Monday, May 22, 2006

Democracy Now: James Yee & Guantanamo

Report: Iraq Is "Disintegrating as Ethnic Cleansing Takes Hold"
British journalist Patrick Cockburn says Iraq is disintegrating as ethnic cleansing takes hold on a massive scale. On Sunday at least 24 people died including 13 at a Baghdad restaurant that was attacked by a suicide bomber.

U.S.-Air Strike Kills 76 in Afghanistan; Up to 30 Civilians Killed
In Afghanistan, a U.S.-led air strike has killed at least 76 people. The BBC reports the dead included as many as 30 civilians including children. The bombing raid in Southern Afghanistan occurred shortly after midnight today. The U.S. military has denied reports of civilian casualties and claimed that all of the dead were members of the Taliban. The air strike occurred in a region which has recently seen some of the country's fiercest fighting since the fall of the Taliban nearly five years ago.

1 in 136 U.S. Residents Now in Prison
The country's prison population has reached almost 2.2 million. One in every 136 U.S. residents is now behind bars. The nation's prison population increased by more than 1,000 inmates a week last year. New data also shows that 12 percent of African-American men between the ages of 25 and 29 are now incarcerated. That is more than ten times the incarceration rate of white men.

Number of Women in U.S. Jails up 750% Since 1977
Meanwhile a new report from the Women's Prison Association has found the number of women imprisoned in the country has increased by over 750 percent since 1977.

World-Renowned Dancer and Activist Katherine Dunham, 96, Dies
And the world-renowned dancer, choreographer and social activist Katherine Dunham has died at the age of 96. Dunham is best known for leaving Broadway to teach in one of America's poorest cities, East St. Louis. In 1992 she went on a 47-day hunger strike to protest U.S. policy that repatriated Haitian refugees.

The above five items are from today's Democracy Now! Headlines and were selected by Joy, Bonnie, Carl, Tori and Brenda. Democracy Now! ("always informing you," as Marcia says):

Headlines for May 22, 2006

- With U.S. Guidance, Iraq Forms New Government
- Juan Cole: Four Wars Are Now Being Fought In Iraq
- Report: Iraq Is "Disintegrating as Ethnic Cleansing Takes Hold"
- U.S.-Air Strike Kills 76 in Afghanistan; Up to 30 Civilians Killed
- Ray Nagin Re-Elected Mayor Of New Orleans
- New Study Warns New Orleans Levees Still to Weak
- CIA Pick Gen. Hayden Refuses to Rule Out Use of 'Waterboarding'
- 1 in 136 U.S. Residents Now in Prison
- Alberto Gonzales: Gov't May Arrest & Prosecute Journalists
- Stiglitz Backs Bolivia's Move to Nationalize Gas Resources
- World-Renowned Dancer and Activist Katherine Dunham, 96, Dies

UN Panel Calls for Bush Administration to Close Guantanamo Bay Military Prison

The UN Committee Against Torture also urges an end to secret CIA prisons and an end to abusive treatment and interrogation techniques against detainees. In addition, the panel sharply criticized practices in regular prisons in the United States including widespread sexual abuse of inmates. [includes rush transcript]

Ex-Guantanamo Chaplain James Yee on Faith and Patriotism Under Fire

James Yee, a Muslim Chaplain, was posted in Guantanamo Bay, in 2002, but less than a year after serving there, he was accused of espionage by the military and faced charges so severe, that he was threatened with the death penalty. Yee was locked away in a Navy prison in Charleston, South Carolina, spent 76 days in solitary confinement and was subject to abusive treatment. In 2004, the government dropped all charges against him.

Iraq snapshot.

Chaos and violence continue -- despite the new cabinet.

In fact, despite the new cabinet, Australia's ABC reports that new cabinet or not, John Howard, prime minister of Australia, "says the new Government in Baghdad will not affect any decision Australia will make about its troops and forces in Iraq." Australia's ABC also reports the Junichiro Koizumi, prime minister of Japan, is making noises about expanding the role of Japanese troops in Iraq. In what only the reality challegend could see as 'good news,' Tony Blair says that maybe, sort of, if everything's just right, British troops might, maybe, leave Iraq by the year 2010. As Blair was grand standing in Iraq, Canada's CBC notes that 108 British troops have died in Iraq. And on the new cabinet, Dan Murphy (Christian Science Monitor) notes "US Ambassador Zalmay Khalizad . . . exerted strong pressure on Nouri al-Maliki" which continues the "muscular" thread John F. Burns noted Sunday.

