Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Democracy Now: Rashid Khalidi, Shir Hever, Wole Soyinka; Dahr Jamail, Arkan Hamed, Phyllis Bennis

Bush Refuses To Rule Out Nuclear Strikes on Iran
At the White House Tuesday, President Bush refused to rule out the use of nuclear weapons in the impasse over Iran's nuclear program. "All options are on the table," Bush said. "We want to solve this issue diplomatically and we're working hard to do so. The best way to do so is there for (sic) to be a united effort with countries who recognize the danger of Iran having a nuclear weapon. And that's why we're working very closely with countries like France and Germany and Great Britain. I intend, of course, to bring the subject up of Iranian ambitions to have a nuclear weapon with Hu Jintao this Thursday. We'll continue to work diplomatically to get this problem solved."

Ex-Colombian Intelligence Official Links Uribe To Paramilitaries
In Colombia, President Alvaro Uribe is facing a potential political crisis amid renewed charges over his alleged dealings with paramilitary groups. The new allegations have come from a former senior official at Colombia's executive intelligence agency, the DAS. The official, Rafael Garcia, has told journalists and prosecutors the DAS provided the paramilitary groups with the names of union leaders and academics, many of whom were subsequently threatened or killed. According to Garcia, the paramilitaries also helped Uribe win an extra 300,000 fraudulent votes during the 2002 presidential elections. And Garcia also says he has proof the DAS worked with paramilitaries on a plot to assassinate several key Venezuelan leaders, including President Hugo Chavez. After initial denials, Jorge Noguera, the former director of the DAS, admitted he met with a leading paramilitary commander known as Jorge 40. Uribe himself admitted to holding direct meetings with another paramilitary commander, but blasted the media for pursuing the story. José Miguel Vivanco, Americas director at Human Rights Watch, said: "President Uribe's aggressive response raises suspicion about whether he actually wants the truth known, and has a chilling effect on the exercise of freedom of expression."

Study: Health Insurance Consolidation Creating Monopolies
In other news, a new study from the American Medical Association argues consolidation among health insurance companies has created virtual monopolies in cities across the US. In 56 percent of nearly 300 metropolitan areas, one single provider controls at least half of the local health insurance market. The study says 43 states have levels of market concentration that would normally be expected to lead to antitrust investigations. According to the AMA, more than 400 mergers have taken place in the health insurance industry over the last decade. Meanwhile, premium costs paid by average consumers have seen double digit increases far above inflation and wage hikes.

Cuba Marks 45-Year Anniversary of Bay of Pigs Invasion
Cuba is in the midst of commemorating the 45th anniversary of the US-organized Bay of Pigs invasion. On April 17, 1961, a group of over 1,400 fighters armed, trained and directed by the Kennedy administration landed on Cuba’s shores in an attempt to overthrow Cuban President Fidel Castro. Within days the fighters were defeated in what proved to be a major emberassment for the Kennedy administration and the CIA. Jose Ramon, who fought for the Cuban government during the Bay of Pigs, said: "Every year we celebrate this, it is celebrated in all of the country, and it brings us great memories. I don't wish for this to happen again, not only here, but in no other place in the world."

The above four items are from today's Democracy Now! Headlines and were selected by Marci, Francisco, Liang and Maria. Democracy Now! ("always informing you," as Marcia says):

Headlines for April 19, 2006

- Bush Refuses To Rule Out Nuclear Strikes on Iran
- Bush Continues To Back Rumsfeld
- Ex-Colombian Intelligence Official Links Uribe To Paramilitaries
- Bush Administration Criticized For Obiang Visit
- Study: Health Insurance Consolidation Creating Monopolies
- Cuba Mark 45-Year Anniversary of Bay of Pigs Invasion
- FBI Seeks Files of Deceased Investigative Journalist Jack Anderson
- Chinese Leader Makes First Presidential Visit to US

Israel Holds Hamas-Led PA Directly Responsible for Tel Aviv Attack as Occupied Territories Starved of International Aid

The Israeli government has announced it holds the Hamas-led Palestinian Authority directly responsible for Monday's suicide bombing in Tel Aviv. Meanwhile, millions of dollars of aid to the PA have been cut off worsening the humanitarian crisis in the Occupied Territories. We speak with Oxfam, Columbia University professor Rashid Khalidi and economic researcher Shir Hever in Jerusalem. [includes rush transcript]

Legendary Nigerian Writer Wole Soyinka on Oil in the Niger Delta, the Effect of Iraq on Africa and His New Memoir

Legendary Nigerian playwright Wole Soyinka, the first African to win a Nobel Prize in Literature, joins us to discuss oil in the Niger Delta, the effect of the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq on Africa and why he titled his new memoir "You Must Set Forth at Dawn."


