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Obama May Toss ‘Full Trials’ For Alleged 9/11 Plotters

Obama may toss ‘full trials’ for alleged 9/11 plotters
By Agence France-Presse | Raw Story

One advantage of permitting guilty pleas by defendants in the Sept. 11 case would be that the government would not have to expose harsh interrogation techniques during full trials that would otherwise have to be carried out, the Times said. It said the proposal to permit guilty pleas — which are not allowed in the legal framework the U.S. military uses in trials for its own personnel — would in effect permit the Sept. 11 defendants to achieve a self-proclaimed desire for martyrdom.

A plan under consideration by the Obama administration would permit Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, detainees facing the death penalty to plead guilty without a full trial, it has been reported.

This option would principally be aimed at a group of detainees accused of planning the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks, five people who have already indicated they prefer this resolution of the case, The New York Times said in a story posted late Friday on its Web site.

The terrorism-era U.S. military commission format has come under withering criticism from legal and human rights quarters, and American military prosecutions employing this structure and legal rules have for the most part been put on hold since January while the new administration considered other options. Read more.

Obama Administration Announces National Strategy to Reduce Drug Trafficking & Flow of Bulk Cash and Weapons Across SW Border

Obama Administration Announces National Strategy to Reduce Drug Trafficking & Flow of Bulk Cash and Weapons Across Southwest Border | Press Release

Today, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, U.S. Department of Homeland Secretary Janet Napolitano, and Director of National Drug Control Policy Gil Kerlikowske released President Obama’s strategy to stem the flow of illegal drugs and their illicit proceeds across the Southwest border and reduce associated crime and violence in the region.

The National Southwest Border Counternarcotics Strategy directs federal agencies to increase coordination and information sharing with state and local law enforcement agencies, intensifies national efforts to interdict the southbound flow of weapons and bulk currency, and calls for continued close collaboration with the Government of Mexico in their efforts against the drug cartels. The strategy is an important component of the Administration’s national drug control policy and complements the Administration’s comprehensive efforts to respond to threats along the border.

Solidarity Rally in Support of Gaza at Israeli Embassy, in Washington, D.C.

On June 6, 2009, a spirited solidarity rally in support of the people of Occupied Gaza was staged by human rights activists in front of the Israeli Embassy, in Washington, D.C. The protest action demanded: "End the Siege of Gaza!" June 6th marks the 42nd anniversary of the Israeli" seizure of Gaza." The demonstration was sponsored by the ANSWER Coalition, among other groups.

Click here for featured speakers and organizations.

Afghanistan To 'Try Criminal Foreign Troops'

Afghanistan to 'try criminal foreign troops' | Press TV

Afghanistan's Wolesi Jirga, the lower house of parliament, has accused foreign troops based in the country of war crimes, urging a trial for the criminals.

Wolesi Jirga secretary Abdul Sattar Khawaasi told reporters that 73 members of parliament are collecting documents regarding foreign troops' crimes and offences in Afghanistan.

"The foreign troops came to the country claiming to bring security, but the crimes perpetrated by the them are not pardonable," he said.

Khawaasi added that foreign troops based in Afghanistan have violated the Constitution as well as international agreements in more than 20 instances.

In May, the Afghan parliament slammed the brutal bombardment of civilian areas by US-led forces, demanding legal restrictions on the activities of foreign forces.

Nearly 150 civilians were killed when US warplanes dropped bombs last month on two villages in Bala Baluk district in western Farah Province. Read more.

Cartwright: U.S. Force-Sizing, Basing Strategy Need Overhaul

Cartwright: U.S. Force-Sizing, Basing Strategy Need Overhaul
By John T. Bennett | Defense News

Over the next few years, the U.S. military is likely to become engaged in a number of hot and cold conflicts, each spanning five to 10 years, meaning the Pentagon must "adjust" its decades-old force sizing and basing constructs, says Gen. James Cartwright, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs.

Since the Cold War, the Pentagon has used a so-called "force-sizing construct" that focused on a need to fight two conventional wars at once, while also placing emphasis on "the most deadly" threats to American national security, Cartwright said June 4 in Washington.

But the world has changed in major ways, meaning the two conventional war-based approach is no longer a good fit, according to defense officials. Those changes are the reason senior Pentagon officials are examining whether the 2010 Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR) should include a new force-planning construct, as well as a new plan for how American bases, troops and combat equipment are located around the globe.

"It is clear we are going to have conflicts whose character will not be the same" as the ones on which the Pentagon has for decades based its force planning and global basing postures, Cartwright said. "It's clear [U.S. forces] will be engaged in operations that [each] last five or 10 years - and that is fundamentally different that in the past."

Read more.

Obama Administration Targets Environmental and Animal Rights Activists as Eco-Terrorists

Obama Administration Targets Environmental and Animal Rights Activists as Eco-Terrorists
By Stephen Lendman

What began under George Bush continues under Barack Obama - targeting dedicated activists with "one of today's most serious domestic terrorism threats," according former FBI Deputy Assistant Director of Counterterrorism John Lewis before a Senate panel in May 2005. Called "eco-terrorism," it grew out of the 2001 USA Patriot Act that created the federal crime of "domestic terrorism" and applied it to US citizens as well as aliens.

In his February 2002 testimony before the House Resources Committee, Subcommittee on Forests and Forest Health, the FBI's Domestic Terrorism Section Chief, Counterterrorism Division, James Jarboe defined eco-terrorism as:

Military-Backed Public Schools on the Rise in U.S.

Military-Backed Public Schools on the Rise in U.S.
By The Associated Press | Google News

The U.S. Marine Corps is wooing public school districts across the country, expanding a network of military academies that has grown steadily despite criticism that it's a recruiting ploy.

The Marines are talking with at least six districts — including in suburban Atlanta, New Orleans and Las Vegas — about opening schools where every student wears a uniform, participates in Junior ROTC and takes military classes, said Bill McHenry, who runs the Junior ROTC program for the Marines.

Those schools would be on top of more than a dozen public military academies that have already opened nationwide, a trend that's picking up speed as the U.S. Department of Defense looks for ways to increase the number of units in Junior ROTC, which stands for Reserve Officers Training Corps.

"Many kids in our country don't get a fair shake. Many kids live in war zones. Many kids who are bright and have so much potential and so much to offer, all they need to be given is a chance," McHenry said. "If you look at stats, what we're doing now isn't working."

Last year, Congress passed a defense policy bill that included a call for increasing the number of Junior ROTC units across the country from 3,400 to 3,700 in the next 11 years, an effort that will cost about $170 million, Defense Department spokeswoman Eileen M. Lainez said. The process will go faster by opening military academies, which count as four or more units, McHenry said.

Other military branches also are aiming to increase their presence in school hallways, but the Marines are leading the charge. Read more.

Crisis at the VA as Benefits Claims Backlog Nearly Tops One Million

Crisis at the VA as Benefits Claims Backlog Nearly Tops One Million
By Jason Leopold t r u t h o u t | Report

During the past four months, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) backlog of unfinished disability claims grew by more than 100,000, adding to an already mountainous backlog that is now close to topping one million.

The VA's claims backlog, which includes all benefits claims and all appeals at the Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) and the Board of Veterans Appeals at VA, was 803,000 on January 5, 2009. The backlog hit 915,000 on May 4, 2009, a staggering 14 percent increase in four months.

The issue has become so dire that veterans now wait an average of six months to receive disability benefits and as long as four years for their appeals to be heard in cases where their benefits were denied.

The Binary Fallacy and The End of Both Parties

The Binary Fallacy and The End of Both Parties
By Michael Collins

The results of eight years of Bush-Cheney at the helm make the demise of the Republican Party an easy call. Our financial system is on life support. The major banks are insolvent, according to banking and legal authority William K. Black. If they’re not, they’re in intensive care. No matter how many trillions of dollars worth of infusions they receive, they’re not making loans. The economy is in a free fall with growth down 6% a quarter and job losses running at nearly 600,000 a month. We’re stuck in two catastrophic wars. Despite President Obama’s election, we’re viewed with suspicion and disregard throughout the world.

