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Andy Worthington Discusses Bagram on al-Jazeera
Yesterday, I was delighted to take part in “Is Bagram The Other Guantánamo?,” a discussion about the US prison at Bagram airbase in Afghanistan on The Riz Khan Show on al-Jazeera, following a recent announcement by the Obama administration that it is planning to introduce Guantánamo-style tribunals for the 600 or so prisoners held at Bagram. The show is available below in two parts, via YouTube:
As I explained in two articles following the Obama administration’s announcement — “Obama Brings Guantánamo And Rendition To Bagram (And Not The Geneva Conventions)” and “Is Bagram Obama’s New Secret Prison?” — these proposals are an improvement on the existing review system for the Bagram prisoners, which, disturbingly, consists only of Unlawful Enemy Combatant Review Boards, in which the prisoners have no representation whatsoever, and are only allowed to make a statement before they hear the evidence against them. However, as I also explained in my articles, it’s clear that the decision to introduce a new review system is disturbing for two particular reasons.
The first is that...Read more.
October 3-10, 2009
Keep Space for Peace Week:
International Week of Protest to
Stop the Militarization of Space
No Missile Defense
No Use of Space for Drone Wars
Stop Endless War
Convert the Military Industrial Complex
Fund Human Needs
Local Events (List now in formation)
Rick Scott profits off the uninsured
A leading foe of healthcare reform owns a chain of clinics aimed at people who would benefit from a public option
Editor's note: Research support was provided by the Investigative Fund at The Nation Institute.
By Tristram Korten | Salon
Multimillionaire health care entrepreneur Rick Scott has been at the center of the aggressive campaign to derail health care reform in Washington DC. He has met with lawmakers, coordinated conference calls with conservative activists, written op eds on the evils of socialized medicine, starred in a nationwide ad campaign, and founded the anti-reform group Conservatives for Patients Rights. But little attention has been paid to the business model at Scott's own for-profit health care company, Solantic, which profits off of the uninsured. As a new Investigative Fund probe by Tristram Korten shows, without masses of uninsured people dependent on the ER for their care, Scott doesn't have a client base.
One key Scott tactic in his assault on health care reform is to rail against government health systems, using anecdotes to show that they "kill people" by limiting access to care. Yet Korten found a doctor in one of Scott's clinics may have rushed a diagnosis due to his massive patient quota and faces a wrongful death lawsuit now winding its way through the Florida courts. "The whole point was volume and speed," one former Solantic doctor told Korten. "I believe the target was 50 patients a day." And that's just the tip of the iceberg.
Korten's article, "Rick Scott Profits off the Uninsured," the first installment of a two-part investigation into Rick Scott and Solantic, was supported by the Investigative Fund at The Nation Institute and appears today on Salon. Read it here.
Government GiveAway to Health Insurance Companies: No Constraint on Administrative Costs/Profits in Proposed Legislation
So, imagine this, we offer no Public Option, nothing that we can control through public policy avenues, and yet we give billions to insurance companies without a requirement how much they will pay for coverage. I did not see the Republicans argue against this give away as being fiscally irresponsible.
The issues are not just the Public Option, if an insurance company gets a subsidy, we must cap the Medical Loss Ratio. We must make sure that the public dollars and our lowest income families get the most in healthcare from the public dollars.
...Under the Baucus plan, there is a mandate, meaning every one in America will be required to carry insurance. To help those who cannot afford insurance there is a provision that the Federal government will give subsidies to people to pay for all and in some cases a portion of the premiums.
The federal subsidies, meaning the money the Federal Goverment will pay insurance companies to make insurance affordable, is in the range of half a trillion to cover lower income people.
If we do not get a public option how do we make sure that the billions we pay insurance companies, get us the most healthcare? There is metric called Medical Loss Ratio. What is that? Medical Loss Ratio means if I pay an insurance company $100 in premium, there is an amount they pay for medical care and another amount they put in their pocket for administrative costs and profits. Read more.
Co-authored with Rose Ann DeMoro, executive director, California Nurses Association/National Nurses Organizing Committee
Now we know why they've stopped calling this health care reform, and started calling it insurance reform. The current bills advancing in Congress look more like rearranging the deck chairs on the insurance Titanic than actually ending our long health care nightmare.
Some laudable elements are in various versions of the bills, especially expanding Medicaid, cutting the private insurance-padding waste of Medicare Advantage, and limiting the ability of the insurance giants to ban and dump people who have been or who ever will be sick.
