Saturday, April 15, 2006

US turns back the clock: racially segregated schools get OK

FIFTY years after the US abolished segregated schools, the state of Nebraska has been accused of seeking to carve up its largest school district along broadly racial lines.

Under a new measure signed into law on Thursday by Governor Dave Heineman Omaha's highly regarded public school system will be divided into three racially distinct entities: African-American, Hispanic and white. The changes take effect from July 2008.

The division, proposed by the only African-American member of the state legislature, was adopted at breakneck speed.

Its provisions represent one of the most sweeping challenges to the desegregation of American state schools that was mandated by the US Supreme Court in 1954. Nebraska's Attorney-General has warned that it could be in violation of the US constitution, and would be challenged in the courts.

The measure has been opposed by a powerful coalition of business leaders - including Warren Buffett, the Omaha-based financier who is the world's second-richest man - as well as civil rights organisations.

"Basically, it is state-sanctioned segregation," said state senator Patrick Bourne who voted against the bill.

However, Ernie Chambers, who proposed the division, argued that local schools have been effectively segregated for years and that the stated aim of integration had been discredited.

"There has always been segregation," he said. "There is now, and always will be, so rather than go through all this worthless talk that has gone on now for generations about integration, let's talk about getting better schools."

Bu$h Wins First Place - 2006 MUZZLE

The Thomas Jefferson Center for the Protection of Free Expression

Congress shall make no law... abridging the freedom of speech or of the press... - The First Amendment

Since 1992, the Thomas Jefferson Center for the Protection of Free Expression has celebrated the birth and ideals of its namesake by calling attention to those who in the past year forgot or disregarded Mr. Jefferson's admonition that freedom of speech 'cannot be limited without being lost.'

Announced on or near April 13 -- the anniversary of the birth of Thomas Jefferson -- the Jefferson Muzzles are awarded as a means to draw national attention to abridgments of free speech and press and, at the same time, foster an appreciation for those tenets of the First Amendment. This year, there is a special podcast of the 2006 Muzzles, brought to you by Read More about the history of The Muzzles.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Rice Eager for Iran WAR

THE US Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, says the United Nations must consider strong action against Iran, such as a resolution that could lead to sanctions or lay the groundwork for the use of force.

Dr Rice suggested the Security Council should consider chapter 7 of the UN Charter in an attempt to force Iran to comply with its international obligations relating to its nuclear plans.

"I am certain we will look at measures that can be taken to ensure that Iran knows that they really have no choice but to comply," Dr Rice said.

Chapter 7 makes a resolution mandatory under international law for all UN members.

If it specifically calls for sanctions or threatens "all necessary measures", it may eventually lead to the use of force.

A chapter 7 resolution was passed against Iraq and has been used by the US as a legal argument to justify its bombing and invasion of Iraq. Russia, in particular, is concerned that the US may interpret a chapter 7 resolution against Iran in the same way.

On Thursday, Iran's regime dismissed calls from the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Mohamed ElBaradei, to freeze its nuclear program and calm suspicions that it is seeking to make a bomb.

After talks in Tehran with Dr ElBaradei, Iran's top nuclear negotiator, Ali Larijani, dismissed the Security Council's demand for a halt to uranium enrichment by the end of the month as "not very important". Unless there is a dramatic turnaround in the next fortnight, Dr ElBaradei - who failed to secure concessions from Iran - will deliver a negative report to the Security Council at the end of this month.

Iran's President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, said on Tuesday that it had joined the "nuclear club" by achieving a uranium enrichment rate of 3.5 per cent. This is a low-grade enrichment suitable for power stations and a much higher standard than previously attained.

Iran denies the West's claim that its pursuit of uranium enrichment is intended to secure a nuclear weapons capability.

Mr Ahmadinejad refused to meet Dr ElBaradei, saying: "We will not hold talks with anyone about the Iranian nation's right [to enrichment] … Our situation has changed completely. We are a nuclear country and speak to others from [that] position."

Dr ElBaradei said: "We have not seen diversion of nuclear material for weapons purposes but the picture is still hazy."

The Islamic Republic News Agency reported Mr Ahmadinejad was unconcerned about the West's anger. "We say, be angry and die of this anger," he said.

Russia and China, which are key players on the Iran issue and have Security Council veto powers, oppose sanctions or military force against Iran. Nearly all other council members, including Britain, oppose military action.

The US, believing Iran is intent on making an atomic bomb, has said that, while all options are on the table, it is pursuing the diplomatic course and rejects reports that it is preparing for a military strike.

Reuters, The Guardian, Agence France-Presse


-United Nations nuclear watchdog fails to secure any concessions from Iran.

- Egypt says a diplomatic solution is essential but it cannot accept the emergence of a nuclear-armed power in the region.

