||Last Updated: Nov 16th, 2012 - 16:24:30
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Thousands Rally in Chicago Teachers’ Strike, Pushing Back Against Corporatized Education Reform
School remains out in Chicago as public school teachers there continue their first strike in 25 years. Almost 30,000 teachers and their support staff have walked out over reforms sought by the city’s powerful mayor, Rahm Emanuel, who is President Obama’s former chief of staff. The teachers’ union called the strike Sunday night after months of negotiations failed to resolve demands for pay raises, better classroom conditions, job security and evaluations. On Monday, over 10,000 teachers, parents, students marched in the streets of President Obama’s hometown. Many called on Obama to get involved. This is teacher Michele Timble:
|Chicago teachers rally for better work conditions and schools.
MICHELE TIMBLE: I just think that President Obama needs to be a part of this. We’re his hometown, biggest—third-biggest district in America. And he needs—he’s like this with Rahm, and he needs to get it done. He needs to put some pressure on Rahm and make it happen, get us back in the classrooms. We’d love it if Obama joined us on the picket line, but I’ve got to say, he didn’t show up for the workers, the union workers in Wisconsin, so we’re really hoping that he shows up for us.
Chris Hedges: Dems Owe Chicago Public Teachers Support for "Most Important Labor Action in Decades"
As the Chicago public school teachers’ strike continues, author Chris Hedges says that the strike "is arguably one of the most important labor actions in probably decades." Hedges adds: "If it does not prevail, you can be certain that the template for the attack on the union will be carried out across the country against other teachers’ unions and against the last redoubt of union activity, which is in the public sector, of course — firemen and police." Hedges continues, "It’s always the ruling class that determines the parameters of rebellion and resistance. And the Chicago strike illustrates the bankruptcy of both traditional labor and the Democratic Party. And that’s why the Occupy movement was so important." Hedges is the author, with illustrator Joe Sacco, of the new book, "Days of Destruction, Days of Revolt."
5 More Suspects Indicted in Georgia Militia Plot
A Georgia grand jury has indicted five more suspects — at least four of them former U.S. soldiers — in connection with the killing of a former comrade and his girlfriend to help conceal the existence of a militia they had formed to carry out anti-government attacks. Prosecutors say the soldiers spent $87,000 on guns and bombing materials for a plot that included taking over their base, Fort Stewart; bombing a dam and poisoning the apple crop in Washington state; and ultimately overthrowing the government and assassinating President Obama. The soldiers called themselves F.E.A.R., short for Forever Enduring Always Ready. They are accused of killing former soldier Michael Roark and his 17-year-old girlfriend, Tiffany York, last December in a bid to keep their plans secret. It is the most high-profile case to involve extremism in the U.S. military ranks since neo-Nazi Army veteran Wade Michael Page killed six worshipers at the Oak Creek Sikh temple in Wisconsin and critically wounded three others before being shot dead last month. Four other current or active-duty soldiers have also been charged in the case.
Fired Ohio Election Officials Sue for Reinstatement
Two Ohio election officials fired for trying to extend early voting have filed a federal lawsuit seeking reinstatement at their jobs. The two officials, Thomas Ritchie and Dennis Lieberman, were dismissed last month for moving to extend early voting after Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted, a Republican, announced all counties would follow uniform hours for early voting on weekdays. But since his order only applied during the week, Ritchie and Lieberman moved to expand voting times on the weekend. Critics have said the state’s uneven hours benefit white Republicans, while disenfranchising people of color. President Obama won Montgomery County in 2008. A federal judge struck down Ohio’s effort to prevent early voting the weekend before the election late last month, but Ohio has filed an appeal.
U.S. Deportations Continue at Record Pace Despite Lower Migration
New figures show the United States is on pace to approach the record number of deportations of undocumented immigrants seen last year. The Department of Homeland Security says it has deported 366,000 people with just one month left in fiscal 2012. Nearly 392,000 immigrants were deported in fiscal 2011, despite illegal border crossings of migrants dropping to a 40-year low.
