BlackBox Radio

February 27, 2006

BlackBox Radio for the week of February 28th

Filed under: Weekly Show — blackboxradio @ 9:14 pm

Listen to the show: lower quality | high quality

On this week’s show: On this week’s show we’re focusing on young people. First we hear from Telling It, a creative writing program for kids. Next, interviews and music from the local record label, Youth Owned Records. Plus, the following local, national, and international headlines:

Local Headlines:
’Michigan Needs A Raise’ Campaign
Local Citizens Organize for Dioxane Clean-Up
Bus Service to Ypsilanti/Ann Arbor Under Threat

National and International Headlines:
Farmers, Environmentalists Challenge GMO-Giant Monsanto
Anthropologist Reveals Human Evolution Based on Cooperation
U.S. Refuses to Meet with Lebanon’s Pro-Syrian President
Attempted Coup in Philippines

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Local Headlines

The Michigan Citizen reported earlier this month that a new petition drive started in Detroit for a measure to increase Michigan’s minimum wage. The “Michigan Needs a Raise” coalition is collecting 350,000 signatures by this summer to get the proposal on the November ballot.
This proposal would increase the minimum wage to $6.85 on hour–up from $5.15, which has been the federal minimum wage for the last 9 years.
State Senator Irma Clarke-Coleman states: “A full time worker at the minimum wage makes $10,700 a year, which is actually $5,000 below the federal poverty line for a family of 3.”
18 other states including Ohio have already raised their wages above the federal minimum. However, in Michigan, there are working families that cannot afford rent and have been forced into homeless shelters.
Some small business groups are concerned that they will not be able to hire workers at the new rates. However, the Michigan Needs a Raise Campaign asserts that businesses will actually benefit, as more consumers will be able to afford their goods.

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The Ann Arbor news reports a newly formed group to oversee the clean-up efforts to remove dioxane from local groundwater. The Coalition for Action on Remediation of Dioxane, or CARD, is based on former citizens groups that formed after dioxane contamination was discovered in the 1980’s. The dioxane comes from Gelman Sciences Inc. in Scio Township, who watered their lawns with their manufacturing byproducts.
Since then, despite clean-up efforts, the chemical has spread to the west side of Ann Arbor, forcing the closing of wells.
CARD facilitates the clean-up process by connecting government and company officials with neighborhood groups and citizens, who often have the most effective ideas. The City Council is also considering participation with CARD; a resolution is due to be passed in the upcoming weeks

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The Ypsilanti City Government has proposed reductions or even eliminations of the bus service between Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti. This will hurt hundreds of workers and students who depend on the bus for a ride to work or class. The routes between Ypsilanti and Ann Arbor are currently some of the busiest in the entire busing system.
The proposed cuts come in response to budget deficits in the Ypsilanti government, and involve dropping the city’s seven bus routes by 2009. Ypsilanti currently pays the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority around $170,500 a year for this service.
A petition is being circulated online to protest the proposed cuts at http://www.petitionspot.com/petitions/preserveypsibus

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National and International Headlines:

Agbiotech giant Monsanto is facing resistance to its push for introduction of genetically engineered plants. In one case, a coalition of farmers, consumers and environmental activists have sued the U.S. government over its approval of a Monsanto-developed biotech alfalfa (http://www.enn.com/today.html?id=9901). The lawsuit charges the US Dept of Agriculture with improperly allowing Monsanto to sell the herbicide-resistant seed without completing a full review of its public health, environmental, and economic consequences. Alfalfa, the 4th most widely grown crop in the US, is easily cross-pollinated, and as a perennial, persists in the ecosystem. The suit states that the genetically modified alfalfa will likely contaminate conventionally-grown alfalfa at a rapid pace. This would eventually force farmers to pay Monsanto for the crop whether they had wanted the technology or not, and potentially lead to eradication of the conventional alfalfa industry entirely.

On another front, over 300 global grassroots organizations, including farmers and indigenous peoples’ groups, are challenging Monsanto’s renewed attempts to get Terminator technology approved by the UN next month (http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?SectionID=56&ItemID=9800). Terminator seeds are deliberately engineered to be sterile so that farmers cannot collect seeds for the next years’ crop, making them dependent on purchasing their seeds from Monsanto each year.

