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Peter Lemkin
04-15-2009, 07:15 PM
Some of the top news items today on www.democracynow.org

President Obama is reportedly wavering on a pledge to fully reveal Bush administration memos authorizing CIA torture. According to the Wall Street Journal, the White House is leaning toward withholding graphic details of tactics authorized in three classified memos from 2005. The details include approval for striking a prisoner’s head against a wall and the practice known as waterboarding. The issue is reportedly centering around warnings from top intelligence officials that the memos’ full disclosure would anger CIA employees and alienate them from the White House. President Obama faces a Thursday court deadline to act on releasing the memos under a lawsuit brought by the ACLU.
Gitmo Prisoner: Torture Has Worsened Under Obama

A Guantanamo Bay prisoner has provided new details of torture under what he calls worsening conditions since President Obama’s election. Chadian national Mohammad al-Qaraani used his prison phone time intended for calling his lawyer to instead reach the Arabic satellite network Al Jazeera.

Mohammad al-Qaraani: “I refused to leave my cell, as they were not granting me my rights. I was only demanding my basic rights, like walking, meeting other inmates, and eating normal food. So a group of six soldiers wearing protective gear and helmets came to my cell. They were accompanied by a soldier carrying a camera and one with tear gas. They had a thick rubber or plastic baton. They beat me with it. They emptied out about two canisters of tear gas on me. After I stopped talking, and tears were flowing from my eyes, I could hardly see or breathe. They then beat me again to the ground. One of them held my head and beat it against the ground. I started screaming to his senior, ‘See what he’s doing! See what he’s doing!’ His senior started laughing and said, ’He’s doing his job.’ He broke one of my teeth.”

Qaraani was interviewed by the Al Jazeera journalist Sami al-Hajj, who was imprisoned at Guantanamo for over six years. Qaraani repeated claims made by other Guantanamo prisoners and their attorneys that the abuse has worsened since President Obama’s election.

Mohammad al-Qaraani: “This treatment started about twenty days before Obama came into power. And since then, I’ve been subjected to the same treatment almost every day. Since Obama took charge, he has not shown us that anything will change.”

Qaraani was ordered released in January after a judge ruled the Pentagon has failed to provide evidence to justify his imprisonment. He has been held at Guantanamo without charge since 2002.
Obama Addresses Economic Crisis

President Obama spoke at Washington, D.C.’s Georgetown University Tuesday in his most comprehensive remarks to date on the economic crisis. Obama predicted a worsening recession but said he foresees a long-term recovery.

President Obama: “2009 will continue to be a difficult year for America’s economy, and obviously most difficult for those who have lost their jobs. The severity of this recession will cause more job loss, more foreclosures and more pain before it ends. If we don’t invest now in renewable energy, if we don’t invest now in a skilled workforce, if we don’t invest now in a more affordable healthcare system, this economy simply won’t grow at the pace it needs to in two or five or ten years down the road. If we don’t lay this new foundation now, it won’t be long before we’re right back where we are today.”
Survey: More Pay Rises than Cuts for US CEOs

A new survey has found more American CEOs got pay raises than salary cuts last year. According to the AFL-CIO, the median CEO salary rose seven percent, while executive perks rose 13 percent. Some executives that saw cuts to their base pay were granted lavish stock options to offset the losses. Despite reporting an $11 million salary, Vikram Pandit of the bailed-out financial giant Citigroup made $38 million with stock options included.
DHS Links Right-Wing Extremism to Recession

The Department of Homeland Security is warning right-wing extremist groups are gaining new recruits by exploiting fears about the economy and the election of the nation’s first black president. A new report says there’s been a resurgence of right-wing extremism amidst the recession and President Obama’s election last year. Officials predict a worsening economy will lead more people to join militias and skinhead groups or carry out individual acts modeled after Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh.

Peter Lemkin
04-20-2009, 06:40 PM
CIA Used Waterboarding 266 Times

A footnote in one of the newly declassified torture memos has revealed that CIA interrogators used waterboarding far more than had been previously reported. In August 2002, the CIA waterboarded Abu Zubaydah eighty-three times. The CIA also used waterboarding 183 times in March 2003 against Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. In 2007, a former CIA officer publicly claimed that Abu Zubaydah had undergone waterboarding for only thirty-five seconds before agreeing to tell everything he knew.
Rahm Emanuel: Bush Officials, CIA Interrogators Will Not Be Prosecuted

Meanwhile, on Sunday, White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel said the Obama administration opposes any effort to prosecute CIA interrogators who engaged in torture, as well Bush administration officials who authorized the use of torture. Rahm made the comment in an interview on ABC’s This Week with George Stephanopoulos.

Rahm Emanuel: “He believes that people in good faith were operating with the guidance they were provided. They shouldn’t be prosecuted.”

George Stephanopolous: “But what about those who devised the policy?”

