Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Democracy Now: Tony Lagouranis; Andrew Buncombe, Solomon Hughes, Noam Chomsky,

Leading Native American Writer, Vine Deloria Jr., 72, Dies
And the influential Native American writer, philosopher, scholar and activist Vine Deloria Jr. has died at the age of 72. He was the author of many books including "Custer Died for Your Sins: An Indian Manifesto" and "God is Red." He was one of the most prolific and influential scholars of the twentieth century on American Indian law and policy, history and philosophy. He was also respected as an advocate for indigenous peoples' rights around the world. Deloria's political writings in the 1960s sounded a rallying call for Native American sovereignty and self-determination at a time when the American Indian Movement was emerging. Wilma Mankiller, the former Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation, said of Deloria, "He has been our ranking scholar and intellectual light for all of those years."

Palestinians Given Control Over Gaza Border w/ Egypt
U.S. Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice has announced Israel has agreed to allow Palestinians to reopen the border between the Gaza town of Rafah and Egypt. The Rafah terminal is the only land crossing between Gaza and the rest of the world that bypasses Israel. According to the Israeli newspaper Haqaretz this will mark the first time Palestinians will have control over the border. In return Israel is planning to set up video surveillance to allow it to monitor all movement along the crossing. The agreement came just a day after Middle East envoy James Wolfensohn warned Israel's border policies were turning Gaza into a "giant prison." As part of the agreement Israel will also permit the export of all Palestinian agricultural products from Gaza during the upcoming harvest.

Report: CIA Used Spanish Airports for Secret Flights
The Spanish newspaper El Pais is reporting that CIA planes made at least 10 secret stopovers inside the country while transporting detainees. The secret stops occurred at airports in Spain's Baleaic islands. Spain's opposition party - the United Left Party - has called on the country's interior Minister to explain the use of Spanish airports for what it describes as the CIA's "plane-prisons." Another Spanish newspaper -- Diario de Mallorca - reports that a CIA plane that took off from the Spanish island of Mallorca was involved in the alleged CIA kidnapping of a Lebanese-born German who says he was snatched up in Macedonia and then transported to Afghanistan. The man - who has since been released - claims that in Afghanistan he was shackled, beaten, injected with drugs and questioned persistently about his alleged links with al-Qaida. A number of probes are underway in Europe over covert CIA operations there. The Italian and German governments are both investigating allegations that the CIA has kidnapped individuals within their borders. Italy is seeking the extradition of 22 CIA agents for the involvement in one such kidnapping. The Washington Post also recently reported that the CIA has two secret prisons in Eastern Europe countries.

Chalabi Meets With Cheney and Rumsfeld in DC
The controversial former Iraqi exile leader Ahmad Chalabi met with Vice President Dick Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld in Washington on Monday. Before the Iraq invasion, Chalabi was a close ally to the U.S. neoconservatives and the Pentagon. The meetings took place even though the FBI is investigating Chalabi for passing U.S. secrets to Iran. Last week Chalabi also met with Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice.

The above four items are from today's Democracy Now! Headlines and were selected by Mia, Ben, Francisco and Lyle. Democracy Now! ("always worth watching," as Marcia says):

Headlines for November 15, 2005

- Alito: "The Constitution Does Not Protect A Right To An Abortion"
- Senators Reach Compromise on Guantanamo Detainees
- FDA Rejected Sale of Morning After Pill Prior to Scientific Review
- Report: CIA Used Spanish Airports for Secret Flights
- Palestinians Given Control Over Gaza Border w/ Egypt
- Chalabi Meets With Cheney and Rumsfeld in DC
- U.S. & Brazilian Governments Sued Over Killings in Haiti
- Leading Native American Writer, Vine Deloria Jr., 72, Dies

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

Former U.S. Army Interrogator Describes the Harsh Techniques He Used in Iraq, Detainee Abuse by Marines and Navy Seals and Why "Torture is the Worst Possible Thing We Could Do"

