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You turn to Democracy Now! for ad-free daily news you can trust. Maybe you come for our daily headlines, or our in-depth stories that expose corporate and government abuses of power. You need news that isn't being paid for by campaigns or corporations. We produce our daily news hour at a fraction of the budget of a commercial news operation—all without ads, government funding or corporate sponsorship. How? This model of news depends on your support. Right now, every new monthly sustaining donation to Democracy Now! will be tripled by a generous supporter. That means if you can give just $4 a month, Democracy Now! gets $12 today. Pretty amazing right? If you visit us daily or weekly or even just once a month, start your monthly contribution today. Thanks so much. -Amy Goodman
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The Bush administration has told seventeen states across the country they cannot impose their own standards for limiting greenhouse gas emissions from automobiles. The California-led effort seeks to cut vehicles’ carbon dioxide emissions 30 percent by 2016. But on Wednesday, Environmental Protection Agency head Stephen Johnson overruled the proposals and said they’re trumped by federal authority. The Washington Post reports Johnson’s decision came over the objection of his lawyers and policy staff. In a briefing, aides told Johnson the EPA would likely lose in court if California sued to protect its emissions standards. Aides also told Johnson the “EPA is almost certain to win” if he didn’t intervene and allowed automakers to sue California instead. The decision came just hours after President Bush signed the new bipartisan energy bill. Bush hailed the law at a White House ceremony.
President Bush: “The bill I sign today takes a significant step, because it will require fuel producers to use at least 36 billion gallons of biofuel in 2022. This is nearly a five-fold increase over current levels. It will help us diversify our energy supplies and reduce our dependence on oil. It’s an important part of this legislation.”
The new energy law requires car manufacturers to meet fuel-economy standards of thirty-five miles per gallon for both cars and trucks. The California standard is higher: forty-three miles per gallon for cars and some light trucks. California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger says states will go to court to reverse the EPA order. Environmental groups blasted the EPA’s decision. Paul Cort of Earthjustice said, “This is not about protecting a national policy to address global warming. This is about the White House protecting industry cronies from state leaders who actually want to fight global warming.”
The CIA has announced it will begin handing over documents to Congress about the destruction of videotapes showing the interrogation of two prisoners held in secret jails. The announcement came after the House Intelligence Committee threatened to subpoena CIA officials if they refused to appear voluntarily. The Intelligence Committee has launched an investigation into the tapes in defiance of a Bush administration request to await a White House probe.
In Iraq, at least twelve people have been killed and ten wounded in a suicide attack in the province of Diyala north of Baghdad. Iraqi police say US soldiers could be among the dead. The attack follows another Diyala suicide bombing that killed at least sixteen people and wounded nearly thirty others.
Unidentifed Relative: “Seven members of my family were killed. Can Arabs accept that? Can any law approve it?”
Pentagon figures show an average 600 attacks per week in Iraq, excluding US attacks. A recent US military study shows Iraqis of all sectarian and ethnic groups roundly see the US invasion and occupation as the root cause of Iraq’s sectarian conflict. One US military analyst said the result is encouraging, because it shows Iraqis hold some “shared beliefs.”
Turkey’s ambassador to the United States is praising the Bush administration for aiding Turkish air strikes on Kurdish positions in northern Iraq. The White House has denied reports it shared intelligence gathered from aircraft and unmanned drones. But on Wednesday, Turkish Ambassador Nabi Sensoy said the attacks were possible because of US information.
On Capitol Hill, Justice Department officials are coming under criticism for refusing to attend a hearing on allegations of rape and sexual assault of female contractors in Iraq. A former employee has sued Halliburton and its former subsidiary KBR after she says she was gang-raped by employees of the company in Baghdad. The alleged victim, Jamie Leigh Jones, accuses the company and the US government of covering up the crime. On Wednesday, government officials skipped a House Judiciary Committee hearing into the charges. Committee chair John Conyers called the absence a “disgrace.”
In Britain, three newly freed prisoners jailed for more than four years at Guantánamo Bay arrived in London Wednesday where they were promptly taken into police custody. All three previously resided in Britain before their capture. Abdennour Samuer, an Algerian, and Omar Deghayes, a Libyan, were seized in Pakistan. Attorneys say Deghayes has been left blind in one eye from beatings by US guards. The third prisoner, Jamil el-Banna, was seized in Gambia. Zachary Katznelson, an attorney with the prisoner rights group Reprieve, said el-Banna has yet to meet his youngest daughter.
Zachary Katznelson: “I saw Jamil just on December 7th, so just a little more than ten days ago. And speaking to him, you know, he’s never met his youngest daughter. She’s five years old now. His wife was pregnant when he was taken by the CIA. The idea of holding her in his arms, kissing her, it just brought tears to his eyes. And it’s going to be a wonderful reunion this evening.”
The prisoners’ return follows years of campaigning by their families.
In Israel and the Occupied Territories, the Israeli government appears to have dismissed a new truce offer from Hamas. The offer was relayed through an Israeli television reporter. The reporter announced this week Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh said he would prevent rocket fire from Gaza if Israel stopped the killing of Palestinians and lifted its blockade. Haniyeh’s overture came one day after Israeli air strikes killed at least ten Palestinians in Gaza. Israel says most of the dead were militants. In response to Haniyeh, an Israeli government spokesperson said it would only deal with the Palestinian Authority led by President Mahmoud Abbas. Abbas lost control of Gaza to a Hamas takeover in June.
A new government audit has concluded that US sanctions on Cuba are more restrictive than those on any other country, including Iran and North Korea. The Government Accountability Office also says the resources poured into enforcing the Cuban embargo may undermine national security by diverting attention from actual terrorist threats. More than 60 percent of cases investigated by the Office of Foreign Assets Control focused on blocking Cuban goods such as rum and cigars. The study was carried out at the request of Democratic Congress members Charles Rangel of New York and Barbara Lee of California. In a statement, Rangel said, “I am dismayed to learn that the Bush Administration’s Cuba policies have led Homeland Security and Treasury to direct scarce resources at such trivial violations, particularly when we know that our nation’s borders remains vulnerable to real threats such as drugs and weapons.”
In Argentina, eight former military officers have been sentenced to terms of up to twenty-five years for crimes under the military dictatorship from 1976 to 1983. Former military general Cristino Nicolaides was given twenty-five years for the murder of five leftist militants. He is the highest-ranking official to be convicted since Argentina repealed an amnesty law four years ago.
And back here in the United States, a new candidate on the campaign trail. Former Democratic Congress member Cynthia McKinney has announced she is seeking the presidency as a Green Party hopeful. In a campaign video, McKinney said her former party has become identical to Republicans.
Cynthia McKinney: “The Democrats do not speak for us. They have abdicated their sacred responsibilities to the American people, to the Constitution and to the global community. The Democrats, no different than their Republican counterparts, eat out of the hands of corrupt lobbyists and feed at the same corporate trough. I am proud to say that the Green Party is my new political home.”
McKinney was the first African American woman elected to Congress from Georgia. One of her last measures in office was to introduce a bill for the impeachment of President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney.