Monday, June 05, 2006

Democracy Now: David Helvarg on the environment, Tezozomoc on LA farming, Salma Yaqoub

Pentagon Makes It Official Policy to Ignore Geneva Conventions
The Los Angeles Times is reporting the Pentagon has decided to make it official policy to ignore a key tenet of the Geneva Convention that explicitly bans "humiliating and degrading treatment" of detainees. According to the paper, the Pentagon's new Army Field Manual on interrogation marks a further and potentially permanent shift away from strict adherence to international human rights standards. For decades, it had been the official policy of the U.S. military to follow the minimum standards for treating all detainees as laid out in the Geneva Convention. But, in 2002, Bush suspended portions of the Geneva Convention for accused members of Al Qaeda and Taliban. Critics said the Pentagon's latest decision would violate a broadly supported anti-torture measure advanced by Sen. John McCain to ban torture and cruel treatment. The Los Angeles Times reports the move to officially ignore parts of the Geneva Convention was supported by Vice President Dick Cheney's office and by the Pentagon's intelligence arm. Sources said Cheney's chief of staff David Addington and Stephen Cambone, the Defense undersecretary for intelligence, claimed the Geneva Conventions restrict the United States' ability to question detainees.

Activists Declare UN Conference on AIDS A Failure
A major United Nations conference on AIDS called on the international community to raise as much as $23 billion a year in order to be able to ensure universal access to prevention, treatment and care by 2010. The summit's final declaration called on countries to commit to a wide range of prevention strategies, including abstinence, fidelity, condom use, and clean needles. While the United Nations declared the summit a success, a group of AIDS groups criticized the international body for not doing enough. The group Actionaid International said in a statement QUOTE "We are furious. Vulnerable groups such as intravenous drug users, sex workers and men who have sex with men have been made invisible in this document."

25 Years Ago Today: The Discovery of HIV
Meanwhile it was 25 years ago today, June 5th 1981, when a California doctor named Michael Gottleib published a brief report about the first diagnosis of the HIV virus. Since then 25 million people have died of AIDS. An average of 8,000 continue to die each day.
  • Dr. Michael Gottlieb: "In the first few years after I reported my cases of AIDS I felt like the people on the rooftops during Katrina waving, shouting, screaming, begging for help and it did not come. When it came eventually it came with all these strings attached. You must have abstinence instead of condoms. You don't get enough medication to treat the people you need to treat who are indigent. Our government has had a colossal failure in responding to the AIDS epidemic."
Iraqi Government to Conduct Own Probe of Ishaki Killings
However the Iraqi government has rejected the Pentagon’s findings. On Saturday an aide to Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Maliki said that the Iraqi government would open its own investigation into the deaths of Iraq civilians in Ishaqi. The Iraqi Human Rights Minister said a commission would be sent to the town to investigate the deaths in the next few days. Relatives of the Iraqi family killed in Ishaqi accused the U.S. of slaughtering innocent civilians.

  • Ibrahim A'Rad Khalaf: "The US forces raided my brother's house in March 15. They started shooting into the air before entering the house, this process lasted for about 20 minutes and after that they entered the house and started shooting inside it. They gathered all the family members inside one room and executed all of them."

Wife of Marine Says Troops At Haditha Were Likely On Speed
However the wife of one of the staff sergeants involved in the Haditha killings has told Newsweek that there was a total breakdown in discipline including drug and alcohol abuse within the Marine unit. She said "I think it's more than possible that these guys were totally tweaked out on speed or something when they shot those civilians in Haditha."

The above five items are from today's Democracy Now! Headlines and were selected by Brad, Ladonna, Marcus, Bree and Carl. Democracy Now! ("always informing you," as Marcia says):

Headlines for June 5, 2006

- Pentagon Makes It Official Policy to Ignore Geneva Conventions
- Iraqi Government to Conduct Own Probe of Ishaki Killings
- Report: Record Number Killed in Baghdad in May
- Alan Garcia Wins Peruvian Election
- Evo Morales Hands Over State Land to Indigenous Poor
- Activists Declare UN Conference on AIDS A Failure
- Gov't and Press Agrees to Pay Wen Ho Lee $1.65 Million
- American Bar Association to Investigate Bush for Violating Constitution

"No Good Science Goes Unpunished" -- Environmental Journalist David Helvarg on the Bush Administration, Climate Change and Hurricanes