With deep remorse, former U.S. Army interrogator Specialist Tony Lagouranis talks about his own involvement with abusing detainees in Iraq and torture carried out by the Navy Seals. He apologizes to the Iraqi people and urges U.S. soldiers to follow their conscience. Lagouranis returned from Iraq in January and until now had given no live interviews. But Lagouranis says he now feels it his duty to speak out about what he witnessed in Iraq:
  • His use of harsh interrogation techniques on prisoners in Iraq including dogs, sleep deprivation, prolonged isolation and dietary manipulation.
  • How Navy SEALS induced hypothermia by using ice water to lower the body temperature of prisoners.
  • Serving in Fallujah and going through the clothes and pockets of some 500 dead bodies to try and identify them.
  • The corpses on men, women and children in Fallujah, which had been lying in the streets for days and had been "eaten by dogs and birds and maggots," were then stacked up in a warehouse where U.S. soldiers ate and slept.

Pru e-mails to note Andrew Buncombe and Solomon Hughes' "The fog of war: white phosphorus, Fallujah and some burning questions" (The Independent of London):

The controversy has raged for 12 months. Ever since last November, when US forces battled to clear Fallujah of insurgents, there have been repeated claims that troops used "unusual" weapons in the assault that all but flattened the Iraqi city. Specifically, controversy has focussed on white phosphorus shells (WP) - an incendiary weapon usually used to obscure troop movements but which can equally be deployed as an offensive weapon against an enemy. The use of such incendiary weapons against civilian targets is banned by international treaty.
The debate was reignited last week when an Italian documentary claimed Iraqi civilians - including women and children - had been killed by terrible burns caused by WP. The documentary, Fallujah: the Hidden Massacre, by the state broadcaster RAI, cited one Fallujah human-rights campaigner who reported how residents told how "a rain of fire fell on the city". Yesterday, demonstrators organised by the Italian communist newspaper, Liberazione, protested outside the US Embassy in Rome. Today, another protest is planned for the US Consulate in Milan. "The 'war on terrorism' is terrorism," one of the newspaper's commentators declared.
The claims contained in the RAI documentary have met with a strident official response from the US, as well as from right-wing commentators and bloggers who have questioned the film's evidence and sought to undermine its central allegations.
While military experts have supported some of these criticisms, an examination by The Independent of the available evidence suggests the following: that WP shells were fired at insurgents, that reports from the battleground suggest troops firing these WP shells did not always know who they were hitting and that there remain widespread reports of civilians suffering extensive burn injuries. While US commanders insist they always strive to avoid civilian casualties, the story of the battle of Fallujah highlights the intrinsic difficulty of such an endeavour.
It is also clear that elements within the US government have been putting out incorrect information about the battle of Fallujah, making it harder to assesses the truth. Some within the US government have previously issued disingenuous statements about the use in Iraq of another controversial incendiary weapon - napalm.

Molly e-mails to note Noam Chomsky's "Evolution, Ecology and 'Malignant Design" (Toronto Star via Common Dreams):

President George W. Bush favors teaching both evolution and "intelligent design" in schools, "so people can know what the debate is about."
To proponents, intelligent design is the notion that the universe is too complex to have developed without a nudge from a higher power than evolution or natural selection.
To detractors, intelligent design is creationism -- the literal interpretation of the Book of Genesis -- in a thin guise, or simply vacuous, about as interesting as "I don't understand" as has always been true in the sciences before understanding is reached.
Accordingly, there cannot be a "debate."
The teaching of evolution has long been difficult in the United States. Now, a national movement has emerged to promote the teaching of intelligent design in schools.
The issue has famously surfaced in a courtroom in Dover, Pa., where a school board is requiring students to hear a statement about intelligent design in a biology class -- and parents mindful of the U.S. Constitution's church/state separation have sued the board.
In the interest of fairness, perhaps the president's speechwriters should take him seriously when they have him say that schools should be open-minded and teach all points of view.
So far, however, the curriculum has not encompassed one obvious point of view: malignant design. Unlike intelligent design, for which the evidence is zero, malignant design has tons of empirical evidence, much more than Darwinian evolution, by some criteria: the world's cruelty.
Be that as it may, the background of the current evolution/intelligent design controversy is the widespread rejection of science, a phenomenon with deep roots in American history that has been cynically exploited for narrow political gain during the last 25 years.
Intelligent design raises the question of whether it is intelligent to disregard scientific evidence about matters of supreme importance to the nation and the world — like global warming.

