As I posted yesterday in comments, Obama’s Letter to CIA shows standard of reasonable actions and reliance on legal advice to qualify for immunity. (Obama’s letter to CIA – pdf file). This means Bush, Dickie and other government officials as well as CIA executives and employees may be prosecuted if they do not meet this standard.
In releasing these memos, the men and women of the CIA have assurances from both myself, and from Attorney General Holder, that we will protect all who acted reasonably and relied upon legal advice from the Department of Justice that their actions were lawful. The Attorney General has assured me that these individuals will not be prosecuted and that the Government will stand by them.
(more on the flip)
This was confirmed today by Think Progress: Obama’s Immunity For CIA Agents Still Leaves Prosecutions Of Senior Bushies On The Table.
Indeed, Marc Ambinder reported yesterday that "senior administration officials have made it clear" to him that the immunity would not apply to those officials who "who did NOT act in good faith, or who did not act according to the guidelines spelled out by the OLC." Obama himself seemed to indicate that some sort of investigations have already begun, telling CNN en Espanol, "I think that we are moving a process forward here in the United States to understand what happened."
This is different from Panetta’s desire to provide immunity to all CIA from not only prosecutions, but also investigations.
- BREAKING NEWS: Judge Vaughn Walker Keeps Al-Haramain Alive!: "Bottom line folks, the case is going to proceed and Walker is not going to sanction the matter being taken to the Ninth Circuit on another interlocutory appeal. All outstanding news!"
The United States, in response to the court’s directive to "inform the court how it intends to comply with the January 5 order" (Doc #562/71 at 3) has offered up three similar-sounding alternatives all of which appear geared toward obtaining a stay of this court’s proceedings and review by the court of appeals, even though its simultaneous attempts to obtain review as of right and by means of an interlocutory appeal of the January 5 order failed in February (Doc #562/71 and Al-Haramain Islamic Foundation, Inc v Obama, No 09-15266 (9th Cir February 27, 2009)). As both this court and the court of appeals have determined that this matter is properly before the court, the United States should now comply with the court’s orders.
...The parties shall submit to the court a stipulated protective order on or before May 8, 2009. If the parties are unable to agree on all terms, they shall jointly submit a document containing all agreed terms together with a document setting forth the terms about which they are unable to reach agreement and the respective positions of the parties with regard to each such term.
The court will then consider the submissions and enter a protective order under which this case may resume forward progress.
- State Department calls Texas a foreign country.
Texas has once again become an independent country! The State Department, listing the countries Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton has visited and the frequent-flier miles she’s piled up (more than 50,000 so far), notes that she’s taken trips to Europe, the Netherlands, Mexico, the Middle East, Asia and Texas.
- CNBC Execs probe on-air Obama Bashing.
THE top suits and some of the on-air talent at CNBC were recently ordered to a top-secret meeting with General Electric CEO Jeffrey Immelt and NBC Universal President Jeff Zucker to discuss whether they've turned into the President Obama-bashing network, Page Six has learned.
"It was an intensive, three-hour dinner at 30 Rock which Zucker himself was behind," a source familiar with the powwow told us. "There was a long discussion about whether CNBC has become too conservative and is beating up on Obama too much. There's great concern that CNBC is now the anti-Obama network. The whole meeting was really kind of creepy."
- Bailed-Out AIG Pampers Execs While Denying, Delaying Claims of Contractors Injured in Iraq. (video at link) (Photo: John Woodson, Kevin Smith, Shaheen Khan and Preston Wheeler are some of the employees of private contractors injured at war who say they've faced constant difficulties dealing with insurance giant AIG.)
Insurance giant AIG, the same company that rewarded its executives with millions in bonuses and spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on a spa retreat at an exclusive California resort and private jets, has been nickel and diming employees of private contractors injured in Iraq, with a pattern of denying and delaying their claims, a joint investigation between 20/20, the Los Angeles Times and the non-profit group ProPublica has found.
In a joint investigation with 20/20, ProPublica and the Los Angeles Times analyzed some 30,000 claims filed by people working for American defense contractors overseas, covered by AIG under a federally-mandated program. Almost half 43 percent of the most serious cases were challenged by AIG, the analysis found, particularly those where claims were made for treatment of post traumatic stress disorder.