In 1999, in response to widespread opposition, Monsanto pledged not to attempt to commercialize terminator technology. However, new language which Monsanto intends to introduce at next month’s UN Convention on Biological Diversity revokes the pledge on non-food crops and opens the way for terminator use in cotton, tobacco, pharmaceutical crops, and grasses. The text recommends Terminator applications be approached on a “case by case” like any other genetically modified crop, examining its health and environmental impacts. Opposition groups contend this approach would ignore the potentially severe economic and societal impacts of genetic seed sterility, especially in agricultural communities in developing countries.

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Humans actually evolved to be peaceful, cooperative and social animals and not dangerous predators, states Duke University anthropologist Robert W. Sussman (http://www.terradaily.com/reports/Early_Humans_On_The_Menu.html). Speaking at the American Association for the Advancement of the Science’s Annual Meeting, Sussman argues that primates, including early humans, evolved not as hunters but as prey of many predators, including wild dogs and saber-toothed cats, hyenas, eagles and crocodiles.

Since the 1924 discovery of the first early humans, most scientists theorized that early humans were hunters and possessed a killer instinct. Sussman theorizes that this view, quote, “developed from a basic Judeo-Christian ideology of man being inherently evil, aggressive and a natural killer. In fact, when you really examine the fossil and living non-human primate evidence, that is just not the case.”

In studying Australopithecus afarensis, an early hominid that lived 2-1/2 to 5 millions years ago, Sussman and his co-researcher discovered that the species was dentally unequipped to eat raw meat, yet lived long before the regular use of tools and fire made hunting and cooking meat possible. Not only were early hominids small, but predators then were far more numerous and much larger than today’s predator species. Further study of the afarensis fossil record showed that between 6 and 10% of early hominids were preyed upon, a rate identical to predation rates of similar edge-living primates today. Sussman concludes that like other prey species, early hominids lived in large groups and that the intelligence, cooperation, and many other features of modern humans evolved as a way to survive and out-smart the predator.
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Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice chose to not meet with Emile Lahoud—the pro-Syrian president of Lebanon—when she made an unannounced visit to the country Thursday.
Explaining that she had “already met him” when she last visited six months ago, Rice
convened with Christian and Muslim political leaders of the country, instead. There to
give “support for the Lebanese people and the Lebanese government as they continue to
recover their sovereignty,” Rice often sites Lebanon’s recent separation from Syria as a
Bush administration success in bringing democracy to the Middle East.

The anti-Syrian majority Lebanese Parliament is discussing whether to remove Lahoud from presidency. Rice did not indicate to eager Lebanese reporters whether or not the United States would support a pro-Syrian President, but her refusal not to meet with Lahoud wa sa clear indicator of her position. Rice also did not put any real pressure on the Lebanese government to disarm the Hezbollah militia that is in control of southern
Lebanon. Over the pass two years, the United Nations created resolutions demanding that the Lebanese government disband Hezbollah. In her statements to the media, Rice was in no hurry to encourage Lebanon to abide by the resolutions.

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President Gloria Arroyo of the Philippines declared a national emergency in efforts to
stop a coup plot involving security forces commanders. Giving the army and police
“extraordinary powers,” Arroyo called for all planned demonstrations to be withdrawn and all schools to be shutdown. Rumors of a coup—timed to coincide with the 1986 anniversary of the rebellion against a former president—led to heightened security throughout lastweek. With 12 coup attempts in the last two decades, this unrest is not new to the Philippines.

The leader of the Scout Rangers—an elite regiment in the army—is accused of being the
head of the coup plot. He and 10 other top military officials are under arrest for
involvement in the coup attempt. In September 2005 President Arroyo survived an impeachment attempt. She also withstood an army mutiny in July 2003. In recent months, opponents accused Mrs. Arroyo of vote rigging and corruption.

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February 25, 2006

Sweatshop Workers Speak Out

Filed under: Special Feature — blackboxradio @ 12:27 pm

Download the feature with worker and union organizer Branice Musavi from Kenya 16:37 minutes.

