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Friday, March 31, 2006

New York Daily News - Ideas & Opinions - Stanley Crouch: Rehabilitate prisoners, not privileges

New York Daily News - Ideas & Opinions - Stanley Crouch: Rehabilitate prisoners, not privilegesRehabilitate prisoners, not privileges

In New York, there is no policy that justifies ethnic segregation in our penal system. In California, that isn't true. A lawsuit by a man named Garrison Johnson against the California penal system has cast light on why that state remains retarded in so many ways.

For decades, California segregated its prisoners by gang affiliation to avoid violence. The Los Angeles street gangs known as the Crips and the Bloods were kept separate to discourage their violent expression of hatred for each other.

White supremacists, of course, have no bloodletting beefs with each other because they are too busy growling about everyone who is not white. The Nation of Islam, another racist group, tends to hate white people first, integrationist Negroes second and then anyone who calls into question its imbecilic version of Islam (some would argue that the genocidal actions of Muslims in Sudan and the long support of black slavery by believers in the Koran proves pure Islam racist enough).

Garrison Johnson brought his case in 1995 because he was having none of segregation, and it took 10 years to win it. The state of California is now implementing a plan to fully integrate its prisons, which will thrill some and chill others.

Imprisoned for murder since 1987, Johnson did not feel safe being automatically housed with gang members because of his color. "Like the busing and lunch counter segregation policies of years past," he said after winning, "California's practice of separating prisoners by race is a relic of a different era. We're proud to have played a part in bringing this era to a close."

Comparing his case to desegregating a lunch counter is as ludicrous as Roger Toussaint, president of the Transport Workers Union, comparing the recent transit strike to the valor of Rosa Parks and the civil rights movement. Protecting a convicted murderer from knuckleheads ready to maim or kill at the slightest provocation may be the responsibility of the state of California, but it is not some noble act of general significance. It was a less expensive response to the violence that these knuckleheads and loons have exhibited in resistance to rehabilitation.

The ideal response to the problem would be to build prisons in which inmates are always observed by guards and cameras, making their every move virtually public. There are some small prisons that have been built on this model, but the inmates complain of having no privacy.

I do not believe that inmates of prisons constitute an oppressed minority. But I am also sure that if any state responds to the problem of gang violence or bigoted groups by scrutinizing all of the actions of inmates, then civil rights arguments or arguments about cruel and unusual punishment will be hurled around until common sense takes another fall.

Such is the nature of our time.

Originally published on March 26, 2006

New York Daily News - Ideas & Opinions - Stanley Crouch: Africa"s leading lady

New York Daily News - Ideas & Opinions - Stanley Crouch: Africa"s leading ladyAfrica’s leading lady

When Charles Taylor, the ex-Liberian thug president, was arrested in Nigeria trying to escape the clutches of international law, he was in a car with 110-pound bags of embezzled money. Well, he was not traveling light.

Taylor had risen to power after seven years of civil war, had won an election with 75% of the vote and had casually reduced his country to a pauper state. He is accused of starting conflicts in four other African states and encouraging the chopping off of hands, feet, lips and noses in Sierra Leone so that the terrified population would not hinder the sale of stolen diamonds.

Taylor is one of those African butchers who could have modeled himself on King Leopold II, the 19th-century Belgian king. Leopold's colonial policies in the Congo resulted in countless slaughters and many mutilations in the interest of producing a profitable rubber crop.

Leopold became a pariah among European courts, but naturally black-faced variations in Africa have wielded iron-fisted power without compunction, worrying only about being overthrown by some ambitious fellow monster in the military. If given the time, these monsters have fled to another African country, or to the Arab states, or even to the French Riviera, where they have been able to cool out and impress everyone with their pilfered riches.

As the Taylor case has proven, that trend in African politics may be coming to a screeching halt. Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, the first elected female president in all of Africa, had requested that Nigeria hand over Taylor to the authorities in Sierra Leone, where he would have to face charges of individual butchery, mutilation and crimes against humanity.

