In my links of the day I try to find the links under the wire, articles all the top blogs miss. I'm not afraid to go to Al Jazeera, Kurd Media or to the Pakistan student movement page to bring the real daily news to you.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Links of the Day 4/12/2008 and Take Action Saturday


Dear ACLU Supporter,

Last week, the ACLU stepped forward. This week, we need you to do the same.

Across the country, the news that the ACLU is actively enlisting some of the top criminal defense lawyers in America to be ready to take part in the defense of several Guantánamo detainees has been greeted with deep respect for our organization’s commitment to justice.

But sadly, not enough people know the truth about the military commissions and the new rules under which our nation plans to prosecute those being held at Guantánamo Bay.

Every American should know that our country is going forward with military commissions that are contrary to the fundamental principles of due process -- a system that allows for the use of evidence obtained through torture, secret evidence and hearsay.

Every American should know -- and you can help us tell them.

Help the ACLU spread the truth about the trials at Guantánamo Bay. Forward this message to five friends.

If we’re going to get the truth out about military commissions that completely betray our nation’s history and its values, we need you and other ACLU supporters to play an active role.

The ACLU is stepping into the fray at Guantánamo Bay because we believe strongly in defending fundamental American values and challenging the government's attempts to change the rules in order to stack the deck in its favor. We cannot stand silently by and witness proceedings that are an affront to fundamental principles of justice and that will disgrace our nation before the world.

It’s during times like this that we have to ask who we are as a nation, what principles we stand for, what actions we will and won’t allow to be carried out in our name. If those principles matter, we must prove that, even when dealing with those accused of committing acts of terror, America remains a nation of laws.

These one-sided, arbitrary proceedings fail any simple test of justice. Help us get the truth out by forwarding this email to your friends.

Habeas corpus was eliminated.

Defendants will not be able to see secret evidence against them.

Hearsay evidence and confessions coerced as a result of torture will be used to convict.

Is this American justice?

Help the ACLU Spread the Truth About the Trials at Guantánamo Bay.

Thank you not just for your ongoing support, but for raising your own voice in opposition to military commissions proceedings that make a mockery of the rule of law.


Anthony D. Romero
Executive Director

P.S. To learn more about our work at Guantánamo, visit our website.

Americans United has several actions you can do today. From College Tuition, gas prices, social security and more.

Without help for College millions of you young people will be forced to work minimum wage your whole lives, with no benefits.

Stop Skyrocketing College Tuition

The Republican leadership has cut $12 billion from the student loan program and at the same time cut $70 billion in taxes for millionaires. It's time for change.

The Corporate world has convinced millions that Unions are bad. Yeah bad for them because with unions you get FAIR WAGES, Health Insurance and paid vacations. Unions are not the reason for job loss in America, greed is. CEO making millions are a year is the reason for job loss.

Protect the Rights of Workers

America's working men and women built this country into the wealthiest society in the world. But lately they've been missing out on the prosperity they helped create. This is not how things are supposed to be. The Employee Free Choice Act would protect employee rights to form unions.

Imagine every penny you paid last year into Social Security gone! POOF, that’s what would have happened if your money had been privatized and invested into the stock market. All of it would be right now in the pockets of the very wealthiest traders on Wall Street.

Protect Social Security: Stop Privatization

Bush and his allies in Congress intend to put privatizing and dismantling Social Security ahead of every other national priority next year including healthcare, education, prescription drug costs and increasing the minimum wage.

So go and TAKE ACTION!

Back in November, 2007 we held the first Fair Elections Action Week to rally support and awareness around the Fair Elections Now Act introduced in the Senate. The legislation brings voluntary full public financing of elections to the U.S. Congress. The week was a success, uniting hundreds of Fair and Clean Elections activists in states around the country.

So we're doing it again! Next week, April 14-18, is Fair Elections Action Week (Part Deux). Click here to find out about events happening in your area.

Public Campaign and our allies around the country are participating in Fair Elections rallies and roundtables, calling lawmakers, and writing letters. We'll be in touch with you throughout the week with ways to get involved.

