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Saturday, February 17, 2007

Downed US Helicopters Result Of Coordinated Insurgent Plan

The New York Times MICHAEL R. GORDON and DAVID S. CLOUD February 17, 2007 06:42 PM
Documents captured from Iraqi insurgents indicate that some of the recent fatal attacks against American helicopters are the result of a carefully planned strategy to focus on downing coalition aircraft, one that American officials say has been carried out by mounting coordinated assaults with machine guns, rockets and surface-to-air missiles.

The documents, which are said to have been drafted by Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, show that the militants were preparing to "concentrate on the air force." The contents of the documents are described in an American intelligence report that was reviewed by The New York Times. Seized near Baghdad, the documents reflected the insurgents' military preparations from late last year, including plans for attacking aircraft using a variety of weapons.


From the Wonderful Folks Who Brought You Iraq

His nuclear ambitions make Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (left) a threat. But attacking Iran—as former Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu (right) has urged—could be Bush's biggest blunder of all.

The same neocon ideologues behind the Iraq war have been using the same tactics—alliances with shady exiles, dubious intelligence on W.M.D.—to push for the bombing of Iran. As President Bush ups the pressure on Tehran, is he planning to double his Middle East bet?

by Craig Unger March 2007

In the weeks leading up to George W. Bush's January 10 speech on the war in Iraq, there was a brief but heady moment when it seemed that the president might finally accept the failure of his Middle East policy and try something new. Rising anti-war sentiment had swept congressional Republicans out of power. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld had been tossed overboard. And the Iraq Study Group (I.S.G.), chaired by former secretary of state James Baker and former congressman Lee Hamilton, had put together a bipartisan report that offered a face-saving strategy to exit Iraq. Who better than Baker, the Bush family's longtime friend and consigliere, to talk some sense into the president?

By the time the president finished his speech from the White House library, however, all those hopes had vanished. It wasn't just that Bush was doubling down on an extravagantly costly bet by sending 21,500 more American troops to Iraq; there were also indications that he was upping the ante by an order of magnitude. The most conspicuous clue was a four-letter word that Bush uttered six times in the course of his speech: Iran.

His nuclear ambitions make Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (left) a threat. But attacking Iran—as former Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu (right) has urged—could be Bush's biggest blunder of all.

In a clear reference to the Islamic Republic and its sometime ally Syria, Bush vowed to "seek out and destroy the networks providing advanced weaponry and training to our enemies." At about the same time his speech was taking place, U.S. troops stormed an Iranian liaison office in Erbil, a Kurdish-controlled city in northern Iraq, and arrested and detained five Iranians working there.

Already, hundreds of billions of dollars have been spent on the war in Iraq. Tens, perhaps hundreds, of thousands of people have been killed. Countless more are wounded or living as refugees. Launched with the intention of shoring up Israeli security and replacing rogue regimes in the Middle East with friendly, pro-Western allies, the war in Iraq has instead turned that country into a terrorist training ground. By eliminating Saddam Hussein, the U.S.-led coalition has sparked a Sunni-Shiite civil war, which threatens to spread throughout the entire Middle East. And, far from creating a secular democracy, the war has empowered Shiite fundamentalists aligned with Iran. The most powerful of these, Muqtada al-Sadr, commands both an anti-American sectarian militia and the largest voting bloc in the Iraqi parliament.

"Everything the advocates of war said would happen hasn't happened," says the president of Americans for Tax Reform, Grover Norquist, an influential conservative who backed the Iraq invasion. "And all the things the critics said would happen have happened. [The president's neoconservative advisers] are effectively saying, 'Invade Iran. Then everyone will see how smart we are.' But after you've lost x number of times at the roulette wheel, do you double-down?"

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Al S. E. said...

President Ahmadinejad's views are summarized on this website:

17/2/07 11:31 PM

Border Closures Hinder Fleeing Iraqis

Karen Button

As thousand of Iraqis continue to flee the violence in their country daily, the two main exit routes, Jordan and Syria, are being severely restricted. Without warning, Syria closed its borders for three days last week citing security reasons. The move took place after Iraqi President Talabani’s January visit with Syrian officials, though any link has been denied. Open for just a few days, the border has now been closed by the Iraqi government as part of the long-awaited US-backed security plan (...) At this time, Iraqis have only one hope as they flee continuing violence. That hope is Jordan. Thus far, Jordan’s borders remain as they have for the past months—more or less open. Attempts to actually pin down the government’s border policy proved tricky. Authorities maintain that Iraqis are welcome in their country and that the border remains open. Iraqis insist there are frequent closings and indiscriminate refusals of entry...