The Australian reports that since the start of this year (reminder: we're now in the fourth month), 19,548 people have been kidnapped. This number includes as many as 2350 children and 4959 women. In Kuwait City, the American military is looking into allegations that three military contractors (American) have been smuggling marijuana into the city. Still on American contractors in Iraq, Al Jazeera reports that Philip Bloom has entered a plea of guilty to charges of "conspiracy, bribery and money laundering in Iraq." While participating in the conspiracy, Bloom used over 2 million dollars to bribe the "US officials who directed more than $8.6 million in contracts to companies he controlled." Combine the two items and you've apparently got: "Money to be made in Iraq!" Apparently that's how the World Bank sees it since the BBC is reporting that it is pondering returning to Iraq. Associated Press notes that Iraq's Prime Minister (Ibrahim al-Jaafari) is refusing calls to step down (calls have come from the US government as well as some in Iraq). Earlier this week a Shia cleric was killed by gunmen in a drive-by shooting. Now Deusche Presse-Agentur reports that Sheikh Saad Jaber Yassin has also been killed (both the death earlier this week and the more current one took place in Baghdad). Yassan was killed by a car bomb set to dentonate when the car started. Ireland's notes that, in Baghdad, two bombs have gone off and at least 15 have been wounded while at least 2 have been killed. AFP is estimating that "[a]t least 19 people" have been killed in Iraq today. In Baquba gunmen killed three Diyala college professors and wounded another. Also in Baquba, the AFP notes that a police officer was killed. In al-Ramadi, Deutsche Presse-Agentur reports that at least four civilians were killed and six wounded when "[c]ivilian houses were struck by rockets." Back to Baghdad, two people were killed at the elementary schools of Amna and Shaheed Hamdi. The AP reports that the National Security Ministry has changed details (originally stated that two teachers were beheaded in front of students -- now backed off that claim and state a school guard was stabbed in front of students and a teacher was shot enroute to the classroom).

Highlights. We have two on Iraq and one on Iran. We've got at least one sidebar but possibly two. Let's start the focus with Iraq. Brandon notes Dahr Jamail and Arkan Hamed's "Baghdad Slipping Into Civil War" (via IPS and also available here at Iraq Dispatches):

The new clashes between Shia militiamen dressed in Iraqi military and police uniforms and resistance fighters and residents from the Sunni Adhamiya district of Baghdad have convinced many that what Baghdad is witnessing is no less than a civil war.
For long now, some leaders from both Shia and Sunni communities have been making peace moves, but this has done little to check escalating sectarian violence following the Feb. 22 bombing of the Shia Golden Mosque in Samarra.
Over several weeks before new clashes Monday and Tuesday this week, Adhamiya residents had been barricading streets with tyres and the trunks of date palm trees to keep kidnappers and "death squads" away. But clashes broke out about 12.30 am Sunday night following a 'police' raid on the area.
"We'd had sporadic fighting for several nights before, but nothing like this," a man who asked to be referred to as Abu Aziz told IPS.. "My family and I thought a war was happening because so many heavy guns, mortars and rocket propelled grenades were being used."
IPS saw the sky over the area glow red through the night, as U.S. military helicopters hovered above.
Residents said the attack was clearly carried out by Shia militia.
"I have seen these members of the Badr militia and Mehdi Army wearing Iraqi Police (IP) uniforms and using IP pick-up trucks roaming our streets," said Abu Aziz, "They tried to reach our sacred Abu Hanifa mosque, but they were stopped before they could do so, thanks to god. Some were just wearing civilian clothes with black face masks, others were definitely commandos from the ministry of interior."
Last month Iraq's minister of interior Bayan Jabr told reporters that "the deaths squads that we have captured are in the defence and interior ministries.. There are people who have infiltrated the army and the interior."
The Badr Organisation is the armed wing of the Shia Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq, and the Mehdi Army is the militia of the fiery Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr.
Through the attack, in which scores of 'IP' men drove up to attack the district, at least six IP vehicles were burned, and at least one of the Shia militia members was killed, local residents told IPS.
They also reported that at least 10 residents including at a woman were killed in the clashes. This round of fighting continued until 12.30 pm Monday.