The Fair Elections Now Act, introduced by Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Arlen Specter (R-PA) and its companion legislation in the House represent our best chance to date to see the Clean Elections public financing programs that have been so successful at the state level be enacted for Congress. In the midst of an election season when campaign fundraising and campaign spending are at an all time high, we need to rally behind legislation that will drastically reduce the influence of special interest money on elections, and put the focus of candidates for federal office back on the voters.

Be sure to check in here to see whether there are events happening in your area during Fair Elections Action Week -- we'll be in touch with other ways to participate next week.

P.S. If you have trouble accessing the link in this email please copy and paste into your browser window.

We all want to bring the troops home and make sure they get the health care they deserve, here’s your chance to help them.

John McCain as a veteran does NOT support the troops.

From The Real McCain people.

Why Won't McCain Sign the GI Bill?

GREAT video here, by Robert Greenwald and Brave New Films, check it out.

WE THE UNDERSIGNED demand that Senator John McCain sign on as a co-sponsor to The Post-9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Act (S.22 & H.R.2702).

Demand McCain co-sponsor the new GI Bill 31,073 signers

Lets get 100,000 signatures, sign the petition then pass it on.

In the words of Senator Jim Webb, "Our nation's men and women in uniform deserve a GI Bill that rewards their service and invests in their future."

If Senator McCain truly cares about the future of our veterans, then he will agree to co-sponsor this bipartisan bill that would provide our post-9/11 veterans with a fully-funded education.

Online Action Center

Demand Release of 15 Tibetan Monks

Demand the release of 15 Tibetan monks who were detained on March 10 for staging a peaceful demonstration in Barkhor, Lhasa, the capital of the Tibetan Autonomous Region. There is no information on their current whereabouts or of any charges brought against them. They are at high risk of torture and other ill treatment.

Sign the petition below to be sent to:

President Hu Jintao
President of the People’s Republic of China
The State Council General Office

True Majority has several actions today too.

Condi Must Go

Just when you think it can't get any worse, the Bush Administration finds a new way to shock the conscience. Yesterday, ABC News reported that Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice chaired explicit White House discussions about which torture techniques should be used on prisoners.

They "were so detailed" that "some of the interrogation sessions were almost choreographed -- down to the number of times CIA agents could use a specific tactic." This is the first time that we have evidence that senior officials, "not only discussed specific plans and specific interrogation methods, but approved them". Given these new revelations, Condoleezza Rice can not continue as Secretary of State.

Sign our Petition demanding that Rice resign.

Co-Sponsor the Responsible Plan

Gen. Petraeus has asked for a "45-day period for consolidation and evaluation to examine the situation on the ground". But we've heard this before. This is really just a request for endless war, forty-five days a time. After five years of an unnecessary war, we're tired of hearing the same rosy projections and shaded facts. We're fed up with the lies and want to bring our troops home.

A group of Congressional candidates have come up with a Responsible Plan to get our nation out of this nightmare, and scores of them have already agreed that if elected they will actually carry out the plan, not just keep holding hearings while continuing the war.

Sign on to the Responsible Plan Today.

Stand with Tibet

You've probably heard about the violence in Tibet. After decades of oppressive rule, the people of Tibet have taken to the streets to air their grievances. Violence is escalating, but the Dalai Lama has offered to meet directly with Chinese leaders to resolve the current crisis.

We urgently need to call on the Chinese government to live up to its obligations by resolving the situation peacefully and open up a direct dialogue with the Dalai Lama. Sign our petition to the Chinese President and make sure he renounces force in resolving the crisis:

Click Here to Add Your Name to our Stand with Tibet Petition


Gus is just 19 years old, and along with two other University of Vermont students he volunteered to drive TrueMajority's newest mobile political message vehicle to 1,500 miles of demonstrations and rallies last week. The vehicle is a 14-foot missile ridden by George Bush (or John McCain, depending on the day); the message is "Don't start a war with Iran!", and the response has been terrific.

It gives me hope to see young people giving so much of themselves to the cause. I'm asking you to give something too so we can keep this message on the road.

