Monday, September 24, 2007

Democracy Now! | Headlines

Democracy Now! | Headlines

now, here, i'm going to post the acute human rights issues in the world, daily. particularly those that i have hopes that government action (and that citizen initiatives encouraging represenative- led legislation) might alleviate.

Study: Health Care Premiums Up 78% Since 2001
In health care news, a new study shows the cost of health care premiums for workers and their employers has risen nearly eighty percent since 2001. The rise is more than four times the size of wage hikes and inflation over the same period. The Kaiser Family Foundation says premiums saw their lowest rise this year at six percent. But that still outpaced a less than four percent rise in employee wages. Up to two million people are said to lose health insurance each year.

Study: Iraq Civilian Toll Tops 1.2 Million
And back in Iraq, a new study is suggesting the civilian death toll from the U.S. invasion has topped one point two million. The British agency Opinion Research Business surveyed more than fourteen hundred Iraqi adults. The estimate was based on the number of deaths reported per household and the number of total households in Iraq. One in two households in Baghdad reported losing at least one family member. The one point two million estimate is the highest on civilian deaths so far. A study in the British medical journal the Lancet last year put the number at more than six-hundred fifty thousand. This week the top US commander in Iraq, General David Petraueus, spoke about Iraqi deaths on NPR’s morning edition.

    Gen. David Petraeus: "In many respects, this is a thinking man's warfare. You can't kill everyone out there. You're not going to kill yourself out of an insurgency."

Free Press Asks Justice Dept. to Explain Net Neutrality Opposition
The media reform group Free Press has filed a Freedom of Information Act request seeking information on whether industry lobbyists or political maneuvering influenced the Justice Department’s decision to publicly oppose net neutrality. Net neutrality is the principle that all Internet sites should be equally accessible to any Web user. Last month the Justice Department sided with the country’s large telecommunications companies and urged the Federal Communications Commission not to adopt it.

Calls Grow for Release of Imprisoned Journalist
A leading media protection group is renewing calls for the U.S. to release an al-Jazeera cameraman from Guantanamo Bay. Sami Al-Haj is now more than eight months into a hunger strike protesting his imprisonment without charge or trial. Doctors who’ve examined him say it appears he’s given up his fight to live. Yesterday Democracy Now spoke to Joel Campagna, Middle East program coordinator for the Committee to Protect Journalists, about al-Haj’s case.

    Joel Campagna: “He is a journalist who worked for al Jazeera who was detained in the line of work for over five years now. He has yet to be charged with a crime. The implication of his arrest is that the U.S. military can effectively remove a journalist from the battlefield, hold them for years without end, without charge and not be compelled to charge them with a crime. And we’ve been calling on the U.S. military to either charge Sami Al-Haj with a crime and give him a fair trial or release him.
McConnell Retracts Claim Spy Law Helped Thwart Attack
National Intelligence Director Mike McConnell has admitted he wrongly told Congress that last month’s broad new surveillance law helped foil an alleged plot on U.S. military targets in Germany. On Monday, McConnell told a Senate committee the suspects had been apprehended because they had been monitored under the Protect America Act. But McConnell retracted his statement following an investigation by Newsweek magazine.

Over U.S. Opposition, UN Affirms Indigenous Rights
At the United Nations, the General Assembly has passed a landmark measure affirming the human rights of the world’s indigenous people. One-hundred forty nations voted in favor. Just four countries were opposed -- the U.S., Canada, Australia and New Zealand. They say the declaration goes too far in recognizing indigenous ownership of traditional land and veto rights over legislation governing natural resources. The vote caps a more than twenty-year debate on an indigenous rights declaration at the UN.

Home Foreclosures Up 36%
In economic news, new figures show a continuing rise in home foreclosures around the United States. Foreclosure filings reached nearly two hundred forty-four thousand last month -- a thirty-six percent rise over July, and more than double over a year ago.

Florida Police Taser, Arrest Student at Kerry Lecture
Police at the University of Florida are being accused of censorship and excessive force after tasering a student at a lecture by Democratic Senator John Kerry. Twenty-one year old journalism major Andrew Meyer was apprehended as he tried to ask Kerry about African American disenfranchisement in the 2004 presidential elections. Meyer was clutching a copy of the investigative journalist Greg Palast’s book “Armed Madhouse.” In full view of a packed hall, police officers cut off Meyer’s microphone, removed him from the room, and shocked him with a stun-gun. Meyer was later arrested and charged with resisting arrest and disturbing the peace. He was released Tuesday morning after spending the night in jail. Hours later, some three hundred University of Florida students marched on campus in protest.

