||Last Updated: May 13th, 2010 - 12:39:49
Skinhead Pleads Guilty to Obama Assassination Plot
A White power skinhead from Tennessee has pleaded guilty to charges of conspiring to carry out a killing spree targeting African Americans, including then-presidential candidate Barack Obama. Daniel Cowart said he had plotted with a man from Arkansas to carry out a racially motivated plot to murder dozens of people. He said he had planned to culminate the attacks by assassinating Obama. Under terms of a plea agreement, Cowart faces between ten and seventy-five years in prison.
|Daniel Cowart pleaded guilty in plot to kill African Americans, including then presidential candidate Barack Obama.
Michigan-based Christian Military Accused of Plotting War Against Federal Gov’t
A ninth member of a Michigan-based Christian militia has been arrested as part of an alleged plot to spark a war against the federal government. The Justice Department has accused the members of the Hutaree militia of planning on killing a law enforcement officer and then bombing the funeral procession. On Monday, the ex-wife of the alleged militia leader, David B. Stone, spoke to the media.
Donna Stone: “He’s got a temper. He can get radical, and he wants things done his way. One way or another, they will get done his way is the way he looks at everything.”
Reporter: “And are they using weapons? Are they using bombs?”
Donna Stone: “I can honestly say I have seen weapons, but I’ve never seen bombs at David’s house.”
Malcolm X Assassin Granted Parole
The lone person to confess to killing Malcolm X has been granted parole 45 years after the murder. Thomas Hagan has been jailed since February 21st, 1965, when he and several others shot Malcolm X as he spoke before a packed audience in Harlem’s Audubon Ballroom. Hagan has been on work release for more than 20 years, but has still been required to spend two days a week in a Manhattan
ACORN to Cease Existence as National Organization
The anti-poverty group ACORN has announced it’s shutting down as a national organization. ACORN says a sharp decline in funding will force its remaining local chapters to close their doors at the end of the month. ACORN has been embroiled in legal and financial difficulty since last year’s release of videos appearing to show staffers offering advice to two right-wing activists posing as a pimp and a prostitute. The videos helped fuel a new right-wing campaign against ACORN, which has long been targeted for its work helping low-income Americans with voter registration, tax problems and foreclosures. Congress vote to defund ACORN last year, only to have the move ruled unconstitutional. A number of large chapters, including ACORN New York and California, have already broken off from the national group. Another offshoot formerly known as ACORN Housing will continue its work advising low-income homeowners under the name of Affordable Housing Centers of America.
NYT Admits Errors in Reporting on ACORN Controversy
The New York Times, meanwhile, has admitted to making errors in its reporting on the ACORN scandal. Public Editor Clark Hoyt says the New York Times mistakenly reinforced some of the falsehoods of the right-wing activists who tried to discredit ACORN with the undercover video. Hoyt says the right-wing activists falsely gave the impression they were dressed in outlandish costumes when they visited ACORN offices. He also said video transcripts contradict claims that ACORN staffers appeared to endorse talk of using underage girls as prostitutes. Instead, ACORN staffers appeared to believe they were discussing a plan to protect the girls from an abusive pimp. Hoyt issued his findings in response to a complaint from the group Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting.
LA Police Officers Fatally Shoot Unarmed Autistic Man
The American Civil Liberties Union is calling on the Los Angeles Police Department to review its policies following the fatal shooting of an unarmed autistic man, Steven Eugene Washington. The officers say they thought Washington was pulling out a weapon from his waistband area, but he turned out to be unarmed.
Unemployment Rate Increases in 27 States
In economic news, the unemployment rate increased in twenty-seven states last month. Florida, Nevada, Georgia and North Carolina set record levels of joblessness in February. Fifteen states had unemployment of ten percent or higher.
