In Nam Khem, a poor coastal village in Thailand, when displaced survivors returned to the ruins to search for the remains of their loved ones and rebuild their homes, they found the area had been sealed off my armed men. The thugs told them the land now belonged to the "Big Boss," a nameless real estate speculator who had been battling for control of the land in the courts for years, hoping to cash in on the local boom in tourist resorts.
Two US soldiers have now been charged in the deaths of two Afghan prisoners who died in US custody in December 2002, after they were apparently chained to the ceiling before being savagely beaten at the Bagram Control Point, just north of Kabul. (NYT, March 12)
As previously noted here, a CIA contract agent charged in a similar case plans to cite Bush in his defense.
The planned March 18 woman-led traditional Friday prayers—hailed as an historic first for Islam—have been moved from a Soho art gallery to an undisclosed location where they will be open to an invitation-only list following a slate of death threats. One anonymous message to the gallery threatened to "blow you up." The prayers are to be led by Amina Wadud, author of Qur'an and Woman: Rereading the Sacred Text from a Woman's Perspective, who remains defiant: "If there really exists a threat to my life, if my intentions and my heart remain focused on Allah, then I couldn't die in a better state. Life and death are not mine to determine."
Linden Corrica, an immigrant father and husband from Guyana living in Brooklyn's Bushwick neighborhood, pleaded guilty to selling ten dollars worth of marijuana in exchange for a 20-day sentence in September 2003. But after serving his time at NYC's Rikers Island prison, he was transfered to an out-of-state federal detention facility to await deportation. Having exhausted all his appeals, he is now about to be deported—despite a psychiatric evaluation of the emotional problems his seven-year-old daughter has suffered since his detention.
An apparent lone nut, Bart Ross, left a suicide note claiming responsibility for the murder of two family members of Chicago federal Judge Joan Lefkow before blowing his own brains out, throwing suspicion off the white supremacist World Church of the Creator (see our last blog post on the case).
The administration of California's Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has followed the Bush White House in producing "video press releases" neatly disguised as actual news items for distribution to TV news stations—Bush to promote the Iraq war, Arnold to promote his anti-union policies. Critics call the tactic "covert propaganda" and compare it to the methods of totalitarian regimes. (UK Independent, March 14)
Brazil's ruling Workers' Party rejected a claim by a leading weekly magazine that Colombia's FARC guerrillas donated $5 million to its candidates for the 2002 elections. In an eight-page cover story, Veja magazine said that it had been given access to secret documents of Brazil's Intelligence Agency (ABIN) showing that the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) offered aid. Veja said that a FARC representative in Brazil, Father Oliverio Medina, made the offer during a meeting on April 13, 2002, at a small farm outside Brasilia. A secret service agent infiltrated the meeting. In a statement March 12, Workers' Party President Jose Genoino contradicted the Veja story, headlined "FARC's tentacles in Brazil," calling it irresponsible and stating that the allegations lacked proof. He said that Veja failed to print any documents showing financial links between the Workers Party and FARC. (Reuters, March 13)
In another gesture of perverse irony, the Bush administration has appointed John Bolton, a longtime anti-UN ideologue, as ambassador to the UN (replacing John Danforth, who is stepping down).