- Desperate veterans turn to suicide in such high numbers that experts call "epidemic".
Several branches of the military are reporting significant spikes in the number of suicides committed by both active-duty troops and veterans returning from duty in Iraq and Afghanistan. Experts are calling the number of military-related suicides sweeping the country an "epidemic."
Survivors of veterans who committed suicide are starting to file lawsuits, accusing the VA of medical malpractice. The agency also has come under attack by lawmakers and veterans' groups charging that it failed to treat injured veterans for post-traumatic stress disorder or traumatic brain injury, the signature wounds of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. The agency also has been accused of manipulating suicide statistics to downplay the problem and systematically misdiagnosing returning combat soldiers who suffer mental illness because their resources are tapped.
"We are murdering our own children here," said the chairman of the House Committee on Veterans Affairs, Rep. Bob Filner, D-Calif., in an interview with The Detroit News.
- Gates still not ready to sign on to DADT repeal.
Changing the U.S. military’s "don’t ask, don’t tell" policy for gay troops is "very difficult," Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Thursday, indicating that doing so could take years - if it ever happens.
Speaking at the Army War College, Gates said he and President Barack Obama were discussing the policy and whether to change it. Gates said he was not yet taking a position about whether gay troops should be open about their sexuality, which could lead to their discharge under the current rules.
Gates also noted it took five years for the U.S. military to racially integrate during the Truman administration.
- Iraq air raids hit mostly women and children.
Air strikes and artillery barrages have taken a heavy toll among the most vulnerable of the Iraqi people, with children and women forming a disproportionate number of the dead.
Analysis carried out for the research group Iraq Body Count (IBC) found that 39 per cent of those killed in air raids by the US-led coalition were children and 46 per cent were women. Fatalities caused by mortars, used by American and Iraqi government forces as well as insurgents, were 42 per cent children and 44 per cent women.
Twelve per cent of those killed by suicide bombings, mainly the tool of militant Sunni groups, were children and 16 per cent were females. One in five (21 per cent) of those killed by car bombs, used by both Shia and Sunni fighters, was a child; one in four (28 per cent) was a woman.
- 22 dead in earthquakes in Afghanistan.
A pair of moderate earthquakes struck Afghanistan on Friday, killing at least 22 people and destroying 200 homes, an official said.
...The first, just before 2 a.m. (5:27 p.m. ET) registered at magnitude 5.5, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. The second, centered a few miles away, struck about two hours later and measured magnitude 5.1.
The Afghan army has been deployed to help with rescue efforts, said Gen. Mohammed Zahir Azimi, a spokesman for the Ministry of Defense.
The U.S. State Department Friday sent humanitarian aid to the area.
- Israel stands ready to bomb Iran's nuclear sites.
The Israeli military is preparing itself to launch a massive aerial assault on Iran's nuclear facilities within days of being given the go-ahead by its new government.
Among the steps taken to ready Israeli forces for what would be a risky raid requiring pinpoint aerial strikes are the acquisition of three Airborne Warning and Control (AWAC) aircraft and regional missions to simulate the attack.
Two nationwide civil defence drills will help to prepare the public for the retaliation that Israel could face.
- Israel rejects U.S. plan for Palestinian state.
In a direct challenge to President Barack Obama's commitment to rejuvenate moribund Mideast peace talks, Israel on Thursday dismissed American-led efforts to establish a Palestinian state and laid out new conditions for renewed negotiations.
Leaders of Israel's hawkish new government told former Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell, the special U.S. envoy, that they aren't going to rush into peace talks with their Palestinian neighbors.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that he would require Palestinians to accept Israel as a Jewish state in any future negotiations - a demand that Palestinians have up to now rejected, Israeli government officials said.
- Raúl Castro: Cuba ready 'to discuss everything' with U.S..
The Cuban government, long the object of a U.S. economic blockade, is prepared to meet with the Obama administration, Cuba's leader said.
"We've told the North American government, in private and in public, that we are prepared, wherever they want, to discuss everything -- human rights, freedom of the press, political prisoners -- everything, everything, everything that they want to discuss," Cuban President Raúl Castro said Thursday at a summit of leftist Latin American leaders in Venezuela.