As the 2006 hurricane season officially begins we speak with environmental journalist and author David Helvarg about hurricanes, coastal development and "Category 5 foolishness." Helvarg is president of the Blue Frontier Campaign and author of "Blue Frontier: Saving Americas Living Seas."
AMY GOODMAN: We're talking to David Helvarg. The hurricane season has begun. David Helvarg is President of the Blue Frontier Campaign, has written a number of books, including Blue Frontier: Dispatches from America's Ocean Wilderness and 50 Ways to Save the Ocean, also The War Against the Greens. And I was wondering, you know, when you did this groundbreaking book, War Against the Greens, you talked about the crackdown on environmentalists. Last week, Rush Limbaugh was attacking you on air. Do you think that that kind of attack prevents the kind of discussion that could lead to the solutions?
DAVID HELVARG: Only if you let it. I mean, I think the reality is, is you look at the environmental backlash of the 1990s, and they call themselves the “Wise Use” movement. They were funded and structured by industry. And --
AMY GOODMAN: And who was the Wise Use movement?
DAVID HELVARG: The Wise Use movement was essentially what you call Astroturf, synthetic grassroots activists and militants who opposed environmental regulation, particularly of public lands industries in the West. And by the mid-'90s, you saw this breakdown where a lot of them were funneled into the militia movement. Today you look at the veterans of Wise Use. It’s funny. Half of them went on to the militia movement. The other half seem to be high-ranking administration officials. You know, and they're driving a lot of what's passing for what they call, you know, "counter-science," what I call "counter-science."
I mean, no good science goes unpunished in this administration. So, for example, there are a lot of administration people pushing the idea that climate change wasn't linked to last year's hurricanes. In fact, it reflects their inability or unwillingness to hold two thoughts at once, which is there is this natural 30-year cycle that's been identified of greater and lesser hurricane activity in the Atlantic. At the same time, there's no question among scientists that the warming, the global warming, of the oceans from fossil fuel fire climate disruption, from adding carbon dioxide and other industrial gases into the atmosphere, is a driver not only of hurricanes, but of coral bleaching, of acidification of the oceans, may even slow down the conveyor belt that drives the Gulf Stream.

Activists, Celebs Stage Encampment For South Central Farm

Farmers in South Central Los Angeles expect that within the week they will be forcibly barred from what is the largest urban farm in the United States. Since an eviction order last month, occupants have staged an encampment to resist removal from land they've tended for over a decade.
AMY GOODMAN: It's good to have you with us. Tell us what is happening now and also describe this area for people who know nothing about the struggle that's going on in South Central.
TEZOZOMOC: Well, this is one of the most industrialized areas in L.A., basically full of warehouses. And, you know, a lot of the warehouses around the vicinity are all empty and with lease signs, with nobody using them. And this was a project, obviously, that was created out of the 1992 uprisings, where Mayor Bradley mitigated some of the land to the community, so they could even out some of the disequities in the community. And that's basically been the basis of a project that the community came up to help themselves, by way of people using a common resource to feed themselves and to, you know, build community around it.
AMY GOODMAN: We're talking to Tezozomoc, elected representative of the South Central Farmers. Can you talk about how your struggle relates to the whole immigrant rights struggle?
TEZOZOMOC: Well, the issue for us is basically about the Mesoamerican diaspora, you know, a movement of people on this continent for thousands of years. So, within this vicinity of, you know, when people are talking about immigrant rights, I think that the issue is, you know, we're all connected to the way that the U.S. policies with farmers around the world. As you push on them, there's a pull for them to move to where resources are available or places where they can't -- you know, they have to move from places where they can no longer have a sustainable environment, and so therefore they're pushed to places like South L.A., where they can try to make a living.

British Antiwar Activist Salma Yaqoub on Iraq, Muslim Discrimination and Being the First Hijab-Wearing Woman Elected to City Council in Birmingham

We speak with Salma Yaqoub, the first Muslim woman wearing a hijab elected to city council in Birmingham, England. She is the head of the Birmingham Stop the War Coalition and a founder of the RESPECT party in Britain.

Iraq snapshot.

As Amy Goodman noted, more than 85 people died from violence in Iraq over the weekend. In Baghdad today, 'commandos' raided bus stations kidnapping "at least 50 people," the Associated Press reports. The AFP notes that Major General Rashid Fulayah "contradicted earlier reports that the operation was officially sanctioned." The assailants wore "commando uniforms" and were originally thought to be part of the police commandos (militias) -- Rashid Fulayah is the "commander of the police commandos in Baghdad." Both Sandra Lupien (on KPFA's The Morning Show) and Reuters noted that 'commando' initiated kidnappings were seen as coordinated.

Also in Baghdad, the AFP reports that eleven students were killed by assailants who stopped their bus and "riddled it with bullets." Two brothers traveling to college were also gunned down in a separate attack reports CBS and AP. In a separate report, AP notes the two Sunni brothers' names were Ahmed and Arkan Sarhan and that they "were in their early 20s." Reuters reports that "the head of the local municipal council" Ghalib Ali Abdullah and his driver were killed by assailants in Baghdad. And the Associated Press notes that assailants "in two cars" killed Kadim Falhi Hussein al-Saedi "near his home in western Baghdad."

