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Posted May 12, 2010

Between The Lines
For The Week Ending May 21, 2010

oilspill lede


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This week we present Between The Lines' summary of under-reported news stories and:

Obama's Supreme Court Nominee, Elena Kagan, is No John Paul Stevens

 RealAudio  MP3

Interview with Marjorie Cohn,
professor at Thomas Jefferson School of Law,
conducted by Scott Harris


On May 10, President Obama announced his nominee Elena Kagan, who is currently the administration's solicitor general, to replace retiring Justice John Paul Stevens on the U.S. Supreme Court. Kagan, the first female dean of Harvard Law School, has never served as a judge, and has taken few public stands on judicial issues. In announcing his nominee, President Obama praised Kagan as open to different points of view and being a consensus builder, citing her hiring of conservative faculty at Harvard. Supporters of the Kagan nomination maintain she has the capacity to build new coalitions on the court and possibly sway Justice Anthony Kennedy, a swing vote on major issues.

But many progressive activists are troubled by Obama's Supreme Court pick, citing Kagan's testimony during her Senate confirmation hearing as solicitor general when she voiced support for executive powers adopted by President Bush to indefinitely hold terrorist suspects without charge or trial. Critics also cite her lack of diverse hiring practices when she was dean of Harvard Law School.

Despite upholding a Harvard ruling to prohibit military recruitment on campus due to the discriminatory "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" rules, until faced with a loss of federal funds, critics are disturbed that Kagan was virtually silent during President Bush's invocation of extraordinary executive powers of surveillance, torture and detention. Between The Lines' Scott Harris spoke with Marjorie Cohn, a professor at Thomas Jefferson School of Law, and former president of the National Lawyers Guild, who explains why she feels Kagan will not be able to fill the shoes of Justice John Paul Stevens, who many view as a stalwart defender of individual liberties and human dignity.

Marjorie Cohn is the author of "Cowboy Republic: Six Ways the Bush Gang Has Defied the Law." Read her blog at

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Israel Targets Its Own Human Rights Groups

 RealAudio  MP3

Excerpt of speech by Sara Bashi,
executive director of Gisha,
recorded and produced by Melinda Tuhus


Human rights organizations in Israel, especially those that defend the rights of Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank, are facing a new threat to their operations since a bill was introduced in the Israeli Knesset, or parliament, that could prohibit foreign funding for these civil society groups.

Among the groups targeted are Rabbis for Human Rights, Coalition of Women for Peace, and Gisha, which defends freedom of movement for Palestinians, focused especially in Gaza. The group has filed lawsuits heard up to the Israeli Supreme Court trying to force Israel to allow fuel and other supplies into Gaza, which has been under an Israeli blockade since Hamas took control of the territory in 2007. The bill aims to prohibit the registration of, or to close down any existing non-governmental organization if there are reasonable grounds to conclude that the group is providing information to foreign entities or is involved in legal proceedings abroad against senior Israeli government officials or Israeli military officers for violations of international law or war crimes.

The largest financial supporter of human rights groups in Israel, the New Israel fund, has been targeted by the Israeli right as being responsible for a majority of the critical information gathered in the United Nations' Goldstone Report, which found that Israel had committed war crimes during its 2008 Gaza invasion. Sari Bashi, the executive director of Gisha, is a graduate of the Yale University Law School, and spoke at the school in April about the interconnection of human rights in Israel and Palestine.

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For more information, visit Gisha's website at This segment was recorded and produced by Between The Lines' Melinda Tuhus.

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BP's Record of Negligence
from Exxon Valdez in Alaska
to Deepwater Horizon in Gulf of Mexico

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Interview with Greg Palast,
BBC-TV reporter,
conducted by Scott Harris


Despite several attempts to stop the flood of oil spilling into the Gulf of Mexico from their destroyed Deepwater Horizon oil platform, British Petroleum has not yet succeeded. Their first attempt using robotic submarines to shutdown valves at the wellhead 5,000 feet below the surface failed. Then the company tried to lower a 100-ton containment dome over the well, but ice crystals inside made the dome buoyant and unstable. Now BP is considering using a smaller dome or injecting the well with golf balls and shredded car tires to clog the oil well.