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Download full audio 1 hour 12 minutes.

Sweatshop Workers Speak Out: A panel sponsored by University of Michigan student organization SOLE. Recorded on Feb 16 in the Michigan Union.

Featuring:
-Phannara Duangdet, Lian Thai Factory, Thailand
-Branice Musavi, Protex Factory, Ahti River Free Trade Zone, Kenya
-Siti Malikhah, PT Kolon Factory, Indonesia

Sweatshop workers are some of the most exploited workers on earth. Regularly forced to work 12 hour shifts, often exposed to dangerous chemicals with no protections, many have their passports stolen and live trapped in the factory compound, or may be forced to take pregnancy tests before entering the factory and risk losing their jobs for getting pregnant. Workers are often physically, emotionally, and sexually abused by management, in addition to pitifully low-wages. Workers everywhere are fired or harrassed for trying to form unions and having a voice on the job.

This panel intends to bring the stories of three workers who have courageously stood up for human rights around the world to students at the University of Michigan.

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February 20, 2006

Superbowl Analysis from the Detroit Summer Collective

Filed under: Special Feature — blackboxradio @ 10:03 pm

Download the feature

9 mins 48 sec. Produced by Jenny Lee and Ilana Weaver.

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February 19, 2006

BlackBox Radio for Feb 21st, 2006

Filed under: Weekly Show — blackboxradio @ 11:35 pm

Listen to the show: lower quality | high quality

Blackbox Radio thanks listeners for donating to WCBN’s annual on-air fundraiser. Listener support keeps us on the air!

On this week’s show, Blackbox reporter Max Sussman attends a Spy-In in Ann Arbor, and Andalusia Knoll from Rustbelt Radio covers the current political situation in Bolivia with the election of Evo Morales. Plus, the following local, national, and international headlines:

Local Headlines:
Washtenaw Community College Killer Coke Coalition
Detroit Public School debt

National and International Headlines:
Elections in Haiti
United Arab Emirates to purchase company controlling US ports
US-Venezuelan tensions hit new high

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Local Headlines

At the start of this academic semester, student activists at Washtenaw Community College organized The Killer Coke Coalition, a campaign to end the sale of all Coca Cola products on campus. Responding to reports of the organized kidnapping and murdering of Union leaders at Coca Cola bottling plants in Columbia, the WCC chapter of Amnesty International initiated a movement to create a code of ethical conduct for campus purchasing. By focusing on human and environmental rights, The Coalition plans to use this campaign as a stepping stone for ensuring that the campus only purchases products from vendors that require the respect of human rights, appropriate labor standards for employees, the environment, and international laws. The Campaign’s list of demands include ending the sale of Coca Cola products on campus and removing all Coca-Cola products from campus vending machines, which are the property of AVI foodsystem. The Coalition is immediately working to challenge and eliminate AVI foodsystem’s contract with Coca Cola, and will alternatively contest WCC’s contract with AVI. The Coalition has already met with the College’s administrators,and has begun petitioning on campus. Striving to further the achievements of the international labor movement, Coalition members also plan to recruit other human rights groups, as well as the Teacher’s Union and the worker’s union that stocks AVI machines.

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During a seven hour meeting of the Detroit Public School’s Board last week, newly elected board members succumbed to pressure from hundreds of enraged DPS teachers, agreeing to postpone raises for school administrators. Teachers cited their September agreement to loan the district five days of pay to help cope with DPS’ deficit, and demanded a cancellation of either their compromise, or a cancellation of the raises for the DPS’ principals. The district will likely need a supplemental loan to the $520.1 million already borrowed from the Michigan Municipal Bond Authority, just to make it through August.
Factors contributing to the districts debt include a $6.8 million increase in administrative expenses in the current fiscal year, and a deficit acquired during the recent 5-year state takeover of Detroit schools. Since winning back local control of the district, DPS board
plans to eliminate the deficit owed to the state have included closing up to 110 schools, nearly half of the district’s facilities, and laying off thousands of teachers and workers. While the DPS board struggles to cope with financial pressure, a state trustee will set aside $376.2 million from the schools’ aid fund to ensure that money due on loans is repaid, including payments to bondholders such as J.P. Morgan Chase.