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Unrelenting violence and insecurity in Iraq could cause as many as 1 million Iraqis to flee their homes this year, the world's migration body said Friday. "The numbers of people that are being displaced are increasing every day," said Jemini Pandaya, spokeswoman for the International Organization for Migration. "The security situation is not improving. It's not changing." Pandaya said the organization's estimate was made "on the assumption that security conditions will continue much as they are."....

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Malcom Lagauche

...Ironically, Iran spent eight years in a bloody war to accomplish two goals: the overthrow of the Iraqi regime and the implementation of an Islamic state in Iraq. At the war’s end, neither had occurred. Let’s look at today’s Iraq. Iran belatedly won the Iran-Iraq War, albeit 17 years after the 1988 cease-fire. This time, however, Iran did not have to fire a shot or lose one combatant. The Ba’athist regime has been overthrown, and last week, some members of the Iraqi stooge parliament proudly called Iraq "the Islamic State of Iraq."...

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Blood on the Tracks: Threading the Labyrinth of the Latest War Push

Monday, 12 February 2007

There's no point in giving much attention to the latest dogs-of-war-and-pony show in the Bush Faction's drive toward war with Iran -- especially with Patrick Cockburn's excellent analysis available (excerpted below). The fact that this "compelling evidence" was laid out in Baghdad, on a Sunday, by anonymous briefers, shows that the Bushists' "evidence" for lethal Iranian hugger-mugger is still as weak and flaccid as, say, a four-heart-attack man whose Viagra prescription has run out. (To its credit, the New York Times story on the press conference, by James Glanz, was more skeptical than Saturday's cringing Pravda piece by that shameless hussy, Michael Gordon; then again, anything beyond a White House press release would have been more skeptical than Gordon's remarkable hussy-fit.)

But there was one passage in the latest piece that did leap out as an especially telling example of the Bush gang's entire horseshit-production enterprise:

The precise machining of E.F.P. components, the officials said, also links the weapons to Iran.
“We have no evidence that this has ever been done in Iraq,” the senior military official said.

So let's get this straight: Before the war, we were supposed to believe that the Iraqis were capable of building the most highly advanced weapons of mass destruction in the world -- but now we're told that they can't even precision-tool a roadside bomb.

But as we noted the other day, the Bushists never bother with logical consistency in the barrage of lies they spew to justify the bloodletting that those prissy cowards, Bush and Cheney, obviously need in order to feel like real he-men. They simply say whatever seems expedient for the next few news cycles, confident that the American corporate media's Memento-like anterograde amnesia will cover their tracks.

Fortunately for us, there are still journalists out there like the Independent's Patrick Cockburn, for whom reality is not "writ on water," but has lasting consequences, and leaves a vivid trace. [Cockburn also notes the reversal of claims in Iraqi weapons capabilities, although I didn't find his article until after I'd started this post. But he supplies more historical and factual context to buttress the point.]

U.S. heats up rhetoric against Iran (Hamilton Spectator, via The Independent)Excerpts: ...The allegations by senior but unnamed U.S. officials in Baghdad and Washington are bizarre. The U.S. has been fighting a Sunni insurgency in Iraq since 2003 that is deeply hostile to Iran.


"We came to say 'no' to war,"

Frank Rich: Maybe Bush only good at 'lying' about war; His 'real aim is to provoke war with Iran'

RAW STORYPublished: Saturday February 17, 2007

Maybe the Bush Administration is only good at "lying" about its conduct of a war, suggests New York Times columnist Frank Rich in his Sunday editorial.

"Maybe the Bush White House can't conduct a war, but no one has ever impugned its ability to lie about its conduct of a war," Rich writes. "Now even that well-earned reputation for flawless fictionalizing is coming undone."

Rich adds, "Watching the administration try to get its story straight about Iran's role in Iraq last week was like watching third-graders try to sidestep blame for misbehaving while the substitute teacher was on a bathroom break. The team that once sold the country smoking guns in the shape of mushroom clouds has completely lost its mojo."

Noting that "timing is everything in propaganda, as in all showmanship," Rich believes that the president's "real aim is to provoke war with Iran, no matter how overstretched and ill-equipped our armed forces may be for that added burden."

"By this line of thinking, the run-up to the war in Iraq is now repeating itself exactly and Bush will seize any handy casus belli he can to ignite a conflagration in Iran," Rich writes, after summarizing how many times reports about Iran allegedly supplying Iraq with bombs have surfaced in the past, and showing how little has changed in the intelligence to warrant the latest "new White House disinformation campaign."