Guess what? Dexy Filkins won another award. And no, it didn't come from the military or the administration for helping the propaganda effort -- but he may yet win the one his body of work so deserves! I wasn't going to mention it but the friend I'm dictating this too thinks I need to. So Dexy won an award and it means something. What does it mean? I'm reminded of an event and people turning to me and saying, "Did they just say Donna Summer?"

Yes, they had. It was the Grammys. The award was something to do with gospel. Ms. I-Moan-Love-Moan-To-Moan . . ., her career in the toilet (she hadn't yet been flushed down, that would happen shortly) got the award. Not for anything she did. She hadn't recorded a gospel album. She hadn't really recorded a gospel song (some nonsense along the lines of "Only you can make the flame burn higher . . My supernatural love . . .").

So the hits were over, the song wasn't gospel, the album wasn't selling and no one really cared about her. But she walked off with an award.

That's Dexy on his new award. He didn't win for anything he wrote. He won because he's a "name." Just as there were performers in the gospel field who had genuine talent and were deserving but Donna took home the award, Dexy took home the award. Why? Because people saw a name they knew when it was time to vote. Same reason Summer won. "Who are these people? Oh look Donna Summer!" And it's not all that far from the Disco Diva to the Go-Go in the Green Zone Boy.

And you know who's fault the "win" is? Ours. If Grammy voters had grasped that listeners were done with Donna Summer, she wouldn't have gotten that an award for a non-gospel song. If we were doing our part to make sure that it's known that Dexy's non-reporting writing is one of the shames of the Times he couldn't get an award for his really bad Sunday Magazine piece. Now it's not just us. It's also the left outside our community (and I'll bring that point up at The Third Estate Sunday Review Sunday). But the reality is Dahr Jamail has reported and if we want the real reporters (not the stenographers) to get the attention they deserve, then we need to be more vocal about them. So share Jamail's reporting with a friend today. Let's make it clear that Dexy's "Hot Stuff" has gotten cold and no one wants to see it.

On reality in Iraq, we've got a highlight. Remember Dexy and John Burns couldn't tell you about women in Iraq -- they weren't interested. Burns wrote a whole story, one of those "Iraq: Things are looking up!" pieces that are about as reality based as "Alan Keyes Is Making Sense!" But he wrote it and went around Iraq trying to find out what Iraqis thought . . . if they were men. So with what Dexy and Burnsie can never tell you, Lynda steers us to Bonnie Erbe's "United States is No Help to Iraqi Women" (Seattle Post-Intelligencer via Common Dreams):

A new poll of leaders of Iraqi women's-rights groups finds that women were treated better and their civil rights were more secure under deposed President Saddam Hussein than under the faltering and increasingly sectarian U.S.-installed government.
This is doubly troubling. It's troubling first because the Bush administration used the issue of women to justify its now widely criticized invasion of Iraq in part by promising to improve the situation of women.
It's troubling second because the administration has issued news releases, held public meetings and tried to gain media attention (as well as U.S. public support) for all the "good" it's supposedly doing the women of Iraq via this invasion.
The poll was released last week by the Integrated Regional Information Networks, a U.N. news agency covering sub-Saharan Africa, eight countries in central Asia, and Iraq.

What do you get on Iran in the Times? You grasp that Judy Miller was the Diana Ross. No star-shine when she's gone. Her backup singers try real hard but . . .
So we've had the war pornographer on Sunday and Monday we had a backup singer attempt to put on Judy's pantyhose but they didn't fit so well -- little snug. What we can't get in the Times is anything other than fear mongering. For those needing reality, Cindy notes Phyllis Bennis' "Iran: The Day After" (Common Dreams):