Rahm Emanuel: “Yeah, but those who devised the policy, he believes that they were—should not be prosecuted either. And it’s not the place that we go—as he said in that letter, and I would really recommend people look at the full statement—not the letter, the statement—in that second paragraph, ‘This is not a time for retribution. It’s time for reflection. It is not a time to use our energy and our time in looking back and in a sense of anger and retribution.’”
UN Special Rapporteur on Torture Says Obama Violating International Law

The UN special rapporteur on torture, Manfred Nowak, has said President Obama is in violation of international law for declining to prosecute CIA agents who used torture. Nowak said the US is bound by the UN Convention Against Torture, which requires prosecution in all cases in which there is evidence of torture.
Spanish Judge Garzon Keeps Alive Case Against “Bush Six”

Prosecution of Bush administration officials may still take place in Spain. On Friday, Spanish Judge Baltasar Garzón defied Spanish prosecutors and kept alive a criminal investigation into the actions of six high-ranking Bush administration officials, including former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and former Justice Department attorney Jay Bybee.
Calls Increase for Bybee’s Impeachment

This comes as calls are increasing for Bybee’s impeachment as a federal judge. During an interview on Fox News Sunday, Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill of Missouri questioned whether Bybee should be serving on the federal bench after approving the use of torture.

Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO): “What’s scary to me, Chris, is one of them got a lifetime appointment on the federal bench. Yikes! You know, a lawyer that’s responsible for this kind of advice that clearly went too far in terms of stretching what our law is, it worries me that he’s sitting on the federal bench right now.”

Peter Lemkin
04-26-2009, 09:10 AM
Where's My Change?

By Ralph Nader

April 25, 2009 "Information Clearing House" -- “No more fine print; no more confusing terms and conditions.” This is what Barack Obama told a White House gathering of leading credit card issuers this week.

Right afterward, President Obama told the press that “there has to be strong and reliable protections for consumers, protections that ban unfair rate increases and forbid abusive fees and penalties.”

This soaring rhetoric places a heavy burden on Mr. Obama to stand up to the giant power of the credit card bosses and their monetized allies on Capitol Hill. Yet he has shown little interest in re-instating a Presidential consumer advisor as did Lyndon Johnson with the formidable Betty Furness and as did Jimmy Carter with the legendary Esther Peterson.

Deep recession times are tough for the nation’s over 200 million consumers. Still, no consumer voice in the White House, though consumer groups asked Mr. Obama to move promptly on this tiny advocacy office months ago.

The corporate chieftains have easy access to the White House and the new President, whether these bosses come on missions demanding power or missions of beggary for bailouts. When will he meet with the leading heads of consumer protection groups with millions of dues-paying members who could give him the base to hold accountable and regulate the democracy-denying, economy-wrecking corporate supremacists?

“Where’s the Backbone?” asked Ruth Marcus, the usually-restrained lawyer-columnist for The Washington Post. On April 15, 2009 she wrote: “When will President Obama fight, and when will he fold? That’s not entirely clear—and I’m beginning to worry that there may be a little too much presidential inclination to crumple.” Ms. Marcus asserts that “for all the chest-thumping about making hard choices and taking on entrenched interests, there has been disturbingly little evidence of the new president’s willingness to do that.” This is the case even with his allies in Congress, never mind his adversaries.

Just four days later, The New York Times weighed in with a page one news article that said President Obama “is well known for bold proposals that have raised expectations, but his administration has shown a tendency for compromise and caution, and even a willingness to capitulate on some early initiatives. …His early willingness to deal or fold has left commentators, and some loyal Democrats, wondering: ‘Where’s the fight?’” Like the Post, the Times gave examples.

It is not as if Mr. Obama is lacking in public opinion support. Overall he has a 65% approval rating. People know he inherited a terrible situation here and abroad from the Bush regime and they want action. Large majorities believe America is declining, that there is too much corporate control over their lives, and that the two parties have been failing the American people.

But the President’s personality is not one to challenge concentrated power. A Zogby poll reports that only six percent of the public supports the financial bailouts for Wall Street. The vast majority of people do not think the bailouts are fair.

The upcoming 100 day mark for the Obama administration is a customary time for evaluations by the politicos, the pundits, and the civic community. While his supporters can point to the pay-equity law for women, more health insurance for poor children, and a $787 billion economic stimulus enactment, the general appraisal by the liberal-progressive intelligentsia is decidedly mixed and gentle with undiluted hope.

Mr. Obama nourishes these mixed feelings. He showed some courage when he agreed, as part of an ongoing court case, to release the four torture memos written by Bush’s Justice Department. Graphic photos of prisoner treatment in Iraq and Afghanistan are to be released next week. Yet Obama came out against a Truth Commission regarding the alleged crimes of the Bush regime and said he would “look forward and not look back.” For Obama that means immunity for anyone from the Bush Administration who may have violated the criminal laws of the land.

It is remarkable to read those oft-repeated words by lawyer Obama. Law enforcement is about looking back into the past. Investigation and prosecution obviously deals with crimes that have already occurred. That’s the constitutional duty of the President.

After 100 days it is far too early to render many judgments about Obama. One can, however, evaluate his major appointments—heavily Clintonite and corporate. One can also look at what he hasn’t gotten underway at all—such as labor law reform, a living wage, and citizen empowerment.

Next Monday, the Institute for Policy Studies ( www.ips-dc.org ) releases a detailed report card on Obama’s first 100 days titled “Thirsting for a Change.” While The Nation held a panel discussion on April 22 in Washington, D.C., the panelists largely gave Obama the benefit of the doubt so far, and declared that only grassroots mobilizing will move him forward on such matters as “single-payer” health care, corporate abuse, and the demilitarization of our foreign policy and our federal budget.

Panelist William Grieder coined the phrase “independent formulations” to describe the citizen action needed.

It is important to note that a transforming President has to ask for and encourage this pressure from the citizenry, much as Franklin Delano Roosevelt did in the 1930s.