Obama Makes 15 Recess Appointments
In news from Washington, President Obama has sidestepped the Senate confirmation process and made fifteen recess appointments. The appointees include former AFL-CIO official Craig Becker, who was named to a seat on the National Labor Relations Board. Becker’s appointment comes one month after two Democratic senators, Ben Nelson and Blanche Lincoln, joined with Republicans to block his nomination. Under the Constitution, the President has the authority to fill vacancies without the consent of the Senate when Congress is not in session.
KBR, Halliburton Withdraw Challenge to Rape Suit
The military contractors Halliburton and KBR have withdrawn an appeal asking the Supreme Court to block a lawsuit by a former employee who says she was raped by co-workers in Iraq. Jamie Leigh Jones sued Halliburton and its former subsidiary KBR over claims she was drugged and gang-raped by co-workers in Baghdad. Jones also accused the company of keeping her in a shipping container without food or water for at least twenty-four hours after the alleged crime took place. Halliburton and KBR had long maintained Jones’ contract requires claims to be settled through arbitration, not trial. But the companies now say they’ve withdrawn their appeal to avoid violating a recent congressional measure protecting employees who bring cases similar to Jones’.
Lawsuit Filed over Secretive Prison Units
The Center for Constitutional Rights is filing a lawsuit challenging the legality of the government’s use of secretive prison units known as Communication Management Units, or CMUs. The units are designed to severely restrict prisoner communication with family members, the media and the outside world. Alexis Agathocleous is an attorney at the Center for Constitutional Rights.
Alexis Agathocleous: “In 2006 and ’07, the Federal Bureau of Prisons secretly opened two experimental prison units which impose extraordinary restrictions on communications. For example, there is a categorical ban on any physical contact with family during family visits, including with young children. CMU prisoners aren’t told what led to their transfers to the CMU, nor do they have any meaningful review process. And predictably, this secrecy has led to an unchecked pattern a designations that have no basis in real evidence, but instead are discriminatory and retaliatory. So two-thirds of the prisoners at the CMU are Muslim. That’s a thousand percent overrepresentation over the national average, while others simply have unpopular political views.”
Judge Blocks NYC from Closing 19 Public Schools
A New York state judge has blocked New York City from closing nineteen public schools. In her ruling, the judge said the Panel for Education Policy committed “significant violations of Education Law” and “appeared to trivialize the whole notion of community involvement in decisions regarding the closing or phasing out of schools.” Under Mayor Mike Bloomberg, ninety-one schools in the city have been closed and replaced with clusters of smaller schools and charter schools. The lawsuit to block the school closings was filed by the United Federation of Teachers and the NAACP.
ICE Set Quotas to Deport More Undocumented Immigrants
The Washington Post reports US immigration authorities have set controversial new quotas for agents to deport more undocumented workers. The head of ICE detention and removal operations, James Chaparro, outlined the plan in a recent memo. He wrote that ICE is on pace to deport about 310,000 immigrants for the year ending September 30, well below ICE’s goal of 400,000 deportations a year. In the memo, Chaparro said ICE will increase the number of overall deportations by increasing detention space to hold more undocumented immigrants, by sweeping prisons to find more candidates for deportation, and by launching a so-called “surge” in efforts to catch undocumented immigrants whose only violation was lying on immigration or visa applications or reentering the United States after being deported. The moves outlined in the memo differ from public pledges by Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano to focus enforcement on the most dangerous undocumented immigrants. Deportations of convicted criminals climbed 19 percent in 2009 and are on pace to climb 40 percent this year. Joan Friedland of the National Immigration Law Center criticized the ICE memo, saying quotas will encourage agents to target easy cases, not the ones who pose the greatest safety risk.
Duncan Kept List For VIP Admission to Select Chicago Public Schools
When President Obama’s Education Secretary, Arne Duncan, was the head of Chicago’s Public Schools, his office kept a list of powerful, well-connected people who asked for help getting certain children into the city’s best public schools. The list—long held confidential—was disclosed this week by the Chicago Tribune.
The paper reports that the nearly 40 pages of logs show admissions requests from twenty-five aldermen, Mayor Daley’s office, the state House Speaker, the state attorney general, the former White House social secretary, and a former United States senator. The log noted “AD”—initials for Arne Duncan—as the person requesting help for ten students and a co-requestor about forty times.
