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June 5, 2012

On the campaign trail, May 2012

On the campaign trail, May 2012 – Wikinews, the free news source

On the campaign trail, May 2012

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Tuesday, June 5, 2012

The following is the seventh in a monthly series chronicling the U.S. 2012 presidential election. It features original material compiled throughout the previous month after a brief mention of some of the month’s biggest stories.

In this month’s edition on the campaign trail, the leading candidates for the Americans Elect presidential nomination respond to a major announcement from that organization’s board of directors, two presidential candidates in favor of same-sex marriage react to President Barack Obama’s announcement of support for the practice, and Wikinews interviews the newly-selected Libertarian Party vice presidential nominee.

Summary

May began with the expected withdrawal of former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who felt the continuation of his campaign to be fruitless. He endorsed former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, whom the press had already designated as the presumptive Republican Party presidential nominee. Shortly thereafter, former candidate Rick Santorum also threw his support to Romney. Another former Republican candidate, former New Mexico governor Gary Johnson, took a different path. He won the presidential nomination of the Libertarian Party to continue his campaign into the general election. Congressman Ron Paul remained a candidate in the Republican race, but scaled back his campaign, announcing the suspension of active campaigning while still competing in state conventions to amass delegates.

Heavily circulated publicity photo of prison inmate Keith Russell Judd from March 15, 2008.
Image: Keith Russell Judd.

Romney swept the Republican primaries in West Virginia, North Carolina, and Indiana, but President Obama had some difficulty in the Democratic primaries in the first two states. 41 percent of Democrats in West Virginia favored prison inmate Keith Russell Judd over the president and 21 percent in North Carolina voted uncommitted over Obama. North Carolina voters also passed an amendment defining marriage as an institution between a man and woman despite vice president Joe Biden’s vocal support for same-sex marriage prior to the vote. Biden’s statement and the North Carolina result prompted Obama to make an announcement. During an ABC News interview with Robin Roberts, Obama explained that his views had “evolved” and that he now supports same-sex marriage. Romney countered, responding that “marriage is a relationship between a man and a woman.”

Obama’s primary difficulties continued later in May, as attorney John Wolfe, Jr. of Tennessee won 42 percent against him in the Arkansas primary, and as a similar margin of voters supported uncommitted over the president in Kentucky. Romney easily won the two states’ Republican contests, but later faced potential troubles of his own. The Washington Post published a lengthy article alleging that Romney bullied a student while in high school. Romney said he did not remember the episode and apologized for the “dumb things” he did in school. Subsequently, the alleged victim’s family disputed the story. Next, the Obama campaign attempted to make an issue of Romney’s venture capital activities as CEO of Bain Capital. Cory Booker, the Democratic Mayor of Newark, criticized this attempt, arguing on Meet the Press that advertisements against the firm left him “uncomfortable.” Booker later clarified that he supported and still intended to help re-elect Obama as president. In what Real Clear Politics described as an attempt to counter the attacks on Bain and highlight high unemployment as an issue, Romney predicted that if elected, unemployment would fall to six percent at the end of his first term. The Obama campaign and supporters said the announcement was nothing new since it simply mirrored the Congressional Budget Office‘s projections for 2016, regardless of who wins the election.

In late May, Romney won the endorsements of former President George W. Bush and former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. Rice’s immediate predecessor, General Colin Powell, who endorsed Obama in 2008, withheld an official endorsement, but like Obama, announced his support for same-sex marriage. In the final primary of the month, both Obama and Romney each handily won their respective party’s contest in Texas. As a result, Romney surpassed the required number of delegates to secure the Republican nomination and Obama faced his last contested primary on the Democratic side. However, the question of whether Obama’s nomination would be unanimous remained unanswered as lawsuits from Judd and Wolfe disputed the party’s decision to not award them delegates for which they qualified in the aforementioned West Virginia and Arkansas primaries.

Americans Elect makes major decision; leading candidates respond

Americans Elect, the non-profit organization that spent an estimated $35 million to attain ballot access in 29 states with hopes of nominating a bipartisan 2012 presidential ticket, decided in May to forego the 2012 presidential race. Via press release, the organization’s board announced that none of its candidates had met the minimum threshold, which required the accumulation of 10,000 pledged supporters for “experienced” candidates, and 50,000 supporters for other candidates, prior to the May 15 deadline. Though this decision drew criticism, the board claimed its actions were to maintain the integrity of the organization’s rules.

Americans Elect logo.
Image: Americans Elect.

As a result, candidates that actively sought the organization’s nomination including former Louisiana governor Buddy Roemer, former Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson, activist Michealene Risley, and economics professor Laurence Kotlikoff were forced to reassess how to continue their campaigns.

Roemer, who led all candidates with 6,293 supporters, called the decision disappointing and commented that “Americans Elect’s procedure was ripe with difficulty related to access, validation and security.” Though he simultaneously sought the Reform Party’s nomination, Roemer ultimately decided that the party’s ballot access in four states was not enough, and suspended his campaign at the end of May.

Anderson, who finished second in supporters with 3,390, referred to the Americans Elect process as “discriminatory”, and announced his support for a movement within the organization, headed by delegate Andrew Evans, attempting to overturn the board’s decision. Meanwhile, Anderson removed all references to Americans Elect from the front page of his campaign website, and has focused his energies on the Justice Party, which he founded last year. It currently has ballot access in Mississippi and Utah. Anderson is also a candidate for the Peace and Freedom Party, which will appear on the California ballot.

Risley, who came in third with 2,351 supporters, argued that “people feel really used and manipulated” by Americans Elect. In a letter to the board, she wrote that the organization “will be stigmatized as the latest example of third party failure”, “Instead of being the prototype for high tech democracy”. Like Anderson, she supports the actions of Evans, and has even opened a petition for it on change.org. Since Risley is not competing for another party’s presidential nomination, this is now the crux of her campaign.

