The Pentagon has begun working with a private company to create a massive database of high school and college students to help identify students as young as 16 to target for military recruiting. This according to the Washington Post. The database includes an array of personal information including birth dates, Social Security numbers, e-mail addresses, grade point averages, ethnicity and what subjects the students are studying. The Pentagon has hired the Massachusetts-based company BeNow to run the database apparently in an effort to circumvent laws that restrict the government’s right to collect or hold citizen information. The database will include data given over by schools under the No Child Left Behind Act as well as information collected from commercial data brokers. According to the Washington Post, the system also gives the Pentagon the right — without notifying the students — to share the data for numerous uses outside the military, including with law enforcement, state tax authorities and Congress. A Pentagon spokesperson defended the database saying, “This program is important because it helps bolster the effectiveness of all the services’ recruiting and retention efforts.” The new database is being created at a time when the Armed Forces is struggling to meet its recruiting goals. The Army has missed its monthly recruiting goals every month so far this year. But Chris Jay Hoofnagle of EPIC — the Electronic Privacy Information Center —criticized the system as a “audacious plan to target-market kids, as young as 16, for military solicitation.” EPIC described the database as a “unprecedented foray of the government into direct marketing techniques previously only performed by the private sector.” The privacy watchdog group also criticized the program because it does not allow students to opt-out of being in the massive database although they can opt-out of being solicited for recruitment.
In Iraq, at least 47 people have died over the past 24 hours following a series of car bombings in Baghdad. Earlier today at least 15 people died in attacks that targeted a Shiite mosque, a police station and a male bathhouse. Last night 23 people died as three near simultaneous bombs struck a predominantly Shiite neighborhood in Baghdad.
A prominent Sunni law professor was assassinated on Wednesday along with his son. The former judge — Jassim al-Issawi — had publicly volunteered to join the committee drafting Iraq’s new constitution. The Associated Press described the killing as potentially the most politically significant act of violence since Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari came to office nearly two months ago because it marks the first direct attempt to scare moderates away from political participation. Since Jaafari formed his government on April 28 over 1200 people have died.
A U.S. spy plane crashed Tuesday in the Middle East. The pilot of the U2 surveillance aircraft died in the crash. Originally the Pentagon has refused to state where the crash occurred citing “host nation sensitivities.” But later Pentagon officials said the plane crashed while landing in the United Arab Emirates after returning from a mission in Afghanistan. United Arab Emirates is a small nation about the size of Maine that borders Saudi Arabia and is across the Persian Gulf from Iran.
In Afghanistan, U.S. and Afghan forces are waging what officials are describing as one of the largest offensives in the country since 2001. Afghan officials say they believe over 100 members of the Taliban have been killed in the attack. During the battle U.S. warplanes and helicopter gunships bombed suspected Taliban sites for hours. On Wednesday, the Bush administration warned they expected to see increased violence by the Taliban in the lead-up to the national assembly elections scheduled for September. This warning comes eighteen months after President Bush announced that U.S. forces had “put the Taliban out of business forever.” Meanwhile a girls’ primary school south of Kabul has burned down after it was set on fire by armed men.
On Wednesday President Bush made a trip that no president has taken since 1979 — to one of the country’s nuclear power plants. Speaking at a plant in Maryland, Bush said, “It is time for this country to start building nuclear power plants again.” Jimmy Carter was the last president to step inside a plant under very different circumstances. In 1979 Carter visited Three Mile Island five days after the plant suffered a partial reactor meltdown in the worst nuclear accident in U.S. history. Carter visited the site with his wife Rosalynn in an attempt to demonstrate that the plant was safe. Since the Three Mile Island accident no new nuclear reactor has been approved in the country. But on Wednesday Bush repeated his call for Congress to change that, as he claimed that “Nuclear power is one of America’s safest sources of energy.”
In business news, one of China’s largest state-owned oil companies is trying to buy the U.S. oil firm Unocal in what analysts say is the first major takeover bid by the Chinese of a U.S. corporation. Two months ago Unocal agreed to bought by Chevron for just under sixteen and a half billion dollars. But now the China National Offshore Oil Corporation is offering eighteen and a half billion dollars. Earlier this week another Chinese company moved to purchase the U.S. appliance company Maytag.
A federal court in Washington has announced that a civil suit against Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld filed on behalf of eight Iraqi and Afghan detainees will go ahead. The detainees claim they were tortured and abused while in U.S. detention. According to the American Civil Liberties Union, the lawsuit seeks to hold Rumsfeld and others directly responsible for the abuse and torture of detainees in U.S. military custody.
In California, the family of the slain hip-hop star Notorious B.I.G have begun a civil action against the city of Los Angeles. Members of his family allege that a city police officer had a role in his 1997 shooting death.
In Vermont, U.S. Marshals have shut down the low power community radio station Radio Free Brattleboro for operating without a license. We reached station co-founder Larry Bloch on Wednesday: That was Larry Bloch of Radio Free Brattleboro. Although the FCC has tried to shut down the station before, Radio Free Brattleboro has received strong support from the community. Last year town voters endorsed a referendum supporting the station by a two-to-one margin. The station’s attorney James Maxwell said “Rfb does not operate in defiance of government, but rather from the belief of its members and listeners that community radio is essential to good government and democratic process.”
And 60 years ago today the Japanese island of Okinawa fell to U.S. troops following a bloody 80-day siege. By the end nearly 190,000 Japanese died in the battle — half of them local islanders. The U.S. death toll topped 12,000. The island remained under U.S. occupation for nearly three decades and it still houses 30,000 U.S. troops.