Army says: Don't help injured vets

If you're a disabled soldier returning from Iraq or Afghanistan and need a hand filling out the paperwork for your benefits, don't bother asking the Department of Veteran Affairs. They won't help.

That's because last year Army officials instructed representatives from the VA at Fort Drum not to help veterans with their disability paperwork because there was a "conflict of interest." Soldiers that get help from the VA tend to get higher disability ratings...which means that the government owes them more money. And within the Bush administration's corporate worldview, that just doesn't work. After all, there are contractors to pay. Tell the Secretary of the Army Geren that this is not acceptable and sign our petition today.

Secretary Geren: Disabled soldiers should get all the help they need.

Are you already eating cloned meat?

For years, the FDA has asked major cattle cloning companies to keep their products off the market. For years, they've ignored. One Kansas farmer has already come forward and admitted to openly selling semen from prize-winning clones to U.S. meat producers, while another cattleman says that, "This is a fairy tale that this technology is not being used and is not already in the food chain." This is unacceptable. That's why TrueMajority is demanding that Congress pass a law requiring that all products from cloned animals be clearly labeled:

Tell Congress: Cloned animal products should be clearly labeled.

You made a difference in 2007

It's been an exciting year. For starters, TrueMajority has seen its list grow by over 100,000 concerned Americans -- which is more than the population of Green Bay, WI! All while members, like yourself, were busy working on some of the most important issues facing our country. Just take a look at some of the highlights from everything you and your fellow TrueMajority members were a part of in 2007:

Click here to find out what TrueMajority was up to in 2007.

Mercenaries Should Not Be Above the Law

An astounding 120,000 "private security contractors" are currently working in Iraq. And a couple of weeks ago, when Blackwater mercenaries decided to open fire on innocent Iraqi civilians, we learned that these contractors are above the law.

Just yesterday the House overwhelming passed a bill that would make it clear that U.S. law applies to all armed contractors hired for overseas missions. Now it's up to the Senate to follow the House's lead.

Tell your Senators to support accountability for private security contractors in Iraq.

5 Years in Iraq: The Cost of War

George Bush doesn't get it. Unfortunately, he's not alone. Only, 28% of Americans can even estimate the number of soldiers who have died in Iraq. But, True Majority Members know better. We are all-too-painfully aware of the costs of the Iraq War. Thousands of lives lost, billions squandered, and countless missed opportunities.

Look at what other members called the biggest costs of the war and add your own.

It is time for the RICH to be treated just like the poor!

This petition should have a million signatures!

We, the Undersigned, endorse the following petition:

End Racially Biased Drug Laws

Target: U.S. Senate

Momentum to correct a terrible injustice from the Reagan years is building in the U.S. Senate. You can help eliminate a racially biased abuse of our criminal justice system that has been devastating communities across the country for 20 years.

While it takes just five grams of crack cocaine -- about two sugar packets worth -- to receive a five-year mandatory-minimum federal prison sentence, it would take 500 grams of powder cocaine to receive the same sentence. Not only does this disparity create enormous racial inequities in the federal criminal justice system because people of color are disproportionately convicted of crack cocaine offenses, it gives federal law enforcement agencies the incentive to waste taxpayer resources on low-level, nonviolent offenders (generally individuals struggling with addiction) instead of disrupting organized crime.

There is a bill pending right now in the U.S. Senate that would eliminate the crack/powder sentencing disparity, increase funding for drug treatment, and focus federal law enforcement resources on major traffickers instead of simple drug law violators. This bill is called the Drug Sentencing Reform and Cocaine Kingpin Trafficking Act (S. 1711).

Sign the petition today to urge your senators to support S. 1711 to end the sentencing disparity.

Poor China upset again today, the EU has now condemned them too. Awww poor China.

China condemns EU Tibet appeal

7:23 MECCA TIME, 4:23 GMT

China has denounced the European Parliament's call to boycott the opening ceremony of the Summer Olympics if Beijing does not begin talks with the Dalai Lama about Tibet. The denunciation on Saturday was China's latest harsh response to foreign criticism after unrest in Tibet.