Kotlikoff, who finished fourth with 2,027 supporters, told Wikinews that he felt the Americans Elect board was more interested in attracting “big names” than focusing on the issues. He cited this as “the most disappointing aspect” of the decision, adding that “big names don’t necessarily equate to big ideas or good ideas for moving the country ahead. And all big names start small.” Like Roemer, Kotlikoff had decided to also seek the Reform Party nomination, and following the decision, choose to end his Reform Party bid and his presidential campaign as a whole. He opted instead to promote his “Purple Plan”, which combines elements of Republican and Democratic solutions to resolve political issues.


Two candidates react to President Obama’s same-sex marriage backing

After President Obama announced his personal support of same-sex marriage while maintaining it should be decided on a state-by-state basis, two candidates already supporting marriage equality reacted in two very different ways.

Republican Fred Karger, the first openly gay person to seek a major political party’s presidential nomination, sent an e-mail to supporters praising Obama for the announcement, saying that “he will be a great advocate as we do battle [against marriage definition propositions] in four states this November.” He added, “It’s nice to have another presidential candidate on board for full equality.”

Gary Johnson in December 2011.
Image: Gary Johnson.

Fred Karger in August 2011.
Image: Gage Skidmore.

Former New Mexico governor Gary Johnson, the Libertarian Party presidential nominee, had an opposite interpretation of Obama’s announcement. He commented, “while I commend [Obama] for supporting the concept of gay marriage equality, I am profoundly disappointed in the President.” “Instead of insisting on equality as a U.S. Constitutional guarantee, the President has thrown this question back to the states.” Johnson speculated that Obama cared more about not alienating voters in the swing states of Ohio, Colorado, North Carolina, and Virginia, than supporting change on a federal level.

When approached with this view, Karger argued, “sure, [I] would rather [Obama] came out for a federal marriage solution…[but]” “just his coming out for marriage equality is the key.” Karger maintained that the issue would ultimately be decided in the courts rather than in Congress.

Karger is currently campaigning as an alternative to Mitt Romney in California ahead of that state’s June 5 GOP primary, while Johnson, whom Karger has described as a friend, is hoping to achieve ballot access in all 50 states to challenge President Obama and the Republican nominee in the general election.

The Libertarian Party’s newly-christened VP nominee discusses his role

After the Libertarian Party nominated former New Mexico governor Gary Johnson for president at May’s Libertarian National Convention, upon Johnson’s request, the party selected Judge Jim Gray of California for Vice President to complete the ticket.

Gray has worked as a judge since 1983 when Governor George Deukmejian appointed him to the Santa Ana Municipal Court in Orange County, California. Six years later he was appointed to the Superior Court of Orange County. His work in court earned him two “Judge of the Year” awards: first in 1992 from the Business Litigation Section of the Orange County Bar Association, and then in 1995 from the Orange County Constitutional Rights Foundation.

Judge Jim Gray.
Image: Jim Gray.

In addition to his work as a jurist, Gray has been involved in Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) and has advocated against the federal government’s prosecution of the War on Drugs. Moreover, Gray’s vice presidential campaign is not his first experience in politics. He ran for U.S. Congress as a Republican in 1998, and was the Libertarian Party’s 2004 nominee for U.S. Senate in California.

Johnson described him as “not only a highly-respected jurist, but he is also a proven leader on issues of concern to Americans – from drug policy to civil liberties to ethics. I am proud he is joining me to offer America a real choice in this election, and excited that his forceful and extremely credible voice will be a vital part of our campaign. Judge Gray is a reformer with the track record and credentials to prove it”.

Gray reserved some time to speak with Wikinews about his role as the Libertarian Party vice presidential nominee, what he adds to the Johnson ticket, and what Johnson-Gray can do to better than the 0.4 percent former Congressman Bob Barr and businessman Wayne Allyn Root won as the 2008 representatives of the Libertarian Party.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWSSWikinews waves Right.pngWhat are your responsibilities as the Libertarian Party vice presidential nominee?

Judge Gray: As the Vice Presidential nominee of the Libertarian Party, I am a team member under the leadership of our Presidential nominee, Governor Gary Johnson, as we campaign to restore Prosperity, Equal Opportunity and Liberty to the United States of America.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWSSWikinews waves Right.pngHow do you complement Gary Johnson on the ticket?

Judge Gray: It is amazing. In 2010 I wrote a book entitled A Voter’s Handbook: Effective Solutions to America’s Problems (The Forum Press, 2010), which I never considered using in a political campaign. However, in looking at my documented views of our problems and solutions, they are almost completely consistent with those of Governor Johnson. But my background as a federal prosecutor, Navy JAG attorney, trial court judge and former Peace Corps Volunteer is quite different from Governor Johnson’s. Therefore I bring a balance and perspective to the ticket that no other vice presidential candidate will likely have.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWSSWikinews waves Right.pngHow do you plan to achieve more electoral success than the 2008 Barr-Root campaign?

Judge Gray: Candidly, our strategy is to be polling at 15 percent or above at the end of this coming September. This will qualify us to be in the national presidential and vice presidential debates. If that occurs, all of the common wisdom will change. And during the convention … in Nevada Governor Johnson was polling at 7 percent. Now he is polling at 8 percent. I deeply believe that when the American people see and understand what Governor Johnson and I not only stand for, but what he has actually done while a sitting two-term governor for eight years, they will rally in droves to our campaign, because they will see the truth that the Republican and the Democratic candidates are almost parallel in the important issues which have led us into financial ruin and despair, and Governor Johnson stands out in front for positive change.



