Laura Raymond @ Truthout - Nine years ago today, photos from the notorious Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq were released to the public. The images are indelible: Groups of prisoners, naked except for hoods covering their heads are piled on top of one another; soldiers grin and give thumbs-up to the camera; one holds a naked prisoner on a leash. In the most infamous photo, a hooded man balances on a cardboard box, arms outstretched, electrical wires attached to his hands. Read more.
Russian Times - Afghan President Hamid Karzai on Thursday criticized US tactics in Afghanistan, accusing American and NATO forces of contributing to the violence and corruption in his country. Read more.
Glenn Greenwald @ Guardian UK - The initial debate over the treatment of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev focused on whether he should be advised of his Miranda rights or whether the "public safety exception" justified delaying it. In the wake of news reports that he had been Mirandized and would be charged in a federal court, I credited the Obama DOJ for handling the case reasonably well thus far. As it turns out, though, Tsarnaev wasn't Mirandized because the DOJ decided he should be. Instead, that happened only because a federal magistrate, on her own, scheduled a hospital-room hearing, interrupted the FBI's interrogation which had been proceeding at that point for a full 16 hours, and advised him of his right to remain silent and appointed him a lawyer. Since then, Tsarnaev ceased answering the FBI's questions. Read more.
Spiegel - More than 3,000 people worked producing cheap t-shirts for European clothing chains in the highrise sweatshop that collapsed in Bangladesh last week. Hundreds died because the facility was lacking even the most basic safety standards. Read more.
Jacob Chamberlain @ Common Dreams - Ocean surface temperatures off the Northeast U.S. coast last year were the highest in 150 years, according to a new report by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Read more.
DeSmog Blog - An independent study co-published by the Faulkner County Citizens Advisory Group and Global Community Monitor reveals that, in the aftermath of ExxonMobil's Pegasus tar sands pipeline spill of over 500,000 gallons of diluted bitumen (dilbit) into Mayflower, AR, air quality in the area surrounding the spill has been affected by high levels of cancer-causing chemicals. Read more.
Russian Times - Top Afghan officials have been on the CIA’s payroll for over a decade, often paid in cash in US dollars. The clandestine financial support was provided to key Afghan officials and even insurgent warlords in return for opposing the Taliban. Read more.
Farida Akhter @ Common Dreams - Rana Plaza, the eight-story building housing at least four garment factories in the building’s third to eighth floors, collapsed on the morning of April 24, 2013. It was not just an accident. The day before, the inhabitants of the buildings saw large cracks developing in the building and local engineers advised evacuation. Accordingly, the shops on the first floor and a private bank took measures for evacuation. The Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers Association (BGMEA) warned the garment factory owners of the building and asked them not to open the factory until they gave clearance. The workers were asked to leave in the afternoon of 23rd April. Read more.
Lauren McCauley @ Common Dreams - Numerous arrests have been made over the weekend in Bangladesh following the building collapse that has killed over 350 people with hundreds still missing. However, the truly guilty parties—the big garment producers and their overseas customers—remain beyond reproach and guilt-free.
Friday evening the owner and managing director of New Wave Style, the largest of the five factories in the collapsed Rana Plaza building, surrendered to the police and two engineers involved in designing the complex were arrested at their homes Saturday. Read more.
Bill Berkowitz @ Buzzflash - "In the 1990s, Jack [Dawley's] drug and alcohol addictions led to convictions for domestic violence and driving under the influence, resulting in nearly $1,500 in fines and costs in the Norwalk Municipal Court. Jack was also behind on his child support, which led to an out-of-state jail sentence." After serving three and a half years in Wisconsin, Dawley, now sober for 14 years, is still trying to catch up with the fines he owes, and it has "continue[d] to wreak havoc on his life." Read more.
Alissa Bohling @ Truthout - A coalition of seven female Nobel Prize winners, including Dr. Rigoberta Menchú Tum of Guatemala, called April 25 for the trial of former dictator Efraín Rios Montt to proceed. Montt, along with former military intelligence head Mauricio Rodriguez Sanchez, was indicted in January for genocide and crimes against humanity, including widespread rape. The trial in Guatemala City was suspended last week mere days before observers expected it to conclude when a lower court judge on April 18 unexpectedly issued a ruling on a legal technicality. Guatemala's attorney general has called the ruling illegal. Read more.
France 24 - The European Commission on Monday said it would impose a two-year ban on three pesticides believed to harm honeybees and to have caused their sharp decline in recent years. The ban will come into effect on December 1. Read more.
Reuters - A six-passenger spaceship owned by an offshoot of Virgin Group fired its rocket engine in flight for the first time on Monday, a key step toward the start of commercial service in about a year, Virgin owner Richard Branson said. Read more.