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National and International Headlines:

The US-installed interim government in Haiti has officially declared Rene Preval the winner of the Presidential elections after more than a week of disuputed vote tallying and rising tension. Preval led early estimates of the poll with over 64% of the vote, reflecting his popularity among Haiti’s poor majority and his perceived alignment with the policies of ousted President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, whom he served as Vice President. His closest rivals in the poll, Leslie Manigat and US-supported sweatshop owner Charles Henry Baker, were able to garner only 12 and 6% of the vote, respectively.
However, following the departure of many election observers, Preval’s lead began to shrink, until it fell below the 50% needed for an outright win. Included in the count were tens of thousands of blank votes, which in some districts accounted for a third of ballots counted. Most of the blank ballots came from outside Cite Soleil, where over 95% of the population voted for Preval’s part Espoir. Also, on Wednesday, thousands of ballots were found smoldering in a garbage dump outside Port-au-Prince. Most of those inspected were marked for Preval.
According to Kevin Pina of Flashpoints radio, negotiations regarding the vote were then conducted behind closed doors with members of the US, France, Canada, Brazil, and Chile meeting with Preval and the interim Haitian government. A high ranking official close to the Preval campaign has stated that the US, Canada and France tried to force Preval to make major concessions in return for not having to face a second round of voting. Demands included that Preval agree not to drop the US-instigated lawsuit against Aristide for “corruption”, accepts IMF- World Bank policies of limiting spending on social programs and open Haitian assets to foreign investment, ensures that Aristide not be allowed to return to the country, nominates a member of the opposition to the position of Prime Minister, and not allow a general Amnesty for Lavalas political prisoners. According to Pina, this campaign is being led by Timothy Carney the charge d’affaires at the US embassy in Port au Prince.

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In a bill introduced Friday by Democratic Senators Hillary Rodham Clinton and Robert Menendez of New Jersey, the U.S. may prohibit foreign government owned or controlled companies from buying US port operations. The intention of the bill is to obstruct the multi-million dollar sale of a US port operating company to a United Arab Emirates controlled firm. Menendez said that “ports are the front lines of the war on terrorism,” with Clinton stating that port security should not be in the hands of foreign governments. Additional Congressmen called for a bipartisan hearing on the purchase by DP World –UAE’s port company—of a company that controls ports major cities in the US. Currently, the Bush administration plans to go ahead with the port sale, with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice claiming that it went through a “thorough review” and the administration “decided that this could be done and done safely.” Rice also stated that UAE is “a very good friend” of the United States, despite two of the 9/11 hijackers being UAE citizens and the country’s financial system helping to transfer money to terrorist plotters. The sale would give DP World control over operations at ports in New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Miami, New Jersey, and New Orleans.

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US-Venezuelan tensions hit a new high last week, when Condoleezza Rice called for a united front against the Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, asserting that he is trying to spread a “Latin brand of populism that has taken countries down the drain.” The democratically elected and popular president Chavez dismissed Rice’s criticism as “crazy” and that the US is merely acting out of aggression. With the US purchasing over 60% of Venezuela’s oil output, the Bush Administration disapproves of Chavez’s initiative to publicize Venezuela’s oil industry in order to alleviate the poverty that affects the majority of the country. The Administration also disagrees with Venezuela’s relationship with Cuba, and Chavez’s suspected control over the country’s media. The statements made by Rice and Chavez dismantle recent efforts by Venezuelan diplomats to better communication with the US holding talks in Washington, in light of the recent expulsion of a Venezuelan diplomat by Washington officials in retaliation for the expulsion of the US naval attaché.