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May 15, 2012

Bush, aides convicted of Iraq war crimes in absentia by Malaysia

Bush, aides convicted of Iraq war crimes in absentia by Malaysia

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Tuesday, May 15, 2012

This photo is believed to show Ali Shalal in Abu Ghrai; he testified before the tribunal.

The Kuala Lumpur War Crimes Tribunal in Malaysia has found former President of the United States George W. Bush and seven prominent former colleagues guilty of war crimes. Though the tribunal has no authority to detain the convicted or enforce its verdict, it recommended payment of reparations to detainees from Guantanamo Bay and Abu Ghraib who testified before the court, and recommended they take the matter to a suitable court for enforcement.

While largely symbolic, the tribunal plans to submit its findings to the International Criminal Court and the United Nations Security Council. In addition to Bush, the court also found complicit his Vice President Dick Cheney, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, Alberto Gonzales, David Addington, William Haynes, Jay Bybee, and John Yoo. Legal advisors for Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld were also convicted.

The court heard Iraqi engineer Abbas Abid testify about removal of his fingernails by pliers. Ali Shalal recalled being made to stand on a box whilst hooded, with wires attached to him, and whilst hanging from a wall. Mozzam Begg explained how he was beaten, and Jameelah Hameedi described being stripped, and being used as a human shield. Witnesses described lasting effects.



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May 11, 2012

Bush, aides convicted of war crimes in abstentia

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Friday, May 11, 2012

Ali Shalal, who was tortured in this way and may be the hooded man here, testified before the tribunal.

The Kuala Lumpur War Crimes Tribunal in Malaysia has found former President of the United States George W. Bush and seven prominent former colleagues guilty of war crimes. Though the tribunal has no authority to detain the convicted or enforce its verdict, it recommended payment of reparations to detainees in Guantanamo Bay and who testified before the court, and recommended they take the matter to a suitable court for enforcement.

While largely symbolic, the tribunal plans to submit its findings to the International Criminal Court and the United Nations Security Council. In addition to Bush, the court also found complicit his Vice President Dick Cheney, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, Alberto Gonzales, David Addington, William Haynes, Jay Bybee, and John Yoo. Legal advisors for Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld were also convited.

The court heard Iraqi engineer Abbas Abid testify about removal of his fingernails by pliers. Ali Shalal recalled being made to stand on a box whilst hooded, with wires attached to him, and whilst hanging from a wall. Mozzam Begg explained how he was beaten, and Jameelah Hameedi described being stripped, humiliated, and being used as a human shield. Witnesses also explained their residual injuries.



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December 21, 2011

Remaining US troops exit Iraq

Remaining US troops exit Iraq – Wikinews, the free news source

Remaining US troops exit Iraq

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Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Iraq War
Other Iraq War stories
  • 14 March 2014: Labour politician Tony Benn dies aged 88
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  • 21 December 2011: Remaining US troops exit Iraq
  • 3 December 2010: British warship HMS Invincible put up for auction online
  • 23 October 2010: WikiLeaks releases Iraq War logs
Iraqi security forces
Armed forces in Iraq - January 2008.png
Background
  • Wikipedia article about the Iraq War

The last convoy of US soldiers crosses the border from Iraq into Kuwait, ending the eight-year long Iraq War.
Image: Cpl. Jordan Johnson, US Army.

The last convoy of US soldiers crossed the border from Iraq into Kuwait on Sunday, effectively bringing the controversial eight-year long Iraq War to an end. The final convoy, containing around a hundred US military vehicles with five hundred troops, exited Iraq at 0738 AST (0438 UTC) Sunday.

Private First Class Martin Lamb described the departure as “a good feeling … knowing this is going to be the last mission out of here”. The event was “[p]art of history, you know — we’re the last ones out,” according to Lamb.

The Iraq War, which commenced in 2003 on the pretext of Iraq possessing weapons of mass destruction, which later turned out to be false, was responsible for toppling the regime of Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein and introducing a democratic government within Iraq. In the aftermath of Hussein’s downfall, a violent, religion-based conflict broke out between those of Shia Islam faith and Sunni Islam communities, reaching its peak in 2006. The following year, a large number of US troops were sent into Iraq; the number of sectarian and insurgent attacks subsequently declined.

The Iraq War involved a maximum of over 170,000 US troops, stationed in Iraq at more than 500 bases. Tens of thousands to over 100,000 Iraqi citizens and close to 4,500 US troops were killed as a result of the war. The financial cost of the Iraq War was almost US$1 trillion (767 billion or £638 billion) to the US government.

US presence in Iraq has been reduced to 157 soldiers in charge of military training at their embassy in the capital Baghdad and a minor base of US marines. The US federal government reportedly intended to retain a minor counter-terrorism presence in Iraq, as well as the continuation of military training in the country. However, negotiations between US government representatives and Iraqi officials were unsuccessful, as they failed to reach an agreement on legal matters, such as troop immunity.

In 2008, the Bush administration had committed to withdrawing all US troops from Iraq by the end of 2011, a movement which was announced by his successor and current US president Barack Obama in October 2011. Obama signified the conclusion of the war with Nouri al-Maliki, the prime minister of Iraq, earlier this month. In a speech in North Carolina at Fort Bragg, Obama stated that the country US troops were leaving is now “sovereign, stable and self-reliant”.

US and Kuwaiti soldiers close the gate between Kuwait and Iraq, after the last military convoys passed through, signaling the end of the Iraq War.
Image: Cpl. Jordan Johnson, US Army.