Washington Post - As Jason Collins, a 7-foot journeyman center for the Washington Wizards, played out the final few weeks of his 12th National Basketball Association season this spring, he was also finalizing plans for an announcement that would send shockwaves across the world of sports. That announcement came late Monday morning, with the Internet publication of a first-person story in Sports Illustrated:
“I’m a 34-year-old NBA center,” the story began. “I’m black. And I’m gay.” Read more.
John Whitehead @ Rutherford Institute - No one is happy—not the politicians, who want more power, more control and less oversight; not the citizenry, who want fewer taxes, fewer regulations and greater freedom; and not small business owners, who are being strangled to death by the glut of bureaucratic red-tape being directed their way. Indeed, the only two sectors that might be reasonably content with the status quo, profiting as they do from our misery, are the corporations (especially the security and military industrial complexes) and, by extension, the corporate media.
The times are definitely calling for a change, and a significant change at that, not the cosmetic pandering that passes for political and social rhetoric today. What we are grappling with is how that change will be brought about. Clearly, the political process hasn’t worked, as evidenced by the failure in recent years by both political parties and independent movements to achieve any meaningful change. Clearly, viole…
Russian Times - A tank containing diesel fuel has exploded during maintenance work at Marathon Detroit Refinery, forcing a mandatory evacuation order for a nearby area. One employee has been injured in the blast, authorities said.
Reports of the explosion and fire came in just before 6 pm local time.
Authorities on the ground say the explosion injured an employee. The incident occurred during a maintenance check. Read more.
Consortium News - We ought to remember that, for decades, African Americans lived under constant threat of terrorist violence at the hands of white supremacist groups such as the KKK. Those that were not victims of physical lynchings often had to live with the psychological scars of being treated as second-class citizens. Read more.
Lynn Parramore @ AlterNet - Imagine you’ve just landed a job with a big-time retailer. Your task is to load and unload boxes from trucks and containers. It’s back-breaking work. You toil 12 to 16 hours a day, often without a lunch break. Sweat drenches your clothes in the 90-degree heat, but you keep going: your kids need their dinner. One day, your supervisor tells you that instead of being paid an hourly wage, you will now get paid for the number of containers you load or unload. This will be great for you, your supervisor says: More money! But you open your next paycheck to find it shrunken to the point that you are no longer even making minimum wage. You complain to your supervisor, who promptly sends you home without pay for the day. If you pipe up again, you’ll be looking for another job. Read more.
ABC News - Police say a 24-year-old man stabbed four people at a Catholic church in Albuquerque as a Sunday mass was nearing its end. Police spokesman Robert Gibbs says Lawrence Capener jumped over several pews at St. Jude Thaddeus Catholic Church around noon Sunday and walked up to the choir area where he began his attack. Read more.
France 24 - Held four days after the adoption of the draft law on marriage between same-sex persons, the first gay men’s wedding tradeshow in Paris on Saturday was as much about equal opportunity as business opportunities. Read more.
Medea Benjamin @ Code Pink - I had an opportunity to interview WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, where he has been granted political asylum since June 2012. Assange is wanted for questioning in Sweden over sex allegations, although he has never been charged. Assange believes that if sent to Sweden, he would be put into prison and then sent to the United States, where he is already being investigated for espionage for publishing hundreds of thousands of classified diplomatic and military memos on the WikiLeaks website. Read more.
Robert Parry @ Consortium News - The U.S. news media was never “liberal.” At most, you could say there were periods in the not-too-distant past when the major newspapers did a better job of getting the facts straight. There also was an “underground” press which published some scoops that the mainstream media avoided. Read more.
Russian Times - United States Vice President Joe Biden says the 2014 Boston Marathon will be "bigger, more spectacular" than ever before, and the city’s police commissioner could see that through with some serious changes starting at next year’s race.
Notwithstanding last week’s terrorist attack that killed three and wounded hundreds, Boston, Massachusetts is expected to continue its tradition of hosting the annual 26-mile run next spring. Speaking to the city’s Herald newspaper though, Boston Police Commissioner Ed Davis says he’s looking to add at least one new element in 2014: unmanned aerial vehicles. Read more.
NY Times - Just two weeks after the Obama administration imposed sanctions on about two dozen Russians accused of human rights violations, Russian officials organized a very public “so what?” on Saturday, gathering officials on the list and assuring them in televised meetings that condemnation by the United States government would not hurt their careers. The jocular tone of the meetings suggested, in fact, that it might help. Read more.
Michele Chen @ In These Times - There are few ways to make a decent living in Bangladesh, but there are many ways to die trying. The cruel weight of that reality bore down on a Dhaka factory complex on Wednesday as it crashed to the ground and instantly extinguished hundreds of lives and livelihoods.