- China suggests the nuclear stand-offs with Iran and North Korea will be discussed when President Hu Jintao visits the US next week.

'L.A. Times' Afghan Horror Story Confirmed by NBC |


A story reported by the Los Angeles Times' Paul Watson on Monday was so mind-boggling that it took a few days for other media outlets and Web sites to react. Just about the time that story started circulating widely, NBC News on Thursday night confirmed it, and took it a step further. Watson also produced a followup for his paper on Friday.

This is how the NBC investigative team reported it:

"Just outside the main gate of the huge U.S. military base in Bagram, Afghanistan, shopkeepers at a bazaar peddle a range of goods, including computer drives with sensitive — even secret information — stolen from the base.

"This week, an NBC News producer, using a hidden camera, visited the bazaar and bought a half dozen of the memory drives the size of a thumb known as flash drives. On them, NBC News found highly sensitive military information, some which NBC will not reveal." Earlier, the Los Angeles Times had published what indeed appeared to be sensitive material.

“This isn't just a loss of sensitive information,” Lt. Col. Rick Francona (ret.), an NBC News military analyst, said. “This is putting U.S. troops at risk. This is a violation of operational security.”

Some of the data would be valuable to the enemy, NBC related, including names and personal information for dozens of interrogatorsm and interrogation methods; and IDs and photos of U.S. troops. With information like this, “You could cripple our U.S. intelligence collection capability in Afghanistan,” said Francona.

NBC added: "Among the photos of Americans are pictures of individuals who appear to have been tortured and killed, most too graphic to show. NBC News does not know who caused their injuries. The Pentagon would not comment on the photos.

"The tiny computer memories are believed to have been smuggled off base by Afghan employees and sold to shopkeepers. Whoever buys one can simply plug it into another computer, and in a couple of minutes, see thousands of files.

"Other reporters have bought drives at the bazaar containing classified information, including names and photos of Afghans spying for the U.S. and maps revealing locations of radar used to foil mortar attacks. ...

"Thursday, the base commander said he's ordered an investigation into activities at the bazaar and into procedures supposed to keep sensitive secrets secure."

On Monday, the Times had revealed, among much else, "A reporter recently obtained several drives at the bazaar that contained documents marked 'Secret.' The contents included documents that were potentially embarrassing to Pakistan, a U.S. ally, presentations that named suspected militants targeted for 'kill or capture' and discussions of U.S. efforts to 'remove' or 'marginalize' Afghan government officials whom the military considered problem makers.'

"The drives also included deployment rosters and other documents that identified nearly 700 U.S. service members and their Social Security numbers, information that identity thieves could use to open credit card accounts in soldiers' names."

Watson's Friday accounts opens: "Maps, charts and intelligence reports on computer drives smuggled out of a U.S. base and sold at a bazaar here appear to detail how Taliban and Al Qaeda leaders have been using southwestern Pakistan as a key planning and training base for attacks in Afghanistan. ... Together, they outline how the U.S. military came to focus its search for members of Taliban, Al Qaeda and other militant groups on both sides of the Afghan-Pakistani border."

He also quotes Col. Tom Collins, speaking from the public affairs office at the Bagram base, saying, "We're obviously concerned that certain sources or assets have been compromised."

Lawrence Di Rita, a top aide to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, told Watson it was "too early to say" whether any commander in Afghanistan would be held responsible for failing to secure the drives.

"The drives appear to contain the identities of Afghan sources spying for U.S. Special Forces that operate out of the Bagram base, which is the center of U.S. efforts to fight Taliban and Al Qaeda insurgents and includes a secretive detention and interrogation center for terrorism suspects flown in from around the world," Watson observes.

Neil Young, Son of Famed Reporter, Records "Impeach the President" Song

Published: April 14, 2006 11:40 AM ET

NEW YORK As an E&P "Pressing Issues" column recently noted, rock star Neil Young is the son of a famed Canadian journalist, so it should not surprise many that he recently recorded a song in California with a very reportorial -- or at least pundit -- feel to it.

It’s called “Impeach the President,” so there can be little question what it is about.

Apparently it was recorded with a 100-voice choir. Rumors have circulated the past few days on the Web, but E&P has tracked down the strongest confirmation in a blog kept by Sherman Oaks, Ca. musician/singer Alicia Morgan.

Previous reports quoted hints by Young and Jonathan Demme (who directed the new documentary “Heart of Gold”) that Neil was working on a hard-rocking political or “anti-Bush” CD.

Last Friday, Morgan wrote on her LastLeftB4Hooterville blog that she had been “summoned” to a local studio to sing on the new record with 99 others. “I'm not going to give the whole thing away, but the first line of one of the songs was ‘Let's impeach the President for lyin'!’ Turns out the whole thing is a classic beautiful protest record. The session was like being at a 12-hour peace rally. Every time new lyrics would come up on the screen, there were cheers, tears and applause. It was a spiritual experience. I can't believe my good fortune at being a part of this.

