Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Democracy Now: Stanley Tookie Williams, CPT, Lori Berenson's father; Norman Solomon, Katrina vanden Heuvel ...

Supreme Court to Hear New Hampshire Abortion Case
And the Supreme Court will hear arguments today that observers expect to shed new light on Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts' views on abortion. The case deals with a New Hampshire parental notification law that an Appeals court ruled was unconstitutional. The case will be heard as the Senate Judiciary Committee prepares to consider the nomination of Judge Samuel Alito. Twenty years ago, Alito said there was no constitutional right to abortion.

Pair Charged in Al Jazeera Memo Leak Appear in London Court
In London, two people appeared in court Tuesday to face charges they violated the Official Secrets Act by leaking a memo that reportedly details a conversation between President Bush and Prime Minister Tony Blair over the possible bombing of Al Jazeera. David Keogh was charged with passing the memo to Leo O'Connor, who worked as an aide to for former British MP Tony Clarke. The two are expected back in court in January.

US Paying Iraqi Media to Publish US-Authored Reports
The Los Angeles Times is reporting the US military is secretly paying Iraqi newspapers to publish American-written articles favorable to the U.S. presence in Iraq. The Times reports articles written by U.S. military "information operations" are translated into Arabic and then placed in Iraqi newspapers with the help of Washington-based defense contractor the Lincoln Group. The articles are presented to an Iraqi audience as unbiased news accounts written by independent journalists. The Lincoln Group's contract is worth up to $100 million dollars over five years. A senior Pentagon official commented : "Here we are trying to create the principles of democracy in Iraq. Every speech we give in that country is about democracy. And we're breaking all the first principles of democracy when we're doing it."

The above three items are from today's Democracy Now! Headlines and were selected by Keesha, Sabina and DK. Democracy Now! ("always worth watching," as Marcia says):

Headlines for November 30, 2005

- Captors Accuse Hostages of Being Foreign Spies
- Virginia Clemency Avoids 1,000th Execution
- US Paying Iraqi Media to Publish US-Authored Reports
- Pair Charged in Al Jazeera Memo Leak Appear in London Court
- Bangladesh Suicide Bombing Kills 10
- Peres Expected to Leave Labour Party, Back Sharon
- Supreme Court to Hear New Hampshire Abortion Case

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

A Conversation with Death Row Prisoner Stanley Tookie Williams from his San Quentin Cell

In a half-hour interview, death row prisoner Stanley Tookie Williams speaks from his cell in San Quentin about his case, his life and his redemption. He helped start the Crips street gang - his greatest regret - but behind bars he has become a leading advocate for the end of gang violence. He has written nine books and has been nominated several times for the Nobel Peace Prize. He is scheduled to die on Dec. 13 unless Governor Schwarzenegger grants him clemency. Actions are planned across the world today in what has been described as International Save Tookie Day. [includes rush transcript - partial]

Video Broadcast of Kidnapped Members of Christian Peacemaker Teams that Helped Expose Abu Ghraib Prisoner Abuse Scandal

The Christian Peacemaker Teams has confirmed that four peace activists working with the group were kidnapped in Baghdad on Saturday. A videotape showing the four men was broadcast on al Jazeera. CPT is a non-missionary organization that has been documenting the abuse of Iraqi detainees. We speak with Pulitzer prize-winning journalist Seymour Hersh about CPT's work in helping expose the Abu Ghraib abuse scandal and we go to Baghdad to speak with a member of the organization.

10 Years After the Arrest of U.S. Citizen Lori Berenson in Peru, her Father Mark Berenson Reads a Statement She Released from Prison

Today marks the 10th anniversary of the arrest of U.S. citizen Lori Berenson in Peru. She was convicted in 1995 in Peru by hooded military judges of collaborating with the rebel group MRTA. After 10 years in prison, her father, Mark Berenson, reads a statement Lori released from her cell. She is scheduled to be released in 2015. [includes rush transcript]

On the same topic as the first Democracy Now! Headline noted above, Krista e-mails to note "Supreme Court Cases Impact Access to Abortion Services" (NOW):

Today the U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments in the first abortion rights cases since Chief Justice John Roberts took the helm. Two cases-- Scheidler v. National Organization for Women and Operation Rescue v. National Organization for Women -- could have a lasting impact on women's ability to access a full range of reproductive health services. The third, Ayotte v. Planned Parenthood of Northern New England, could permit more barriers to abortion services, without making an exception for women's health.

"Women's access to abortion and other reproductive health care is at great risk," said NOW President Kim Gandy. "Time and again, our fate is put in the hands of nine justices. With the decisions on these critical cases, the power and consequence of who sits on the Supreme Court will be demonstrated mightily."

After nearly 20 years of litigation and two trips to the Supreme Court to protect patients and clinics from organized violence, NOW is returning for the third time. At question in Scheidler v. NOW and Operation Rescue v. NOW is whether the nationwide anti-racketeering injunction will remain in place. Issued in 1999, this injunction has contributed to the dramatic reduction in the incidences of violence at clinics.

"Without this injunction, the legal right to abortion could become meaningless in some parts of the country," said Gandy. "If women are too terrified to walk into clinics and healthcare providers are too terrified to keep their doors open, then we will have already lost the fight for reproductive freedom. Roe v. Wade won't mean much if the clinics have been forced to close one by one."

Ruth notes Norman Solomon's "Colin Powell: Always Willing to Let Someone Else Deliver the Bad News" (CounterPunch):

So Wilkerson, who was Powell's chief of staff from 2002 till early this year, has started to "wonder" whether the intelligence was spun, politicized, cherry-picked. At the end of November 2005, he was "beginning" to have "concerns."

"Beginning to have my concerns" is a phrase that aptly describes the Colin Powell approach.

