Democracy Now! has learned the Justice Department has launched a criminal civil rights investigation of the New York Police Department over the NYPD’s treatment of protesters during the Republican National Convention. During the week of the 2004 convention, police arrested some 1800 protesters — more than at any previous political convention in the country’s history.
After months of resistance, the Bush administration has agreed to brief all members of the House and Senate intelligence committees on its domestic wiretapping program. Analysts said the decision was made to shore up support for CIA nominee Gen. Michael Hayden, who oversaw the National Security Agency when the program was introduced. Hayden’s confirmation hearings begin Thursday. Republican strategists cited another benefit. Because of congressional rules over classified information, lawmakers would be forced to temper public discussion of the program once they were briefed on it. One senior Republican aide told the Los Angeles Times: “When they know about it, they are obligated to be quiet.”
In other news, Iran has rejected a European proposal that would grant it several incentives for halting nuclear enrichment activities. The incentives would include a light-water nuclear reactor. Announcing his rejection, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said: “Do you think you are dealing with a 4-year-old child to whom you can give walnuts and chocolates and get gold from him?” The proposal was also rejected by the US.
A new arms embargo on Venezuela is heightening tensions between the Bush and Chavez governments. On Monday, the US announced it is banning arms sales to Venezuela because it has not cooperated with the Bush administration’s so-called anti-terrorism efforts. Venezuelan officials said the ban is laying the political groundwork for a possible attack. On Tuesday, State Department spokesperson Sean McCormack responded to the allegation: “Look, it is just a attempt to obscure the issue, but what they should be focusing on instead is co-operating in the war against terrorism, the UN resolutions that should be a guide for every country’s efforts in that regard. I think that instead of throwing up diversionary rhetoric, overheated rhetoric, they should focus instead on taking steps to fight terror.” In response to the arms embargo, Venezuela says it would consider sending its fleet of US-made F-16 fighter jets to Iran.
In Colombia, thousands of indigenous Colombians blocked a major southern highway Tuesday to protest a pending trade agreement with the United States. Organizers said the blockade drew more than 30,000 people. At least 30 people were reported injured when police used tear gas on the crowds. Government officials accused the demonstration of being a front for the rebel group the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia — FARC. Indigenous leader Jose Antonio Catome had this response: “Here they are attacking us with helicopters. They are attacking also with bullets, that is, they are attacking in different ways as if we were an illegal group, and it is totally false that this was encouraged by the FARC. We take responsibility for this.”
In Bolivia Tuesday, the government released details of plans to distribute unused land to the country’s poor peasants. Officials said over 12 million acres of land would initially be given out. Bolivian Vice President Alvaro García Linera said privately-owned productive farmland would not be affected and called for a public dialogue: “With the farmers, with the indigenous, with all the social sectors involved in the issue of land, it is necessary to bring together points of conflict, to talk about them at the table, look at them from one side, look at them from the other and at the end of a month, two months or three months, we will begin to make decisions again.”
In Brazil, the death toll from more than five days of gang and police violence in Sao Paulo has reached at least 115 people. Clashes broke out last week when one of Brazil’s leading gangs launched a series of attacks following the announcement several of the gang’s imprisoned leaders would be transferred to different facilities. The gangs targeted police stations, military installations and prison outposts. Police said they have made at least 90 arrests.
In Iraq, the London Independent is reporting violence in the town of Basra has worsened to the point where one person is being assassinated every hour.
Meanwhile, a survey carried out by the Iraqi government and UNICEF has concluded a quarter of all Iraqi children suffer from malnutrition.
Back in the United States, the Justice Department has released new video footage of the 9/11 attack on the Pentagon. The video shows American Airlines flight 77 approaching the Pentagon at nearly ground level. Moments later, the Pentagon is seen in flames. Judicial Watch, the public interest group that obtained the video’s release, said it hoped the footage helps put to rest theories the Pentagon was hit by something other than a hijacked plane.
Mexico has announced it may take legal action in response to President Bush’s plan to deploy thousands of troops to the border. On Tuesday, Mexican officials said they would file lawsuits in US courts if the National Guard took part in detaining and/or mistreating detainees. In Washington, President Bush defended his plan. “I made it clear to the country last night that we’re not going to militarize our borde,” Bush said. “Mexico is a friend. But what we are going to do is use assets necessary to make sure that we can assure the American people that the border is secure.”
In Nebraska, the NAACP has filed a lawsuit over a new law that divides Omaha Public Schools into three racially identifiable districts. Under the law, the Omaha district will be split into three — one mostly black, one largely Latino and one predominantly white. The NAACP called the plan a reversion to segregation.
In Georgia, a judge has struck down a ban on same-sex marriage. The court ruled the measure had violated constitutional rules on single-issue voting when it appeared on the ballot two years ago. The ban was originally passed as part of a ballot question that included several other questions, a practice barred under state law.
In Los Angeles, city and state officials have filed suit against Coca-Cola accusing it of distributing contaminated soft drinks. The suit says millions of Coke bottles sold over the last four years have been tainted with lead. Coca-Cola called the allegations “outlandish.”
And a new poll shows public confidence in Republican governance has hit its lowest point since President Bush took office. According to the Washington Post, a wide majority of Americans say they have more trust in Democrats to deal with Iraq, the economy, immigration and several other major issues. The results suggest the Democrats’ favorable rating has less to do with public support for its policies than with dissatisfaction with the Republicans. More than half of those surveyed said the Democrats have not offered a sharp contrast to President Bush and the Republican Party.