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Saturday, July 29, 2006

Israelis Accused of Using Illegal Weapons

Dahr Jamail, Inter Press Service

Dr. Bachir el-Sham at the Complex Hospital in Sidon in the south of Lebanon told IPS in a telephone interview that he has received civilian patients injured by incendiary weapons. "We are seeing people that are all blackened, with charred flesh that is not burned by normal bombs and flames," he said. "I am sure this is a special bomb. They are using incendiary weapons on civilians in the south. We are seeing these patients." The doctor also told IPS that the Israelis are again using suction bombs, which they used heavily during the Lebanese civil war. "They are using suction bombs that implode our buildings," he added, "With implosive bombs...instead of the glass blasted out, it is inside the building. These kill everyone inside the building. There are rarely survivors when they use these bombs"...Bilal Masri, assistant director of the Beirut Government University Hospital (BGUH) had told IPS earlier that "many of the injured in the south are suffering from the impact of incendiary white phosphorous."

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Is Bush Trying To Dodge the Gallows?

Dave Lindorff, www.rense.com

Could George Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, and maybe Alberto Gonzales all end up sucking poison gas? That, apparently, is a concern now being taken seriously by Attorney General Gonzales, who is quietly working with senior White House officials and friendly members of Congress to do what murderous dictators in Chile, Argentina and other bloodthirsty regimes have done as their future in office began to look uncertain: pass laws exempting them from prosecution for murder. At issue is a growing legal threat of the president and other top administration officials facing prosecution for violations of the U.S. War Crimes statutes, which since 1996 have made violation of Geneva Conventions adopted by the U.S. violations of American law, too. Gonzales knows the seriousness of this threat...

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# 1955-1992:

# * Resolution 106: " . . . 'condemns' Israel for Gaza raid".
# * Resolution 111: " . . . 'condemns' Israel for raid on Syria that killed fifty-six people".
# * Resolution 127: " . . . 'recommends' Israel suspends it's 'no-man's zone' in Jerusalem".
# * Resolution 162: " . . . 'urges' Israel to comply with UN decisions".
# * Resolution 171: " . . . determines flagrant violations' by Israel in its attack on Syria".
# * Resolution 228: " . . . 'censures' Israel for its attack on Samu in the West Bank, then under Jordanian control".
# * Resolution 237: " . . . 'urges' Israel to allow return of new 1967 Palestinian refugees".
# * Resolution 248: " . . . 'condemns' Israel for its massive attack on Karameh in Jordan".
# * Resolution 250: " . . . 'calls' on Israel to refrain from holding military parade in Jerusalem".
# * Resolution 251: " . . . 'deeply deplores' Israeli military parade in Jerusalem in defiance of Resolution 250".
# * Resolution 252: " . . . 'declares invalid' Israel's acts to unify Jerusalem as Jewish capital".

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The Myth of the Israeli Soldier.

The Angry Arab News Service

...For decades Israeli propaganda and the propaganda of Arab regimes fed the myth of the mighty and invincible Israeli soldier. Israel wanted to discourage Arab armies from fighting them, and the Arab regimes wanted to instill fear and despair in their populations because they did not want to be dragged into a confrontation with Israel. This will be remembered by Arabs--rightly or wrongly--as a situation where Israeli soldiers ran away from Arab fighters, notwithstanding the fundamentally asymmetry between the two sides in everything. Arabs don't remember a time when Israeli soldiers were scared of Arab soldiers in contemporary times. The political impact of that will be significant. But don't get me wrong. Israel's long record of bravery against defenseless women and children remains intact...

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More Evidence Americans Are Insane

Robert Dreyfuss

Sorry to be the bearer of bad news to those who think that Americans are finally starting to "get it" about Iraq, bu the latest Harris poll shows how bad things are: Despite being widely reported in the mainstream news media that the US and other countries have not found any weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, as well as Democrat talking points that Bush lied about WMD, more Americans (50%) think that Iraq had such weapons when the US-led coalition invaded Iraq. This is a 14 percent increase from February 2005, when only 36 percent thought Iraq had WMD. This may be attributed to the recent discovery of an intelligence report describing over 500 shells containing WMD being found by US military forces in Iraq....

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Four Marines killed in action in Iraq

Four U.S. Marines were killed in combat Thursday in Iraq's Anbar province, west of Baghdad, the U.S. military announced. Three of those Marines were assigned to 1st Brigade, 1st Armored Division, according to a military statement on Saturday. On Friday, the U.S. military announced the death of the fourth Marine, who was assigned to Regimental Combat Team 5. Thirty-eight U.S. troops have died in Iraq during July. Since the start of the war, 2,565 U.S. troops have died in Iraq. Seven Department of Defense civilian employees have also died in Iraq...

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WP spouts IDF propaganda

Lenin's Tomb

I mentioned a while ago the servility of the Israeli press in terms of regurgitating Israeli military propaganda, but they'd have to work hard to beat the American press. For instance, have a look at this: Headline reads: "Hezbollah Rockets Hit UN Observation Post". But: "A U.N.-run observation post just inside Israel was struck during fighting between Israel and Hezbollah militants on Friday. The Israeli army blamed Hezbollah rockets but a U.N. officer said it was an artillery shell fired by the Israeli Defense Force." Note that the WP headline is is not even in quotation marks...

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Harvey Weinstein Pledges To Back Michael Moore's Film Fest...

Associated Press July 29, 2006 at 11:58 AM

Harvey Weinstein backed Michael Moore's hit documentary "Fahrenheit 9/11."

Now, the film mogul is backing Moore's Traverse City Film Festival.


AP: Lieberman Faces “Political Abyss”…

Associated Press David Espo July 29, 2006 at 09:15 AM

Anti-war Democrats bailed in droves. Teachers unions left over vouchers. Men are drawn to his challenger, and women aren't all that crazy about the incumbent, either.

Once, Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut seemed on the brink of the vice presidency, a principled moderate in a party that didn't always warm to them. Now, hewing to his support for the war inIraq, he confronts a political abyss, abandoned by all groups but the poorer, older and less educated Democrats in his state.


House Tacks Estate Tax Cut On Bill To Raise Minimum Wage...

Associated Press Andrew Taylor July 29, 2006 at 09:11 AM
Republicans muscled the first minimum wage increase in a decade through the House early Saturday after pairing it with a cut in inheritance taxes on multimillion-dollar estates.
Combining the two issues provoked protests from Democrats and was sure to cause problems in the Senate, where the minimum wage initiative was likely to die at the hands of Democrats opposed to the costly estate tax cuts. The Senate is expected to take up the legislation next week.


Audit Finds U.S. Hid Cost of Iraq Projects

The New York Times James Glanz July 29, 2006 at 12:55 PM

The State Department agency in charge of $1.4 billion in reconstruction money in Iraq used an accounting shell game to hide ballooning cost overruns on its projects in Iraq and knowingly withheld information on schedule delays from Congress, a federal audit released late Friday has found.

The agency hid construction overruns by listing them as overhead or administrative costs, according to the audit, written by the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, an independent office that reports to Congress and the Pentagon.


Israel pulls out of Hezbollah stronghold

Associated Press Kathy Gannon July 29, 2006 at 02:11 PM
READ MORE: Lebanon, Israel

Israeli troops pulled back from a key Lebanese border town Saturday where it battled Hezbollah for a week, claiming to have finished its mission after the bloodiest ground fight of the 18-day war.

Hezbollah leader Sheik Hassan Nasrallah threatened in a TV broadcast to attack more cities in centralIsrael, as Israeli warplanes blasted bridges and demolished houses in southern Lebanon, killing seven people, including a woman and her five children.