As of this writing, the body count at Rana Plaza is about 300 and rising, with hundreds more workers still unaccounted for, and the 72-hour emergency window for recovering trapped people alive almost gone.
Meanwhile, hundreds of thousands of enraged workers in the area have gone on strike and rallied to demand justice for the victims. Read more.
Lauren McCauley @ Common Dreams - A Syrian official has declared US and British accusations of the Syrian use of chemical weapons a "barefaced lie" countering that the two countries like to "juggle with facts"—alluding to their wrongful 2003 assertion of 'weapons of mass destruction' which opened to door to the Iraq invasion. Read more.
Russian Times - The official number of hunger strikers at Guantanamo Bay reached 100 on Saturday – three more than the day before. Twenty of the detainees are receiving enteral feeds, five of whom are being observed in a detainee hospital. Read more.
France 24 - Italian centre-left politician Enrico Letta (pictured) confirmed on Saturday that he had formed a new government, which will include close Silvio Berlusconi ally, Angelino Alfano, as deputy prime minister. The new government will be sworn in Sunday. Read more.
France 24 - Keith Haring, an iconic New York artist, is the focus of a new exhibit at Paris' Musée d’Art Moderne, on display until August 18. Haring, who died in 1990, was known for capturing the political spirit of the 1980s. Read more.
Phil Rockstoch - Consortium News - Life, as lived, moment to moment, in the corporate/consumer state, involves moving between states of tedium, stress, and swoons of mass media and consumer distraction. Therein, one spends a large portion of one’s economically beleaguered life attempting to make ends meet and not go mad from the pressure and the boredom.
Where does a nebulous concept such as freedom even enter the picture, except to be a harbinger of an unfocused sense of unease … that all too many look to authority to banish? Finding a balance between anxiety and freedom is not something that comes easy to us. Read more.
Russian Times - Anti-war groups have held a protest at a UK airbase from which the country has begun controlling its fleet of assassination drones in Afghanistan. Previously, the remote pilots were deployed only in the US. Read more.
Common Dreams - Hundreds of peace campaigners gathered Saturday outside a new Reaper Unmanned Aerial Vehicle control center in the UK countryside to say it is "time to end killer drones."
In what is being called the UK's biggest anti-drone protest to date, over 400 demonstrators took part in a march and rally outside of the UK's new drone headquarters at the Royal Air Force (RAF) Station Waddington in Lincolnshire, three hours north of London. Read more.
Glenn Greenwald @ Guardian UK - News reports yesterday indicated that Bradley Manning, widely known to be gay, had been selected to be one of the Grand Marshals of the annual San Francisco gay pride parade, named by the LGBT Pride Celebration Committee. When the predictable backlash instantly ensued, the president of the Board of SF Pride, Lisa L Williams, quickly capitulated, issuing a cowardly, imperious statement that has to be read to be believed. Read more.
Russign Times - The mother of the Boston Marathon bombing suspects, Zubeidat Tsarnaev, had been added to a federal terrorism database about 18 months before the attack, according to US officials. The news comes after she accused US police of murdering her son.
The CIA reportedly put Zubeidat on the classified Terrorist Identities Datamart Environment database (TIDE) at the same time that her 26-year-old son Tamerlan was added. Read more.
Mark Karlin @ Truthout - Marc Mauer is the executive director of The Sentencing Project, and the author of "Race to Incarcerate", which has just been released in graphic format, illustrated by Sabrina Jones, as "Race to Incarcerate: A Graphic Retelling" (The New Press).
Mauer's knowledge about the prison-industrial complex in the United States - which has the highest percentage of incarcerated individuals in the world - is extensive. "Race to Incarcerate" is considered a landmark indictment of a system that locks the poor and minorities up with abandon, while largely neglecting support systems for reintegration back to society. Read more.
Jon Letman @ Truthout - One might imagine the ties between Minnesota and the Horn of Africa are tenuous at best, but the Midwest state has one of the largest Somali diaspora populations in North America, and Rep. Keith Ellison (from District 5, representing metropolitan Minneapolis) is one of Congress' most prominent voices addressing issues that matter to both the United States and Africa. Read more.
Kirstin Moe @ YES! Magazine - If the Keystone XL pipeline is approved, 90 percent of the tar sands crude that flows through it will be processed near an embattled Houston neighborhood called Manchester. Residents are joining up to demand a healthier future.
The playground in Manchester, a neighborhood on Houston’s east side, is empty much of the time. Children who play for too long here often start to cough. They go back inside, leaving an empty swing set in the shadow of a nearby oil refinery. Read more.
