This post will be updated throughout the day.
Three explosions rocked the London tubes this morning and one tore open a packed double-decker bus during today's rush hour, sending victims fleeing after what Tony Blair called "barbaric" terrorist attacks. London Mayor Ken Livingstone, in Singapore where he supported London's successful bid to host the 2012 Olympics, said the blasts that ripped through his city were "mass murder" carried out by terrorists bent on "indiscriminate slaughter." (A group called The Secret Organisation of al-Qaeda in Europe said it carried out the series of blasts in retaliation for Britain's involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan.)
There are conflicting reports over how many people were killed and injured but a US law enforcement official is being widely quoted saying that at least 40 people were killed and London hospitals have reported more than 700 wounded. Whatever the exact numbers, it's clear that this is Britain's worst-ever terrorist attack.
Maybe we need sportscasters to ask informed, incisive questions of our pundits and politicians? It certainly was refreshing to watch Bob Costas sub for Larry King the night of Bush's Iraq speech. I happened to flick on CNN's premier talk show, expecting the usual vapid questions and platitudinous replies, and found the veteran sportscaster asking some smart and (relatively) tough questions. (Click here to read the transcript.)
Costas: ...There were no weapons of mass destruction. There has been no contact or connection between Iraq and al Qaeda or 9/11 established. Vice President Cheney says the insurgency is in its final throes. Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld says the insurgency could last a decade or more. Does the the Bush Administration now face a credibility gap?" (Both Time's Jay Carney and Newsweek's Richard Wolffe said yes.)
I sat up and started listening.
This July 4th, a diverse coalition of groups including the Center for Constitutional Rights, Code Pink, The Culture Project, Not In Our Name, United For Peace and Justice, and WEDO (Women's Environment & Development Organization) are asking people across the United States to join the call to shut down the GuantÃ¡namo prison camp and demand an immediate independent investigation into the widespread allegations of abuse taking place there. Click here to check out CCR's GuantÃ¡namo Action Center, where you can sign petitions, contact your elected reps, download fliers and stickers and find other ways to get involved in the growing campaign to shut down Gitmo.
Sandra Day O'Connor's resignation has launched an epic struggle over the direction of the Supreme Court. Potentially at stake are the future of legal abortions, affirmative action for minority groups, government aid to religious schools and other issues that have long divided US society. Justice O'Connor was often the crucial swing vote on a court where many of the biggest rulings have come on 5-4 decisions, as public interest groups from both left and right have been busy pointing out.
On this July 4th, when it comes to challenges facing America, the Bush Administration demonstrates that the conservative agenda is, to borrow a phrase, part of the problem, not the solution. But progressives need to seize the opening created by the reckless, reactionary and divisive rightwing policies to put forth positive initiatives that address the challenges facing the country.
These initiatives not only need to be large enough to address the festering problems facing us, but also broad enough to engage new allies and attract new supporters, and clear enough to be both compelling and comprehensible.
Anyone interested in a savvy primer on good progressive ideas would have found it at a featured panel--"Five Initiatives for a More Perfect Union,"--at the Campaign for America's "Taking Back America" conference last month in Washington, DC.
This morning, President Bush said he will make a quick decision on a nominee to replace retiring Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor and issued a thinly veiled warning to the US Senate not to block his choice. In response, public interest groups and concerned citizens are sounding the alarm on what could be Bush's biggest opportunity yet to cement his reactionary agenda for years to come.
As Nan Aron, executive director of the Alliance for Justice, said today, "The impact of Justice O'Connor's replacement will affect the lives of all Americans not just for four years but for forty. A new justice--a lifetime appointee--has the awesome power of deciding critical issues affecting our workplaces, our civil rights, our environment and our privacy"
The Alliance as well as the People for the American Way are both working to rally opposition to what is widely expected to be a divisive, far-right appointment by the President. Check out their websites (here and here) for info on what's expected next and what you can help do about it.
As the 229th anniversary of the founding of the American experiment approached, President Bush provided a painful reminder of how far the United States has drifted from the ideals of her youth.
Speaking to soldiers who would soon be dispatched to occupy Iraq, Bush sounded an awfully lot like the King George against whom George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and the other revolutionaries of 1776 led their revolt.
America was founded in opposition to empire. The Declaration of Independence was a manifesto against colonialism. And the wisest of the founding generations abhorred imperialism.
"A nation's success or failure in achieving democracy is judged in part by how well it responds to those at the bottom and the margins of the social order.... The very problems that democratic change brings--social tension, heightened expectations, political unrest--are also strengths. Discord is a sign of progress afoot; unease is an indication that a society has let go of what it knows and is working out something better and new."
Those are not the thoughts of a great civil rights leader, nor of a prominent progressive reformer.
They are the words of Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, the "swing" vote on the US Supreme Court, who on Friday announced that she is stepping down.
Each day, while pharmaceutical companies prosper, 8,500 people in the global South die of AIDS. Thanks to strict intellectual property laws that keep drug prices sky-high, only 7 percent of HIV-positive people in low to middle-income countries have access to antiretroviral medicine.
But last week, Brazil--already renown for having one of the most progressive AIDS policies in the world--took a bold stand against big pharma. On June 25th, health minister Humberto Costa announced that Brazil will break the patent of the antiretroviral drug Kaletra, which is manufactured by the US company Abbott Laboratories, unless the company dramatically reduces its prices. Brazil intends to make a generic version of the drug, which it says will cost barely half of the $2,630 per patient the country annually pays Abbott. In doing so, Brazil will be able to extend its free AIDS treatment program to tens of thousands more HIV-infected citizens.
Brazil maintains that its decision is completely legal under the WTO framework, which allows poor countries to break patents in cases of national health emergencies (Brazil will still have to pay a 3 percent royalty to Abbott). Costa hopes that Brazil's action will embolden other poor and disease-ridden countries--which have been bullied into submission by trade pressure from the United States and other powerful nations--to follow suit.
"We've had no evidence that Saddam Hussein was involved with the September 11th attacks."
George W. Bush -- September 17, 2003
To the extend that George Bush had retained the slightest shred of dignity through the whole ugly Iraq imbroglio, it was found in his refusal to fully embrace the biggest of the Big Lies told by his aides: The claim that the Iraqi government of Saddam Hussein had played a role in the September 11, 2001, attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.