- US mulls asylum for Haitian immigrants: Clinton.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Thursday the United States was considering granting temporary asylum to illegal Haitian immigrants, thousands of whom face imminent expulsion.
"We are looking carefully at the policy which we inherited and we are going to be considering how best (for those) who are here to continue to have those resources," Clinton told reports in Haiti's teeming capital Port-au-Prince.
"But at the same time, we don't want to encourage other Haitians to make the dangerous journey across the water."
Torture and Prosecution News
- After prosecutors urged case be dropped, Spanish Judge wants to keep Gitmo case alive:
A Spanish judge moved Friday to keep alive an investigation into six former Bush administration officials for alleged torture of prisoners at the U.S. detention camp for terrorism suspects at Guantanamo Bay. Cuba.
- Spanish prosecutors object to torture indictments, reflecting strong political pressure, but decision will be made by judge.
In Spain, a prosecutors’ review is customary but not binding before starting a case. This one reflected the strong political pressure building to get rid of a lawsuit that appeared unusually ambitious in scope and could complicate relations with the United States, legal experts said.
But the decision on whether to begin a criminal investigation of the six officials will be made by an investigating judge. In this case, that is likely to be Baltasar Garzón, who has ignored opinions of politicians and law enforcement officials before. Spain’s best-known judge, he gained international fame by achieving the arrest of the former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet in London in 1998.
- Report Shows Torture Is Widespread in Iraq.
Published this week in the New England Journal of Medicine, the report examined the causes of death for 60,481 Iraqi civilians killed violently during the first five years of the war, using statistics compiled by Iraq Body Count. The findings are surprising to anyone familiar with the regular headlines from Iraq blaring explosions around the country. Executions with firearms, not bomb blasts, have killed most civilians in Iraq. Researchers say 33% of the victims examined in the study died by execution after abduction or capture. And 29% of those victims had signs of torture on their bodies such as bruises, drill holes or burns. Suicide bombers in cars or on foot were responsible for 14% of the victims in the study, while U.S. airstrikes killed 4%. (See pictures of the aftershock in Iraq and the U.S. from torture allegations at Abu Ghraib.)
- Ex-CIA chiefs slowed ‘torture memos’ release: Four argued that White House would put intelligence operations at risk – Panetta worried about torture lawsuits, wanted more censorship.
Four former CIA directors opposed releasing classified Bush-era interrogation memos, officials say, describing objections that went all the way to the White House and slowed release of the records.
Former CIA chiefs Michael Hayden, Porter Goss, George Tenet and John Deutch all called the White House in March warning that release of the so-called "torture memos" would compromise intelligence operations, current and former officials say. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity in order to detail internal government discussions.
...Panetta told Attorney General Eric Holder and officials in the White House that the administration needed to discuss the possibility that the memos' release might expose CIA officers to lawsuits on allegations of torture and abuse. Panetta also pushed for more censorship of the memos, officials said.
- Sleep Expert "Surprised And Saddened" To Find Research Twisted In Torture Memo.
A British professor whose research on sleep was cited in one of the just-released Bush administration torture memos has expressed outrage that his work was used to justify extreme sleep deprivation, including keeping subjects awake for up to 11 days.
In an interview with TPMmuckraker, James Horne, a leading authority in the field of sleep research, said he was "surprised and saddened" to see Bush officials "misrepresent" his research to argue that such sleep deprivation does not cause serious harm to its subjects.
...He explained the crucial difference between his controlled experiments, in which subjects were under no additional stress, and the CIA's use of sleep deprivation on interrogation subjects.
"As soon as you add in any other stress, any other psychological stress, then the sleep deprivation feeds on that, and the two compound each other to make things far worse. I made that very, very clear," he said. "And there's been a lot of research by others since then to show that this is the case."
As for whether such stress could be considered "harmful," Horne was unequivocal. "I thought it was totally inappropriate to cite my book as being evidence that you can do this and there's not much harm. With additional stress, these people are suffering. It's obviously traumatic," he said. "I just find it absurd."
- Bush memos parallel claim 9/11 mastermind’s children were tortured with insects.
In the memos, released Thursday, the Bush Administration White House Office of Legal Counsel offered its endorsement of CIA torture methods that involved placing an insect in a cramped, confined box with detainees.