Reaction to the US government’s decision has been mixed. According to Voice of America opinion polls in the United States indicate that a majority of Americans believe the war lasted longer than it should have done. Obama himself had opposed the war when he ran for president and vowed to end it. News agencies report Iraqis glad to see the US leave, but concerned for the future.

Arab News reports that Iraqis also have mixed feelings, such as Safa, a 26-year old baker using a pseudonym, who said “I am proud — all Iraqis should be proud, like all those whose country has been freed. The Americans toppled Saddam, but our lives since then have gone backward.” He also said, “The situation will only improve if politicians work on fighting corruption and adopt reforms.”

A 50-year-old mother calling herself Umm Mohammed said, “I don’t think we can ever forgive the Americans for what they did to us, from killings to terrorism. Those people [Americans] think only about themselves, and not about the consequences of their actions.”

Mohammed Abdelamir, 60, said “We must all cooperate and work to improve the economy, the society, and begin rebuilding, and not fight because we are seeing that some politicians have already begun putting a stick in the wheel.”

Other Iraqis who worked for Americans are fearful over their departure, fearing they may be killed. John, a pseudonym for one such Iraqi, said to Al-Jazeera, “It’s a fact to these people, we betrayed our country, anyone who worked with the Americans. They think we don’t even deserve to be Iraqi.”

Mark, another such Iraqi, said “All the people around me know that I was working with the Americans. We feel that we are in danger from anyone who was against the US troops.” John and Mark both worked for Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRT) in Iraq. Both men have applied for Special Immigrant Visas (SIV) which the US government created in 2008 for Iraqis who have worked for US forces.

However, there is an immense backlog for applicants, as over 30,000 await a decision. So far, only 7,000 SIV visas have been issued. John has been waiting for a visa for over a year, Mark has been waiting nine months since applying in March. Mark said, “They said we should wait at least six months, but this is crazy”. And, “For nine months I am jobless, waiting for that visa. I have nothing to do.”



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January 29, 2011

Wikinews interviews Jim Hedges, U.S. Prohibition Party presidential candidate

Wikinews interviews Jim Hedges, U.S. Prohibition Party presidential candidate

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Saturday, January 29, 2011

Public domain image of Jim Hedges from the Partisan Prohibition Historical Society website

U.S. Prohibition Party presidential candidate Jim Hedges of Thompson Township, Pennsylvania took some time to answer a few questions about the Prohibition Party and his 2012 presidential campaign.

The Prohibition Party is the third oldest existing political party in the United States, having been established in 1869. It reached its height of popularity during the late 19th century. The party heavily supported the Eighteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, which banned the sale of alcohol, and resulted in the US period known as Prohibition (1919–33). It was repealed in 1933. The party has declined since this period, but has continued to nominate candidates for the presidential election.

In 2003, the party split into two factions. Preacher Gene Amondson and perennial candidate Earl Dodge were nominated for the presidency by their respective factions. After Dodge’s death in 2007, the party reunified and named Amondson as its sole presidential nominee for 2008. During the election, Amondson was interviewed by Wikinews. He died in 2009, leaving an opening in the party for 2012.

Jim Hedges is a longtime Prohibition activist, who holds the distinction of the first individual of the 21st century (and the first since 1959) to be elected to a political office under the Prohibition Party banner. In 2001, he was elected as the Thompson Township tax assessor, and was re-elected to the post in 2005. He served until his term expired in 2010. Hedges declared his intent to run for the Prohibition Party presidential nomination on February 18, 2010. This marks his first run for the presidency.

Interview

Wikinews waves Left.pngWilliam SaturnWikinews waves Right.png When and why did you decide to join the Prohibition Party?

Wikinews waves Left.pngJim HedgesWikinews waves Right.pngI have identified with the Prohibition Party since being in high school, in the 1950s. Being “a member” is trickier to specify, as I’ve sometimes registered to vote in other parties for temporary pragmatic reasons (or have not been registered, at all). I could not be active in the Party until after I retired from the military, in 1980.

Why? Well, I liked, and still like, the Prohibition platform better than I do the platform of any other political group. Partly, this is because of the anti-alcohol plank, but more generally because it seems more principled and more reasonable.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWSWikinews waves Right.png You are the first (and only) member of the Prohibition Party to be elected to any office in the 21st century. How were you able to accomplish such a feat?

Wikinews waves Left.pngJHWikinews waves Right.pngI ran for an insignificant local office which no one else wanted. Minor party people are always complaining that they can’t get elected – they can, if they start at the beginning instead of aiming at impossible goals.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWSWikinews waves Right.png According to the New York Times, you were heavily involved in the 2004 split of the party that centered around five-time presidential nominee Earl Dodge. What exactly caused the split, and has the party since healed?

Wikinews waves Left.pngJHWikinews waves Right.pngTo answer the last part first: It has largely healed. A few months after Dodge died, his hand-picked vice-chairman also died. The man who was third in line refused to carry on. That man, and the Dodge relatives, then dropped out completely; the other folks mostly are now working with the regular organization.

The split was caused by dissatisfaction with Dodge’s management. Dodge was a somewhat paranoid person who trusted no one to help him. For example, he made one of his daughters “treasurer” of the Prohibition National Committee, but he did not allow her access to the bank account. He was the only “signer” listed on the check card. Another example: He used money from a bequest to purchase a small office condominium, then without telling even his vice-chairman, he mortgaged the condo, cashed it out, and after a time lost it (because the mortgage was not being paid); the vice-chairman discovered all this only after Dodge died. Dodge could sell the office condo undetected, because he held it in the name of a shell corporation controlled by himself and the said daughter.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWSWikinews waves Right.png The late Gene Amondson, the 2004 & 2008 presidential nominee of the Prohibition Party was the national face of the party for a number of years. How well did you know Mr. Amondson, and what is the current state of the party with his absence?