Malcom Lagauche

With all the activity in the Middle East, Iraq has taken the back pages. Nothing has changed: daily murder and mayhem abound. Just a little over 16 years ago, Saddam Hussein met April Glaspie, then U.S. Ambassador to Iraq. The date was July 25, 1990. Once, this date was a recognizable one for many people, however, it has faded into obscurity. The subjects brought up in this meeting astutely show how the U.S. was attempting to isolate Iraq even before its August 2, 1990 incursion into Kuwait. From 1980 to 1988, the U.S. played Iran and Iraq against each other in assistance. The U.S. sold weapons to both adversaries, but, most people thought Iraq held an upper hand in relations with the U.S. This was a fable. Once the cease-fire between Iraq and Iran was signed, the U.S. dropped Iraq like a hot potato taken from a scorching grill. The following is a transcript of the meeting between April Glaspie and Saddam Hussein. When it first appeared, most people took it to be solely a message against Kuwait. It is much deeper, however. Saddam brought up subjects that we know today were important at the time, but were considered less meaningful than his message about Kuwait. Reading this transcript today puts an entirely different slant on the meeting...

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Video: Novak calls Rice Israel-Hezbollah efforts 'a disaster'

David EdwardsPublished: Friday July 28, 2006

On Fox this morning, conservative Robert Novak was highly critical of the Bush Administration, and Secretary Rice in particular, on the subject of the Israel-Hezbollah conflict. Novak contended that Israel had failed in its military plan to diminish or destroy Hezbollah. He added that the Bush Administration had thus far been "a disaster."

A partial transcript follows the video.

HOST: Is [Rice's next visit to Mideast] the first in a new round in shuttle diplomacy for the United States?

NOVAK: Well, I think it probably will be. It's been a disaster so far because the United States' position was to let the Israelis have a go at it. They thought it would clean out Hezbollah in about a week. Hezbollah turned out to be much tougher and I would say that Secretary Rice first mission was totally unsuccessful. So, The United States seems very isolated right now and they've got to reestablish their position as an honest broker in trying to reach a peace agreement.

HOST: Well, does that mean that... I mean, was it worth the attempt -- trying to clean out Hezbollah?

NOVAK: Well, if they had cleaned it out it would have been worth the attempt but if it fails... I would say that Hezbollah is politically stronger than ever. If you notice that Saudi Arabia and Egypt were both very critical of Hezbollah for provoking Israel at the beginning. Now they are supporting them. It's a matter of the Israeli military just wasn't successful because there were no troops on the ground and Israeli didn't want to send in troops. So, it's a very difficult situation both militarily and diplomatically.

NOVAK: So, we're at a point right now which is very difficult. As I say, politically, I think Hezbollah -- whatever losses they've suffered -- are at a stronger position than they were two weeks ago.

HOST: Well, the administration's position has been that it's pointless to call for a ceasefire if nothing has changed... Wasn't the administration's approach worth trying?

NOVAK: Well, again -- let me repeat it -- if the Israeli military had been successful it would have been worth trying but right now the position is untenable... We have to set down at the table with Syria. Syria has influence over Hezbollah. Syrians are not very nice people. We don't like them but they want to be involved in this and it seems that you can't have a negotiated settlement, you can't have a ceasefire by saying, "We want a ceasefire. There has to be negotiations and, that, I think is going to be the test for Secretary Rice in the next weeks to come.

Rupert Murdoch To Offer Tony Blair Senior Role In Media Empire...

The Independent Andrew Grice July 28, 2006 at 07:50 PM
READ MORE: Rupert Murdoch, News Corp, Fox News

The media magnate Rupert Murdoch is expected to offer Tony Blair a senior role in his News Corporation empire when he stands down as Prime Minister.

Allies of Mr Blair insist he has made no decisions about his plans when he leaves Downing Street -- almost certainly next year. But some friends say a seat on the board of News Corp could tempt the outgoing Prime Minister, as it would dovetail neatly with the lucrative United States lecture circuit. Mr Blair's popularity at home may be waning, but he remains big box office in America. His close relationship with Mr Murdoch will be highlighted tomorrow when he addresses the annual gathering of News Corp's executives and senior journalists from around the world.


Bush And Blair Dismiss Growing Worldwide Calls For Cease-Fire...

The Independent Colin Brown and Francis Elliott July 28, 2006 at 09:22 PM
READ MORE: George W. Bush, Lebanon

Tony Blair and George Bush defied the growing anger across the world yesterday by seeking a UN resolution that fell far short of a ceasefire to end the killing of Lebanese civilians.

Speaking after talks at the White House, Mr Bush announced that on Monday the UN Security Council will discuss the creation of a multinational force to patrol a buffer zone on the southern Lebanon border. Mr Bush said the US would be tabling a UN Security Council resolution next week to seek an end to hostilities "as soon as possible" but it failed to meet the demands for a ceasefire in an open letter in The Independent yesterday, signed by 42 leading figures in the arts, business and politics.


GOP Rep: “It Is In The Best Interests Of The Nation…To Return Control Of The House To Temporary Democratic Control”…

READ MORE: 2006, Iraq, Jack Abramoff, Supreme Court, Investigations, Tom DeLay, George W. Bush

The following is a letter from former Republican Congressman and Presidential candidate Pete McCloskey.


I have found it difficult in the past several weeks to reach a conclusion as to what a citizen should do with respect to this fall's forthcoming congressional elections.

I am a Republican, intend to remain a Republican, and am descended from three generations of California Republicans, active in Merced and San Bernardino Counties as well as in the San Francisco Bay Area. I have just engaged in an unsuccessful effort to defeat the Republican Chairman of the House Resources Committee, Richard Pombo, in the 11th Congressional District Republican primary, obtaining just over 32% of the Republican vote against Pombo's 62%.

The observation of Mr. Pombo's political consultant, Wayne Johnson, that I have been mired in the obsolete values of the 1970s, honesty, good ethics and balanced budgets, all rejected by today's modern Republicans, is only too accurate.

It has been difficult, nevertheless, to conclude as I have, that the Republican House leadership has been so unalterably corrupted by power and money that reasonable Republicans should support Democrats against DeLay-type Republican incumbents in 2006. Let me try to explain why.

I have decided to endorse Jerry McNerney and every other honorable Democrat now challenging those Republican incumbents who have acted to protect former Majority Leader Tom DeLay, who have flatly reneged on their Contract With America promise in 1994 to restore high standards of ethical behavior in the House and who have combined to prevent investigation of the Cunningham and Abramoff/Pombo/DeLay scandals. These Republican incumbents have brought shame on the House, and have created a wide-spread view in the public at large that Republicans are more interested in obtaining campaign contributions from corporate lobbyists than they are in legislating in the public interest.

At the outset, let me say that in four months of campaigning I have learned that Jerry McNerney is an honorable man and that Richard Pombo is not. Mr. Pombo has used his position and power to shamelessly enrich his wife and family from campaign funds, has interfered with the federal investigation of men like Michael Hurwitz, he of the Savings & Loan frauds and ruthless clear-cutting of old growth California redwoods. Mr. Pombo has taken more money from Indian gaming lobbyist Jack Abramoff, his associates and Indian tribes interested in gaming than any other Member of Congress, in excess of $500,000. With his stated intent to gut the Endangered Species and Environmental Protection Acts, to privatize for development millions of acres of public land, including a number of National Parks, to give veto power to the Congress over constitutional decisions of the Supreme Court, his substantial contributions to DeLay's legal defense fund, and most particularly his refusal to investigate the Abramoff involvement in Indian gaming and the exploitation of women labor in the Marianas, both matters within the jurisdiction of his committee, Mr. Pombo in my view represents all that is wrong with the national government in Washington today.

It is clear that the forthcoming campaign will be a vicious one, with Mr. Pombo willing to stretch the truth as he has in the past with respect to the elderberry beetle, levee breaks, his steadfast opposition to veterans' health care, including prosthetics research for amputees from Iraq and other wars, the impact on Marine lives of endangered species protection at Camp Pendleton and other issues. That Mr. Pombo lied in testimony to the Senate in 1994 is an accepted fact. He testified that the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service had designated his farm near Tracy as habitat for the endangered California kit fox. This was untrue, and Pombo admitted to the untruthfulness a few months later when questioned over public television, an agency for which he recently voted to cut federal funds.
Such a man should not be allowed to be in charge of the nation's public lands and waterways, a position to which he was elevated by the now-departed Tom DeLay.