The Brad Blog - The good news: When the largest voting jurisdiction in the nation gets its new voting system, perhaps as early as 2015, it will notincluding Internet Voting, according to Dean Logan, Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk of Los Angeles. The bad news: It will very likely include touch-screen computers and, with them, 100% unverifiable voting. Read more.
France 24 - China announced Thursday during a state visit by French President François Hollande that it had signed a letter of intent for the purchase of 60 Airbus planes from France. Hollande’s visit is meant to boost economic ties between the two countries. Read more.
Jacob Chamberlain @ Common Dreams - The United States is trying to skirt its responsibility to pay for damages after a US Navy minesweeper rammed into a pristine coral reef in the Philippines, a Filipino advocacy group and lawmaker warned this week. Read more.
Patrick O. Strickland @ Truthout - Ramallah, Occupied West Bank - Official numbers estimate that nearly half of the prisoners presently being detained in Guantanamo Bay are on hunger strike. On April 16, clashes broke out when guards attempted to forcefully move detainees from their communal cells into single-person cells. Read more.
France 24 - Police in Bangladesh fired tear gas and rubber bullets at protesters during a mass rally by garment workers outside of the capital Dhaka on Friday, two days after a building collapse killed more than 300 people and left scores more unaccounted for. Read more.
Eric LeCompte @ Truthout - For years, "vulture funds" have preyed on struggling nations by purchasing their debt for a pittance. Could an upcoming U.S. court decision put an end to the extortion of poor countries?
Last October, soldiers from the West African nation of Ghana boarded an Argentine naval ship called the Libertad. They overtook the crew and brought the ship to port in the town of Tema. This was not an act of piracy, at least not in the sense we normally understand it. The detaining of the Libertad took place after hedge fund NML Capital convinced a Ghanaian court that the ship, which was sailing in Ghanaian jurisdiction, should be held ransom for a debt the hedge funds claimed Argentina owed them. Read more.
France 24 - More than six million Spanish were out of a job in the first quarter of 2013, raising the unemployment rate to an all-time high of 27.2 percent, according to figures released by Spain’s National Statistics Institute on Thursday. Read more.
The Michigan Citizen - I was watching TV the other day. Commercial break. Cut to a lush green lawn. A single yellow dandelion springs up through the emerald expanse. The heroic protagonist appears left. He spies the flower, runs, dives, somersaults onto the lawn and pops up sturdily on one knee. Brandishing a bottle of weed killer, he fires. The patented nozzle rains hell on the defenseless sunbather. The flower withers. And dies. The lawn-owner is triumphant. Right? Read more.
Montreal Gazette (Canada) - Saying Canada’s future in science and research is threatened, a national association representing academics has launched a campaign to “Get Science Right” in hopes of shaming the federal government into changing its science policy and funding formulas.
The Canadian Association of University Teachers is urging the government to take a new direction in science funding, saying that company-specific research funding has soared...read more.
Russian Times - Scared that CISPA might pass? The federal government is already using a secretive cybersecurity program to monitor online traffic and enforce CISPA-like data sharing between Internet service providers and the Department of Defense.
The Electronic Privacy Information Center has obtained over 1,000 pages of documents pertaining to the United States government’s use of a cybersecurity program after filing a Freedom of Information Act request, and CNET reporter Declan McCullagh says those pages show how the Pentagon has secretly helped push for increased Internet surveillance. Read more.
[Interview] Noam Choamsky @ Truthout - I personally never expected anything of Obama, and wrote about it before the 2008 primaries. I thought it was smoke and mirrors. The one thing that did surprise me is his attack on civil liberties. They go well beyond anything I would have anticipated, and they don't seem easy to explain. In many ways the worst is what you mention, Holder vs. Humanitarian Law Project. That's an Obama initiative and it's a very serious attack on civil liberties. He doesn't gain anything from it – he doesn't get any political mileage out of it. In fact, most people don't even know about it, but what it does is extend the concept of "material assistance to terror" to speech. Read more.
Glenn Greenwald @ Guardian UK - News reports purporting to describe what Dzhokhar Tsarnaev told US interrogators should, for several reasons, be taken with a huge grain of salt. The sources for this information are anonymous, they work for the US government, the statements were obtained with no lawyer present and no Miranda warnings given, and Tsarnaev is "grievously wounded", presumably quite medicated, and barely able to speak. That the motives for these attacks are still unclear has been acknowledged even by Alan Dershowitz last week ("It's not even clear under the federal terrorism statute that this qualifies as an act of terrorism") and Jeffrey Goldberg just this morning ("it is not yet clear, despite preliminary indications, that these men were, in fact, motivated by radical Islam"). Read more.
Chicago Tribune - After he shot his way into a home in the small town of Manchester, police say Rick Odell Smith gunned down a great-grandmother, a young couple and three young children. Then he did something that puzzled authorities.
