As Kony video goes viral, Leahy sets hearings on funding to find Ugandan warlord
Joseph Kony, a man who is nearly as invisible as the 60,000 children he has abducted, has eluded captors since 2005 when he was first put at the top of the International Criminal Court’s most wanted human rights offenders (Saddam Hussein was further down the list). Kony has for nearly a decade kidnapped and sold young girls to the sex trade and enlisted young boys in his Lord’s Resistance Army. Under his reign of terror, children have been forced to commit atrocities in Uganda, in some cases against their own families, according to news reports from The Guardian in London.
A 28-minute film from the charity Invisible Children about Kony, his human rights violations and the international silence that has enabled the warlord to continue terrorizing Ugandans has gone viral.
About 21 million viewers have seen the video. The aim of the producers? To bring public pressure to bear by making Kony so notorious that world leaders have no choice but to apprehend him. So far the tactic has worked: Several months ago President Barack Obama sent 100 military advisers to Africa to help the Ugandan army locate Kony. The film’s pitch for further military intervention from the United States has drawn criticism.
Sen. Patrick Leahy will hold congressional hearings this week on funding to augment the military’s efforts in Uganda. USAID Director Rajiv Shah is expected to give testimony before the State Department and Foreign Operations Subcommittee, according to a memo from the senator’s office. Leahy, the chairman of the Senate budget committee for the State Department and U.S. foreign operations, included up to $10 million in funding for US AID to assist victims and help Ugandans find Kony.
On Monday, Leahy is meeting with students at Champlain College in Burlington to talk about the issue. The event was planned before the Invisible Children video went viral, according to an email from the senator’s staff.
Shumlin lashes out at Limbaugh
Gov. Peter Shumlin issued a statement earlier this week calling comments made by uber conservative radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh “vile and reprehensible.” Limbaugh made an attack on a proposal from the Obama administration to require insurance companies to pay for contraceptives this week and called Sandra Fluke, an ordinary citizen who testified before Congress in favor of the mandate, a slut.
Shumlin managed to slam Limbaugh, along with the field of Republican candidates for president, in one fell swoop. It also didn’t hurt that the remarks, made at his weekly press conference, gave the governor an opportunity to come across as a national political player.
“If I were a Republican candidate for the president of the United States, I would be focused on jobs and job creation,” Shumlin told reporters. “I wouldn’t restrict women’s ability to have contraception available to them, regardless to their insurance policies. So I find it a little astonishing that we’re having the conversation at all. Having said that, I heard Rush Limbaugh’s comments. They were reprehensible. There’s no way to interpret them any other way than the way I interpreted them, which is I can’t remember in recent history hearing such a degrading, despicable response to a woman who’s fighting for her own reproductive rights.”
But Shumlin isn’t a Republican, or a candidate for president, so what was that all about? Why this national issue, and why now?
“Because I think there’s a time when, everyone, every leader in the free world should stand up for women and their rights when they’re being trampled upon,” Shumlin said. “As I said, I’m shocked that we’re having this conversation as a nation, at a time when Vermonters and Americans care more about job creation and economic security, we’re literally having a conversation that my mother was having and fighting for when I was a kid in 1956, 1958, and 1960. What has become of the national dialogue if someone like Rush can get on the air and make accusations like he did about a woman who is simply fighting for coverage for her reproductive future? At this point it’s astonishing.”
Limbaugh’s remark has sparked a firestorm of recriminations and several dozen advertisers have pulled support from his show. But that didn’t stop him from wallowing in misogyny on the air again this week. He called Tracie McMillan, who wrote a book about her experience as a low-wage worker in the food industry, an “overeducated” white woman.
Officials deny records requests in Duclos case
The Vermont Enhanced 911 Board has issued a final agency denial for an audio copy of the E911 call on Jan. 9, 2012, requesting assistance for overdue hiker Levi Duclos.
VTDigger.org reporter Cindy Ellen Hill filed the request for the audio and public information documenting the communications between the E911 board and the Vermont State Police. Extensive information requests to the Vermont Department of Public Safety, the agency which includes the Vermont State Police, have to date not received substantive responses.
Vermont E911 board executive director David H. Tucker advised Hill in a March 1 letter that her request for the recording and documentation of subsequent communications was denied on the grounds of an exemption to the Public Records Act pertaining to “information relating to customer name, address, and any other specific customer information” relative to the E911 address database.
Although most public records denials in Vermont are required to be appealed to the agency head, Tucker advised Hill that “You may treat this letter as a final determination,” and directed her to appeal by judicial review. Hill, an attorney licensed in Vermont and federal jurisdictions, is preparing to file an appeal of the E911 public records denial in Superior Court.
Vermont State Police Quartermaster Heidi Storm acknowledged receipt of Hill’s public records request by email of March 1, 2012. Hill requested 13 classes of information from the State Police, including radio and dispatch logs similar to those which were the subject of a recent Vermont Supreme Court decision. None of the items requested has as yet been provided.
The Vermont Department of Health denied Hill’s request for the autopsy and related documents earlier this week, citing federal and state patient privilege laws. Hill had requested information which would indicate the cause, and potentially the time, of Levi’s death, issues pertinent to the public and governmental assessment of the appropriateness of Vermont State Police response to the report that Levi had not returned from a hike when expected. Vermont State Police revealed to family members that the autopsy determined the cause of Levi’s death to be hypothermia, that the toxicology reports were clean, and that no time of death could be established. Hill indicated that she would not appeal the public records request denial regarding the autopsy and related documents.
Occupy … Goddard?
Goddard College in Plainfield has a reputation for being different — think proudly progressive, think avowedly liberal arts, think activism and think student-centered. Think, well, differently. So it’s no surprise that the small liberal arts college, which pretty much invented the low-residency concept, is bringing Occupy Wall Street to Vermonters this Saturday in the first in the nation conference on the OWS phenomenon.
The members of the original Zucotti Park protests will be on hand to share their experiences at a daylong conference on campus this Saturday.