Some 18 months ago, my former law partner, Lewis Butler, an Assistant Secretary of HEW in the Nixon Administration and subsequently the distinguished Chair of California Tomorrow and the Plowshares Foundation, and I initiated an effort we called The Revolt of the Elders. All of us were retired and in the latter years of Social Security entitlement. Most of us were Republicans who had served in the Congress or in former Republican administrations with men like Gerry Ford, John Rhodes, Bob Michel, Elliot Richardson, Barry Goldwater, Ronald Reagan and the president's father, George H. W. Bush, all men of impeccable integrity and ethics.

We had become appalled at the House Republican leadership's decision in early 2005 to effectively emasculate the House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct by changing the rules to protect Majority Leader Tom DeLay. DeLay had been admonished three times by the Committee for abuse of power and unethical conduct. It was our hope to persuade Speaker Hastert and the Republican leadership, of which Northern California Congressman Richard Pombo and John Doolittle were prominent members, to rescind the rules changes and to act in accord with the promise of high ethical standards contained in Speaker Gingrich's Contract With America which brought the Republicans majority control in 1994. We failed. Letters to the Speaker from an increasing number of former Republican Members were ignored and remained unanswered. Then, only a few weeks ago, the House leadership refused to allow even a vote on what could have become an effective independent ethics monitor. Instead of repudiating the infamous “Pay to Play” program put in place by DeLay to extract maximum corporate campaign contributions to “Retain Our Majority Party” (ROMP), DeLay's successor as Majority Leader called for a continuance of the free luxury airline trips, mammoth campaign contributions to the so-called “Leadership PACs” and the continuing stalemate on the Ethics Committee. Strangely, even after the guilty pleas of Abramoff, Duke Cunningham and a number of former House staffers who had been sent to work for Abramoff and other lobbyists. The Republican House leaders don't see this as corruption worthy of investigation or change. That their former staff members and Abramoff were granted preference in access to the legislative process is not seen as a problem if it helps Republicans retain control of the House. It reminds one of the contentions of Haldeman and Ehrlichman long ago that the national security justified wire-tapping and burglary of Ellsberg's psychiatrist's office and the Democratic National Headquarters at the Watergate. Republicans are happy with this new corporate lobby/House complex, which is far more dangerous that the Industry/Defense complex we were long ago warned about by President Eisenhower.

I have therefore reluctantly concluded that party loyalty should be set aside, and that it is in the best interests of the nation, and indeed the future of the Republican Party itself, to return control of the House to temporary Democrat control, if only to return the House for a time to the kind of ethics standards practiced by Republicans in former years. I say reluctantly, having no great illusion that Democrats or any other kind of politician will long resist the allure of campaign funds and benefits offered by the richest and most profitable of the Halliburtons, oil companies, tobacco companies, developers and Indian gaming tribes whose contributions so heavily dominate the contributions to Congressmen Pombo and Doolittle.

As an aside, it seems to me that the Abramoff and Cunningham scandals make it timely for the Congress to consider public matching funds for small contributions to congressional candidates, the same type of system we adopted some time ago for presidential elections. It may be cheaper for the taxpayer to fund congressional elections than to bear the cost of lobbyist-controlled legislation like the recent Medicaid/Medicare drug bill.

There is another strong reason, I believe, for Republicans to work this fall for Democrat challengers against the DeLay-type Republicans like Pombo and Doolittle. That is the clear abdication by the House over the past five years of the Congress' constitutional power and duty to exercise oversight over abuses of power, cronyism, incompetence and excessive secrecy on the part of the Executive Branch. When does anyone remember House Committee hearings to examine into the patent failures of the Bush Administration to adhere to laws like the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978, or to the arrogant refusal of the President to accept the congressionally-enacted limits on torture of prisoners? When can anyone remember the House's use of the subpoena power to compel answers from Administration officials? Why have there been no oversight hearings into the Cunningham bribery affair or Abramoff's Indian gaming and exploitation of women labor in the Marianas?

When three former congressional staff aides join Abramoff in pleading guilty to attempting to bribe Congressmen, and a fourth takes the 5th Amendment rather than answer Senator McCain's questions about his relationship with Abramoff and Indian gaming, with all five having given substantial campaign contributions to Mr. Pombo, with Indian tribes alone having given more than $500,000 to Pombo, would it not seem reasonable to ask him to conduct an appropriate oversight committee
Hearing into these matters, as long demanded by members of both parties, notably including his neighbor, George Miller?

For all of these reasons, I believe and hope that the Republicans who voted for me on June 6 will vote for Mr. McNerney and against Mr. Pombo in November.

The checks and balances of our Constitution are an essential part of our system of government, as is the public faith that can be obtained only by good ethical conduct on the part of our elected leaders.

If the Republicans in the House won't honor these principles, then the Democrats should be challenged to do so. And if they decline to exercise that privilege, we can turn them out too. I appreciate that I had serious deficiencies as a candidate, and that four months of campaigning and the expenditure of $500,000 of the funds contributed by old friends and supporters were unsuccessful in convincing Republicans of the 11th District to end the continuing corruption in Washington. I hope, however, to partially redeem my electoral failure by working, as a simple private citizen, to rekindle a Republican sense of civic duty to participate in the electoral process this fall. The goal of The Revolt of the Elders was and is to educate voters to the need for a return of ethics and honesty in Washington. That goal was right 18 months ago, and seems even more worthwhile today.

Pete McCloskey, Dublin, California. July 26, 2006
[emphasis and link added]

(Originally posted at Seeing the Forest.)
Link Here

House approves minimum wage increase

By ANDREW TAYLOR, Associated Press Writer Sat Jul 29, 2:02 AM ET

WASHINGTON - Republicans muscled the first minimum wage increase in a decade through the House early Saturday after pairing it with a cut in inheritance taxes on multimillion-dollar estates.

Combining the two issues provoked protests from Democrats and was sure to cause problems in the Senate, where the minimum wage initiative was likely to die at the hands of Democrats opposed to the costly estate tax cuts. The Senate is expected to take up the legislation next week.

Still, GOP leaders saw combining the wage and tax issues as their best chance for getting permanent cuts to the estate tax, a top GOP priority fueled by intense lobbying by farmers, small business owners and super-wealthy families such as the Waltons, heirs to the Wal-Mart fortune.

"This is the best shot we've got; we're going to take it," said House Majority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio. The unusual packaging also soothed conservatives angry about raising the minimum wage over opposition by GOP business allies.

The House passed the bill 230-180 before leaving for a five-week recess.

Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., vowed Democrats would kill the hybrid bill, along with its 10-year, $300 billion-plus cost.

"The Senate has rejected fiscally irresponsible estate tax giveaways before and will reject them again," Reid said. "Blackmailing working families will not change that outcome."

Republicans countered that Democrats opposed the bill to keep the issue alive for the November elections.

But Republicans also reveled in putting moderate Democrats in the uncomfortable position of voting against both the minimum wage increase and the estate tax cut — and an accompanying bipartisan package of popular tax breaks, including a research and development credit for businesses and deductions for college tuition and state sales taxes.

The GOP package would increase the wage from $5.15 to $7.25 per hour, phased in over the next three years.

Under current law, the estate tax is phased out completely by 2010, but jumps back to 55 percent on estates larger than $1 million in 2011.

The bill passed Saturday would exempt $5 million of an individual's estate, and $10 million of a couple's, from estate taxes by 2015. Estates worth up to $25 million would be taxed at capital gains rates, currently 15 percent and scheduled to rise to 20 percent. Tax rates on the remainder of larger estates would fall to 30 percent by 2015.

The maneuver was aimed at defusing the minimum wage increase as a campaign issue for Democrats while using the popularity of the increase to achieve the Republican Party's longtime goal of permanently cutting estate taxes.

That left Democrats fuming.

"Just think of what it is to have a bill that says to minimum wage workers, 'We'll raise your minimum wage but only if we can give an estate tax cut to the 7,500 wealthiest families in America,'" said Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.