Overall, appearances remain key. And so, Wilkerson included this anecdote in his AP interview: "Powell raised frequent and loud objections, his former aide said, once yelling into a telephone at Rumsfeld: 'Donald, don't you understand what you are doing to our image?'"

Now there's a transcendent reason to begin to have concerns: Torturing prisoners is bad for "our image."

Rest assured that if the war had gone well by Washington's lights, we'd be hearing none of this from Powell's surrogate. The war has gone bad, from elite vantage points, not because of the official lies and the unrelenting carnage but because military victory has eluded the U.S. government in Iraq. And with President Bush's poll numbers tanking, and Dick Cheney's even worse, it's time for some "moderate" sharks to carefully circle for some score-settling and preening.

In its account of Wilkerson's BBC appearance, the British Guardian newspaper reported Wednesday: "Asked whether the vice president was guilty of a war crime, Mr. Wilkerson replied: 'Well, that's an interesting question -- it was certainly a domestic crime to advocate terror and I would suspect that it is ... an international crime as well.' In the context of other remarks it appeared he was using the word 'terror' to apply to the systematic abuse of prisoners."

Strong stuff, especially since it's obvious that Wilkerson is channeling Powell with those statements. But Powell was a team player and a very effective front man for the administration that was doing all that politicizing and cherry-picking -- and then proceeding with the policies that Wilkerson now seeks to pin on Cheney as possible war crimes.

Ruth also notes that tomorrow is the FIRST THURSDAY OF THE MONTH. Point? CCP airs the first Thursday of every month on Pacifica Radio's WBAI. (Starts at eleven a.m. eastern standard time, tomorrow, Thursday.) CCP is original comedy programming created for radio.

Heath e-mails to note Katrina vanden Heuvel's "Doing Time" (Editor's Cut, The Nation):

Republicans may want to reconsider their current efforts to curtail habeas corpus, since it looks like they are intent on taking over yet another branch of government, the federal prison population. Leading the GOP charge is San Diego Republican Congressman, Randy "Duke" Cunningham, who pled guilty Monday to charges of bribery, fraud, and tax evasion. Duke says he plans to make amends. He'd be better off planning how he's going to make friends with his cellmate.

Who that might be is the question buzzing around DC since former DeLay aide and lobbyist Michael Scanlon's plea deal. Federal prosecutors are charging that Scanlon and Jack Abramoff provided a stream of bribes to Republican Congressman Robert Ney of Ohio and members of his staff, including a "lavish Scotland golf trip in 2002," in return for legislation that favored their lobbying clients. Ney says he was duped. Let's hope he's not as gullible in prison.

Skip wonders how much attention the Climate Conference in Montreal is getting in the US? He e-mails to note Amitabh Pal's "Bush's head-in-the-sand posture on global warming" (Amitabh Pal's Weekly Column, The Progressive):

A major international conference on global warming is taking place in Montreal, and the Bush Administration is its usual intransigent self.

The United States has announced that "it would resist" a Canadian proposal to bring about an agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, says the BBC.

At some level, this is not surprising. After all, the Bush Administration infamously abandoned the Kyoto agreement at the start of its tenure, and has been resolutely pigheaded about global warming since then.

In the first year of the Bush presidency, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, an organization set up by the World Meteorological Association and the United Nations Environment Programme and comprised of hundreds of scientists from around the globe, came out with a report confirming the adverse effects of global warming. The report, building on earlier studies, stated that global warming was indeed occurring, caused by human activities, and that it would lead to consequences such as a rise in sea levels.

But the Republican response in the face of this international consensus has been steadfast denial.

In the Democracy Now! Headlines at the top, Sabina noted Al Jazeera. Further information on that topic can be found in Danny Schechter's "Bush and Bomb Threats" (

Khanfar says the release of the memo is in the public interest: "Al Jazeera is not just a TV station. It has become something people are very attached to. People are angry."

Al Jazeera staffers have created "Don't Bomb Us" blog , where they're posting a growing list of outlets which pledge they will publish the secret memo if they get their hands on it.

Last week, Britain's chief legal officer Lord Goldsmith issued a stern warning to national newspapers not to reveal the contents of the secret memo, lest they be charged with violating the Official Secrets Act. On Monday, he appeared to be backing away from the warning, saying: "I wasn't seeking to gag newspapers; what I said to newspapers was you need to take legal advice."

And yesterday, a British official and another man appeared in court after being charged under the Official Secrets Act with leaking the document, which was reportedly sent to the office of a member of Parliament. The official, David Keogh, a former cabinet office communications officer, was arrested along with Leo O' Connor, a former parliamentary researcher, in April 2004, but only charged on Nov. 17 this year. The circumstances surrounding these charges raise many questions. As BBC Newsnight asked: "... how can the case proceed when defense lawyers haven't seen the memo? And why did it take the government so long to decide to prosecute?"

The press in the U.K. and the rest of the world is covering the story about Bush's alleged threat, but, like many stories embarrassing to the Bush administration, the threat has only played briefly, if at all, in most U.S. outlets, despite the fact that President Bush is the main protagonist.

The media treatment of the shocking allegation is one more chapter in the great gap that persists between the "all about us" coverage of Iraq by the U.S. media and the reporting in the rest of the world. Much of the U.S. media downplayed the story of the bombing threat after first ridiculing it as a "joke"--intimating that if the comment had been made at all, it wasn't intended to be taken seriously. But how will the world know whether or not Bush was joking if the media won't even investigate the memo? It remains to be seen if U.S. media outlets will return to this and many other unanswered questions about the allegation. Surely, such a hot-button issue that has inflamed antagonisms in the world--and the world of media--deserves more investigation and outrage.

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