In Philadelphia Mississippi former Ku Klux Klan leader Edgar Ray Killen has been sentenced to 60 years in prison for orchestrating the execution of three civil rights workers in 1964. The sentencing came 41 years to the week after the disappearance and death of James Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner. The 80-year-old Killen remains free on bond while appealing his conviction.
In Washington, a former co-chair of the Republican Party has been appointed to head the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Patricia Harrison will serve as CPB’s president and chief executive even though she has no significant broadcasting experience. Harrison’s appointment comes just days after 16 Democratic Senators called on the chair of the CPB — Kenneth Tomlinson — to resign for politicizing public broadcasting. CPB Board member Beth Courtney voted against Harrison’s appointment. She said ’’I was asked by hundreds of colleagues in public broadcasting not to select someone who was in a partisan position. The stations are very upset.”
The House voted Thursday to restore one hundred million dollars to next year’s budget for public broadcasting. Eighty-seven Republicans joined Democrats in supporting the move. Last week the House Appropriations committee voted to make the steep cuts.
The Supreme Court has issued a major ruling on property rights. A split court ruled Thursday that cities may seize and demolish private homes–even in non-blighted areas — to make way for shopping malls and other private development. Writing for the majority Justice John Paul Stevens wrote “Promoting economic development is a traditional and long accepted function of government.” But Justice Sandra Day O’Connor wrote a scathing dissent saying “Under the banner of economic development, all private property is now vulnerable to being taken and transferred to another private owner. Nothing is to prevent the state from replacing any Motel 6 with a Ritz-Carlton, any home with a shopping mall or any farm with a factory.” Joining O’Connor in opposing the ruling were Chief Justice William Rehnquist, Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas. Land use experts are predicting the ruling is likely to encourage more cities to clear land for office complexes or big-box retailers.
A team of United Nations human rights investigators said Thursday they had reliable accounts that detainees were being tortured at the U.S. military base at Guantanamo Citing declassified government documents the investigators said they have uncovered what they describe as “serious allegations of torture, cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment of detainees, arbitrary detention, violations of their right to health and their due process rights.” The UN human rights investigators also accused the Bush administration of ignoring multiple requests for them to be given access to the base to check on the conditions of the detainees. Paul Hunt, a law professor from New Zealand who monitors physical and mental health, said he wanted to investigate the alleged violations in person. Hunt said “Reportedly medical staff have assisted in the design of interrogation strategies, including sleep deprivation and other coercive interrogation methods.”
Meanwhile Vice President Dick CHeney has again defended the treatment of detainees at Guantanamo. He told CNN last night “They’re living in the tropics. They’re well fed. They’ve got everything they could possibly want.”
On Capitol Hill, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld came under intense questioning Thursday during a hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee. The Washington Post described it as some of the toughest questioning that Rumsfeld since the war began. During the hearing Senator Ted Kennedy asked Rumsfeld when he is going to resign.
Kennedy: You basically have mismanaged the war and created an impossible situation for military recruiters and our national security. Our troops deserve better. I think America deserves better. They deserve competency and they deserve the facts. In baseball, it is three strikes and you are out. What is it for the secretary?
Rumsfeld defended his actions in Iraq and denied that the U.S. was stuck in a quagmire or losing the war. However Army General John Abizaid — the country’s top commander in the Middle East — admitted the the Iraqi resistance remains strong. This is an exchange between Abizaid and Democratic Senator Carl Levin who asked Abizaid if he agrees with Vice President Cheney’s comment that the Iraqi resistance is in its “last throes.”
Abizaid: In terms of six months ago. In terms of foreign fighters, I believe there are more foreign fighters coming into iraq than there were six months ago. In terms of the strength of the insurgency, I would say it is about the same as it was six months ago.
: So you wouldn’t agree with the statement that it’s in its last throes?
: I don’t think I would make any statement about that. There’s a lot of work to be done against the insurgency.
In other news from Washington, Democrats are calling on White House deputy chief of staff Karl Rove to apologize for his recent comments about the Sept. 11 attacks. Earlier this week he said “Liberals saw the savagery of the 9/11 attacks and wanted to prepare indictments and offer therapy and understanding for our attackers,” while “Conservatives saw the savagery of 9/11 and the attacks and prepared for war.” White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan defended Rove saying he was just “telling it like it is.”
On Capitol Hill, Senators John McCain and Frank Lautenberg have introduced the “Community Broadband Act of 2005” — the legislation aims to protect towns and cities that want to offer residents discount or free wireless access to the Internet through a municipal-run broadband system. Lautenberg said “Government should work to open doors to greater technology for the American people, not slam them shut. Our bill will protect the right of communities to offer wireless broadband access to their citizens, creating a powerful tool for education and economic development.” The bill is being introduced at a time when the concept of community wireless is under attack. Republican Congressman Pete Sessions of Texas is pushing a law that would ban towns and cities across the country from wiring themselves for broadband.” The telecom industry has been lobbying Congress to block cities and towns from setting up their own broadband systems. Congressman Sessions is a former telecom executive whoworked at Southwestern Bell Telephone for 16 years. His wife currently works for the telecom company SBC. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, individuals and political action committees associated with SBC were the third-largest donor to Sessions in the 2003-2004 election cycle.
In Haiti, special UN envoy Juan Gabriel Valdes called on the interim Haitian government to release former prime minister Yvon Neptune from prison. Neptune has been jailed for over a year. Valdes said it was “very difficult to understand” why Neptune remains jailed “without having clear accusations against him” while others allegedly involved in the February 2004 killings are free.
In Turkey, the World Tribunal on Iraq is opening its three-day session today. The gathering is modeled after the International War Crimes Tribunal that British philosopher Bertrand Russell formed in 1967 during the Vietnam War. Russell’s tribunal was charged with conducting 'a solemn and historic investigation' of U.S. war crimes in Vietnam in order to 'prevent the crime of silence.' Speaking at the World Tribunal on Iraq will be Indian writer Arundhati Roy, former UN Assistant Secretary General Dennis Halliday, independent journalist Dahr Jamail and others.
And in Chicago, a celebration is being held this weekend to mark the 100th anniversary of the founding of the IWW, the Industrial Workers of the World. The union formed to promote worker solidarity against the employing classes. The Wobblies — as they were known — called for the abolition of the wage system and the formation of one giant union. Early members included Big Bill Haywood, Eugene Debs, Lucy Parsons, Mother Jones and Joe Hill.