Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Democracy Now: New Orleans teachers fired, Bill Quigley; TARIQ ALI on KPFA's Against the Grain

Japan To Withdraw Troops From Iraq
The so-called coalition of the willing in Iraq is continuing to shrink. The Japanese prime minister has announced plans to pull its six hundred troops out of Iraq within weeks. Italy has already said it will remove its troops by year's end. Spain, The Netherlands, Ukraine, Nicaragua, the Philippines and Honduras have already pulled out. Once the Italian troops leave, Britain and South Korea will be the only nations besides the United States to have more than one thousand troops in Iraq.

U.S. Soldiers Charged With Murdering Iraqi Detainees
Three U.S. soldiers have been charged in connection with the killing of three Iraqi detainees last month in the town of Thar Thar Canal. The soldiers -- all members of the 101st Airborne Division -- reportedly detained the Iraqis during a raid on a former chemical factory. Then the soldiers allowed the Iraqis to flee the scene so they would have an excuse to shoot them. The men are also accused of threatening to kill another soldier if he assisted investigators.

Report: U.S. Kills 13 Farm Workers Near Baquba
Meanwhile there are reports coming out of the Iraqi city of Baquba, that U.S. forces killed 13 Iraqis working in poultry farms during an overnight raid. An Iraqi police officer said the workers were sleeping on the roof of their houses. Four others were wounded in the raid and 10 people were arrested. Earlier today in Baghdad, a car bomb exploded in a crowded market. Seven people died. 18 people were wounded.

Lynne Stewarts Ask Court if Gov't Illegally Spied On Her
There is an update in the case of Civil rights attorney Lynne Stewart -- she is the New York attorney convicted of terror-related charges for her work representing her imprisoned client, Sheik Omar Abdel-Rahman. Stewart filed court papers on Monday seeking to learn whether any warrantless or illegal electronic surveillance was conducted on her or anyone involved in her case. Stewart maintains that the government's case against her would be compromised if it engaged in illegal surveillance. The Bush administration has already admitted it monitored jailhouse conversations between Stewart and her client.

Groups Launch "Stop Big Media" Campaign
Here in this country, a coalition of consumer, civil rights, labor and media reform groups are launching a new campaign today. The groups oppose rule changes that would allow large media corporations to control more TV channels, radio stations and newspapers in communities across the country. The groups are launching a new website today called StopBigMedia.com. The campaign comes as the Federal Communications Commission is preparing to start a new rulemaking process this week that could result in the overhaul of the nation's media ownership rules. The advocacy groups maintain the relaxation of the rules would lead to more corporate consolidation, less competition, and fewer local voices in the media.

The above five items are from today's Democracy Now! Headlines and were selected by Jonah, Erika, Brad, Kara and Yazz. Democracy Now! ("always informing you," as Marcia says):

Headlines for June 20, 2006

- Japan To Withdraw Troops From Iraq
- Two Missing U.S. Soldiers Found Dead in Baghdad
- U.S. Soldiers Charged With Murdering Iraqi Detainees
- Report: U.S. Kills 13 Farm Workers Near Baquba
- Supreme Court Moves Toward Rolling Back Clean Water Act
- Report: Bush Ignored Iran Peace Offer in 2003
- U.S. Lobbies to Block Venezuela Bid to Join UN Security Council
- Afghan Gov't Bars Reporters From Criticizing U.S.-led Military Coalition
- 20,000 New U.S. Troops Suffer From Post-Combat Stress
- Groups Launch "Stop Big Media" Campaign
- Louisiana Sends National Guard Back Into New Orleans
- Protesting Trash Collectors in India Fill Streets With Garbage

Bloodshed in Afghanistan as U.S. Launches Largest Military Offensive Since 2001

In Afghanistan, US forces have launched their largest military offensive since the fall of the Taliban in late 2001. More than ten thousand coalition troops are spreading out across southern Afghanistan to fight the Taliban. We go to Kandahar to speak with Declan Walsh of the London Guardian.

All New Orleans Public School Teachers Fired, Millions in Federal Aid Channeled to Private Charter Schools

Immediately after Hurricane Katrina hit, the Louisiana state legislature voted to take over most of New Orleans' public schools and effectively fire the 7,500 teachers who work in them. The city schools are now part of the state-run recovery school district and control of many of schools is being given to private charter organizations. We speak with a member of the United Teachers of New Orleans.

Thousands of New Orleans Public Housing Units to be Destroyed as 200,000+ Low-Income Residents Remain Displaced

Federal housing officials announced last week that more than 5,000 public housing units for the poor were to be demolished even though tens of thousands of low-income residents remain displaced. We speak with New Orleans law professor Bill Quigley.

Iraq snapshot.

Chaos and violence continue in Iraq. Outside of Iraq?

As noted by Amy Goodman on Democracy Now!, "the so-called coalition of the willing continues to shrink:" Junichiro Koizumi, prime minister of Japan, declared that Japanese troops are leaving Iraq by "year's end.". Reuters notes that, although no Japanese troops were "killed or wounded in Iraq," "six Japanese citizens, including two diplomats, have been killed by insurgents in Iraq." China's Xinhau reports that the prime ministers discussed the intended withdrawal "with leaders of the ruling coalition and opposition parties" on Tuesday morning "shortly before the announcement." As Amy Goodman reported, Japan joins Italy with the announcement of pulling troops out by year's end and that "Spain, The Netherlands, Ukraine, Nicaragua, the Philipines and Honduras have already pulled out." Noting "Japan's Kyodo news agency," the Financial Times of London states the withdrawal "process could be completed by the end of July." Xinhua notes the same possibility and credits word on it to "Japanese government officials."