Besides the 10-year, $268 billion cut to the estate tax, the measure contains $38 billion in other tax cuts that enjoy widespread backing, such as the research-and-development tax credit.

As part of the plan, Congress would also pass a bill shoring up the U.S. pension system. That bill easily passed the House Friday night and seemed more likely to succeed in the Senate than the minimum wage-estate tax plan.

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., was a driving force behind the plan, overruling Finance Committee Chairman Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, who wanted to couple the business tax breaks with the pension overhaul bill.

The No. 2 Democrat in the House, Steny Hoyer of Maryland, said the move by GOP leaders — who actually oppose the minimum wage increase — was a cynical exercise to give political cover to GOP moderates while ensuring the wage increase does not become law.

"They want on the one hand to appear to be doing something and on the other make sure that it doesn't happen," Hoyer said.

Republicans countered that it was only fair to business interests opposed to the wage to reward them with estate tax relief and other tax cuts. And they said adding the estate tax was the only way to get their Senate GOP counterparts — who rejected a minimum wage increase just last month — to vote for it.

"The Republicans in the Senate have twice defeated this," said Steve LaTourette, R-Ohio. "You know what? If the Senate wants the estate tax and the (tax cut) extenders, they've to give us the minimum wage. That's how it's going to become law."

LaTourette organized a drive by almost 50 rank-and-file Republican lawmakers to persuade House leaders to schedule the wage measure for debate. Democrats have been hammering away on the minimum wage issue and have public opinion behind them.

It was during the campaign year of 1996 that Congress last voted to increase the minimum wage. A person working 40 hours per week at minimum wage makes $10,700, which is below the poverty line for workers with families.

Inflation has eroded the minimum wage's buying power to the lowest level in about 50 years. Lawmakers have won cost-of-living wage increases totaling about $35,000 for themselves over the last 10 years.

GOP lawmakers feared being pounded with 30-second campaign ads over the August recess that would tie Congress' upcoming $3,300 pay increase with Republicans' refusal to raise the minimum wage.

The bill is H.R. 5970

On the Net:

Congress: http://thomas.loc.gov/

Sergeant Tells of Plot to Kill Iraqi Detainees

Specialist Teddy Wade/U.S. Army
Sgt. Lemuel Lemus, right, changed his account of why three Iraqi detainees were killed after a raid in May.
Published: July 28, 2006

For more than a month after the killings, Sgt. Lemuel Lemus stuck to his story.

Proper escalation of force was used,” he told an investigator, describing how members of his unit shot and killed three Iraqi prisoners who had lashed out at their captors and tried to escape after a raid northwest of Baghdad on May 9.

Then, on June 15, Sergeant Lemus offered a new and much darker account.

In a lengthy sworn statement, he said he had witnessed a deliberate plot by his fellow soldiers to kill the three handcuffed Iraqis and a cover-up in which one soldier cut another to bolster their story. The squad leader threatened to kill anyone who talked. Later, one guilt-stricken soldier complained of nightmares and “couldn’t stop talking” about what happened, Sergeant Lemus said.

As with similar cases being investigated in Iraq, Sergeant Lemus’s narrative has raised questions about the rules under which American troops operate and the possible culpability of commanders. Four soldiers have been charged with premeditated murder in the case. Lawyers for two of them, who dispute Sergeant Lemus’s account, say the soldiers were given an order by a decorated colonel on the day in question to “kill all military-age men” they encountered.

Many questions remain about the case, which is scheduled for an Article 32 hearing on Tuesday in Iraq. But whatever the truth about that day, Sergeant Lemus’s sworn statement — which was obtained by The New York Times — provides an extraordinary window into the pressures American soldiers face in Iraq, where wartime chaos and the imperative of loyalty often complicate questions of right and wrong.

When investigators asked why he did not try to stop the other soldiers from carrying out the killings, Sergeant Lemus — who has not been charged in the case — said simply that he was afraid of being called a coward. He stayed quiet, he said, because of “peer pressure, and I have to be loyal to the squad.”

The mission that led to the killings started at dawn on May 9, when soldiers with the Third Brigade Combat Team of the 101st Airborne Division landed in a remote area near a former chemical plant not far from Samarra, according to legal documents and lawyers for the accused soldiers. It was the site of a suspected insurgent training camp and was considered extremely dangerous.

Just before leaving, the soldiers had been given an order to “kill all military-age men” at the site by a colonel and a captain, said Paul Bergrin and Michael Waddington, the lawyers who are disputing Sergeant Lemus’s account. Military officials in Baghdad have declined to comment on whether such an order, which would have been a violation of the law of war, might have been given.

The colonel, Michael Steele, is the brigade commander. He led the 1993 mission in Somalia made famous by the book and movie “Black Hawk Down.”

The two lawyers say Colonel Steele has indicated that he will not testify at the Article 32 hearing — the military equivalent of a grand jury hearing — or answer any questions about the case. Calls and e-mail messages to a civilian lawyer said to be representing Colonel Steele were not returned.

It is very rare for any commanding officer to refuse to testify at any stage of a court-martial proceeding, said Gary D. Solis, a former military judge and prosecutor who teaches the law of war at Georgetown University.

During the raid, the soldiers discovered three Iraqi men hiding in a house, who were using women and children to shield themselves, Sergeant Lemus said in his statement. The soldiers separated out the men, blindfolded them and bound their hands with plastic “zip ties,” restraints that are not as strong as the plastic flex cuffs often used in Iraq.

Then, Sergeant Lemus told investigators, his squad leader, Staff Sgt. Raymond L. Girouard, was told by another sergeant over the radio, “The detainees should have been killed.”

The man accused of making that remark, First Sgt. Eric J. Geressy, has denied it. In his own sworn statement, he told an investigator that during the radio call, “I was wondering why they did not kill the enemy during contact.” But he added, “At no point did I ever try to put any idea into those soldiers’ heads to execute or do any harm to the detainees.”

Sergeant Lemus gave investigators the following account of what happened next: About 10 minutes later, the squad leader gathered Sergeant Lemus and three other soldiers in a house nearby, telling them to “bring it in close” so he could talk quietly to them. Sergeant Girouard spoke in a “low-toned voice” and “talked with his hands,” making clear he was going to kill the three Iraqis.

“I didn’t like the idea, so I walked toward the door,” Sergeant Lemus said in his statement. “He looked around at everyone and asked if anyone else had an issue or a problem.” No one spoke.


Friday, July 28, 2006

The Failure to Defend the Skies on 9/11

The Center for Cooperative Research

By Paul Thompson

On May 22 and 23, 2003, the 9/11 Independent Commission held its second set of public hearings, focusing on the issue of air defense. It’s not surprising if you haven’t heard about this, because the hearings were poorly covered by the media, with major papers such as the New York Times and Los Angeles Times failing to write any articles on them.

That’s unfortunate, because the hearings were important, and the issue of air defense is critically so. Could at least some of the 9/11 attacks have been stopped if the US air defense system had reacted faster? We need to know the answers and identify possible failures if we are to prevent future attacks from succeeding.

The heads of the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration), the Transportation Department, NORAD (the North American Aerospace Defense Command, in charge of defending America’s airspace), and others testified before this commission hearing. Unfortunately, many of their statements consisted of evasions, lies, and spin. Their statements will be examined more closely below. But before that, it is important to ask, what intelligence warnings could have led to an improved defensive posture by 9/11, and what actions were taken to improve the nation’s defense against terrorism before 9/11?

No Warnings at All?

