Saturday, December 31, 2005

Other Items

Before we dive into the New York Times (and warning, no head first diving, it's a very shallow pool) this morning, let's first note three items from yesterday's Democracy Now! Headlines that were selected by Lily, Micah and Eli.

Secret Prisons, Renditions Enacted Under Broad CIA Program
The Washington Post is reporting new details of the covert CIA program enacted shortly after 9/11 by the Bush administration. The Post says the program, known by its initials GST, marks the largest CIA covert initiative since the height of the Cold War. It includes a range of controversial programs that have been recently uncovered or subjected to public scrutiny -- including the kidnapping of terror suspects abroad, the maintenance of secret prisons in at least eight foreign countries, the use of interrogation techniques considered illegal under international law, and the operation of a fleet of aircraft to move detainees around the globe.
Powers authorized by President Bush include permitting the CIA to create paramilitary teams to hunt and kill designated individuals anywhere in the world. The Post reports the CIA is working to establish procedures that would allow for the quick cremation of a detainee’s body in the event the detainee dies in custody.
A government official who has been briefed on the program said: "Everything is done in the name of self-defense, so they can do anything because nothing is forbidden in the war powers act. It's an amazing legal justification that allows them to do anything."

Doctor: Jailed Haitian Priest Has Cancer
This news from Haiti -- a US medical doctor has confirmed a colleage’s initial diagnosis that imprisoned Haitian priest Gerard Jean-Juste has cancer. Based on an examination and blood sample he drew from Jean Juste last week, prominent Harvard physician Paul Farmer says Jean-Juste has chronic lymphocytic leukemia. He says the disease is not immediately fatal but can but can develop into a more virulent strain of cancer. Farmer told the Miami Herald: "Father Gerry's in serious trouble if he isn't released from jail for proper work-up in the States.''
Jean-Juste was imprisoned in July on suspicion of involvement in the murder of Haitian journalist Jaques Roches -- a murder that occurred while Jean-Juste was in Miami. He has not been formally charged. Before his arrest, Jean-Juste was considered to be the leading candidate to run for the ousted President Jean-Bertrand Aristide's Family Lavalas party in Haiti's upcoming elections. Amnesty International has called him a "prisoner of conscience." Haiti's interim government has insisted Jean-Juste is in fine condition.

Ex-British Ambassador to Uzbekistan Leaks Torture Documents
This news from Britain -- in a strong defiance of the British government, Craig Murray, the former British ambassador to Uzbekistan, has published confidential documents that show the Foreign Office knowingly obtained information from the Uzbek security forces that was extracted by torture. Murray served as ambassador to Uzbekistan from 2002 to 2004. He was forced out after he openly criticized the British and US governments for supporting human rights abuses under the Uzbek regime.
The documents contain a record of several telegrams Murray sent to his superiors in London during his two years in Uzbekistan. In the telegrams, Murray repeatedly warned that the Uzbek security services were passing on information extracted by torture.
Murray also reveals a legal opinion written by the Foreign Office, which said the British government's reception and possession of information brought about by torture: "does not contain any offence."

Again, the above are from Friday's Democracy Now! and remember that Monday on Democracy Now! part two of their year 2005 review continues. Two of the three items above have some bearing on the paper today. Could be more if the paper weren't so keen on, like those commercials for Sears some time ago, showing their softer side. That must account for Adam Liptak's "So, Guy Walks Up to the Bar, and Scalia Says . . ." which is on the front page. Whenever an article with a similar topic makes the front page of the Times, it might be time for the paper to reconsider being a daily.

Let's deal with Haiti first. Father Jean-Juste was jailed in July. He was not allowed to be a candidate in the upcoming elections because it was decided all candidates must file in person. Jean-Juste remains jail, without charges, almost six months later and those elections? A tiny paragraph on page A8 ("World Briefing") announces that the the January 8th elections have been postponed. This paragraph credited to the Associated Press notes this is the fourth postponement and that no new date has been set. The United States government forced Aristide out. We're still supposed to, officially, pretend that's not the case. It was democracy on the march! Will of the people!

As the vote is postponed for the fourth time, and with the reported acts of violence against those associated with the Lavalos party (not reported in the Times, of course), the Bully Boy administration might have to face tough questioning . . . if we had a working mainstream press.

The item Eli noted from Democracy Now! finally makes it into the Times. What, in a paper that had a sense of a perspective, would be a front page story instead ends up on page A4. Alan Cowell's "Diplomat Says Britain Used Data Gotten by Torture" is fairly straightforward for Cowell (as Pru and James in Brighton both note, with surprise, in their e-mails this morning).