"500 Days": Author Kurt Eichenwald’s New Account of How Bush Admin Ignored Warnings Before 9/11
Newly disclosed documents provide further evidence that the Bush administration ignored repeated warnings about Osama bin Laden’s plans to attack the United States. Writing in the New York Times, journalist and author Kurt Eichenwald reports the Bush administration dismissed a number of warnings of an al-Qaeda attack in the United States beginning in the spring of 2001, instead focusing on Iraq and Saddam Hussein. Eichenwald writes, "the neoconservative leaders who had recently assumed power at the Pentagon were warning the White House that the C.I.A. had been fooled; according to [this] theory, Bin Laden was merely pretending to be planning an attack to distract the administration from Saddam Hussein, whom the neoconservatives saw as a greater threat." Eichenwald reports the Bush administration dismissed a number of warnings of an al-Qaeda attack in the United States beginning in the spring of 2001, instead focusing on Saddam Hussein. In one assessment, Eichenwald writes, "The CIA all but pleaded with the White House to accept that the danger from Bin Laden was real." Some counterterrorism officials were so dismayed with the administration’s response that they discussed seeking a transfer so that others would be blamed when the attack on the United States eventually took place. The suggestion was dismissed because there would not be enough time to train replacements.
KURT EICHENWALD: The way to look at this, is sort of backwards. In 2004, the 9/11 Commission hearings were coming down and saying, "We want to see these presidential daily briefs." And the Bush administration fought releasing them. They finally released the August 6th one, which had the now-infamous headline, "Bin Laden determined to strike U.S." And in her testimony, Condoleezza Rice, the national security adviser at the time, said this was merely a historical document. It was a review of, you know, bin Laden and al-Qaeda and their intents and what they’ve done. And actually, when you read it, that is what it was. And it was also a red herring, because—I can’t say that’s why they released it, but it certainly was convenient, because that document was the only one of the many that had gone out over the previous few months that was historical. All the others were: "There is an attack coming," "There’s an attack coming that’s going to be devastating. There are going to be mass casualties," "There is a terrorist cell in the United States that is plotting to strike," I mean, with a great deal of table pounding. And there was—and I don’t want to keep picking on Secretary Rice, but she did—in that, she did testify, "If we had been made aware that there was an attack coming, we would have done something." Well, they were made aware. And, you know, in the end, what these documents show is that the Bush administration was not at that point prepared to consider al-Qaeda and these kind of non-state terrorist organizations as being a significant threat.
9/11 Responders Get Coverage for Dozens of Cancers
Events are being held across the country today to mark the 11th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. On the eve of the anniversary, federal officials announced first responders and other survivors exposed to toxic compounds from the wreckage at Ground Zero may now be entitled to free cancer treatment for the first time. The U.S. government has added about 50 types of cancer to its list of illnesses covered under the Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act. The law, signed by President Obama last year, was named after New York Police detective James Zadroga, who died in 2006 of a respiratory illness stemming from his work at the World Trade Center site. Zadroga was reported to be the first New York City police officer to die from inhaling toxic dust at Ground Zero. So far, at least 1,000 deaths have been tied to illnesses stemming from the 9/11 attacks.
U.S. Ambassador, 3 Staffers Killed in Libya in Outburst over Anti-Muslim Film
The U.S. ambassador to Libya and three embassy staffers have been killed in an attack on the American consulate in the Libyan city of Benghazi. Christopher Stevens and three aides died of smoke inhalation after an angry mob set fire to the building in protest of an amateur anti-Muslim film produced in the United States. The film also sparked protests in Egypt, where demonstrators scaled the walls of the U.S. embassy in Cairo and burned the American flag. The film, called "Innocence of Muslims," was funded by private donors and made by a director who has called Islam a "cancer."
Obama Talks Drone Strike Criteria, Claims "Due Process"
President Obama has publicly disclosed what he says are his administration’s criteria for carrying out drone strikes and targeted assassinations abroad. Obama spoke to CNN in some of his most extensive comments on the drone attacks to date.
President Obama: "It has to be a target that is authorized by our laws. It has to be a threat that is serious and not speculative. It has to be a situation in which we can’t capture the individual before they move forward on some sort of operational plot against the United States. And this is an example of where I think there’s been some misreporting. Our preference is always to capture, if we can, because we can gather intelligence. But a lot of the terrorist networks that target the United States, the most dangerous ones, operate in very remote regions, and it’s very difficult to capture them. And we’ve got to make sure that, in whatever operations we conduct, we are very careful about avoiding civilian casualties."