While Japan prepares to remove troops from the ground in Iraq, in the United States, a watered-down, weaker version of John Kerry's call for US troops out of Iraq is allowing for posturing. Caterwauling on the Senate floor today, Bill Frist exclaimed, "We cannot surrender. We cannot go wobbly. The price is far too high." Possibly a mantra he once repeated to himself while dissecting felines? Meanwhile, always one to run from a fight, Harry Reid's less concerned with exit plans for the US, and knowing there's no democracy in Iraq, focuses instead on a possible amnesty plan Nouri al-Maliki, Iraqi prime minister and occupation puppet Nouri al-Maliki. Adnan Ali al-Kadhimi was fired/resigned following his comments to the press regarding the potential plan. But it's a nice, dead-hypothetical to rage and rattle about as opposed to dealing with reality. In other news on the spineless, John Walsh (CounterPunch) reports that what recent book sales didn't get across, phone calls might have -- Baby Cries a Lot took three calls complaining about his War Hawk position on the war. Walsh does not note if Baby Cries a Lot attempted to garner sympathy by sobbing, breaking into tears or using his own children to justify an ongoing war (children who do not and have not served in Iraq or, for that matter, the military). In non-spineless news, AP reports that Barbara Boxer, Russ Feingold and John Kerry "intend to push for a vote on their own proposal."

In Seattle yesterday, Sara Jean Green reports: "Ann Wright appeared with 1st Lt. Ehren Watada and his parents at a news conference at University Lutheran Church to announce a national day of action June 27, when anti-war demonstrations will be held in cities across the country in support of Watada." Green reports that Wright, "retired army colonel and former State Department official," will appear at a "news conference today at University Lutheran Church on behalf of another Fort Lewis soldier, Suzanne Swift". Watada, whose parents joined him for yesterday's news conference, is the first commission officer to refuse deployment in Iraq. Click here to sign an online petition supporting Watada. Suzanne Swift was arrested last week after deciding she couldn't return to Iraq and going AWOL.

In Iraq, as reported by Jonathan Finer (Washington Post), Kristian Menchaca and Thomas L. Tucker, two US soldiers who were abducted last Friday, were found dead "near a power plant in Yusifiyah." The discovered corpses are said to have signs of "barbaric" torture. Meanwhile, the Mujahedeen Shura Council is claiming credit for the deaths. The Financial Times of London concludes: "The news will tarnish the positive image US and Iraqi officials have been projecting recently of a government that is gradually getting to grips with the security situation and turning the tide against the insurgents."

Other corpses were discovered in Iraq today, Reuters notes that two were found in Hilla ("blindfolded and hands tied") while in Baghdad, five corpses were found ("handcuffed with gunshot wounds in the head").

Bombings? Baghdad saw a series of bombings. RTE News reports on one near "a second-hand clothes market in central Baghdad" which resulted in at least two dead and and at least 28 wounded. Al Jazeera notes that roadside bomb as well as a cra bomb "in a a crowded market in the eastern district of Jamila in Baghdad" that left seven dead and 18 wounded. The BBC reports that, in Basra, "at least one elderly woman was killed along with a suicide bomber who blew himself up inside a home for the elderly". Reuters notes that five others were wounded. Another car bomb went off in the Hurriya district of Baghdad "killing at least five people and wounding 11".

Reuters reports that while the US miliatry is saying Ramadi is not the target for a major offensive, the Red Cross has "voiced concern on difficult living conditions in Ramadi". Reporting for IPS, Dahr Jamail and Ali Fdhil write: "A week spent in Ramadi, the capital of Anbar province west of Baghdad, reveals that residents are suffering from lack of water, electricity, cooking gas and medical supplies for the hospitals. The streets are eerily empty, and it appears that many people have now left the city, althought possibly as many as 150,000 still remain in their homes, either because they are too afraid to leave or they have nowhere to go."

As noted by Sandra Lupien on KPFA's The Morning Show the US military is claiming an exchange was aimed at insurgents with 15 dead while Iraqi witnesses disputing the official (US) account*. The exchange took place in Bushahin ("village . . . north of Baghdad") The AP reports that "AP Television News footage showed blood splattered on the ground and matresses and spent bullet casings inside a poultry farm, where residents said the civilians were killed." Reuters quotes Mohammed Jaba al-Qaduir, father of Jassem and Mazen killed in the raid, "They did not attack any Americans or Humvees. We don't have any problems with the Americans. We don't have any foreigners here." Reuters mentions that one of the corpses, according to a "police source" was that of a twelve-year-old boy."

Finally, Barbara McMahon, Michael Howard and Julian Borger report (for the Guardian of London) that four prosecutors in Rome have signed "[t]he request to charge Mario Lozano, a national guardsman from New York, with the murder of Nicola Calipari." As noted by Amy Goodman on Democracy Now!: "Calipari was escorting Italian journalist Giuliana Sgrena after she had been released by kidnappers. U.S. troops opened fire on their car killing Calipari and injuring Sgrena. . . . Tune in to Democracy Now on Thursday when Giuliana Sgrena joins us in the Firehouse studio." Also remember that: Sgrena will be in New York City Friday June 23rd for an event with Amy Goodman at Columbia University. (Event starts at 7:30 p.m.)

*Thanks to Zach and Mia for passing on the Lupien item.

Zach also asked that we note this on KPFA (time given, noon, is Pacific and that's this morning):

Against the Grain (12p.m.)
A conversation with radical public intellectual, author, and filmmaker Tariq Ali.

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