Thursday, January 05, 2006

Democracy Now: Ken Ward, Jack Spadaro, Hillary Hosta; Margaret Kimberley, CODEPINK, Marian Wright Edelman, UPJ

KEN WARD: But it's a rather startling thing that's happening, that all of the information is being disseminated by the company, and one of our reporters, Scott Finn, asked about this at a press conference yesterday, and said, you know, “Who's in charge of relaying information here?” And the company said, “Well, we're in charge.” And that's clearly not the expectation under the Mine Safety and Health Act. When something like this happens at a mine, a serious accident, where there are conditions that could cause further injuries to people, what happens is MSHA inspectors get there, and they issue what's called a “K-order,” which gives them control of the site. And nothing can happen at that site without MSHA approval. And one of the things that historically MSHA has always done is played a very active role, if not the role, in disseminating information.
Everyone recalls the Quecreek near disaster in July of 2002. And Mine Safety and Health Administration experts and state mine safety experts in Pennsylvania took a very active role. The governor of Pennsylvania, then Mark Schweiker, kind of ran some of those press conferences, but he had the technical people there with him to answer questions.
The only faces the public and the press are seeing here are company officials, and it's just shocking as to why that is, because the Labor Department, of which MSHA is a part, has at least two, and perhaps more, public affairs employees at the mine site with satellite phones and all sorts of ability to communicate. But they haven't had any briefings. They haven't answered any questions. I personally asked MSHA to obtain for my newspaper from its files on the mine permits, this operation, a copy of the underground map. And I was told by Susie Boner [phon.], one of their P.R. people, “Well, you'll have to get that from the company.” I mean, it's just -- it’s a shocking thing here.
(From Democracy Now!'s first report today and noted at the top of the entry at Eric's request.)
Bush Reserves Right To Order Torture of Prisoners
This update on a story we have been tracking closely. Last week President Bush officially signed a bill outlawing torture of detainees. While the bill signing received significant press coverage, what Bush did following the signing has not. According to the Boston Globe, Bush quietly issued what is known as a signing statement in which he lays out his interpretation of the new law. In this document Bush declared that he will view the interrogation limits in the context of his broader powers to protect national security. Legal experts say this means Bush believes he can waive the anti-torture restrictions. New York University Law Professor David Golove criticized Bush's move. He said ''The signing statement is saying 'I will only comply with this law when I want to, and if something arises in the war on terrorism where I think it's important to torture or engage in cruel, inhuman, and degrading conduct, I have the authority to do so and nothing in this law is going to stop me,' "
Gov't To Give FISA Judges Classified Briefing on Domestic Spying
Meanwhile the Washington Post is reporting that Justice Department and intelligence officials will give a classified briefing on Monday to members of the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. President Bush has admitted he has bypassed the court and ordered the National Security Agency to conduct domestic spy operations without the legally required court-approved warrants. Last week one judge on the FISA court resigned in protest over the secret spying program.
Bush Defies Congress, Makes Series of Recess Appointments
Meanwhile Washington President Bush defied Congress on Wednesday and made a series of controversial recess appointments. Bush tapped former Navy Secretary and defense contractor Gordon England to become deputy defense secretary to fill the post once held by Paul Wolfowitz. He also appointed Dorrance Smith to become the Pentagon's chief spokesman assistant secretary for public affairs. In April Smith wrote a controversial article for the Wall Street Journal in which he claimed there is an ongoing relationship between al Qaeda, al-Jazeera and U.S. tv networks. He wrote "This partnership is a powerful tool for the terrorists in the war in Iraq." Bush also appointed Julie Myers to head the Immigration and Customs Enforcement bureau at the Department of Homeland Security. She is the niece of former Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman Richard Myers and the wife of the chief of staff to Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff.
Frank Wilkenson, 91, Dies; Jailed by HUAC During Red Scare
And Frank Wilkenson has died at the age of 91. He was well known for being one of the last Americans to be jailed for refusing to tell the House Un-American Activities Committee whether he was a Communist.
The above four items are from today's Democracy Now! Headlines and were selected by Tonya, Lewis, Molly and JonahDemocracy Now! ("always informing you," as Marcia says):
Headlines for January 5, 2006

- Ariel Sharon Suffers Massive Stroke; Interim PM Takes Over
- WV Paper: Mining Deaths Were "Preventable"
- Suicide Bombers Attack Shiite Shrine In Karbala
- Bush Reserves Right To Order Torture of Prisoners
- Gov't To Give FISA Judges Classified Briefing on Domestic Spying
- Christian Peacemaker Team Activists to Fast Outside White House
- Bush Defies Congress, Makes Series of Recess Appointments
Were the Deaths of the 12 Coal Miners Preventable? A Look At the History of Safety Violations at the Sago Mine

