Saturday, May 20, 2006

Saturday post

Good morning. I'd promised Nina we would have a Friday night out and Elaine had a date for last night too so after about ten minutes Friday evening of talking, we both decided we'd just blog on Saturday morning (and that gives me the chance to include Maria's highlights that I've been forgetting to lately). So let's kick things off with Friday's Democracy Now!

Hayden Defends Domestic Spy Program At Confirmation Hearing
General Michael Hayden appeared before Senate Thursday for the first day of his confirmation hearings to become the new head of the CIA. The former director of the National Security Agency repeatedly defended the legality of the NSA's secret warrant-less domestic eavesdropping program that he helped design.
General Michael Hayden: "When I had to make this personal decision in early October, 2001 -- and it was a personal decision -- the math was pretty straight forward. I could not not do this… We knew that this was a serious issue, and that the steps we were taking, although convinced of their lawfulness, we were taking them in a regime that was different from the regime that existed on 10th September."

General Hayden refused to answer questions during the public portion of the hearing on a number of issues including interrogation methods, secret CIA prisons and the true extent of the government’s surveillance program.

What is this "personal decision"? If something's legal, it's legal. In traffic court, no one's asking the cop who pulled you over about his/her "personal decision" to pull you over. They're asking if you broke the law by speeding. You obey the law or you don't. That's not a "personal decision" it's obeying the law or breaking it. If I rob you tomorrow, I'm not telling the judge, "I made a personal decision to rob them."

Judge Dismisses Case of Wrongfully-Held CIA Detainee
And a federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit by a German citizen who says U.S. agents mistakenly kidnapped him and sent him to a secret prison in Afghanistan. The man, Khaled El-Masri, alleges he was first detained while on vacation in Macedonia. Once in CIA custody he says he was repeatedly beaten, roughly interrogated by masked men, detained in squalid conditions and denied access to an attorney or his family. He was only released after the CIA realized they had detained the wrong man, and left him alone on an abandoned road in Albania. On Thursday, the judge ruled proceeding with El-Masri's case would harm national security. Ben Wizner, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union who is representing al-Masri, said he will file an appeal. Wizner said: "[The ruling] confers a blank check on the CIA to shield even the most outrageous conduct from judicial review."

I didn't know "national security" meant protecting the war crimes of Bully Boy, did you?

I read this in the paper this morning. It's a part of Derrick Z. Jackson's "Homing in on our privacy:"

President Bush reassures us that ''we are not mining or trolling through the personal lives of millions of innocent Americans." If that makes you feel better, you have not considered three things.
One: Bush lied. He said in January that his surveillance program against Al Qaeda communications ''applies only to international communications. . . . One end of the communication must be outside the United States."
Two: If it isn't a blunder, it's a blunderbuss. This White House transformed the hunt for Osama into the annihilation of Iraqi civilians. If actual lives do not matter, why should a phone call?
Three, the following compendium. It is nuts to entrust a phone call database of millions of Americans to:
A. A president who believes he can circumvent 750 new laws and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.
B. A vice president who always wanted warrantless spying of domestic calls.
C. An attorney general who refuses to discuss why his Justice Department dropped an internal investigation of the legality of the NSA's surveillance activities.
D. Predatory phone companies who always seemed to have our number until we revolted with ''Do Not Call" lists.
E. An NSA that blew $1.2 billion on a Trailblazer project to refine data mining, according to the Baltimore Sun, after dumping ThinThread, a project the Pentagon's inspector general said provided ''superior processing, filtering and protection of US citizens."

Got a lot to do today so here's C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot" for Friday:

