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You turn to Democracy Now! for ad-free news you can trust. Maybe you come for our daily headlines. Maybe you come for in-depth stories that expose government and corporate abuses of power. Today Democracy Now! is celebrating our 23rd birthday. For over two decades, we've produced our daily news hour without ads, government funding or corporate underwriting. How is this possible? Only with your support. Right now, in honor of Democracy Now!'s birthday, every donation we receive will be tripled by a generous supporter. This means if you give $30 today, Democracy Now! will get $90 to support our daily news hour. Please do your part. It takes just a couple of minutes to make sure that Democracy Now! is there for you and everybody else. Thank you! -Amy Goodman
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World leaders at the G8 summit in Germany have reached an agreement on global warming only to “consider” cuts to emissions of greenhouse gases. Germany had led calls for a mandatory 50 percent cut by 2050 under a global U.N. accord. But the Bush administration has rejected any specific cuts and says it will only accept targets and goals for reducing emissions. The deal calls for member nations to negotiate a new agreement but doesn’t bind them to the outcome. British Prime Minister Tony Blair hailed the accord.
British Prime Minister Tony Blair: “This is an agreement in which we want all the major countries to be involved, including America, China, India and others, in other words, the developed and the developing world. So the possibility is here therefore for the first time of getting a global deal on climate change with substantial cuts in emissions and everyone in the deal, which is the only way that we are going to get the radical action on the climate that we need. I think this is a major, major step forward.”
Environmental groups had a different take.
Greenpeace climate expert Tobias Muenchmeyer: “There is no breakthrough, and there is no compromise. There are results now on the table which show that G8 has, the group of the eight biggest economies has, failed to live up to responsibilities when it comes to climate change. There is no consensus on reductions on 50 percent CO2 emissions by 2050, since the U.S. is not willing to accept this.”
As the deal was reached, Greenpeace caused a stir when it led German police boats on a high-speed chase through the Baltic Sea. Three Greenpeace inflatable speed boats penetrated the security zone in the waters off the Heiligendamm meeting site. The activists unfurled a banner reading 'G8 — Act Now.” The chase came to an end when a massive police ship rammed two Greenpeace boats, sending crew members into the water. Three activists were injured and taken to the hospital. Greenpeace didn't stop there — earlier today the group tried to send a hot-air balloon over the summit with the word ”FAILED” written across its “G8–Act Now” slogan. Police helicopters forced the balloon to land before it could reach the G8 meeting site. Meanwhile, thousands of people continue their protests on the summit’s last day.
Unidentified protester: “We want to try to arrive to the fence, and our objective is to cross the road and don’t let pass all the personnel who have to work here. We think that this (pointing to Heiligendamm) is a criminal organization, and we have to fight it.”
The environmental agreement was followed by a deal on aid funding today also criticized by development and advocacy groups. The G8 committed to spend $60 billion over five years on funding programs for HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis. But several groups say the pledge falls short of required needs and consists mostly of funds that have already been announced. Steve Cockburn of the Stop AIDS Campaign said: “While lives will be saved with more money for AIDS, this represents a cap on ambition that will ultimately cost millions more lives.”
The G8 summit marks President Bush’s last official meeting with British Prime Minister Tony Blair before Blair steps down later this month. Bush reflected on the encounter.
President Bush: “This is the last meeting I will have with him as prime minister. It’s a nostalgic moment for me. I’m sorry it’s come to be, but that’s what happens in life. People move on. As Tony said, we talked about a global climate change. I told him in Washington, and I recommitted myself today, that the U.S. will be actively involved, if not taking the lead, in a post-Kyoto framework or agreement.”
President Bush missed today’s morning session of the G8 meetings because of what White House officials said was a stomach ailment.
In other G8 news, Russian President Vladimir Putin has made a surprise counterproposal in the standoff over U.S. plans to build a missile shield in Eastern Europe. On Thursday, Putin said the U.S. and Russia should station a radar in Azerbaijan for a missile shield that would cover all of Europe. Putin has been fiercely critical of U.S. plans to host sites in the Czech Republic and Poland. Some analysts described Putin’s offer as a bluff to deter the existing U.S. proposals.
In Iraq, at least 80 people have been killed in violence over the last day. Earlier today 14 people were killed when attackers struck the house of the police chief in Baquba. Twenty-five people were killed when suicide bombers hit a Shiite mosque and a police station in Kirkuk. At least 16 were killed in a car bombing in the southern Iraqi town of Qurnah. The violence comes one day after the Pentagon announced the U.S. military death toll in Iraq has now passed the 3,500 mark.