...At a military tribunal in 2007, the father of a Guantanamo detainee alleged that Pakistani guards had confessed that American interrogators used ants to coerce the children of alleged 9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed into revealing their father’s whereabouts.
- Middle East reaction to released memos and US failure to prosecute.
Reaction in the Middle East suggested that Mr Obama's effort to build bridges with the Muslim world in the wake of Mr Bush's "war on terror" and conflict in Iraq would be adversely affected.
The Egyptian Organisation for Human Rights in Cairo said the decision would encourage other nations to let abuses pass.
"Obama told us he will hold to account the people who committed a crime or a human rights violation," he said. "So this is a wrong signal to the perpetrators of human rights – especially Third World countries."
- Bush-era interrogations: From waterboarding to forced nudity.
Despite the graphic description of the techniques, the memos at the time concluded that the tactics didn't constitute "cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment," even as Congress was moving to ban such treatment.
...The techniques were: waterboarding; placement inside a confinement box with a nonlethal insect; cramped confinement; sleep deprivation; placement in stress positions; "wall standing," in which the detainee's fingertips would have to support his full body weight as he leaned into a wall; facial slapping; facial holds to keep the head immobile; "walling" or pushing his shoulder blades against a wall constructed in a way that makes loud noises; and the "attention grasp," in which an interrogator pulls the detainee toward him.
...Obama's exemption also appears to contradict a prime tenet of the Nuremberg prosecutions of former top Nazis after World War II. The Nuremberg Principle IV says: "The fact that a person acted pursuant to order of his government or of a superior does not relieve him from responsibility under international law, provided a moral choice was in fact possible to him."
- In quotes: George W. Bush on torture.
"I'm aware our national security team met on this issue. And I approved ... I told the country we did that. And I also told them it was legal. We had legal opinions that enabled us to do it." President Bush in an interview with ABC about interrogation tactics used on detainees in April 2008
- CIA Director Asked to Preserve Secret Prisons.
Lawyers for a Guantanamo detainee who claims he was held and tortured in one of the "black site" secret prisons run by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency is demanding that the CIA preserve cells and interrogation paraphernalia there as evidence of mistreatment.
Military and civilian counsel to Abd Al-Rahim Hussain Mohammed al-Nashiri sent a letter to CIA Director Leon Panetta requesting that the CIA "black site" buildings, interrogation cells, prisoner cells, shackles, waterboards and other equipment be preserved for inspection and documentation.
...Al-Nashiri, who is now detained at Guantánamo, was held in the secret CIA prison facilities from 2002 to 2006. While President Obama has ordered the closure of CIA black sites, al-Nashiri’s attorneys are concerned that the CIA intends to destroy the sites, including the buildings and the equipment used to interrogate and torture al-Nashiri and other detainees. They say that would amount to destroying evidence of his mistreatment.
- From insects to waterboarding: 10 'torture' techniques blessed by Bush.
These ten techniques are: (l) attention grasp, (2) walling, (3) facial hold, (4) facial slap (insult slap), (5) cramped confinement, (6) wall standing, (7) stress positions, (8) sleep deprivation, (9) insects placed in a confinement box, and (10) the waterboard.
- Footnote to 2005 OLC memo reveals waterboarding used ‘with far greater frequency than initially indicated.’
But a footnote to a 2005 memo made it clear that the rules were not always followed. Waterboarding was used "with far greater frequency than initially indicated" and with "large volumes of water" rather than the small quantities in the rules, one memo says, citing a 2004 report by the C.I.A.’s inspector general.
- Scarborough: Torture Opponents Want "Washington DC And Los Angeles To Be Obliterated By A Nuclear Blitz".
He ended up by calling for an honest (kind of) debate: "If you'd like Washington DC and Los Angeles to be obliterated by a nuclear blitz [rather than permitting the use of waterboarding], I respect your opinion."
- British intelligence fear prosecution over US torture memos.
Fresh revelations about the CIA’s torture techniques have thrown the spotlight on British intelligence, which gained valuable insight into terror networks from confessions extracted by American officers. They have raised further fears that British agents could be prosecuted for their indirect role in the abuse of detainees.
Documents declassified last night by the Obama Administration - four US Justice Department memos authorising "harsh interrogation" - show that the CIA based more than 3,000 intelligence reports on the questioning of "high-value" terror suspects between September 11 2001 and April 2003.