Far from the myth of democracy and self-rule, as Reuters reported Friday, Hussain al-Shahristani did become the oil minister. You'd think Operation Happy Talk would trumpet the news but they probably don't want to draw too much attention to al-Shahristani's exile period (including the cheerleading of war) or, for that matter, his new post. As the Guardian notes "Another new day in Iraq: Events are stubbornly refusing to conform to the sunny scenarios Bush and Blair are so desperate to paint."

In Baghdad, bombs continued to be a regular feature. Reuters notes a car bomb "in southeastern Baghdad" as well as one "in the capital's New Baghdad district." The Associated Press counts the toll from the two bombing as at least nine dead and at least thirteen wounded while estimating that, on Monday, before "parlimaent met for its first session" 17 Iraqis had died from either car bombs or shootings. Killed by gunfire, the Associated Press reports, was "the general director of the youth ministry." KUNA notes a roadside bomb which killed four Iraqi police officers.


In Samarra, the Associated Press reports that "a police colonel" was shot to death.
Reuters notes three killed in Baquba. The Associated Press notes, also in Baquba, that "an employee of a cell phone company" was killed. In Jbela, Reuters notes a roadside bomb took the life of at least three and wounded at least six. And a the corpse of a police officer was found, the Associated Press notes, "in the Aziziya area, south of Baghdad." In Baghdad, CNN reports, nine corpses were found.

Highlights? We've got five. The topic for the first three is activism. Cindy notes
Jean Rohe's "Why I Spoke Up" (Huffington Post via Common Dreams):

When I was selected as a student speaker for the New School commencement about two months ago I had no idea that I'd end up on CNN and in Maureen Dowd's column in the New York Times, among other places, when it was all over. One day after the big event I'm still reeling from all the media attention and emails from professors, students, and other supporters from all over the country, so forgive me if my writing is a little scattered.
In my speech yesterday I had hoped to talk about social responsibility in a time of war, but in much more oblique terms. I wanted to speak about communication, and how I have found that one of my strongest and most enjoyable methods of communication is music. I wanted to talk about the New York City public school preschoolers with whom I work each week and how they've been empowered through music, how they've been able to learn linguistic and social skills by singing together. I wanted to talk about my grandfather, who, despite the fact that he has Alzheimer's disease and cannot remember even my name, still knows all the songs he sang in his youth. I wanted to talk about music as a powerful tool for peace. I wanted to encourage everyone to identify his or her talents and to always use them for the greater good.
Unfortunately, a certain not-so-dynamic duo of "centrist" politicians foiled my standard graduation speech and forced me to act. Until just the day before commencement I really hadn't understood the gravity of the situation. I suppose I should tell the story.
On Thursday I attended two graduation ceremonies for my two degrees, one at the New School Jazz Program and one at Eugene Lang College at the New School. The Lang graduation was a pretty raucous affair, owing mostly to the dissenting voices of Elijah Miller, a student award recipient, and Mark Larrimore, a religious studies professor and our keynote speaker. Through the cheers at that event I got a sense of just how widespread the student outrage was. Forgive me now if I seem out of touch with my student body, but as a double degree student who had spent the last month in hibernation working on her recital and her thesis, in addition to working with the preschoolers, I hadn't done anything else for weeks. At some point that day I was introduced to Irene, a student who was involved in organizing pins and armbands for students to wear during commencement the next day. We figured out a way to get me and the other student speaker armbands before the event. This same day all of us in the platform party got an email from the event organizer letting us know that certain media representatives would be in attendance, among them Fox news and National Public Radio. The situation seemed pretty serious.
When I got home Thursday night after a rehearsal, I decided I needed to at least insert a line in my speech about the armbands. And I would've left it there, had the other student speaker, Christina Antonakis-Wallace, not reminded me in a telephone conversation that night that I should read John McCain's speech from his other two speaking engagements which was conveniently posted on his website. Of course! I had to do my research. I checked the schedule for the ceremony and realized that I would be speaking just before the senator got his award. And that's when the idea for a preemptive strike began to brew in my little stressed-out brain. What if I tore McCain's speech apart before he even opened his mouth? After reading his speech a couple of times I picked out a few particularly loathsome sections--and believe it or not, none of these actually came from the extensive section where he defends his position on the war in Iraq--and I began planning an attack against him using his own words.

