New figures highlight a worsening humanitarian crisis in Iraq. The Associated Press reports the death toll for Iraqi civilians is double what it was a year ago. Estimates show Iraq is suffering an average 62 deaths per day, up from 33 last year. Meanwhile, the Iraqi Red Crescent reports the number of internally displaced Iraqis has also doubled over the course of the so-called U.S. troop surge. More than 1.1 million Iraqis are now internally displaced, up from under 450,000 earlier this year.
The number of prisoners in U.S.-run jails in Iraq has also increased by 50 percent under the so-called surge. The U.S. military is now holding some 24,500 prisoners — up from 16,000 earlier this year. Less than 300 are from countries other than Iraq. Military spokesperson Captain John Fleming says the primary motivator for imprisoned insurgents is economic because they don’t have jobs.
In other Iraq news, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has lashed out at Democratic Senators Hillary Clinton and Carl Levin for calling for his replacement. Last week both Clinton and Levin said Maliki should be removed for failing to meet U.S. benchmarks. Maliki dismissed their comments Sunday in Baghdad.
Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki: “I don’t agree with Hillary, but say that it seems that Mrs. Hillary and Mr. Carl (Levin) haven’t had the misfortune during their political lives of dealing with deep political disputes and problems such as those Iraq has had to deal with. Therefore, when they make judgments, they make them from a position of ignorance of what national reconciliation requires. Therefore, I excuse them and say national reconciliation is taking place, and although it might be seen as a slow process, it is fast if compared with other such processes (in other countries).”
In Puerto Rico, a call for a U.S. withdrawal from Iraq earned a standing ovation Saturday at a conference of more than 4,000 National Guard. Speaking at the opening of the National Guard Association general conference, Puerto Rico Governor Anibal Acevedo Vila said the war in Iraq is needlessly risking the lives of U.S. troops and damaging the U.S. abroad. He said: “The daily death toll of Americans and their allies has caused irreparable anguish here in Puerto Rico, and throughout the country. The same could be said for the people of Iraq.”
The Bush administration’s new rules for questioning CIA prisoners are raising internal worries of possible breaches of the Geneva Conventions. The Boston Globe reports top Pentagon lawyers have briefed a Senate group on last month’s executive order that established interrogation guidelines. The Judges Advocates General, or JAGs, are said to have told the senators President Bush’s order appears carefully worded to allow humiliating or degrading interrogation techniques. Bush’s order outlaws such practices but not unequivocally. It says they’re only banned if used “for the purpose of humiliating or degrading the individual.” The JAGs say that could let interrogators off the hook for torture if they claim to act in the name of national security. The Army’s top JAG, Major General Scott Black, went so far as to send a memo to soldiers emphasizing the new CIA rules do not apply to the military.
New questions are being raised about efficiency and privacy breaches in the government’s terrorist screening database. FBI documents show the database flagged some 20,000 people as suspected terrorists last year. But only a handful of those screenings led to any arrests. Critics say the figures show the threshold for identifying suspects is too low and leaves thousands at risk of civil rights violations.
In Afghanistan, three British troops were killed Friday in an accidental attack from U.S. forces. The soldiers died as U.S. troops battled Taliban insurgents.
In other news from Afghanistan, new figures show record levels of opium production for the second straight year. The U.N. says poppy cultivation is up between 10 and 30 percent over 2006.
In Paraguay, a Chilean journalist has been killed after exposing drug smuggling and oil theft in a southern region. Tito Alberto Palma was shot multiple times last week while eating out in the town of Mayor Otano. He was 48 years old. Vincente Paez of the Paraguayan Journalists Union condemned Palma’s killers.
Vincente Paez: “They add themselves to an entire panorama of terror across Paraguay. They periodically make threats and pressure and intimidate the press, mostly in border regions. This is the fifth assassination of one of our fellow journalists.”
Meanwhile in Russia, authorities say 10 people have been arrested in connection with the killing of journalist and human rights advocate Anna Politkovskaya. Politkovskaya was shot dead outside her home last October. She was a fierce critic of Russia President Vladimir Putin and the Chechen war. Putin caused an outcry when he tried to downplay her influence in Russia in comments after her death.
Iran is accusing the U.S. of using its recent terrorist designation as a tool to derail ongoing nuclear talks. Iran says it had made progress with the International Atomic Energy Agency when the Bush administration announced it would label Iran’s Revolutionary Guards a foreign terrorist group. Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mohammad Ali Hosseini accused the administration of playing politics.
Mohammad Ali Hosseini: “There was nothing else to be expected from America other than this (response). The trend (of talks) between Iran and the agency was successful; other countries welcomed it, as well. The Americans are making efforts to harm this trend.”