The European Parliament, in a non-binding resolution adopted by an overwhelming majority this week, called on European Union leaders to consider "the option of non-attendance" of the opening ceremonies of the Games.

Xinhua news agency quoted Jiang Yu, a Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman, as saying that the European parliamentarians had "rudely interfered in China's internal affairs", "seriously hurt the feelings of the Chinese people", and "confounded black and white".

"The European Parliament turned a blind eye to facts. It did not condemn the Dalai clique who masterminded and organized the violent crimes, but instead emboldened the 'Tibet independence' violence and Dalai's separatist activities," Jiang said.

The Dalai Lama, Tibet's exiled spiritual leader, has rejected claims he orchestrated the violence or the protests, and said he supports the Olympics and opposes a boycott of the Beijing Games.

Torch relay relief

China could breathe a sigh of relief that the latest leg of the Olympic torch relay, marked by protests in Europe, sailed smoothly through the Argentine capital, under heavy guard on Friday.

The march through Buenos Aires encountered nothing more serious than a few tossed water balloons.

The chaos in Paris, where protesters tried to wrestle the flame from the hands of torch bearers, was still a centre of attention in China on Saturday with the publication of an angry commentary in the People's Daily, the Communist Party's mouthpiece.

It focused on an episode from the Paris relay when a wheelchair-bound Chinese torch bearer fended off protesters. The incident has become notorious in China as an example of the rowdy demonstrations.

China's official Xinhua news agency also reeled off a list of foreign leaders who on Friday offered their good wishes for the August Olympics, among them Pervez Musharraf, the Pakistani president, and the leaders of Kazakhstan, Mongolia, Qatar and Tanzania.

Just my opinion but I see nearly a billion people dying around the world from the rise in food prices over the next few years.

Sadly most will be children and elderly people. It doesn’t help when rich people buy commodities on the stock market either, in their quest for the almighty dollar, they are starving people to death.

Food like health care and water is a necessity for life. Without these three things death is sure to come prematurely.

Get out today weather permitting and plant a vegetable garden.

Guess what you can plant right in the topsoil bag if you have limited space. Just cut a round 6 inch hole on the side of the bag and plant a seed. Even I do this method and I live in the country. It keeps weeds, grass and most bugs out.

If you live in the city this method is great on the roof.

Security fears as food prices soar

8:15 MECCA TIME, 5:15 GMT

The head of the UN food agency has said that rising food prices are a threat to security in developing nations, while calling for an increase in funding to address the crisis. The comments by Jacques Diouf, head of the Food and Agriculture Organization [FAO], came after rioting in poor countries over a lack of access to affordable food.

"I'm surprised I have not been summoned to the UN Security Council, since many problems discussed there do not have the same consequences for peace and security in the world and the human rights of people who need to be fed," Diouf said on Friday.

Between $1.2bn and $1.8bn is needed to help ease the crises in developing nations, he said.

An FAO report released this week says that 37 countries were experiencing severe problems in supplying cheap food to their citizens.

Speculation on world food markets is reducing the effectiveness of increased food production, the report said.

Price riots

Riots over rising food prices began in southern Haiti earlier this week and quickly spread to the capital Port-au-Prince.

Tens of thousands of people took to the streets to protest against the food price increases.

Four were killed in the disturbances, while UN peacekeepers used rubber bullets and tear gas to drive away rioters from the presidential palace.

Most Haitians live on less than $2 a day.

Reports suggest some people have turned to eating cookies made of dirt, vegetable oil and salt.

Meanwhile, at least seven people have died in Egypt in riots earlier this week, sparked partly by rises in the price of bread of other foods.

Similar riots have been reported in Burkina Faso, Mauritania, Indonesia and Peru.

Biofuels link

The increased use of grains to produce biofuels, first heralded as a way to cut greenhouse gases, has been blamed for contributing to rises in the cost of basic foods.

A rising demand for food in emerging market economies has further contributed to grain shortages.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has calculated that corn ethanol production in the US accounted for at least half the rise in world corn demand in each of the past three years.


provides a subsidy of $0.51 per gallon to ethanol blenders and imposes a tariff of $0.54 per gallon on imports.