Brenda e-mails to note J. Spacey's "What the giddiness over the Democrat's victory in Virginia signifies" (Richmond IMC):

Since election day, Lt. Governor Tim Kaine's election as governor of Virginia has been touted as a bellweather for the coming year's national Congressional elections. According to Democrats, a Democratic tsunami is on the way now that they have found the right religious key in which to sing and woo... the Christian conservatives!

Nationally, Republicans should be a little nervous, because a conservative Southern Democrat on the 2008 ticket will quite possibly win. Northern VA Republicans should be very nervous, because that region of this state defected from them, even in their suburban strongholds. Progressives ought to be the most concerned, however, because this "bellweather" could be signaling a more extensive rightward shift than they realize.

Instead of appropriate criticism of the victory, however, Progressives relief and giddy glory in "defeating" the Republicans is so strong that there's quite a lot of arm-twisting designed to get everyone on board with the program. The scowls are notable. An example is "Media Matters." Online (mediamatters.org/items/200511110008) Media Matters has been soliciting emails to denounce NPR for perpetuating "Republican spin" when commentators rightly point out that Tim Kaine is quite conservative. But Media Matters' assertion that Kaine is not conservative on abortion and other issues flies in the face of Kaine's own statements.

Those who think it was "smart growth" or education or some other liberal proposal that put Kaine over the top are mistaken. As are those who think Kaine's relationship with popular Governor Mark Warner drove the outcome. These interpretations obscure what really rang the bell: Kaine did not just talk religion. He talked conservative cultural politics while talking religion. And he did not just "neutralize" conservative charges, he embraced conservative positions and rhetoric enough to win conservative votes.

Kaine was honest. He is not a liberation Christian. By any national standard he's a conservative. You might think that does not matter since he only ran for Virginia office, but the Democratic National Committee (DNC) thinks it matters and they're thinking of this outcome as a sucessful test run for national strategy.

The Virginia governor's race was an experiment, partly, of the DNC. They seized the opportunity to test a new kind of candidate: a Christian conservative willing to run as a Democrat. That does not happen often and so the DNC pumped large amounts of cash and consultants into our little state of 7 million people, helping to make this the most expensive statewide election in VA history. Yeah democracy.

Howard Dean is excited about the national implications. And Kaine himself declared in his victory speach that his candidacy proved reglion did not belong to Republicans alone.

The truth is that what mattered for Kaine's victory was his repeated declaration that he was "prolife." The infamous death penalty ads run by Jerry Kilgore only hurt Kilgore. They did not help Kaine. What helped Kaine was less his response that he would "enforce the law" (the death penalty) than his use of that term "prolife." It was a page from George W. Bush's manual on political rhetoric. Kaine signaled to a broad and very conservative but populist constituency just how profoundly he supports "common sense" restrictions on the right to choose, which in my book means he IS anti-choice.

And Kaine's message resonated: on October 30 the Newport News Daily Press reported a Mason-Dixon poll. When asked which candidate would better handle issues related to abortion, Republican Jerry Kilgore and Democrat Tim Kaine each got 34 percent. And twenty-four percent of the *pro-life* electorate said they supported Kaine.

Small wonder the Virginia chapter of NARAL Pro-Choice America did not endorse any one this year. Small wonder their cited reason was a lack of support for abortion rights from both major-party candidates.