Judge Rules Telecoms Have Immunity Under Unconstitutional FISA Amendments Act

Judge Rules Telecoms Have Immunity Under Unconstitutional FISA Amendments Act | Press Release
EFF and ACLU Planning to Appeal Dismissal of Dozens of Spying Cases

A federal judge today dismissed dozens of lawsuits over illegal domestic surveillance of American citizens, ruling that telecommunications companies had immunity from liability under the controversial FISA Amendments Act (FISAAA). The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) California and Illinois affiliates are planning to appeal the decision to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, arguing that FISAAA is unconstitutional.

"We're deeply disappointed in Judge Walker's ruling today," said EFF Legal Director Cindy Cohn. "The retroactive immunity law unconstitutionally takes away Americans' claims arising out of the First and Fourth Amendments, violates the federal government's separation of powers as established in the Constitution, and robs innocent telecom customers of their rights without due process of law."

Signed by President Bush in 2008, the FISAAA allowed for the dismissal of the lawsuits over the telecoms' participation in the warrantless surveillance program if the government secretly certifies to the court that the surveillance did not occur, was legal, or was authorized by the president. Then-Attorney General Michael Mukasey filed that classified certification with the court in September and demanded that the cases be dismissed.

Kennedy Bill Would Make Employers Provide Care

Kennedy bill would make employers provide care | Associated Press

Employers would be required to offer health care to employees or pay a penalty — and all Americans would be guaranteed health insurance — under a draft bill circulated Friday by Sen. Edward M. Kennedy's health committee.

The bill would provide subsidies to help poor people pay for care, guarantee patients the right to select any doctor they want and require everyone to purchase insurance, with exceptions for those who can't afford to.

Insurers would be supposed to offer a basic level of care and would be required to cover all comers, without turning people away because of pre-existing conditions or other reasons. Insurance companies' profits would be limited, and private companies would have to compete with a new public "affordable access" plan that would for the first time offer government-sponsored health care to Americans not eligible for Medicare, Medicaid or other programs.

It all adds up to sweeping changes in how America's health care system operates and aims to achieve President Barack Obama's goal of holding down costs and extending health coverage to 50 million uninsured Americans. Read more.

Report: US Weighs Guilty Pleas In Some 9/11 Cases

Report: US weighs guilty pleas in some 9/11 cases | Associated Press

A plan under consideration by the Obama administration would permit Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, detainees facing the death penalty to plead guilty without a full trial, it has been reported.

This option would principally be aimed at a group of detainees accused of planning the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks, five people who have already indicated they prefer this resolution of the case, The New York Times said in a story posted late Friday on its Web site.

The terrorism-era U.S. military commission format has come under withering criticism from legal and human rights quarters, and American military prosecutions employing this structure and legal rules have for the most part been put on hold since January while the new administration considered other options.

President Barack Obama recently approved the continued use of these commissions. And the Times reported in its story that the possibility of permitting guilty pleas under some circumstances is among a series of options circulated within the administration by a special task force. The newspaper cited individuals who had been briefed on the proposal or had studied it.

Obama already has said that he wants to close Guantanamo by January 2010, declaring it has caused the United States more harm than good and has served as a recruitment tool for the al-Qaida terrorist network. Read more.

Intelligence Pick Bows out Over CIA Tactic Ties

Intelligence Pick Bows out Over CIA Tactic Ties
Homeland Security intelligence nominee drops out of consideration over ties to CIA tactics
By Eileen Sullivan, Associated Press | ABCNews.com

President Barack Obama's pick for intelligence chief at the Homeland Security Department withdrew from consideration Friday amid questions about his role in the CIA's interrogations of suspected terrorists.

Philip Mudd was scheduled to appear next week before senators considering his nomination as undersecretary of intelligence and analysis. He notified the White House on Friday that he was withdrawing his name because he did not want to be a distraction.

At issue was the extent of Mudd's involvement in the interrogation program while he was a senior CIA official in the Bush administration. The interrogation methods have been criticized by Democratic lawmakers and Obama. Read more.