Last year, the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration filed 200 alleged violations against the Sago mine. 46 citations were issued in the past three months - 18 of them were considered "serious and substantial." We speak with investigative reporter Ken Ward of the Charleston Gazette (WV) who closely monitors the mining industry. [includes rush transcript - partial]
Whistleblower Warns the Bush Administration Is Cutting Back Mining Safety Regulations

We speak with Jack Spadaro, the former head of the National Mine Health and Safety Academy, a branch of the Department of Labor. Spadaro discusses how we was forced out of his job as he attempted to investigate a 2000 mining accident. We are also joined by Hillary Hosta with the West Virginia-based Coal River Mountain Watch.
Ariel Sharon Suffers Major Stroke: Uri Avnery & Rabbi Michael Lerner Discuss the Future of Israel

In Israel, the country's prime minister Ariel Sharon is fighting for his life after he suffered a significant stroke last night. Doctors say he is now in an intensive care unit after undergoing nine hours of surgery to stem bleeding in his brain. Even if he survives, the 77-year-old is not expected to ever regain leadership of the country.
We've got four highlights for this entry. It's Thursday which means?  Margaret Kimberley's latest --  "Henry Louis Gates and the Times Unfit to Print" (Freedom Rider, The Black Commentator):
On December 27, 2005 the New York Times printed an article entitled "Ghanaians' Uneasy Embrace of Slavery's Diaspora." The New York Times rarely delivers on its claim to give its readers "all the news that is fit to print." Even white politicians like John Kerry get biased coverage when they dare to challenge the established order. If a white presidential nominee can't catch a fair break from the Times, then black people are definitely out of luck.
According to the Times, black Americans should just forget about visiting Africa or forging any links with Africans. Like people in poor nations all over the world, many Ghanaians seek to emigrate to the United States. The Times tells us that Ghanaians envy their American cousins for being taken into slavery.
Suppose, for arguments sake, that the statement is an accurate assessment of some Ghanaian opinion. A real newspaper would then ask how much Ghanaians know about the United States, and what if anything they have been taught about African American history or their own history for that matter.
[. . .]
The real point of the New York Times article is to tell black Americans that they should just get over the past, realize they are in the best nation on earth, and stop trying to learn anything about their ancestral home. After all, Africa is poor and its people envy three hundred years of slavery, lynching and Jim Crow.
Brad was the first to note Kimberley's latest.  Amanda e-mailed to note CODEPINK
and especially this item:
Women Say NO to War!
We at CODEPINK, together with 200 prominent women from around the globe, have written our own Urgent Peace Plan to end the war in Iraq. From now until March 8, International Women’s Day, we will be gathering signatures to deliver to U.S. embassies worldwide. So join Alice Walker, Susan Sarandon, Margaret Cho, Dolores Huerta, Eve Ensler, Congresswomen Barbara Lee, Lynn Woolsey, and Cynthia McKinney, Iraqi women from the Organization for Women’s Freedom in Iraq and Women Living Under Muslim Laws, and many more (see initial endorsers) by signing the call today at and passing it on to your friends..
Doug wondered if we were trying to note MLK every day in leadup to 16th?  I wasn't aware of anything planned (we did note MLK the last two days), but it sounds like something worth doing.  Doug notes Marian Wright Edelman: "Making Room for Children at America's Inn" (The Chicago Defender) and excerpts this paragraph from it on MLK:
In 1967, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. also delivered a Christmas Eve sermon. In "A Christmas Sermon on Peace," given at Ebenezer Baptist Church on his last Christmas Eve, Dr. King reminded us one of the things "we must be concerned about if we are to have peace on earth and good will toward men is the nonviolent affirmation of the sacredness of all human life. Every man is somebody because he is a child of God.made in His image, and therefore must be respected as such." He also reflected on the "I Have A Dream" speech he had given at the March on Washington four years earlier, and how he had already begun seeing his dream turning into a nightmare as he watched current events unfolding. However, Dr. King refused to give up his conviction that our nation could change: "I still have a dream today that one day justice will roll down like water, and righteousness like a mighty stream. I still have a dream today that in all of our state houses and city halls men will be elected to go there who will do justly and love mercy and walk humbly with their God.With this faith we will be able to speed up the day when there will be peace on earth and good will toward men."
I think Doug has a good idea so let's see if we can do that for the next eleven days. Amanda also wanted to note another action and CODEPINK is participating in it; however, Rick had already e-mailed to note the event via United for Peace & Justice:
Jan. 7: Town Hall Meetings Against the War
United for Peace and Justice is joining with After Downing Street and a wide array of other anti-war groups in calling for a national day of Town Hall Forums on Ending the War, this Saturday, January 7. Over 130 events -- ranging from small organizing meetings to public events featuring elected officials or peace movement leaders -- are planned nationwide. The war is costing us dearly in lives, in security, and in resources. If there is no event in your area, organize one! See for resources and to list your event.
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