But, overall, the leading bills and the President's proposal are, like the dog that didn't bark, more notable for what is missing.
Here are 13 problems with the current health care bills (partial list):
1. No cost controls on insurance companies. Read more - this is a short but very descriptive list. Don't miss it!
More Obama Administration Witch-Hunt Targets
By Stephen Lendman
The FBI's top six news stories for the week ending September 25 were about arrests and/or indictments of suspected Muslim terrorists. Combined, they became the latest national security targets in America's war on Islam.
Waged relentlessly since 9/11, it continues unabated under Obama for the same political advantage George Bush sought by stoking fear to be used as a pretext to wage imperial wars and crack down ruthlessly at home with police state efficiency - today against Muslims, Latino immigrants, environmental and animal rights activists, and street protestors, tomorrow against anyone voicing dissent.
Najibullah Zazi - The FBI's Top Story for the Week Ending September 25, 2009
On September 24, an FBI press release announced the indictment of Najibullah Zazi, an Aurora, CO-based legal US resident from Afghanistan on a conspiracy charge "to use weapons of mass destruction (explosive bombs) against persons or property in the United States" based on allegations that he "received bomb-making instructions in Pakistan, purchased components of improvised explosive devices, and traveled to New York City on September 10 in furtherance of his criminal plans."
He was also charged with knowingly and willfully making false statements to the FBI regarding international and domestic terrorism. In addition, the indictment alleges that he and others traveled in interstate and foreign commerce and used email and the Internet to carry out his "criminal plans." If convicted, Zazi faces a potential life sentence even though he's likely another victim of police state justice in Washington's war on Islam.
New York Times writers David Johnston and Scott Shane called it "One of the Most Serious (Cases) in Years based on documents filed against Zazi that "he bought chemicals needed to build a bomb - hydrogen peroxide, acetone and hydrochloric acid - and in doing so, Mr. Zazi took a critical step made by few other terrorism suspects." He made his purchases at a beauty shop, hardly the sort of venue for terrorist supplies.
Hydrogen peroxide is a common bleaching agent and mild disinfectant. Acetone is an inflammable organic solvent used in nail polish remover, making plastics and for cleaning purposes in laboratories. Hydrochloric acid is used in oil production, ore reduction, food processing, pickling, and metal cleaning. It's also found in the stomach in diluted form.
Here's a list of the good things a universal single payer health insurance system will do for Pennsylvania. There are more, most importantly the over one million uninsured citizens of the Commonwealth. Support our efforts to pass sane health care legislation in Harrisburg. Learn about the bills working their way through the State House right now.
1. Protect Pennsylvania jobs - by capping the employer contribution to the Health Trust at 10% of payroll. Those Pennsylvania employers currently paying for employee health insurance coverage will enjoy a substantial savings and will no longer be at a competitive disadvantage to those paying nothing toward the cost of health care coverage. This also completely eliminates the administrative overhead costs associated with employer paid health insurance.
2. Reduce the cost of prescription drugs - by using Pennsylvania's 12.5 million citizens as a formidable bargaining entity in dealing with drug companies.
3. Eliminate uncompensated care - by assuring that health care providers are paid for all of the services they provide.
4. Assure comprehensive care for all - through a universal health care system. Approximately one million out of our 12 million citizens have no health coverage of any kind.
5. End wasteful "defensive" medicine - which, according to a recent survey, 90% of Pennsylvania physicians admit to. We address this by replacing the fault based malpractice system with a no-fault program that emphasizes broader availability of compensation, quality assurance instead of punishment. Those who believe they are better off retaining their traditional fault based right to sue may opt out of the no-fault system, but the Balanced Plan adopts the no-fault approach as the default position and thus the vast majority of Pennsylvanians will participate in the no-fault program.
6. Address racial disparity - through universal access and a commitment to assuring the availability of quality providers in all communities.
7. Dramatically reduce wasteful administrative costs - through a single payer approach that eliminates the unnecessary and redundant overhead of the existing myriad of public and private payers. Major studies have agreed that approximately 20% of our health care dollars are wasted due to the inefficiencies of the current system.
8. Remove health care as a recurrent union/management issue in collective bargaining - by providing automatic, comprehensive, and universal health care independent of the employment relationship. This legislation does permit unions and employers to opt out of the Commonwealth Plan so long as the benefits included in the collective bargaining agreement are at least as comprehensive as the Commonwealth Plan.
