United States News Digest
Aged, Blind, and Disabled Californians on Chopping Block
LOS ANGELES, Jan. 16 (EIRNS)The day after California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger delivered his State of the State address on Jan. 15, State Controller John Chiang announced emergency plans to deal with the impending disappearance of cash reserves. In his address, Schwarzenegger reported that the state will run out of cash by Feb. 1. Under the plan released by Chiang, the state will withhold tax refunds for individuals and businesses which overpaid their state taxes; payments to vendors which provide products and services to state government; and checks to a million aged, blind, and disabled, aid which is needed to pay rent and utilities.
This is only the latest group of victims of the Schwarzenegger budget crisis. The delivery of health care has been cut dramatically, with the closing of hospitals and neighborhood clinics, and cuts in the state reimbursement of doctors who treat patients under MediCal, the state's version of the Federal Medicaid program. Over 200 state-funded infrastructure projects have been halted, and school districts have been forced to draft plans to lay off teachers and consolidate schools. Delivery of state services has been cut, through the governor's mandate that all state employees must take two unpaid days off per month, and, on top of that, the state workforce will be cut by 10%.
The announcement today, of the plan to withhold refunds and payments owed to businesses and the citizens of the state, by the Controller's office, confirms what the LaRouche Political Action Committee has asserted for years, that the real cause of the existential crisis facing California is a Schwarzenegger problem. The solution to this problem was articulated years ago by Lyndon LaRouche: Get that fascist bum Schwarzenegger out of office!
That action alone will not reverse the collapse of California. But, without it, there is no chance that the legislature will be able to act on behalf of the citizens of the state.
Holder: Waterboarding Is Torture; We Will Close Guantanamo
Jan. 15 (EIRNS)In sharp contrast to Bush-Cheney Administration officials, Attorney General nominee Eric Holder declared today that "waterboarding is torture." Holder cited the use of waterboarding by the Spanish Inquisition, and the fact that the United States had prosecuted it as a war crime, both in World War II and the Vietnam War. Neither of the two previous Attorneys General, Alberto Gonzales or Michael Mukasey, would even answer this question. Holder also referenced discussions he has had with retired generals and admirals who told him that these so-called "enhanced interrogation techniques" do not produce good intelligence.
Holder also declared that the Guantanamo prison will be closed by the Obama Administration, while explaining that there are issues still to be resolved, such as what to do with detainees who cannot be released because they are avowed warriors against the United States. Holder was introduced by retiring U.S. Sen. John Warner (R) of Virginia, who identified himself as "among those all across this nation who are working for a bipartisan approach, to support the President-elect in facing what is, I think each of us believe, the most complicated and challenging set of issues that ever faced a President."
Among the priorities for the Obama Justice Department outlined by Holder, was to "wage an aggressive effort against financial fraud and market manipulation." Holder noted that, as taxpayers are being asked to rescue large sections of the economy, they have a right to demand "accountability for wrongdoing that only the Department of Justice can provide."
Congressman: Destroy Afghan Opium Crops
Jan. 15 (EIRNS)Rep. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), recently back from military service in Afghanistan, is calling on President-elect Barack Obama to authorize the aerial herbicide spraying of opium crops in Afghanistan, to shut down the major source of funding of the Taliban. Kirk is a Naval Reserve officer and spent three weeks developing counter-narcotics plans in NATO's Southern Command. He watched military operations in Helmand province. Columnist Morton Kondracke reports in today's Roll Call that the battle that Kirk observed got little attention in the U.S. media, but Kirk told him that the result of it was that "for the first time in history, [NATO] is directly in control of a major drug producing area. So, a new policy is very much needed."
U.S.-Mexican Relations Are High on Obama's Agenda
Jan. 12 (EIRNS)President-elect Barack Obama met today in Washington with Mexican President Felipe Calderón, following the tradition that, prior to being sworn in, the American President-elect meets with the Mexican President to underscore the important relationship between the two nations. Ronald Reagan established this tradition in 1980, when he met with Mexican President José López Portillo. From all accounts, the meeting between Obama and Calderón was very cordial and positive in tone. Obama said he was prepared "from day one" to build on the existing bilateral relationship to make it stronger, while Calderón stressed the need for a "strategic alliance" to deal with "common threats." Chief among the latter is the horrific drug violence in Mexico, and the large, unfettered weapons contraband from the United States which feeds it.
Following the 90-minute luncheon and private meeting that took place at the Mexican Cultural Institute, Obama's spokesman Robert Gibbs reported that the President-elect vowed to work closely with Calderón to stop the illegal flow of arms from the U.S. into Mexico. Adding some weight to this, today, Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.) and Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Tex.), introduced legislation calling for $30 million to be allocated over the next two years to combat weapons trafficking to Mexico.
Calderón welcomed such action. But he is not enthusiastic about Obama's stated intention to amend NAFTA, which, he says, has been "good" for Mexico, despite the fact that it is, in fact, what has facilitated the weapons contraband that Calderón says must be stopped!
Obama Suggests Radical Shift in U.S. Policy on Iran
Jan. 11 (EIRNS)In the midst of the unmistakable propaganda buildup of the Iranian "threat" in the U.S. media, President-elect Barack Obama sounded a note of sanity in his discussion with George Stephanopoulos on ABC's "This Week Today." Asked about the recent assessment of former defense secretary William Perry, that his administration would face a crisis with Iran early on, Obama said he thought it would be a challenge, because of Iran's relationship with terrorist groups and its nuclear aspirations which could start a nuclear arms race in the region. Here is an excerpt:
Obama: We are going to have to take a new approach. And I've outlined my belief that engagement is the place to start. That the international community is going to be taking cues from us in how we want to approach Iran. And I think that sending a signal that we respect the aspirations of the Iranian people, but that we also have certain expectations in terms of how a international actor behaves, is....
Stephanopoulos: But a new emphasis on respect?
Obama: Well, I think a new emphasis on respect and a new emphasis on being willing to talk, but also a clarity about what our bottom lines are. And we are in preparations for that. We anticipate that we're going to have to move swiftly in that area.
Kerry: Gaza Could Be Opportunity for Peace
Jan. 14 (EIRNS)"I think it is possible that Gaza could be turned into an opportunity for the Obama Administration and for Secretary Clinton," said Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), the new chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, "because it may be the opening that we need to begin to put a peace process back on, and to really begin, with new players, to articulate what the expectations are of both sides."
In an interview on MSNBC, Kerry stated, "We have to be a true broker that is viewed by both sides as being a fair broker in this process. The Obama Administration will begin that process with a clean slate on Tuesday of next week, and if they use that correctly, I believe we can make progress in the Middle East."
In response to questions about talking with Hamas, Kerry said there is already a channel of communication with Hamas, through Egypt and also through King Abdullah of Jordan. "I believe that getting a ceasefire as soon as possible, with durable, clear, understandable expectations on both parties' sides, is the beginning of a new process."