In the European Union (EU), most countries exempt biofuels from some gas taxes and impose an average tariff equal to more than $0.70 per gallon of imported ethanol.

Historic levels

Robert Zoellick, president of the World Bank, said on Thursday that while people in developed nations complained about the high cost of fuel to run their cars, poor people in developing nations were struggling to feed themselves.

"In many developing countries, the poor spend up to 75 per cent of their income on food. When prices of basic foods rise, it hits hard", he said.

"In just two months, rice prices have skyrocketed to near historic levels, rising by around 75 per cent globally and more in some markets - with more to come."

Zoellick said the world needs to recognize that food price inflation is contributing to a growing emergency.

The UN World Food Programme has said it requires $500m just to fill immediate need.

The World Bank says food price inflation is not a short-term phenomenon but will likely persist through 2008 and 2009 before demand slackens due to high prices.

Most people in the world's wealthiest countries take food for granted.

Even the poorest fifth of households in the US spend only 16 per cent of their budget on food.

In contrast, Nigerian families spend 73 per cent of their budgets on eating, Vietnamese 65 per cent, while Indonesians allocate about 50 per cent.

Last year, the food import bill of developing countries rose by 25 per cent as food prices rose to levels not seen in a generation.

Food commodities

World financers have also contributed to the food price problem.

Commodities have attracted investors looking for a safe haven from failing investments in the highly-leverage mortgage sector.

Amid this speculation, world wheat prices rose 70 per cent between 2005 and 2007.

In the same period, corn gained 80 per cent in value, while dairy prices nearly doubled.

A senior UN official has said that global investment funds and the weak dollar are largely to blame for the world's rise in food prices.

"The crisis is a speculative attack and it will last", Jose Graziano, the UN food and farm organization’s regional representative for Latin America and the Caribbean, said.

"The lack of confidence in the [US] dollar has led investment funds to look for higher returns in commodities ... first metals and then foods."

Iraq War 'Blank Check' Balloons

By Jason Leopold
April 11, 2008

Besides demanding Iraq War money with no withdrawal timetables attached, the Bush administration has insisted on another kind of “blank check” – war spending that has more than doubled in four years while evading serious congressional oversight because it’s wrapped in “emergency” appropriations bills – a study says.

The Congressional Research Service reported that the average monthly costs to fund military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan has reached about $12.3 billion, $10 billion for Iraq alone, more than double what it cost to fund the war in 2004.

CRS also noted that nearly all the $516 billion allocated by Congress to fund the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq has come from “emergency” spending bills that deprive Congress of the routine opportunity to scrutinize how the Pentagon spends the money.

Dozens of these “emergency” funding requests have zipped through Congress since 2001 in an unprecedented manner when compared with previous military conflicts, the CRS said. In past wars, the bulk of the spending went through the normal appropriations process.

The Bush administration’s use of emergency supplemental appropriations to fund the five-year-old war in Iraq and the seven-year conflict in Afghanistan may have wasted billions of taxpayer dollars, according to the CRS, an investigative arm of Congress.

“Over 90 percent of [the Defense Department] funds were provided as emergency funds in supplemental or additional appropriations; the remainder were provided in regular defense bills or in transfers from regular appropriations,” said the CRS report, issued in February.

“Emergency funding is exempt from ceilings applying to discretionary spending in Congress’s annual budget resolutions. Some Members have argued that continuing to fund ongoing operations in supplementals reduces congressional oversight.”

Veronique de Rugy, a senior research fellow and budget scholar at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University, said funding the Iraq and Afghanistan wars through emergency legislation is both unusual and troubling because it complicates tracking the real cost.

“While other wars have initially been funded using emergency supplementals, they have quickly been incorporated into the regular budget,” de Rugy said. “Never before has emergency supplemental spending been used to fund an entire war and over the course of so many years.”

De Rugy has just published an article on this topic, “The Trillion-Dollar War,” in the May issue of Reason magazine.

Skyrocketing Costs

The CRS report also questioned the reasons behind the skyrocketing costs for the wars.

