Friday, July 07, 2006

Democracy Now: same-sex marriage, Michelle Goldberg, Ehren Watada's attorney

Ex-Soldier Pleads Not Guilty to Rape, Killings of Iraqis
The former US soldier charged with raping a young Iraqi woman and killing her and three family members has pleaded not guilty. Former private Steven Green appeared in a Kentucky courtroom Thursday. Green is accused of raping and murdering Abeer Qasim Hamza, and then burning her body in an attempt to hide the crime. Hamza may have been as young as fifteen years old. Green is also accused of murdering Hamza's mother, Fakhriya Taha Muhsen; her father, Kasim Hamza Rasheed; and her five-year old sister Hadel. Four other soldiers are also under investigation. New details continue to emerge about the case. Family cousin Abu Firas Janabi told the Los Angeles Times he was the first person to enter the house after the attack. Janabi says the father's head had been "smashed into pieces" and the young sister's arm visibly broken. He said Abeer Qasim Hamza lay naked and burned, her head smashed in "by a concrete block or a piece of iron." And according to Janabi, the family's two young sons returned from school to see their home on fire and their family members burning inside. Janabi also says that three days before the attack, Abeer Qasim Hamza’s mother had complained to him that US soldiers were constantly searching her house and that she believed her daughter was the target. Janabi says he suggested that the family move into a vacant home beside his but the parents insisted they'd be safe. Janabi says the family's two sons are now with their uncle in a nearby village. Meanwhile, the military is investigating whether the recent abduction and beheading of two US troops in a nearby town is linked to the case. The dead Privates -- Kristian Menchaca and Thomas Tucker -- were from the same military unit as Steven Green and the four other soldiers. Investigators now believe the two soldiers may have been slain as an act of revenge for the rape and killings.

Pentagon Allowing Neo-Nazis, Extremists in Armed Forces
In military news, the Southern Poverty Law Center is warning the Pentagon's recruiting difficulties have allowed "large numbers of violent neo-Nazis and skinheads extremists" to join the armed forces. The Center says the numbers could reach into the thousands. Pentagon investigator Scott Barfield said graffiti advocating the Aryan Nations has appeared in Baghdad. He said commanders are not taking action even after being notified of the presence of extremists or gang members amidst their ranks. Barfield added: "They don't want to make a big deal again about neo-Nazis in the military because then parents who are already worried about their kids signing up and dying in Iraq are going to be even more reluctant about their kids enlisting if they feel they'll be exposed to gangs and white supremacists."

European Parliament Orders States, Banks to Disclose Bank Spy Role
In other news, the European Parliament voted Thursday to demand financial institutions and member states disclose how much they knew about the secret US program to spy on international banking. The Parliament also voted to endorse the findings of a Council of Europe report that accused leading European countries of complicity in the CIA's program of extraordinary rendition.

CIA Kidnap Victim Reveals Ordeal in Afghan Prison
Meanwhile, an apparent victim of a CIA kidnapping has come forward to reveal the story of his abduction and torture. In an interview with the New York Times, the victim, Laid Saidi, says his ordeal began three years ago. In May of 2003, Saidi was expelled from Tanzania and handed to US agents. He was then flown to Afghanistan, where he spent sixteen months in a prison he believes was run by Americans. Saidi says he was left chained for five days without food or clothing. He says his interrogators beat him, doused him with cold water, spat on him, gave him dirty drinking water and told him he would die at the prison. He was eventually released in August 2004 and sent to Algeria. Saidi says he was held in the same prison as Khaled el-Masri, the German citizen who tried to sue the CIA for illegally kidnapping him two and a half years ago. According to the New York Times, two Pakistani detainees held at the same Afghan prison are now being held at Guantanano Bay.

NY, Georgia Courts Reject Gay Marriage
Back in the United States, the highest courts in two states issued rulings Thursday that set back efforts of gay and lesbian couples to win marriage rights. The New York Court of Appeals rejected same-sex couples' bid to marry and the top court in Georgia upheld a Constitutional amendment banning gay marriage in the state.

The above five items are from today's Democracy Now! Headlines and were selected by Molly, Brenda, Seth, Joan and Gore Vidal Is God. Democracy Now! ("always informing you," as Marcia says):

Headlines for July 7, 2006

- Calderon Declared Victor in Mexico Race; Obrador to Challenge
- Ex-Soldier Pleads Not Guilty to Rape, Killings of Iraqis
- Israel Widens Gaza Assault
- CIA Kidnap Victim Reveals Ordeal in Afghan Prison
- NY, Georgia Courts Reject Gay Marriage
- Pentagon Allowing Neo-Nazis, Extremists in Armed Forces
- FBI: Suspects Planned to Blow Up Holland Tunnel
- Britain Marks Anniversary of London Suicide Bombings

Calderon Declared Victor in Disputed Mexico Race; Lopez Obrador Calls for Mass Rally

Mexico's electoral commission has announced that conservative candidate Felipe Calderon has won the presidential election with a razor-thin victory. His populist rival, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador says he will challenge the result in the courts. We go to Mexico City for a report. [includes rush transcript]

New York, Georgia Courts Reject Gay Marriage

The highest courts in two states delivered rulings within hours of each other Thursday that set back efforts of gay and lesbian couples to win marriage rights. The New York Court of Appeals rejected same-sex couples' bid to marry and the top court in Georgia upheld a Constitutional amendment banning gay marriage in the state.