They were sanctioned by US government lawyers during the Bush presidency and MI5 and MI6 would have had access to huge amount of such material.
The newly released memos show that the majority of these reports - some of which would have been passed to the British as part of intelligence-sharing arrangements between the two countries - came "from detainees subjected to enhanced interrogation techniques".
- Newly released OLC memo inadvertently reveals the name of a ‘ghost detainee.’
In January, 2004, then-President Bush announced to the press that the U.S. had just captured a man named Hassan Ghul in Iraq, who Bush said "reported directly to Khalid Sheik Mohammad." The Bush administration told the 9/11 Commission that Ghul was in "U.S. custody," but his whereabouts were never revealed and the CIA "never acknowledged holding him." ProPublica reports, however, that one of the recently released OLC memos reveals that Ghul was held and abused by the CIA.
- Torture: Holding America to account.
On balance Mr Obama may also be right to assure CIA personnel that they will not face prosecution if they carried out their work in good faith based on the old legal advice. But an essential part of the rule of law is that those who break it must be answerable for their actions. The Bush administration crossed a fateful threshold after 9/11. Its officials, including its lawyers, must be accountable for that. It is understandable that Mr Obama does not want his first term to be dominated by a reliving of the past. Yet America will only ensure it does not embrace torture again by getting to the bottom of why it did so this time. A full congressional inquiry is in order, as Speaker Pelosi has hinted. One way or another, those who ordered the abuses, from the president and vice-president down, must answer for them.
- Arctic ice is thinner than ever according to new evidence from explorers.
A lack of thicker ice suggests that ice formed more than a year ago has either moved to a different part of the ocean or melted away meaning the ice cover will be even further reduced this summer.
...So far the thickest measurements has been 3.75 metres but most are around half that. First year ice is generally thinner than 2 metres and older multiyear ice is generally thicker than 3 metres.
- Across the United States, Waters in Crisis.
Over the last years, up to 60 percent of lakes, rivers, streams, and drinking water sources across the United States have lost crucial environmental protections at the hands of polluters, developers, and the U.S. Supreme Court.
...Supreme Court decisions in 2001 and 2006, and subsequent agency policies by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Army Corps of Engineers put in place in 2003 and 2007, shattered the fundamental framework of the Clean Water Act. Today, many important waters - large and small - are being stripped of critical protections against pollution and destruction. These waters not only serve as valuable wildlife habitat, store flood water, return water to aquifers, and filter pollutants, but they also provide some or all of the supply for drinking water systems serving roughly 111 million Americans. The floodgates are now open for polluters to use the chaotic legal state to thwart enforcement and clean up efforts, and actively pollute the waters where we fish, swim, boat, and drink.
- Earth's temperature 8th-warmest on record so far in 2009.
The Earth's temperature from January-March 2009 was the 8th-warmest on record, according to data released Thursday from the National Climatic Data Center in Asheville, N.C. The global temperature of 55.04 degrees for the year's first three months was almost a full degree above the 20th-century average of 54.1 degrees.
This continues a decades-long trend of warmer-than-average temperatures. If the warming pattern persists throughout the remainder of the year, it will mark the 33rd consecutive year of above-average global temperatures. The Earth's temperature record dates back to 1880.
- New study warns damage to forests from climate change could cost the planet its major keeper of greenhouse gases.
The critical role of forests as massive "sinks" for absorbing greenhouse gases is "at risk of being lost entirely" to climate change-induced environmental stresses that threaten to damage and even decimate forests worldwide, according to a new report released today. The report will be formally presented at the next session of the United Nations Forum on Forests (UNFF) taking place 20 April-1 May 2009 at the UN Headquarters in New York City.
..."We normally think of forests as putting the brakes on global warming, but in fact over the next few decades, damage induced by climate change could cause forests to release huge quantities of carbon and create a situation in which they do more to accelerate warming than to slow it down," said Risto Seppälä, a professor at the Finnish Forest Research Institute (Metla) and Immediate Past President of IUFRO, who chaired the expert panel that produced the report.
- Court blocks Bush-era Alaska offshore drilling.