We'll assume it's Jean Rohe. (There have been several versions of Rohe's name in the press.) Rohe wasn't the only one getting active last week. Travis notes CODEPINK's "Four Peaceful Demonstrators Arrested on Rumsfeld's Doorstep: Activists attempted to deliver a message asking peace in Iraq and Iran" (Common Dreams):

WASHINGTON - May 19 - Four peaceful demonstrators were arrested at 5:30pm today as they attempted to deliver a message of peace to Donald Rumsfeld's residence on 2206 Kalorama Road in Washington, D.C. They were charged with unlawful entry for nonviolently attempting to deliver the message, which urged the Secretary of Defense to end the war in Iraq, not go to war with Iran, bring all U.S. troops home now, and stop the torture of detainees.
The four arrested are: Peter Perry, 36; David Barrows, 52; Katie Heald, 27; and Mari Blome, 50. The protesters are members of the DC Anti-War Network (DAWN) and CODEPINK: Women for Peace.
The attempted delivery and subsequent arrests followed a march from the White House to Donald Rumsfeld's residence. The 150-person march down the streets of Washington, D.C. began after demonstrators delivered a petition with 40,000 signatures to the White House, calling on the Administration not to attack Iran.
"I came all the way from Portland, OR to give a message from my community that Donald Rumsfeld should be fired for taking us into this disastrous war," said Katie Heald of CODEPINK. "The American people want the troops to come home from Iraq,"
David Barrows, dressed in an orange jumpsuit and black hood reminiscent of the infamous Guantanamo prison, said "torture is illegal and immoral, and Donald Rumsfeld is responsible for the inhumane treatment of detainees in Iraq and Afghanistan. He must be held accountable."

Wrapping up the activism topic, Brandon notes Peter Rothberg's "Don't Click on This Ad" (The Nation):

As digital democracy expert Jeff Chester wrote on The Nation's site, "The nation's largest telephone and cable companies are crafting an alarming set of strategies that would transform the free, open and nondiscriminatory Internet of today to a privately run and branded service that would charge a fee for virtually everything we do online."
The Net Neutrality bill, introduced by Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon and supported by many leading Democrats as well as Google, Yahoo, Microsoft and other Internet giants, will help prevent that from happening. Click here to ask your reps to support the bill and check out a wide range of related resources from Save the, where you can sign a petition (now with over 600,000 names), write to Congress, learn more about the issues at stake, and forward messages to help thwart the big Telecoms from turning the Internet into little more than a big profit center.

Next topic. Media portrayals matter. They're the cultural fairytales of today. Marcia notes "TV Review: Will & Grace -- goodbye, good riddance" (Third Estate Sunday Review) and also Kai Wright's "The time is right for 'Will & Grace' to take final bow" (The Progressive Media Project). From Wright's piece:

Eight seasons and millions of laughs later, the television show that brought the lives of two gay men into America's living rooms is set for its curtain call. NBC announced Jan. 22 that this season will be the last for "Will & Grace."
It was a wildly successful run -- by any standard. Few sitcoms make it eight years, and "Will & Grace" snatched up 14 Emmys in the process.
Peaking at 17.3 million viewers, the show has been gay America's broadest, most sustained public appearance. Americans invited our TV stand-ins over for dinner week after week. But now that the party's over, the question must be asked: What kinds of hosts were they?

And who's given airtime? Representation? Who's heard and who isn't? You hear a wider range of voices in public broadcasting (no, I don't mean NPR) than in public and Zach notes this on KPFA tonight (time given is Pacific):

8:00 pm
A special tribute to the great poet June Jordan. Featuring readings by Al Young, Angela Davis, Matthew Shenoda and readings by June Jordan herself.

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