March 21, 2006



* Videotape Forces Pentagon to Investigate Claims U.S. Marines Shot Dead 15
Iraqi Civilians in Apparent Revenge Killings *

The U.S. military is conducting a criminal investigation into allegations
that marines shot and killed 15 civilians, including seven women and three
children, in the Iraqi town of Haditha last November in an apparent act of
revenge for the death of a U.S. soldier by a roadside bomb. A videotape

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By Michael J. Sniffen, Associated Press

Alexandria, Va. - The FBI agent who arrested Zacarias Moussaoui in August 2001 testified Monday he spent almost four weeks trying to warn U.S. officials about the radical Islamic student pilot but "criminal negligence" by superiors in Washington thwarted a chance to stop the 9/11 attacks.

FBI agent Harry Samit of Minneapolis originally testified as a government witness, on March 9, but his daylong cross examination by defense attorney Edward MacMahon was the strongest moment so far for the court-appointed lawyers defending Moussaoui. The 37-year-old Frenchman of Moroccan descent is the only person charged in this country in connection with al-Qaida's Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

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Narges Niedzwiecki is a long time supporter of Latinos for America. Democracy for America welcomes LFA columnists on Tuesdays.

"The war is being paid for with the lives of young Latinos, many of whom went to Iraq under force or deception," Fernando Suarez, leader of "Guerrero Azteca" (Aztec Warrior), a movement that demands the United States withdraw its troops from the Middle East.

Now more than ever, the unjust war in Iraq is a Latino issue. Recently there has been a sharp rise in the number of Latinos who have died during the occupation of Iraq. Of the 135,000 troops presently fighting in Iraq, roughly 22 percent are of Latino descent. Many Latinos sign up for military service because they are enticed by the promise of citizenship, credit and funding for university education. As a patriotic measure, the US Department of Defense has granted US citizenship status to fallen soldiers, posthumously.

The US Army reports a 23 percent drop in recruitment of new soldiers. As a result, bilingual recruitment in predominantly Latino neighborhoods has increased. Spanish-language networks like Univision and Telemundo help sell the military's campaign in an effort to recruit more Latinos. One of the main motivations for enlistment is the sense of patriotism that first and second generation Latinos feel to their newly-adopted nation. Recruiters attend high schools, churches, swap meets, and special Latino events in an effort to increase contact and recruitment.

Not all Latinos, though, are in step with the military's recruitment. The time to act is now. The Latino community cannot afford to sacrifice their youth. Community lead grassroots anti-recruitment efforts and organization are necessary to combat aggressive recruitment, confusion among immigrant parents and false promises.

As of March 2006, there have been 2,318 confirmed US military fatalities in the Iraq War, of which roughly 12 percent are Latinos. The glorification of war within our society coupled with the ultimate sacrifice for flag and country has created the idea of tragic nobility, the fallen warrior. What's forgotten in this dismal image is that ultimately, war is murder.

—Narges Niedzwiecki

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March 20, 2006

Vets Running for Congress Fight ‘One-Issue’ Label By Peter Slevin Tuesday, March 21, 2006; Page A03 Washington Post Staff Writer (snip) There are 10 veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars running for Congress this year. Today may provide an early indicator of their chances: Tammy Duckworth, the star of the class, is entered in a competitive Democratic primary [...]
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I just watched the Nightline issue, and am deeply disappointed to say the least. The show chose to focus exclusively on Duckworth, and painted her as “against the war.” They even went so far as to bestow upon her the title of inheritor of the soldier-to-leader legacies of JFK and John McCain. The whole [...]
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Sacramento for Democracy co-hosted their last of three anti-war rallies in the city on Saturday, March 18th. The streetcorner at at 16th & Broadway was packed with over 400 activists who held reminders of this war's casualties, and the lack of accountability for the reasons behind invading Iraq.

Photo by Gary Zimmerman

This series of Saturday rallies, which started on March 4, were multi-national, multi-issue protests focusing on the illegal, bungled occupation of Iraq, now slipping into full blown-civil war.

The third anniversary of the "greatest strategic disaster in United States history" (retired Gen. William Odom) coincides with the Pentagon's announcement of three Americans' deaths in Iraq, bringing the U. S. military casualty total to at least 2,315 dead and 17,100 wounded since the beginning of the war in March 2003. Estimates of the total number of dead in Iraq in consequence of the war are as high as 500,000.