In Ramadi, CBS and the AP report, artillery was fired by "U.S.-led forces" and the "the U.S.-Iraqi Joint Operations Center" states the targets were "four military-aged males unloading a weapons cache" while Dr. Omar al-Duleimi notes that "five civilians were killed and 15 wounded."

Speaking to the hosts of Law and Disorder on WBAI this morning, Anthony Arnove (author of IRAQ: The Logic of Withdrawal) noted of the illegal occupation, "The longer the US stays the worse things will get . . . The United States has no right to be in Iraq. They used a series of lie [to wage an illegal war]. . . All those lies have now been exposed. . . . Every day the occupation is engaging in collective punishment of the Iraqi people."*

Throughout Iraq, corpses were found. In Suwayra, Reuters reports, four corpses ("stab wounds") were discovered "in the Tigris River." The AFP notes that seven corpses were discovered in Baghdad. The AP notes two of the corpses and that one "had been shot in the head" and the other was also shot in the head as well as the chest and was blindfolded.

Margaret Hassan was kidnapped in October of 2004 and assumed dead in November of 2004 (her body was never found -- her husband remains in Iraq until her body is found). Today, the BBC reports, Mustafa Salman al-Jubouri "has been jailed for life for his role in the abudction and murder of aid worker Margaret Hassan." Reuters notes that "[t]wo other defendents in the case were freed" and that "[m]ore than 200 foreigners and thousands of Iraqis have been kidnapped since U.S.-led forces invaded in 2003" and that "[m]ore than 40" of tose kidnapped were killed. Hassan, who had "British, Iraqi and Irish nationality," had been the "head of the Iraqi operation of the CARE International charity." In January of 2003, Hassan went to the United Nations and spoke with a number of people including UN Deputy Secretary-General Louise Frechette -- a visit she summarized on CNN as, "My message to the United Nations was . . . this is an impoverished nation over 12 years. They have not got what it takes to withstand a further crisis." Margaret Hassan met her husband Tahseen Ali Hassan in England and then moved to Iraq in 1972.

Though CARE played down her political stance, as her family notes, she "was vocally opposed to the war in Iraq." Speaking to Daniel McGrory (Times of London), her family blames the British government for Hassan's death noting "the refusal by the British Government to open a dialogue with the kidnappers." Her brother and three sisters revealed that the kidnappers had contacted Tahseen Ali Hassan repeatedly using his wife's cell phone, each time demanding a dialogue with the British Embassy for her relase; however, the British Embassy, according to Tahseen Ali Hassan, refused to contact the kidnappers (repeatedly refused, there were at least four calls and each one was passed on the British Embassy according to Hassan, the Times confirms the first call was passed on).

In the United States, CNN notes that Joe Biden called for Donald Rumsfeld (sec. of Defense, US) to step down as a rsult of the incidents in Haditha and the cover up. The senator appeared on NBC's Meet the Press and stated: "When you make serious mistakes, you step forward and you acknowledge them and you walk away. . . . [Rumsfeld] should be gone; he shouldn't be in his office tomorrow morning."

And Rumsfeld wasn't in his office Monday morning. Rumsfeld is in Vietnam. Sunday began a three day visit where he's meeting with "his Vietnamese counterpart Pham Van Tra."

CBS and the AP report that CBS reporter Kimberly Dozier will not be returning to the United States on Tuesday as had been expected. On May 29th, a roadside bomb in Baghdad injured Dozier and took the lives of Paul Douglas and James Brolan. In their joint story, CBS and the AP note: "Scores of journalists -- nearly 75 percent of them Iraqis -- have been injured, killed or kidnapped in Iraq since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion." Many are also missing including French cameraman Frederic Nerac who has been missing since March 22, 2003 and German cameraman Isam Hadi Muhsin Al-Shumary who has been missince August 15, 2004. Reporters Without Borders' places the figure for journalists and media assistants killed since the illegal 2003 invasion at 97. In addition Iraqi reporter Reem Zeid and Marwan Khazaal, who were kidnapped Feb. 1, 2006 remain missing as does Agence France-Presse's accountant Salah Jali al-Gharrawi who was kidnapped April 4, 2006. (All three kidnappings took place in Baghdad.) Reporters Without Borders has an online petition that they intend to deliver "to Prime Minister Nuri Al Maliki to encourage him to do everything necessary to find them."

*Ruth read the Arnove quote used over the phone and will be covering Arnove's appearance in her next Ruth's Public Radio Report. (Thank you, Ruth.)

We'll provide an excerpt to Salma Yaqoub's segment in the next entry. (Either this evening or tomorrow morning.)

The e-mail address for this site is