In his May 2003 testimony, Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta stated to the Independent Commission, “I don’t think we ever thought of an aircraft being used as a missile. We had no information of that nature at all.” [Norman Mineta Testimony, 5/23/03] FAA Administrator Jane Garvey said, “I was not aware of any information about (planes) being used as weapons that was credible.” [UPI, 5/22/03 (B)] Mineta and Garvey were merely repeating the same claims many Bush administration officials have made since 9/11. For instance, National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice stated in May 2002, “All this reporting about hijacking was about traditional hijacking.” [Washington Post 9/18/02] Even President Bush stated, “Never did anybody’s thought process about how to protect America did we ever think that the evil-doers would fly not one, but four commercial aircraft into precious US targets—never.” [NATO, 9/16/01]

Attacks Using Planes as Weapons

Careful examination of the published record clearly shows these claims there were no warnings are simply not true. Historically there have been many attacks using planes as weapons, an obvious example being the kamikaze strikes by Japanese pilots on Allied ships in World War II. More recently, in 1994, there were three separate attempts to hijack airplanes and fly them into buildings. A disgruntled Federal Express worker tried to crash a DC-10 into a company building in Memphis but was overpowered by the crew.A lone pilot crashed a small plane onto the White House grounds, just missing the president’s bedroom.An Air France flight was hijacked by a terrorist group linked to al-Qaeda, with the aim of flying it into the Eiffel Tower; however, French Special Forces stormed the plane while it was refueling.[New York Times, 10/3/01]

In January 1995, acclaimed 9/11 “mastermind” Khalid Shaikh Mohammed and others were within weeks of implementing a massive plot named Operation Bojinka when they were foiled by authorities in the Philippines. This plot involved the simultaneous bombing of up to a dozen passenger airliners flying over the Pacific Ocean. But in some variations of this plan, planes were to be hijacked and flown into “key structures” in the United States. According to a US intelligence analysis shortly after the plot was uncovered, “The World Trade Center, the White House, the Pentagon, the Transamerican Tower, and the Sears Tower were among the prominent structures that had been identified in the plans that we had decoded.” [Village Voice, 9/26/01] One pilot, Abdul Hakim Murad (who incidentally learned to fly in US flight schools), confessed that his role was to crash a plane into CIA headquarters. [Washington Post, 9/23/01] Details of Operation Bojinka were widely known within the US government. Yet Khalid Shaikh Mohammed escaped capture and later stated that the 9/11 attacks were essentially a refinement and resurrection of Bojinka. [Australian, 9/9/02] Even the fact that Mohammed would have led a resurrection of Bojinka should have been no surprise, because in 1997 the intelligence agency of Qatar, where Mohammed had been hiding, told the US that Mohammed was once again planning “to hijack some planes.” [UPI, 9/30/02] In June 2001, US intelligence additionally learned that Mohammed was interested in “sending terrorists to the United States” and planning to assist their activities there. [Los Angeles Times, 12/12/02]

Ethiopian Flight ET 961 crashes into the Indian Ocean in 1996. [WTN]

Bojinka was only the most spectacular of many failed plans to use planes as flying bombs. In January 1996, US intelligence received information concerning a planned suicide attack by individuals connected with al-Qaeda. They wanted to fly from Afghanistan to the US and crash into the White House. In October 1996, an Iranian plot to hijack a Japanese plane over Israel and crash it into Tel Aviv was exposed. [Senate Intelligence Committee, 9/18/02] On November 24, 1996, several Ethiopians took over a passenger airliner, and let it run out of fuel. Hijackers fought with the pilot as the hijackers tried to steer the plane into a resort on a Comoros Islands beach, but seconds before reaching the resort the pilot was able to crash the plane into shallow waters instead, 500 yards short of the resort. 123 of the 175 passengers and crew died. [New York Times, 11/25/96, Australian, 11/26/96, Houston Chronicle, 11/26/96] In August 1998, a CIA intelligence report asserted that Arab terrorists were planning to fly a bomb-laden aircraft from a foreign country into the World Trade Center. Later, other intelligence information connected this group to al-Qaeda. [New York Times, 9/18/02, Senate Intelligence Committee, 9/18/02] One month later, information given to US intelligence suggested that al-Qaeda’s next operation might involve crashing an aircraft loaded with explosives into a US airport. [Senate Intelligence Committee, 9/18/02, Washington Post, 9/19/02] Two months later, in November 1998, the US learned that a Turkish group, cooperating with al-Qaeda, planned to crash an airplane packed with explosives into a famous tomb during a government ceremony. They were arrested before they could carry out the plot. [Senate Intelligence Committee, 9/18/02] >>>cont

Link Here

An Israeli spy network arrested in Lebanon

Saturday, July 22, 2006 - 02:50 PM

BEIRUT, July 22 (SANA)

Lebanese intelligence services have arrested a spy network working for Israel since long years ago, Lebanese A-Safir daily newspaper reported Saturday.

" The confession of suspects could lead to the exposure of a number of unactive spy cells working for Israel on Lebanese soil," the paper added in an article.

The paper quoted a well-informed source as saying that activities of this spy network exceeded what Mahmoud Rafa network which already uncovered has done.

" Members of the network, using developed technologies and communication apparatuses, facilitated selection of certain goals in Beirut's southern suburb through putting signs guiding the Israeli aircrafts to those targets," the papers indicated.

" One of the prominent figures in the network confessed that Israel has put itself on the alert 4 days before arrest of the two Israeli soldiers and provided its inactive spy cells with directives and technologies regarding targeting centers and headquarters of Hizbullah party in all Lebanese territories particularly in the Beirut's southern suburb.

Ghossoun /

Link Here

MSNBC Poll - over 86% Believe Bush Should Be Impeached

C-SPAN to Air Historic 9/11 Exposé -July 29th at 8PM

9/11 + The Neo-Con Agenda Panel Discussion to Run on Saturday, July 29th at 8PM (EST)

Infowars July 27, 2006

C-SPAN has confirmed that their coverage of the 9/11 + The Neo-Con Agenda Panel Discussion will air on C-SPAN 1 on July 29th at 8PM (EST). The panel features incredible presentations by 9/11 Scholars for Truth founder James Fetzer, BYU Physics Professor Steven Jones, President of the Institute for Space and Security Studies Dr. Robert M. Bowman, Lt. Col., USAF, ret., Filmmaker and Radio Broadcaster Alex Jones, and Terrorism Expert Webster Tarpley.

The appearance of this discussion on the nation’s premiere public affairs cable network is an incredible boon to the 9/11 Truth Movement. None of the 9/11 Truth events that C-SPAN has covered in the past are as hard-hitting as the 9/11 + The Neo-Con Agenda program. This panel discussion cuts to the heart of the issue and exposes the events of September 11th, 2001 as a complex premeditated plot carried out by criminal elements within the U.S. Government as a pretext for launching the endless “War on Terror” in which the globe is currently embroiled. C-SPAN’s coverage of this pivotal information will bring considerable national attention to the 9/11 Truth Movement. It will also lend further credibility to the Scholars for 9/11 Truth, the premiere organization within the movement for peer-reviewed scientific research on 9/11 issues.


The program will air on C-SPAN 1 at 8PM EST (7PM CST) on Saturday, July 29th and then air again for the West Coast at 11pm EST (10pm CST).

Link Here

Hopsicker-"The secret History of Cocaine One" (plane w/5.5 tons linked to Bush)

Fri Jul-28-06 01:14 PM
Original Post

In Search of the American Drug Lords

JULY 28, 2006--Venice,FL.
by Daniel Hopsicker

Court documents obtained by the MadCowMorningNews shed new light in the murky tale of an American-registered DC9 caught carrying an astonishing 5.5 tons of pure cocaine in Mexico in early April. The company which owned the seized "Cocaine One" DC9, SkyWay Aircraft of St. Petersburg FL, leased a 70,000 square foot “repair” facility at DFW Airport in Dallas for more than $20,000 a month...in a building owned by a man called “George W. Bush’s biggest supporter” and “the power behind the throne” during Bush’s first Presidential campaign.

SkyWay, a company with no products, and thus nothing needing "repair," nonetheless announced in July 2003 “their newly established Part 145 repair station” in a building owned by LIT Industrial Texas Limited Partnership, a venture of Texas real estate giant Trammel Crow, the flagship corporation in the far-flung empire of billionaire speculator Richard Rainwater. Ranked among the 100 wealthiest Americans, Rainwater backed George W. Bush in four separate business ventures, including the Texas Rangers baseball team from which Bush, who had been drilling “dry holes” until then, profited handsomely. In a heated 1994 Governor’s race, Texas Democratic Governor Ann Richards charged Rainwater “owned" her Republican opponent Bush.

