Thursday, May 11, 2006

Democracy Now: Greg Grandin on Latin America, Administration causes unrest on campus

Telecom Companies Helped NSA Spy on Millions of US Citizens
Three of the country's largest telecom companies have provided the National Security Agency with the phone call records of tens of millions of Americans. This according to a report in USA Today. One source with direct knowledge of the program called it "the largest database ever assembled in the world" whose goal is to collect a record of "every call ever made" within the United States. The Bush administration has insisted its spy program focuses solely on international calls. The companies -- AT&T, Verizon and BellSouth -- have been under contract since after the 9/11 attacks. Only one major telecom company declined to participate in the program. The company, Qwest, reportedly asked the NSA to get FISA-court approval before it would hand over the records. The NSA refused. Although the program does not involve the direct monitoring of phone conservations, it amasses detailed records on who people have called and when they've called them. At least one company had already been implicated in the program. In a lawsuit filed by the Electronic Frontier Foundation earlier this year, former AT&T technician Mark Klein said AT&T has been working with the National Security Agency to spy on Americans. In addition to raising new questions about the extent of the NSA spy program and the companies involved, the disclosure also raises new questions about CIA Director-nominee Michael Hayden. Hayden headed the National Security Agency at the time the spy program was implemented. He declined USA Today’s request for comment.
UK Attorney General Calls For Guantanamo Closure
Britain's Attorney General has called for the closure of the US prison facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. In a speech in London, Lord Peter Goldsmith said: "The existence of Guantanamo remains unacceptable."
California GOP Rep. Lewis Probed Over Lobbyist Ties
Back in the United States, the Los Angeles Times is reporting prosecutors have launched an investigation into another Republican member of Congress -- California's Jerry Lewis. Lewis is being investigated for his ties to a lobbyist linked to jailed former Congressmember Randy "Duke" Cunningham. The lobbyist, Bill Lowery, represents clients who received millions of dollars in government contracts under measures that Lewis proposed. Lewis is chair of House Appropriations, one of the most powerful committees in Congress.
Study: US Second-Worst Newborn Mortality in Industrialized World
In health news, a new study has found the US has the second-worst newborn mortality rate in the industrialized world, second only to Latvia. According to Save The Children, the country's high rate of newborn mortality disproportionately affects minorities. African American babies are twice as likely as white babies to be born prematurely, have low-birth weight and to die at birth. Overall, more than 4 million babies worldwide die within their first month of birth.
The above four items are from today's Democracy Now! Headlines and were selected by Micah, Gareth, Molly and LyndaDemocracy Now! ("always informing you," as Marcia says):
Headlines for May 11, 2006

- Telecom Companies Helped NSA Spy on Millions of US Citizens
- Spy Probe Closes After NSA Denies Security Clearances
- Pentagon, Congress Spar Over Standards On Detainee Treatment
- WFP Resumes Food Aid to North Korea
- 122 Die in Mogadishu Fighting In Past Week
- UK Attorney General Calls For Guantanamo Closure
- California GOP Rep. Lewis Probed Over Lobbyist Ties
- US Second-Worst Newborn Mortality in Industrialized World
- Nearly Half of Children Under 5 Racial Minorities
- NYC Council Passes Anti-COPE Measure
Georgetown Faculty Object to Appointment of Iraq War Architect Douglas Feith as Professor in School of Foreign Service

A number of faculty members at Georgetown University are objecting to the appointment of Douglas Feith -- the former Under Secretary of Defense and a chief architect of the invasion of Iraq -- as a visiting professor in the School of Foreign Service. We host a debate with one of the key faculty members speaking out and the dean of the school.
Controversy Brews at New School Over Pick of McCain as Graduation Speaker

Students and faculty at the New School in New York City have objected to the pick of Arizona Republican Senator John McCain as commencement speaker for this year's graduation. We speak with one of the students speaking out.
Crackdown in Mexico: 200 Jailed, Women Claim Sexual Abuse by Police

Mexico's National Human Rights Commission has launched an investigation into last week's police crackdown in the town of San Salvador Atenco outside of Mexico City. Over 200 people have been arrested and over 20 women have said they were raped or sexually abused by police inside jail.
Empire's Workshop: Latin America, the United States, and the Rise of the New Imperialism