African women are coming to the fore, trying to right all of the wrongs put and held in place by a succession of brutal and corrupt African men. African justice has been as porous as Swiss cheese for more than 40 years and the African people have suffered enormously while black Americans in or out of elected office, in or out of the civil rights establishment, have either ignored the horrors wrought upon the people or have figured out ways to blame it all on others.

The women of Africa are more interested in dealing with the facts than maintaining a cosmetic front of innocence. In a number of places across Africa, we see women rooting out corruption and conceiving laws that will bring them closer to a standard of human equality.

Interestingly, Oprah Winfrey, who keeps turning up, has been a model. Winfrey has inspired African women to rebel against rape and kidnap, to defy misogynistic laws and to face up to the ravages of AIDS.

It is both sobering and exciting to realize that American women, having been taught much by the civil rights movement, can inspire African women by example, and that elected or appointed African officials can lead the way through the ingrained ignorance, poverty and disease that block human fulfillment. Such human force explains the mystery of African optimism.

Originally published on March 29, 2006

Thursday, March 30, 2006

BBC NEWS | Africa | Taylor trial 'may move to Hague'

BBC NEWS | Africa | Taylor trial 'may move to Hague' Taylor trial 'may move to Hague'
Sierra Leone's war crimes tribunal has asked the International Criminal Court (ICC) to host the trial of ex-Liberian leader Charles Taylor.

The ICC said Sierra Leone's request to use The Hague as a venue was being considered, but stressed the African tribunal would still control the case.

The request has been backed by Liberian President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf.

Mr Taylor, who was captured on Wednesday in Nigeria, faces charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

The 11 counts, including responsibility for murder, rape and mutilation, relate to his alleged role fomenting war in Sierra Leone.

The former president's spiritual adviser, Kilari Anand Paul, has said Mr Taylor would be happy to face a trial in The Hague.

Instability fear

ICC spokesman Ernest Sagaga told the BBC News website that the ICC was examining the request from the Sierra Leone war crimes tribunal to hold proceedings on its premises.

"It would be still under the jurisdiction of the Special Court for Sierra Leone," he said.

We still expect a resolution from the Security Council that will allow a change in venue to a more conducive environment, such as the international court at The Hague
Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf
Liberian president

Dutch Foreign Ministry spokesman Dirk-Jan Vermeij said the Sierra Leone tribunal was concerned that if Mr Taylor's trial was held in the capital, Freetown, it could lead to instability in the region.

The Netherlands was willing to co-operate with a trial at The Hague provided certain conditions were met, Mr Vermeij said.

US President George Bush said on Wednesday that he was keen for the trial to be moved, but to do so would require a UN Security Council resolution.

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice believed it could be passed "relatively quickly", he added.

Guerrilla support

In a radio address to the nation, President Johnson-Sirleaf supported the moves to hold Mr Taylor's trial outside neighbouring Sierra Leone.

"We still expect a resolution from the Security Council that will allow a change in venue to a more conducive environment, such as the international court at The Hague," she said.

Mrs Johnson-Sirleaf said she had stressed that the UN had to ensure Mr Taylor was allowed "the right of a vigorous self-defence".

Others alleged to have committed war crimes in Sierra Leone are already on trial in Freetown.

However, observers fear Mr Taylor may still be able to mobilise a guerrilla army, capable of attacking the court in Freetown from the surrounding hills.

His supporters argue that a trial in Freetown could not be fair, even if the judges were international, because of the hatred felt by many Sierra Leoneans towards the man accused of starting their country's decade-long civil war.

Story from BBC NEWS:

BBC NEWS | Americas | Jamaica awaits first woman leader

BBC NEWS | Americas | Jamaica awaits first woman leader Jamaica awaits first woman leader
Jamaica is to swear in its first female Prime Minister, Portia Simpson Miller.

Leaders from around the world are gathering in the Jamaican capital, Kingston, for Thursday's inauguration.

Ms Simpson Miller, 60, takes over from the incumbent Prime Minister, PJ Patterson, who has been in power for the past 14 years.

She has said Jamaica should stop worrying about her gender and concentrate on the island's problems, particularly the high crime rate.