SkyWay "TV repair shop" rent: $20,000 a month

Court documents in the SkyWay’s Federal bankruptcy proceedings in Tampa reveal that SkyWay signed a lease costing $21,000 a month in base rent and operating expenses. Why would a start-up company which doesn’t (and never will) have any products, spend $20 grand a month to rent a facility to “repair” them?


Dinner with Bush a "brief encounter"

The lawsuit states that investors were told that “Sky Way's management team was invited to dinner with President Bush to discuss its operational status.” But the "dinner and talk was nothing more than a brief encounter along with a host of other political contributors," the lawsuit states.

Link Here

Minimum wage increase tied to tax cuts

House leadership couples bill to estate tax measure

You angry yet, you furious, if your not you deserve what you get.

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Republican leaders are willing to allow the first minimum wage increase in a decade but only if it's coupled with a cut in future inheritance taxes on multimillion-dollar estates, congressional aides said Friday.A package GOP leaders planned to bring to a vote Friday or Saturday in the House also would renew several popular tax breaks, including a research and development credit for businesses, and deductions for college tuition and state sales taxes, said a spokesman for House Majority Leader John Boehner.The wage would increase from $5.15 to $7.25 per hour, phased in over the next three years, said Kevin Madden, the aide to Boehner, an Ohio Republican.The maneuver is aimed at defusing the wage hike as a campaign issue for Democrats while using its popularity to spur enactment of the Republican Party's long-sought goal of permanently cutting taxes on millionaires' estates.The Senate could take it up next week before leaving on a monthlong recess."It's going to be one hell of a rumpus," predicted Eric Ueland, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist's chief of staff.Democrats decry 'blackmail'Democrats immediately expressed outrage, saying low-income workers deserved a straight vote on increasing the minimum wage uncoupled to other measures."It's political blackmail to say the only way that minimum wage workers can get a raise is to give a tax giveaway to the wealthiest Americans," said Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Massachusetts. "Members of Congress raised their own pay -- no strings attached. Surely, common decency suggests that minimum wage workers deserve the same respect."

I have said it already, I am convinced that the way to build a new and better world is not capitalism. Capitalism leads us straight to hell. -- Hugo Chavez

Link Here

Anger in the Arab World :

The rhetoric about "terrorism" has mesmerized those who parrot it, blinding them to the fact that Hezbollah and Hamas are deeply rooted popular movements that have developed as a response to occupation--of the West Bank and Gaza for nearly forty years, and of southern Lebanon from 1978 to 2000.

Link Here


The 'Arab system' is dying in Lebanon:

Iran and groups like Hizbullah will emerge stronger from the rubble of Beirut, while the old regimes of the Arab League will be rendered impotent.

Link Here

Iraq's Valley of Peace helps overflowing morgues :

"Most of the bodies were bound by chains so we always have to keep a cutter nearby to cut them. Most bodies were beheaded and they have a lot of holes in the head and face," said cemetery worker Riad Ahmed.

Link Here

-- U.S. President Bush says he would back a U.N. resolution, deployment of multinational force, to end Mideast crisis.

Now I say go fix it your friking selves you spinless creatures, you with your flapping big mouths, wanted the murder of innocent Lebanese People, so go fix it yourselves, leave our Nations out of it. Go do your own dirty work. Seems you were wrong again Georgie, so what is new. Leaders urge Mideast cease-fire
U.S. President George W. Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair announce their support for a U.N. cease-fire resolution to end the Mideast crisis and a multinational force to help with humanitarian relief.


Bush, Blair call for peacekeepers

Israel’s New Middle East: Kill All Arabs

Kurt Nimmo

As expected, Israel plans to completely flatten southern Lebanon and murder anybody who remains there, no matter there are thousands of people unable to leave—the sick, elderly, and those without resources. "Everyone remaining in southern Lebanon will be regarded as a terrorist, Israel’s justice minister said yesterday as the military prepared to employ 'huge firepower’ from the air in its campaign to crush Hizbollah," reports the Telegraph. "What we should do in southern Lebanon is employ huge firepower before a ground force goes in," insisted Haim Ramon, member of the "moderate" Kadima party and "Minister of Justice," that is to say justice for Israelis, not for Arabs, who are considered untermenschen worthy of slaughter. "Everyone in southern Lebanon is a terrorist and is connected to Hizbollah. Our great advantage vis-à-vis Hizbollah is our firepower, not in face-to-face combat." Obviously, this includes babies, grade school kids, and old people—all who will soon be blasted with white phosphorus and depleted uranium munitions...

continua / continued

The workers unite

Published by Antony Loewenstein July 29th, 2006 in General
Workers in Venezuela get assistance from a master:

In his classic 1936 film, “Modern Times,” Charlie Chaplin has to work so fast tightening bolts in a steel factory that he finally goes crazy.

In one scene that has become a metaphor for labour exploitation, the Little Tramp is run through the factory’s enormous gears.

For President Hugo Chavez’s socialist government, the film is more than entertainment: It has become a teaching tool. Since January, in a bid to expose the evils of capitalism, the Labour Ministry has shown the Chaplin film to thousands of workers.

Once the showings at factories or meeting halls end, Labour Ministry officials use Chaplin’s plight to spell out workers rights under new occupational safety laws.

Personally, I would be screening Days of Heaven to the workers at my non-existent workplace. Aside from the fact that it’s the finest movie ever made, it’s a compelling story of love, misguided responsibility and exploitation.

Workers, fire up.

Link Here

War crimes

Published by Antony Loewenstein July 29th, 2006 in Israel

The following letter appears in this week’s Australian Jewish News:

I write to express my disgust at the destruction of Lebanon by Israel’s armed forces. This is a war crime.

Let us look at the chain of events. For 16 months, the Hamas Government in Gaza maintained a cease-fire, with constant provocation from Israel, economic sanctions and shelling from across the border.

I have read (yes, on Noam Chomsky’s website) that on June 24, two Gaza civilians, a doctor and his brother, were abducted and taken, presumably, to Israel. It was on the following day, June 25, that Gilad Shalit, a member of a tank battalion, was abducted by Hamas.

The answer to that was to invade Gaza, and for the IDF to do its worst. The abductions and killings by Hezbollah were obviously an act of solidarity, perhaps to take the heat off Gaza. I do not defend it, but that is what the action surely was. Now we have Israel dropping bombs on civilians and civilian infrastructure. There is massive destruction and loss of life in Lebanon, out of all proportion to what is being suffered in Israel. As I, and many others, say, it is a war crime – collective punishment on a grand style.

You would not guess it from my name, but my father was a Jewish refugee from Vienna. My mother is not Jewish. So you can call me a self-hating Jew, or an antisemite, whatever you like.

But many other people, including that brave journalist Antony Loewenstein, have woken up to the brutal ugliness of what Israel has come to stand for. It is time to, in all humility, stop the killing, stop the propaganda and negotiate. Because there will be no peace withoutjustice.

For all the latest media coverage of My Israel Question, see here.

Link Here

A war without end

by Antony Loewenstein July 29th, 2006 in Israel
Robert Fisk, The Independent, July 27:

Is it possible - is it conceivable - that Israel is losing its war in Lebanon?
From this hill village in the south of the country, I am watching the clouds of brown and black smoke rising from its latest disaster in the Lebanese town of Bint Jbeil: up to 13 Israeli soldiers dead, and others surrounded, after a devastating ambush by Hizbollah guerrillas in what was supposed to be a successful Israeli military advance against a “terrorist centre”.

To my left smoke rises too, over the town of Khiam, where a smashed United Nations outpost remains the only memorial to the four UN soldiers - most of them decapitated by an American-made missile on Tuesday - killed by the Israeli air force.