Let's start with tomorrow. On Saturday, as the Associated Press and CBS note, the plan is "to swear in Iraq's new prime minister and Cabinet." The AP also notes rumors that Nouri al-Maliki, prime minister to be, "might appoint himself to head the two ministries until all parties can agree." Dropping back to yesterday, Italy's new prime minister, Romano Prodi, has declared the illegal Iraq war a "grave error" notes China's People's Daily Online. Also yesterday, details of the Pentagon's plan to blind drivers at checkpoints was covered by Reuters (and others). Reuters reports that Hussain al-Shahristani will be Iraq's new oil minister -- surprising only to those who didn't follow the "work" of the Iraq Foundation going back to before the illegal invasion. (Translation, war planners are dropping the war dance long enough for a dance of joy.)UNICEF's David Singh estimates "850,000 Iraqi children aged between six and 59 months" suffer "from chronic malnutrition" while the figure for those suffering from "actue malnutrition" is estimated to be 300,000. You didn't discover that in this morning's New York Times, but viewers of Austalia's ABC could see David Singh interviewed on The World Today.
On another Iraqi story that the mainstream media in the United States hasn't shown interest in, Jake Kovco's family (Lorriane and David Small, parents of Jake's wife Shelley Kovco) and the family of Juso Sinanovic (Jasmina Sinanovic -- daughter of Juso) spoke via "community station Radio RPH" reports the AAP which also notes that Mick Martin has "established an appeal for . . . [Jake Kovco's] widow Shelley to supplement what he says is her meagre Australian Defence Force pension."
Today has been a confusing one for the family of Naji al Noaimi -- diplomat with the United Arab Emirates who was kidnapped Tuesday in Baghdad. But he has been released.
In Baghdad today, as CBS and the AP note, a gun fight between resistance and police officers led to the deaths of at least five and the wounded of at least eight. Roadside bombs continued exploding. One resulted in the wounding of three Iraqis, Reuters noted. AP reported on a roadside bomb apparently intended for a police officer who was not at his home -- but his wife and two children were and both were wounded in the explosion. Another roadside bomb resulted in at least one US soldier being wounded when it went off near a convoy.The Associated Press notes the discovery of four corpses in Baghdad ("bullet-ridden"; "kidnapped and tortured") offering a potential identification of one as the elementary school teacher who was kidnapped.
Six miles out of Kirkuk, police discovered a coprse ("gunshot wounds"; "bearing signs of torture) while in Kirkuk "Mohammed al-Iqabi, an employee of the northern state-oil company, was gunned down" Reuters reports. CNN reports that "U.S. military commanders have decided to send more U.S. troops to the Iraqi city of Ramadi" where the 'pacification' has not taken. The Associated Press notes that "more than 30 shops in a market in Diwaniyah" have been targeted and burned by arsonists.KUNA notes that Bully Boy was on US television this morning (NBC's Today) and continues to blame his low approval ratings on the Iraq war but he thinks he'll rebound noting, "I have got two and a half years left to be president of the United States and I intend to get a lot done" -- barring, of course, impeachment or prolonged vacations.
Finally, in England, Helene Mullholland reports that an investigation will start again in to the death of David Kelly. Kelly was the scientist who was at least one source for a 2003 report by the BBC that the Tony Blair government "sexed up" the intelligence to sell the case for war. Angry denials from the ruling party led to what some would call a witch hunt. During the witch hunt, Kelly was identified as a source. Shortly afterward, he died (July 18, 2003) and, though his death had been officially ruled a suicide, questions have remained.

Thursday, I got my interview with C.I. and I'll try to go in and fix my typos. You're dealing with a hunt and pecker here. :D Jim asked me to do some links today on that post so that they'd be in when it was highlighted. I told him I'd try but have a lot on my plate today so not sure how much I can get to. Now tags and then Maria's rundown (Spanish first, then English).

UNICEF: 25% de los niños iraquíes padecen desnutricion
Maria: Buenos dias. De parte de "Democracy Now!" once cosas que vale hacer notar este fin de semana. Paz.

Nuevo Primer Ministro italiano promete retirar a soldados de Irak
En Italia, el nuevo Primer Ministro, Romano Prodi, marcó los primeros días de su nuevo gobierno prometiendo retirar a los soldados italianos de Irak. Prodi fue abucheado por los miembros del parlamento que apoyan a su predecesor, Silvio Berlusconi.Prodi dijo: "Consideramos que la guerra en Irak y la ocupación de este país es un grave error. La guerra no ha resuelto sino que ha complicado el problema de la seguridad. El terrorismo encontró en Irak una nueva base, y nuevas excusas para llevar a cabo ataques terroristas dentro y fuera del conflicto iraquí... Este gobierno pretende proponerle al parlamento el regreso de nuestros soldados, a pesar de que estamos orgullosos de su capacidad profesional, su valentía y la humanidad que han demostrado y siguen demostrando".

