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HeadlinesDecember 16, 2008

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Cheney Defends Use of Torture

Dec 16, 2008

Vice President Dick Cheney has admitted for the first time that he was directly involved in approving the use of torture by the CIA. In an interview with ABC News, Cheney was questioned about the treatment of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who was held in a secret CIA prison where he was waterboarded over 100 times.

Jonathan Karl: “Did you authorize the tactics that were used against Khalid Sheikh Mohammed?”

Dick Cheney: “I was aware of the program, certainly, and involved in helping get the process cleared. That is, the agency, in effect, came in and wanted to know what they could and couldn’t do. And they talked to me, as well as others, to explain what they wanted to do. And I supported it. There was a period of time there, three or four years ago, when about half of everything we knew about al-Qaeda came from that one source. So it’s been a remarkably successful effort. I think the results speak for themselves.”

Jonathan Karl: “In hindsight, do you think any of those tactics that were used against Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and others went too far?”

Dick Cheney : “I don’t.”

Vice President Cheney explicitly endorsed the use of waterboarding, a practice widely viewed as a form of torture.

Jonathan Karl: “And on KSM, one of those tactics, of course, widely reported was waterboarding. And that seems to be a tactic we no longer use. Even that, you think was appropriate?”

Dick Cheney: “I do.”

During the same interview, Cheney said the US military prison at Guantanamo should remain open indefinitely.

Shoe-Throwing Iraqi Journalist Remains Imprisoned

Dec 16, 2008

The International Federation of Journalists has called on the Iraqi government to release the Iraqi journalist who threw his shoes at President Bush at a news conference on Sunday. Muntadhar al-Zaidi has been held without charge for over twenty-four hours and has been reportedly beaten in jail. His brother said al-Zaidi has suffered a broken hand, broken ribs and internal bleeding, as well as an eye injury. Earlier today, al-Zaidi was handed over to the Iraqi military command in Baghdad. Al-Zaidi has become a folk hero in many parts of the Arab world. Demonstrations have been held across the region calling for his release. In Iraq, thousands of protesters rallied in Baghdad and Najaf.

Ali al-Husseini: “We call on him Bush to get out. We also call for the immediate pullout of the occupation forces form Iraq, and we also call for the release of the honest Iraqi Mujahid journalist Muntadhar al-Zaidi for his ferocious and patriotic act at the cabinet, which we have seen.”

Obama Picks More Cabinet Positions

Dec 16, 2008

President-elect Barack Obama has nominated Shaun Donovan to head the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Donovan is currently the head of New York City’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development. Meanwhile, Chicago School Superintendent Arne Duncan has emerged as Obama’s choice to become Secretary of Education. And Colorado Senator Ken Salazar is expected to be named Secretary of the Interior. The selection of Salazar has disappointed many environmental groups. A coalition of 141 environmental groups, biologists and other scientists had launched a campaign for Obama to pick Arizona Congressman Raul Grijalva for the post.

Illinois Lawmakers Vote to Begin Impeachment

Dec 16, 2008

The Illinois House has voted unanimously to begin efforts to impeach Democratic Governor Rod Blagojevich, one week after he was arrested on corruption charges. Blagojevich is accused of trying to sell off the Senate seat vacated by President-elect Barack Obama.

Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan: “During these six days, President-elect Obama and all of the Democratic statewide officials have called for the Governor to resign his office. During these six days, Governor Blagojevich has declined the opportunity to voluntarily leave the office of governor, and therefore today I am announcing the appointment of a select committee on an inquiry concerning the possible impeachment of Governor Blagojevich.”

On Monday, President-elect Obama said a review by his own lawyer shows he had no direct contact with Blagojevich about the appointment of a Senate replacement.

President-elect Barack Obama: “There was nothing that my office did that was in any way inappropriate or related to the charges that had been brought. Now, beyond that, as we said in the statement today, we are prepared to release the findings of the review that had been done, which are thorough and comprehensive. The US attorney’s office asked us to hold off releasing those for a week. So I would ask for your patience, because I do not want to interfere with an ongoing investigation.”