Kingdom Coming: The Rise of Christian Nationalism

In her book, "Kingdom Coming: The Rise of Christian Nationalism," author Michelle Goldberg examines how gay marriage has become "the mobilizing passion for much of the religious right." The book also charts how Christian fundamentalism is supported by Republican patronage and how under the Bush administration, it is increasingly shaping many aspects of public policy.

Army Charges Lieutenant With Contempt and Conduct Unbecoming an Officer for Refusing Iraq Deployment and Criticizing Bush, War

The Army has filed three charges against 1st Lieutenant Ehren Watada who refused to deploy to Iraq last month because he believes the war there is illegal. The charges against him include conduct unbecoming an officer, missing movement and contempt toward officials. He faces up to seven years in prison if convicted.

Iraq snapshot.

Chaos and violence continue.

Iraq was rocked with bombings today. As Sandra Lupien noted on KPFA's The Morning Show, "As many as 17 are dead and at least 50 wounded following attacks on mosques." The BBC reports that the bombs went off "in Baghdad and Baquba following Friday prayers." Al Jazeera notes that, in Baghdad, a car bomb went off near one Sunni mosque and a mortar round landed on another. In addition to the mortar attack on the mosque, Reuters reports another one in Baghdad that took the lives of at least three people and wounded at least 30. Reuters also notes a car bomb exploding near a mosque in Tal Banat ("killed six and wounded 46") and that three people were gunned down in Mosul. The Associated Press reports that, in Sinjar, at least eight died and 48 were wounded when "a car bomb exploded near a Shiite mosque".

Along with the above, the AFP reports that two sheikhs may have been kidnapped. Sheikh Said Mohammed Taha al-Samarrai of Mahmudiyah is reported kidnapped and killed according to Sunni members of Parliament. The second sheikh believed to be kidnapped is Sheikh Alaa Mohammed Abbas al-Rikabi -- and that's according to Sheikh Abdel Ghafur al-Sammarai who also states "that 181 Sunni clerics have been killed since February."

Mahmudiyah was the hometown of Abeer Qasim Hamza, the 15-year-old who was allegedly rape before being killed (along with three of her family members) by US military forces. Steven D. Green is the only one charged so far. In court Thursday, his attorney Scott Wendelsdorf "entered a plea of 'not guilty on all counts,'" Reuters reports.

In peace news, Bay Area Code Pink is fasting and picketing . . . outside the home of War Hawk Di Fi (the home warbucks is building): " Senator Diane Feinstein recently voted against John Kerry's amendment calling for the troops to come home. Let's make sure she doesn't disappoint her constituents again. Gather with us, as we encourage her to co-sponsor the Harkin bill (S. CON. RES 93) -- no permanent military presence or military bases in Iraq; no attempt to control the flow of Iraqi oil; and Armed Forces should be redeployed from Iraq as soon as practicable after the completion of Iraq's constitution-making process or December 31, 2006 - which ever comes first."

CODEPINK also continues their fast in DC and elsewhere as people across the country continue fasting or begin to show their support. Kris Wise (Daily Mail) writes of West Virginians taking part in the fast and quotes Janie Poe: "I'll go for as long as my body can hold out or until my group tells me to stop. It's probably detrimental for us on our bodies, but it's us screaming out to people to wake up."

Today on KPFA's The Morning Show, Andrea Lewis interviewed Dahr Jamail and Mark Manning (info on tonight's event below) on the subject of Iraq. On the issue of the alleged rape and the murders, Dahr Jamail said, "This type of thing is happening on a regular basis in Iraq . . . [rapes during house raids] even in the capital city of Baghdad." Mark Manning pointed out that the legal immunity given to contractors and the military has created "a huge problem" and that the Iraqis have seen too many incidents being wiped away without investigation.
Event tonight:

An upcoming event: Brava Theater, 2789 24th Street, San Francisco, Friday, July 7th, 7:00 pm. (415-647-2822)
Mark Manning will be screening his film
Caught in the Crossfire for those interested in knowing the realities on Falluja that Dexy and the other Green Zoners never got around to telling you. Nadia McCaffrey, who lost her son in the Iraq war, will bespeaking as will Dahr Jamail.

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