Excerpts from Rich's column:
Surely these guys can do better than this. No sooner did unnamed military officials unveil their melodramatically secretive briefing in Baghdad last Sunday than Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, blew the whole charade. Pace said he didn't know about the briefing and couldn't endorse its contention that the Iranian government's highest echelons were complicit in anti-American hostilities in Iraq. Public-relations pandemonium ensued as Tony Snow, the State Department and finally the president tried to revise the story line on the fly. Back when Karl Rove ruled, everyone read verbatim from the same script. Last week's frantic improvisations were vintage Scooter Libby, at best the ur-text for a future perjury trial.

Yet for all the sloppy internal contradictions, the most incriminating indictment of the new White House disinformation campaign is to be found in official assertions made more than a year ago. The press and everyone else seems to have forgotten that the administration has twice sounded the same alarms about Iranian weaponry in Iraq that it did last week.

In August 2005, NBC News, CBS News and The Times cited unnamed military and intelligence officials when reporting, as CBS put it, that "U.S. forces intercepted a shipment from Iran containing professionally made explosive devices specifically designed to penetrate the armor which protects American vehicles." Then, as now, those devices were the devastating roadside bombs currently called EFPs (explosively formed penetrators). Then, as now, they were thought to have been brought into Iraq by members of Iran's Revolutionary Guard. Then, as now, there was no evidence that the Iranian government was directly involved. In February 2006, administration officials delivered the same warning yet again, before the Senate Intelligence Committee.


Our Better Adult

Tim Robbins

We have too much invested in our lie to admit it was a lie. And so we will equivocate, and stall, and more will die, and on and on.


Young Iraqis, foiled in bid to leave, return to Baghdad

Scott Peterson, Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor

The young Iraqi men thought they had good reason to enter Turkey: to escape their violent homeland and sneak to Sweden. But their dreams came to an end at the Istanbul airport when two dozen of them had "Cancelled" stamped across their Turkish entry stamps by immigration officials. With $700 each wasted on tickets, the despondent crew - some 25 men who had happened to travel on the same plane - flew back to Baghdad to greet families who had let them go with high hopes that they would settle abroad and then send for relatives. "My parents don't believe [I was refused entry]," says a glazier called Hassan, whose upper-lip peach fuzz belies his 22 years. "They are angry. Not because of the lost money, but because I didn't make it. Now I prefer to die in Baghdad."...
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GOP Blocks Senate Vote Against Bush Iraq Plan

Associated Press February 17, 2007 10:44 AM

The vote was 56-34. That was four short of the 60 needed to advance the measure, which is identical to a nonbinding resolution that Democrats pushed through the House on Friday.

"The Senate, on behalf of the American people, must make it clear to the commander in chief that he no longer has a rubber stamp in Iraq," said Majority Leader Harry Reid (news, bio, voting record), D-Nev., in the final moments before the vote.


Pentagon Red Tape Keeps Medical Records From Doctors of the Wounded

By Al KamenFriday, February 16, 2007; A21

Department of Veterans Affairs doctors are furious over a recent decision by the Pentagon to block their access to medical information needed to treat severely injured troops arriving at VA hospitals from Iraq and Afghanistan.

The VA physicians handle troops with serious brain injuries and other major health problems.

They, rely on digital medical records that track the care given wounded troops from the moment of their arrival at a field hospital through their evacuation to the United States.

About 30 VA doctors in four trauma centers around the country have treated about 200 severely wounded soldiers and Marines. The docs had been receiving the complete digital records from the Pentagon until the end of January, using the Pentagon's Joint Patient Tracking Application.

But on Jan. 25, when Shane McNamee, a physician in the Richmond VA Medical Center, tried to get the full records, he couldn't. He sent an urgent e-mail to VA chief liaison officer Edward Huycke.

"My JPTA account has been disabled within last few days," McNamee wrote. "I called the hotline and was told that all VA accounts have been locked. Could not get a good answer why.

Anyhow -- I have 4 [Iraq/Afghanistan] service members to arrive within the next 2 days. This information is terribly important," the doctor wrote.

Thirty-four minutes later Huycke e-mailed back: "Ok, Shane. Will get on it. Not sure what's up."

An hour or so later, a senior VA official forwarded McNamee's e-mail to Lt. Col. David Parramore at the Pentagon, saying that McNamee "needs his access back to JPTA to provide the best possible treatment for soldiers injured in [Iraq/Afghanistan] arriving there in a few days. Can you help?"

Tommy Morris, director of Deployment Health Systems, responded the next morning to Parramore's inquiry, after contacting Ellen Embry, deputy assistant secretary of defense for force health protection. "I spoke with Embry and no agreements, no data sharing via access to JPTA."

