Thursday, May 25, 2006

Democracy Now: Discussion on the Senate's immigration bill; Ben Wizner

Iraq VP Calls For Withdrawal Timetable Ahead of Bush-Blair Meeting
In Iraq, a top leader has renewed calls for President Bush and Prime Minister Tony Blair to set a timetable for the withdrawal of occupying troops.
  • Iraqi Vice President Tareq Al Hashemi: "Two days ago we spoke with Tony Blair about this issue and the fact that it is necessary that the U.S. and British administration should put a timetable for its troops withdrawal from Iraq. We have discussed this thoroughly and I convinced him of the necessity of announcing a timetable for the withdrawal of the occupying troops and told him frankly that Iraqis have a right to know when the last British or American soldier will leave Iraq."
Bush and Blair have long rejected setting withdrawal timetables and vowed to withdraw troops at their own discretion. The two leaders will meet today in Washington with Iraq expected to top the agenda.
Nation-Wide Protests Target Telecom Giants
Telecom spying and media control were the focus of a day of protest around the country Wednesday. Activists in several US cities held rallies outside the headquarters of telecom companies that have become implicated in the NSA spy scandal and that have lobbied against net neutrality. Here in New York, Democracy Now caught up with a protest outside the offices of telecom giant Verizon.
  • Betty Yu of Manhattan Neighborhood Network: "This COPE Act, if it were to be passed in Congress, would potentially dismantle Public, Educational, and Governmental TV, known as Public Access Television. So it would dismantle the public access television stations in all the five boroughs here in New York City, and in the 3,000 access centers across the country. This would be damaging for our free speech, our media democracy, and many local communities that depend on public access, again, to have their voices heard. These telecom companies do not want to pay the local franchise fees that the cable companies do now, they want to reap all the profits, and they don't want to be accountable to the public interest, or to local communities."
Senate Expected To Vote On Immigration Bill
The Senate has agreed to end debate on a controversial immigration bill, setting the stage for a vote likely to come today. The bill would heighten enforcement measures, establish a temporary guest worker program, punish employers who hire undocumented immigrants and open a route to citizenship for at least some undocumented immigrants. If passed, the Senate bill would have to be reconciled with the Sensenbrenner bill passed by the House in December. That bill focuses strictly on enforcement and would consider undocumented immigrants to be felons. It would also make it a crime for priests, nuns, health care workers and other social workers to offer help to undocumented immigrants.
Trial Begins For Abramoff-Linked Ex-Bush Admin. Official
Meanwhile, the trial of former Bush administration official David Safavian is underway in Washington. Safavian, the White House's former chief procurement official, is charged with making false statements and obstructing investigations into Jack Abramoff's activities. Safavian's case is the first to go to trial in connection with the Abramoff bribery scandal.
The above four items are from today's Democracy Now! Headlines and were selected by Francisco, Joan, Sabina and RobDemocracy Now! ("always informing you," as Marcia says):
Headlines for May 25, 2006

- Senate Expected To Vote On Immigration Bill
- Iraq VP Calls For Withdrawal Timetable Ahead of Bush-Blair Meeting
- Somalia Clashes Claim 38 Lives
- Australian Troops Land in East Timor
- Abbas-Linked Security Commander Killed in Gaza
- Olmert: Iran Nuclear Standoff "Test Of Our Time"
- Weiner: UN Palestinians "Should Start Packing Little Palestinian Terrorist Bags"
- Nation-Wide Protests Target Telecom Giants
Afghanistan in Turmoil: 330+ Killed in One Week, U.S. Bombing Raids Continue, Taliban Seizing Control in Southern Region

In Afghanistan, more than 330 people have died over the past week in some of the heaviest fighting since the war began almost five years ago. Taliban have moved out of the mountains and seized large areas in the south. We speak with an Afghan human rights activist who was forced to flee the country because of his work documenting human rights abuses committed by U.S. forces. [includes rush transcript]
While Some See Compromise, Critics Say Senate Immigration Bill Punishes Undocumented Immigrants

The Senate version of the immigration bill is expected to be voted on as early as today. While the bill is being hailed as a compromise solution to immigration, many immigrant advocates point to a number of adverse provisions in the bill that they say will actually bar millions from legalization and threaten their civil liberties.
U.S. Court Rules Wrongfully-Held Detainee Khaled El-Masri Can't Sue CIA For Kidnapping Him

German citizen Khaled El-Masri tried to sue the CIA for wrongfully kidnapping and abusing him. But last week, a U.S. District Court dismissed the case on the grounds it would jeapordize state secrets. We're speak El-Masri's attorney, Ben Wizner of the ACLU.
Special Memorial Day Preview...Fmr. British Navy Spokesman Lieutenant Commander Steve Tatham on Losing Arab Hearts and Minds