You can view more photos of the event at the

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The campaign for the Illinois 6th will be featured on Nightline tonight.  Christine Cegelis will be featured prominently.  The show airs at 11:30pm Eastern time.
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So there’s this dude on the Soap Box Chicago named ‘MHS’ who seems to think Cegelis campaign manager Kevin Spidel shouldn’t be so talented with the multitasking.  “Why is Kevin Spidel spending time posting on SB/C,” writes MHS, ”rather than running his campaign? Doesn’t he have volunteers for that, or something? I hadn’t realized that we [...]
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In the last half hour, the halls and offices here at Cegelis headquarters have been swarmed with volunteers.  There are more than a dozen groups out all across the district working the get-out-the-vote angle, smiling and working into a bitter wind. Gonna be a long, good night.  Oh…and there’s a rumor of snow in tomorrow’s forecast.  Cross [...]
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Electronic Voting Booths To Make Election Debut Tuesday Is First Election Without Punch Card Ballots Mike Parker, CBS2 News (CBS) CHICAGO Tuesday’s primary elections in Illinois will mark a first. For the first time since they were introduced, there will be no punch card ballots. CBS 2’s Mike Parker reports that when Illinois voters turn up at the polls Tuesday, [...]
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Just got word that the anchor of the local CBS news affiliate out here referred to Tammy Duckworth as “Tammy-come-lately” during their 5pm broadcast tonight, a clear reference to the fact that Duckworth does not even live in the district she hopes to represent. Pretty funny stuff…
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Bush sees progress in Iraq, despite lack of support

President Bush spoke today in Cleveland, saying that, despite Americans' dismayal with the war in Iraq, he sees signs of progress. "The situation on the ground remains tense," Bush told an audience at the City Club of Cleveland. "In the face of continued reports about killings and reprisals, I understand how some Americans have had their confidence shaken. Others look at the violence they see each night on their television screens, and they wonder how I can remain so optimistic about the prospects of success in Iraq. They wonder what I see that they don't." Couldn't have been said better! We've been wondering this too.

Rumsfeld's analogy wrong

Former top officials of two previous presidential administrations, one Democractic and the other Republican, disagreed with Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld's characterization of what would happen if the US were to pull-out of Iraq. "Turning our backs on postwar Iraq today would be the modern equivalent of handing postwar Germany back to the Nazis," Rumsfeld wrote Sunday in an opinion piece published in the Washington Post.

Katrina death toll still rising

Two more bodies were uncovered in New Orleans' Lower Ninth Ward yesterday, casualties from Hurricane Katrina. So far, Louisiana has reported 1,100 hurricane-related deaths. 231 lives were claimed in Mississippi. The latest bodies were found in a collapsed house while rubble was being cleared.

—Meredith Adams

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I arrived at the Christine Cegelis headquarters a couple of hours ago after a mercifully uneventful flight from Boston.  This place is absolutely buzzing with activity; volunteers are coming in, receiving marching orders, and heading back out to pound the pavement.  The phones are ringing all over the place, and the campaign strategists are flying [...]
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The "largest" air assault in Iraq was nothing of the sort.

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Defense Secretary's crackpot theories panned by Kissinger, Brzezinski,as retired general writes: "Mr. Rumsfeld must step down."

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The beginning of this year brought chaos for many seniors as they felt the ramifications of the poorly designed program known as Medicare Part D, which allows private companies to design and sell insurance plans offering prescription drug coverage. The program began on January 1, and was marked with the usual incompetence one can expect from Republicans and the Bush Administration.

Last week, President Bush apathetically described the program's inception as "interesting," and said that this program, which contained errors that left large numbers of seniors at least temporarily denied coverage, was a "good deal" for seniors and taxpayers.

Democrats, who foresaw the program's problems and voted overwhelmingly against its creation, plan to hold Republicans accountable for the program's flaws in elections later this year. Generally, Democrats favor benefits provided directly by the government, rather than through private companies.

The President urged seniors to sign up for this program which, according to him, "makes a lot of sense." He couldn't have put it better. It makes perfect sense that the Bush Administration, in its typical fashion, has ignored the needs of low-income and middle-class Americans to line the pockets of big business.

The White House projects that Medicare spending in 2006 will be 20% lower than was estimated last year.

—Meredith Adams

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The list of reasons for such a Commission keeps on growing.

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Chris Heldenbrand is an organizer of Democracy for Oklahoma City.

RAISE OKLAHOMA, an initiative petition campaign to put a raise in the minimum wage on the November ballot in Oklahoma, was officially formed Saturday, March 11, by a coalition of concerned groups and individuals in Oklahoma City.

Seventeen other states have instituted state minimum wage laws, with legislation in Michigan reaching the governor's desk just last week, which would make that state the eighteenth. It has been almost nine years since the last raise in the Federal minimum wage.

The three Democracy For America groups in Oklahoma are spearheading the organizational drive, but other groups have signed on to fully support the effort, such as the United Auto Workers, League of United Latin American Citizens, INDN's List, the Oklahoma Democratic Party, and county Democratic parties. Other groups have been contacted and their support is forthcoming.

The draft petition, the language of which has not yet been approved by the Attorney General and Secretary of State, calls for the minimum wage to be raised one dollar the first year, one dollar the second year, then thereafter the raises will be indexed to the Consumer Price Index and US government-formulated inflation indices.

