President Obama is reportedly wavering on a pledge to fully reveal Bush administration memos authorizing CIA torture. According to the Wall Street Journal, the White House is leaning toward withholding graphic details of tactics authorized in three classified memos from 2005. The details include approval for striking a prisoner’s head against a wall and the practice known as waterboarding. The issue is reportedly centering around warnings from top intelligence officials that the memos’ full disclosure would anger CIA employees and alienate them from the White House. President Obama faces a Thursday court deadline to act on releasing the memos under a lawsuit brought by the ACLU.
A Guantanamo Bay prisoner has provided new details of torture under what he calls worsening conditions since President Obama’s election. Chadian national Mohammad al-Qaraani used his prison phone time intended for calling his lawyer to instead reach the Arabic satellite network Al Jazeera.
Mohammad al-Qaraani: “I refused to leave my cell, as they were not granting me my rights. I was only demanding my basic rights, like walking, meeting other inmates, and eating normal food. So a group of six soldiers wearing protective gear and helmets came to my cell. They were accompanied by a soldier carrying a camera and one with tear gas. They had a thick rubber or plastic baton. They beat me with it. They emptied out about two canisters of tear gas on me. After I stopped talking, and tears were flowing from my eyes, I could hardly see or breathe. They then beat me again to the ground. One of them held my head and beat it against the ground. I started screaming to his senior, 'See what he's doing! See what he’s doing!’ His senior started laughing and said, ’He’s doing his job.’ He broke one of my teeth.”
Qaraani was interviewed by the Al Jazeera journalist Sami al-Hajj, who was imprisoned at Guantanamo for over six years. Qaraani repeated claims made by other Guantanamo prisoners and their attorneys that the abuse has worsened since President Obama’s election.
Mohammad al-Qaraani: “This treatment started about twenty days before Obama came into power. And since then, I’ve been subjected to the same treatment almost every day. Since Obama took charge, he has not shown us that anything will change.”
Qaraani was ordered released in January after a judge ruled the Pentagon has failed to provide evidence to justify his imprisonment. He has been held at Guantanamo without charge since 2002.
President Obama spoke at Washington, D.C.’s Georgetown University Tuesday in his most comprehensive remarks to date on the economic crisis. Obama predicted a worsening recession but said he foresees a long-term recovery.
President Obama: “2009 will continue to be a difficult year for America’s economy, and obviously most difficult for those who have lost their jobs. The severity of this recession will cause more job loss, more foreclosures and more pain before it ends. If we don’t invest now in renewable energy, if we don’t invest now in a skilled workforce, if we don’t invest now in a more affordable healthcare system, this economy simply won’t grow at the pace it needs to in two or five or ten years down the road. If we don’t lay this new foundation now, it won’t be long before we’re right back where we are today.”
A new survey has found more American CEOs got pay raises than salary cuts last year. According to the AFL-CIO, the median CEO salary rose seven percent, while executive perks rose 13 percent. Some executives that saw cuts to their base pay were granted lavish stock options to offset the losses. Despite reporting an $11 million salary, Vikram Pandit of the bailed-out financial giant Citigroup made $38 million with stock options included.
In Iran, a jailed Iranian American journalist has gone on trial in secret. Thirty-one-year-old Roxana Saberi has been imprisoned in Iran since January. She was arrested for working without press credentials but was charged with spying last week. Iran says her trial will continue behind closed doors.
Haiti is appealing for international aid to avoid what it calls a looming collapse. On Tuesday, Haitian Prime Minister Michele Duvivier Pierre-Louis made the appeal at a donor conference in Washington.
Haitian Prime Minister Michele Duvivier Pierre-Louis: “We are treading on very fragile grounds. If no action is taken now, the consequences will be catastrophic. I want to take back with me the commitments and hope that we are longing for in our quest for lasting development and democracy.”
The poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, Haiti has been devastated by a string of hurricanes and two US-backed coups over the last two decades.
In Bolivia, lawmakers have passed a landmark electoral law that would increase representation for low-income rural areas. President Evo Morales had gone on a five-day hunger strike to campaign for the bill. On Tuesday, Bolivian Vice President Alvaro Garcia hailed what he called a victory over the country’s elite.
Bolivian Vice President Álvaro García Linera: “If the oligarchy insults me, if they attack me, it means that I am doing my job. It means that I am defending the people. It means I am doing my constitutional duty of defending the homeland.”
The bill also sets Bolivia’s next presidential and congressional elections for December.
Germany has become the sixth European country to ban genetically modified maize produced by the American biotech giant Monsanto. The German government said the Monsanto crop is harmful to the environment. Until the new ban, it had been the only Monsanto crop permitted in Germany.
In environmental news, a new study says the world can still avoid the worst of global warming if current European Union proposals for cutting greenhouse gases are adopted. A computer simulation by National Center for Atmospheric Research based on a 70 percent emissions cut found world temperatures will still increase but not to an unsustainable level. The Arctic sea shelf would still shrink but not completely disappear, while about half of changes in droughts and floods could be avoided. Heat waves would also be 55 percent less intense.
And today is tax day. As millions scramble to mail in their last-minute returns, the National War Tax Resistance Coordinating Committee says tax resisters will hold protests around the country to show their opposition to funding war. The day of protest is being called “The War Is Not Over.” A new study, meanwhile, from the National Priorities Project says that more than thirty-seven cents of every income tax dollar goes to military spending. By contrast, environment, energy and science spending projects split 2.8 cents of every tax dollar, while housing, community and food programs split 3.8 cents.