Thursday, December 01, 2005

Democracy Now: Sami Rasuli, Arun Gupta, Jose Serrano; Margaret Kimberley, Robert Parry, Danny Schechter

Dec. 1st Marks 25th Anniversary of World AIDS Day
And today marks the 25th anniversary of World AIDS day. Since 1981, AIDS has claimed the lives of more than an estimated 20 million people. In the United States alone, an estimated 1 million Americans are now living with HIV, with at least 35,000 new infections occurring a year. In the southern African country of Malawi, UNICEF estimates over half a million children have lost at least one parent to AIDS. In India, at least 4.5 million people live with HIV, the most in any country outside of South Africa.

Pelosi Backs Murtha Call for Withdrawal
Calls for a troop withdrawal have been bolstered by the stance taken by hawkish Democratic Congressman John Murtha. On Wednesday, Democratic minority leader Nancy Pelosi became the first congressional leader to endorse Congressman Murtha's position. Pelosi and other top Democrats had initially distanced themselves from Murtha's call to end the deployment in Iraq to and maintain rapid reaction force in the region. But Pelosi told the Washington Post: "clearly a majority of the [Democratic] caucus supports Mr. Murtha" in his call to withdraw U.S. troops from Iraq.

California Supreme Court Rejects Bid to Reopen Tookie Williams Case
Less than two weeks before his scheduled execution, the California Supreme Court has rejected a motion to reopen the case of death row prisoner Stanley Tookie Williams. Defense lawyers argued questionable forensic testing and other errors could have led to Williams' wrongful conviction. Since his imprisonment in 1981, Williams has become a leading advocate against gang violence and has been nominated several times for the Nobel Peace Prize. Williams is scheduled to die by lethal injection December 13th. California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger will hold a clemency hearing on Williams' case next week. On Wednesday, Schwarzenegger said: "What I want to do is make sure we make the right decisions, because we're dealing here with a person's life."

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

Headlines for December 1, 2005

- Bush Launches "National Strategy for Victory in Iraq"
- Pelosi Backs Murtha Call for Withdrawal
- CA Supreme Court Rejects Bid to Reopen Tookie Williams Case
- Alito Sought to Undo Roe v. Wade
- Peres Leaves Labour Party to Back Sharon
- Ethiopian Opposition Leaders Launch Hunger Strike
- Dec. 1st Marks 25th Anniversary of World AIDS Day

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

Iraqi-American Member of Muslim Peacemaker Team Speaks Out for Four Kidnapped Colleagues
As a group of influential Sunni scholars in Iraq calls for the release of four kidnapped aid workers of the Christian Peacemakers Team, we go to Najaf to speak with Sami Rasuli, an Iraqi American who is a member of the Muslim Peacemaker Team that was founded in conjunction with the CPT.

Is the U.S. Training Iraqi Death Squads to Fight the Insurgency?
In what the White House billed as a major policy address, President Bush outlined the administration's Iraq war strategy. Bush again linked a withdrawal of U.S. troops to improvements in the capability of Iraqi security forces. We speak with independent journalist Arun Gupta about the presence Iraqi death squads and the U.S. training of Iraqi security forces.

[Note this from Amy Goodman's introduction:
While the story only recently made front-page news, it actually first appeared in the press over six months ago. Investigative journalist Arun Gupta was one of the first to report on the presence of death squads in Iraq back in April of this year. We interviewed him at the time, he joins us again in our firehouse studios. Arun is an editor with New York City Independent Media Center's newspaper, The Indypendent.

  • Arun Gupta, investigative journalist who writes frequently for Z Magazine, Left Turn and the Indypendent newspaper in New York. He is an editor at the Indypendent and a former editor at the Guardian weekly in New York.

Note it why? Because it was news long before the New York Times discovered it this week. If your primary news source was Democracy Now!, or even if it was your only news source, this story wasn't a surprise to you. So give credit to Democracy Now! -- and Arun Gupta -- for being there when others were more interested in covering "colic might be curable by tea, massage or everything! And 'For One Student, A College Career Becomes a Career!'".]