Let's start with the news you can use aspect, the documents are available online. Besides that, what does the Times provide us with that we didn't learn yesterday on Democracy Now!? Not a whole lot. Which might be an argument for the story being buried inside as opposed to front paged. However, this is the paper's first story on the issue and it's more "newsworthy" than Adam Liptak purusing court transcripts to find out where there are indications of laughter in the transcripts. When Howell Raines was editor (executive-editor, the post Bill Keller now holds), he was crucified by many (outside and inside the Times) for running a sociological article on the Britney Spears phenomenon on the front page (of a Sunday edition). Certainly, this Liptak's article is far more embarrassing on the front page today than the article attempting to examine the hysteria around Spears. (Hysteria which has faded, thankfully.) It attempted to put the topic into a sociological perspective, Liptak's article is just a wink and a nod striving so hard to be cute and precious. At best it belongs in the Week in Review on a Sunday. What's the worst we can say about it?

How about this, now that transcripts from the court identify who is speaking from the bench, isn't there something rather shameful that the first time the paper can make use of those documents to provide the public with something of value, they instead think the thing to do is to pour over the transcripts attempting to seek out which Justice got the most laughs?

Back to Cowell's article. Craig Murray is on record speaking to Cowell. The rest of the story revolves around unnamed. "A spokesman for the Foreign Office" tells Cowell that "There is nothing new here."

The most valuable part of Cowell's article (selected by Pru) is the following, from a document written by Murray that's online:

Last year the U.S. gave half a billion dollars in aid to Uzbekistan, about a quarter of it military aid. Bush and Powell repeatedly hail Karimov as a friend and ally. Yet this regime has at least seven thousand prisoners of conscience; it is a one-party state without freedom of speech, without freedom of media, without freedom of movement, without freedom of assembly, without freedom of religion. It practices, systematically, the most hideous tortures on thousands. Most of the population live in conditions precisely analogous with medieval serfdom.

That's from a March 18, 2003 letter by Murray. James in Brighton notes Cowell's own summary of an earlier letter by Murray (one written September 16, 2002):

Mr. Murray said American policy toward President Islam A. Karimov was dictated by the availability of strategic air bases. The State Department gave Uzbekistan a favorable human rights assessment to free up hundreds of millions of dollars in aid, Mr. Murray said.

So remember that a decade or two from now, when the United States government is grumbling about Karimov being a tyrant. Under the Bully Boy, he's been our tyrant.

Susan notes Anne E. Kornblut's "Lobbyist Is Given Deadline To Take Deal or Go to Trial" whcih addresses the government's offer a plea bargain to Jack Abramoff which he must accept or "stand trial in Miami on Jan. 9." Susan wonders if the article is so brief due to the paper's vacation mode?

That's a good question and one that Neil A. Lewis' "Padilla Lawyers Urge Supreme Court to Block Transfer" may also raise. But first, Lewis summarizes the brief filed by Jose Padilla's attornies. From that article, noted by Taylor in an e-mail this morning:

The lawyers acknowledged that Mr. Padilla would prefer to be in civillian custody eventually. But they said it appeared that the only reason for the government's rush to move him was to bolster the administration's efforts to discourage the Supreme Court from reviewing the crucial underlying issue of whether President Bush had the authority to detain Mr. Padilla, an American citizen, as an enemy combatant for more than three years.

Now to Susan's question. The only money maker for the Times in the Bully Boy economy has been their national edition which has actually seen an increase in circulation. Bill Keller has made noises (privately and publicly) about wanting shorter articles leading some at the paper to believe that what he wants is a simple and simplistic paper. (Apparently forgetting that USA Today already corners the market on McNews.) So is this a sign of the paper being on vacation or a sign of things to come? Who knows.

Mike and Wally did a joint entry (posted at both their sites) early this morning selecting Dave Zirin's What's My Name Fool? as the book of the year 2005. (Link to Wally's entry here, link to Mike's entry here.)

Community notes from their entry:

Since it's early in the morning, we'll note that the following sites plan to have new content later tomorrow [C.I. note: that should read "later today" -- they posted this at three in the morning according to the time signature on their posts, so cut them some slack]:
The Common Ills
Like Maria Said Paz
Mikey Likes It!
Other community sites may also have new content but those are confirmed.
In addition, Sunday, check out The Third Estate Sunday Review for the latest edition. It may post later than usual (that's still up in the air) but it will post.
And, in case you missed it, there was new content Friday at the following sites:
The Common Ills
Kat's Korner (of The Common Ills)
Cedric's Big Mix
The Daily Jot
Mikey Likes It!
Sex and Politics and Screeds and Attitude

As for who will be posting today, I'm assuming that still holds for Elaine and Mike; however, we are about to begin working on the latest edition of The Third Estate Sunday Review, so that may not be the case. What it means, for this site, is that other entries will be delayed. Hopefully, that just means delayed and post later today. At worst, it means they will post tomorrow.

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