State Dept. IG Accused of Covering Up Iraq Fraud
One of the Bush administration’s top oversight officials is being accused of repeatedly thwarting probes of contracting fraud in Iraq and Afghanistan. On Tuesday, Congressmember Henry Waxman said State Department inspector general Howard Krongard has censored reports and closed investigations to avoid embarrassing the White House. Krongard is accused of refusing to send investigators to Iraq and Afghanistan to probe three billion dollars in contracts. He’s also said to have personally intervened to clear labor abuse charges against the lead contractor building the US Embassy in Baghdad. The allegations are based on testimony from seven current and former members of Krongard’s staff, as well as private emails. Krongard took the job in May 2005. He had no previous experience at the State Department

Bush Vows Child Health Insurance Bill Veto
President Bush has renewed a threat to veto a bill expanding health insurance for millions of American children. The State Child Health Insurance Program, known as S-CHIP, expires later this month. Lawmakers have proposed to spend thirty-five billion dollars to cover an additional four million children over the six point six million already enrolled. The money would come mostly through a tax increase on cigarettes. The White House wants to limit the increase to just five billion dollars. On Thursday, President Bush called the proposed expansion ‘a step toward federalization of health care’ and promised a veto.

Hague Prosecutor Renews Calls for Sudanese War Crimes Suspect
The International Criminal Court is renewing calls for Sudan to hand over a government minister accused of war crimes in Darfur. Sudanese humanitarian minister Ahmad Harun is charged with organizing and arming militias implicated in attacks on whole villages. On Thursday, prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo called for his arrest.

    Luis Moreno-Ocampo: "The government of the Sudan has a duty and the ability to arrest Harun and transfer him to the court in The Hague. However they are denying, they are denying Ahmad Harun's crimes. The world cannot share in this denial."
An estimated 200,000 people have died and more than two million displaced in the four-year old conflict between government-backed militias and rebel groups. On Thursday, Sudan’s ambassador to the UN said no Sudanese officials would be handed over.
    Sudanese UN Ambassador Abdalmahmood Abdalhaleem Mohamad : "We said it to him and we said it to the secretary-general and we said it to whoever asked us about this -- in no way we are going to surrender any of our citizens to be prosecuted abroad. If there are any crimes the place is Sudan and the people to do that is the Sudanese judicial system."
A new Human Rights Watch report says violence in Darfur has worsened over the past year.
    Human Rights Watch Africa director Peter Takirambude: "The massive large scale suffering of the people of Darfur continues in 2007 because the government which is primarily responsible for having initiated this massive suffering, is still playing its game. Though the situation is somewhat complicated by the fact that you have a wide range of other actors who are also adding to the massive suffering. The rebels have splintered into myriad of groupings which are fighting among themselves. Even former allies of the government of Sudan - the militias, the Janjaweed, some of them have turned their guns against each other."

AMY GOODMAN: We’re talking to Reverend Lennox Yearwood, President of the Hip Hop Caucus. How often do you go into congressional hearings? Do the police know your face?

REV. LENNOX YEARWOOD, JR.: Well, no, they definitely know my face. With the Hip Hop Caucus, it is our job to make government transparent, particularly for urban youth. What’s so tragic about this is that we tried to go into the halls of Congress so that young people can come and become familiar with the process. And obviously they cannot be afraid of the process. A lot of young people of color -- a lot of young people, period -- don't trust the system. And so, not trusting the system, our job is to tell them to register to vote, to get them encouraged to make it more transparent. And so, obviously they know.

Obviously they know that I’m also a peace activist. I’m also a member of Iraq Veterans Against the War. I’m obviously -- I’m totally against this war. I think it is an atrocity. They know that. So I’m a face that they recognize, and not somebody -- and I’m also a minister, a man of God. And so, they knew who I was, standing in line.

And so, when they pulled out of -- they actually didn’t pull me out. They just stopped me from getting in, and they wouldn't tell me why. They just stopped me. What was worse, when they leaped on me, started to beat me in the halls of Congress. And I say, here I am, a former officer lying in the halls of Congress, while there’s another officer in the hearing lying to the Congress. And here I am just lying and being beaten. I couldn’t understand.

It was -- and I have to tell you, Amy, when I was literally -- when I was lying there, I have to admit, I actually, as a person of color, lost hope for a second. I was sitting there, “Why am I doing this? I’m just here to try to make the injustice visible. I’m not hurting anybody. I’m not hitting anybody. I’m just here. I was in line. I just want to go in. And instead, I’m being beaten in the halls of Congress, sitting here being leaped on by police officers and being beaten all for this reason.”

REV. LENNOX YEARWOOD, JR.: The amazing thing is that then, after obviously I tore ligaments in my ankle, and then they took me to the hospital, and then they took me to jail, and they charged me originally with felony assault on an officer. And then the court -- and they tried to ban me from the Capitol. And obviously that was thrown out, the banning of me from the Capitol, which is wonderful for our march, because we’re marching to the Capitol on Saturday. And they kept the misdemeanor. So I’ll be going to court again for that. But it was amazing.

I must say this, though. When I heard the chant, my mother in the movement, Cindy Sheehan, and DeeDee were there. When I was down on the ground, I literally was just like, “This is ridiculous.” But I heard them say, “Arrest Bush, not Rev!” I can tell you that I knew that the movement -- we will not be denied. We will show up at every hearing, and our voices as a people will be heard.


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