A federal judge ruled yesterday to allow a massive class-action sexual discrimination lawsuit to move forward against Wal-Mart. 1.6 million current and former employees will be able to join the suit which is considered to be the largest civil rights case in the country’s history. The suit claims the country’s largest retailer systematically underpays female employees and offers women fewer opportunities for promotion. According to the lawsuit, 65 percent of the company’s hourly workers are women, but only 33 percent of its managers are.
The White House last night released formerly-secret memos that reveal the Bush administration had concluded two years ago that the President had the power to ignore domestic and international laws regarding the torture of detainees.
On February 7, 2002, Bush signed a secret order that ruled that the Geneva Convention did not apply.
He wrote “I accept the legal conclusion of the Attorney General and the Department of Justice that I have the authority to suspend Geneva (conventions) as between the United States and Afghanistan. I reserve the right to exercise this authority in this or future conflicts.”
An August 2002 memo from the Justice Department argued that the torture or even the deliberate killing of prisoners could be justified in the name of national security. The memo was written by Assistant attorney general Jay Bybee, who is now a federal judge on the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. Last night administration officials backed away from the content of the memo and said it would be re-written.
The White House also released Pentagon memos that detailed harsh interrogation methods including the use of dogs that some say constituted torture. The memos had been approved by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. The White House says the memos have been since rescinded but it has refused to say what interrogation methods are now approved for use.
A 33-year-old South Korean man was beheaded in Iraq just days after he was taken hostage. Kim Sun-il had been in Iraq for the past year as a translator and planned on becoming a Christian missionary. His captives had threatened to kill him if South Korea did not pull its troops from Iraq. Kim Sun-il’s family condemned the South Korean government for its handling of the crisis. His mother said “My poor son was killed by the government.” Kim was last seen alive in a video where he plead for his release. While flanked by three masked men, Kim screamed “Korean soldiers, get out of here. I don’t want to die. I don’t want to die.”
Newsweek is reporting that it has seen a letter sent by Saddam Hussein to his family in February. Nine out of the 14 lines of the letter were blacked out. In one part he wrote “my spirit and my morale, they are high, thanks to greatness of God.” The letter was written on a family message form provided by the International Committee of the Red Cross. It was addressed to his daughter.
In other Iraq news:a Baghdad car bombing killed the personal bodyguard of Iraqi Minister of State Adnan al- Janabi. For the second time in recent days, the U.S bombed sites in Fallujah killing at least four people. Two U.S. soldiers were shot dead in the town of Balad north of Baghdad. 840 U.S. soldiers have now died in Iraq. In Mosul the dean of the law school at the university of Mosul was murdered along with her husband outside their home. Another massive explosion hit an Iraqi pipeline north of Baghdad. And Al Qaeda leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi has purportedly threatened to kill Iraq’s appointed prime minister, Iyad Allawi.
The defense investment firm Carlyle Group has purchased a portion of Loews Cinema for $2 billion. Carlyle Group is an investment firm with close ties to the Bush administration and the Saudi royal family. The former president Bush once served as an advisor. The current President Bush once headed a Carlyle-owned company. The sale coincidentally was announced just before the opening of Michael Moore’s new film Fahrenheit 9/11 which examines Bush-Saudi ties as well as the Caryle Group. On Tuesday the motion picture film board rejected an effort by Moore to have his documentary rated PG-13 instead of R. The Washington Post also reports Carlyle Group has recently been buying up numerous major assets in the telecommunications industry including DDI, one of Japan’s largest wireless data providers, the satellite network owner PanAmSat, and the phone directory company Dex Media. Carlyle is also attempting to buy Verizon’s contract for local phone business in Hawaii.
The House ethics committee agreed Tuesday to proceed with an investigation into allegations that House Majority Leader Tom DeLay engaged in extortion, bribery and abuse of power. The complaint was brought by Rep. Chris Bell, a Democrat from Texas.
The State Department was forced to admit yesterday that it had severely underestimated the number of terrorist attacks last year handing what could be a major setback to President Bush’s campaign efforts. In April the State Department issued a report claiming that 307 people died in 2003 from terrorist attacks. At the time Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage said the report provided “clear evidence that we are prevailing in the fight.” But yesterday Secretary of State Gen. Colin Powell acknowledged the report was wrong. In fact the actual number of deaths was 625, more than twice as high as in the original report. 2003 saw the largest number of attacks in 2 decades. A spokesperson for John Kerry said “The White House has clearly tried to blur the lines between 9/11 and Iraq, exaggerated the threat of [weapons of mass destruction], and has now been caught trying to inflate its success on terrorism,”
The Washington Post reports the Bush administration has faced wide opposition at the United Nations in its attempt to keep Americans exempted from prosecution of war crimes by the International Criminal Court. On June 30 the current one-year exemption expires. Up until a month ago, the US expected to secure from the UN an indefinite exemption from the court but now it is unclear if Washington can even muster enough voters to extend the current exemption one year. The U.S. treatment of detainees in Iraq is widely cited as a reason not to exempt Americans from the war crimes court. Yesterday Deputy Defense Secretary Paul D. Wolfowitz said the diplomatic damaged caused by the Abu Ghraib scandal is “enormous.”
The government yesterday opened its case against well known New York attorney Lynne Stewart yesterday alleging that she participated in a conspiracy to illegal help her client, the jailed Sheikh Abdel Rahman, tourge his followers to commit acts of terrorism. Prosecutor Christopher Morvillo said of the blink sheikh “His words and speeches were as dangerous as weapons.” The government accused Stewart and her two co-defendants of essentially carrying out a jailbreak — by breaking the blind sheikh’s message out of jail. Stewart’s attorney Michael Tigar countered saying his client was being prosecuted for carrying out her role as an attorney. He said “In 40 years in this town, Lynne Stewart has been building for justice, not for terrorism.”
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