A spokesman for Duncan denied any wrongdoing and said Duncan used the list, not to dole out rewards to insiders, but to shield principals from political interference.
Duncan was chief executive of the Chicago schools, the nation’s third-largest school system, from 2001 to 2009. During that time, he oversaw implementation of a program known as Renaissance 2010. The program’s aim was to close sixty schools and replace them with more than 100 charter schools. Now as President Obama’s Education Secretary, Duncan is overseeing a push by the administration to aggressively expand charter schools across the country.
Congress Approves Final Healthcare Provisions
Congress has approved a package of final changes to the landmark healthcare overhaul. The House of Representatives put the finishing touches on the bill after the Senate approved the package on a 56-43 vote. At a rally in Iowa, President Obama dared Republicans to try to repeal the new law. Obama’s speech in Iowa was interrupted when a member of the audience yelled out, “What about the public option?”
President Obama: “That’s the basic aspects of reform.”
Audience Member: “What about the public option?”
President Obama: “That’s not in it.”
Audience Member: “Why not?”
President Obama: “Because we couldn’t get it through Congress, that’s why. So they—but let’s—there’s no need to shout, young man. No need to shout. Thirty-two people—32 million people are going to have health insurance because of this legislation. That’s what this work is about.”
Sen. Sanders Praises Expansion of Primary Healthcare
In the Senate, independent Bernie Sanders of Vermont joined Democrats in voting for the bill. After reiterating his support of a single-payer, Medicare-for-all system, Sanders praised the healthcare reform legislation, saying it would revolutionize primary healthcare in America.
Sen. Bernie Sanders: “This legislation provides enough funding so that we are going to create over the next five years 8,000 new health center sites, more than doubling the number that now exists. We are going to increase access for primary healthcare, dental care, mental health counseling, and low-cost prescription drugs to an additional 20 million Americans in every state, in every region of this country. That is a huge step forward in providing basic healthcare to millions of Americans who today cannot access that care.”
Student Loan Package Passed in Congress
As part of the healthcare package, lawmakers have approved an overhaul of the college student loan program, ending federal subsidies to private lenders. The measure ends the 45-year-old Federal Family Education Loan Program, which has supported private student lending with federal subsidies. The projected $61 billion in savings over ten years would be used to provide federal grants to needy students and help fund other federal education programs, such as support for community colleges and historically black schools. LA Police Officers Fatally Shoot Unarmed Autistic Man
Court Strikes Down Restrictions on Media Ownership
A federal court has lifted a key set of government rules aimed at curbing media consolidation in the United States. On Tuesday, the US Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit struck down the Federal Communications Commission’s ban on companies from owning both a newspaper and a television or radio station in the same market. The media reform group Free Press urged the FCC to respond to the ruling, saying, “Evidence suggests that merging newspaper and broadcast newsrooms hurts jobs and journalism. We hope the FCC will take decisive action to protect media diversity and to encourage competition in local news.”
Judge: Miss. School Board Violated Rights of Lesbian Teen in Prom Denial
A federal judge has ruled a lesbian Mississippi high school student’s constitutional rights were violated when she was barred from bringing her girlfriend to her prom. Constance McMillen, an eighteen-year-old senior at Itawamba Agricultural High School, has challenged a school policy preventing her from bringing her girlfriend as her date and also wearing a tuxedo. The school ended up canceling the prom rather than face the possibility that McMillen would prevail. The court’s decision won’t come in time to revive the canceled prom, but it means the case will go to trial. A group of parents at McMillen’s school have organized a private prom but have also barred her attendance.