There have been initial reports of crude oil from the disaster washing ashore along the coast and several birds with oil stained feathers have been rescued by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The Sun Herald newspaper of Mississippi reported that since BP's oil rig exploded on April 20, the Obama administration has granted at least 27 waivers to oil and gas companies, exempting them from carrying out environmental impact studies of oil exploration in the Gulf of Mexico. This, despite a pledge from Obama to prevent more damage in the gulf -- and the announcement of a temporary halt to offshore drilling. U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar is calling for the Minerals Management Service to be broken up so collection of oil royalties and safety inspections of offshore drilling are separated, responding to critics who say the agency is riddled with conflicts of interest.

Between The Lines' Scott Harris spoke with BBC-TV reporter Greg Palast, who investigated the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill for the Chucagh native villages of Alaska's Prince William Sound. In his recent article, "Slick Operator: The BP I've Known Too Well," Palast examines BP's disturbing pattern of behavior both in Alaska and during the company's current drill platform oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

Read Greg Palast's articles online at He's the author of "The Best Democracy Money Can Buy" and "Armed Madhouse."

Related links:

This week's summary
of under-reported news

 RealAudio  MP3

Compiled by Bob Nixon

  • During the highest voter turnout in 30 years in cities across the United Kingdom, voters were denied their franchise in a tightly contested three-way race that failed to select a clear winner.(" Election 2010: Inquiry As Voters Miss Out As Polls Shut," BBC News, May 7, 2010)
  • The Obama administration has failed to develop new thinking about U.S. Middle East policy options. ("A Path to Peace," American Prospect, April 2010, p. 13-17)
  • A federal district court judge is deciding whether to move forward on a 2007 class action lawsuit filed by 7,000 Vieques, Puerto Rican residents who claim they were exposed to toxic chemicals like Agent Orange and napalm due to the U.S. Navy 's use of the island as a military base and bombing range for 52 years. The U.S. government claims it has sovereign immunity from the lawsuit. ("The Poisoning of Puerto Rico," In These Times, May 3, 2010, p. 24-25)

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Last Week's Program

Between The Lines Week Ending 5/14/10

Between The Lines' Blog

"Reading Between The Lines"

U.S. Politics

"The Tea Party Jacobins," by Mark Lilla, New York Review of Books, May 27, 2010

"The Kagan Nomination," by Scott Horton, Harper's, May 11, 2010

"Progressives Drive Hard Bargain On Wall Street Bill," by Brian Beutler, Talking Points Memo, May 11, 2010

"Kagan Will Move the Court Further to the Right," by Marjorie Cohn, Counterpunch, May 10, 2010

"Kagan in Context: Shafting Progressive Values," by Norman Solomon, Common Dreams, May 10, 2010

"Obama Nominates Elena Kagan," by Jonathan Turley,, May 10, 2010

More newswire ...


"The People v. the Bankers: Greece Today, US Tomorrow," by Michael Hudson, Counterpunch, May 11, 2010

"Chase's Foreclosure Disgrace," by Greg Kaufmann, The Nation, May 11, 2010

"Only $242 Million Spent So Far on Gov't $75B Mortgage Mod Program," ProPublica, May 11, 2010

"Senate votes 96-0 to audit Fed, reveal who got bailout funds," McClatchy Newspapers, May 11, 2010

"Senate OKs Fed Audit as Part of Bank Overhaul," Reuters, May 11, 2010

More newswire ...

Bush Accountability

"Destruction of Torture Videotapes Documented in CIA Email," Associated Press, Apr. 16, 2010

More newswire ...

International Affairs

"Senior Greek Official: 'We May Have an Uprising in the Making,'" by Jeff Kaye, Invictus, May 6, 2010

More newswire ...