The access cutoff came after Morris, in a Jan. 23 e-mail, instructed a colleague: "If the VA currently has access I need a list of persons and I need their accounts shut off ASAP. It is illegal for them to have access without data use agreements and access controls in place by federal regulations and public law."

There have been meetings between VA and Pentagon officials. The Pentagon declined to comment yesterday. VA officials apparently thought it might have been resolved Monday. But an e-mail Monday from Morris to a co-worker said: "The leadership has not authorized the VA accounts to be turned back on, in case someone approaches you about this."

Last week, Sens. Daniel K. Akaka (D-Hawaii) and Larry E. Craig (Idaho) -- the chairman and ranking Republican on the Veterans' Affairs Committee -- wrote David S.C. Chu, undersecretary of defense for personnel, of their "deep concern" about VA trauma center doctors not having access to complete records.

"For those servicemembers suffering from a traumatic brain injury," they wrote, "VA's access to in-theater imaging is an important and valuable tool for tracking their patient's progress since being wounded or injured." They suggested the VA doctor be given temporary access to JPTA while the data-sharing questions are worked out.

They're still awaiting an appropriate response. McNamee is still waiting for the records.


Camp Pendleton Marine Regiment Bids Farewell to Its 100 Dead

God sadly, you can just hear him, puppeting the Weena
The Marines died for a good cause.
Iraq is a better and safer place, You decide

Associated Press

CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. - Two weeks after returning from a yearlong deployment to a joyous midnight homecoming, Marines from Regimental Combat Team 5 gathered under the California sun Thursday to remember their 100 comrades killed in Iraq.

"They did not die alone," said the regiment's commanding officer, Col. Larry Nicholson. "They were surrounded by their brothers."

The dead included 40 lance corporals, 24 corporals, 18 sergeants, a handful of privates and four officers, as well as seven soldiers and two Navy corpsmen. The main cause of death was from improvised explosive devices, followed by sniper and small-arms fire.

Even as lawmakers debated the merits of U.S. involvement in Iraq, the colonel told about 350 assembled Marines and 50 or so civilians that the Marines died for a good cause.

"Iraq is a better and safer place because of the services and sacrifices made by the regimental combat team," Nicholson said. "Future generations will marvel at the courage and sacrifice borne by Marines today."


US military planes criss-cross Europe using bogus call sign

Jon Swain and Brian Johnson-Thomas in Rome

THE American military have been operating flights across Europe using a call sign assigned to a civilian airline that they have no legal right to use.

Not only is the call sign bogus — according to the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) — so, it appears, are some of the aircraft details the Americans have filed with the air traffic control authorities.

In at least one case, a plane identified with the CIA practice of “extraordinary rendition” — transporting terrorist suspects — left a US air base just after the arrival of an aircraft using the bogus call sign.

The call sign Juliet Golf Oscar (JGO) followed by a flight number belongs, says the ICAO, to a now bankrupt Canadian low-cost airline called Jetsgo of Montreal.

But for several years and as recently as last December it has been used selectively by both the American air force and army to cover the flights of aircraft to and from the Balkans.

These range from Learjet 35 executive jets to C-130 transport planes and MC-130P Combat Shadows, which are specially adapted for clandestine missions in politically sensitive or hostile territory.

A Sunday Times analysis of flight plans and radio logs has placed these aircraft at locations including Tuzla in Bosnia, Pristina in Kosovo, Aviano, the site of a large joint US-Italian military air base in northern Italy, and Ramstein in Germany, the headquarters of the US Air Forces in Europe (USAFE).

On December 11, 2004, USAFE in Ramstein filed a flight plan for a Learjet 35 to fly from Tuzla to Aviano. The flight plan was copied to 15 addressees including Tuzla airport, Aviano airport and a mysterious recipient labelled “xxxxxxxx”.

The aircraft’s identity was given as JGO 80, the flight was a Learjet 35 operated by the Department of Defence and the registration was 99999E.

The status of the flight was given as “humanitarian”. But it was also given as “state”, which means government, and as “protected”, which means diplomatic.

During the time the plane was in the air, USAFE changed some of the flight plan timings and at the same time the registration changed. The aircraft metamorphosed into 40112E but continued to be a Learjet 35 and was still JGO 80 and a humanitarian, government and diplomatic flight.

While the Learjet was on the ground at Tuzla, an Ilyushin 76 was loading a cargo of 45 tons of surplus weapons and ammunition sold off by the Bosnian military and destined for Rwanda in defiance of a UN embargo.

The Ilyushin left Tuzla, flew over Italy and headed south in the direction of Africa. The American Learjet took off 55 minutes later.

