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Friday, April 27, 2012

  • As Obama Expands Drone War, Activists & Victims’ Advocates Join D.C. Summit on Growing Civilian Toll

    Drone

    Pakistani lawyer Shahzad Akbar, who represents families of civilians killed in U.S. drone strikes, was finally granted a visa to enter the U.S. this week after a long effort by the State Department to block his visit. He has just arrived in Washington, D.C., to attend the "Drone Summit: Killing and Spying by Remote Control," organized by human rights groups to call attention to the lethal rise in the number of drone strikes under the Obama administration. Obama argues U.S. drone strikes are focused effort at people who are on a list of active terrorists and have not caused a huge number of civilian casualties. "Either President Obama is lying to the nation, or he is too naive, to believe on the reports which CIA is presenting to [him]," responds Akbar. The summit comes as the United States pursues a radical expansion of how it carries out drone strikes inside Yemen. The so-called "signature" strike policy went into effect earlier this month, allowing the U.S. to strike without knowing the identity of targets.

    We’re also joined by Medea Benjamin, co-founder of CODEPINK and an organizer of this weekend’s summit. "So many people who spoke out against George [W.] Bush’s extraordinary rendition and Guantánamo and indefinite detention have been very quiet when it comes to the Obama administration, who is not putting people in those same kind of conditions, instead is just taking them out and killing them," Benjamin says. "So we need to make people speak up and say that when Obama says this [program] is on a tight leash, this is not true, this is a lie." [includes rush transcript]

  • U.S. Nuns Face Vatican Rebuke for "Radical Feminism" in Stances on Church Teachings, Social Justice

    Vatican

    The Vatican has reprimanded the largest group of Catholic nuns in the United States, saying they have focused too heavily on issues of social justice, while failing to speak out enough on "issues of crucial importance," such as abortion and same-sex marriage. In a report issued last week, church leaders accused the nuns of promoting "radical feminist" ideas and challenging key teachings on homosexuality and male-only priesthood. An archbishop and two bishops — all of them male — have been appointed to oversee the nuns. "To me, it’s quite puzzling that our work with the poor, which Jesus told us to do in the gospels, would be the source of such a criticism," says Sister Simone Campbell, head of the Catholic social justice group NETWORK, which was harshly criticized in last week’s report. The rebuke comes as the so-called "war on women" has become a key issue in the 2012 presidential race. Some Catholic nuns have opposed the bishops by supporting Obama’s healthcare reform law and contraceptive mandate. Campbell says she believes the Vatican targeted her group because of their support for healthcare reform. "They like it when we just do service, but don’t have thoughts, don’t have questions, don’t have criticism," Campbell says. "That is a real challenge in a political society, when we have to do a deep, nuanced analysis in order to know the way forward for this, for the common good." [includes rush transcript]

  • "CeCe" McDonald: Black, Transgender Woman Faces Murder Trial for What Supporters Call Self-Defense

    Cece%20mcdonald

    A transgender African-American woman is set to go on trial next week on charges of second-degree murder for an altercation after she was reportedly physically attacked and called racist and homophobic slurs outside a Minneapolis bar last year. Chrishaun "CeCe" McDonald received 11 stitches to her cheek and was reportedly interrogated without counsel and placed in solitary confinement following her arrest. There were reports that the dead victim, Dean Schmitz, had a swastika tattooed on his chest. McDonald’s supporters say the case is symptomatic of the bias against transgender people and African Americans in the criminal justice system. "People were very enraged about what had happened to her and the refusal of Hennepin County to recognize her right to self-defense," says Katie Burgess, executive director of Trans Youth Support Network, who has helped draw attention to the case and notes transgender people of color are twice as likely to experience discrimination as their white peers. We also speak with Rai’vyn Cross, one of McDonald’s best friends. [includes rush transcript]

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