Murtha: investigación de Haditha indica que infantes de marina asesinaron a iraquíes "a sangre fría"
El Pentágono concluyó su investigación del asesinato a balazos de civiles llevado a cabo por infantes de marina estadounidenses en la ciudad iraquí de Haditha. El miércoles, el congresista demócrata de Pennsylvania John Murtha afirmó que la investigación demostrará que los infantes de marina "mataron a civiles inocentes a sangre fría". Ciudadanos iraquíes dicen que quince aldeanos fueron asesinados luego que soldados estadounidenses los metieron en una habitación de una casa, ubicada cerca de la ciudad de Balad. Entre las personas que murieron se encontraban cinco niños y cuatro mujeres. Las personas que fueron asesinadas tenían entre seis meses y 75 años de edad. Inicialmente, el Pentágono afirmó que los civiles habían muerto en un atentado con bombas al costado de una carretera, pero Murtha dijo: "No fue un enfrentamiento armado. No fue ningún artefacto casero lo que mató a esas personas inocentes. Nuestros soldados reaccionaron de manera exagerada debido a la presión que hay sobre ellos. Y mataron a civiles inocentes a sangre fría. Eso es lo que dirá el informe".

UNICEF: 25% de los niños iraquíes padecen desnutrición
Mientras tanto, un estudio llevado a cabo por el gobierno iraquí y UNICEF concluyó que una cuarta parte de los niños iraquíes sufren de desnutrición.

Informe: Estados Unidos envió soldados con enfermedades mentales a Irak
En otras noticias de Irak, el periódico "Hartford Courant" informa que las fuerzas armadas estadounidenses enviaron en forma rutinaria a soldados que se sabía que padecían problemas mentales para que pelearan en Irak. El periódico dijo que 22 soldados estadounidenses, una cifra histórica, se suicidaron en Irak el año pasado. En varios casos los soldados permanecieron en servicio incluso luego de que intentaron suicidarse.

Cindy Sheehan encabeza vigilia contra la guerra en el Día de la Madre
En Washington, la activista por la paz Cindy Sheehan pasó el Día de la Madre en una vigilia contra la guerra frente a la Casa Blanca, junto con la actriz Susan Sarandon, las madres de otros soldados, y veteranos de la guerra de Irak.

Hayden defiende programa de espionaje nacional en audiencia de confirmación
El general Michael Hayden compareció el jueves ante el Senado, para asistir al primer día de audiencias de confirmación que lo convertirían en el nuevo director de la CIA. El ex director de la Agencia de Seguridad Nacional (NSA, por sus siglas en inglés) defendió en reiteradas ocasiones la legalidad del programa secreto de escuchas telefónicas sin garnatías de la NSA, que él mismo ayudó a diseñar.
Hayden dijo: "A principios de octubre de 2001, cuando tuve que tomar esta decisión personal, y fue una decisión personal, las matemáticas eran bastante simples. No podía hacerlo... Sabíamos que este era un asunto serio, y que las medidas que estábamos tomando, aunque estábamos convencidos de que eran legales, las estábamos tomando en un régimen que era diferente del régimen que existió el 10 de septiembre".
El general Hayden se negó a contestar preguntas durante la parte pública de la audiencia acerca de una serie de asuntos, que incluían los métodos usados en los interrogatorios, las prisiones secretas de la CIA, y el verdadero alcance del programa de vigilancia del gobierno.

Votación del senado hace que el inglés sea el "idioma nacional" de Estados Unidos
En Capitol Hill, el Senado votó el jueves para hacer del inglés el "idioma nacional" de Estados Unidos. La medida confirma que nadie tiene derecho a realizar comunicaciones o notificaciones federales en un idioma que no sea el inglés, salvo en los casos garantizados por ley. Los activistas por los derechos de los inmigrantes dijeron que la votación era una gran derrota.

Senado vota para construir cerca fronteriza de 595 kilómetros
El Senado votó a favor de la construcción de una cerca en algunas partes de la frontera de Estados Unidos con México, para impedir que inmigrantes ilegales entren al país. En total, se agregarían 595 kilómetros de barreras triples cerca de San Diego y en el desierto de Arizona. Los senadores también aprobaron una disposición que impediría que los inmigrantes ilegales eleven una petición solicitando un permiso para trabajar legalmente sin el patrocinio de un empleador. Asimismo, el Senado aprobó unánimemente una enmienda que prohibiría otorgarle permisos laborales a inmigrantes indocumentados que hubieran sido procesados por algún delito, o al menos por tres faltas. Esta medida afectará incluso a aquellos que no respetaron una orden judicial de deportación.