He scooped up one of the children, a 6-year-old girl who was still alive, and carried her to a neighbor's home. Then he jumped into his white Chevy Lumina and sped off. Police caught up with him hours later and he died in a gunfight with officers. Read more.
Andrea Germanos @ Common Dreams - Low wage fast food and retail workers have joined forces in Chicago on Wednesday in an unprecedented strike calling for $15 an hour and the freedom to form unions without retaliation.
Some of the nation's biggest stores—McDonald’s, Subway, Dunkin Donuts, Macy’s, Victoria’s Secret and Sears—will be affected by the action that follows the momentum of similar strikes in New York City in November and just weeks ago, as well as a walkout by Walmart workers on Black Friday. Read more.
Gary Kohls @ Consortium News - April is Holocaust Remembrance month, an annual month-long event that encourages us humans to again confront the sobering reality of one of history’s most egregious examples of man’s inhumanity to man, known in the Jewish community as the Shoah.
Sadly, however, for anyone who has been paying attention to the epidemic of worldwide violence since the end of World War II, it is obvious that the promise of “Never Again” has been repeatedly violated. The cruelty of militarism, racism, anti-Semitism and poverty seem to be alive and well. Read more.
Russian Times - Iceland's Supreme Court has ruled that Valitor (formerly Visa Iceland) must pay WikiLeaks $204,900 per month or $2,494,604 per year in fines if it continues to blockade the whistle-blowing site.
The court upheld the decision that Valitor had unlawfully terminated its contract with WikiLeaks' donation processor, DataCell. Read more.
Lauren McCauley @ Common Dreams - Hundreds of Chicago students are taking up the mantle in the fight against the roll of standardized tests in public school closures as they walked out of state exam Wednesday. Their message: "We are over-tested, under-resourced and fed up!" Read more.
Jessica Mason Pieklo @ AlterNet - School Principal Discouraged Teen Girl from Reporting Sexual Assault Because It Would Ruin Attacker's Basketball Career. Her attacker went on to assault another girl just 2 weeks later. And the story only gets worse. Read more.
Murtaza Hussain @ AlterNet - - Why tens of thousands of gun deaths a year can be taken in stride as "the price of freedom", while a single bombing prompts calls for the suspension of civil liberties. Read more.
Robert Parry @ Consortium News - Now that a bipartisan blue-ribbon panel has reached the conclusion that President George W. Bush and his top advisers bear “ultimate responsibility” for authorizing torture in violation of domestic and international law, the question becomes what should the American people and their government do.
The logical answer would seem to be: prosecute Bush and his cronies (or turn them over to an international tribunal if the U.S. legal system can’t do the job). After all, everyone, including President Barack Obama and possibly even Bush himself, would agree with the principle that “no man is above the law.” Read more.
Tom Gallager @ Common Dreams - When I heard that Secretary of State John Kerry thought “there ought to be a recount” in the 2013 Venezuelan presidential election and said that the Obama Administration would be having “serious questions about the viability of that government" if “there are huge irregularities,” I did understand that this was pretty much pro forma stuff, not to be taken too seriously. The Cold War may be twenty years gone now, but the Administration probably still figures that it won’t hurt itself any by talking tough about people who sound like Communists, now will it? But Kerry’s remarks did, sadly, remind me of the time when then-Senator John Kerry might have raised a meaningful objection to a questionable presidential election – Bush-Gore in 2000 – but instead chose to forever hold his peace. Read more.
Jacob Chamberlain @ Common Dreams - Two NYPD officers who were filmed assaulting non-violent Occupy Wall Street protesters will not face any charges, New York District Attorney's Office announced late last week. Read more.
Brian Terell @ Common Dreams - In the final weeks of a six month prison sentence for protesting remote control murder by drones, specifically from Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri, I can only reflect on my time of captivity in light of the crimes that brought me here. In these ominous times, it is America’s officials and judges and not the anarchists who exhibit the most flagrant contempt for the rule of law and it is due to the malfeasance of these that I owe the distinction of this sabbatical. Read more.
Mark Weisbrot @ Guardian UK - While most of the news on Venezuela in the week since the 14 April presidential election focused on the efforts of losing candidate Henrique Capriles to challenge the results, another campaign, based in Washington, was quite revealing – and the two were most definitely related. Without Washington's strong support – the first time it had refused to recognise a Venezuelan election result – it is unlikely that Capriles would have joined the hardcore elements of his camp in pretending that the election was stolen. Read more.
Jacob Chamberlain @ Common Dreams - A "cocktail" of human-made "pressures" are threatening insect pollinators across the world, whose decline will have "profound environmental, human health and economic consequences," according to a new report released Monday by the Insect Pollinators Initiative. Read more.
