In New York, a coalition of civil rights advocates are calling for a permanent state-level special prosecutor to handle police brutality cases following the acquittal of three New York police detectives in the killing of Sean Bell. The twenty-three-year-old Bell died in a hail of fifty police bullets on the morning of what would have been his wedding day in November 2006. Two of his friends were also injured in the shooting. All three men were unarmed. On Friday a judge acquitted the three undercover police detectives of all charges in the shooting death. Following the decision, the Rev. Al Sharpton threatened to shut down the city with protests.
Rev. Al Sharpton: “We strategically know how to stop this city so it will stand still and realize that you do not have the right to shoot down unarmed innocent civilians with no probable cause…But they show now that they will not hold police accountable. Well, guess what. If you won’t, we will.”
Afghan President Hamid Karzai survived an assassination attempt on Sunday when members of the Taliban attacked a military parade in Kabul with mortar shots and gunfire. Three people were killed in the attack: a tribal chief, a member of the Afghan Parliament and a ten-year-old boy. The US-backed Karzai has survived at least three previous assassination attempts, but this was the first time there had been an attempt on him in the capital.
The New York Times reports the Justice Department has told Congress that US intelligence operatives can legally use interrogation methods that are banned by US and international law if they are attempting to thwart terrorist attacks. The letters from the Justice Department show that the Bush administration believes it can ignore the Geneva Conventions and restrictions from the Supreme Court and Congress designed to prevent interrogators from torturing prisoners. In the letters, the Justice Department argues that the legality of some interrogation techniques depends on why they are being used.
Meanwhile, the American Civil Liberties Union and Human Rights First have filed a motion in federal court in an effort to overturn the dismissal of a lawsuit against former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. The March 2005 lawsuit was filed on behalf of nine Iraqi and Afghan prisoners who were tortured while in US military custody.
The Washington Post reports the nation’s top military officer has said that the Pentagon is planning for “potential military courses of action” against Iran. Adm. Michael Mullen, chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said military action is one of several options against Iran. Mullen accused Iran of having a “increasingly lethal and malign influence” in Iraq. Last week, Defense Secretary Robert Gates claimed Iran is “hell-bent on acquiring nuclear weapons.” Despite the rhetoric from Washington, a spokesperson from Iran’s foreign ministry said Tehran is not concerned about a US attack.
Mohammad Ali Hosseini: “Mr. Gates and Mr. Cheney made some comments about military choice. According to the problems that the Americans face and their disastrous situation in Iraq and Afghanistan and their interior problems, we think it would be unlikely the Americans would take the decision to get themselves into a new fiasco, the consequences of which they themselves have acknowledged would be painful for the region and the world.”
Meanwhile, on Thursday, a cargo ship contracted by the US Navy fired shots at small Iranian speedboats off the Iranian coast. The cargo ship, the Westward Venture, was transporting US military hardware.
In Gaza, six Palestinians, including four young siblings, died earlier today after Israeli Defense Forces shelled their home. The four siblings ranged in age from six years old to fifteen months. Residents said an Israeli shell smashed through the ceiling of a one-story house where the family was having breakfast. The children’s mother was critically wounded in the explosion.
In Iraq, at least ten rockets or mortars hit the Green Zone during a sandstorm in the latest attack on the US-controlled area of Baghdad. Over the past month, 700 rockets or mortars have been fired at the Green Zone.
Meanwhile, the Times of London reports a Los Angeles-based investment firm is pouring millions of dollars into developing a zoo and American-style amusement park next to the Green Zone. The park will feature a skateboard park, rides, a concert theater and a museum. It is being designed by the firm that developed Disneyland.
In other news on Iraq, a military court-martial has acquitted a US soldier who admitted to killing an unarmed Iraqi during a house raid last year. Sgt. 1st Class Trey Corrales had been accused of premeditated murder and planting an AK-47 rifle next to the victim after the shooting. He would have faced a minimum sentence of life in prison if he had been convicted.
The Pentagon has announced it is suspending its briefings for retired military officers who appear as military analysts on television and radio programs. The announcement came days after the New York Times revealed the Pentagon had recruited more than seventy-five retired military officers to appear on TV outlets as part of a propaganda program. Since 2002, retired officers working with the Pentagon made tens of thousands of appearances for television and radio networks.
Twenty-seven United Nations agencies are gathering today in the Swiss capital Bern to develop a battle plan to deal with the global food crisis. The World Food Program has described the crisis as a silent tsunami. Aid experts say soaring global prices for food and fuel threaten to push 100 million people worldwide into hunger. Food protests are continuing across the globe. In Senegal, more than 1,000 people marched in the capital Dakar on Saturday to protest against rising food prices.
Sarata Guisse, Senegalese demonstrator: “We are holding this demonstration because we are hungry. We need to eat, we need to work, we are hungry. That’s all. We are hungry.”
A new report from the non-profit group GRAIN has found that global agribusiness firms, traders and speculators are raking in huge profits due to the global food crisis. Cargill, the world’s biggest grain trader, achieved an 86 percent increase in profits from commodity trading in the first quarter of this year. The agribusiness giant Bunge had a 77 percent increase in profits during the last quarter of last year. And Archer Daniels Midland Company registered a 67 percent increase in profits in 2007.
Hundreds of truckers are converging on Washington, D.C. today to protest the high price of diesel fuel. The price of diesel is now approaching $4.50 a gallon. Many of the truckers are calling for an investigation into oil company profits and government subsidies of the oil companies.
In other economic news, a top housing official has indicated President Bush will veto a plan by Democrats to help homeowners refinance their loans and stay in their homes. Deputy Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Roy Bernardi described the Democrats $15 billion housing rescue package as “a costly bailout for lenders and speculators.” Bernardi’s comments came just over a month after the Treasury Department helped orchestrate the bailout of investment bank Bear Stearns. As part of the deal, the Federal Reserve agreed to lend JPMorgan $30 billion to secure some of Bear Stearns’s mortgage investments.
In news from Canada, five Mohawk protesters remain in custody following their arrest on Friday. The indigenous activists were arrested after they set up a road blockade to stop developers from building on land in the Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory in eastern Ontario. One of the Mohawk protesters, Shawn Brant, was arrested while giving an interview with the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network.
Shawn Brant: “This is it. Justice for First Nations communities: lock us up. Anybody who speaks out, lock 'em up. KI6, Bob Lovelace, lock ’em up. That's what it’s about: lock 'em up. Don't fix the problems, lock ’em up.”
Following the arrests, Mohawks in another part of Ontario set up a road blockade shutting down part of Highway Six.
And Saudi Arabia’s most popular blogger has been freed after serving four months in prison without charge. Fouad Al-Farhan was detained in December after posting critical comments about Saudi government policies. Farhan is known as the “godfather” of blogging in Saudi Arabia. He defines his online mission as the “search for freedom, dignity, justice, equality, public participation and other lost Islamic values”.