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February 14, 2006

BlackBox Radio for Feb 14th, 2006

Filed under: Weekly Show — blackboxradio @ 7:12 pm

Listen to the show: lower quality | high quality

On this week’s show, Mikey Barringer talks to a student producer of the Vagina Monologues at the University of Michigan, and Jenny Lee and Ilana Weaver of the Detroit Summer collective report from Detroit on the Superbowl. Plus, the following local, national, and international headlines:

Local Headlines:
Ann Arbor homeless man found dead
lawsuit filed against the University of Michigan and Michigauma

National and International Headlines:
threat of eviction in Brazil
thousands of evacuees become transients in New Orleans
Malaysia’s response to cartoons depicting Prophet Mohammad
”last resort” bomb raids on Iran are in the planning phase
Elections in Haiti

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Local Headlines

A homeless man was found dead inside his tent last week on the west side of Ann Arbor, reports the Ann Arbor News. The 51-year-old man, whose name has not been revealed as police attempt to contact his relatives, was discovered by two other homeless people in a lot behind the old Moose Lodge on South Maple road, next to the Kroger store.

His friends, who went in search of him after he did not appear Monday morning, had warned him not to camp in the swampy area as heavy rains were expected. The man was found in 6-8 inches of frozen water.

Two other Ann Arbor homeless men have been found dead in recent years. City Council member Chris Easthope syas the recent death higholights the need to implement a proposed countywide initiative to end homelessness in the county through offering more affordable housing and a support network that would include drug and alcohol abuse counseling and treament.

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According to the Ann Arbor News, Christopher Bell, a local lawyer, and an unnamed UM alumnus have filed a lawsuit against the University of Michigan and the secret society Michigauma. The plaintiffs are claiming that the organization failed to abide by an agreement reached in 1989 which stated that Michigauma would no longer demean Native Americans.

Michigauma has a notorious history of racist practices within their organization as well as a lack of transparency about their activities and affiliations. In a recent report for BlackBox, Clara Hardy and Sigh Slobin reported on these issues after many local blogs reported that two University activists were members of Michigauma.

The plantiffs are seeking class-action status on the suit and are claiming an uspecified amount of damages for civil rights violations.

COOR1: Happy Valentines Day from Black Box Radio and WCBN – return the love by pledging during our on-air fundraiser. Call now! The number is 734-763-3500. Now, here is Mikey Barringer, looking at the Vagina Monologues performance coming up this Sunday at the University of Michigan.

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National and International Headlines:

The “Prestes Maia” -located in Brazil- is the largest squatted highrise building on the South American continent and is under threat of eviction. With its 468 families, accounting for more than 1600 previously homeless people, including children, elderly and disabled, the building will shortly be returned to its supposed owner. The owner has failed to pay municipal taxes for 15 years and has accrued a debt worth more than the building. This enormous debt, together with long years of abandonment, legally and morally justifies a claim for the building to become public property, but it will be returned to its owner, putting hundreds of people back onto the streets.
The 468 families, united in the Downtown Roofless Movement of São Paulo, have lived in the 22-storey high-rise since 2002. The building had been abandoned for years and left in deplorable condition. The new residents cleaned out tons of trash and litter, organized it, expelled drugs and other criminal turning it into a home.
The eviction is planned somewhere between the 15th and 21st of February. An exact date was not given for ‘strategic reasons’ and the police mentioned that the ‘”troops will be prepared for the worst”. Residents have already engaged in road blocking actions, but it is unclear what further responses may take place.

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A similar story is taking place in New Orleans. On Monday, FEMA’s short-term hotel-program expired for most of the thousands of displaced hurricane survivors. The Short Term Lodging program is required to provide shelter until transitional housing is provided. For those few lucky enough to have gained access to FEMA’s long-term resources, many have been told they must live far from their jobs, far from homes needing repair, and out of reach of their communities. However, the majority of the temporary hotel residents have not been provided with transitional housing or local long-term housing options.

Hundreds of FEMA trailers have arrived in New Orleans, yet they sit in train yards unoccupied. City officials continue to bicker over where the trailers should be placed. Many public housing developments also lie vacant, despite remaining virtually unscathed through the storm. The only solution the Governor has offered is a thirty day shelter program in either Baton Rouge or Lafayette. This is not an option for those who maintain jobs or are fixing up their homes within New Orleans.

Meanwhile, thousands of evacuees became transients again on Monday, wheeling their entire lives onto the street on luggage carts or dragging bulging garbage bags through hotel lobbies.