Update on Department of Justice Efforts To Invalidate the Arcata and Eureka Youth Protection Acts

Stop Recruiting Kids! | Press Release | June 4, 2009

UPDATE ON DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE EFFORTS TO INVALIDATE THE ARCATA AND EUREKA YOUTH PROTECTION ACTS

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA vs. CITIES OF EUREKA AND ARCATA, CA

On Tuesday, June 9 at 1pm, in Courtroom 3 at the Oakland Federal Courthouse, Federal Court Judge Saundra Armstrong is scheduled to hear oral arguments regarding the Arcata and Eureka Youth Protection Acts. These ordinances prohibit military recruiters from initiating contact with minors for the purpose of recruiting them into any branch of the military. They were approved as ballot initiative Measures F and J, on November 4, 2008 by margins of 73% in Arcata and 57% in Eureka.

Changing the Discourse: First Step Toward Changing the Policy?

Changing the Discourse: First Step toward Changing the Policy?
By Phyllis Bennis | Institute for Policy Studies

President Barack Obama's much-anticipated Cairo speech reflected a significant shift away from the ideological framework of militarism and unilateralism that shaped the Bush administration's war-based policy towards the Arab and Muslim worlds. His "not Bush" focus was perhaps most sharply evident in his public denunciation of the Iraq War as a "war of choice." Obama's call for a "new beginning" based on "the truth that America and Islam are not exclusive and need not be in competition" was followed by a move to shift the official U.S. discourse towards something closer to internationalism - particularly by pointing to parallels between historical (and some contemporary) grievances and treating them as equivalent. This included his reference to the U.S. "role in the overthrow of a democratically elected Iranian government" along with Iran's "role in acts of hostage-taking and violence against U.S. troops and civilians."

Certainly, the equivalences were limited. Equating Palestinians and Israelis as "two peoples with legitimate aspirations, each with a painful history..." doesn't reflect the reality that Israel is an occupying power with specific obligations under the Geneva Convention, while Palestinians living under occupation are a protected population under international law. But in the context of decades of U.S. privileging of Israelis as the only ones who have suffered, equating the two was a major step forward.

As expected, Obama focused first on the historic contributions of Arabs and Muslims to global civilization and to U.S. culture and history. His articulation of U.S. policy - and particularly U.S. active obligations - on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were addressed only in broad strokes, although there was more detail regarding Iran.

The shift in discourse, away from justifying reckless imperial hubris, unilateralism and militarism and towards a more cooperative and potentially even internationalist approach was potent. The actual policy shifts were much smaller. It remains the work of mobilized people across the U.S. - starting with the millions who mobilized to build a movement capable of electing Barack Hussein Obama as President - to turn that new language into new policies - reversing the escalation and moving towards ending Obama's war in Afghanistan and Pakistan, ending the occupation of Iraq immediately rather than years from now, ending U.S. military aid to Israel and creating a policy based on an end to occupation and equality for all, launching new negotiations with Iran not based on military threats, implementing U.S. nuclear disarmament obligations, and more.

That's the next step.

Time to Look Past Obama’s Words and Face-up to His Actions

Time to Look Past Obama’s Words and Face-up to His Actions
U.S. Foreign Policy Continues Rapidly in the Wrong Direction
The Peace Movement Needs to Escalate Anti-War Actions
By Kevin Zeese | Voters for Peace, Prosperity Agenda.US

There is long-time saying about politicians: you cannot trust their words, but must judge them by their actions.

President Obama is very good with words, perhaps the best communicator we have seen in the White House in a generation. But now he has been in office long enough that he should be judged on his actions.

The direction of U.S. foreign policy is moving rapidly in the wrong direction on many fronts. It is time for the peace movement to step up its activities throughout the country and demand a change in course.

Obama as Spock? Not in this Trekker's Cosmos

Obama as Spock? Not in this Trekker's Cosmos
By Don Williams | New Millenium Writings

As one of the teeming teens who wrote letters to NBC in the late sixties urging execs to keep Star Trek on the air, I've often felt vindicated by the success of the franchise. And so I felt an odd disquiet after my mother and my wife opted on seeing Star Trek and dinner out to celebrate Mother's Day. I'm sure they did it to sweeten the deal for two grown sons and me, but it was an oddly appropriate choice. The film opens with a heroic child delivery, along with a nascent notion that something's not right about this film, maybe this culture.