Wikinews waves Left.pngJHWikinews waves Right.pngI met Amondson at a couple of conventions; otherwise, I knew him only from correspondence and from telephone calls.

Amondson was a congenial person, warm and approachable. He was recommended to us by one of our supporters. He had an act, a re-creation of Rev. Billy Sunday’s sermon on booze, which he performed at conservative churches and other sympathetic venues. We hoped that his name recognition and the audience appeal of his act would enhance the Party’s appeal.

As it turned out, he had a handicap, analogous to dyslexia, which prevented him from stringing words together into fluent sentences. His act was great. His public speaking and his writing were, um, unremarkable.

We miss his ability to attract attention to us.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWSWikinews waves Right.png Mr. Amondson stated that “Prohibition was America’s greatest 13 years” and that he would “rather have 100 Al Capones in every city than alcohol sold in every grocery store“. Do you agree with these comments, and additionally, do you second his projection that “Prohibition will come again for the fourth time“?

Wikinews waves Left.pngJHWikinews waves Right.pngI expect that national prohibition will come again “someday,” because nothing we’ve tried since then has worked as well in reducing per-capita consumption of alcoholic beverages and the related social problems.

The rest of that is campaign hyperbole.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWSWikinews waves Right.png Why did you choose to run for president and what are your qualifications?

Wikinews waves Left.pngJHWikinews waves Right.pngIt’s partly a “finger-in-the-dike” tactic, because I see no one else in the organization who has the free time and the personal background needed to mount a plausible campaign. Partly, also, it’s the realization that, at age 72, if I’m ever going to do it, I’d better get on with doing it now.

Many times in the past, the Prohibition Party has recruited presidential candidates from outside its own ranks. The same may happen again this year. If not, I see myself as being the most broadly educated and widely experienced person within the core group of the Party.

I have a BA in musical performance (Iowa, 1960) and served 20 years in one of our nation’s most elite military units, The United States Marine Band.

I have a family-farm background, plus 20 years of life in the Washington, DC metropolitan area. I understand both rural and urban communities.

I have an MA in Geography (Maryland, 1972), have published research in refereed journals both here and abroad, and for 11 years edited a journal.

I have done volunteer work with and served as an officer of community organizations ranging from The Salvation Army to friends of the library to recycling programs to historical and literary clubs.

I have done newspaper reporting, primarily on local government.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWSWikinews waves Right.png Who are some of your opponents for the nomination and why do you believe you are a better choice for the party?

Wikinews waves Left.pngJHWikinews waves Right.pngTo my knowledge, no one else has yet expressed an interest in the Prohibition Party nomination.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWSWikinews waves Right.png When and where will the party hold their convention, and how will a nominee be decided upon?

Wikinews waves Left.pngJHWikinews waves Right.pngCullman, Alabama, in June. See the National Committee’s website for details.

A vote of the credentialed delegates will determine who is the candidate.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWSWikinews waves Right.png Do you agree with the decision to allow prominent Libertarian Stephen P. Gordon to speak at the convention, despite his support for the sale of alcohol?

Wikinews waves Left.pngJHWikinews waves Right.pngYes. First of all, the Prohibition Party and the Libertarian Party share some common interests, such as small government, balanced budgets, and personal freedoms. Secondly, we should all take time to listen to those who disagree with us, in order to sharpen our debating skills. Thirdly, we shouldn’t be complacent, because… we might actually be wrong!

Wikinews waves Left.pngWSWikinews waves Right.png According to the Ballot Access News, the Prohibition Party has qualified for the ballot in only Florida. What will you do to gain ballot access in other states?

Wikinews waves Left.pngJHWikinews waves Right.pngMost likely, we will be able to meet the ballot requirements in only 2 or 3 states in addition to Florida (which has among the most lenient ballot access regulations today). Colorado is a likely one, as are Mississippi and Louisiana.

For small parties, the states where they run has very little to do with where they have the most support and very much to do with which states have the easiest regulations.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWSWikinews waves Right.png What issues or policy stances form the basis of your campaign?

Wikinews waves Left.pngJHWikinews waves Right.pngInasmuch as beverage alcohol is our signature issue, I anticipate spending most of my time talking about the alcohol connection with various social problems: public safety, public health, taxes, homelessness, spouse abuse, child welfare, military preparedness, industrial efficiency, product quality, and so forth.

The platform most likely will address a lot of other things, but, let’s face it: The Prohibition Party today is an exercise in living history. We’re like the weekend warriors who put on costumes and re-enact the Civil War. The South is not going to rise again. Neither is national prohibition going to come back (not, at least, in our lifetimes). But in both cases, we think there are important historical lessons which ought not be forgotten. And so, we soldier on against all odds.

Unless we stay on the message (of alcohol), our living history lesson will be lost.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWSWikinews waves Right.png Have you received any notable endorsements thus far?

Wikinews waves Left.pngJHWikinews waves Right.pngNo. Neither have I sought any.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWSWikinews waves Right.png According to Weekend America, Vice-Presidential nominee Leroy Pletten was incapacitated following a stroke during the 2008 campaign. Have you chosen a running mate, and if not, will health be a factor in the decision?

Wikinews waves Left.pngJHWikinews waves Right.pngThe Public Radio announcement appears to be a case of mistaken identity. I have checked with Pletten, and no such thing happened.

I’ve been asking around. I know who I’d like to have, but it’s still under discussion.

Health should enter into it. We don’t need another Reagan!

Wikinews waves Left.pngWSWikinews waves Right.png How often do you campaign, and how might that change should you win the nomination?