In a report exposing arms trafficking to war-torn central Africa, Amnesty International has suggested that “US security authorities were engaged in a covert operation to ferry arms to Rwanda in the face of political opposition from the European Union”.

Another interesting convergence of flights occurred in February 2004. On February 24, an MC-130P Combat Shadow using the call sign JGO 50 took off from Aviano for an unknown destination.

Two days later, on February 26, the aircraft left Pristina for Tuzla. A short while after that, a Gulfstream 5 executive jet, call sign JGO 47, flew from Tuzla to Aviano, arriving at 23.11 GMT.

The next day, a Learjet 35 using the call sign SPAR 92 left Aviano for an unknown destination.

SPAR is short for Special Air Resources, an American military airlift service that transports senior military officers and civilian VIPs.

However, SPAR 92 has been identified as the aircraft which was used by the CIA secretly to transport a Muslim preacher who was kidnapped by CIA agents in Milan in 2003.

A USAFE spokesman last week said American aircraft using the JGO call sign were performing “Joint Guard Operations” for the Nato/European peacekeeping mission in the Balkans.

However, inquiries have shown that the military operation called “Joint Guard” ended in 1998.

They also show that none of the US aircraft deployed in it match ones using the JGO call sign.

A spokesman for the ICAO said: “Our records indicate that the designator JGO is still assigned to Jetsgo and the ICAO does not assign the same code to two operators.”

Additional reporting: Peter Danssaert


Obama Embraces Israel “Security” Mythology

Kurt Nimmo, Another Day in the Empire

In order to be selected to run as president here in the United States, the field of "hopefuls" must pay homage to Israel, AIPAC, and the "New York money men," as Wesley Clark has noted. Thus senator Barack Obama recently delivered a speech designed "to remove any doubts that the Democratic Party’s donors and constituents, many of whom are Jewish, may have about his support for Israel," according to Haaretz. "My view is that the United States’ special relationship with Israel obligates us to be helpful to them in the search for credible partners with whom they can make peace, while also supporting Israel in defending itself against enemies sworn to its destruction," said the Illinois Democrat. "Israelis want more than anything to live in peace with their neighbors, but Israel also has real—and very dangerous—enemies."...

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Blackmailing Bush; how the "Dear Leader" duped "The Decider"

Mike Whitney

The Bush foreign policy is predicated on one simple axiom: "We will stop the world’s most dangerous men from getting their hands on the world’s most dangerous weapons". By that standard, Bush’s dealings with North Korea have been a wretched failure. After 6 years of fruitless saber rattling and belligerence, the North detonated a nuclear bomb in early October and put region on notice that there’s a new member in the nuclear weapons club (...) There’s no chance that the administration will persuade the North to "denuclearize" (the administration’s word du jour). Kim knows that the real objective of US policy is regime change and that guarantees that he will never give up his nukes. Instead, he plans to use the upcoming negotiations as a means of extorting more concessions from Bush and the allies...

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Sadr commanders flee crackdown in Iraq

ByRoula Khalaf and Steve Negus, Financial Times

Iraqi officials on Friday reported an "exodus" of commanders from the Shia Mahdi army, as armed groups seek to protect themselves from the US military crackdown in Baghdad and preserve their organisations. Mystery has swirled over the whereabouts of Moqtada al-Sadr, the fiery cleric whose Mahdi army is accused by the US of a leading role in the sectarian violence that has devastated the capital. Jalal Talabani, the Iraqi president, late on Thursday said Mr Sadr, whose group is a partner in the governing Shia coalition, had ordered his commanders to leave Iraq to facilitate the US operation in the city. A senior Iraqi official told the FT yesterday that there has been an "exodus" of commanders over recent days, and that Mr Sadr is likely to have travelled to Iran, though he had no idea how long he would stay there. Iranian officials say they have no comment on Mr Sadr's whereabouts..

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Hey, it's ONLY reality...

Ishtar at the gallows.