9. End health care expenses as the leading cause of personal bankruptcy - thus preserving the dignity and savings of Americans who already face the burdens directly associated with family illness or accident. Read more.
Guest OpEd: If ACORN disappeared, who would aid the poorest of us?
By Rory Lancman, NY State Assemblyman | NY Daily News
Wasn't it odd that so many ACORN workers hardly blinked an eye when a woman identifying herself as a prostitute showed up in their offices ostensibly to ask for guidance on how to buy a house? It's as if such people - prostitutes, people with substance abuse problems, young men with criminal records - show up at ACORN offices all the time asking for help.
Crazy, no? Or maybe that's what ACORN does. That and helping high school dropouts prepare for a job, building affordable housing for single mothers, signing kids up for health insurance, counseling homeowners facing foreclosure, and encouraging every American to exercise their right to vote. The uncomfortable truth is that tens of millions of Americans live the kind of lives where the availability of help from groups like ACORN is the difference between having food on the table or not, having a roof over their heads or not, seeing a doctor or not, and having a voice in the political process or not.
Recent disclosures about certain questionable practices at ACORN, the left-leaning nationwide community advocacy organization, have raised questions about the organization's very legitimacy.
But as ACORN rightly moves to get its house in order and restore its credibility, it might be worth taking a few moments to ask some other questions, not about ACORN but about ourselves, and our commitment to lifting up the millions of our fellow Americans who live in a netherworld of poverty, hopelessness and victimization.
You cannot understand the ACORN videos (understand, not condone), without making some honest effort to understand this netherworld in which ACORN and too few other hardy, modern day missionaries work to improve the lives of people most of us never see and never want to see. Read more.
Are you or anyone in your family currently being denied care for a serious condition by your insurance company? Let us know, we may be able to help. - Scroll down.
By Dave Lindorff
Some years ago, my wife and I, together with our young daughter, took a circuitous summer train trip through France, Italy, Austria and Germany. The last leg was an overnight express from Berlin that deposited us at the Gare du Nord in Paris just at sunrise. Feeling washed out from the ride, we made our separate ways to the facilities. I was standing at the urinal with a bunch of other men, relieving myself, when I heard this awful groaning coming from a stall. The groaning grew louder and more painful sounding. Some guy was obviously having a terrible time with his bowels. The agony continued, to the point that we who were by now washing our hands at the sinks were looking at each other in puzzlement, wondering what was going on. I even wondered if someone should ask if the poor wretch if he needed help.
Earlier today we saw what happens when the primary concern of decision makers is corporate profits. Insurance companies are the only beneficiaries of the actions of the Senate Finance Committee.
This just highlights the problem of the current debate, one that we set out to change three weeks ago: the focus should be on providing medical care to keep everyone healthy, not how to expand insurance schemes.
FIGHT BACK: RALLY IN DC & LA
Join us today (Sep. 30th) in California or Washington for two major events:
3pm at McPherson Square (15th St NW and K Street)
4pm at Lafayette Square Park in front of the White House
6pm-8pm at the NW corner of Hollywood & Highland
More details are at our website.
We may not have another opportunity like this in our lifetime.
We must replace our current pay-or-die system and with a comprehensive, publicly financed, privately delivered, Single Payer system that puts people first.
Our moment to take a stand for Single Payer is NOW.
Get Mad, Stay Mad, Make History,
Generals: Dick Cheney, Liz Cheney are scaremongering
By Josh Gerstein | Politico
About a dozen retired generals and admirals, trying to add momentum to President Barack Obama’s effort to close the Guantanamo Bay military prison, are accusing former Vice President Dick Cheney and his daughter Liz of scaremongering about the dangers of closing it.
“It’s up to all of us to say these arguments advanced by Cheney and his acolytes are nonsense and that really what they’re doing is undermining our national security by delaying the date at which Guantanamo is closed,” retired Brig. Gen. James Cullen, a former chief judge of the Army’s Court of Criminal Appeals, told POLITICO Tuesday.
“Some of the fear issues that are being raised in this are really unfortunate. It gets people excited about things they shouldn’t be excited about and impedes doing what is critical to this country. Get that damn symbol off the table,” said retired Gen. David Maddox, a former Army commander-in-chief for Europe. “We take a setback every time somebody, whether it’s the vice president or his daughter comes out and says the things that they say....We have to get out there again and just keep pounding.” Read more.