Wikinews waves Left.pngJHWikinews waves Right.pngVery little campaigning, at this point. I sent out a series of monthly postcards last year, presenting myself to the people on the Party mailing list. There is also a (very rudimentary) campaign website – www.hedges4-12.com I’m in touch with the people who will make the decision, at the Convention this coming June.

If I should receive the nomination, the website will have to be improved, and there will have to be press releases and some personal visits to states where we get on the ballot. I’ll have to obtain advice on making more effective use of the internet.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWSWikinews waves Right.png Describe a typical day for Jim Hedges. How do you spend your time?

Wikinews waves Left.pngJHWikinews waves Right.pngBefore going to sleep each evening, I map out the following day in my mind. Then, in the morning, I roll out (not too early), tend to personal care and a hearty breakfast, go to the other house (when my wife and I were married, 20 years ago, we each had a paid-for house, and it was convenient to keep both of them) and tend to the pets. The rest of the morning is spent dealing with paper mail and other clerical work. In warm weather, afternoons are devoted to yard work and to gardening; in cold weather, I do household maintenance chores, work in the shop, work on the wood pile. After supper, if there is not a rehearsal or a concert to go to, I practice half an hour on my tuba, then look at the internet or read.

Every day is different, but that’s the basic schedule.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWSWikinews waves Right.png What is your main source for political news?

Wikinews waves Left.pngJHWikinews waves Right.pngThree weekly newsmagazines: The Economist, The Nation, and Science.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWSWikinews waves Right.png What is your biggest political concern at the moment?

Wikinews waves Left.pngJHWikinews waves Right.pngIn the next 10 years, eliminating governmental deficits, primarily in the United States and in Europe. In the next 100 years, dealing with the social and economic consequences of the rise in sea level due to climatic warming.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWSWikinews waves Right.png How would you assess the presidencies of George W. Bush and Barack Obama?

Wikinews waves Left.pngJHWikinews waves Right.pngBush the Younger was unquestionably the most damaging president since FDR, perhaps the most damaging of all time: His “Patriot Act” and other security measures trashed the Constitution, our Constitution. His deficits have never been equaled. His foreign military adventures are the longest wars ever fought by our country.

Obama was dealt a miserable hand, but even so, I’m becoming disappointed. We still have Bush‘s deficit spending. We still have Bush’s wars. We still have Bush’s failure to secure the border with Mexico. We still have Bush’s exporting American jobs overseas. What is there to like?

Obama did end Bush’s “global gag rule,” which attempted to prevent family planning agencies all over the world from even discussing abortion. And he did make a stab at improving medical care.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWSWikinews waves Right.png What are your thoughts on Sarah Palin and the Tea Party Movement?

Wikinews waves Left.pngJHWikinews waves Right.pngPalin was given a job for four years by the voters of Alaska. When she got bored with it, she handed the office key to her lieutenant governor and walked away. That’s not responsible behavior.

The Tea Party folks are on the right track in trying to get the federal budget deficit under control. I fear, though, that they lack the patience and flexibility to do the job gracefully. And, they’re too easily distracted by unrelated issues.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWSWikinews waves Right.png What is your take on the the health care bill?

Wikinews waves Left.pngJHWikinews waves Right.pngObamacare is a step in the right direction, but it leaves intact the private insurance industry, which is a major source of waste. We need a public health service, like the one in England.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWSWikinews waves Right.png What are some of your foreign policy views?

Wikinews waves Left.pngJHWikinews waves Right.pngAmerica first! Our unqualified support for Israel is doing us a great deal of damage elsewhere in the world. We need to stop all aid, both civilian and military, to Israel until Israel abides by the Oslo Accords.

We need to stop being the world’s bully and, instead, lead by example: ratify Kyoto, ratify CEDAW, rein in the international corporations.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWSWikinews waves Right.png What historical or contemporary figures do you identify with?

Wikinews waves Left.pngJHWikinews waves Right.pngYou know, I think it would be appropriate to name Jimmy Carter. I didn’t always agree with what he did, but I could sympathize with why he did it. To the extent that any president can be, he was an honest, well-meaning person.

Look at the things he has done since leaving the White House, then look at the things other presidents have done after their terms ended. Carter has continued to serve the American people, and the world, while the others have hie’d themselves to their clubs and estates, to their lecture circuits and their corporate boards.

Yes, I would like to be a person such as Jimmy Carter.


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December 1, 2010

Latest \’CableGate\’ disclosures hint at US diplomatic tactics in Spain and beyond

Latest ‘CableGate’ disclosures hint at US diplomatic tactics in Spain and beyond

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Wednesday, December 1, 2010

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Yesterday’s release of more US diplomatic cables by Wikileaks covered pressure on governments, Spain’s judiciary, and buying foreign assistance with detentions at Guantanamo Bay. El Pais, one of five mainstream papers partnering with Wikileaks’ release of documents, examined key output from Madrid’s US embassy.

The latest cables focus on US–Spain relations, particularly during the George W. Bush presidency, with Eduardo Aguirre serving as ambassador in Madrid. He is cited as having “personally exerted” pressure on Spain’s government and judiciary; this leading to at least three investigations being dropped.

Of concern to the press is the death of José Couso in 2003. The Spanish cameraman was killed during the battle for Baghdad; the Spanish judiciary intended to prosecute three US servicemen over the fatality.

File photo of Eduardo Aguirre Jr, United States ambassador to Spain.

American use of Spanish air bases for ‘extraordinary rendition‘ was a second concern the US embassy in Madrid pressured the government on. Spanish prosecutors had been keen to pursue 13 CIA officers over the illegal flights.