Obama’s comments come days after at least 11 civilians were killed in a U.S. drone strike in Yemen, including three children. Obama also told CNN that U.S. citizens are entitled to what he called "due process."
President Obama: "I think there’s no doubt that when an American has made the decision to affiliate himself with al-Qaeda and target fellow Americans, that there is a legal justification for us to try to stop them from carrying out plots. What is also true, though, is that as an American citizen, they are subject to the protections of the Constitution and due process."
Obama made no direct mention of any of the three U.S. citizens killed overseas, including the 16-year-old teenager Abdulrahman al-Awlaki.
Dead Gitmo Prisoner Had Been Cleared for Release, Attempted Suicide
The U.S. military has identified the Guantánamo Bay prisoner who died over the weekend as Adnan Latif, a Yemeni national who had previously attempted suicide multiple times since his imprisonment a decade ago. Latif was at least the ninth foreign prisoner to die at Guantánamo since the United States began jailing foreigners there in 2002. Latif had remained at Guantánamo despite being cleared for release. Appearing on Democracy Now! in June, the British journalist Andy Worthington discussed Latif’s case.
Andy Worthington: "He’s one of these prisoners who was approved for transfer under President George W. Bush in 2006, at the very latest, possibly earlier than that. He was then—had his release approved by Obama’s task force. He won his habeas corpus petition, as well. But because the judges of the D.C. Circuit Court, you know, a bunch of very right-wing judges, I think that — I think that objectively it’s absolutely fair to say that these people are very right-wing, who have been clamping down on the ability of the lower courts to approve the release of Guantánamo prisoners under any circumstances — you know, they reversed the ruling in Latif’s case, and they relied for that on saying that an intelligence report, which they even said was, you know, was produced in haste under battlefield conditions, should be believed."
In a letter released in 2009, Latif wrote: "I have seen death so many times. Everything is over. Life is going to hell in my situation. America, what has happened to you?"
Ex-Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman Speaks Out on Karl Rove, Witch Hunt Hours Before Returning to Jail
Don Siegelman, the former governor of Alabama, returns to federal prison today to resume his six-and-a-half-year sentence on a controversial bribery conviction that has been compared to a political witch hunt. Siegelman and his supporters say he was the target of a plot, in part orchestrated by former Bush administration deputy Karl Rove, for belonging to the Democratic Party in a state with a Republican majority. "No one wants to go to prison for something that is not a crime, and especially one orchestrated by Karl Rove," Siegelman said. "Everyone remembers the eight U.S. attorneys who were fired by Rove during the Bush administration because they would not pursue political prosecutions. Well, the U.S. attorney in Alabama, appointed by Bush, vetted by Rove, pursued a political prosecution." Siegelman has already served over nine months in prison, one month in solitary confinement and three weeks in a maximum security prison. Hours before he reports back to prison to resume his sentence, Siegelman joins us from a hotel room in New Orleans.
UBS Whistleblower Rewarded $104 Million by IRS
The IRS has announced a record $104 million reward to a whistlelower who exposed the biggest tax evasion scheme in U.S. history. Former UBS AG banker Brad Birkenfeld first reported in 2007 that he and his colleagues had encouraged rich Americans to store more than $20 billion in offshore Swiss bank accounts and cheat the IRS. But after coming forward, Birkenfeld was convicted of conspiracy and sentenced to prison. Following Birkenfeld’s release last month, on Tuesday the IRS vindicated his actions with a $104 million award under its whistleblower program. Attorney Dean Zerbe said Birkenfeld has been rewarded for defending U.S. taxpayers.
Dean Zerbe: "This award by the IRS is being made thanks to the information Brad provided, by Brad, that led to over $5 billion and counting in tax payments being made by big banks and wealthy individuals who tried to evade paying their fair share of taxes. These $5 billion in payments were all made thanks to Brad’s willingness to stand up on behalf of honest taxpayers."