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Delegates at an international conference Malaysia entitled ‘Who Speaks for Islam? Who speaks for the West’, blamed the ferocity of reactions against the cartoon controversy, which gripped the world this past week, on the ‘war on terror’ in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The cartoons, depicting Prophet Mohammad as a terrorist and first published in a Danish newspaper, dominated the two-day conference which ended Saturday.

While Malaysian newspapers were full of the rage that swept the Muslim world over the week, none of the anger was reflected in this country’s many mosques.

Leading Malaysian Islamic thinker Chandra Muzaffar, credits the quietness in his country to a lack of fear and insecurity among Malay Muslims.

”Unlike the other Muslim countries caught in the eye of the storm, Malaysia is free of the hegemonic consequences of big powers that are experienced by Afghanistan and Iraq for example”

Muzaffar said social justice, religious harmony and reasonably good governance in Malaysia are the key reasons why the sense of loss and deep grievances, seen in other Muslim societies, is absent here.

”Muslims here don’t feel dispossessed or have the same fear that Islam is under threat as Muslims in other countries like Palestine or Afghanistan and Iraq,” he said.

Muzaffar agreed with the Malaysian Prime minister’s view that the war on terror has aggravated Muslim insecurity. ”Western media images and commentaries have reinforced the erroneous equation of Islam with terror. This explains why some of the offensive cartoons of the Prophet published in the Jyllands-Posten made that link,”

”What Muslims have been witnessing in recent years is the stark consequences of global hegemony reflected in the slaughter of innocent Muslims in Palestine and Iraq, the humiliation of occupation and subjugation, the treachery of double standards and the machinations of exclusion and marginalisation,” he said.

”It explains to a great extent the explosion of violent fury in different parts of the Muslim world over the abusive cartoons. It is anger that is driven by more than their boundless love for Mohammad,”

The Malaysian deputy prime minister dismissed talk of a ‘clash of civilizations’, saying this need not happen if fundamental fault lines between the Muslim and the Western worlds were adequately addressed.

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In related news, the Sunday Telegraph/UK has reported that strategists at the Pentagon are drawing up plans for devastating bombing raids backed by submarine-launched ballistic missile attacks against Iran’s nuclear sites as a “last resort” to block Teheran’s efforts to develop an atomic bomb.
Central Command and Strategic Command planners are identifying targets, assessing weapon-loads and working on logistics for an operation.
“This is more than just the standard military contingency assessment,” said a senior Pentagon adviser. “This has taken on much greater urgency in recent months.”
The prospect of military action could put Washington at odds with Britain which fears that an attack would spark violence across the Middle East, reprisals in the West and may not cripple Teheran’s nuclear program.

Sen John McCain, the Republican front-runner to succeed Mr Bush in 2008, has advocated military strikes as a last resort. He said recently: “There is only only one thing worse than the United States exercising a military option and that is a nuclear-armed Iran.”
Senator Joe Lieberman, a Democrat, has made the same case and Bush is expected to be faced by the decision within two years.

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On Wednesday, Haiti had it’s first elections since President Jean-Bertrand Aristide was ousted in a February 2004 in a U.S. supported coup. Critics have argued that the conditions in Haiti make a mockery of democratic process. Only a few hundred registration and polling sites were created to serve eight million people (compared with 10,000 provided by the deposed Aristide government) and some large, poor neighborhoods—with few government supporters—had no registration sites at all.
Additionally, many Haitians were denied the right to campaign: the government’s potential challengers were jailed on questionable charges or no charges. And Haitians were also denied the right to organize when the government outlawed political demonstrations. Anti-government protesters have been repeatedly attacked by the Haitian National Police. The Bush Administration fueled this repression by sending $1.9 million worth of guns and police equipment just in time for the election season.
Far from supporting constitutional democracy in Haiti, the US has twice helped to overthrow Aristide, who resisted Washington’s prescriptions for Haiti’s economy by insisting on social spending for the poor.
Secretary of State Rice has hailed Haiti’s election as “a precious step on the road to democracy.”

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