Hundreds of thousands of protesters took to the streets Sunday in the largest demonstration ever at a political convention. Organizers with United For Peace and Justice estimated more than a half million protesters marched past Madison Square Garden where the Republican National Convention opens today.
In New York, major protests against President Bush began on Friday when 5,000 bikers took part in a Critical Mass bike ride. Some 15,000 marched on Saturday in one of the city’s largest women’s marches in history. Today two more large demonstrations are scheduled to mark the start of the convention.
Over the weekend police arrested some 400 protesters. Four activists who participated in a banner drop on Thursday at the Grand Plaza hotel now have 25 years in prison. They were each charged with assault because a police officer was injured while responding to the incident.
Meanwhile Vice President Dick Cheney arrived in New York Sunday and spoke at Ellis Island in an event closed off to the public. He spoke with the background of the lower Manhattan skyline as a backdrop.
We’ll have much more on the protests throughout the show.
The FBI now believes the Pentagon’s top Iran analyst secretly passed on classified information on Iran to the Israeli government via AIPAC, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. The Pentagon official has been identified as Larry Franklin who was closely tied to Paul Wolfowitz and Douglas Feith. Newsweek reports that Franklin’s role was uncovered after the FBI put officials from AIPAC under surveillance for possible espionage.
Franklin worked in the Pentagon’s Near East and South Asia Bureau which was headed by Feith, who also oversaw the controversial Office of Special Plans. They were both part of the neo-conservative wing of the Pentagon that advocated for the invasion of Iraq and has pushed for a hardline stance toward Iran.
Franklin has also been accused of secretly meeting with Manuchehr Ghorbanifar. Ghorbanifar is an Iranian arms dealer who played a key role in the Iran-Contra Scandal and who advocates for the overthrow of the Iranian government
Israel has rejected the espionage allegations. In the 1980s Israel officially announced it would no longer spy on the US following the conviction of US Navy analyst Jonathan Pollard.
Although AIPAC is at the center of the spying scandal, scores of Republican delegates and elected officials attended an AIPAC party last night in New York. Speakers including former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist.
Tonight Giuliani will give the major prime time address at the opening of the convention.
In Afghanistan, at least seven people died Sunday after a truck bomb blew up the headquarters of the U.S. multinational company Dyncorp. The US company provides a private militia to protect Afghan President Hamid Karzai and trains the Afghan police force.
It was the first major attack in Kabul in more than a year. The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack.
On Saturday, 10 people died including nine children in an explosion at a school in southeastern Afghanistan.
Today the U.S. government warned its citizens in Afghanistan to take strict security measures and avoid potential target areas.
And in election news, the New York Times has come out calling for the abolishment of the electoral college as a means to select the nation’s president. The Times wrote in editorial, “It’s a ridiculous setup, which thwarts the will of the majority, distorts presidential campaigning and has the potential to produce a true constitutional crisis. There should be a bipartisan movement for direct election of the president.”
In the 2000 election, Al Gore won the popular vote by a margin of 500,000 but lost the election. President Bush won the electoral vote after the Supreme Court ruled in his favor of stopping the Florida recount.
In campaign news, the former speaker of the Texas House Speaker, Ben Barnes, has revealed that he helped President George W. Bush and the sons of other rich families to get into the Texas National Guard so they could avoid serving in Vietnam.
Meanwhile on Saturday, President Bush admitted on the Today show that he believes that John Kerry was heroic during the Vietnam War. He said “going to Vietnam was more heroic than my flying fighter jets. He was in harm’s way and I wasn’t.”
And in other news from the Republican convention, the Justice Department has opened a criminal investigation into the New York City Indymedia center. The Justice Department is demanding Indymedia’s internet service provider hand over records regarding posts on the site that listed the names of Republican delegates. The federal government is claiming the posting of the delegates names may constitute a form of voter intimidation.
The American Civil Liberties Union is defending Indymedia and the internet provider Calyx in the case.
Ann Beeson of the A.C.L.U. said “We can’t see any legitimate purpose behind this investigation, and it looks to us like another attempt to repress legitimate political dissent.
In news from inside the Republican National Convention, former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani will headline tonigh’s events.
The convocation will be conducted by Utah resident Sherry Dew who delivered a controversial speech at an event sponsored by the Family Action Council International where she compared gay people to supporters of Hitler. She criticized same-sex couples who have children and compared gays and their supporters to those who lined up with Hitler in the 1940s. She said QUOTE “Before this era is over, every living human being will have chosen. Every living human being will have lined up in support of the family or against it. Every living human being will have either opposed the onslaught against the family or supported it.”
Dew however is not expected to make such comments tonight.
Political analysts have noted that the Republican party has attempted to put forward a party platform to appeal to the conservative side of the GOP while putting up a slate of speakers to appeal to more moderate voters.
The public role of evangelical Christian leaders such as Rev. Jerry Falwell or Gary Bauer will be limited. While neither Falwell or Bauer will speak they will be at Madison Square Garden. Falwell told reporters, “I’m in New York right now. I have V.I.P. credentials.”
Secretary Colin Powell canceled his trip to Greece for the close of the Olympic Games amid fears of anti-American demonstrations. On Saturday, activists hung a huge banner on the Acropolis hill that read, “Powell Killer Go Home.”
Meanwhile U.S. track legend Carl Lewis criticized George Bush this weekend for using Iraqi and Afghan Olympic teams in his campaign ads. Lewis, who won nine gold medals in his record- breaking career, said, “Of course, we’ve invaded Iraq and are in there and are using it for political gain. It bewilders me, and I understand why the Iraqi players are offended.”
Newly declassified documents published yesterday have revealed that former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger urged Argentina’s military junta to crush political opposition in 1976.
Kissinger told Argentinian foreign minister Cesar Augusto Guzzetti that “If there are things that have to be done, you should do them quickly…We won’t cause you unnecessary difficulties. If you can finish before Congress gets back, the better.”
Large sections of the documents were blacked out, but evidence remained that as early as June 1976 Kissinger backed the Condor Plan, a pact between South American dictatorships to violently repress political dissidents.
According to official figures, nearly 9,000 people disappeared during Argentina’s dirty war, but human rights organizations put the figure nearer to 30,000.