Pope Faces Increasing Criticism in Sexual Abuse Scandals
The New York Times is reporting when the current Pope was a cardinal, he was kept more closely apprised of a sexual abuse case in Germany than previous Church statements have suggested. In 1980, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger was copied on a memo that informed him that a priest would be returned to pastoral work within days of beginning psychiatric treatment to overcome pedophilia. The priest was later convicted of molesting boys in another parish. Meanwhile, in another sexual abuse case, the Vatican has strongly defended its decision not to defrock the Wisconsin-based priest Father Lawrence Murphy, who molested as many 200 deaf boys. Internal documents show Vatican officials, including the future Pope, knew of the allegations but were most concerned with protecting the Church’s image. On Thursday, Gigi Budzinski, said her father was one of the deaf boys who was molested by Father Murphy.
Gigi Budzinski: “He hopes they do something. I believe somebody should be punished for this. His innocence was stolen from him, his childhood. He was very depressed. He was not happy. He couldn’t enjoy his childhood. Everything was stolen from him. And now he’s sixty-one years old, and he’s still fighting for this.”
Details Emerge about 2002 Death in CIA Secret Prison
The Associated Press has uncovered new details about an Afghan man who died while in a secret CIA prison known as the Salt Pit. The man, Gul Rahman, died three weeks after being detained in Afghanistan. He was found dead on November 20, 2002, after being left in his cold cell shackled and half-naked. It remains uncertain whether any intelligence officers have been punished as a result of Rahman’s death. The CIA’s then-station chief in Afghanistan was promoted after Rahman’s death, and the officer who ran the prison went on to other assignments, including one overseas. Rahman’s family repeatedly pressed International Red Cross officials about his fate, but the US never disclosed information about his death.
Postal Service Wants to End Saturday Mail Delivery
And the US Postal Service says it wants to end Saturday mail delivery by early next year as part of a wide-ranging plan to save billions of dollars. The Postal Service is also considering a proposal to eliminate the equivalent of 40,000 full- and part-time jobs, about eight percent of the current workforce.
GOP Spent Nearly $2,000 in Party Funds at Bondage-Themed Nightclub
In political news, the Republican National Committee is coming under intense scrutiny after it was revealed the RNC had spent nearly $2,000 in party funds at a topless bondage-themed nightclub in West Hollywood. The money was spent at a club called Voyeur, where scantily clad performers are said to play out bondage and sadomasochistic scenes. The conservative Christian group Concerned Women for America said it was dismayed. In a statement, the group’s leader Penny Nance asked Republicans, “Did you really swill drinks, ogle young girls and plan party business at this kind of establishment? Please explain!”
Ten Young Mexican Students Killed at Drug Cartel Checkpoint
Ten Mexican students were killed on Sunday after stopping at a checkpoint run by drug traffickers in the state of Durango. The dead included three girls, ages eight, eleven and thirteen; the rest were all teenagers except for a twenty-one-year-old. The students were on their way to receive government scholarships as part of a federal program called “Opportunities” that supports low-income students. The killings are believed to have been carried out by the Zetas, one of the largest drug cartels in Mexico. The Zetas was formed by former Mexican soldiers who were trained by the United States in the mid-1990s at the School of the Americas in Fort Benning, Georgia.
Israel to Allow First Shipment of Clothes to Gaza in Nearly Three Years
For the first time in almost three years, Israel will soon allow a shipment of clothes and shoes to be delivered to Palestinians living in Gaza. Palestinian officials said ten truckloads are scheduled to arrive on Thursday. Israel has imposed a severe blockade on Gaza since June 2007 in defiance of the international community. Human rights groups have described the blockade as a form of collective punishment.
US Admits Innocent Afghans Killed at Checkpoints
Meanwhile, military officials in Kabul have admitted US and NATO troops have killed thirty Afghans and wounded eighty others at or near military checkpoints since last summer. In no instance did the victims prove to be a danger to troops. In a recent video conference, military commander Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal said, “We have shot an amazing number of people, but to my knowledge, none has ever proven to be a threat."
Google Closes Search Engine in China
The internet giant Google has closed its online search engine in China just two months after threatening to leave over censorship and cyber attacks from local hackers. Google is now directing Chinese users to an uncensored search engine based in Hong Kong. Most other Google operations will continue to operate in China.
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