A three-judge panel in Washington found that the Bush-era Interior Department failed to consider the effect on the environment and marine life before it began the process in August 2005 to expand an oil and gas leasing program in the Beaufort, Bering, and Chukchi seas.
The appeals court ordered the department, now run by President Barack Obama's appointee Ken Salazar, to analyze the areas to determine environmental risks and potential damage before moving ahead with the program.
- Wetlands restoration touted re carbon credit market at panel discussion on climate change.
Wetlands restoration was touted as a lucrative way to enter the burgeoning carbon credit market Wednesday evening at a panel discussion on climate change.
Going beyond the direct environmental benefits and job-creation opportunities posed by multi-million dollar wetland restoration projects currently in the works, panelist and wetlands expert Sarah Mack said the immense carbon-saving value of restoring Louisiana's coastline can make the state a powerful player in the European and, prospectively, American carbon trading markets.
- As bears die, hunters and climate change blamed.
Hunters are killing grizzly bears in record numbers around Yellowstone National Park, threatening to halt the species' decades-long recovery just two years after it was removed from the endangered species list.
Driving the bloodshed, researchers say, is the bear's continued expansion across the 15,000-square-mile Yellowstone region of Montana, Idaho and Wyoming.
Bears are being seen - and killed - in places where they were absent for decades. And with climate change suspected in the devastation of one of the bear's food sources, there is worry the trend will continue as the animals roam farther afield in search of food.
- Global Warming Study: Nations Need to Cut Emissions by 70 Percent.
The threat of global warming can be significantly lessened if nations cut emissions of heat-trapping greenhouse gases by 70 percent this century, according to a new study. This would help reduce the most dangerous aspects of climate change including massive losses of Arctic sea ice and permafrost and significant sea level rise, although global temperatures will still rise.
- US power company to tap solar energy in space: Orbiting solar farms will be commercially viable within next seven years, says group.
A leading American power company is hoping to turn science fiction into reality by supporting a project to set up solar panels in outer space and beam the electricity generated back to Earth.
...The firm, Solaren Corp, says it will launch solar panels into orbit and then convert the power generated into radio-frequency transmissions, which will be beamed back down into a depot in Fresno, California. The energy would then be converted into electricity and fed into the regular power grid, PG&E said.
Although spacecraft and satellites routinely use solar panels, the project marks the first serious attempt to take advantage of the powerful and near-constant supply of sunshine in space.
- Changing Climate May Lead To Devastating Loss Of Phosphorus From Soil.
Crop growth, drinking water and recreational water sports could all be adversely affected if predicted changes in rainfall patterns over the coming years prove true, according to research published in April in Biology and Fertility of Soils.
Dr Martin Blackwell who is one of the project leaders said: "Our preliminary results show that despite best efforts, the changing climate may limit our ability to mitigate phosphorus losses at certain times of the year, especially summer.
"This is really worrying because high phosphorus concentrations in surface waters can lead to harmful algal blooms which can be toxic, cause lack of oxygen during their decay and disrupt food webs. This can also affect the quality of water for drinking and result in the closure of recreational water sport facilities."
- The Biofuel Bubble: A horde of startups have smart ideas. But the challenges are many, and the winners likely will be Shell, BP, DuPont, and other majors. (video at link)
It's a bold vision: Replace billions of gallons of gasoline not with ethanol from corn or other food crops but with biofuels made from plants, such as prairie grass in Tennessee pastures or algae percolating in Florida. Such a move would slash dependence on oil, create thousands of jobs, and reduce emissions that contribute to global warming. In the U.S., the idea has powerful political support. Congress has decreed that the country must be using 21 billion gallons of "advanced" biofuels a year by 2022. Washington is backing that goal with tax breaks, loan guarantees, and scores of millions of dollars in grants, with more support expected in upcoming energy bills. These inducements and the vast potential market have stimulated investments of more than $3 billion and spawned a new industry.
- Pelosi Calls for Probe Into Financial Crisis.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is calling for a congressional commission to investigate the causes of the U.S. financial crisis, a spokesman for the California Democrat said.
Speaking to the Commonwealth Club of California, Ms. Pelosi said Wednesday she had spoken to Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner about creating a panel modeled after the Pecora Commission, which studied the 1929 stock market crash. The Pecora Commission eventually helped pave the way for Securities Act of 1933 and the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 and the creation of the Securities and Exchange Commission in 1935.
