the CPA's inspector general, 'there was an increased risk of the loss or theft of the cash.' Paul Bremer, the American pro-consul in Baghdad until June last year, kept a slush fund of nearly $600 million cash for which there is no paperwork: $200 million of this was kept in a room in one of Saddam's former palaces, and the US soldier in charge used to keep the key to the room in his backpack, which he left on his desk when he popped out for lunch. Again, this is Iraqi money, not US funds.
The 'reconstruction' of Iraq is the largest American-led occupation programme since the Marshall Plan. But there is a difference: the US government funded the Marshall Plan whereas Donald Rumsfeld and Paul Bremer have made sure that the reconstruction of Iraq is paid for by the 'liberated' country, by the Iraqis themselves. There was $6 billion left over from the UN Oil for Food Programme, as well as sequestered and frozen assets, and revenue from resumed oil exports (at least $10 billion in the year following the invasion). Under Security Council Resolution 1483, passed on 22 May 2003, all of these funds were transferred into a new account held at the Federal Reserve Bank in New York, called the Development Fund for Iraq (DFI), so that they might be spent by the CPA 'in a transparent manner . . . for the benefit of the Iraqi people'. Congress, it's true, voted to spend $18.4 billion of US taxpayers' money on the redevelopment of Iraq. But by 28 June last year, when Bremer left Baghdad two days early to avoid possible attack on the way to the airport, his CPA had spent up to $20 billion of Iraqi money, compared to $300 million of US funds.
The 'financial irregularities' described in audit reports carried out by agencies of the American government and auditors working for the international community collectively give a detailed insight into the mentality of the American occupation authorities and the way they operated, handing out truckloads of dollars for which neither they nor the recipients felt any need to be accountable. The auditors have so far referred more than a hundred contracts, involving billions of dollars paid to American personnel and corporations, for investigation and possible criminal prosecution. They have also discovered that $8.8 billion that passed through the new Iraqi government ministries in Baghdad while Bremer was in charge is unaccounted for, with little prospect of finding out where it went. A further $3.4 billion earmarked by Congress for Iraqi development has since been siphoned off to finance 'security'.
That audit reports were commissioned at all owes a lot to Henry Waxman, a Democrat and ranking minority member of the House of Representatives Committee on Government Reform. Waxman voted in favour of the invasion of Iraq. But since the war he's been demanding that the Bush administration account for its cost. Within six months of the invasion, Waxman's committee had evidence that the Texas-based Halliburton corporation was being grossly overpaid by the American occupation authorities for the petrol it was importing into Iraq from Kuwait, at a profit of more than $150 million. Waxman and his assistants found that Halliburton was charging $2.64 a gallon for petrol for Iraqi civilians, while American forces were importing the same fuel for $1.57 a gallon.

Adam e-mails to note Norman Solomon's "The Operation Withdrawal Scam" (CounterPunch) where Solomon's putting Bully Boy's latest spin into a historical perspective:

Bush administration officials, and their enablers in the news media, say that Iraqis will take up burdens now being shouldered by the occupiers. Such "Iraqization" could change just the style of carnage -- like the Vietnamization that occurred in the last several years of the Vietnam War.
During a much-heralded visit to Guam in July 1969, President Nixon announced that the U.S. government would "furnish military and economic assistance when requested in accordance with our treaty commitments. But weshall look to the nation directly threatened to assume the primary responsibility for its defense."
Such proclaimed doctrines of replacing American soldiers with natives are real crowd-pleasers in the USA. But such measures may do nothing to reduce the amount of blood on Uncle Sam's hands. Three years after Nixon's mid-1969 pronouncement, the U.S. troop levels in Vietnam had fallen to 69,000. Yet during the three-year withdrawal of nearly half a million American soldiers, the tonnage rate of U.S. bombs falling on Vietnam actually increased.
No matter how many troops it has on the ground in Iraq, the Pentagon will be set up for a major role there. A recent letter in the New York Times shed more light on the Bush administration's intentions than hours of network punditry. "My brother-in-law just returned from a stint in Iraq with the Minnesota Air National Guard," wrote Ronald M. Asher II. "Although he couldn't tell me where in Iraq he was stationed, he did say that the level and type of construction going on at the air base convinced him that the United States military planned on being there for a very long time."
Operation Withdrawal Scam has begun. It will be a long maneuver.