Soon we'll find out if the Senate is really going to buck President Obama on the deal he cut with Big Pharma. I wonder how serious this is:
North Dakota Sen. Byron Dorgan, a member of Democratic leadership, isn't a party to that bargain. "Senator Dorgan intends to offer an amendment to the health reform bill and his expectation is that it will be one of the first amendments considered," his spokesman Justin Kitsch told HuffPost in an e-mail. "Prescription drug importation is an immediate way to put downward pressure on health care costs. It has bipartisan support, and has been endorsed by groups such as the National Federation of Independent Businesses and AARP."
U.S. patients pay far more than the rest of the world for prescription drugs. The Canadian government keeps prices down by using its purchasing power to negotiate for lower rates. Dorgan wants American consumers in on the deal.
A bill to allow re-importation -- S. 1232 - has 30 cosponsors, several Republicans among them, including Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins of Maine, John Thune (S.D.) and David Vitter (La.).
The Congressional Budget Office estimates that the bill would result in $50 billion in direct savings over the next decade, with $10.6 billion of that being savings to the federal government. Read more.
Kucinich Welcomes the Mad As Hell Doctors
When: Thursday, October 1, 9:00 a.m.
Where: Rayburn House Office Building 2203
On September 8, 2009 a ‘care-a-van’ left Portland, Oregon on a multi-city tour across America to deliver the message to elected officials in Washington: Health Care for People – Not Profit.
Congressman Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) will welcome the Mad As Hell Doctors to Washington D.C. as they finish their journey. After brief statements, Kucinich and the doctors will answer questions about the doctors’ journey and health care reform.
This morning, before he voted for the public option, Senator Ron Wyden appeared on MSNBC's Morning Meeting with Dylan Ratigan to talk about his "Free Choice" amendment - a measure that would allow every American to choose to opt out of their employer health plan and into the health exchange (where the public option would be, if there is one).
Senator Wyden went head-to-head with a lobbyist from the American Benefits Council - a group that represents big employers (like Wal-Mart, Microsoft, Shell Oil, etc.) and health insurance and pharmaceutical companies (like Blue Cross, KP, Merck, Pfizer, etc.) The lobbyist, James Klein, argued against allowing Americans to take their employer's health care contribution into the health exchange.
Watch the video, as Wyden and Ratigan take apart the silly arguments promulgated by the industry lobbyist. (And be sure to watch all the way through - the last two minutes are rocketing around the blogosphere.)
Smith remembers that she signed up for Evercare when a saleswoman visited her apartment complex in North Raleigh. Smith says she didn't take note at the time that signing up for a Medicare Advantage plan held no guarantee that her current physicians would accept the coverage. Details of the coverage were difficult to understand, but the saleswoman made it sound attractive, she said.
"A lot of mathematics are involved, and that's not my strong point," she said.
Confusion among seniors about Medicare Advantage plans is common, Obiol said.
"It's not so much that the product doesn't provide benefits, but that their [health-care] providers don't accept the product," Obiol said.
Bonnie Lee Smith, a retired medical imaging technician, should have plenty of health-insurance coverage: She qualifies for Medicare because of her age and for Medicaid because of her income.
But Smith, 81, says she has had no primary physician since her previous doctor's office said it won't accept her coverage under a privately run Medicare plan.
"I'm just trying to figure my way through the maze," said Smith, a stomach-cancer survivor.
Evercare, the plan that covers Smith, is one of about 50 Medicare Advantage policies offered by insurance companies in North Carolina. These plans, which cover about one in five Medicare recipients, replace traditional Medicare and usually offer additional coverage such as dental, vision or fitness benefits.
But nationally, Medicare Advantage plans are the subject of fierce debate as Congress attempts to craft a health-care reform bill. Supporters say they offer extra benefits that seniors love, and opponents call the average 14 percent extra they cost per recipient a giveaway to insurance companies. State regulators say people with Medicare Advantage insurance have often had problems finding doctors and hospitals to take the coverage. Read more.
Unconfirmed Swine Flu Outbreak on US Navy Ship after Crew Vaccinated
By Stephen Lendman
On September 2, the Pentagon and FDA announced that mandatory Swine Flu vaccinations were ordered for all US military personnel, to be administered as soon as supplies are available. The first getting them are medical staff, crews deployed, and others scheduled to do so. It was expected that one million vaccine doses would be available by September 30 and another 1.7 million during October. Two inoculations will be given, 21 days apart, with family members encouraged to participate.