By opening his film in a Star Trek universe pre-altered by a vicious tattooed time traveler, director J.J. Abrams dodges several space mines. First he shields the film from sentimentality. Because the movie's pre-history is all wrong, the appearance of so many familiar characters in the bloom of youth serves for more than misting the eyes of aging Trekkies. It obliterates the original series, in which Captain Kirk's father lives on, Spock's mother lives on, the planet Vulcan is very much with us, Uhuru kisses Kirk, not Spock, and so on.

Altering history through time travel has become a hackneyed plot device, sure, but using it on such a cultural touchstone is a stroke of dark genius.

Newsweek recently featured a cover story suggesting Obama must be a Vulcan.

Let's hope not, for this film is a betrayal of Spock, indeed the Star Trek canon. Not because of the changed prehistory, per se, but for the dark uses Abrams puts it to. Read more.

###

Don Williams is a prize-winning columnist, short story writer and the founding editor and publisher of New Millennium Writings, an annual anthology of literary stories, essays and poems. His awards include a National Endowment for the Humanities Michigan Journalism Fellowship, a Golden Presscard Award and the Malcolm Law Journalism Prize. He is finishing a novel, "Oracle of the Orchid Lounge," set in his native Tennessee and Iraq. His book of selected journalism, "Heroes, Sheroes and Zeroes, the Best Writings About People" by Don Williams, is due a second printing. For more information, email him at donwilliams7@charter.net. Or visit NMW website.

What Makes Sense for Health Care Makes Sense for Autos: Car Industry Needs Public Option Too

By Dave Lindorff

Just imagine for a moment that you are a retired contractor, struggling to get by on your pathetically shriveled 401(k). when your ne-er-do-well child suddenly comes to you saying he’s got this idea to start buying derelict homes and rehabbing them for resale. He asks you to stake him with a $100,000 loan (about half of what you’ve got left in your retirement fund), promising to repay you when he sells his first couple of houses. You know the kid’s flat busted and has been laid off from his job as a dishwasher, so you want to help, but you’ve also seen his carpentry skills: The doghouse he build in high school fell apart on a windy day, and his own house has a leaking roof, needs repainting, and all the plumbing leaks. You’ve also seen his business skills: He plays the Lotto excessively, hasn’t saved a penny, and buys most of his supplies at the local 7-Eleven.

Would you front this kid half your money?

AP Source: US Broke Bombing Rules In Afghanistan

AP source: US broke bombing rules in Afghanistan
By Pauline Jelinek, Associated Press | Yahoo! News

American troops made substantial errors and did not strictly follow rules for avoiding casualties during an air assault on Taliban fighters last month, a U.S. defense official said, underscoring a central quandary for President Barack Obama's new Afghan counterinsurgency campaign.

The defense official said Wednesday that a military investigation faulted some of the actions of American troops in air strikes May 4 that killed dozens of Afghan civilians in Farah province.

"Errors were made" in the attack, the official acknowledged on condition of anonymity, discussing one of the preliminary findings on an incident that has strained relations between Washington and Kabul and bred deep resentment among the Afghan people. Civilian deaths in Afghanistan have also enraged Muslims worldwide.

Though the probe looked into the events in early May, commanders for well over a year have focused considerable attention on the problem. It looms as large as ever as the Obama administration streams 21,000 troops into Afghanistan to try to regain momentum in the faltering war.

The new U.S. commander in eastern Afghanistan was asked about the issue at a news conference on his first day Wednesday, when he only took two questions. Maj. Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti, commander of the 82nd Airborne Division, responded that he planned to use close air support for troops only when needed to protect them and to complete the mission. And he said air strikes would be used carefully.

The nominee for top commander in Afghanistan was asked about it at his confirmation hearing Tuesday on Capitol Hill. Lt. Gen. Stanley McChrystal told senators: "This is a critical point. It may be the critical point. This is a struggle for the support of the Afghan people." Read more.