Dominick e-mails to note Harry Browne's "Another Mistrial in Irish Ploughshares Case" (CounterPunch):

The Irish battle over the use of Shannon Airport as a stopping point for US troops and equipment has turned into a legal war of attrition: for the second time a judge has been forced to collapse the trial of the "Pitstop Ploughshares" because of his own "perceived bias".
The first trial, last March, ended after a week when Judge Frank O'Donnell admitted that some of his comments during the trial could be construed as prejudiced against the defendants. Last week there was a still-more-dramatic twist when, after two weeks and with the re-trial nearly over, defence lawyers alleged that Judge Donagh McDonagh had attended an event with George Bush in 1995, was a guest at his inauguration in 2001, and was invited again to the inauguration this year. The judge admitted the charges were "half right" (he didn't say which half) and discharged the jury.
Ten of thousands of US troops continue to arrive en route to Iraq through County Clare's Shannon Airport, a civilian facility in a supposedly neutral country. (Ireland is not a NATO member.) The airport has also hosted stopovers by aircraft involved in the "extraordinary rendition" of people for torture in third countries or in Guantanamo.
Five members of the Catholic Worker movement, Deirdre Clancy, Karen Fallon, Nuin Dunlop, Damien Moran and Ciaron O'Reilly, were arrested at the airport in the early hours of February 3rd, 2003, after they had attacked a US Navy C40 with hammers and a pickaxe, disabling it for several months. They initially spent up to three months in jail as the Irish authorities tried to impose vicious bail conditions. The conditions, in the end, were strict enough: for much of the last 33 months they have been forced to stay out of Clare and appear every day at police stations. Bemused cops told them that signing-on regime was usually reserved for alleged murderers.
Now two trials for "criminal damage without lawful excuse" have collapsed because of judges' behaviour and background, and the defendants (who could face years in prison if convicted) wonder whether they can get a fair trial. Supporters ask whether it makes any sense to continue prosecuting them: a few left-leaning members of the Irish parliament have called for charges to be dropped.
Although these are jury trials, judges are crucial to their outcome, as the eventual conviction of Mary Kelly on similar charges shows. (Kelly got a suspended sentence.) That's because it turns on the interpretation of the law as it relates to "lawful excuse". According to defence arguments, the law gives scope to defendants to argue that they had a "lawful excuse" to damage property in the subjective "honest belief" that they were protecting lives or property. Which of course is exactly what they believed.

Gareth e-mails to note Ben Bain's "Washington under fire from 9/11 commissioners" (The Financial Times):

The US commission that investigated the attacks of September 11 2001 warned yesterday that the government was failing to move quickly to isolate terrorist groups and discourage weapons proliferation.
[. . .]
The report also raises concerns over the US's image in Muslim countries.
Noting that public approval ratings of the US remained at or near all-time lows throughout the Middle East, the commissioners emphasised the importance of public diplomacy. However, despite efforts to beef-up international broadcasting and the appointment of Karen Hughes as a new public diplomacy czar, the report card only gave "minimal progress" to efforts in defining the US message.
Much of the problem, it said, related to the treatment of detainees. Detainee abuse at Abu-Ghraib, Guantánamo Bay and resistance to following the Geneva Conventions on prisoner treatment only damaged America's reputation as a moral leader and made it harder to build diplomatic, political and military ­alliances.

Braden e-mails to note Ryan McIIvain's "Prof Calls for 9/11 investigation" (Brigham Young NewsNet):

BYU Physics Professor Steven E. Jones doesn't look like a conspiracy theorist. Sitting in his office in the Eyring Science Center, he's wearing a button-up shirt, dress slacks, matching socks. He's soft-spoken, polite -- the picture of the mild-mannered professor.
What's more, Jones doesn't sound like a conspiracy theorist. He won't try to tell you about second gunmen on grassy knolls or trick photography with the Apollo 11 mission. Nothing like that has really swayed him before.
But now, what he will try to tell you, in his quiet, confident way, is that official explanations of what happened on Sept. 11 -- that the World Trade Center buildings collapsed from damage and superheated fires -- are shaky, if not unscientific.
"It just does not add up," says Jones, referring specifically to the 47-story building known as WTC 7. "It doesn't add up that this [collapse] was caused by planes hitting the other buildings."
Jones, who studies fusion and solar energy at BYU, has lately turned his attention to Sept. 11 research and has turned more than a few heads in the process.
In a paper posted online Tuesday, Jones suggests that "pre-positioned explosives," not planes, were what brought down the three World Trade Center buildings -- the two Twin Towers and WTC 7. Jones' article, which has been accepted for peer-reviewed publication next year, can be found at www.physics.byu.edu/research/energy/htm7.html.

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