- Card Issuers Face New Scrutiny As Credit Executives Are Summoned To White House.
Under pressure for questionable industry practices, top executives of 14 of the nation's largest credit card companies are heading to the White House on Thursday for a meeting with senior administration officials.
The executives plan to talk about their efforts to increase transparency and help the economy, according to an industry official and a Capitol Hill aide, both of whom spoke on condition of anonymity because the meeting has not been announced.
The credit card industry has been under intense scrutiny in the past year for practices such as arbitrarily raising interest rates, charging excessive fees and giving customers little time between billing them and requiring payment.
- CBO: Income inequality gap hit record high in 2006 of top incomes 23 times higher than middle class..
Top incomes continued climbing in the 1990s, to 20.6 times higher than the middle fifth of households in 2000 and 21.3 times higher in 2005. By 2006, top incomes were 23.0 times higher than those of the middle fifth — nearly tripling the income gap between the top 1 percent and those in the middle since 1979.
The gap between the top 1 percent and the poorest fifth of Americans widened even more dramatically over this same period. In 1979, the incomes of the top 1 percent were 22.6 times higher than those of the bottom fifth. Top incomes continued climbing to 63.1 times higher in 2000 and 72.7 times higher by 2006 — more than tripling the rich-poor gap in 27 years.
Civil Rights News
- Hate Crime Bill Might Make Md. A Pioneer Protecting Homeless.
Maryland would become the first state to list the homeless as a class protected from hate crimes under legislation that is headed to Gov. Martin O'Malley's desk.
Advocates called the law a symbolic and practical victory in the absence of similar protections in federal law and spoke of the often vicious crimes against the homeless. The D.C. Council is considering similar legislation. Maine gives judges discretion in sentencing for crimes against the homeless, and Alaska includes them in its vulnerable victims statute. A conviction in Maryland for a violent crime will carry an additional sentence of up 20 years and a $20,000 fine.
- Peoria gays react to unwelcome sign.
In bright yellow capital letters, the sign on the karaoke bar in downtown Peoria was clear: "WE ARE NOT A GAY BAR!!"
The local gay community got the message. And it apparently was just the rallying cry it needed.
In a flurry of forwarded Facebook, MySpace and text messages, a coalition quickly mobilized and dozens of gay rights supporters lined up last weekend outside The Elbo Room to express their outrage. The sign, they said, might as well have read, "Gays are not welcome here."
- In Iowa, bride and groom could be Party A and Party B.
Brides and grooms could become "Party A" and "Party B" under new marriage license applications and certificate of marriage forms released Friday by the Iowa Department of Public Health.
The forms were changed to be gender neutral in an effort to comply with the April 3 Iowa Supreme Court decision that effectively legalized same-sex marriage.
The decision overturned a 1998 state law limiting marriage to heterosexual couples.
Human Rights News
- Afghan law does not allow rape, cleric backer says, just allows starving women who deny sex.
A new Afghan law that has drawn Western condemnation for restricting women's rights does not allow marital rape as its critics claim, but lets men refuse to feed wives who deny them sex, the cleric behind it says.
Ayatollah Mohammed Asef Mohseni's Shi'ite personal status law sparked controversy abroad because of a provision that "a wife is obliged to fulfill the sexual desires of her husband."
This was read by some as an open door to marital rape, and together with clauses restricting women's freedom of movement denounced as reminiscent of harsh Taliban-era rules.
The law has been criticized by Western leaders with troops fighting in Afghanistan, including U.S. President Barack Obama, who called it "abhorrent."
- Women protesters against 'marital rape' law spat on and stoned in Kabul.
A group of Afghan women who braved an enraged mob yesterday to protest against an "abhorrent" new Afghan law had to be rescued by police from a hail of stones and abuse.
The protest by about 200 women, unprecedented in recent Afghanistan history, was directed at the Shia Family Law passed last month by the Afghan parliament which appears to legalise marital rape and child marriage.
The rally, staged by mostly young women with their faces exposed, was a highly inflammatory act of defiance in a country as conservative as Afghanistan. It provoked a furious reaction from local men and a rapidly expanding mob threatened to swamp the demonstrators as they tried to approach the Afghan parliament.