Bush: seis mil soldados de la Guardia Nacional serán desplegados en la frontera
El Presidente Bush solicitó el despliegue de seis mil soldados de la Guardia Nacional en la frontera entre Estados Unidos y México. La propuesta de Bush tuvo lugar durante un inusual discurso televisivo transmitido en horario central, durante el cual también llamó al Congreso a que encontrara una forma de acordar una reforma inmigratoria. Bush dijo: "Estados Unidos debe asegurar sus fronteras. Es la responsabilidad básica de una nación soberana. También es una exigencia urgente de nuestra seguridad nacional. Nuestro objetivo es claro: se debe abrir la frontera al comercio y a la inmigración legal y cerrarla a los inmigrantes ilegales, al igual que a los delincuentes, narcotraficantes y terroristas".
La solicitud del Presidente Bush de enviar soldados de la Guardia Nacional a la frontera con México ya recibió amplias críticas. El Presidente mexicano Vicente Fox llamó a la Casa Blanca el domingo, para expresar su preocupación por lo que consideraba la "militarización de la frontera". En Washington, varios políticos dijeron que la Guardia Nacional ya sobrepasó su límite. Escuchamos al senador demócrata Richard Durbin. "¿Qué más le vamos a pedir a la Guardia Nacional? Ya demostraron que harían todo lo que se les pidiera para proteger y defender a este país. Lo demostraron en Irak, Afganistán y en la Costa del Golfo luego del Katrina, pero nuestras Guardias y reservas abarcan demasiado".
Según el "Los Angeles Times", miembros de la Guardia serán desplegados en la frontera en turnos de dos semanas, durante un período en el que normalmente estarían en entrenamiento. Al perder dos semanas de entrenamiento, el plan de Bush podría tener como consecuencia que los soldados de la Guardia estén menos preparados para desempeñar su función principal, que es la de responder a los desastres naturales o de otra índole.

Guardias estadounidenses le dispararon a conductor que se dirigía a México en cruce de San Diego
Mientras tanto, la frontera entre San Diego y Tijuana permaneció cerrada el jueves durante más de nueve horas, cuando guardias de la frontera le dispararon de muerte al conductor de un vehículo que se dirigía a México. Los guardias siguieron al vehículo luego de que agentes de la aduana vieron que levantó pasajeros cerca del lado estadounidense del cruce de la frontera. Los agentes dijeron que le dispararon al conductor cuando intentó huir.

NYPD investigado por conducta en Convención Nacional Republicana de 2004
"Democracy Now!" se enteró de que el Departamento de Justicia lanzó una investigación penal de derechos civiles hacia el Departamento de Policía de Nueva York (NYPD, por sus siglas en inglés), por la manera en que este trató a manifestantes durante la Convención Nacional Republicana. Durante la semana en que se celebró la convención de 2004, la policía arrestó a unos 1.800 manifestantes, más que en cualquier otra convención política en la historia del país.

Maria: Good morning. Now in English, here are eleven news stories from Democracy Now! Peace.

New Italian PM Pledges Iraq Troop Withdrawal
In Italy, new Prime Minister Romano Prodi marked the opening days of his new government by pledging to withdraw Italian troops from Iraq. Prodi was greeted with boos by parliamentary supporters of his predecessor, Sylvio Berlusconi.Romano Prodi: "We consider the war in Iraq and the occupation of this country a grave error. The war has not resolved but complicated the problem of security. Terrorism found in Iraq a new base, and new excuses for terrorist acts inside and outside the Iraqi conflict… It is the intention of this government to propose to parliament the return of our troops even if we are proud of their professional ability, their courage and humanity that they have giving and are still giving."

Murtha: Haditha Probe Shows Marines Killed Iraqis "In Cold Blood"
The Pentagon has concluded its investigation into the shooting deaths of civilians in the Iraqi city of Haditha at the hands of US Marines. On Wednesday, Democratic Congressmember John Murtha of Pennsylvania said the probe will show that Marines: "killed innocent civilians in cold blood." Iraqis say 15 villagers were killed after US troops herded them into one room of a house near the city of Balad. The dead included five children and four women and ranged in age from 6 months to 75 years old. The Pentagon initially claimed the civilians had died in a roadside bombing. But Murtha said: "There was no firefight. There was no improvised explosive device that killed those innocent people. Our troops overreacted because of the pressure on them. And they killed innocent civilians in cold blood. That is what the report is going to tell."