The airwaves and the headlines are full of talk of a U.S. military strike against Iran. That is as it should be -- the danger of such a reckless move is real, and rising, and we should be talking about it. The Bush administration claims that negotiations are their first choice. But they have gone to war based on lies before, and there is no reason to believe that they are telling the truth this time.
They have put the military -- and even, horrifyingly, the nuclear -- option at the center of the table. Don't worry, they say, even if a preventive military strike is needed, we're only talking about "surgical" attacks on Iran's nuclear facilities - no one, they say, is talking about invasion. It can't happen, some say. The military brass knows their troops are bogged down in Iraq and Afghanistan, they appear to be strongly opposed to a strike on Iran.
And we know that any military strike on Iran -- ANY strike -- would be a violation of international law prohibiting preventive war. And George Bush now admits that "preventive war" - not his earlier claim of pre-emptive war - is indeed his strategic doctrine.
We know that according to the International Court of Justice, even threatening to use nuclear weapons is a violation of international law -- and the Bush administration is threatening to use nuclear "bunker-buster" bombs to attack Iran. We don't hear much about it, but we know the National Academy of Sciences has found that "the use of such a weapon would create massive clouds of radioactive fallout that could spread far from the site of the attack, including to other nations. Even if used in remote, lightly populated areas, the number of casualties could range up to more than a hundred thousand…"
We know all that. But what if the Bush administration orders it anyway? What if they DO carry out just such a strike, nuclear or otherwise? Then what? What happens the day after?
Practically no one is talking about that. And that makes this whole threat even more dangerous. It's as if the Bush administration believes that the day after they bomb Iran, everything will be over, except maybe for the happy campers in the streets of Tehran cheering and clamoring for the U.S. to bomb some more to help them change their regime. Maybe they really do believe that. We have to assume there are plenty of Iranian versions of Ahmad Chalabi around Washington, exiles eager to return to power on the backs of U.S. tanks, urging the White House on.

Now, time for a song. No, not a tribute to Dexy. No "Sing a song of big-dunce." But, actually, the "inspiration" for the song may someday emerge as a Dexy. Borrowing from Nina Simone's "To Be Young, Gifted & Black" (also recorded by Aretha Franklin, among others, -- but written by Simone).

In the whole world you know
There are billion boys and girls

Who are young, ignorant and white
And that's a fact!
Young, ignorant and white
We must begin to tell our young
There's a whole world
Your quest has just begun
When you think you know
But there are great truths you don't know
When you're young, ignorant and white
And that's a blight!

Point of the song? Six issues of The Nation arrived today. (Don't let that keep you from subscribing -- as noted before this isn't an issue on the magazine's side but a mail issue on my end. I'll probably let my subscription lapse and switch it to a friend's address. Which is why I get The Progressive on time.) I started with the April 17th issue (the 24th issue has Tom DeLay and it's too early in the day to face that). The letters are largely about an article (everyone knows the article on campus organizations). Why the choice was made to lead with the first one
. . .

There's one by Peter Dreier that's generally positive to the article and that would have been a better starting point for the letters (if they wanted to lead with the positive). Instead they open with a college student, male and (guessing from the 'Mayflower' name) White. Mayflower Madman feels the need to make that strong case for the march to the center -- which will cause merely eye rolls until the last two sentences:

I view this rift between the far left and the moderates as akin to that between Dr. King and Malcolm X. History shows which path led to the greatest progress in civil rights.

Sing it with me now (I'll handle the piano):

To be young, ignorant and White . . .

It's always a race to be won, apparently. In some minds. And in some minds the race must have people pitted against one another -- whether they're goals were similar or different doesn't need to be known just, in this race, their race. Of course, for people like that, basic knowledge is never required.

Which is why someone with obviously no knowledge of Malcolm X can feel comfortable weighing in on what he stood for and his 'failure.' A little knowledge might change both the perception of 'failure' and what Malcolm X stood for. Maybe all the African-Americans look alike when you step off the Mayflower?

One more time:

To be young, ignorant and White . . .

Free speech is a bedrock at The Nation. Great, wonderful. But that was not the letter to lead with. And I'd question why it was run in the magazine not just because it's insulting -- it is -- but because it's so wrong?

On another free speech issue. Why is Google listing Voice of America as a news source?
Voice of America isn't allowed to broadcast in this country because there are laws against the US government targeting the American people with propaganda. (Laws Bully Boy bends, breaks and ignores). I'm assuming we're all supposed to ignore the website because, to point out that it would be illegal for VoA to broadcast over the domestic airwaves so it should, therefore, be illegal for the site to be viewable in this country, would be seen as cry for censorship by some.
So for those who can't make the obvious step that what is illegal and expecting the law to be enforced isn't a cry for censorship, how about just focusing on why Google lists it as a news organization?

("Those who can't" doesn't refer to members of this community.)

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Typos corrected by Shirley.