U.S. Refuses to Extradite de Lozada, Backs Immunity for Ex-Mexican President
The Obama administration is drawing controversy for siding with two former Latin American leaders in unrelated cases involving the massacres of civilians. The White House has informed Bolivia that it will not extradite former President Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada to face charges over the mass killing of Bolivian protesters in 2003. At least 64 civilians were slain and more than 400 were wounded when the Bolivian military cracked down on protests that sparked an uprising against de Lozada’s government. De Lozada has been indicted in Bolivia but has not been tried because he has been living safely in exile in the United States ever since. On Friday, Bolivian President Evo Morales said the Obama administration had rejected Bolivia’s extradition request on the grounds a civilian leader cannot be tried for a military’s crimes. Morales blasted the decision, calling the United States a "paradise of impunity."
Bolivian President Evo Morales: "The U.S. can’t send a letter saying civil society can’t be responsible for military actions. I reject these claims. I do not agree. This is a pretext for the U.S. to turn into a haven for delinquents, a paradise of impunity. It is easy for us to see that a country that has never respected the dignity and sovereignty of Latin America can’t extradite someone who’s done so much harm to the Bolivian people and works for the American empire."
In a separate move, the U.S. government has filed a court briefing declaring former Mexican President Ernesto Zedillo enjoys immunity from a Connecticut civil suit for alleged war crimes. The suit accuses Zedillo of responsibility for a 1997 massacre in the Chiapas village of Acteal when government-backed paramilitary groups killed 45 people as part of an attempt to quash the Zapatista popular uprising. Zedillo now lives in Connecticut and teaches at Yale University. Lawyers for the plaintiffs say they will be forced to drop the case as a result of Zedillo’s immunity.
Clashes Erupt in Chile for 1973 Coup Anniversary
Clashes have erupted in the Chilean capital of Santiago to mark the 39th anniversary of the U.S.-backed overthrow of President Salvador Allende. On September 11, 1973, Allende died in the presidential palace in the coup that brought Augusto Pinochet to power. On Sunday, Chilean police fired tear gas while protesters commemorating Pinochet’s victims set up barricades and threw Molotov cocktails.
Bahraini Forces Break Up Opposition Protest
Protests are continuing against the U.S.-backed regime in Bahrain in the face of an ongoing crackdown on government opponents. On Friday, Bahraini forces fired tear gas and stun grenades at demonstrators who defied a ban on unauthorized protests. The rally was held to call for the freedom of scores of Bahraini political prisoners after a military court upheld the convictions of 20 activists last week. The demonstrators managed to join together despite government attempts to block them from meeting up in the capital Manama. Bahrain is a key U.S. government ally, hosting the Navy’s Fifth Fleet.
Striking Miners Released from Jail in South Africa
More than 100 striking miners in South Africa have been released from jail after they were arrested following the killings of their colleagues. Dozens of miners were initially charged for the murders despite the fact the victims were in fact shot dead by police. The slain miners were killed more than a week after walking off the job at the Marikana platinum mine in a call for higher pay. Despite their release, many of the miners still face charges and are due to appear in court early next year.
Shell Faces Protests, Delays as Arctic Drilling Begins
Environmental protesters opposed to Shell’s Arctic oil drilling plans stacked a wall of ice blocks in front of an entrance to the company’s London headquarters Tuesday. Some 15 activists from the group Climate Justice Collective participated in the action against Shell, saying its drilling efforts off the coast of Alaska are both taking advantage of and contributing to the problem of receding sea ice. Meanwhile, more naturally occurring sea ice moving into the vicinity of Shell’s Arctic drill rig forced the company to halt its efforts Monday, just one day after it began drilling an exploratory well. The Arctic has seen unprecedented melting rates this summer, with scientists expected to announce a record low for the Arctic sea ice minimum this week.
Palestinians Protest Austerity Measures in West Bank
Clashes broke out in the West Bank on Monday following a week of protests against the Palestinian Authority and the Israeli occupation. Thousands of Palestinians have taken to the streets to denounce austerity measures imposed by the PA in the face of a shortfall of international donations and of ongoing Israeli restrictions. A number of Palestinian taxi and truck drivers went on strike and blocked roads in a protest against a rise in fuel prices.
Israeli Strikes Kill 6 in Gaza
In Israel and the Occupied Territories, six Palestinians have been killed in a pair of Israeli attacks on the Gaza Strip. The victims included three civilians — two of them brothers — struck by an Israeli tank shell. Israel says it was targeting militants planning attacks
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