Meanwhile on Capitol Hill, President Bush’s “war czar” nominee, Lieutenant General Douglas Lute, explained reports he had doubted the administration’s plans for a so-called troop surge in Iraq.
Lieutenant General Douglas Lute: “I expressed concerns in the policy development phase, as you mentioned in your opening remarks, that this not be simply a one-dimensional surge — that is, a military only. We have taken steps on other dimensions inside the U.S. government. And the Iraqi government has taken some steps to demonstrate that it understands that it must surge, if you will, alongside of us. I’d assess at this point that the Iraqi participation in the surge has been uneven so far. And I think we’re in the early days. And time will tell.”
Lute went on to testify that National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley would no longer play a major role in advising on Iraq and Afghanistan.
In Italy, the trial begins today for 26 Americans and five Italians accused of kidnapping a Muslim cleric from the streets of Milan in 2003. Hassan Mustafa Osama Nasr, known as Abu Omar, was taken to U.S. bases in Italy and Germany before being sent to Egypt. There he says he was tortured during a four-year imprisonment. All 26 Americans are being tried in absentia. The case marks the first criminal trial over the CIA’s extraordinary rendition program. Proceedings are set to begin just hours after President Bush arrives in Italy on a state visit.
The trial comes as a top European investigator has concluded the CIA ran secret prisons in Poland and Romania from 2003 to 2005. In a report today, Council of Europe investigator Dick Marty says prisoners were held at the prisons with the full cooperation of leaders of the countries involved. Marty says top suspects Abu Zubaydah and Khalid Sheikh Mohammed were imprisoned at a site in Poland. Marty has previously accused 14 European countries of collaborating with the CIA in its kidnapping and imprisonment of prisoners in the so-called war on terror.
In Pakistan, thousands of people held rallies against new restrictions on local media and the suspension of a leading judge. President Pervez Musharraf imposed measures this week that make it easier for government forces to shut down broadcasters.
Mazhar Abbas of the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists: “Our fight is for the rights of workers, our fight is for the protection of journalists, and our fight is for our right to know. We have always fought these wars, and our struggle will continue.”
In Chile, a top prosecutor has recommended that former Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori be extradited to Peru. Fujimori faces several corruption and human rights charges stemming from his decade as president in the 1990s. The charges include the killing of political opponents, illegal phone tapping and bribery.
Relatives of victims of a right-wing paramilitary group in Colombia have filed suit against the U.S. banana giant Chiquita Brands. Earlier this year Chiquita admitted it had paid off the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia, which is considered a terrorist organization by the U.S. government. Chiquita said it had fallen victim to an extortion racket that threatened its employees. Colombian prosecutors have also accused Chiquita of providing arms that were then used to push leftist rebels out of an area in northern Colombia where Chiquita had its banana plantations. The suit was filed on behalf of 144 people killed by Colombian paramilitary groups. Lead attorney Terry Collingsworth says the suit could mark the biggest terrorism case in history. He said: “Putting Chiquita on trial for hundreds, or even thousands, of murders could put them out of business.”
Another top Republican operative has been charged in the ongoing fallout from the Jack Abramoff lobbying scandal. Italia Federici of the Council of Republicans for Environmental Advocacy has been charged with tax evasion and obstructing a Senate inquiry. Prosecutors say Federici lied about her role as a go-between between Abramoff and former Deputy Interior Secretary J. Steven Griles.
In other news from Washington, the House has voted to give final approval on a measure that undoes President Bush’s restrictions on stem-cell research. The final vote won’t be enough to override a promised veto from the White House.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi: “I can’t help but think that even those opposed to this legislation today would want their family members, their child with diabetes, their husband with Parkinson’s, their father with Alzheimer’s, their mother with breast cancer, to have the benefit of stem-cell research.”
Meanwhile, the Senate Judiciary Committee has approved a bill that would restore habeas corpus to prisoners at Guantánamo Bay. On Thursday, the committee voted 11 to eight to advance a measure that would let prisoners challenge their detentions in federal court.
And finally, the fate of the bipartisan immigration bill is in doubt today after a major setback in the Senate. On Thursday, senators rejected a motion to end debate and put the bill to a final vote. The move followed dozens of amendments that included cutting the size of a guest worker provision in half and designating English as the national language of the United States. The deadlock drew criticism from all sides of the immigration debate. Cecilia Munoz of the National Council of La Raza, said: “[It’s] utterly unacceptable for the Senate to fail to address the issue of immigration reform. The country demands and deserves a solution for our broken immigration system.”