Repeatedly, concern over Spain’s independent judiciary invoking ‘universal jurisdiction’ appears in leaked cables. Reports at the time showed magistrates considered actions at Guantanamo Bay torture, and seemed keen to pursue ex-US government officials on grounds of “criminal responsibility”.

Cable 06MADRID1914 highlights the cases of Hamed Abderrahaman Ahmed and Moroccan Lahcen Ikassrien; respectively transferred from Guantanamo Bay, to Spanish custody, in February 2004 and July 2005.

Describing conditions at the Cuban detention centre as “impossible to explain, much less justify”, Hamed — better known as the “Spanish Taliban” — saw a July 2006 ruling by the country’s Supreme Court annul his six-year prison sentence, granting him an immediate release. The ruling cast doubt on the reliability of evidence against Lahcen, who was released on bail.

Hamed and his family, at the time, announced their intent to sue the US government over his suffering in Guantanamo Bay.

File photo of Baltazar Garzón, former Spanish High Court judge.

Later cables illustrate how concerned the Bush administration were over possible prosecution by Baltasar Garzón. Citing an op-ed he penned for a Spanish paper in March 2007, and this subsequently being picked up by Socialist Party secretary José Blanco Lopéz. Pronouncements by the two, and others, on “criminal responsibility” were met with a diplomatically stern response; cable 07MADRID546 states that the government of Spain was “cautioned that continued statements on this issue by senior Spanish figures would be viewed negatively.”

Garzón, best-known for indicting former dictator Augusto Pinochet, seemed to still trouble US diplomats when planning high-level defence talks in March 2007. Mention is made to a possible investigation, and indictment of, Donald Rumsfeld. Spain had informed the US embassy in Madrid the judge in the case was working to dismiss it.

As recently as March last year, Garzón sought to prosecute officials from the Bush administration.

Cquote1.svg […]continued statements on this issue by senior Spanish figures would be viewed negatively. Cquote2.svg

—US embassy ‘caution’ to Spanish government.

Named as potential defendants in a Reuters report, John Ashcroft, John Yoo, William Haynes II, Jay Bybee, and, aide to Vice-President Dick Cheney, David Addington were all being investigated by Garzón.

Come April this year, Garzón himself faced prosecution. A probe into Franco-era war crimes saw him suspended, possibly to be tried for acting contrary to an amnesty extended to Franco supporters. It is alleged he “acted without jurisdiction”.

At present, the former Spanish Supreme Court judge is working at the International Criminal Court. Reports based on El Pais’ investigation around the leaked cables suggest the country’s judiciary has been politicised to suit American interests.

With a price of US$85,000 cited for each former Guantanamo Bay detainee that Spain was to take, recent reports assert other countries have been offered financial incentives to help empty the camp.

Belgium, alongside Spain, was supposedly offered more influence within the European Union in exchange for cooperating with US plans.

Kuwait’s interior minister is said to have refused to take any of their citizens from the camp. Describing inmates as “rotten”, DPA alleges he told the US to “get rid of” detainees in an Afghan war zone.

Yemen, in exchange for agreeing to take Guantanamo detainees, is said to have asked for US$11 million for the construction of a centre to rehabilitate Muslim extremists.

So far, only a tiny fraction of the documents in Wikileaks possession have been made public.



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March 4, 2010

US reveals Internet security efforts

US reveals Internet security efforts – Wikinews, the free news source

US reveals Internet security efforts

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Thursday, March 4, 2010

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The National Strategy to Secure Cyberspace (February 2003) featured the new cabinet-level United States Department of Homeland Security as the lead agency protecting Information technology.
Image: Department of Homeland Security.

The United States announced the declassification of a portion of the Comprehensive National Cybersecurity Initiative, a major part of the US’s efforts to thwart cyber warfare, on Tuesday.

The announcement came at the RSA Security Conference in San Francisco, and was given by Howard Schmidt, who is the current US cyber-security coordinator, having been assigned the position in December.

While only a portion of the document was revealed at the announcement, and much remains classified material, including all material related to plans by the government for offensive cyber-warfare, the program has twelve parts, and has three main strategies:

  • To create a defensive mechanism against immediate threats, as well as those possible in the near future;
  • To create a defensive mechanism against a wide variety of threats, both present and future;
  • To initiate efforts to strengthen future cyber-security efforts.

The program includes funding for numerous security measures, including the government’s controversial Einstein program, which scans all incoming communications to government-operated websites. The plan also mentions increasing security for classified networks within the government, as well as developing a government-wide plan for counter-intelligence work, although the declassified portions gave little indication as to what that would involve.

The program was begun by President George Bush in 2008 as a National Security Presidential Directive, and has been entirely classified until now. At its inception, it was intended to serve as a program to unify cyber-security efforts within the government and to develop other security programs for use nationwide. No budget has been released for the program, although estimates place the cost at $40 billion until 2015.



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February 18, 2010

Former New York City Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik sentenced to four years in prison

Former New York City Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik sentenced to four years in prison

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Thursday, February 18, 2010

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Fmr. NYC Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik. (2008)
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Former New York City Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik was sentenced to four years in prison and three years of supervised release on Thursday after pleading guilty to eight felony charges. Among these were tax fraud and lying to Bush administration officials during his unsuccessful nomination for US Secretary of Homeland Security in 2004.

This sentence is contrary to a plea agreement made in November between Kerik’s legal counsel and the prosecution. Per this accord, federal attorneys recommended a sentence of no longer than 33 months in prison, opposed to the 48 months that US District Judge Stephen Robinson (who was not bound to this agreement) chose to hand down instead.

“I think it’s fair to say that with great power comes great responsibility and great consequences,” Judge Robinson said upon sentencing. “I think the damage caused by Mr. Kerik is in some ways immeasurable.”