Andrea Germanos @ Common Dreams - Saturday marks three years since the blowout of BP's Macondo well and explosion of Transocean's Deepwater Horizon rig in the Gulf of Mexico which killed 11 men and spewed 200 million gallons of oil over three months.
It also marks over 1000 days affected communities and ecosystems have been waiting for accountability, justice and full cleanup of the nation's worst oil disaster that left a morbid legacy in its wake. Read more.
France 24 - The French parliament has approved a bill legalising gay marriage and adoption for same-sex couples in its final vote on the legislation. The landmark reform has been the source of months of heated debate and demonstrations. Read more.
Truthout - As marijuana users prepared for their unofficial national holiday on Saturday, Denver got a head start, with local promoters trying to showcase Colorado as a state that welcomes pot-smoking tourists after voters legalized the drug in November. Read more.
Camillo Mac Bica @ Truthout - After numerous failed attempts, New York Congressman Charles Rangel has again introduced legislation to reinstate the draft, or more specifically, to require "all persons in the United States between the ages of 18 and 25 to perform national service either as a member of the uniformed services or civilian service." Read more.
Bill Moyers @ Moyers & Company - Bill presents and introduces the short documentary "Dance of the Honey Bee." Narrated by Bill McKibben, the film takes a look at the determined, beautiful and vital role honey bees play in preserving life, as well as the threats bees face from a rapidly changing landscape. "Not only are we dependent on the honey bee for much of what we eat," says Bill, "there is, of course, a grace and elegance they bring to the natural world that would diminish us all were they to disappear." Read more.
Russian Times - At least two Guantanamo Bay detainees have attempted suicide since the confrontation between guards and prisoners in February that brought about the ongoing hunger strike, AP reports.
A team of journalists, including from AP, have been allowed into the facilities. They testify the atmosphere has grown tense and heavy in the prison where 166 men are indefinitely held with little to no hope of release. Read more.
Guardian UK - USA Today, the Monday to Friday daily launched in 1982 by Al Neuharth, who has died aged 89, was the US's first general national newspaper. It now has a circulation of about 1.8m and is a familiar sight across the US, with its white title on a sky-blue box and its colourful front page.
When the paper first arrived, critics derided it as "McPaper" and one news agency noted its "rented presses". That typified the scepticism, even scorn, from a dull and complacent American mainstream press. USA Today's bright format and shorter articles would have been familiar to British readers, but Americans expected their metropolitan dailies to be wordy, ponderous, grey and unadventurous. Read more.
Joseph E. Stiglitz @ NY Times - Leona Helmsley, the hotel chain executive who was convicted of federal tax evasion in 1989, was notorious for, among other things, reportedly having said that “only the little people pay taxes.”
As a statement of principle, the quotation may well have earned Mrs. Helmsley, who died in 2007, the title Queen of Mean. But as a prediction about the fairness of American tax policy, Mrs. Helmsley’s remark might actually have been prescient. Read more.
SF Gate - Just how precious is open space in San Francisco? Valuable enough, it seems, for the city to spend $4.2 million to prevent a small Noe Valley parking lot that hosts a popular weekly farmer’s market from being developed into condominiums. Read more.
John Whitehead @ Rutherford Institute - Caught up in the televised drama of a military-style manhunt for the suspects in the Boston Marathon explosion, most Americans fail to realize that the world around them has been suddenly and jarringly shifted off its axis, that axis being the U.S. Constitution. Read more.
The Observer (Guardian UK) - In 2009, defending the promise he made to close Guantánamo Bay, President Barack Obama insisted: "The existence of Guantánamo likely created more terrorists around the world than it ever detained."
This weekend, the case for the closure of Guantánamo Bay, promised by Obama on his second day in office, has never been more compelling. A hunger strike by the camp's inmates...read more.
Andrea Germanos @ Common Dreams - A US drone strike in Yemen killed two people described in corporate media as suspected al Qadeda militants on Sunday, the second such attack in the country in less than a week. Read more.
Michele Chen @ In These Times - Wal-Mart’s business model runs on the art of delusion. Clean aisles and bright decor insulate customers from the unseemly factories that produce the brand's sought-after bargains. But when Wal-Mart’s label was found plastered all over the charred remains of a massive factory fire in Bangladesh last fall, the ugliness at the root of the retail giant’s supply chain was exposed.
The company, however, continues to ignore victims’ demands for compensation, so Bangladeshi activists and their allies have brought their grievances to Wal-Mart’s doorstep in a 10-city U.S. tour. Read more.
ABC News - Six days after bombs exploded near the Boston finish line, the London Marathon sent out a powerful message of solidarity with the U.S. city and its victims Sunday and put the spotlight back on the sport and away from terrorist fears.
