Thursday, January 22, 2009



On Day One, Obama Demands Open Government

Deeplink by Marcia Hofmann

It's only his first day in office, but President Obama has already signaled a serious commitment to transparency and accountability in government. The President ordered federal agencies in a memorandum released today to approach the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) "with a clear presumption: in the face of doubt, openness prevails."

This message is in line with advice EFF and other nonprofits gave the Obama Transition Team on transparency issues shortly after the election.

According to Obama's memo:

All agencies should adopt a presumption in favor of disclosure, in order to renew their commitment to the principles embodied in FOIA, and to usher in a new era of open Government. The presumption of disclosure should be applied to all decisions involving FOIA.

This statement is almost certainly meant to address a controversial memo issued by John Ashcroft in the wake of 9/11, which ordered agencies to disclose information only after considering all possible reasons to withhold it, and assured them that government lawyers would defend their decisions in court unless they had no "sound legal basis." Many open government advocates believe Ashcroft's policy effectively gutted the FOIA over the past several years. Today's memo doesn't explicitly reverse that policy, but directs the incoming attorney general to issue new FOIA guidelines to agencies "reaffirming the commitment to accountability and transparency." This is a big step in the right direction.

The memo doesn't stop there. It goes on to say:

The presumption of disclosure also means that agencies should take affirmative steps to make information public. They should not wait for specific requests from the public. All agencies should use modern technology to inform citizens about what is known and done by their Government. Disclosure should be timely.

Toward that end, the memo orders the Office of Management and Budget to issue guidance on how agencies can improve information dissemination, including through the use of new technologies.

We've still got some unanswered questions. While we're hopeful that this new era of openness will make our FOIA work easier, it remains to be seen how or when the memo's directives will be implemented. Regardless, we're excited and optimistic about the President's emphasis on open government, and look forward to the Administration's next steps.

The New York Times - January 13, 2009

Editorials worldwide pillory Bush one final time

By Erik Kirschbaum

PhotoBERLIN (Reuters) - Editorial writers around the world have been taking their final printed whacks at George W. Bush, accusing the president of tarnishing America's standing with what many saw as arrogant and incompetent leadership.

Some newspaper editorials, for all their criticism, suggested historians might just be kinder later on than those now writing first drafts of history. A success often cited by those seeking a silver lining was the United States' freedom from further homeland attacks following September 11.

Bush's successor, Barack Obama, will be sworn in as the 44th U.S. president on Tuesday.

"A weak leader, Bush was just overwhelmed in the job," said Germany's Sueddeutsche Zeitung under a headline: "The Failure." "He confused stubbornness with principles. America has become intolerant and it will take a long time to repair that damage."

Editorials hit out at Bush for two unfinished wars, for plunging the economy into recession, turning a budget surplus into a pile of debt, for his environment policies and tarnishing America's reputation with the Guantanamo Bay detention center.

Bush was given credit in some editorials for defending the United States against terror attacks after September 11, 2001.

Israel was most complimentary, of his intentions if not necessarily of his achievements.

"Of all the U.S. presidents over the past 60 years, it is hard to think of a better friend to Israel than George W. Bush," the Jerusalem Post daily wrote during Bush's final visit.

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Noam Chomsky On Gaza

Help Obama help Gaza

Obama can't turn the US into a fair mediator in the Middle East as long as US media remains heavily biased. Help fund experts to reach top US media editors with balanced perspectives for peace:

Help Now

After over 1400 killed and 5000 wounded, the Gaza conflict enters a lull -- for now. But the awful violence will escalate again unless we take urgent action to address the root causes of the festering Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

One of the greatest hopes for peace is for the US under Obama to play an impartial mediation role. But the biggest obstacle to this is the strong bias of the US media. Only 4% of related US media stories even mention that Palestinians are under military occupation, and less than 25% of Americans say they can sympathize with both sides -- so even Obama will find it difficult to be fair.

We urgently need to meet this challenge as Obama makes historic choices on Israel-Palestine. The winds of change are blowing through American media -- the best way to seize this opportunity is to hire highly respected experts to sit down with powerful editors and journalists -- providing facts, information and opportunities to hear sensible voices for peace from both Palestinians and Israelis. Just $40,000 would be enough to hire a respected advocate to work part time for a year. Obama has promised "fairness" in his approach to this region, let's help make it politically possible for him to deliver:

Far from taking sides, our effort will show that balanced journalism is both pro-Israeli and pro-Palestinian, because it helps secure lasting security and justice for both peoples.