Rep. Jose Serrano: One of Three Congressmembers to Vote for Immediate U.S. Troop Withdrawal from Iraq, One of Two to Accept Venezuelan President Chavez' Offer of Cheap Oil to Poor U.S. Communities
We speak with Rep. Jose Serrano (D - NY), one of only three Congressmembers out of more than 400 who voted for an immediate withdrawal of US troops from Iraq. He's also one of the two to take up an offer by Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez for cheap oil here in the United States.

50th Anniversary of Montgomery Bus Boycott
Today marks the 50th anniversary of the start of the Montgomery Bus Boycott. Civil rights pioneer Rosa Parks was arrested December 1st, 1955, for violating segregation laws when she refused to give up her seat on a city bus to a white man. The move sparked a one-year boycott in Montgomery, Alabama. We hear some of the voices of people who were outside Parks' memorial in Washington DC last month.

It's Thursday which means, as Keesha notes in her e-mail, Margaret Kimberley's latest, "Republican Sex Freaks" (Freedom Rider, The Black Commentator):

What would the corporate media say if a powerful Democrat wrote a novel about children having sex with animals? Thanks to that party's incompetence there aren't any powerful Dems these days, but we can imagine the outcry. Fox News would have a week long expose on Democratic depravity. Potentate pundits would lament the Democrats inability to connect with Christians in the heartland.

Lewis Libby was until recently a very powerful Republican. He was Vice President Cheney's chief of staff until he was indicted for obstructing justice and lying to a grand jury. He also fantasizes about little girls and bears.

In his novel, The Apprentice, Libby imagined a caged bear having sex with children.

"At age ten the madam put the child in a cage with a bear trained to couple with young girls so the girls would be frigid and not fall in love with their patrons. They fed her through the bars and aroused the bear with a stick when it seemed to lose interest."

Libby is obviously a freak. Only a freak would be able to imagine girls and bears and then put pen to paper and write about it. Libby is clearly a sick, depraved man who shouldn't be trusted around children, or bears either for that matter. It isn't surprising that people who fantasizes about a combination of bestiality and pedophilia are also intent on waging an endless war on the rest of the planet and another war on the dispossessed here at home.

Let's stay with The Black Commentator for another highlight (noted by Carl; and remember The Black Commentator publishes it's weekly edition each Thursday), Glen Ford and Peter Gamble's "Obama Mouths Mush on War:"

U.S. Senator Barack Obama has planted his feet deeply inside the Iraq war-prolongation camp of the Democratic Party, the great swamp that, if not drained, will swallow up any hope of victory over the GOP in next year's congressional elections. In a masterpiece of double-speak before the prestigious Council on Foreign Relations, November 22, the Black Illinois lawmaker managed to out-mush-mouth Sen. John Kerry - a prodigious feat, indeed.

Obama's speech had the Democratic Leadership Council's (DLC) brand stamped all over it. Triangulating expertly, Obama first praised the war record of Rep. John Murtha (D-PA), who has called for immediate steps towards U.S. military redeployment out of Iraq, hopefully in six months, then dismissed both Murtha's bill and any hint of "timetables" for withdrawal. In essence, all Obama wants from the Bush regime is that it fess up to having launched the war based on false information, and to henceforth come clean with the Senate on how it plans to proceed in the future. Those Democrats who want to dwell on the past -- the actual genesis and rationale for the war, and the real reasons for its continuation -- should be quite.

Both sides are wrong, says Obama -- deploying the classic triangulation device -- for engaging in a "war of talking points" -- "one I am not interested in joining." Then Obama positions himself above the fray:

"Iraq was a major issue in last year's election. But that election is now over. We need to stop the campaign."

Americans want a "pragmatic solution to the real war we're facing in Iraq."

According to Webster, the term "pragmatic" means "practical as opposed to idealistic." Here is what Obama contends is a practical solution to what ails U.S. policy in Iraq:

"The President could take the politics out of Iraq once and for all if he would simply go on television and say to the American people 'Yes, we made mistakes. Yes, there are things I would have done differently. But now that we're here, I am willing to work with both Republicans and Democrats to find the most responsible way out.'"

It's not hard to satisfy Sen. Obama. If Bush would just stop repeating his lies to cover the fact that the Iraq war was premeditated, on the front-burner since his administration came to power, and therefore a crime against peace, well, we could all pretend like nothing criminal had happened - and was still happening.