The men's race began with a poignant 30-second period of silence to remember Boston's dead and injured and ended with a thrilling finish. Read more.
CBS News - Those fighting floods in several communities along the Mississippi River were mostly successful Sunday despite the onslaught of water, but an ominous forecast and the growing accumulation of snow in the upper Midwest tempered any feelings of victory.
The surging Mississippi was at or near crest at several places from the Quad Cities south to near St. Louis — some reaching 10-12 feet above flood stage. Problems were plentiful: Hundreds of thousands of acres of swamped farmland as planting season approaches; three people died; roads and bridges closed, including sections of major highways like U.S. 61 in Iowa and Missouri and crossings at Quincy, Ill., and Louisiana, Mo. Read more.
Andy Borowitz @ The New Yorker - In a sweeping format change that marks the end of an era for the nation’s first cable news outlet, CNN announced today that it would no longer air breaking news and would instead re-run news stories of the past “that we know we got right.” Read more.
Guardian UK - Barack Obama has been accused of reneging on his disarmament pledges after it emerged the administration was planning to spend billions on upgrading nuclear bombs stored in Europe to make the weapons more reliable and accurate. Read more.
Russian Times - As Syria’s opposition forces and their main international allies meet in Istanbul, the US Secretary of State, John Kerry, has announced that the US will double its non-lethal military aid to Syria’s rebels.
The US$123 million defense aid package was announced by Kerry at the meeting in the Turkish capital on Sunday. The Secretary of State said the new non-lethal military supplies would go beyond the current provisions of food rations and medical kits, but did not elaborate. Read more.
McClatchy Newspapers - Nearly half the war-on-terror captives at the U.S. Navy base at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, were considered hunger strikers Saturday, and more than 10 percent of all detainees were being tube fed, according to the military. Read more.
Jill Richardson @ AlterNet - Forty percent of the crops grown in the United States contain their genes. They produce the world’s top selling herbicide. Several of their factories are now toxic Superfund sites. They spend millions lobbying the government each year. It’s time we take a closer look at who’s controlling our food, poisoning our land, and influencing all three branches of government. To do that, the watchdog group Food and Water Watch recently published a corporate profile of Monsanto. Read more.
Ted Conover @ Harpers - I eat meat. Always have. I’ve tried a couple of times to stop, but have never done more than cut back: I miss it too much.
Given its intimate connection to my body and my health, I’m interested in how meat is made. This seems natural enough in an age in which farmers and feedlots and meat companies fill animals with hormones and antibiotics, and grow animals in factories in order to maximize production. Read more.
Glenn Greenwald @ Guardian UK Shortly before Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, an American citizen, was apprehended last night, GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham advocated on Twitter that the Boston Marathon bombing suspect be denied what most Americans think of as basic rights. "If captured," Graham wrote, I hope [the] Administration will at least consider holding the Boston suspect as [an] enemy combatant for intelligence gathering purposes." Arguing that "if the Boston suspect has ties to overseas terror organizations he could be treasure trove of information", Graham concluded: "The last thing we may want to do is read Boston suspect Miranda Rights telling him to 'remain silent.'" Read more.
Guardian UK - The surviving Boston bombings suspect is so seriously injured that investigators may struggle to interrogate him effectively, it was suggested on Sunday, as further questions were raised about the FBI's previous contacts with his dead brother.
Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the 19-year-old who is accused of planting the pressure-cooker bombs with his older brother Tamerlan that killed three and injured more than 180 at the Boston Marathon last Monday, was being treated in hospital for a reported bullet wound to the throat and was unable to speak. He was captured on Friday night, a day after a violent gun battle with police that left his brother, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, 26, dead. Read more.
Inter press Service - The year 2013 opened on a disastrous note for the one-horned rhinoceros of the northeastern Indian state of Assam. At the beginning of April, officials in the Kaziranga National Park (KNP), one of the last retreats left in South Asia for these endangered creatures, reported that 17 rhinos had been poached. Read more.
France 24 - Unlike stars in the US, French celebrities have, until recently, been hesitant to speak out for gay marriage and adoption. As protests continue ahead of Tuesday’s final parliamentary vote on the marriage bill, star-powered support remains muted. Read more.
Counter Punch - Confirmation by the Constitution Project nearly a decade late that the George W. Bush administration and the U.S. military and ‘intelligence’ services committed acts of torture in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere appears a Rorschach test for the ‘sentiments’ of the American people. However, sentiments aside, formal indictments of culpable officials on war crimes charges and the start of impeachment proceedings against current President Barack Obama are the only relevant responses to the report. Torture is a crime under laws to which the U.S. is signatory. And with his war on Iraq George W. Bush and his administration murdered, or caused the premature deaths of, more than a million people and substantially destroyed a modern nation state. Read more.
