Sunday, March 26, 2006

Political links of the week, take 6

[See also: political links of the week take 5, take 4, take 3, take 2, and take 1.]

Once Protected by Hussein, Palestinians Suffer Backlash - an article in the New York Times about hate crimes against Palestinians in Iraq:
The bill of death appeared overnight on Thursday, addressed to "the Palestinian traitors," and the killers were specific in their intent.

"We warn you that we will eliminate you all if you don't leave the area for good within 10 days," the leaflet said. It was signed by a group calling itself the Judgment Day Battalion, and it was scattered in front of the homes of Palestinians in Al Hurriya, a northern Baghdad neighborhood.

Bound, Blindfolded and Dead: The Face of Atrocity in Baghdad - Another article in the New York Times about the current state of Iraq:
Mohannad al-Azawi had just finished sprinkling food in his bird cages at his pet shop in south Baghdad, when three carloads of gunmen pulled up.

In front of a crowd, he was grabbed by his shirt and driven off.

Mr. Azawi was among the few Sunni Arabs on the block, and, according to witnesses, when a Shiite friend tried to intervene, a gunman stuck a pistol to his head and said, "You want us to blow your brains out, too?"

Mr. Azawi's body was found the next morning at a sewage treatment plant. A slight man who raised nightingales, he had been hogtied, drilled with power tools and shot.

In the last month, hundreds of men have been kidnapped, tortured and executed in Baghdad. As Iraqi and American leaders struggle to avert a civil war, the bodies keep piling up. The city's homicide rate has tripled from 11 to 33 a day, military officials said.


What frightens Iraqis most about these gangland-style killings is the impunity. According to reports filed by family members and more than a dozen interviews, many men were taken in daylight, in public, with witnesses all around. Few cases, if any, have been investigated.
Bush shuns Patriot Act requirement:
When President Bush signed the reauthorization of the USA Patriot Act this month, he included an addendum saying that he did not feel obliged to obey requirements that he inform Congress about how the FBI was using the act's expanded police powers.


Bush signed the bill with fanfare at a White House ceremony March 9, calling it ''a piece of legislation that's vital to win the war on terror and to protect the American people." But after the reporters and guests had left, the White House quietly issued a ''signing statement," an official document in which a president lays out his interpretation of a new law.

In the statement, Bush said that he did not consider himself bound to tell Congress how the Patriot Act powers were being used and that, despite the law's requirements, he could withhold the information if he decided that disclosure would ''impair foreign relations, national security, the deliberative process of the executive, or the performance of the executive's constitutional duties.
Memos Reveal War Crimes Warnings:
The White House's top lawyer warned more than two years ago that U.S. officials could be prosecuted for "war crimes" as a result of new and unorthodox measures used by the Bush administration in the war on terrorism, according to an internal White House memo and interviews with participants in the debate over the issue.

The concern about possible future prosecution for war crimes—and that it might even apply to Bush adminstration officials themselves— is contained in a crucial portion of an internal January 25, 2002, memo by White House counsel Alberto Gonzales obtained by NEWSWEEK. It urges President George Bush declare the war in Afghanistan, including the detention of Taliban and Al Qaeda fighters, exempt from the provisions of the Geneva Convention.

In the memo, the White House lawyer focused on a little known 1996 law passed by Congress, known as the War Crimes Act, that banned any Americans from committing war crimes—defined in part as "grave breaches" of the Geneva Conventions. Noting that the law applies to "U.S. officials" and that punishments for violators "include the death penalty," Gonzales told Bush that "it was difficult to predict with confidence" how Justice Department prosecutors might apply the law in the future. This was especially the case given that some of the language in the Geneva Conventions—such as that outlawing "outrages upon personal dignity" and "inhuman treatment" of prisoners—was "undefined."
Senate hearing set on move to censure Bush - Senator Feingold's resolution to censure President Bush will be the subject of a hearing next Friday in the Senate Judiciary committee.

500,000 protest immigrant legislation:
In a mobilization that far exceeded the expectations of organizers, hundreds of thousands of people rallied in downtown Los Angeles on Saturday to protest legislation in Congress that would tighten enforcement against undocumented immigrants and erect more walls along the southern border.


The proposal that inspired the protests already has passed in the House of Representatives and is expected to be debated by the Senate this week. It includes strict measures that would make it a felony for immigrants to be in the United States without proper documentation, and it imposes criminal penalties on those who employ illegal immigrants. It would also finance the construction of tall fences along roughly one-third of the U.S.-Mexican border to try to stop illegal crossings.
Online sexual material is obscene if any community in US objects:
The Supreme Court of the United States has declined to overturn an important case about obscenity and the Internet, leaving anyone who publishes sexual material on the Internet in uncertainty about whether they're open to federal penalties.

At stake is the obscenity section of the Communications Decency Act, which bans publishing "obscene" material on the net. The problem is that US courts use "local standards" to determine whether something is obscene -- so if in the eyes of some local community, the material is obscene, then you can't distribute it there.


By turning down this case, the Supremes have said that the whole country is now subject to the decency standards from its most conservative, anti-sex, anti-nudity corners; that the local standard from that place will become the national standard.

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