Indian soldiers of the UN army in southern Lebanon, visibly moved by the horror of bringing their Canadian, Fijian, Chinese and Austrian comrades back in at least 20 pieces from the clearly marked UN post next to Khiam prison, left their remains at Marjayoun hospital yesterday.
In past years, I have spent hours with their comrades in this UN position, which is clearly marked in white and blue paint, with the UN’s pale blue flag opposite the Israeli frontier. Their duty was to report on all they saw: the ruthless Hizbollah missile fire out of Khiam and the brutal Israeli response against the civilians of Lebanon.

Is this why they had to die, after being targeted by the Israelis for eight hours, their officers pleading to the Israeli Defence Forces that they cease fire? An American-made Israeli helicopter saw to that.

Meanwhile, Iraq’s Prime Minister displays a modicum of independence on Israel’s war in Lebanon and he’s labelled an “anti-Semite” by the Democratic Party chairman Howard Dean (heading a party on the road to irrelevance). “We don’t need to spend $200 and $300 and $500 billion bringing democracy to Iraq to turn it over to people who believe that Israel doesn’t have a right to defend itself and who refuse to condemn Hezbollah”, he said.

What an ungrateful little puppet.

Link Here

Exclusive: Reagan conservative lashes out at 'hijackers of the conservative movement'

John ByrnePublished: Friday July 28, 2006

He didn’t support invading Iraq. He says national security decisions are too often made for political gain. And he maintains that Tom DeLay used “legal plunder” for the “immoral purpose of holding onto power.”

A Democrat? No – His name is Richard Viguerie, a conservative icon and key architect of Ronald Reagan’s 1980 victory. Known to many as the godfather of direct-mail campaign fundraising, his four-decade career has succored scores of conservative candidates and grassroots causes.

A balding grandfather with a wry Texan’s smile, Viguerie is a seasoned conservative who confidently brushes aside accusations that his criticism of Republicans is intended for personal gain. On Monday, he sat down with RAW STORY to talk about his new book, Conservatives Betrayed: How George W. Bush and Other Big Government Republicans Hijacked the Conservative Cause. >>>cont

Detainee Abuse Charges Feared

Shield Sought From '96 War Crimes Act
By R. Jeffrey SmithWashington Post Staff Writer
Friday, July 28, 2006; A01

An obscure law approved by a Republican-controlled Congress a decade ago has made the Bush administration nervous that officials and troops involved in handling detainee matters might be accused of committing war crimes, and prosecuted at some point in U.S. courts.

Senior officials have responded by drafting legislation that would grant U.S. personnel involved in the terrorism fight new protections against prosecution for past violations of the War Crimes Act of 1996. That law criminalizes violations of the Geneva Conventions governing conduct in war and threatens the death penalty if U.S.-held detainees die in custody from abusive treatment.

In light of a recent Supreme Court ruling that the international Conventions apply to the treatment of detainees in the terrorism fight, Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales has spoken privately with Republican lawmakers about the need for such "protections," according to someone who heard his remarks last week.

Gonzales told the lawmakers that a shield is needed for actions taken by U.S. personnel under a 2002 presidential order, which the Supreme Court declared illegal, and under Justice Department legal opinions that have been withdrawn under fire, the source said. A spokeswoman for Gonzales, Tasia Scolinos, declined to comment on Gonzales's remarks.

The Justice Department's top legal adviser, Steven G. Bradbury, separately testified two weeks ago that Congress must give new "definition and certainty" to captors' risk of prosecution for coercive interrogations that fall short of outright torture.

Language in the administration's draft, which Bradbury helped prepare in concert with civilian officials at the Defense Department, seeks to protect U.S. personnel by ruling out detainee lawsuits to enforce Geneva protections and by incorporating language making U.S. enforcement of the War Crimes Act subject to U.S. -- not foreign -- understandings of what the Conventions require.

The aim, Justice Department lawyers say, is also to take advantage of U.S. legal precedents that limit sanctions to conduct that "shocks the conscience." This phrase allows some consideration by courts of the context in which abusive treatment occurs, such as an urgent need for information, the lawyers say -- even though the Geneva prohibitions are absolute.

The Supreme Court, in contrast, has repeatedly said that foreign interpretations of international treaties such as the Geneva Conventions should at least be considered by U.S. courts.

Some human rights groups and independent experts say they oppose undermining the reach of the War Crimes Act, arguing that it deters government misconduct. They say any step back from the Geneva Conventions could provoke mistreatment of captured U.S. military personnel. They also contend that Bush administration anxieties about prosecutions are overblown and should not be used to gain congressional approval for rough interrogations.

"The military has lived with" the Geneva Conventions provisions "for 50 years and applied them to every conflict, even against irregular forces. Why are we suddenly afraid now about the vagueness of its terms?" asked Tom Malinowski, director of the Washington office of Human Rights Watch.

Since the U.S. invasions of Afghanistan in 2001 and Iraq in 2003, hundreds of service members deployed to Iraq have been accused by the Army of mistreating detainees, and at least 35 detainees have died in military or CIA custody, according to a tally kept by Human Rights First. The military has asserted these were all aberrant acts by troops ignoring their orders.

Defense attorneys for many of those accused of involvement have alleged that their clients were pursuing policies of rough treatment set by officials in Washington. That claim is amplified in a 53-page Human Rights Watch report this week that quoted interrogators at three bases in Iraq as saying that abuse was part of regular, authorized procedures. But this argument has yet to gain traction in a military court, where U.S. policy requires that active-duty service members be tried for any maltreatment.

The War Crimes Act, in contrast, affords access to civilian courts for abuse perpetrated by former service members and by civilians. The government has not filed any charges under the law.

The law's legislative sponsor is one of the House's most conservative members, Rep. Walter B. Jones Jr. (R-N.C.). He proposed it after a chance meeting with a retired Navy pilot who had spent six years in the notorious "Hanoi Hilton," a Vietnamese prison camp. The conversation left Jones angry about Washington's inability to prosecute the pilot's abusers.

Jones's legislation for the first time imposed criminal penalties in the United States for breaches of the Geneva Conventions, which protect detainees anywhere. The Defense Department's deputy general counsel at the time declared at the sole hearing on it in 1996 -- attended by just two lawmakers -- that "we fully support the purposes of the bill," and urged its expansion to cover a wider range of war crimes. The Republican-controlled House passed the bill by voice vote, and the Senate approved it by unanimous consent.

The law initially criminalized grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions but was amended without a hearing the following year to include violations of Common Article 3, the minimum standard requiring that all detainees be treated "humanely." The article bars murder, mutilation, cruel treatment, torture and "outrages upon personal dignity, in particular humiliating and degrading treatment." It applies to any abuse involving U.S. military personnel or "nationals."

Jones and other advocates intended the law for use against future abusers of captured U.S. troops in countries such as Bosnia, El Salvador and Somalia, but the Pentagon supported making its provisions applicable to U.S. personnel because doing so set a high standard for others to follow. Mary DeRosa, a legal adviser at the National Security Council from 1997 to 2001, said the threat of sanctions in U.S. courts in fact helped deter senior officials from approving some questionable actions. She said the law is not an impediment in the terrorism fight.

Since September 2001, however, Bush administration officials have considered the law a potential threat to U.S. personnel involved in interrogations. While serving as White House legal counsel in 2002, Gonzales helped prepare a Jan. 25 draft memo to Bush -- written in large part by David Addington, then Vice President Cheney's legal counsel and now Cheney's chief of staff -- in which he cited the threat of prosecution under the act as a reason to declare that detainees captured in Afghanistan were not eligible for Geneva Conventions protections.

"It is difficult," Gonzales said in the memo, "to predict the motives of prosecutors and independent counsels who may in the future decide to bring unwarranted charges." He also argued for the flexibility to pursue various interrogation methods and said that only a presidential order exempting detainees from Geneva protections "would provide a solid defense to any future prosecution." That month, Bush approved an order exempting those captured in Afghanistan from these protections.

But the Supreme Court's ruling in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld effectively made Bush's order illegal when it affirmed that all detainees held by the United States are protected by Common Article 3. The court's decision caught the administration unprepared, at first, for questions about how its policy would change.