Sarah e-mails to note Amanda Griscom Little's "New nominees for top spots at EPA worry enviros" (Grist Magazine):

While the green community and the press fixate on the energy bill that's finally wending its way to President Bush's desk, a changing of the guard under way at the U.S. EPA is sliding by virtually unnoticed.
Stephen Johnson assumed his post at the head of the agency in May, he vacated the No. 2 spot of deputy administrator, which the White House has finally gotten around to filling. Bush has also nominated a new candidate for chief of law enforcement at EPA, a post that he's had trouble keeping filled since taking office. And, lastly, plans are in the works to appoint a new assistant administrator in charge of the agency's Office of Air and Radiation, a position about to be vacated by Jeffrey Holmstead. Infamous among enviros for spearheading efforts to weaken new-source review and make mercury regulations more biz-friendly, Holmstead announced his impending resignation [PDF] on July 20, telling EPA staff in a letter [PDF] that he plans to travel the world with his family.
Last night, the Senate confirmed Marcus Peacock to be second in command at the EPA. Nominated by Bush in early June, Peacock has served for the past few years as a number-cruncher in the White House Office of Management and Budget, overseeing the environmental, energy, and science programs. He has spent his career inside the Beltway -- he was hired into OMB during the Reagan era, and intermittently had stints as a committee staffer in the House of Representatives and as a policy analyst in the private sector. In his recent capacity at OMB, he was responsible for determining whether the cost of environmental regulations is justified by their benefit to the U.S. economy.
Gary Bass, executive director of the D.C.-based nonprofit OMB Watch, calls Peacock a conservative ideologue "with a decidedly anti-environmental regulatory track record." Recall the first days of the Bush administration, when the White House froze more than a dozen Clinton-era rules related to environment, health, and safety, including ones on arsenic in drinking water, snowmobiles in national parks, and protections for roadless areas of national forests. Peacock was instrumental in the decision to put a hold on rule-making in these areas, according to Bass. And remember the steady succession of budget cuts the White House requested for EPA?
There again, Peacock played a key role, Bass says. The going theory in green circles is that Peacock was chosen to act as an ideological counterweight to Johnson, a politically neutral and highly regarded scientist who got overwhelming bipartisan support in his Senate confirmation. "There is some concern that Peacock is going to be the ball attached by chains to Johnson's ankles," said John Walke, a senior attorney at the Natural Resources Defense Council.

We'll note Lisa Graves' run down in "Proposal for Modest Improvements Passes Senate by 'UC'" (from the ACLU's Reform the Patriot Act):

Around five o'clock last night, before the Senate broke for its annual August recess, the Specter-Feinstein bill to reauthorize the expiring provisions of the Patriot Act passed. This bipartisan bill was approved through a process called "unanimous consent," where the leaders of both parties get consent to take action on a measure and none of the other Senators object.
The good news is there were also no amendments to make the bill worse or try to strip out some of the modest improvements made to the Patriot Act. As we prepared for the summer break in the congressional session, we were developing a strategy to make sure the Roberts bill approved by the Senate Intelligence Committee would not be dueling on the Senate floor with the Specter bill.
As you recall, the Senate Intelligence Committee had passed a bill to expand the Patriot Act and did so behind closed doors.
Just this past Wednesday, the FBI was asking again for expanded powers to write its own search orders without any court approval in advance and without demonstrating to any court that there were any facts connecting any personal records sought to an agent of a foreign power.
This terrible idea, called "administrative subpoena" power by the Justice Department and called the FBI's "write-your-own-search-order" by us, was not embraced by the three other Committees in Congress that considered the Patriot Act (though an amendment by Congressman Flake on the House floor takes a step backward in that direction--more on that later).

KeShawn e-mails to note Bernice Powell Jackson's "Commenmorating August 6" (The Chicago Defender):

While the date of September 11, 2001 is forever embedded into our national memory, there is another date which we dare not forget, which has similar meaning for the people of Japan. It is August 6, 1945, the date the United States dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima and 140,000 people, many of them innocent civilians, died instantly. Three days later we dropped a second atomic bomb on the Japanese city of Nagasaki, killing another 70,000. Hundreds of thousands of others were injured, disfigured and made homeless by these bombings. August 6 and 9, 2005 will mark the 60th anniversary of the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
The American people and the world were told shortly after the bombings of these two Japanese cities and have been told ever since that these bombings hastened the end of the war and saved hundreds of American soldiers' lives. That is an interpretation which, over recent years, has begun to be questioned. Such writers and scholars as Dr. Howard Zinn and Dr. Gar Alperovitz have pointed out that U.S. Navy ships were closing in on Japan in the summer of 1945, knowing that Japan, as an island, was totally dependent on foreign oil and other supplies.