“Today’s sentencing of Bernard Kerik is one of the most powerful recent reminders that no one in this country is above the law,” added US Attorney Preet Bharara.

Kerik, who was accompanied by his wife and three children, briefly addressed the court: “I make no excuses. I take full responsibility for the grave mistakes I’ve made. Believe me when I say I have learned from this and I have become and will continue to become a better person.”

“I know I must be punished,” he went on to say. “I only ask that you allow me to return to my wife and two little girls as soon as possible.”

According to the New York City Department of Corrections, Kerik is slated to begin serving his sentence on May 17. Although the prosecution made clear their desire for Kerik to be imprisoned immediately, Judge Robinson allowed him to surrender himself later in the day so that he would have sufficient time to “get his affairs in order.” Kerik has been awaiting sentencing under house arrest at his home in Franklin Lakes, New Jersey since November when said plea agreement was reached.

Kerik, a military veteran and undercover detective, was a trusted advisor to former US Attorney and Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, for whom he worked for as a bodyguard and a driver.

Kerik later served as both corrections and police commissioner. His distinguished actions following the 2001 September 11th Attacks transformed him into a respected national figure. This earned him the praise of then-president George W. Bush, who in turn nominated him for the lead Homeland Security post. It was during the vetting process that Kerik’s suspected ties to organized crime came out. This marked the beginning of his long fall from grace.

Outside the courthouse, Kerik gave a statement to the media and general public before being driven home: “I’d like to apologize to the American people for the mistakes I have made and for which I have just accepted responsibility. As history is written, I can only hope that I will be judged for the 30 years of service I have given to this country and the City of New York. It has not and will not diminish my love for this country.”

Kerik’s lawyer, when asked by The New York Times if they planned to appeal this sentence, simply replied, “No comment.”



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October 29, 2009

NASA completes successful test flight of new Ares IX rocket

NASA completes successful test flight of new Ares IX rocket

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Thursday, October 29, 2009

Ares I on its launch pad at the Kennedy Space Center.
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NASA completed the first successful space flight of the new Ares I-X rocket yesterday. After delaying the launch 24 hours because of poor weather, Ares lifted off at 11:30 (EDT) in the morning from Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

The 327-foot tall Ares I-X test vehicle produced 2.6 million pounds of thrust to accelerate the rocket to nearly 3 g’s and Mach 4.76 — just shy of hypersonic speed. It capped its easterly flight at a sub-orbital altitude of 150,000 feet after the separation of its first stage, a four-segment solid rocket booster. After reaching an altitude of about 40 km, the first stage separates from the launch vehicle. The second stage was very brief, reaching around 46,000 metres, before an uncontrolled descent. The Orion capsule model should splash down approximately 230 nautical miles from the launch site. The first stage booster from the test descended for recovery using a parachute braking system.

Ares flight plan.
Image: NASA.

“This is a huge step forward for NASA’s exploration goals. Ares I-X provides NASA with an enormous amount of data that will be used to improve the design and safety of the next generation of American spaceflight vehicles — vehicles that could again take humans beyond low Earth orbit,” said Doug Cooke, associate administrator for the Exploration Systems Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington, D.C..

The Ares I is a new rocket developed under the Constellation program, part of the Vision for Space Exploration announced in 2004 by then-president George W. Bush. Derived from a booster used on the current United States Space Shuttle, it should help to lift the Orion spacecraft carrying people and supplies for the International Space Station (ISS). The rocket with Orion is also planned to lift the crew to Altair lunar landing module, which will be lifted into orbit using the Ares V heavy-lift rocket.



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September 25, 2009

Iran announces its building of a second nuclear power plant

Iran announces its building of a second nuclear power plant

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Friday, September 25, 2009

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The Iranian government has announced that the nation is near completion of a second nuclear power facility. The announcement was made in a September 21 letter from the Iranian government to the United Nations Security Council that a second nuclear plant was being constructed in the city of Qom.

In the letter to the U.N., the Iranian government states that the plant will contain 3,000 centrifuges and produce roughly 5% uranium.

According to CNN, the Iranian government made the announcement after the nation received word that the United States had already known about the facility. CNN cites an unnamed U.S. government official as saying the U.S. was made aware of the facility at some point during the presidency of George W. Bush. Today the U.S., along with France and the United Kingdom, condemned the new plant.

“Iran’s decision to build yet another nuclear facility without notifying the IAEA represents a direct challenge to the basic compact at the center of the non-proliferation regime. The size and configuration of this facility is inconsistent with a peaceful program,” said U.S. president Barack Obama during a press conference. French president Nicolas Sarkozy and Prime Minister of the UK Gordon Brown stood next to Obama as he made the statement.

The Iranian government has repeatedly stated that their nuclear program is for peaceful purposes and for the production of electricity. In response, the country’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said that the new plant was not a secret and that the International Atomic Energy Agency knew the plant existed. He also called the statements made by Obama, Brown, and Sarkozy a “mistake.”

“It’s not a secret site. If it was, why would we have informed the IAEA about it a year ahead of time. They (U.S., UK & France) will regret this announcement. If I were Obama’s adviser, I would definitely advise him to refrain from making this statement because it is definitely a mistake. It would definitely be a mistake,” said Ahmadinejad to reporters in New York City in the U.S.

The U.N. Security Council has passed several resolutions ordering Iran to stop its enrichment of uranium, or face sanctions. The first resolution, 1696, passed the council in July of 2006 with 14 nations agreeing to the resolution and one opposing it. The resolution ordered Iran to stop enrichment and in December 2006, the council unanimously voted on 1737, which enacted sanctions banning the supply of nuclear related materials to the country, and froze assets of individuals and companies connected to the country’s nuclear program.



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