Friday, May 26, 2006

Democracy Now: Focus on Enron, Greg Palast and Robert Bryce

Toll Rises For Haditha Massacre As Murtha Sees Dozen Court-Martials
The estimated toll of innocent civilians killed by US Marines in the Iraqi town of Haditha is now higher than previously thought. Democratic Congressmember John Murtha told the Marine Corps Times that the number of dead Iraqis is actually 24, up from the previous figure of 15. Murtha says would not be surprised if a dozen Marines face court-martials for the killings. Retired Brigadier General David Brahms, a former top lawyer for the Marine Corps, said: "When these investigations come out, there's going to be a firestorm. It will be worse than Abu Ghraib -- nobody was killed at Abu Ghraib."

Enron Execs Found Guilty On Conspiracy, Fraud Charges
The two top figures in the Enron corporate scandal have been found guilty. On Thursday, Enron founder Ken Lay was convicted in two separate trials on 10 counts of conspiracy, securities fraud, wire fraud, bank fraud and for making false statements to banks. Enron's former CEO Jeffrey Skilling was also convicted. A jury found him guilty on 19 of 28 counts. The conspiracy and fraud convictions each carry a sentence of up to 10 years in prison. Four years ago Enron filed for bankruptcy after years of defrauding its own employees and investors. The bankruptcy put over 4,000 people out of work. The value of the company's stock dropped from ninety dollars to about 30 cents. Thousands of Enron employees lost their lifesavings.

US Military Aircraft Met With Protests in Japan
In Japan, a US nuclear-powered aircraft carrier was met with vocal protests as it arrived in the port city of Sobetha on Thursday. More than 150 people gathered on shore and on small fishing ships to protest the arrival of the 100,000 tonne USS Abraham Lincoln. The fishing ships navigated around Japanese coast guard attempting to prevent them for nearing the carrier. Anti-nuclear sentiment runs high in Sobetha. The city neighbors Nagasaki, which was attacked by US atomic bombs in 1945.

Moscow Gay-Rights Parade To Proceed Despite Ban, Threats
In Russia, campaigners for gay rights say they will proceed with a gay pride rally despite a ban from the mayor of Moscow. The march is scheduled for Saturday. Police have refused to provide protection despite open threats from extremist groups to disrupt the event.

Activists, Celebs Stage Encampment For South Central Farm
And in Los Angeles, a standoff over the fate of a downtown community farm has intensified. Occupants of the South Central Farm are staging a 24-hour encampment and tree-sit to resist eviction orders that would clear them from land they’ve tended for over a decade. The 14-acre South Central Farm hosts the largest urban farm in the United States. 350 families use the farm to grow a multitude of crops. It was leased to the Los Angeles Regional Food Bank following the 1992 Rodney King riots. In 2003, the land was sold back to a real estate developer who now wants to turn it into commercial property. The encampment has attracted several celebrity supporters including the singers Joan Baez and Ben Harper and actresses Laura Dern and Daryl Hannah.

The above five items are from today's Democracy Now! Headlines and were selected by Liang, Eddie, KeShawn, ??? and Susan. Democracy Now! ("always informing you," as Marcia says):

Headlines for May 26, 2006
-Enron Execs Found Guilty On Conspiracy, Fraud Charges
- Bush Says "Tough Talk", Abu Ghraib, Mistakes of Iraq War
- East Timor Clashes Kill 9, Wound 27
- US Military Aircraft Met With Protests in Japan
- Moscow Gay-Rights Parade To Proceed Despite Ban, Threats
- Annan Calls For Release of Burmese Pro-Democracy Leader
- Senate Passes Immigration Bill
- FCC To Probe Network Affiliates For Airing VNRs
- Activists, Celebs Stage Encampment For South Central Farm

Los Titulares de Hoy: Democracy Now!'s daily news summary translated into Spanish

Enron Execs Found Guilty on Multiple Conspiracy, Fraud Charges
The two top figures in the Enron corporate scandal have been found guilty. On Thursday Enron founder Ken Lay was convicted on 10 counts of conspiracy, securities fraud, wire fraud, bank fraud and for making false statements to banks. Enron's former CEO Jeffrey Skilling was also convicted on 19 of 28 counts. With Lay's conviction, one of President Bush's top financial backers is now facing the possibility of spending the next 30 years in prison. We speak with investigative journalists Robert Bryce and Greg Palast. [includes rush transcript]

Enron: The Bush Connection
Enron founder Ken Lay and his family rank among President Bush's biggest financial backers of his political career. The family donated about $140,000 to Bush's political campaigns in Texas and for the White House. The president personally nicknamed Ken Lay 'Kenny Boy.' Our guest Greg Palast examined the connections between Enron and the Bush administration in his documentary "Bush Family Fortunes." [includes rush transcript]

Enron Played Central Role in California Energy Crisis
Six years ago, California was plunged into an unprecedented energy crisis. Rolling blackouts shut down parts of the state. Power bills soared. It turned out that at the center of the crisis was Enron -- although the company's role wasn't fully understood at the time. We play excerpts of audiotapes that proved Enron asked power companies to take plants offline at the height of the California energy crisis -- in order to make more money. [includes rush transcript]

Enron - The Smartest Guys in the Room
We bring you an excerpt from the documentary "Enron -- The Smartest Guys in the Room" - based on the book of the same name by Bethany McLean and Peter Elkind. [includes rush transcript]

Iraq snapshot.