On July 7, Deputy Secretary of Defense Gordon England signed a memorandum ordering all military departments to certify that their actions in the fight with al-Qaeda comply with Article 3. Several officials said the memo, which was reviewed by military lawyers, was provoked by the renewed threat of prosecution under the War Crimes Act.

England's memo was not sent to other agencies for review. Two White House officials heavily involved in past policymaking on detainee treatment matters, counsel Harriet Miers and Addington, told friends later that they had not been briefed before its release and were unhappy about its language, according to an informed source. Bradbury and Gonzales have since drafted legislation to repair what they consider the defects of the War Crimes Act and the ambiguities of Common Article 3.

Several officials said the administration's main concerns are Article 3's prohibitions against "outrages upon personal dignity" and humiliating or degrading treatment. Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld told reporters on July 12 that he supported clearing up ambiguities so that military personnel are not "charged with wrongdoing when in fact they were not engaged in wrongdoing."

Several advocates and experts nonetheless said the legal liability of administration officials for past interrogations is probably small. "I think these guys did unauthorized stuff, they violated the War Crimes Act, and they should be prosecuted," said Michael Ratner, president of the Center for Constitutional Rights, a New York-based group that has provided lawyers for detainees at the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Ratner said authorized interrogation techniques such as stress positions, temperature extremes and sleep deprivation are "clearly outlawed" under Common Article 3. But he added that prosecutions are improbable because the Justice Department -- which has consistently asserted that such rough interrogations are legal -- is unlikely to bring them. U.S. officials could argue in any event, Ratner said, that they were following policies they believed to be legal, and "a judge would most likely say that is a decent defense."

Some officials at the Pentagon share the view that illegal actions have been taken. Alberto J. Mora, the Navy's general counsel from 2001 until the end of last year, warned the Pentagon's general counsel twice that some approved interrogation methods violated "domestic and international legal norms" and that a federal court might eventually find responsibility "along the entire length of the chain of command," according to a 2004 memo by Mora that recounted the warnings. The memo was first obtained by the New Yorker magazine.

At a July 13 hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee, the Air Force's top military lawyer, Maj. Gen. Jack L. Rives, affirmed that "some of the techniques that have been authorized and used in the past have violated Common Article 3" of the Geneva Conventions. The top military lawyers for the Army, Navy and Marine Corps, who were seated next to Rives, said they agreed.

Researchers Julie Tate and Madonna Lebling contributed to this report.

© 2006 The Washington Post Company Link Here

US plans UAE gunship sale worth up to $808 mln

Fri Jul 28, 2006 1:51 PM ET

WASHINGTON, July 28 (Reuters) - The Bush administration said Friday it was planning to sell the United Arab Emirates Black Hawk helicopter gunships valued at up to $808 million to protect UAE borders and U.S. and coalition "strategic facilities."

The chief contractors would be United Technologies Corp.'s Sikorsky Aircraft unit and General Electric Co. , the Pentagon said in a notice to Congress required by law.

© Reuters 2006. Link Here

9/11 and the NeoCon Agenda on CSPAN

On Saturday July 29 @ 8PM EST CSPAN will air a panel discussion fromThe American Scholars Symposium.

The panel consisting of academics, former military,, and researchers, challenges the government's official story of what happened on 9/11.

Ad funded by 911blogger.com viewers


Israeli-Lebanese border incident pre-planned by Cheney and his Israeli friends at AEI conference in Colorado.

The "Clean Break" road leads from Lebanon through Syria to Iran.

July 28, 2006 -- Countering the spin. Hezbollah sources have an entirely different story about the incident that triggered the Israeli attack on Lebanon. The counter-story lends credence to the pre-meditated nature of a plan that was hatched in a three-way meeting between Dick Cheney, Binyamin Netanyahu, and Natan Sharansky at an American Enterprise Institute conference in Colorado last month.

Hezbollah reports that on July 12, two Israeli Defense Force (IDF) troops were captured by Hezbollah after they entered Lebanese territory. Hezbollah put out feelers that they would entertain a prisoner swap, something that had occurred many times in the past. However, already looking for an incident on the Israeli-Lebanese border, the Israeli government dispatched a Merkava-2 tank into Lebanon to retrieve its two captured troops. The tank hit a land mine, killing four Israeli soldiers. Haaretz confirmed that the tank was destroyed by a mine and not in a Hezbollah attack.

The neo-con spin machine, including George W. Bush, claims that Hezbollah entered Israel in an unprovoked attack and kidnapped the two Israelis.
Israeli-Lebanese border incident pre-planned by Cheney and his Israeli friends at AEI conference in Colorado. The "Clean Break" road leads from Lebanon through Syria to Iran.

A Clean Break:A New Strategy for Securing the Realm

Book: Neocon Middle East Policy: The Clean Break Plan Damage Assessment

Bush's idea of "triangulation?"

July 28, 2006 -- Tony Blair visiting George W. Bush while Laura remains far away in Alaska. The Washington "gaydar" is pinging wildly today as British Prime Minister Tony Blair pays a visit to George W. Bush while Laura Bush continues her vacation in Alaska. Condoleezza Rice, who has also been sexually linked to Mr. Bush, is in Asia and may travel once again to the Middle East.

Mrs. Bush was scheduled to deliver a luncheon address to students at an educational center today. There is more talk in the UK, especially among the gay community, about Blair's bi-sexuality. When he first campaigned for office, Blair received substantial support from the gay community and he once advocated teaching about homosexuality in the public schools, a proposal that faced bitter opposition from fellow Laborites and the Tory opposition.

Bush's idea of "triangulation?"


Iranians Rush To Buy The Da Vinci Code After Govt. Ban...

San Francisco Chronicle/The Ross Report John Coopman July 27, 2006 at 11:50 PM

orget the nuclear program, wiping Israel off the map or going off to fight alongside Hezbollah. What Iranians really want is "The Da Vinci Code."

According to Al-Jazeera, Iranians are desperately scooping up whatever copies they can find of the tale of a married Jewish couple who had a child, after a government ban clamped down on sales.


Senators Criticize Bolton At Confirmation Hearing: "He's An Ineffective Bully And Can't Win The Day When It Comes"...

Washington Post Charles Babington July 28, 2006 at 01:33 PM
READ MORE: George W. Bush, John Bolton

Senate Democrats unleashed a sharp volley of criticism of President Bush's foreign policy yesterday, arguing that John R. Bolton has done more harm than good as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations and does not deserve an extended term. If Bolton's style were less divisive, they said, he might have achieved more reforms at the United Nations and tougher sanctions against Hezbollah and North Korea.

But Republicans defended Bolton and the administration and said it would be unwise to change ambassadors when the Middle East is in crisis and Iran and North Korea are threatening nuclear advances. Democrats said it was unclear whether they would try to filibuster Bolton's nomination this fall, as they successfully did last year.


Laura Bush's Hospital Project In Iraq Collapsing...

New York Times James Glanz July 28, 2006 at 01:43 PM
READ MORE: George W. Bush, Laura Bush, Iraq

The United States is dropping Bechtel, the American construction giant, from a project to build a high-tech children's hospital in the southern Iraqi city of Basra after the project fell nearly a year behind schedule and exceeded its expected cost by as much as 150 percent.

Called the Basra Children's Hospital, the project has been consistently championed by the first lady, Laura Bush, and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, and was designed to house sophisticated equipment for treating childhood cancer.


Homeland Security Spent $34B In Taxpayer Money On Wasteful Contracts Including Gyms, Fancy Office Art And Kitchens...

Associated Press Lara Jakes Jordan July 28, 2006 at 02:03 PM
READ MORE: Homeland Security, Hurricane

The Homeland Security Department spent $34 billion in its first two years on private contracts that were poorly managed or included significant waste or abuse, a congressional report concluded Thursday.

Faulty airport screening machines, unused mobile homes for hurricane victims and lavish employee office space -- complete with seven kitchens, a gym and fancy artwork -- were among 32 contracts on which Homeland Security overspent, the report found.

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