Ms Simpson Miller was elected president of the governing People's National Party in an internal vote.

The former local government minister narrowly beat the national security minister and two other candidates to the job.

'Firebrand'

Ms Simpson Miller has been a popular figure in Jamaican politics since the 1970s.

"She is seen as someone who has really risen through the ranks of the party, coming from a very, very poor section of Jamaica... to the top post," Radio Jamaica's Kathy Barrett told the BBC.

"She's a woman who's very determined, a firebrand type of politician who has really hit home when it comes to the majority of people - especially women, the poor and the unemployed."

Her predecessor led his party to three election victories and was Jamaica's longest-serving prime minister, but leaves a government dogged by charges of corruption.

Ms Simpson Miller will also inherit a crisis in crime, with the murder rate at a record level, high unemployment, and a struggling education system.

She has faced criticism from the opposition, which says she has proposed nothing new, and from some within her own party.

Foreign Affairs Minister KD Knight has questioned her leadership ability. He announced his resignation on Monday.

The next parliamentary elections are due to take place in 2007.

Story from BBC NEWS:

BBC NEWS | Middle East | Iran given stark nuclear choice

BBC NEWS | Middle East | Iran given stark nuclear choice Iran given stark nuclear choice
Iran has 30 days to return to the negotiating table or face isolation, foreign ministers from the US and five other major powers have warned.

The comments at talks in Berlin reinforced a deadline in a statement by the UN Security Council, which urged Iran to halt uranium enrichment.

However the UN nuclear watchdog's chief said Iran was not an imminent threat and sanctions would be a "bad idea".

Iran says its activities are peaceful and has rejected the Council's call.

The UK's Jack Straw warned sanctions could follow if Iran remained defiant.

But speaking in Qatar, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) chief said sanctions were "a bad idea".

"We need to lower the pitch," Mohamed ElBaradei said.

'Miscalculated'

The Berlin talks included the five veto-wielding permanent members of the Council - the US, China, France, Russia and the UK - as well as Germany.


HAVE YOUR SAY
Iran needs to conform to the UN Security Council's demands
Gbenga Williams, London, UK

The foreign ministers were discussing what to do if Iran refused to drop its nuclear ambitions.

Their talks came a day after the UN Security Council finally approved a non-binding call on Iran to end uranium enrichment, after weeks of wrangling.

"Iran has a choice between isolation brought about through enrichment" or a return to talks, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said.

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said the meeting sent "a very strong signal to Iran that the international community is united".

The British foreign secretary said "the onus is on Iran to show the international community that its programme is entirely for civil purposes".

When asked by reporters if the Council might pass a legally binding resolution if Iran did not comply, Mr Straw said: "It can certainly include a resolution... and the possibility of measures after that."

Asked if such measures could include sanctions, he said: "It could do."

However, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said his country remained opposed to such a move against the Islamic Republic.

The "sole solution" would come through the IAEA, he said.

'Mistrust'

The 15-member Security Council unanimously approved the non-binding statement on Wednesday - one month after Iran's nuclear activities were reported to the Council by the IAEA.

The Council noted with serious concern... a number of outstanding issues which could have a military nuclear dimension

The statement was the third version of a draft drawn up by France and the UK, which made significant concessions to Russia and China.

Moscow and Beijing, both allies of Iran, were concerned that Security Council involvement could lead to sanctions against Iran and wanted the IAEA to take the lead.

Iran was defiant. "We will not, definitely, suspend enrichment," its ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency, Aliasghar Soltaniyeh, said earlier on Thursday.

Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said Tehran was still open to talks on the issue with the IAEA, but that there was "mistrust" over negotiations with European nations.

He condemned the West's "unjustified propaganda", insisting that Iran's nuclear programme was peaceful.

Story from BBC NEWS:

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Bill to Broaden Immigration Law Gains in Senate - New York Times

Bill to Broaden Immigration Law Gains in Senate - New York TimesMarch 28, 2006
Bill to Broaden Immigration Law Gains in Senate
By RACHEL L. SWARNS

WASHINGTON, March 27 — With Republicans deeply divided, the Senate Judiciary Committee voted on Monday to legalize the nation's 11 million illegal immigrants and ultimately to grant them citizenship, provided that they hold jobs, pass criminal background checks, learn English and pay fines and back taxes.