Chaos and violence continue but Bully Boy and Tony Blair appear to have their minds elsewhere. Al Jazeera notes that Bully Boy's concerned about speaking better and Tony Blair hides behind the puppet government. [See Cedric's excerpt of Norman Solomon writing on puppet governments.] The AFP and Reuters report that Tony Blair, unable to fly the American flag, is saying it's the duty of the entire world to support the puppet government he and Bully Boy have created. Apparently not buying into Blair's bluster, CBS and the AP report that Romano Prodi, the new prime minister of Italy, held a talk with his cabinet "to map an exit strategy for the nation's troops in Iraq, who are being gradually withdrawn." Updating that story, Maria Sanminiatelli reports that Italy has announced they are pulling 1,100 troops out of Iraq (which would leave 1,600 stationed in Iraq). This as the Guardian of London reports Bully Boy's begging Tony Blair to stay on as England's prime minister.

In Baghdad, the AFP reports that two players on Iraq's national tennis team as well as their coach have been murdered "reportedly for wearing Western-style tennis shorts." The AFP reminds that "[l]ast week 15 members of the Iraqi Taekwondo team were kidnapped between Fallujah and Ramadi." The BBC reports on roadside bomb attacks on two markets that have resulted in the deaths of at least nine and at least fifty wounded. There were other bombings that wounded Iraqis today but no reports of any other fatalities. Reuters notes that three corpses ("bullet wounds and showing signs of torture") were discovered in Baghdad.

More corpses were discvered today. In Kut, the Associated Press notes the discovery of four. Reuters notes the killing of two police officers in Baquba following the kidnapping of employees of a TV station. In Sinjar, a liquor store owner is dead from a bombing (two others wounded).
In Basra, the BBC notes the death of a "Sunni Imam and his bodyguard" from a drive-by shooting. Also in Basra, the AP reports that mosques were closed following the murder of the Sunni cleric. KUNA reports on an oil pipeline fire in Khour Al-Emmaya, reportedly caused by a leak in a pipeline "at a docking station." In Kirkuk, the Associated Press reports that a roadside bomb took the life of one police officer and wounded four others.

CNN reports on the investiation into the deaths of civilians in Haditha last November and quotes Pentagon sources that "Charges, including murder, could soon be filed against Marines allegedly involved." Editor & Publisher notes that the investiagtion and the off the record admissions take place months after the press reported the events in Haditha. Gulf News reports that Human Rights Watch John Sifton as stating: "There is no excuse for a massacre and anyone concerned about America's image can only wish that those who are responsible will be severely prosecuted and those who tried to cover this up will be punished.'' This as CBS and the AP note "Investigators believe that their criminal investigation into the deaths of about two dozen Iraqi civilians points toward a conclusion that Marines committed unprovoked murders, a senior defense official said Friday." Finally, the Scotsman reports that "the bodies of Privates Adam Morris, 19, and Joseva Lewaicei, 25, British troops who died in a roadside bomb attack near Basra two weeks ago, arrived back at RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire yesterday."

One highlight and it's noted by Olive, "Status Quo Gitmo" (The Nation):

"We don't want to be the world's jailer," insists Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. Really? The Bush Administration seems to be waking up to the realization that Guantanamo Bay shames the United States before the world. The President and the Secretary now portray themselves as hapless custodians caught between Al Qaeda operatives and a slowpoke Supreme Court. "I would like to close the camp and put the prisoners on trial," the President declared May 10. It's as if Bush, Rice and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld had never promulgated, approved or defended Guantanamo's law-free zone over the past four years.
The clock seems to be running down on Guantanamo. Last year Amnesty International secretary general Irene Khan was widely derided for describing Gitmo as the gulag of our times, but now impatience emanates from the world's capitals and even from the confines of the prison itself. In London, Lord Goldsmith--attorney general for Bush's staunchest ally and no stranger to harsh antiterrorism legislation--adopts Khan's analysis, calling Gitmo a global symbol of injustice: "The existence of Guantanamo Bay remains unacceptable." In Geneva the UN Commission Against Torture calls on the United States to close Guantanamo and any other prisons whose secrecy and lawlessness facilitate waterboarding, short-shackling or other brutalities that place our nation in violation of the Convention Against Torture. (CIA nominee Michael Hayden refused to condemn waterboarding at his recent confirmation hearing.)

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