Layla Anwar, An Arab Woman Blues

What kind of government hangs its women? This is precisely what the IraNqi/American government in Baghdad is planning to do. Three women not older than 31 are to be hanged with no trial, no legal counsel, no defence, no witnesses and obscure charges that no one has bothered to elucidate. These three women Zainab, Liqa and Wassan are held in the Khadimyiah prison in a "shia area" (see I caught the virus too) and I would not be surprised if they were raped as well. If you remember well, this is exactly the same place where the late President Saddam Hussein met his fate. At the gallows of the Khadimyiah prison H.Q Another sectarian lynching is about to take place not too far from Imam al Kadhim shrine. Ahmadinajad and Khamenae will be giving Muqtada al Sadr, Al Hakim and Maliki the highest medals of the Quds Brigades for bravery and patriotism (...) Where are the famous Iraqi "democrats" males and females who supposedly underwent torture under the previous regime? How come they have not filled the daily newspapers with their stale, jaded rethoric? Or is it because they have suddenly felt an upsurge of sympathy towards their own sect? Where are the Kanan Makiyas and his like who made millions from lamenting to the Western press about their ordeals in pre-liberated Iraq when they themselves had left Iraq since childhood? It took someone like Saddam Hussein to keep this sectarian filth off our backs and rightly so. In retrospect, everything he has done, mistakes and all, was absolutely correct. Let Amnesty International or Human rights sue me now...

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Friday, February 16, 2007

Heating Up: Warmest January Ever Recorded On Earth

AFP February 16, 2007 09:29 PM

World temperatures in January were the highest ever recorded for that month of the year, US government scientists said.

"The combined global land and ocean surface temperature was the highest for any January on record," according to scientists from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's National Climate Data Center in Asheville, N.C.


Pentagon adds extra 1,000 troops to 'surge' on same day House expresses disapproval

On the same day that the House of Representatives expressed its disapproval of President Bush's US troop increase in Iraq, the Pentagon announced it is accelerating the deployment of a division headquarters there by about three months, which would add another 1,000 troops to the "surge."


Epic Confrontation Over Iraq

AP DAVID ESPO February 16, 2007 03:10 PM

The Democratic-controlled House issued a symbolic rejection of President Bush's decision to deploy more troops to Iraq on Friday, opening an epic confrontation between Congress and commander in chief over an unpopular war that has taken the lives of more than 3,100 U.S. troops.

The vote on the nonbinding measure was 246-182, and within minutes, Democrats said their next move would be to challenge Bush's request for $93 billion in new funds for thePentagon.


China Covers Up Detention of AIDS Doctor

In less than a decade, China has gone from trying to hide its AIDS epidemic to confronting it openly. But for a Communist Party intolerant of public dissent, embracing grass-roots AIDS activists is a different matter. Few people have complained louder, or with more influence, than Dr. Gao Yaojie, who gained fame for helping expose the tainted-blood selling that spread HIV in central China in the 1990s.

Link Here

Sam Pizzigati | House Protects Tax Loophole for Corporate Execs

"On Monday, in a unanimous vote, the House Ways and Means Committee killed a tax reform - already passed by the Senate - that would have ended the single most popular perk in executive-suite land: the loophole that, year after year, lets CEOs avoid paying taxes on multimillions of their paycheck dollars," writes Sam Pizzigati.


Appeals Court Refuses to Overturn US Army Medic's Detention

A federal appeals court refused on Friday to overturn the detention of a US Army medic who declared his opposition to war on the eve of his deployment to Iraq. Agustin Aguayo, who enlisted in 2002 during the run-up to the Iraq War, had asked the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia to release him from a military prison in Germany.


-- A court in Turkey sentences seven people to life imprisonment for 2003 bombings in Istanbul, according to wire reports.

Twisters Create Emergency In New Orleans, Bush Responds With...You Guessed It--Nothing

A tornado system with twisters up to 135 miles per hour ripped through three major New Orleans neighborhoods early Tuesday morning, killing one person, injuring a few dozen, and doing what is estimated to be $20 million worth of damage. Several houses that had been rebuilt or almost rebuilt after Hurricane Katrina were torn apart, as were many FEMA trailers. Schools were closed, highways were shut down, piles of rubble were everywhere, trees were uprooted, and thousands of people were left without electricity.

Governor Kathleen Blanco declared a state of emergency yesterday afternoon, and asked the White House to do likewise. As of right now, late Wednesday night, the response from George W. Bush is that he will present the governor a timetable for when he will "consider" declaring the New Orleans area in a state of emergency.

If this sounds familiar, it should. The scenario lacks playful guitar strumming and a birthday cake at a desert resort, but it is all too similar to what happened in early September of 2005.
Bush declared an emergency within 24 hours of a tornado which recently struck Mississippi.

Posted by Diane E. Dees on 02/14/07


The Thin Veil of Hate

He was Taliban, and moments before he had ambushed an Afghan soldier killing him with a shot to the head. Now a victim himself, this Taliban fighter lay at my feet.


George Bush Jr. And Sr. Pressure Jeb To Run In '08

America, you ready for another 8 years of a BUSH WHITE HOUSE, well the world sure as hell arn't

AP BRENDAN FARRINGTON February 16, 2007 01:19 PM

Jeb Bush, who hasn't publicly picked a favorite in the Republican presidential race, privately is talking up the candidacy of Mitt Romney and steering some of his closest advisers to the campaign.