The panel also voted to create a vast temporary worker program that would allow roughly 400,000 foreigners to come to the United States to work each year and would put them on a path to citizenship as well.

The legislation, which the committee sent to the full Senate on a 12-to-6 vote, represents the most sweeping effort by Congress in decades to grant legal status to illegal immigrants. If passed, it would create the largest guest worker program since the bracero program brought 4.6 million Mexican agricultural workers into the country between 1942 and 1960.

Any legislation that passes the Senate will have to be reconciled with the tough border security bill passed in December by the Republican-controlled House, which defied President Bush's call for a temporary worker plan.

The Senate panel's plan, which also includes provisions to strengthen border security, was quickly hailed by Democrats, a handful of Republicans and business leaders, as well as by the immigrant advocacy organizations and church groups that have sent tens of thousands of supporters of immigrant rights into the streets of a number of cities to push for such legislation in recent days.

But even as hundreds of religious leaders and others rallied on the grounds of the Capitol on Monday, chanting "Let our people stay!," the plan was fiercely attacked by conservative Republicans who called it nothing more than an offer of amnesty for lawbreakers. It remained unclear Monday night whether Senator Bill Frist, the Senate majority leader, would allow the bill to go for a vote this week on the floor or would substitute his own bill, which focuses on border security. His aides have said that Mr. Frist, who has said he wants a vote on immigration this week, would be reluctant to move forward with legislation that did not have the backing of a majority of the Republicans on the committee.

Only 4 of the 10 Republicans on the committee supported the bill. They were the committee chairman, Senator Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, and Senators Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Mike DeWine of Ohio and Sam Brownback of Kansas. All eight Democrats on the committee voted in favor of the legislation.

The rift among Republicans on the committee reflects the deep divisions in the party as business groups push to legalize their workers and conservatives battle to stem the tide of illegal immigration. Mr. Specter acknowledged the difficulties ahead, saying, "We are making the best of a difficult situation." But he said he believed that the legislation would ultimately pass the Senate and would encourage the millions of illegal immigrants to come out of the shadows.

"We do not want to create a fugitive class in America," Mr. Specter said after the vote. "We do not want to create an underclass in America."

"I think this represents a reasonable accommodation," he said, referring to the divergent views on the panel. "It's not a majority of the majority, but it's a good number."

Scott McClellan, the White House spokesman, said Monday night that President Bush was "pleased to see the Senate moving forward on legislation." Mr. Bush has repeatedly called for a temporary worker program that would legalize the nation's illegal immigrants, though he has said such a plan must not include amnesty.

"It is a difficult issue that will require compromise and tough choices, but the important thing at this point is that the process is moving forward," Mr. McClellan said.

Lawmakers central to the immigration debate acknowledged that the televised images of tens of thousands of demonstrators, waving flags and fliers, marching in opposition to tough immigration legislation helped persuade the panel to find a bipartisan compromise.

"All of those people who were demonstrating were not necessarily here illegally," said Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona, who sponsored the legalization measures with Senator Edward M. Kennedy, Democrat of Massachusetts. Mr. Kennedy described the people who would benefit from the bill as "our neighbors," adding: "They're churchgoers. They're the shop owners down the street. They're the people we know."

The protesters were rallying in opposition to the security bill passed by the House. The House bill would, among other things, make it a federal crime to live in this country illegally, turning the millions of illegal immigrants here into felons, ineligible to win any legal status. (Currently, living in this country without authorization is a violation of civil immigration law, not criminal law.)

The legislation passed by the Judiciary Committee on Monday also emphasized border security and would nearly double the number of Border Patrol agents over the next five years, criminalize the construction of tunnels into the United States from another country and speed the deportation of illegal immigrants from countries other than Mexico. But it also softened some of the tougher elements in the House legislation.