“Although some of the factors behind the rapid increase in DOD funding are known — the growing intensity of operations, additional force protection gear and equipment, substantial upgrades of equipment, converting units to modular configurations, and new funding to train and equip Iraqi security forces — these elements” fail to justify the increase, the CRS said.

Furthermore, a $70 billion “placeholder” request included in the fiscal year 2009 budget that the Pentagon says will be used to finance operations in Iraq does not include any details on how the money will be spent “making it impossible to estimate its allocation,” according to the report.

The CRS added that the Pentagon has used these emergency supplemental requests to get Congress to fund equipment and vehicle upgrades that would otherwise come out of the Pentagon’s annual budget.

“Although some of this increase may reflect additional force protection and replacement of ‘stressed’ equipment, much may be in response to [Deputy Secretary of Defense Gordon] England’s new guidance to fund requirements for the ‘longer war’ rather than DOD’s traditional definition of war costs as strictly related to immediate war needs,” the CRS said.

“For example, the Navy initially requested $450 million for six EA-18G aircraft, a new electronic warfare version of the F-18, and the Air Force $389 million for two Joint Strike Fighters, an aircraft just entering production; such new aircraft would not be delivered for about three years and so could not be used to meet immediate war needs,” the CRS said.

The CRS recommended that Congress immediately begin to demand more transparent accounting of the Pentagon’s “emergency” spending in order to prevent any cost-shifting chicanery.

However, in the short term, the Bush administration again is citing imminent budget shortfalls for the troops if Congress doesn’t approve the war funding requests immediately.

On Wednesday, in testimony before the House Armed Services Committee, Gen. Richard Cody, the Army’s vice chief of staff, said the military will soon run out of cash if lawmakers don’t act to approve a $102 billion emergency supplemental spending bill to continue funding military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“We start running out of military pay for our force in June, we start running out of operational dollars that we can flow to the force in early July,” Cody said. “It’s all about time now. Those will be the consequences of not getting the supplemental.”

The CRS and the Government Accountability Office generally accept Cody’s time-frames on the prospective shortfalls, but note that the Pentagon could dip into its budget and transfer other funds to finance operations in Iraq until late September or early October, which would give Congress more time to scrutinize the emergency funding request.

Dire Warnings

These dire warnings from the Bush administration – about troops in a war zone running out of money – have become routine since Democrats won control of Congress in November 2006.

Republican lawmakers and administration officials have said failure by Democrats to pass the emergency spending bills is tantamount to not supporting the troops, rhetoric that has often worked in spooking Democrats into capitulation.

Last year, Defense Secretary Robert Gates threatened to fire more than 200,000 Defense Department employees and contract workers because congressional Democrats balked at approving the administration’s spending package for funding the Iraq War.

The Congressional Budget Office and the GAO told Congress that Gates could tap into the Pentagon’s $471 billion budget to fund the war while Congress continued to debate the merits of giving the White House another “blank check” for Iraq. But the Congress soon blinked.

The Democrats are likely to find themselves in a similar predicament this year, caught between political pressure to “support the troops” and accounting concerns regarding the administration’s financial data.

In a letter to Congress on March 17, the GAO said the $108 billion in war funding that the Pentagon has recently requested is based on “unreliable” financial data and should be considered an “approximation.”

A Pentagon spokesman did not return calls for comment. But a GAO spokeswoman said the DOD has been struggling with “deficiencies in the Pentagon’s financial management system” that contributed to the unreliable data. She would not elaborate.

Some academic studies have projected the total cost of the Iraq War soaring past $2 trillion. However, the Congressional Budget Office said trying to estimate future costs for the war is difficult “because DOD has provided little detailed information on costs incurred to date.”

Investigative reporter Jason Leopold is the author of News Junkie, a memoir. Visit for a preview.

There’s a lot more great article out there today but I want everyone to go out today and make a difference in your community.

You young people are really being screwed by this government and you need to take it back!


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Bush' Way of Bringing the Troops Home

Bush' Way of Bringing the Troops Home
If Not Now When?