The former Florida governor has said repeatedly he won't be a candidate in 2008 despite encouragement from his father, the former president, and his brother, the current one. But Jeb Bush's support, even tacit, would be critical in the state that decided the 2000 presidential election.


Iran backed militias have accounted for less than 8% of US troops killed and just 4% of the wounded.

With Bush/Cheney now trying to drag us into Iran the same way they did with Iraq, one must wonder in whose best interest they are acting.

Bush buddies/masters, the Saudi’s, back the insurgents in Iraq that are responsible for the OVERWHELMING majority of US causalities. Iran backed militias have accounted for less than 8% of US troops killed and just 4% of the wounded.

Of course, any percentage is too high, but then why is Bush making a boogie man out of the Shia leader who is an Iraq nationalist (Moqtada al Sadr), while he cozies up with Abdul-Aziz Al-Hakim, the Iraqi cleric closest to Iran.


Congress Rejects Bush Troop Plan

AP DAVID ESPO February 16, 2007 03:10 PM

The Democratic-controlled House issued a symbolic rejection of President Bush's plan to deploy more troops to Iraq on Friday, opening an epic confrontation between Congress and commander in chief over an unpopular war that has taken the lives of more than 3,100 U.S. troops.

The vote on the nonbinding measure was 246-182.


Money Trumps Peace...Sometimes

“Money trumps peace” is the underlying reason for all wars as two time Congressional Medal of Honor winner and highly decorated Major General Smedley D. Butler wrote in his reflective, yet prophetic, work War is a Racket:

By Cindy Sheehan

“Money trumps peace” should be the rallying call of all the Democrats and Republicans who are exploiting our tired and wounded soldiers in the field to justify handing BushCo more money to complete his mission of totally decimating the Middle East for the oil companies, construction contractors, and defense industries.


Veterans of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan predict failure in Iraq

A Soviet soldier on guard in Afghanistan in 1988.Photo by Mikhail Evstafiev

Revisiting History

Matthew Schofield, McClatchy Newspapers

Eighteen years after the Soviet army pulled out of Afghanistan in a humiliating defeat that hastened the collapse of an empire, many soldiers who fought there believe they're seeing history repeat itself. The United States - then the force behind the Afghan resistance - now appears trapped in a similar downward spiral in Iraq, besieged by a collection of forces not unlike those it trained and equipped to cripple the Soviets two decades ago. For many, the similarities go beyond the symbolic. Retired Capt. Vladimir Vshivtsev was blinded by an improvised roadside bomb 20 years ago in Afghanistan. He shudders every time he hears about a U.S. soldier killed or wounded by a similar device in Iraq or Afghanistan, he said. "They're fighting the same war again," he said. "Sure, the political stuff is different, but the military result is going to be the same: failure."...

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The Mecca Agreement: What Should We Expect?

Ramzy Baroud

...The official reactions to the agreement, emanating from the four corners of the globe are hardly encouraging. The so-called Middle East Quartet – consisting of the United States, the United Nations, the European Union and Russia – although they welcomed the agreement, hoping that it might produce the desired 'calm’, reiterated their conditions that must be unreservedly ratified by the Palestinian government if the sanctions are to be lifted; these conditions are the recognition of Israel, the renouncing of violence and the acceptance of past agreements signed between both parties, namely the Oslo Accords. Though the Quartet is seen to have withheld its final judgement on whether the formulation of the unity government constitutes an acceptance, either directly or by implication of its three conditions, Israel is embarking on its own diplomatic campaign to heighten pressure...

continua / continued

Sen. Obama: U.S. must help Israel defend itself

U.S. Sen. Barack Obama, a Democrat from Illinois who is competing for his party's presidential nomination, told Haaretz on Thursday that the United States should help protect Israel from its "dangerous" enemies.

"My view is that the United States' special relationship with Israel obligates us to be helpful to them in the search for credible partners with whom they can make peace, while also supporting Israel in defending itself against enemies sworn to its destruction," he said.

"Israelis want more than anything to live in peace with their neighbors, but Israel also has real - and very dangerous - enemies," Obama said.