“We finished the session by singing an a capella version of 'America the Beautiful' and there was not a dry eye in the house.

“Neil said it should be out in 6 to 8 weeks."

Harp magazine reported on its Web site Thursday that Demme had confirmed in an e-mail, “Neil just finished writing and recording -- with no warning -- a new album called 'Living With War.' It all happened in three days… It is a brilliant electric assault, accompanied by a 100-voice choir, on Bush and the war in Iraq… Truly mind blowing. Will be in stores soon.”

The magazine continued: “Details are pretty scarce, but the featured track, titled ‘Impeach the President,’ features a rap with Bush’s voice set to the choir chanting ‘flip/flop’ and the like.”

Young has always been a maverick politically as well as musically. Although he has recorded a few songs that drew cheers from liberals, such as "Ohio" and "Southern Man," he also drew criticism from the left for pro-Reagan comments many years ago.

Whistle-blower says AT&T gave spy agency access to network

AP Wire

AT&T Inc. and an Internet advocacy group are waging a privacy battle in federal court that could expose the reach of the Bush administration's secretive domestic wiretapping program.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation said it obtained documents from a former AT&T technician that shows that the National Security Agency is capable of monitoring all communications on AT&T's network.

"It appears the NSA is capable of conducting what amounts to vacuum-cleaner surveillance of all the data crossing the Internet, whether that be people's e-mail, Web surfing or any other data," whistle-blower Mark Klein, who worked for the company for 22 years, said in a statement released by his lawyers.

U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker is considering whether to unseal documents provided by Klein that AT&T wants kept secret. EFF filed the documents under seal as a courtesy to the phone company, but is seeking to unseal them.

The EFF lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court, seeks to stop the surveillance program that started shortly after the 2001 terror attacks. The suit is based in large part on the Klein documents, which detail secret spying rooms and electronic surveillance equipment in AT&T facilities.

The suit claims the San Antonio-based telecommunications company not only provided direct access to its network that carries voice and data but also to its massive databases of stored telephone and Internet records that are updated constantly.

AT&T violated U.S. law and the privacy of its customers as part of the "massive and illegal program to wiretap and data.m.ine Americans' communications" without warrants, the EFF alleged.

Klein said the NSA built a secret room at the company's San Francisco central office in 2003, adjacent to a "switch room where the public's phone calls are routed." One of the documents under seal, Klein said, shows that a device was installed with the "ability to sift through large amounts of data looking for preprogrammed targets."

Other so-called secret rooms were constructed at AT&T sites in Seattle, San Jose, Los Angeles and San Diego, the statement said.

Other documents under seal shows that fiber optic cables from the secret room tapped into WorldNet Internet subscribers, and instructed technicians how to connect cables to the secret room, Klein said.

Klein said he was required to connect circuits that fed information to the secret room.

"The circuits listed were the Peering Links, which connect WorldNet with other networks and hence the whole country, as well as the rest of the world," Klein said.

The NSA declined directly to address the lawsuit or Klein's allegations.

"Any discussion about actual or alleged operational issues would be irresponsible as it would give our adversaries insight that would enable them to adjust and potentially inflict harm to the U.S.," NSA spokesman Don Weber said.

Michael Balmoris, an AT&T spokesman, said the telecommunications company "follows all laws with respect to assistance offered to government agencies." He declined further elaboration, saying AT&T is "not in a position to comment on matters of national security or litigation."

President Bush confirmed in December that the NSA has been conducting the surveillance when calls and e-mails, in which at least one party is outside the United States, are thought to involve al-Qaida terrorists.

In congressional hearings last week, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales suggested the president could order the NSA to listen in on purely domestic calls without first obtaining a warrant from a secret court established nearly 30 years ago to consider such issues.

He said the administration, assuming the conversation related to al-Qaida, would have to determine if the surveillance were crucial to the nation's fight against terrorism, as authorized by Congress following the Sept. 11 attacks.

The case is Hepting v. AT&T Inc., 06-0672.


Editors: David Kravets has been covering state and federal courts for more than a decade.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

"BREAKING: E-Voting Lawsuit Filed against PA County, U.S. Dept. of Justice!"


Suit Seeks to Stop Last Minute Implementation of ES&S Voting Machines In Allegheny County

Guest Blogged by John Gideon

Just announced by KDKA-TV in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania is the news that a group of citizens and People For The American Way have filed suit against the Secretary of State; Dan Onorato, Allegheny County Chief Executive; James Flynn, County Manager; and senior officials at the federal Department of Justice. The citizen group includes members of the disabilities community who want to make sure the County purchases machines that are accessible to all individuals with disabilities.