Though so far unconfirmed, sources believed to be reliable report the following:
- An unnamed US Navy ship with 347 on board deployed in April from San Diego;
Bush officials face possible liability for violation of suspects' rights
Courts let 3 post-9/11 lawsuits try to hold Bush officials personally liable for terror policy
By Mark Sherman, AP | Raw Story
Former Attorney General John Ashcroft and one of his hardline lieutenants face the rare prospect of being held personally liable for alleged violations of individuals' rights in the aggressive aftermath of the 2001 terrorist attacks.
High-ranking officials usually are protected from such civil rights claims. Not necessarily in these cases.
Three federal courts have left open the possibility that former Bush officials may have to reach into their own pockets to compensate people who were swept up in the law enforcement and intelligence efforts after the Sept. 11 attacks.
In two cases, judges appointed by Republican presidents have refused to dismiss lawsuits at an early stage that were filed against Ashcroft and former Justice Department official John Yoo. One complaint challenges Ashcroft's strategy of preventive detention. The other seeks to hold Yoo accountable for legal memos he wrote supporting detention, interrogation and presidential power.
In a third case, the full federal appeals court in New York is reconsidering an earlier decision by three of its members to toss out a lawsuit by a man who was changing planes in the United States when he was mistaken for a terrorist and sent to Syria, where he claims he was tortured. Read more.
Secret Service Probing Facebook Poll That Asked Whether Obama Should Be Killed
'Should Obama Be Assassinated?' Poll Pulled from Facebook Site
By Pierre Thomas | ABC News
The Secret Service is investigating the origins of a poll that appeared on Facebook that asked whether President Obama should be killed.
Posted over the weekend, the poll was removed by Facebook after the Secret Service received a tip and contacted the company, which was not aware of the survey, sources tell ABC News.
"When the Secret Service became aware of the poll we worked with Facebook to have it taken down and are conducting an investigation," said a spokesman for the Secret Service.
The poll asked: "Should Obama be killed?" The answer choices: "No," "Maybe," "Yes" and "Yes if he cuts my health care."
The Secret Service will be reaching out to the person who developed and posted the poll to determine intent. Read more.
As part of the Huffington Post's efforts to bear witness to the effects of the current economic environment on ordinary Americans, we're rounding up some of the most compelling stories reported by local news organizations around the country.
Monique Zimmerman-Stein has been nearly blind for the last two years from Stickler syndrome, a rare genetic disorder. She recently decided to forego her own treatment to save funds to treat her two daughters, who also suffer from the condition, reports Lane DeGregory of the St. Petersburg Times.
The family is covered under husband Gary's Blue Cross/Blue Shield plan, but that coverage only pays for 80 percent of medical expenses.
She will no longer get treatment to preserve that last slice of light. The injections that might help cost $380 after insurance, and she needs one every six weeks. She could be spending that money on her daughters' care. If forgoing treatment might help them see, she said, "That's a choice any mom would make."
The expensive care has already forced the family out of their home, which was foreclosed, and forced them to sell their furniture and to cash in their life insurance.
Tampabay.com put together the excellent video to accompany the story.
ACLU In Court To Argue For Release Of Torture Documents | Press Release
Government Continues To Withhold Key Documents In ACLU Lawsuit
The American Civil Liberties Union will be in federal court in New York on Wednesday, September 30 for oral arguments in its Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit for documents related to the treatment of prisoners in U.S. custody overseas.
The ACLU and its co-counsel will argue for the release of redacted portions of Justice Department Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) memos describing "enhanced interrogation techniques" authorized for use by the CIA, as well as documents describing the contents of destroyed videotapes depicting CIA interrogations. The government has said it will continue to withhold the documents and portions of documents regarding the Bush administration's torture program despite extensive public knowledge of the program.
The ACLU will also argue for the declassification of three detainees' names that were redacted in the OLC memos.
Arguments in the ACLU FOIA lawsuit for documents related to the treatment of prisoners in U.S. custody overseas, including OLC memos on CIA "enhanced interrogation techniques" and documents related to the contents of destroyed CIA interrogation videotapes
Army Prisoners Isolated, Denied Right to Legal Counsel
By Dahr Jamail | Truthout | Submitted by Michael Munk | www.MichaelMunk.com
Afghanistan war resister Travis Bishop has been held largely "incommunicado" in the Northwest Joint Regional Correctional Facility at Fort Lewis, Washington.