Scott Horton @ Harpers - The military commissions at Guantánamo have been on hold for roughly two months now, stalled by a pressing question: Were the proceedings inside the state-of-the-art courtroom in fact being manipulated by the CIA? Back in 2009, the Obama Administration inherited a process that verged on being an international laughingstock. Political appointees had manipulated almost every step of the process, pressing to remove any doubt from the outcome. Ultimately, the thin veneer of legitimacy that remained was stripped away when military lawyers — both prosecutors and defense counsel — joined together to expose the political circus. Read more.
Max Eternity @ Truthout - Austerity measures are eroding America’s public school system. With massive increases in school closures and class cancellations, advocates say educational opportunities for students of all ages are increasingly being diminished.
This is not a new problem, per se. It is, however, an escalating one, and one that is being resisted. Read more.
NBC News - massive and deadly weather system carrying potentially severe thunderstorms, damaging winds and possibly even tornadoes was soaking the nation’s midsection on Thursday, with flash floods reported in Chicago and heavy rain expected to cause major flooding along the Mississippi River. Read more.
France 24 - Giorgio Napolitano has been re-elected by parliament to serve a second term, the first Italian president to do so, in hopes of easing the political stalemate plaguing the country since February elections left no party with a clear majority. Read more.
John Whitehead @ Rutherford Institute - Just imagine that you’re a terrorist with limited funds and you want to wreak havoc. You only have a few bombs, but you want your message broadcast to the world. How do you get the best bang for your buck? The answer is simple: turn the media into broadcasters for your acts of terrorism. (Rest assured, the politicians will also do their part to make the most of the moment and escalate a legitimate crisis into a full-blown political drama.)
As the recent terrorist attack at the Boston Marathon shows, the way for terrorists to broadcast their message to the world is to get the attention of the world media. Today’s terrorists know that they have the media at their disposal—CNN, FOX and the rest, including their online counterpart...read more.
Richard D. Wolff @ Truthout - Recent revelations of hidden money by the International Consortium of Investigative Reporters (ICIR) have embarrassed governments, large and small, and exposed many rich businesses and individuals. They used places like Lichtenstein, the British Virgin Islands, the Cayman Islands, Switzerland and, of course, Cyprus. Those countries' private banks wanted the money much as their governments wanted the revenue benefits of hidden money inflows. The rich around the world took advantage of those banks' services to launder money with some illegality attached to it, to evade or avoid taxes, to hide business deals from government scrutiny, and so on. Read more.
Guardian UK - The Boy Scouts of America bowed to pressure and called for an end to its long-standing ban on openly gay youth members Friday, but the organization intends to uphold its ban on gay adult leaders. Read more.
Christian Science Monitor - The rush for information about the Chechen suspects in the Boston bombing has led to mistaken reporting and fingering of innocents. The authorities, though, have not misled the public. It is important to let them do their jobs, and not rush to a judgment that may well be false. Read more.
Spiegel - The success of Germany's economy has long been driven by small and mid-sized companies dependent on skilled labor. But a developing shortage of experts represents a threat to the country's economic future. With babies in short supply, immigration could be the answer. Read more.
SF Chronicle - Ron Lanza, a pioneering cultural impresario who opened one of the first gay comedy clubs in America, died Tuesday at the VA hospital in San Francisco.
Mr. Lanza opened the Valencia Rose in 1981 by convincing schoolteacher Tom Ammiano to bring his kitchen kitsch humor to a live audience. Valencia Rose was followed by Josie's Cabaret and Juice Joint, which reigned for nearly 10 years as the San Francisco destination for gay comedy, poetry and even political campaigns. Read more.
Russian Times - Greek police are hunting three strawberry plantation foremen, who are suspected of shooting nearly 30 workers, mostly Bangladeshi, after immigrants demanded wages they had not been paid for six months. Read more.
NBC World News - Boosted by newly discovered natural resources, Israel is surging ahead economically – a success that is pushing the issue of the country's $3 billion in annual aid from the United States onto the agenda.
The country made its first intervention in the foreign currency market in almost two years Tuesday, buying $100 million to peg back the growing strength of its shekel.
A Bloomberg survey this week said the shekel was the strongest of 31 major currencies tracked over the last six months. Read more.
Gizmag - Splitterwerk Architects and engineering firm Arup have unveiled what is thought to be the world's first building to be powered partly by algae. Officially "unveiled" at the International Building Exhibition hosted in Hamburg, the design, dubbed the BIQ, has a "bio-adaptive" facade that is claimed to be a first for using algae within its glass-paneled facades in order to generate energy, and provide shade, to a working building. Read more.