We bring you a sneak preview of this upcoming Memorial Day on Democracy Now: An exclusive interview with British Lieutenant Commander Steve Tatham, the former head of the British Royal Navy's Media Operations in the Northern Arabian Gulf during the Iraq war and author of "Losing Arab Hearts and Minds: The Coalition, Al Jazeera and Muslim Public Opinion." [includes rush transcript]
Iraq snapshot.
As Amy Goodman noted, Tareq Al Hashemi, vice president of Iraq, has called for "a timetable for the withdrawal of occupying troops" from Iraq. As Al Jazeera notes, Al Hashemi does not favor the notion of a set of conditions that would result in withdrawal of all foreign troops (US, British, et al) but instead favors a fixed date. The Irish Examiner reports that as Tony Blair and Bully Boy meet in DC, "the White House" has declared it "premature to talk about troop withdrawals." 
This as Free Speech Radio News reports the Inspector General of Iraq's Oil Ministry has noted "that one billion dollars of Iraq's oil is being illegally smuggled out of the country every month."  On the topic of the Oil Ministry, Steve Negus reports that Hussein al-Shahristani, exile installed as oil minister, has declared "the central government should handle all contracts related to petroleum exploration and production, putting him on a potential collision course with the autonomous Kurdish region which has recently begun to develop its own oil resources."  What Kurds may read as a power grab occurs as the occupied nation is still without a minister of interior or defense.
In England, Matthew Tempest reports for the Guardian that "attorney general, Lord Goldsmith, has been forced into disclosing further information relating to his decision that an ivasion of Iraq would be lawful."  Goldsmith issues one ruling and then another (that was already known), the report traces the change of opinion to March 13th and he would inform Blair of the change in opinion (that the illegal invasion would suddenly be legal).  March 17, 2003 was then the UN failed to endorse the Bully Boy's war lust, March 20th would see the start of the illegal invasion.
A battle in Baghdad (yes, in Baghdad) resulted in at least three people dead from
"[t]he ambush of Brig Gen. Khalil al-Abadi, head of the Defense Ministry logistics office" reports the Associated Press. Reuters notes several bombings taking place in Iraq -- one "planted inside a building wounded 13 people," another wounded two police officers in New Baghdad, and another injured two police officers on "patrol in northeastern Baghdad."   Reuters also notes that four corpses were discovered throughout Baghdad ("torture . . . gunshot wounds in their heads").
The AFP reports that two more corpses were discovered in Baquba while Reuters notes an additional three ("bullet gunshot wounds") near Tikrit and that, in Balad, "U.S. forces handed over five decomposed bodies to the hospital."  The AFP reports that a judge (Walid Ahmed) has been kidnapped while "traveling on a highway between Saddam's hometown of Tikrit and the city of Samarra."  Reuters notes that Ali Hisham and his son were kidnapped not far from Kirkuk (Hisham is "head of the Turkmen Front party in town of Tuz Khurmato"). A "nine-year-old girl" died in Kirkuk from a roadside bomb, the AFP notes.  Meanwhile the BBC reports that, James Cook has been determined to be not guilty ("by a jury panel of seven senior officers in Cochester") in the death of Ahmed Jabber Kareem -- three remain on trial.  In the United States, Robert Burns reports that Gen. Michael W. Hagee is headed for Iraq as a result of concerns over "two recent cases of alleged killings of civilians in Iraq."
Sectarian displacements received much attention in the mainstream world media in April 2006, yet equally large-scale population displacements caused by multiple military operations across the country have been largely unreported. Several hundred thousand people were displaced by military operations during 2005.
Skip notes "We shall overcome: the '60s celebrity protest is back" (Sydney Morning Herald):
Joan Baez grabbed a rope and was hoisted 15 metres up an old walnut tree for the first day of her tree-sitting protest, singing folk songs.
The rock star Ben Harper gave an impassioned speech as his wife, Laura Dern, looked on. The actress Daryl Hannah emerged from a green tent she is calling home, saying she passes the time at night strumming her guitar.
Hollywood has come to South Los Angeles in a last-ditch effort to save a community farm slated for redevelopment.
Their legal options exhausted, the 350 farm users trying to preserve the 5.6-hectare urban oasis did that very Hollywood thing: they appealed to celebrities for help.
The scene on Wednesday had the feel of a 1960s concert, as ponytailed environmental activists grooved to Baez songs. They mingled with Hispanic immigrants who tend plots of vegetables, fruit trees and cactus.
The above story was also covered on The KPFA Evening News yesterday.
Amy Goodman noted this afternoon (broke into Democracy Now! to do so) that Ken Lay was found guilty on all six counts and Skilling was found guilty on multiple counts.
Other highlights?  Margaret Kimberly's not been mailed on so I'll assume it's not up yet.  We'll catch her no later than tomorrow morning.  Otherwise?  Lot of yammering, lot of jabbering (no, not about Lay) and a lot of nonsense (I'm summarizing the opinions of members, not remarking on their highlights).  Brenda puts it best: "Where's the Iraq coverage? Where's anything that matters or am I stuck from now to November, day after day, with a bunch of airheads telling me how I should vote?"  Good question.  (Translation, nothing worth noting for a highlight.)  Want to read something worthy?  Read Mike's "Michael Hayden, FCC and spying, and more" which takes on (bottom half) soggy minds.
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