Convicted Federal Judge Says He Will Resign Next Year

Convicted federal judge says he will resign next year
Juan A. Lozano, Associated Press | Dallas Morning News

A convicted federal judge told President Barack Obama in a letter Tuesday that he would resign from the bench in June 2010, nearly a year after he begins serving prison time for lying about the sexual abuse of two assistants.

U.S. District Judge Samuel Kent would draw a full salary of $174,000 a year and benefits until the resignation takes effect, said his lawyer, Dick DeGuerin. Kent decided on the delay so his wife could retain her medical benefits, DeGuerin said. He said Kent's wife has serious medical problems.

The resignation was submitted a week after denial of Kent's request to retire on disability due to depression – which would have meant full salary for the rest of his life. By resigning, he gets nothing after next year.

DeGuerin said Kent, 59, is resigning to avoid the "spectacle" of an impeachment process by Congress.

The lawyer also said it would probably take a year for the impeachment process to be completed in Congress and, "with him resigning, it's not necessary."

The House Judiciary Committee has scheduled a hearing on the matter today. Read more.

GM To Sell Hummer to Chinese Company

GM to sell Hummer to Chinese company
By Tom Krisher and Bree Fowler, Associated Press | Yahoo! News

General Motors Corp. took a key step toward its downsizing on Tuesday, striking a tentative deal to sell its Hummer brand to a Chinese manufacturer, while also revealing that it has potential buyers for its Saturn and Saab brands.

China's Sichuan Tengzhong Heavy Industrial Machinery Co. said Tuesday afternoon that it reached an agreement to acquire the brand from GM for an undisclosed ammount. The Detroit automaker had announced Tuesday morning that it had a memorandum of understanding to sell the brand of rugged SUVs, but it didn't identify the buyer.

Sichuan Tengzhong deals in road construction, plastics, resins and other industrial products, but Hummer would be its first step into the automotive business.

GM said the sale will likely save more than 3,000 U.S. jobs in manufacturing, engineering and at various Hummer dealerships. Tengzhong said it will assume GM's existing agreements with Hummer dealers.

"We will be investing in the Hummer brand and its research and development capabilities, which will allow Hummer to better meet demand for new products such as more fuel-efficient vehicles in the U.S," Chief Executive Yang Yi said in a statement.

As part of the proposed transaction, Hummer will continue to contract vehicle manufacturing and business services from GM during a transitional period. For example, GM's Shreveport, La., assembly plant would continue to contract to assemble the H3 and H3T through at least 2010, GM said. AM General LLC in Mishawaka, Ind., makes the larger H2 under contract for GM. Read more.

Obama's Health Care Reformist

Obama's Health Care Reformist
'This Week' Spotlight: Obama Health Care Reform Adviser Ezekiel Emanuel Dishes About His Love of Baking, His Brother Rahm's Political Savvy and What Scares Him the Most About The Health Care Reform Effort
By Jennifer Parker | ABCNews.com

Dr. Ezekiel "Zeke" Emanuel, special health adviser to the president's budget director, has emerged as a key behind-the-scenes player for what could be the biggest overhaul of the nation's health care system in the past two decades.

With lawmakers working in earnest this week to craft health care legislation, Emanuel admits he often thinks about what could go wrong.

"What scares me is we get it wrong and we don't create something that's going to be sustainable, that has some major defects in it," Emanuel said recently in an exclusive interview with ABC News. "Establishing an exchange that is unstable, creating a more Byzantine bureaucracy, not actually ending up getting costs under control and just fueling health care inflation. Those things would be disastrous."

Even worse, Emanuel said, would be to do nothing about a health care system he calls 'unsustainable" and "really, really dangerous."

Eldest Emanuel Brother Steps Into Spotlight
Emanuel is the eldest brother of White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel, 49, and Hollywood talent agent Ari Emanuel,48, no strangers to the media spotlight.

But when Zeke Emanuel, 51, was tapped by the Obama administration to be special health adviser to budget director Peter Orszag in February, the renowned medical ethicist, oncologist and policy wonk became the go-to guy for stakeholders who want a say in the Obama administration's effort to reform the nation's health care system. Read more.