Bishop, who is being held by the military as a "prisoner of conscience," according to Amnesty International, was transported to Fort Lewis on September 9 to serve a 12-month sentence in the Regional Correctional Facility. He had refused orders to deploy to Afghanistan based on his religious beliefs, and had filed for Conscientious Objector (CO) status.
Bishop, who served a 13-month deployment to Iraq and was stationed at Fort Hood, Texas, was court marshaled by the Army for his refusal to deploy to Afghanistan. Given that he had already filed for CO status, many local observers called his sentencing a "politically driven prosecution."
By holding Bishop incommunicado, the military violated Bishop's legal right to counsel, a violation of the Sixth Amendment to the US Constitution, according to his civil defense attorney James Branum.
The Sixth Amendment is the part of the Bill of Rights that sets forth rights related to criminal prosecutions in federal courts, and reads, "In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district where in the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defense."
Attorney LeGrande Jones, who practices in Olympia and was designated by Branum as the local counsel for Bishop, was also denied access to Bishop, on the grounds that Jones was on an unnamed and unobtainable "watch-list," which constitutes deprivation of counsel.
Jones was denied entry to Fort Lewis and told he would never be allowed to enter the base. Fort Lewis authorities never gave him a reason for his being denied access to the base and his client. To this, Branum told Truthout, "Fort Lewis authorities have a duty to tell LeGrande the reasons why he is being barred from Fort Lewis, and therefore [barred] from communicating with his client in the Fort Lewis brig."
Until September 18, Bishop's condition was unclear due to his having been completely cut off from the public. Read more.
Coalition Works to Defeat 3 "Health Care" Provisions: "Non-Medical" Care; 1984's "Conscience Clause" & "Abstinence Only" Funds
Sean Faircloth, Executive Director of the Secular Coalition of America wrote:
I write to let you know that the Secular Coalition for America is working to defeat three proposed amendments to the Senate Finance Committee's health care bill that would alter public policy to privilege religious people. These amendments are in some House versions as well.
Of great concern is a bipartisan amendment sponsored by Senators Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and John Kerry (D-Mass.) that would require private and public health plans to cover all "spiritual care" - whether or not the individual has religous objections to medical care. This proposed funding undermines our Constitution and will open up your tax dollars to scam artists.
This amendment will make an existing problem worse. Religious people who object to medical care already have some "spiritual care" covered by Medicare and Medicaid. This "spiritual care" includes reimbursements for payments that Christian Scientists make to members of the Church who pray for them when they are ill. Numerous children have died while receiving this "spiritual care" when modern science would easily have saved their lives. And you helped pay!
Under the new amendment, all health plans would be obligated to cover such expenses. The Hatch-Kerry bill amendment doesn't stop there, expanding this practice to all Americans, regardless of whether or not they object to medical care. Tax payers would help foot the bill for this religion-based care, care offering no scientific evidence of effectiveness. "Care" which, in fact, endangers lives by placing government approval on non-scientific practices.
The Story of Oybek Jabbarov, An Innocent Man Freed From Guantánamo
By Andy Worthington | AndyWorthington.co.UK
Yesterday I reported that the US government had released three prisoners from Guantánamo, repatriating Alla Ali Bin Ali Ahmed, a Yemeni, and sending two unidentified prisoners — presumed to be Uzbeks — to new homes in Ireland. I suspected that one of the men was Oybek Jabbarov, an Uzbek who was cleared for release from Guantánamo in 2007, but who could not be repatriated because of the well-known human rights abuses in his homeland, and the fact that he had been threatened by Uzbek agents who had been allowed to visit him in Guantánamo.
It has now been confirmed that one of the Uzbeks freed in Ireland is indeed Oybek Jabbarov, and, while I wish him and his unidentified countryman every opportunity to settle into their new home in peace, I want to take this opportunity to reproduce a letter by Jabbarov, sent from Guantánamo last October (PDF), and a statement by his lawyer, delivered to a House Committee last May, to demonstrate how, in contrast to the hyperbolic claims made by Bush administration officials and their supporters, it was disturbingly easy for innocent men like Oybek Jabbarov to end up in Guantánamo.