KDKA reports:

The lawsuit filed today says that decision risks chaos on Election Day because of the lack of time to train election officials and educate voters about the change from lever machines which have been in use for 40 years.

“This rush to a new and flawed technology just weeks before the election threatens to sow chaos in the primary and compromise the fundamental rights of thousands of voters for years to come,” says Harry Litman, the former United States Attorney in Pittsburgh and an attorney for the plaintiffs. “It’s a bad deal for Allegheny County, and, we believe, a violation of federal law.”

The suit, Celeste Taylor v. Dan Onorato asks the court to prevent use of machines manufactured by Election Systems & Software until the County has spent the time necessary to identify voting systems that are secure; reliable; and accessible to voters with disabilities.
The plaintiffs cite elections in Texas, Florida, California, Ohio, and North and South Carolina where ES&S machines failed on Election Day.

A report by the Inspector General in Miami of a 2002 election found that the ES&S machines were not properly prepared; their results could not be audited; poll workers were unable to operate machines; and large number of voters simply gave up as a result.
The complaint alleges that DOJ has pressured Allegheny to buy the new machines by improperly threatening to take back about $12 million that has been given to Pennsylvania for improved voting systems.

These machines are sold and serviced by Elections Systems and Software, the same company that has played a major role in failures of memory cards and is a large reason why this nation is headed for a "Train Wreck" in our primary elections and, if no action is taken, in November.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

McClellan: Media Should Publicly Apologize For Reporting On Mobile Weapons Lab Story

On May 29, 2003, President Bush said “We found the weapons of mass destruction. We found biological laboratories.” This morning the Washington Post revealed that a Pentagon field report transmitted to Washington on May 27, 2003 “had already concluded that the trailers had nothing to do with biological weapons.”

Today during the White House press briefing, Scott McClellan demanded a public apology from the news media for covering the story:

You know, I saw some reporting talking about how this latest revelation — which is not something that is new; this is all old information that’s being rehashed — was an embarrassment for the White House. No, it’s an embarrassment for the media that is out there reporting this.

I brought up with some of you earlier today some of the reporting that was based of this Washington Post report. And I talked to one of network about it…they expressed their apologies to the White House.

I hope they will go and publicly apologize on the air about the statements that were made, because I think it is important given that they had made those statements in front of all their viewers. So we look forward to that happening as well.

McClellan’s complaint is that the Washington Post and others suggest that President Bush may have known about the report before he made definitive statements that the trailers were for the purpose of building biological weapons.

When McClellan was asked when the White House became aware of the Pentagon field report, however, McClellan couldn’t say. He told the press corps “I’m looking into that matter” but the answer was “not the point.”

Interview: NC Man Who Shamed Bush During Speech


Bush delivered another Iraq War PR speech which was sponsored by the nonpartisan World Affairs Council of Charlotte at Central Piedmont Community College in Charlotte, North Carolina.

After the speech, Bush accepted questions from the audience. Harry Taylor shamed The President with his question. Taylor mentioned NSA domestic spying, detaining Americans with being charged, policies that hurt the enviroment. Taylor told Bush that he was ashamed of the U.S. Government. Taylor finished his question by saying, "I would hope you have, from time to time, the humility and the grace to be ashamed of yourself... inside yourself."

In this video, Soledad O'Brien interviews Harry Taylor about his televised of berating President Bush.

Iran Showdown Tests Power of "Israel Lobby"

(IPS) : "WASHINGTON, Apr 11 - One month after the publication by two of the most influential international relations scholars in the United States of a highly controversial essay on the so-called 'Israel Lobby', their thesis that the lobby exercises 'unmatched power' in Washington is being tested by rapidly rising tensions with Iran. "

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Gallup: Most Americans Critical of President in CIA Leak Case

By E&P Staff
Published: April 11, 2006 7:50 AM ET

NEW YORK A new Gallup poll released today finds that most Americans are critical of President Bush's actions in the Plame/CIA leak scandal, but only one in four is following the matter closely.

Overall, 63% of Americans believe Bush did something either illegal (21%) or unethical (42%), while 28% say he did nothing wrong. While many more Democrats are critical, 3 in 10 Republicans also find that Bush did something illegal or unethical.

The more closely people are following the issue, the more likely they are to say he did something illegal rather than merely unethical.

The poll, conducted April 7-9, 2006, shows that just 25% of Americans are following the matter 'very' closely, while another 39% are following the issue 'somewhat' closely. Another 36% are not following the issue closely at all.

Despite the latest turns in the CIA leak case, and news from Iraq, the president's overall approval rating did not fall still further, hanging on at 37%, which is in line with most other polls. "

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