In Burma, the military government is continuing a countrywide crackdown on dissident leaders. On Saturday, the Burmese social activist Htin Kyam was seized by unknown assailants. Witnesses released video of Kyam being seized and dragged away. Kyam has already been arrested three times this year for organizing rallies against the military junta. He recently organized a rare protest against rising prices on fuel.
In Louisiana, a judge has denied a request to reduce the bail bond for the Jena 6 member Mychal Bell. Bell was one of six black students arrested after a school fight in which a white student was beaten and suffered a concussion and multiple bruises. The fight followed months of escalating tension after nooses were hung from a tree in the schoolyard where the black students had sat. The Jena 6, as they have come to be known, were charged with attempted second-degree murder and conspiracy. An all-white jury convicted the 17-year-old Bell last month. He faces up to 22 years in prison. His family has been unable to raise the $99,000 bail bond for his release. Bell will be sentenced September 20. The NAACP has called the case an example of differing judicial standards in race-related cases and is demanding federal intervention.
In Mississippi, a former member of the Ku Klux Klan has been sentenced to life in prison for his role in the murder of two black teenagers in 1964. James Ford Seale was first arrested shortly after the killings, but the charges were thrown out after the FBI turned the case over to local authorities. The Justice Department reopened the case two years ago. Seale was arrested in January — more than 42 years after the killings. He had been thought dead but was discovered by the brother of one of the victims. During the trial, Seale’s cousin Charles Marcus Edwards testified he and Seale had abducted and attacked the black teenagers. Edwards said Seale and other Klansmen then drove the teenagers across the Louisiana border. They put duct tape over their mouths and dumped them into the Mississippi River alive. The victims, Henry Hezekiah Dee and Charles Eddie Moore, were both 19 years old. Their bodies were found about two months later, when authorities were conducting an intensive search for slain civil rights workers Andrew Goodman, James Chaney and Michael Schwerner.
A Nebraska author and psychologist has returned an award from the American Psychological Association over the group’s endorsment of professional involvement in CIA and military interrogations of U.S. prisoners. Mary Pipher, author of “Reviving Ophelia,” says she returned her Presidential Citation last week after hearing Democracy Now!'s coverage of last week's APA convention and reading articles in Vanity Fair, Salon.com and The New Yorker. The APA voted overwhelmingly to reject a measure that would have banned its members from participating in interrogations at Guantanamo Bay and other U.S. detention centers. In a letter, Pipher wrote: “I have struggled for many months with this decision and I make it with pain and sorrow. I do not want an award from an organization that sanctions its members’ participation in the enhanced interrogations at CIA 'black sites' and at Guantanamo.”
In media news, the media giant Time Warner has reported spending nearly $2 million in government lobbying so far this year. The funds were spent to sway politicians on issues including high-speed Internet access, patent reforms and digital television. Earlier this year, Time Warner backed a postal rate hike that raised mailing costs for small periodicals.
The academic freedom controversy over the denial of tenure to Professor Norman Finkelstein at Chicago’s DePaul University has intensified. On Friday, DePaul administrators announced they’ve cancelled Finkelstein’s remaining classes for the upcoming fall quarter. Finkelstein has one year left on his contract with DePaul. Both classes were filled to capacity. Finkelstein was denied tenure earlier this year. The Political Science Department and the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences recommended tenure for Finkelstein, but the college’s dean and the University Board on Promotion and Tenure recommended against it. Critics say DePaul administrators caved to pressure from outside groups opposed to Finkelstein’s vocal criticism of Israeli government policies. Finkelstein is vowing to defy the administrators’ ban and teach his classes.
In Maine, an estimated 4,000 people gathered in Kennebunkport Saturday for an antiwar march to the Bush family estate. It was the second major antiwar rally to hit Kennebunkport this summer. Speakers including the peace mom Cindy Sheehan addressed the crowd. Democratic presidential hopeful Dennis Kucinich called on Congress to take action to end the war.
Rep. Dennis Kucinich: “The Democratic leaders can end this war now. They can go to President Bush and say, 'Mr. Bush, we appropriated $97 billion at the beginning of the summer for the war. That money can be used to bring the troops home and to set in motion an international security and peacekeeping force to stabilize Iraq.' It does not take another vote. I want you to know that. They, the Democratic leaders, have the responsibility now to end the war now!”
And more than a thousand people marched in Newark, New Jersey, this weekend in one of the largest demonstrations there in decades. The demonstrators were protesting the war in Iraq and violence at home. Earlier this month, a triple murder rocked Newark when three college students were executed in a Newark schoolyard.