These men — and there were many hundreds of innocent men in Guantánamo, and many who are still held — were mostly seized by the Americans’ opportunistic allies at a time when bounty payments for “al-Qaeda and Taliban suspects” were widespread, and were then presumed guilty without any screening process by an administration drunk on its own exercise of unfettered executive power, in which everyone who ended up in US custody was an “unlawful enemy combatant” without rights, regardless of whether, like Oybek Jabbarov, they have lost nearly eight years of their lives for nothing more than being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Read more.
Obama asserts power to detain suspects without trial
By Tom Eley | WSWS
The Obama administration announced this week that it intends to continue the Bush administration policy of holding terrorism suspects indefinitely without charge or trial.
On Wednesday, the Justice Department said that President Obama may continue to hold “terror suspects” indefinitely and without judicial review based on the congressional Authorization to Use Military Force that came in the wake of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington—the same rationale used by Obama’s predecessor, George W. Bush.
The move aims to institutionalize the previous administration’s assault on habeas corpus—the bedrock principle of democratic rights and the civil liberties laid down in the US Constitution’s Bill of Rights.
The announcement is a shift from a position Obama outlined in a May 22 speech at the National Archives. There he said he would go to Congress to obtain legislation to carry on the policy of indefinite detention, which he claimed was the only way of dispersing a section of the Guantánamo prison population too “dangerous” to try in civil courts.
In reality, the administration does not want to try these prisoners in normal civilian courts because such trials would expose the use of torture against the defendants, the evidence based on torture would be inadmissible, and civil trials might reveal embarrassing facts about the activities of US intelligence agencies.
“I want to be very clear that our goal is to construct a legitimate legal framework for Guantánamo detainees,” Obama said three months ago. “[G]oing forward, my administration will work with Congress to develop an appropriate legal regime.” Read more.
A cacophony of song birds continues at a pitch even at 11pm. They quiet and then something seems to wake them.
Our rooms are on their courtyard of flowers, grass, fountains, vine drenched archways and relaxing places to enjoy tea. We each have our own monk’s cell with bed, toilet and internet hookup.
Slowly, over 4 hours this morning (Sunday) we became the 9 traveling companions—Pink Sisters—because Paul the only male, wanted to call us either moms (we are all old enough to qualify) or sisters and we leapt at the latter. We gathered at the boarding gate and introduced ourselves, expressed our fears and our desires, barely noticing that the plane was about 2 hours late by the time we finished. We almost had the plane to ourselves, except some interesting men coming to do their work. The most macho New Zealander with a company that transports dangerous materials was freaked to be going to Kabul and even after our arrival was hyper-ventilating with panic. Then there was the Christian social worker, who had no fear even with a fatwa out on him and his wife for building schools for girls. Another was a very buff young man who worked in some form of security. The ride was a bit bumpy as we neared Kabul and dropped below the clouds to the dusty broken down city.
We won’t get a clean breath until we are back in Dubai. Every breath is full of dust, ash, smells and pain. Read more.
A Constitutional Debate Over a Health Care Mandate
By Katharine Q. Seelye | NY Times
Still others have questioned how the mandate would work and suggested that a government-run insurance plan, including a single-payer system, or a system of tax subsidies could be “more efficient in containing costs and avoid the slippery slope of unconstitutional mandates.”
The Congressional Research Service recently grappled with the legal underpinnings of an individual mandate and concluded that Congress “may have” the power to enact a mandate “as part of its taxing and spending power or its power to regulate interstate commerce.”
Still, it sees potential pitfalls, noting: “Whether such a requirement would be constitutional under the commerce clause is perhaps the most challenging question posed by such a proposal, as it is a novel issue whether Congress may use this clause to require an individual to purchase a good or service.”
If the individual mandate were found to be unconstitutional, the health care overhaul as it is now structured by many committees in Congress would almost certainly collapse.
The requirement that everyone buy health insurance moved a step closer to reality last week — and possibly a step closer to being challenged in court.
Conservatives and libertarians, mostly, have been advancing the theory lately that the individual mandate, in which the government would compel everyone to buy insurance or pay a penalty, is unconstitutional.
“I think an individual mandate will pass, and I think it’s going to be very vulnerable because it exceeds Congress’s constitutional authority,” said David Rivkin, a lawyer who served in the Justice Department under Presidents Ronald Reagan and George Bush. Mr. Rivkin spelled out his argument in a recent op-ed article in The Wall Street Journal that he co-wrote.
“If you say the government can mandate your behavior as far as this type of insurance goes,” he said, “there will be nothing the government can’t do. They can control every single way in which you dispose of your income.” Read more.