Also noting commentary on the war is Bonita who steers us towards Robert Parry's "Bush in Iraq, Slouching Toward Genocide" (Consortium News):

Despite pretty words about democracy and freedom, George W. Bush's "victory" plan in Iraq is starting to look increasingly like an invitation to genocide, the systematic destruction of the Sunni minority for resisting its U.S.-induced transformation from the nation's ruling elite into second-class citizenship.

The Sunnis, an Islamic sect that makes up about 35 percent of Iraq's 26 million people, are being confronted with a stark choice, either accept subordination to the less-educated Shiite majority or face the devastation of Sunni neighborhoods, the imprisonment of many Sunni males and the deaths of large numbers of the Sunni population.

In referring to this possibility, many in Washington object to the word "genocide" -- which is defined in international law as the destruction of “in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group" -- but already there are troubling signs that Iraq's incipient civil war could slide into something close to that.

Retaliating against Sunni bombings and other attacks on Shiite targets over the past two years, Iraq's Shiite-controlled security forces have begun rounding up, torturing and executing Sunni men.

[. . .]

In November, a secret bunker -- where Sunni captives were mistreated and apparently tortured -- was discovered in an Interior Ministry building in Baghdad. The Shiite-dominated government has denied responsibility for the abuses and the murders.

But human rights groups and other investigators have blamed many of the Sunni killings on the Badr Brigade, an Iranian-backed Shiite militia associated with a leading element of the Iraqi government, the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq. The Council has close ties to the fundamentalist Shiite government of Iran.

'Death Squads'

U.S. officials also acknowledge that hard-line Shiite militiamen, who have penetrated the government's security forces, are operating "death squads" to terrorize Sunnis.

The killings and disappearances are reminiscent of the bloodshed in Central America in the 1980s when right-wing regimes in Guatemala and El Salvador unleashed security forces to round up, torture and kill suspected leftists.

That violence, however, was primarily defined by political ideology, rather than race, religion or ethnicity. An exception was the slaughtering of a Mayan Indian tribe in the Guatemalan highlands as part of a military scorched-earth campaign that later was investigated by a truth commission and denounced as "genocide." [For details about Ronald Reagan's tolerance of these atrocities, see Robert Parry's Lost History.]

In Iraq, the religious component of the nation's incipient civil war is already apparent, although Bush often has presented the Iraqi conflict to the American people as a war largely between foreign Islamic "terrorists" and freedom-loving Iraqis.

Susan notes that "so much is going on this month." She suggests Kim Gandy's "NOW Goes to Court" (Below the Belt, NOW) which notes a number of issues:

Mmmmm, I love this time of year. I had a long weekend with my family, and hope you took some time off to enjoy the season.

Pumpkin pies, stuffing, mashed potatoes . . . and a government full of turkeys.

Just for starters, the Army was trying to quietly create a database to collect personal and private medical information on everyone involved in a sexual assault complaint -- including the victim -- until we swung into action and flooded them with objections. Stay tuned for the next installment . . . it's looking like this might be a win!

The Bush Administration knows that women are dying around the world because they continue to withhold lifesaving U.S. family planning funds from agencies whose doctors use the agency's locally-raised funds to provide or refer for abortion services. We call it the "global gag rule" because these local agencies are deprived of desperately needed funds unless they agree to gag themselves and prohibit their staff from informing patients about abortion, even if they ask. Charming.

Now they've extended this "gag rule" to HIV funding -- and just to add to the insult, they did it on the eve of World AIDS day. What does this mean for agencies fighting HIV and AIDS internationally? Many of these agencies run maternal and child health clinics (which is the best way to reach women, who are the largest growing population of people with HIV/AIDS) and they will have to give up providing full reproductive health services to pregnant women with HIV or AIDS in order to receiving federal HIV prevention funds. The result is easy to predict: more women and children will die.

Speaking of dastardly deeds, the latest comes from our friends in the abstinence-only movement. They're opposing the new cervical cancer vaccine, which, in the U.S. alone, is expected to eliminate 80% of all deaths from cervical cancer. Why would they oppose it? Surely you've guessed: it's because the vaccine works by preventing the two deadliest strains of HPV (human papillomavirus), which are transmitted primarily by sexual contact. Still not clear? If there isn't a potentially deadly consequence to having sex, then surely young women will do it wantonly. You can't make this up.

