Amnesty International is condemning Iraq for holding an estimated 30,000 prisoners without trial, including 10,000 prisoners who were recently transferred from US custody. In a new report, Amnesty documents that Iraqi prisoners are being arbitrarily detained and often beaten to obtain forced confessions. Amnesty said methods of torture used in Iraqi jails included beating with cables and hosepipes, electric shocks to sensitive body parts, and removal of fingernails and toenails. Several prisoners have died in Iraqi custody, possibly as a result of torture and other ill treatment by interrogators and prison guards.
Federal investigators are probing last week’s massive natural gas line explosion that killed as many as seven people and engulfed dozens of homes in San Bruno, California. The pipeline was owned and operated by Pacific Gas and Electric Company. Residents of San Bruno have told the media they had smelled gas odors in the neighborhood before the blast. Internal documents from PG&E show that the company knew there could be problems with the pipeline at the heart of the blaze. One document obtained by CNN said the line had a “relatively high risk and likelihood of failure.” The document recommended the line be replaced, warning that its location in a populated area “makes the risk of a failure at this location unacceptably high.” On Sunday, a state regulator in California ordered PG&E to check for leaks in all of its thousands of miles of natural gas pipelines.
Memorials were held Saturday to mark the ninth anniversary of the September 11 attacks. Here in New York, Mayor Mike Bloomberg spoke at Ground Zero.
Mike Bloomberg: “We have returned to this sacred site to join our hearts together with the names of those we loved and lost. No other public tragedy has cut our city so deeply. No other place is as filled with our compassion, our love and our solidarity. It is with the strength of these emotions, as well as the concrete, glass and steel that is brought in day by day, that we will build on the footprints of the past the foundation of the future. At this time, please join us and all New Yorkers in a moment of silence.”
The weekend was also filled with protests in support and against a proposed Islamic cultural center in Lower Manhattan. Participants in the anti-mosque protest include members of the far-right wing British organization English Defense League and the right-wing Dutch lawmaker Geert Wilders who opposes Muslim immigration to Europe.
On Sunday, Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf appeared on ABC’s This Week in one of his first broadcast interviews since the protests began over the Islamic cultural center that he wants to build in Lower Manhattan. During the interview, Imam Rauf said he does not plan on moving the location of the center.
Imam Rauf: “My major concern with moving it is that the headline in the Muslim world will be “Islam is under attack in America.” This will strengthen the radicals in the Muslim world, help their recruitment. This will put our people — our soldiers, our troops, our embassies, our citizens — under attack in the Muslim world. And we have expanded and given — and fueled terrorism.”
Imam Rauf also told ABC that Islamophobia is on the rise in the country.
Imam Rauf: “The fact of the matter is, A, this has been used for political purposes. And there’s growing Islamophobia in this country. How else would you describe the fact that mosques around the country are now being attacked? We are Americans, too. We are treated and talked about today as if American Muslims are not Americans. We are Americans. We are doctors. We are investment bankers. We are taxi drivers. We are storekeepers. We are lawyers. We are part of the fabric of America.”
In Afghanistan, at least two protesters died and four were injured Sunday as Afghans protested against a plan by an American pastor to burn copies of the Quran, despite his decision to call off the action. The deaths occurred when Afghan soldiers opened fire on hundreds of protesters who were trying to storm the local government headquarters. Terry Jones, a pastor of a small Florida church, had threatened to burn copies of the Quran on the anniversary of the September 11 attacks, but he reversed his decision after coming under pressure from Defense Secretary Robert Gates and others.
New census data is expected to show the number of Americans living in poverty soared last year. It is estimated one in seven Americans lived in poverty in 2009, the highest level since the 1960s. The data is also expected to show that blacks and Latinos were disproportionately hit by the economic crisis.
The US Chamber of Commerce is being accused of violating IRS tax codes by laundering millions of dollars meant for charitable work from a group with ties to the insurance giant AIG. According to a complaint filed by the group US Chamber Watch, as much as $18 million was illegally transferred from a charity linked to AIG to the Chamber to finance political causes in the 2004 election.
In political news, the New York Times has revealed new details about House Minority Leader John Boehner’s close ties to corporate lobbyists. Boehner could become the next House Speaker if Republicans retake the House in the November midterm elections. Boehner maintains especially tight ties with a circle of lobbyists and former aides representing some of the nation’s biggest businesses, including Goldman Sachs, Google, Citigroup, R.J. Reynolds, MillerCoors and UPS. The Times reports these lobbyists have contributed hundreds of thousands of dollars to his campaigns, provided him with rides on their corporate jets, socialized with him at luxury golf resorts and waterfront bashes, and are now leading fundraising efforts for his Boehner for Speaker campaign. His close ties to lobbyists date back to the 1990s. In 1996, he was caught handing out checks from tobacco lobbyists to fellow Republicans on the House floor.
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich has accused President Obama of being a con man who has a “Kenyan, anti-colonial” worldview. Gingrich made the comment in an interview with the National Review. Gingrich made the comment as he was praising a recent cover story in Forbes magazine that claimed Obama has adopted the anti-colonial ideology of his father who was born in Kenya.
A North Carolina man will appear in court today on charges that he was planning to blow up a Planned Parenthood clinic that performed abortions. According to an affidavit filed by FBI, the twenty-six-year-old Justin Carl Moose described himself as a “Christian counterpart of Osama bin Laden.”
In environmental news, the Obama White House has rejected a proposal to reinstall the solar panels that President Jimmy Carter had placed on the White House roof in the 1970s. The panels were taken down by President Reagan and have been used since then at Unity College in Maine. On Friday, the environmentalist Bill McKibben and students from Unity College traveled to Washington with one of the original solar panels.
A senior Iranian prosecutor said Sunday that authorities will release Sarah Shourd as early as today on $500,000 bail because of health problems. Shourd is one of the three American hikers detained fourteen months ago. The Iranian government has accused all three of espionage
Three Palestinians died Sunday when the Israeli military fired shells into the Gaza town of Beit Hanoun. The dead included a ninety-one-year-old man and his teenage grandson. Israel said it began the shelling in response to rockets that were fired across the border from Gaza. Meanwhile, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said Sunday the Israeli moratorium on new settlements in the West Bank will not stay in place after it expires later this month. A new report from the Israeli group Peace Now has found that 13,000 Jewish settlement housing units in the West Bank are ready for construction once the building moratorium ends on September 26th and at least 2,000 are ready for immediate construction.
Ron Walters, the director of the African American Leadership Institute at the University of Maryland, has died at the age of seventy-two. Walters served as campaign manager for the Reverend Jesse Jackson during his two presidential bids in the 1980s.
Puerto Rican independence leader Juan Mari Brás has died at the age of eighty-two. In 1994, Mari Brás renounced his American citizenship while claiming the right to continue living in Puerto Rico.
Irwin Silber has died at the age of eighty-four. In 1950, he founded the pioneering music publication Sing Out with folksinger Pete Seeger and musicologist Alan Lomax.