Power and Empire

Matt Taibbi starts out very well:

Everywhere I go I keep hearing people say, “How come Obama is letting X happen or Y happen, how come he’s letting his underlings do Z? It seems so unlike him!” It reminds me of the way people view leaders in Russia. Going back centuries, Russian peasants wrote impassioned letters to the Tsar, sure he was completely unaware that his Grand Dukes were all thieves and his okhranka agents were rapists and torturers. Now that Obama’s on the scene a lot of Americans are demonstrating a similar public desire to believe in the good king. Obama seems so decent and intelligent, it’s hard to imagine that his act is just a big sales job, that he’s really just a smooth-talking shill for a bunch of Wall Street bankers and Pentagon generals. So people tend to scramble for the exculpatory explanation: he’s being tricked, he’s unaware, his hands are tied, and so on.

And then loses it:

ABC News: Cheney's Secret Briefings Defended Interrogations

Note: 21:25 - I found the headline had been re-written to: "Dick Cheney's Role in CIA Interrogations Comes into Focus"
Update: 22:34 - This article, formerly the lead article on ABCNews' home page, is no longer there, and is not in their politics section, either. The link, however, is still working.

Cheney's Secret Briefings Defended Interrogations
Cheney's secret 2005 briefings tried to shore up Capitol Hill support for CIA interrogations
By Pamela Hess, Associated Press | ABCNews.com

Dick Cheney as vice president conducted secret briefings for lawmakers in 2005 aimed at defending harsh interrogations as their methods were coming under congressional scrutiny, according to current and former government officials.

The secret briefings followed the Abu Ghraib prison abuse scandal and public revelations about the CIA's rendition and interrogation program, current and former officials with ties to Congress and government intelligence told The Associated Press.

One official with direct knowledge of a March 8, 2005, meeting on the CIA's interrogation program said the briefing was run by Cheney in the situation room at the White House, a secure meeting room. The official said CIA officers were on hand to provide details.

The official said it was not unusual for Cheney to lead such briefings, as he was an aggressive champion of Bush administration national security policies and periodically conducted or sat in on meetings with members of Congress at the White House. The official asked not to be identified because the meeting was secret.

Another Cheney briefing occurred in October 2005 for Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., around the time he had won overwhelming Senate support for banning cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment for all U.S. prisoners, The Washington Post reported in its Wednesday editions. Two other briefings took place in October and November 2005, according to the Post.

The briefings add to questions about the role Cheney played in the creation, approval and conduct of the CIA's interrogation program, either directly or through his powerful chief of staff, David Addington.

The Cheney briefings were among 40 conducted for members of Congress by Bush administration officials between 2002 and 2009. Read more.

Obama's "Open Government" Deletes Top Proposal on "End Imperial Presidency"

By David Swanson

Is irony even the word for this? The president created a new online "open government" system in which people were free to brainstorm and vote proposals up or down. Far and away the leading proposal in the category of "Legal and Policy Challenges" as of the scheduled end of brainstorming was End Imperial Presidency. You can still find it, but it's been removed from that category and from the list of all proposals. Unless you have the direct link to it, you cannot find it, and when you do you can no longer vote for it. It has a label at the top with a closed lock and the words "pending moderator approval." When voting was scheduled to end on the 28th, this proposal was at the top in its category and ranked #3 over all.

Day of Defiance: Taking the Stairs at Grand Central to Stop Torture

Day of Defiance: Taking the Stairs at Grand Central to Stop Torture | World Can't Wait

From May 28 Protests Demanding Release of the photos & Prosecution of the War Criminals Responsible:

Photos

Detailed reports

Video of Grand Central Action

Director Paul Haggis speaking West Hollywood City

Further coverage of the torture scandal everyday on worldcantwait.org; firejohnyoo.org and warcriminalswatch.org.

War Criminals Watch, World Can't Wait, and other groups that worked on May protests (Code Pink, Progressive Democrats, the National Lawyers Guild and West Hollywood City Hall) and the many newly active people who came forward helped shape and develop outrage about the US torture state. The protests received local TV coverage in most cities, national coverage on Democracy Now and CNN, and we hear that photos ran over and over on Russian TV.