Some are now asking if an embargo of Japan would not have accomplished the end of the war without the killings of more than 200,000 civilians. Moreover, in the spring of 1945, the U.S. had been using napalm bombs to bomb the Japanese industrial complex which was supplying their war effort, much the same way that our European allies were bombing German cities. Some are now asking if these measures would not have accomplished the same thing as the atomic bombs that were used. It is now known that the Japanese emperor had approached Stalin in the summer of 1945 with peace overtures. Some are asking whether the overturns were followed up by American diplomats. Thus, questions are being raised as to whether the U.S. government did not have other options to use before dropping two atomic bombs on Japan.

Liang e-mails to note Grace Lee Boggs' latest "Crash" (Michigan Citizen & The Boggs Center) where she's addressing the issues raised in the film Crash:

As I watched the film, I thought of how historical changes over the last twenty five years have complicated the concept of Race. As Howard Winant explains in The New Politics of Race (University of Minnesota Press, 2004):
*Monolithic white supremacy is over but white privilege remains.
*Reforms from the civil rights movement have defused mass struggles.
*Huge differences and inequalities exist within racial groups.
*Our cities are not just black and white but made up of growing numbers of Latino-, Asian- and Arab-Americans from all over the world.
Meanwhile, white workers, who have lost old ethnicties through their own suburbanization and whose security has been destroyed by globalization, are increasingly scapegoating blacks for their insecurities. Twenty-five years ago, in a little statement entitled "From Racism to Counter-Revolution", Jimmy Boggs warned that, "this counter-revolutionary movement is gaining momentum with much the same speed as the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s because many white Americans have the illusion that America can return to the past; just as many black and liberal Americans have the illusion that we must go back to struggling only against racism when the only solution to our deepening problems" is to stop viewing ourselves only as victims and start building the movement to revolutionize all of American society.
CRASH shows us how ugly this counter-revolution can be, but it also provides hope that as all our fixed, frozen relations with their train of ancient and venerable prejudices are being swept away by our growing hybridity, and as Chance and Circumstance keep bringing us into collision with one another, we are also being given increasing opportunities to make Choices that express our common humanity and capacity for nobility.

Erika e-mails to note "Bray v. Alexandria Clinic: What was Roberts Thinking?" from Planned Parenthood:

At the time that Bray was being heard by the Supreme Court, there was an epidemic of blockades and attacks on abortion clinics. Yet the United States filed an amicus ("friend of the court") brief on the side of the extremists, arguing that the KKK Act should not apply to them because the protesters were opposed to abortion, not to women. The court agreed.
Two circumstances are noteworthy: That the United States felt compelled to support extremist anti-abortion groups in the first place, and that the U.S amicus brief failed to state that the United States did not endorse the invasive tactics of groups like OR.
The case was argued twice. John Roberts argued it the first time. Deciding not to distance the government from the conduct of the extremist groups would have been well within Roberts' purview.
The role John Roberts played in Bray v. Alexandria Women's Health Clinic is cause for grave concern. Senators need to question him closely on his commitment to women's health and safety.

We'll close by quoting from David Moberg's "Gods and Mortals" (In These Times) that Rachel e-mailed on:

So far, the AFL-CIO and the Change to Win unions remain more on a common path than the split would indicate. The convention adopted changes in AFL-CIO structure-creating the possibility of industry committees to guide organizing, providing rebates for organizing, establishing a new Executive Committee to guide the federation-that reflected Change to Win sentiments, even if they did not satisfy their demands. The AFL-CIO committed itself to a campaign to fight Wal-Mart, even though SEIU and the UFCW were the main unions potentially organizing those workers. Union leaders from both sides of the split signed a letter threatening to cut off funds to Democrats in the House who voted for the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA).
The federation also took what was a bold step on foreign policy, given its long history of identifying with whatever administration is in power on military and foreign policy issues. It passed a resolution strongly critical of the Bush administration for lying about Iraq, for its conduct of the war, for its failure to properly take care of both soldiers and veterans, and for its failure to protect rights of workers and unions in occupied Iraq. Most significantly, it called for the United States to withdraw from Iraq "rapidly," which was taken by its proponents as the functional equivalent of "immediately."
It will take many months, at least, to sort out the repercussions of the split, which could either stimulate both camps to work harder on both organizing and politics or degenerate into debilitating conflict. The central labor councils and state federations, long neglected during the years of unity, may now suffer most in times of division. But their leaders are going to try not only to survive, but to meet new benchmarks for performance that the federation set and, as Jesse Jackson urged the convention, to keep their "eyes on the real prize."

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[Note: I've corrected this entry for C.I. (This is Ava.) For some reason Grace Lee Boggs' excerpt ran as one long line and threw off the page's look. I've had to alter the title to get it to fit -- you can use more letters in the title if you e-mail in then if you post via Blogger. The original title is at the top of the post. I've put the post up with the same time as the one I've deleted. Hope this helps some with the people who've e-mailed in.]