Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Democracy Now: Police beating, Darfur, Wole Soyinka; Iraq, John Nichols

Supreme Court Rejects Appeal of Chinese Men At Guantanamo
The Supreme Court has rejected an appeal from two Chinese Muslims who are being held at the U.S. military prison Guantanamo Bay even though the government acknowledges they were mistakenly detained. The men have been held for more than four years. Lawyers for the men said they should be immediately released but the Bush administration has refused the request. Officials say they have been unable to find a country that will accept the men after their release. Both men are Uighurs and do not want to return to China out of fear that they would be imprisoned and tortured.
Nepalese Police Shot Dead One Protester
In Nepal, pro-democracy protests are continuing for a 13th day. On Monday police shot dead one protester. The BBC is reporting police in Nepal have arrested 25 government officials for demonstrating against King Gyanendra inside the Home Ministry. Among the detained are four high ranking officials. This marks the first time civil servants have been arrested for joining opposition protests against the king.
India Pledges To Clean Up Bhopal Chemical Plant
In India, survivors of the Bhopal chemical plant disaster have succeeded in finally forcing the Indian government to take steps to clean up the site of the 1984 gas leak that killed thousands. On Monday, India’s prime minister vowed to clean up the pesticide factory as well as to provide fresh drinking water for local residents and to build a memorial for the thousands who died in the disaster. For the past 20 years survivors have been attempting to get help from the Indian government and the U.S. company Dow Chemical. Earlier this year a group of 40 survivors and activists walked 500 miles from Bhopal to New Delhi. Last week they began a hunger strike.
Former U.S. Senator Mike Gravel To Run For President
In political news, former Alaskan Senator Mike Gravel has become the first Democrat to officially announce he will seek the party's nomination for president in 2008. Gravel served in the Senate from 1969 to 1981. Gravel who was an outspoken critic of the Vietnam War and is vowing to remove U.S. troops from Iraq. He said "President Bush's mistake is not worth the life or maiming of one more American soldier."
The above four items are from today's Democracy Now! Headlines and were selected by Miguel, Joan, Bonnie and EliDemocracy Now! ("always informing you," as Marcia says):
Headlines for April 18, 2006

- Death Toll of Suicide Bombing in Israel Reaches Nine
- Israel Says Hamas, Iran & Syria Are Part of "Axis of Terror"
- U.S. Citizens Barred From Dealing With Palestinian Authority
- Two Duke Athletes Arrested for Rape & Kidnapping
- India Pledges To Clean Up Bhopal Chemical Plant
- Nepalese Police Shot Dead One Protester
- San Francisco Marks 100th Anniversary of Great Quake
- Greenpeace: 93,000 Died From Chernobyl Nuclear Fallout
Outrage in Milwaukee Over Acquittal by All-White Jury of Police Officers Charged in Vicious Beating

Communities in Milwaukee are continuing to voice outrage over an all-white jury's decision to acquit three white police officers charged with brutally beating an African-American man. We go to Milwaukee to speak with the victim's aunt and his attorney about the stunning verdict. [includes rush transcript]
Darfur Refugee and Top UN Envoy for Prevention of Genocide Discuss Humanitarian Crisis in Sudan and Role of International Community

We take a look at what the United Nations calls "one of the world's worst humanitarian crises" -- Sudan's Western region of Darfur. We speak with Fatima Haroun, a Darfurian refugee, and Juan Mendez, the United Nation's Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide.
Legendary Nigerian Writer Wole Soyinka: Darfur Crisis "A Blot on the Conscience of the World"