Addressing one of the most contentious issues, the panel voted to eliminate the provisions that would criminalize immigrants for living here illegally and made an amendment to protect groups and individuals from being prosecuted for offering humanitarian assistance to illegal immigrants.

Conservatives on the committee warned that the plan would generate a groundswell of opposition among ordinary Americans who had been demanding tighter controls at the border and an end to the waves of illegal immigration.

Senator Jeff Sessions, Republican of Alabama, said the Judiciary panel "let the American people down by passing out a blanket amnesty bill."

Senator Jon Kyl, Republican of Arizona, said the foreign workers would take American jobs during a recession. "Get ready for a real tough time," Mr. Kyl said, "when American workers come to your office and say, 'How did you let this happen?' "

Under the proposal, participants in the temporary worker program would have to work for six years before they could apply for a green card. Any worker who remained unemployed for 60 days or longer during those six years would be forced to leave the country. (Employers could petition for permanent residency on behalf of their employees six months after the worker entered into the program.)

The legalization plan for the nation's illegal immigrants would require those without documents to work in the United States for six years before they could apply for permanent residency. They could apply for citizenship five years after that. Immigrants would have to pay a fine, back taxes and learn English.

Mr. Graham called it an 11-year journey to citizenship.

"To me that's not amnesty," he said. "That is working for the right over an 11-year period to become a citizen. It is not a blanket pardon."

"The president believes and most of us here believe that the 11 million undocumented people are also workers," Mr. Graham said. "We couldn't get by as a nation without those workers and without those people."

Moussaoui Now Ties Himself to 9/11 Plot - New York Times

Moussaoui Now Ties Himself to 9/11 Plot - New York TimesMarch 28, 2006
Moussaoui Now Ties Himself to 9/11 Plot
By NEIL A. LEWIS

ALEXANDRIA, Va., March 27 — Zacarias Moussaoui, who is facing the death penalty for the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, took the witness stand in his own defense Monday, only to bolster the government's case by unhesitatingly acknowledging the charges in the indictment against him and adding a few new, self-incriminating statements.

Mr. Moussaoui said he knew in advance of Al Qaeda's plans to fly jetliners into the World Trade Center and asserted that his role on that day was to have been to fly another plane into the White House. He said he was to have been accompanied on the suicidal mission by Richard C. Reid, the so-called shoe bomber who was convicted in a separate failed effort to blow up a plane in flight.

Although Mr. Moussaoui had said over the last few years that he was a member of Al Qaeda and was learning to fly a plane to participate in some "second wave" of terrorist attacks, until now he had always insisted that he knew little of the plot for the attacks and vowed to fight the death penalty to the last of his strength.

But when he began his long-awaited testimony on Monday, he offered a lengthy description of a far deeper involvement with Al Qaeda and its plots. Not only was he a member of the terror network, he told the jury, he also said that he knew most of the Sept. 11 hijackers, admitted that he lied to investigators about his knowledge of their plot when he was arrested on immigration violations three weeks before the attacks on New York and the Pentagon, and recounted that he was ecstatic when, behind bars, he heard the news of the attacks on a radio he had bought for that purpose.

Before the day was over, the jury also had the extraordinary experience of hearing a reading of testimony taken in a deposition from Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who is said to have organized the Sept. 11 attacks and is being held somewhere in the secret overseas detention system of the Central Intelligence Agency.

That deposition, in which Mr. Mohammed answered questions agreed to by prosecutors and defense lawyers, seemed to contradict Mr. Moussaoui's assertion that he was meant to be a pilot on Sept. 11.

Mr. Mohammed portrayed Mr. Moussaoui as a fringe figure who might have been used in a second wave of attacks if needed.

For more than an hour, Michael Nachmanoff, a public defender, recited Mr. Mohammed's answers in what resembled an oddly disembodied literary reading. Mr. Nachmanoff read out testimony that any planning for a second wave of attacks "was only in the most preliminary stages" and that targets had not even been selected.

But while that might seem to contradict Mr. Moussaoui's version of events, the defendant's first-person account, painting his own role in bold brushstrokes, was the day's main event.