"Postwar" Occupation of Iraq, Afghanistan

"US Troops Carrying Out 'Battlefield Executions' In Afghanistan, Seymour Hersh Says (VIDEO),"Huffington Post, May 13, 2010

"Sy Hersh: 'Battlefield Executions' taking place under Obama, the Military is 'Dominating' Obama,", May 13, 2010

"The Vicious War That Sent Shahzad to Times Square," by Patrick Cockburn, Counterpunch, May 11, 2010

"Report: Afghan army riddled with corruption and feuding," McClatchy Newspapers, May 11, 2010

"Obama: Say Yes to Afghan Peace Talks," by Robert Naiman, Foreign Policy in Focus, May 11, 2010

"Afghan Escalation Funding: More War, Fewer Jobs, Poor Excuses," by Tom Engelhardt & David Swanson, TomDispatch, May 11, 2010

"Red Cross confirms 'second jail' at Bagram, Afghanistan," BBC News, May 11, 2010

"Pentagon Doubts Grow on McChrystal War Plan," by Gareth Porter, Inter Press Service, May 10, 2010

"The Poetry of Death: Patterns of State Terror," by Chris FDloyd, Empire Burlesque, May 10, 2010

"Georgetown Professor: 'Drones Are Not Killing Innocent Civilians' in Pakistan," by Jeremy Scahill, The Nation, May 10, 2010

"Monday: 154 Iraqis Killed, 620 Wounded,", May 10, 2010

"The Latest Official Report on Afghanistan," by Gary Leupp, Counterpunch, May 7-9, 2010

More newswire ...

Civil Liberties/ Human Rights

"New target of rights erosions: U.S. citizens," by Glen Greenwald,, May 13, 2010

"ICRC Confirms Existence of Second Secret Prison at Bagram, BBC Reports Torture," by Jeff Kaye, Firedoglake, May 11, 2010

"The South Learned; Arizona Hasn't," by Walter M. Brasch, Counterpunch, May 11, 2010

"Judge Rules Torture Doesn't Violate Due Process," by Marcy Wheeler, Firedoglake, May 10, 2010

"Holder Proposes a Legislated Change to Miranda," by Scott Horton, Harper's, May 10, 2010

"Targeting Al-Awlaki: Assassinating US Muslim Cleric is Illegal, Immoral and Unwise," by Bill Quigley, Counterpunch, May 10, 2010

"Probe Uncovers Strip Searches, Chains and Racism at Prisons," Sacramento Bee, May 9, 2010

"Obama's Pentagon Bans Reporters from Gitmo Trial of Child Soldier Threatened with Rape," by Jeffrey Kaye, Invictus, May 8, 2010

"Obama Administration Demands Amnesia From Reporters Covering Gitmo," by Dan Froomkin, Huffington Post, May 7, 2010

More newswire ...

Environment and Sustainability

"You Can Hide, But You Can't Run," by Mark Floegel, Greenpeace, May 11, 2010

"Containment Dome Fails to Stop Oil Gusher: No Plan B," Agence France Presse, May 10, 2010

"U.S. agency let oil industry write offshore drilling rules," McClatchy Newspapers, May 10, 2010

"Report: Biodiversity Loss Puts Essentials of Life Under Threat," Reuters, May 10, 2010

"Since Spill, Feds Have Given 27 Waivers to Oil Companies in Gulf," McClatchy Newspapers, May 7, 2010

"Nuclear Power Nearly as Dangerous as Weapons, Critics Say," by Haider Rivzi, Inter Press Service, May 7, 2010

More newswire ...

Media Issues

"Farewell, Facebook," by Laura McGann, The American Prospect, May 11, 2010

More newswire ...


"Henry Takes Command of SEIU -- Collaboratively," by Harold Meyerson, The American Prospect, May 11, 2010

"Goebbels Revisited: The Trashing of ACORN," by Anthony DiMaggio, Counterpunch, May 10, 2010

More newswire ...

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