UNICEF: 25% of Iraqi Children Suffer Malnutrition
Meanwhile, a survey carried out by the Iraqi government and UNICEF has concluded a quarter of all Iraqi children suffer from malnutrition.

Report: U.S. Deployed Mentally Ill Soldiers to Iraq
In other news from Iraq, the Hartford Courant reports the U.S. military has routinely deployed soldiers with known mental problems to fight in Iraq. The paper said a record 22 U.S. troops committed suicide in Iraq last year. In several cases soldiers remained on active duty even after they attempted suicide.

Cindy Sheehan Leads Mother's Day Anti-War Vigil
In Washington, peace campaigner Cindy Sheehan spent Mothers Day in an anti-war vigil outside the White House along with actress Susan Sarandon, other military mothers and Iraq war veterans.

Hayden Defends Domestic Spy Program At Confirmation Hearing
General Michael Hayden appeared before Senate Thursday for the first day of his confirmation hearings to become the new head of the CIA. The former director of the National Security Agency repeatedly defended the legality of the NSA's secret warrant-less domestic eavesdropping program that he helped design.General Michael Hayden: "When I had to make this personal decision in early October, 2001 -- and it was a personal decision -- the math was pretty straight forward. I could not not do this… We knew that this was a serious issue, and that the steps we were taking, although convinced of their lawfulness, we were taking them in a regime that was different from the regime that existed on 10th September." General Hayden refused to answer questions during the public portion of the hearing on a number of issues including interrogation methods, secret CIA prisons and the true extent of the government’s surveillance program.

Senate Vote Makes English US "National Language"
On Capitol Hill, the Senate voted Thursday to make English the "national language" of the United States. The measure affirms that that no one has a right to federal communications or services in a language other than English except those already guaranteed by law. Immigrant-rights activists called the vote a major defeat.

Senate Votes To Build 370-Mile Border Fence
The Senate has voted to build a fence along parts of the Mexico border to prevent illegal immigrants from entering the country. In total, 370 miles of triple-layered barriers would be added near San Diego and in the Arizona desert. Senators also approved a provision that would prevent illegal immigrants from petitioning for a guest-worker permit without the sponsorship an employer. And in a unanimous vote, Senate accepted an amendment that would bar granting work permits to undocumented immigrants convicted of either a felony or at least three misdemeanors. The measure would effect even those who ignored a court-deportation order.

Bush: 6,000 National Guard Troops to Be Deployed to Border
President Bush has called for 6,000 National Guard troops to be deployed to the U.S.-Mexican border. Bush's proposal came during a rare prime-time address during which he also called on Congress to find a way to agree on immigration reform.President Bush: "The United States must secure its borders. This is a basic responsibility of a sovereign nation. It is also an urgent requirement of our national security. Our objective is straightforward: the border should be open to trade and lawful immigration and shut to illegal immigrants, as well as criminals, drug dealers and terrorists." President Bush's call for National Guard troops on the Mexican border has already been widely criticized. Mexican President Vicente Fox called the White House on Sunday to express concern over the increased militarization of the border. In Washington numerous politicians said the National Guard is already stretched too thin.Democratic Senator Richard Durbin: "How much more are we going to ask our National Guard? They have shown they will do everything asked of them to protect and defend this nation. They have demonstrated that in Iraq and Afghanistan and the Gulf Coast after Katrina, but our Guards and reserves are stretched dangerously thin."According to the Los Angeles Times, members of the Guard will be deployed to the border for two-week shifts during a period when they would normally be in training. By losing two weeks of training, Bush's plan might result in Guard troops being less prepared for their primary roles -- responding to natural and other disasters.

Mexico-Bound Driver Shot By US Guards At San Diego Crossing
Meanwhile, the border between San Diego and Tijuana was closed for over nine hours Thursday when border guards shot and killed the driver of a car headed for Mexico. The car was followed after custom agents saw it pick up passengers near the US side of the border crossing. Agents said they shot the driver when he tried to speed off.

NYPD Investigated For Conduct At 2004 RNC
Democracy Now! has learned the Justice Department has launched a criminal civil rights investigation of the New York Police Department over the NYPD’s treatment of protesters during the Republican National Convention. During the week of the 2004 convention, police arrested some 1800 protesters -- more than at any previous political convention in the country’s history.