For years a balanced perspective has been largely absent from US media. Palestinian kids throwing rocks were seen as dangerous rioters, rather than token resistance to an illegal military occupation. The crushing nature of the that occupation, in which the smallest details of life are tightly controlled, is rarely covered by US media.(see links below) Until the American media can tell both heart-rending sides of the story, no US president will be able to broker a fair peace.

The opportunity is there. After the trauma of the Bush years there is a fresh wind blowing through American democracy and media. A new emphasis on responsible, tough journalism, and a genuine desire among media professionals to be more balanced. We can make real progress through getting experts to engage with journalists to help point the way. Click below to make it politically possible for Obama to take a strong and fair stand on the Middle East:

With hope,

Ricken, Graziela, Alice, Luis, Paul, Brett, Milena, Paula, Pascal, Iain and the whole Avaaz team.

PS: See the links below for more information about bias in the US media and on coverage of the recent war in Gaza:

The Blame Game in Gaza:

Video - Peace, Propaganda and the Promised Land:

Jon Stewart's critique of media bias on Gaza conflict:

International Law Seldom Newsworthy in Gaza War:

For a recent US poll which shows the impact of the media bias:

Palestine Media Watch report on op-eds:

Newsworthy and unnewsworthy deaths:

Video - Media bias about the Israeli-Palestine conflict:

Another video on media bias in the conflict:

If Americans Knew - A US project helping to convey alternative perspectives to Americans:

PPS: Please click on this link for an award winning video made by Avaaz which is the kind of material that we use to encourage more balanced understanding of the Middle East:

ABOUT AVAAZ is an independent, not-for-profit global campaigning organization that works to ensure that the views and values of the world's people inform global decision-making. (Avaaz means "voice" in many languages.) Avaaz receives no money from governments or corporations, and is staffed by a global team based in Ottawa, London, Rio de Janeiro, New York, Buenos Aires, and Geneva. Call us at: +1 888 922 8229 or +55 21 2509 0368 Click here to learn more about our largest campaigns. 

NC man gets $35,000 for Bush library domain name

RALEIGH, N.C. – Web developer George Huger says he turned $5 into $35,000 when he bought the expired Internet domain name for former President George W. Bush's presidential library and then sold it back.

The News & Observer of Raleigh reports Tuesday that Huger was searching through a list of expiring domain names two years ago when he noticed the Web address was about to expire.

He bought the rights for $5, then sat on them for two years.

Huger says he recently sold them for $35,000 to Florida-based Yuma Solutions, which the Bush Library Foundation says is in charge of Web site care. Company owner Mark Mills didn't return the newspaper's calls.;_ylt=AlqxSuSOkjpriHJQFHxfIJDtiBIF

Eye of a needle

This undated image provided by UKFineArts shows a micro sculpture by Willard Wigan showing U.S, President elect Barrack Obama and his family in the eye of a needle.

Inspirational Activists You Won’t Learn About in School

By Allie Firestone

The recent popularity of the movie Milk, starring Sean Penn, made me wonder why I never learned Harvey Milk's story in classroom discussions of civil rights, especially considering I grew up in San Francisco, where Milk carried out his work. As a result, I started searching for other activists who have changed our world, but have been left out of the usual history lesson. These people have made great strides toward gender equality, women's liberation, and civil rights. Without them, the world wouldn't be what it is today.

Fred Shuttlesworth: Champion for Civil Rights
After Alabama outlawed the NAACP in 1956, this Baptist minister founded the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights, announcing that he would act out against all segregation laws. He led sit-ins, boycotts, and strikes, and his work in Alabama was a major force in pressuring Congress to overturn segregation. He fought against violent racism with peaceful activism—white supremacists bombed his house multiple times, a white mob beat him with whips and chains and, after his leadership during the mass protests in Birmingham, he was slammed against a wall by high-pressure fire hoses. He later became one of the first officers in Dr. Martin Luther King's Southern Christian Leadership Conference and King described him as "one of the nation's most courageous freedom fighters." Still alive today, Shuttlesworth is a pastor and directs the Shuttlesworth Housing Foundation, an organization that helps low-income families purchase homes.

Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon: Challenging the Norm
In 1955, Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon co-founded Daughters of Bilitis, the first national lesbian organization (named after a fictional lover of Sappho—the famously lesbian Greek poet). In 1964, they helped start the Council on Religion and the Homosexual, a group that sought to join religious leaders and gay activists to discuss marriage equality. Martin aided in the successful campaign for the American Psychiatric Association to take homosexuality off its list of mental illnesses. Meanwhile, Lyon became the first openly gay woman on the National Organization for Women's board in the '70s. They also co-wrote two books, Lesbian/Woman and Lesbian Love and Liberation, during the same decade. Four years ago they were the first of thousands of couples married in San Francisco when Mayor Newsom began allowing gay marriage, though it was suspended a month later by the Supreme Court. They were able to marry again in 2008 after the court ruled in favor of marriage equality, but Martin passed away only two months later.

Growing Optimism That Obama Will Improve US Relations: Global Poll

Full report (PDF)

WPO_USBases_Dec08_img.jpgAs Barack Obama prepares to be sworn in as the 44th president of the United States, a new 17-nation poll conducted for the BBC World Service finds widespread and growing optimism that his presidency will lead to improved relations between the United States and the rest of the world.

The poll also shows people around the world are looking to President Obama to put highest priority on dealing with the current global financial crisis.

In 15 of the 17 countries polled, majorities think that the election of Barack Obama will lead to improved relations with the rest of the world. On average 67 per cent express this upbeat view, while 19 per cent think relations will stay the same and just 5 per cent that relations will worsen.

This is up sharply - by 21 points among tracking countries - from polling done for the BBC World Service six months ago, before Obama was elected. At that time just 47 per cent expressed optimism that an Obama presidency would lead to improved relations with the rest of the world. The number of people giving no answer to the question is also down sharply.

This optimism does not necessarily mean, however that views of the United States itself have changed. BBC World Service is currently completing its annual poll assessing views of major countries' influence in the world, which will be released within the next few weeks and will show whether views of US influence are improving.

Asked to rate six possible priorities for the Obama Administration, the top priority in all countries polled was the global financial crisis. On average 72 per cent said that it should be a top priority.

This was followed by withdrawing US troops from Iraq - with 50 per cent saying this should be a top priority - then addressing climate change (46%), improving America's relationship with the respondent's country (46%), brokering peace between Israel and the Palestinians (43%), and supporting the government of Afghanistan against the Taliban (29%).

Polling was completed prior to the current Gaza conflict in all countries except Egypt and India. In Egypt, 75 per cent said brokering peace between Israel and the Palestinians should be a top priority.

The world breathes deeply

Pro-Life Group up in Arms over Krispy Kreme's Abortion Doughnuts

09_krispykreme_lg_l.jpg (JPEG Image, 320x375 pixels).jpgKrispy Kreme, being the genial purveyor of glazed goodness that it is, decided to get in on the Obama inauguration craze and is offering one free doughnut to every costumer on January 20, Inauguration day, and released this seemingly innocuous press release:
"Krispy Kreme Doughnuts, Inc. (NYSE: KKD) is honoring American's sense of pride and freedom of choice on Inauguration Day, by offering a free doughnut of choice to every customer on this historic day, Jan. 20. By doing so, participating Krispy Kreme stores nationwide are making an oath to tasty goodies -- just another reminder of how oh-so-sweet 'free' can be."
Well, The American Life League noticed the liberal use of the word choice and decided to blast the chain bakery for producing abortion doughnuts.

"The unfortunate reality of a post-Roe v. Wade America is that 'choice' is synonymous with abortion access, and celebration of 'freedom of choice' is a tacit endorsement of abortion rights on demand," the group's president, Judie Brown said in a statement.

File this under "Overreactionary Wing Nuts" and another attempt of conservatives to redefine words for their political means (You can try to rewrite the Constitution, but not the dictionary). Of course, the "overreactionary libtard" counter to this is that conservatives want to demonize all choice from America until we're living under a fundamentalist dictatorship. A fundamentalist dictatorship without doughnuts.

War Crimes Times

Our mission:

The War Crimes Times provides information that the corporate mass media has willfully ignored or underreported. The WCT is determined that Bush, Cheney, & Co be prosecuted for war crimes--no matter how long it takes (there is no statute of limitations on war crimes)--so that justice is served, the rule of law is reestablished, and America's good name is restored. Also, we recognize that, as citizens of a country that has wantonly violated international laws in the prosecution of an illegal war, we must begin to atone for our complicity .

The "War Crimes Times," was officially launched Saturday, January 17, at an action in Washington, DC. At 11:30 AM, Saturday, January 17th, at the Newseum, 555 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, activists surprised and delighted tourists as they distributed the Inaugural Issue and displayed a huge banner saying:






...the end