The signature drive will begin immediately upon approval of the petition language. A base amount of approximately 107,000 signatures is required, but a goal of at least 140,000 has been set. Time is short, but a comprehensive strategy is in place to achieve the goal within the limited time frame.

RAISE OKLAHOMA PAC has been formed to provide the committee structure for the effort.

I want to urge all interested groups and individuals to volunteer some time to make this effort successful. Contact me at [email protected] or call me at 405-313-1050 for information.

I know everyone on this board realizes the political benefits that can accrue for Democrats with this issue, but the truth is, we are doing it simply because the working poor of Oklahoma deserve to live with dignity, and support their families with the basics of decent food, clothing, shelter and health care. You can debate the timing, you can bemoan the imaginary job losses, and you can lament the ten-cent rise in your Burger King Whopper, but the time for a raise is way overdue. And if not now, when? If not us, who?

Please help us with this effort. There are many ways to pitch in. We'll raise the standard of living in Oklahoma, and stimulate the consumer spending necessary to a healthy economy. If we do nothing else in our lifetimes, we will have made a significant contribution to our state with this.

But let's not stop there. This is just the beginning.

—Chris Heldenbrand

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March 19, 2006


Democracy for Missouri has become involved with the Leave My Child Alone program in an effort to educate parents about the student information that schools are required to provide for military recruiters as a provision of the No Child Left Behind Act. The Act mandates that public schools allow military recruiters on campus, providing them with names, addresses, and phone numbers of all high school juniors and seniors upon request, or else risk losing federal funding.

Most parents are unaware not only that schools give such information to recruiters, but also that the law also requires schools to notify parents that this happens, as well of their right to "opt-out," keeping the information private from recruiters. This is because instructions about privacy rights are often hard to find, if not nonexistent.

In the past year, 37,000 parents have downloaded opt-out forms available on the Leave My Child Alone Web site. However, according to Felicity Crush, spokesperson for the organization, parental notification "doesn't happen in some districts, and the policy varies wildly from district to district. I think that, administratively, it is not clear how to [opt-out]."

This disorganization proved fatal for John Johnson of St. Louis, MO, whose daughter, LaVena, was convinced by recruiters that joining the Army was her one shot at being able to afford college. Johnson assured LaVena that he would make sure she and her younger sister would receive a college education, even if it meant that he had to work two jobs. LaVena, however, wanted to be independent and pay her own way through school, and military recruiters aggressively painted her a picture of her doing so with military funding, assuring her that, because she was a woman, the possibility of ending up in Iraq was remote.

On July 19, 2005, little a year after graduating from high school, LaVena became the first Missouri woman to die in Iraq. She was 19.

"She thought she was safe on a military base," Johnson said. "She wasn't." Her death is currently under criminal investigation by the Army. After her death, Johnson discovered an Army flier tucked away in her dresser. It said "earn $25,000 toward college."

Sickeningly, military recruiters will not stop calling LaVena's younger sister, now a high school senior, at home and approaching her at school, even after being notified of LaVena's death in Iraq.

Frank Smith, principal of Hazelwood Central, the school LaVena attended, said that he notifies parents about the release of student information in a back-to-school newsletter, but the Johnsons never saw the notice. Smith maintained that he sees no harm in giving recruiters access to the campus and to students' personal information, and that when military fliers arrived at his house, "we just tore them up."

"The military offers opportunities like any other business," Smith said. "But the price [of those opportunities] could be death. That's the difference between what the military offers and what other careers offer."

Columbia, MO school board member Darin Preis began looking into the issue last year, at the urging of Democracy for Missouri president Bill Monroe, who invited him to an informational meeting about the provisions mandated by the No Child Left Behind Act.

"I became concerned about the inconsistencies between what the law says and what parents are told," Preis said. As a result, he said, "there will be a page in the student handbook next year that very explicitly says parents have the option to withhold their children's information." An opt-out form will also be included in the student handbook.

Jeff Stack of Mid-Missouri Fellowship for Reconciliation, who has been providing information to students and parents on countering military recruitment efforts for ten years, said that "this is a good beginning," and wants students to realize that "the military is primarily a fighting force, not a job training program."

Stack does not believe that the district has any "malicious" intents, but rather that they "are just trying to work through new ground," and would like to see letters sent out to parents in the summer, allowing them to opt-out before recruiters acquire lists at the beginning of the school year.

—Meredith Adams

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The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign GenerationDFA group has been producing high-quality newsletters for distribution on campus. The newsletters, called The Liberal Media, contain not only news updates and bracing commentary, but humor as well. The folks at GenDFA UIUC have generously offered their permission to redistribute these high-quality newsletters—take a look:

Pat Robertson's Age-Defying Pancakes—they're real!

Issue 3: Abortion
Issue 2: Privacy Rights/Wiretapping
Issue 1: Culture of Corruption

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