When one of Mr. Moussaoui's court-appointed lawyers asked if he was to have been the so-called 20th hijacker — a member of the team on the plane that crashed in Pennsylvania, with only four hijackers aboard, while the planes that hit the Pentagon and the World Trade Center had teams of five — he replied, "No, I was not to be a fifth hijacker."

But, he continued, "I was supposed to fly a plane into the White House."

In addition to the other four planes? asked his lawyer, Gerald T. Zerkin.

"That's correct," Mr. Moussaoui answered.

He also asserted, for the first time, that one of his team members was to have been Mr. Reid, a British convert to Islam who was arrested on Dec. 22, 2001, while trying to detonate an explosive device in his shoe during a flight from Paris to Miami. Previous investigations have provided no evidence of Mr. Reid's involvement in any other plots, or any efforts to enter the United States in the summer of 2001.

When Robert J. Spencer, the chief prosecutor, had his turn, Mr. Moussaoui agreed with just about every incriminating question.

Mr. Spencer asked if the reason Mr. Moussaoui had lied to the F.B.I. agent who questioned him in Minneapolis on Aug. 16 was "so you could allow the operation to go forward."

"That is correct," Mr. Moussaoui replied.

After his arrest, was he looking forward to news of the attacks?

"Yes, you could say that," Mr. Moussaoui said calmly.

He used the phrase "that is correct" dozens of times as the prosecutor led him through the facts presented in the indictment.

It was correct, Mr. Moussaoui said, that he knew hijackers were in the United States for some imminent mission that involved flying planes into buildings.

Was his reason for hoping to fly a plane into the White House to kill Americans?

"That is correct," he said.

Mr. Moussaoui, who has been truculent through proceedings in the past three years and whose outbursts have drawn rebukes from the judge, spoke calmly with a heavy French accent, leaning forward in the witness chair, sometimes casually holding out an empty cup for a marshal to fill with water.

He seemed testy only when being questioned by his own lawyer, who tried with little success to elicit replies that would help his case.

Mr. Moussaoui's testimony even undercut one of the pillars of the defense his lawyers had laid out for him, that he did not know any of the 19 hijackers who died on Sept. 11. As Mr. Spencer showed him their photos, Mr. Moussaoui said he knew 17 of them from the days he helped run a Qaeda guesthouse in Afghanistan.

Mr. Moussaoui, a 37-year-old Frenchman of Moroccan heritage, has already pleaded guilty to six conspiracy counts in connection with the Sept. 11 attacks. The sole question before the jury here is whether he should be executed or spend the rest of his life in jail.

The Justice Department has argued that he should pay with his life because had he not lied, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Federal Aviation Administration would have moved swiftly to thwart the plot.

The defense may complete its case by Tuesday, and Judge Leonie M. Brinkema told the jurors they might get to deliberate as early as Wednesday. Under the federal death penalty law, the jury must first consider whether Mr. Moussaoui's actions caused some deaths on Sept. 11. If they decide unanimously that his actions did, they move to another phase to consider whether the death penalty is appropriate.

Mr. Moussaoui's court-appointed lawyers, with whom he does not speak, almost certainly did not want him to testify as he did. But under the law they had no power to prevent him from doing so.

Until Mr. Moussaoui took the stand, the momentum seemed to be with the defense, which had contended that he was a fringe figure in Al Qaeda whose leaders held him in low regard.

Moreover, the government's case had been plagued by problems. After the disclosure that a government transportation lawyer had improperly coached some aviation security witnesses, the testimony of two other witnesses about how the F.B.I. handled investigative leads before Sept. 11 raised as many questions over the government's performance as it did about Mr. Moussaoui's culpability.

In addition to having served as the government's star witness, Mr. Moussaoui acknowledged to Mr. Spencer the depth of his hatred of Americans before a jury that is to decide whether he lives or dies.

He agreed that he rejoiced in the death of nearly 3,000 people on Sept. 11 and that in August 2002, he wrote that he described a tape recording of a female flight attendant pleading for her life aboard one of the planes as "gorgeous."

David Stout and David Johnston contributed reporting for this article.