World AIDS day is today. (And thanks to Billie for e-mailing the highlight we used in an entry earlier this morning.) At News Dissector, Danny Schechter's got a plethora of information.
Besides writing on the topic, Danny will be taking part in an event in NYC:

Later this evening, I will be moderating a discussion on Aids in India. Please come if you can for an informative discussion at the Rubin Museum of Art at 17th Street and Seventh Avenue in Chelsea at 6:30. You won't regret it. The event is co-sponsored by the Museum, the South Asia Journalists Association and

For some background:

On Anti-Aids organizing in India:

How Aids is spread in India?

Martha gave a heads up to this and note that I've italicized "Aids in India" because Martha wondered whether the event was "in India." It's in NYC.

I'll note Kofi Annan's "Message On World AIDS Day" (United Nations):

In the course of the past decade, the world has made considerable progress in the fight against AIDS. It has also made considerable promises. The time has come to keep them. And I believe we can.

Today, we have about eight billion dollars available for AIDS efforts in developing countries annually -- compared to 300 million dollars a decade ago.

Today, the national AIDS response in some 40 countries is led by Heads of State or Government themselves, or their deputies.

Today, AIDS is a familiar item for discussion in the General Assembly and the Security Council.

We see new signs of progress in almost every region of the world.

We have real evidence that AIDS is a problem with a solution.

We have a clear plan of action to halt and reverse the spread of AIDS.

At the World Summit held at the United Nations in September 2005, leaders pledged to fully implement the Declaration of Commitment of HIV/AIDS adopted in 2001, by scaling up efforts for prevention, treatment, care and support so that every person, without exception, has access to these life-saving programmes. Next year, we will review progress so far in implementing the Declaration.

So this is a time to concentrate our minds. It is a time to recognize that although our response so far has succeeded in some of the particulars, it has yet to match the epidemic in scale. It is a time to admit that if we are to reach the Millennium Development Goal of halting and beginning to reverse the spread of AIDS by 2015, then we must do far, far more. That mission concerns every one of us. For halting the spread of AIDS is not only a Millennium Development Goal in itself; it is a prerequisite for reaching most of the others.

Today, let us make clear this is a time to keep the promise. On this World AIDS Day, I ask all of you to join me in that mission.

Lastly, a number of e-mails came in regarding Dexter Filkins & John F. Burns' "For Once, President and His Generals See the Same War" in the New York Times this morning. All want to know why no comment? I can imagine few things worse in the morning than having to read through Dexy's "reporting" (his "award winning" "reporting").

What do I think of the article after reading it? I think it's a real shame that Burns' attached his once formidable name to this nonsense. They do not "see the same war," the Bully Boy and the generals (note that I didn't say "his"). That flies in the face of not only logic but public record. (See Seymour Hersh's" Up In The Air: Where is the Iraq war headed next?" in The New Yorker to name the most recent example.) Sunning themselves in the Green Zone, Dexy and Burns think they're on to something. What?

Fakery? It's not reporting. With their team of black t-shirt clad bodyguards escorting them through the Green Zone (Dexy reportedly still packs his own heat), hiding behind stringers who risk their lives (and may get a brief obit if they die, otherwise they'll get nothing but "end credits"), they lie to readers each and every day. LIE.

That's the only word for it since no article notes "We're trapped in the Green Zone! We can't leave without a military escort!" That's they're choice, they chose to be embedded in the Green Zone from day one. So tell the truth already. Quit letting readers think that you're traveling through Iraq when you're hiding in the safety of the Green Zone that's not so safe now and supposedly is about to get a great deal less safe.

The Green Zone section of Baghdad is in danger of being lost. One of the few areas the American military controlled. And safe from the Green Zone, the embedded reporters have never told you how out of control other areas in Iraq are. If Americans had known a year ago, two, that "reporters" "in Iraq" for the mainstream media were Green Zone confined and why, it would be a lot harder for Bully Boy to spin Operation Happy Talk.

Today Dexter Filkins and John F. Burns disgrace themselves and their profession yet again by carrying water for the administration, pretending to be journalists who do more than report from their hotels in the Green Zone (a sub-section of Baghdad, they can't even roam through Baghdad freely) and spinning wildly even though public record refutes their nonsense.

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