Legendary Nigerian playwright Wole Soyinka, the first African to win a Nobel Prize in Literature, joins us to discuss the ongoing crisis in Darfur, the struggle for justice against oil companies in Nigeria and more.
Iraq? Highlights are on the topic.  First . . .
Violence and chaos (planned) continues.  In Baghdad, the Associated Press notes, a bomb went off resulting in the death of at least two (Iraqi police officers) and wounding at least six.   A separate bombing incident would claim addition lives.  Xinhua reports that four civilians were dead and twenty-two were wounded. Also in Baghdad, four workers at the Sunni Endowmen Authority were shot at -- Bahrain News Agency reports two dead and two wounded.  Still in Baghdad, AFP and Reuters announce that twelve more corpses were found. In addition to those twelve bodies, Ireland's BreakingNews.ie notes that two more corpses were found in Iraq -- both had been shot in the head.   Al Jazeera notes that a Shia cleric died in Baghdad -- the victim of a drive by shooting. In Basra, a drrive-by also claimed the life of an Iraqi "police officer walking near his home."  Reuters informs that, in Baiji, "a police colonel" and "two policemen" were wounded by gunmen while, in Tikrit, a police officer was killed with two others wounded. A police officer was also killed in Irbil, KUNA notes, and at least six civilians were wounded. There is still no word on 3 kidnap victims: Salah Jali al-Gharrawi (AFP -- kidnapped April 4th) or  Reem Zeid and Marwan Khazaal (Sumariya TV -- kidnapped February 1). And Tom Lasseter reports for Knight Ridder that despite warnings "more than two years that Shiite Muslim militias were infiltrating Iraq's security forces and taking control of neighborhoods," the US ignored the warnings.
Highlights.  Grace notes E.A. Torriero's "Iraq war spurs few deserters" (Chicago Tribune via Sun-Sentinel):
American soldier Levi Moddrelle returned on leave from Iraq on Christmas Eve 2003, his mind and body scarred from war. A few weeks later, scheduled to deploy to Iraq again and telling friends he didn't want to die, the Kentucky helicopter mechanic went missing.
"Something happened to him over there that made him run away," said his mother, Susan Tileston, from her home in Stanford, Ky.
A few things.  First Grace chose this outlet and not the Tribune because there's no registration needed to read the story.  Second.  Few deserters?  Torriero seems to use Charles Moskos for that claim.  Moskos put together "Don't Ask, Don't Tell."  He's still proud of that institutionalized homphobia.  So much so that as late as 2003, he was saying that if you didn't have it, it would be the same as not having separate bathrooms.  He told Josh White (Feb. of this year) that allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly would lead the military "to lose many more recruits."  He's also no supporter of enlisted women who'd like to see combat.  Apparently, he's the only one finding all these enlisted women who say,  "Oh no, Charlie, not me!  I just like to powder my nose!" 
Moskos quotes (and the article itself) seems either unaware or unconcered with the policy change that went into effect in 2001 (those who went AWOL or deserted were returned).  He doesn't seem to mention that policy to the reporter.  To know what Moskos can't/won't talk about, check out Kathy Dobie's "AWOL in America" (Harper's Magazine, March 2005).
"You have to be very motivated against this war to leave," said former Florida National Guard Staff Sgt. Camilo Mejia, who served 8 months and 22 days in a military prison after being convicted of desertion in May 2004. "The military makes it hard for you to walk away from those benefits."
Jonah notes a news of a topic he hasn't seen much on, "Ministry copes with rising numbers of orphaned children" (IRIN, Reuters):
Orphans in Iraq, who often lack protection, food supplies and medical assistance, require urgent assistance, according to officials at the Orphans Houses Department at the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs.
"Orphaned children have become a very serious issue," said department director Abeer Mahdi al-Chalabi. "We have 23 orphanages with limited capacity, capable of housing only about 1,600 orphans."
Although there are seven orphanages in the capital, Baghdad, and another 16 in other provinces, "they aren't enough to provide assistance to all the orphans in the country", said al-Chalabi. She went on to point out that the increase in the number of orphans countrywide was an inevitable result of the bombings, assassinations and sectarian violence currently plaguing the country.
According to a 2005 report issued by the US Agency for International Development (USAID), there were some 5,000 orphans in the capital alone, many of whom have been ostracised by society and have little hope of finding education or shelter.
Bully Boy's noted that "all options are on the table" re: Iran, by the way.  He seems determined to excecute Karl Rove's 2002 play one more time. 
Lastly (kind of, sort of), Stan notes John Nichols' "Is Don Rumsfeld Really the Right Target?" (The Online Beat, The Nation):
But would another Secretary of Defense chosen by Bush and Cheney do any better?
Doesn't the current crisis have more to do with the administration's misguided project of regime change and nation building than with the approach that Rumsfeld has taken to it?
If the problem is with the project, then shouldn't the focus be on the serious task of removing Bush and Cheney, rather than the cosmetic change of names of the office of the Secretary of Defense?
And (still finally, still John Nichols), KeShawn notes "Pentagon Papers Figure Bids for Presidency" (The Online Beat, The Nation):
Mike Gravel, who represented Alaska as a maverick Democratic Senate from 1969 to 1981, will announce his candidacy for the Democratic nomination with a press conference at the National Press Club.
Gravel came to national prominence in 1971, during the struggle over the Pentagon Papers, the secret official study that detailed how missteps and manipulations by successive U.S. administrations and their agents had created the quagmire that was the Vietnam War. Daniel Ellsberg, a military analyst, provoked a national uproar when he put the report in the hands of the New York Times, which published portions of it in June of that year. The Justice Department moved to block further publication of information from the Pentagon Papers and to punish newspaper publishers who revealed the contents. At that point, Gravel, a war critic, stepped in. The senator tried to read the contents of the study into the Senate record and to release them to the public, arguing that he had the authority to do so as a senator communicating with his constituents. He then sought to publish the papers in book form as The Senator Gravel Edition, The Pentagon Papers [Beacon Press]. When Justice Department went after the senator and his publisher, Gravel fought the case all the way to the Supreme Court. While lower courts expressed sympathy for the Gravel's stance, the high court rejected his claim that as a senator he had a right and a responsibility to share official documents with his constituents. Fortunately for Gravel, publicity surrounding the case was so damning to the administration's position that it finally backed off.
The Pentagon Papers battle was a classic Mike Gravel fight. A scrappy former speaker of the Alaska House of Representatives, the senator had little patience with the secrecy and compromises of official Washington. An unrelenting critic of nuclear weapons testing on the Alaskan island of Amchitka, he came to the Capitol prepared to take on presidents and fellow senators, and he did so repeatedly. Gravel clashed not just with the Nixon administration but with fellow Democrats who counseled a more cautious approach to a president who, before Watergate, was perceived as being both popular and powerful. It was Gravel who in 1971, against the advice of Democratic leaders in the Senate, launched a one-man filibuster to end the peactime military draft, forcing the administration to cut a deal that allowed the draft to expire in 1973.
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