Press report, New York, May 29: Thursday, as World Can't Wait protested in 16 cities to demand that the Obama administration release the torture photographs, and prosecute the war crimes of the Bush regime, charges re-surfaced that the suppressed photos contradict President Obama's statement on May 12 that they are "not particularly sensational."

General Antonio Taguba, who investigated the 2004 Abu Ghraib torture scandal for the Bush administration, told The Daily Telegraph: "These pictures show torture, abuse, rape and every indecency." US Defense Secretary Robert Gates and the White House responded with denials, prompting further confirmations and details from those who have seen the photos that they include extreme sexual humiliation of detainees.

In New York, protesters gathered on 42nd Street, with dozens donning orange jumpsuits, representing detainees in US detention facilities. They walked silently into the hall of Grand Central Station, and up both sides of the west staircase, where they unfurled a banner saying "Release the Torture Photographs" and held photos believed to be part of the 2,000 involved in the controversy. Spontaneous applause went through the crowds of commuters, as thousands of cell phones snapped images.

Watching Obama Morph Into Dick Cheney

Watching Obama Morph Into Dick Cheney
By Paul Craig Roberts | AntiWar.com

America has lost her soul, and so has her president.

A despairing country elected a president who promised change. Americans arrived from every state to witness in bitter cold Obama’s swearing-in ceremony. The mall was packed in a way that it has never been for any other president.

The people’s good will toward Obama and the expectations they had for him were sufficient for Obama to end the gratuitous wars and enact major reforms. But Obama has deserted the people for the interests. He is relying on his non-threatening demeanor and rhetoric to convince the people that change is underway.

The change that we are witnessing is in Obama, not in policies. Obama is morphing into Dick Cheney.

Obama has not been in office four months and already a book could be written about his broken promises.

Read more.

KBR Sees U.S. Military Contract Margins Ip

KBR sees U.S. military contract margins up
By Braden Reddall | Reuters

But he also acknowledged the decision could be influenced by a political reaction prompted by the company's ties to the previous U.S. administration of George W. Bush and his vice president, Dick Cheney -- a former Halliburton chairman and CEO. "In some respects, we find ourselves at a crossroads of anti-big business, anti-war, anti-Bush-Cheney that people associate with KBR," Utt said. "While we can't change who was the former chairman of our former parent who was a former VP of the United States, we can at least bring back the debate to facts."

KBR Inc expects profit margins on the next round of U.S. military logistics contracts to rise as they are split between different companies, the engineering and services company's chief executive said on Tuesday.

KBR is competing with Fluor Corp and DynCorp International for the next Logistics Civil Augmentation Program, or LOGCAP IV, and expects to find out whether it has won one of two contracts for Afghanistan in July.

But Chief Executive William Utt said the previous LOGCAP contract, which includes food, mail, laundry and trucking among other services, was the lowest-margin business KBR had.

"If you start taking the scale away, generally people's margins are going to go up, particularly as we approach more traditional government contracting margins," Utt told the Reuters Global Energy Summit in Houston. Read more.

Purported bin Laden Tape Slams U.S. Role in Pakistan

Purported bin Laden tape slams U.S. role in Pakistan | CNN

Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden purportedly issued another statement Wednesday, saying U.S. policy in Pakistan has generated "new seeds of hatred and revenge against America."

Zeroing in on the conflict in Pakistan's Swat Valley, where Pakistan's troops are taking on Taliban militants, the message asserts that President Obama is proving that he is "walking the same road of his predecessors to build enmity against Muslims and increasing the number of fighters, and establishing more lasting wars."

Al-Jazeera, the Arabic-language TV network that aired the message, said the statement was "a voice recording by bin Laden," and a CNN analysis said the voice does indeed sound like the leader of the terrorist network that attacked the United States on September 11, 2001.

The remarks -- which would be bin Laden's first assessment of Obama's policy -- were believed to have been recorded several weeks ago at the start of a mass civilian exodus because of fighting in northwestern Pakistan.

The speaker cites strikes, destruction and Obama's "order" to Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari "to prevent the people of Swat from implementing sharia law."

"All this led to the displacement of about a million Muslim elders, women and children from their villages and homes. They became refugees in tents after they were honored in their own homes," the message says. Read more.

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