We speak with historian and New York University professor Greg Grandin about his new book, "Empire's Workshop: Latin America, the United States, and the Rise of the New Imperialism." It examines how U.S. foreign policy in Latin America has served as model for U.S. actions in the Middle East and beyond.
Iraq snapshot.
Chaos and violence continue.
Today?  The parliament continued to make the issue of who heads the Iraqi oil ministry the main topic.  (Does that not demonstrate how important that position is?)  As the AFP notes, yesterday was the self-imposed deadline the US backed Iraqi prime minister designate Nuri al-Maliki had set for finaliing his cabinet. The deadline was missed.
This as Rod Barton, an Australian Defence sciene intelligence officer, has made statements that Australia was lied into war.  Speaking to the Australian Broadcasting Company's Kerry O'Brien, Barton also addressed the issue of US torture:
KERRY O'BRIEN: Why do you believe he was beaten to death and how clear is the evidence that he was beaten to death?
ROD BARTON: I now know, and I didn't know this when I wrote the book, that he underwent a process called purgatory when he was arrested. Purgatory is, again, by this Special Forces 626. When they arrest the person they're trying to disorient the person. They put a hessian bag over the person's head and for three days or more the person is beaten, deprived of food and sleep and so on. There was a lot of stuff he was involved with. He developed poisons for assassination purposes. But I believe, I now know, that he knew about actual operations of assassinations of Iraqi dissidents overseas. And I believe that was the information that they were trying to get from him when they beat him again. The autopsy showed that he died not of a brain tumour or a brain aneurysm, or whatever they told me - not of natural causes, but the autopsy showed he died of blunt force trauma to the head. In other words, someone hit him too hard on the head.
Back in Iraq, as factions move towards the consolidation of militaries, Grand Ayatolla Hli al-Sistani has "ordered all Shi'ite mosques to close for three days" in Zubayr reports the Associated Press. This as AFP is reporting that "official sanction" will be needed for clerics in Iraq.  As part of the agreement, "capital and Iraqi forces" cannot raid mosques without US troops being present.  Presumably 'sanctioning' of cleric will take place with US permission as well.  (US military spokesperson, Rick Lynch, stated of the deal: "That's news to me, that's a surprise to me.")
In Baghdad, as noted on KPFA's The Morning Show newsbreaks anchored by Sandra Lupien and by CNN, roadside bombs have claimed the lives of at least three American troops today (Lupien also noted the death of two Iraqi soldiers from a roadside bomb -- as does Reuters).  The Associated Press notes a roadside bomb took the lives of five "municipal workers." (CNN also puts the number of dead at five and notes one wounded.)  Reuters, which puts the previous number at four, reports assailents shot and killed a "judicial investigator near a courthouse."  Courthouses and schools continue to be the targets for violence.  And the corpse of a police officer was discovered ("hands bound, signs of torture and shot in the head").
In Baquba, Reuters notes that a school teacher was killed and her fourteen-year-old nephew wounded by assailants.  Is this the same woman, Widad al-Shimri, whose death the AP reports?  They identify her as a Shi'ite "history professor" and note that her seven-year-old daughter was also killed.  So at least one educator was killed in Baquba, possibly two.  Also in Baquba, at least twenty-five men, suspected gunmen, have been arrested "wearing army uniforms" but not with the army.
In Haqlaniyah, US troops have fired on abandoned hotel where resistance fighters were believed to be while, in Kirkuk, assailants "ambushed and killed a police lieutenant colonel."
Highlights, two.  Quickly.
Marcia found an update on something Ruth was following.  First Ruth offering the background:
*Did you know that two CBS empolyees were assaulted? Dick Jefferson, news producer, and Ryan Smith, production secretary, were attacked with tire irons while having anti-gay slurs yelled at them? This happened in St. Maarten. Mr. Jefferson says that at least 25 people saw the April 6th attack so the police's ability to find only one witness seems to suggest that they are not seriously investigating the case. Mr. Jefferson had back and head injuries but is now back at work. Mr. Smith remains in the hospital, has suffered brain damage and has aphasia. My oldest son explained that this condition, a type of language disorder, is brought on by brain damage, generally to the left side of the brain, so the attack is the cause of it. Aphasia was not a condition I was familiar with, which is why I asked. My son also stated that there are two forms, in the first, the patient will have trouble with the speaking; in the second, the patient will have trouble understanding. In some instances, the patient has both forms. For those whose speech is effected, the condition can be mild, in which case longer sentences may be spoken, or severe, in which case the patient may only be able to respond in simple, often one-word responses. In terms of the second form, comprehension, it may take additional time to process what was said and, in some instances, a great deal may be lost.
Ruth caught the news from (Houston) KPFT's Queer Voices.  CBS and Associated Press update with "2 Arrests In Beating of CBS Newsmen:"
Authorities in St. Maarten say a man and a woman have surrendered to police in connection with an attack last month on two CBS News employees who were on vacation from New York. The victims say their attackers shouted anti-gay slurs.
The two, who were arrested on Saturday, are suspected of inflicting grievous bodily harm and attempted manslaughter in the April 6 attack, according to Taco Stein, St. Maarten's chief prosecutor.
Stein declined to release the names of the suspects, who both live in St. Martin, the French side of the island. St. Maarten, the other half of the island, is Dutch. The two countries share the island, which is a popular Caribbean tourist destination.
West noted a highlight that I passed on to Kat because it had to do with Pink (and Kat noted it in her review  "Kat's Korner: Pink's not dead or silent" last night).
West was hoping we could note it here as well, so from Matthew Rothschild's "Ten-year-Old Forbidden from Singing Pink's Anti-Bush Song at School Talent Show" (This Just In, The Progressive):
Molly Shoul has appeared in several talent shows at Park Springs Elementary School over the years.
And she was planning on participating again on May 11.
The ten-year-old decided to sing Pink’s new song, "Dear Mr. President," which the pop star says is one of the most important songs she's ever written. (The lyrics to the song are at bottom. To hear Pink perform, click here.)
Molly says she got the Pink CD for Easter, and she was attracted to this particular tune.
"It's a really good song," she says. "I wanted to sing something meaningful" for the annual talent show.
So she auditioned with it, and she says the music teacher told her it was very good, but that he would have to ask the principal.
And the principal, Camille Pontillo, put the kibosh on it, as Jamie Malernee of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel first reported in an excellent story on May 5.
Thank you to West for noting it again and explaining that it was important to him.
Indymedia roundup this evening.
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