Caroline Kennedy to Pursue NY Senate Seat

Dec 16, 2008

Here in New York, Caroline Kennedy, the daughter of President Kennedy, has begun privately campaigning to be selected to fill Hillary Clinton’s seat in the Senate.

Israel Detains UN Human Rights Envoy

Dec 16, 2008

The Israeli government has expelled a UN human rights envoy after detaining him at the Tel Aviv airport for more than twenty hours. The envoy, Richard Falk, serves as the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in the Palestinian Territories. Falk has been a vocal critic of Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians. Meanwhile, UN General Assembly President Miguel D’Escoto Brockmann has revealed he has recently received death threats. Last month, he compared Israel to apartheid South Africa. In other news from the region, Israel released over 220 Palestinian prisoners on Monday. Most of the prisoners are members of Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah faction. Israel still holds about 11,000 Palestinian prisoners.

ANC Rivals Launch New Party

Dec 16, 2008

In South Africa, breakaway members of the African National Congress have officially formed a rival party, the Congress of the People. Former defense minister Mosiuoa Lekota has been named the party’s first leader.

Fallout Expands from Madoff $50 Billion Pyramid Scheme

Dec 16, 2008

The fallout from the arrest of Wall Street legend Bernard Madoff is continuing to be felt across the banking and philanthropic worlds. Madoff was arrested last week on fraud charges and admitted to running a pyramid scheme that scammed investors out of an estimated $50 billion. The fraud could be bigger than the Enron scandal of 2001. Several non-profits and foundations are being forced to close because their entire endowments have been wiped out. One victim is the New York-based JEHT Foundation, which was dedicated to electoral reform and improving criminal justice. The foundation has funded the work of the Innocence Project, Human Rights Watch and the Vera Institute of Justice.

Attorney Mark Mulholland: “Our sense of it at this point is that it’s bigger than Enron. We think the ripple effect, we think the indirect investor losses, we think the impact on the financial community is ultimately going to be bigger than Enron. This is staggering. It’s extraordinary. It’s breathtaking, what has happened here.”

For decades, Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities had been one of the top market maker firms on Wall Street. An old video of Madoff has come to light where he told an audience it’s tough to skirt the law.

Bernard Madoff: “In today’s regulatory environment, it’s virtually impossible to violate rules. And this is something the public really doesn’t understand. And if you read things in the newspaper and you see somebody, you know, violate a rule, you say, well, you know, they’re always doing this. But it’s impossible for you to go — for a violation to go undetected, certainly not for a considerable period of time.”

Investigators now accuse Bernard Madoff of doing just that.
On Capitol Hill, Democrats are attempting to distance themselves from Madoff, who has donated over $150,000 to Democratic politicians and party committees over the past decade. Democratic Senators Charles Schumer of New York and Frank Lautenberg of New Jersey announced they would shed campaign contributions from Madoff.

NYPD Officer Indicted for Shoving Cyclist

Dec 16, 2008

A New York police officer has been indicted for body-checking a bicyclist during a Critical Mass bike ride. Patrick Pogan has been instructed to appear in court today for the unsealing of the indictment. A video of the incident was posted on YouTube and was viewed over one million times.

NY Governor Criticizes SNL Skit

Dec 16, 2008

And New York Governor David Paterson has criticized Saturday Night Live for going too far in its portrayal of the legally blind governor over the weekend. The actor Fred Armisen portrayed Paterson in a skit and repeatedly mocked his blindness. Paterson’s spokesperson Risa Heller said, “The Governor engages in humor all the time, and he can certainly take a joke. However, this particular Saturday Night Live skit unfortunately chose to ridicule people with physical disabilities and imply that disabled people are incapable of having jobs with serious responsibilities.”

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