I was hoping that when Barack Obama threw his hat in the ring for the Democratic nomination he would give Hillary a 'run for the money'. Instead, he is 'kissing up' to the Lobby with statements about Israel. Instead of proposing recognition of the new Palestinian Unity Government, he is already hinting that they are the enemy of Israel. Instead of offering a new platform for peace he seems to be willing to keep things just as they are.... seeking out enemies and finding ways to protect Israel from them. All he has to do is look carefully at the present US Administration, the enemy is right there. They are the ones that have prevented a real peace process from ever developing in the Middle East, they are the ones that have supplied Israel with arms to be used against the civilian population of Palestine...

continua / continued

"Bush stands nearly alone."

"It was, President Bush must have been thinking, a heck of a lot easier five years ago. Back in 2002, the president had a smoothly running lie factory humming along in the Pentagon, producing reams of fake intelligence about Iraq," writes Robert Dreyfuss. But now, "Bush stands nearly alone."

Breakdown at the Pentagon Lie Factory

Once comfortably attired in his transparent clothing, the chill winds of failure have started making the mind-control illusion powers of Bush's ethereal Armani become threadbare, rendering the once-silken garment as coarse as the itchiest wool. Not to mention that the itch of the woolen blindfolds the American people have been wearing has finally driven many to discard them. Boy, he looks pitifully naked...

George Bush Psychotic Legacy Fears Drive Him to Nuke Iran

A psychotic clown in the White House.

'''Forked Tongue Express.'"

John McCain Suffers Republican Mutiny Back Home

Sen. McCain has suffered a significant political defeat in his home base of Arizona by local Republicans activists who think he's a hypocrite who will do anything to get elected. "The guy has no core, his only principle is winning the presidency. He likes to call his campaign the 'straight talk express.' Well, down here we call it the 'forked tongue express.'"

No George Monbiot, These Are The Facts of September 11th 2001

Response to The UK Guardian Hit Piece
Mr. Monbiot has taken the standard media attack approach: conflate the internet film "Loose Change" with the subject of September 11th US government complicity. How brave to redo the same smear that has gone around for several years now focusing on the easily challenged claims, and ignoring the full breadth (and breathtaking amount) of evidence.

Who is Thom Hartmann?

Darn the only thing wrong with this timing is, like now to catch him on Nova I have to be up at 3am Down Under time every day,
But well worth the effort.

by LTR aka B.D. Rafferty

Over the next few days or so, radio audiences in various markets will be introduced to a new voice on their airwaves, as Thom Hartmann prepares to slide into the midday slot on Air America Radio and its affiliates who choose to pick up the show.

Of course, Hartmann, 55, is far from new to the world of radio. Many liberal talk fans, and readers of this blog, are well familiar with him, and Hartmann is already on the air in many markets. His current show has been on the air for four years, long before Air America hit the airwaves.
So, who is Thom Hartmann?
Hartmann is the host of a weekday show that is becoming one of the biggest success stories in liberal talk. He's also a three-time Project Censored Award winner, bestselling author, international lecturer, teacher, practitioner in alternative medicine and acupuncture, and licensed psychotherapist with a certification in Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP). His books have covered a wide range of subjects, including politics, business, economics, constitutional law, history, self-help, spirituality, and one of his biggest pet projects, ADHD. In addition, he's written nine novels. He even established a specialized school for children afflicted with the disorder. He's had a private audience with Pope John Paul II, spent a week with the Dalai Lama, and his writings about the environment have even inspired two short web films and an upcoming documentary directed by actor and fan Leonardo DiCaprio.
On the radio, he hosts two three-hour shows every day - a local morning show at KPOJ in Portland and his nationally syndicated show immediately following. In the past, he's stretched out his broadcast day occasionally filling in for Randi Rhodes, giving him, on occasion, a 9-10 hour day behind the microphone.
Does this guy ever sleep?
Well, one has to wonder. Radio is his main job now, but he's still writing books. In the past year, he released Screwed, about the struggles affecting the working class and Walking Your Blues Away, one of several of his self-help books. He is often on the road, combining book signings with remote broadcasts of his radio shows.
Hartmann is no stranger to radio. He started in the industry as a teenager, in 1968. Over the years, he worked as a DJ and program director, and spent seven years as a radio and television news reporter during and immediately after his college years. He also wrote articles and columns for various publications, including the German version of International Business Week, The Christian Science Monitor, and Popular Computing, for which he wrote a monthly column for two years.
Since that wasn't enough to occupy his time, he successfully established seven businesses, one of which was featured on the front page of The Wall Street Journal. The businesses he started and later sold include an advertising agency, a newsletter/magazine publishing company, an herbal tea manufacturing company, a travel agency, a training seminars company (where he has a client list consisting of all but 30 of the firms listed in the Fortune 500), an electronics design and repair company, and computer peripherals sales business. He is also both a licensed pilot and licensed private detective, though he currently practices neither (lack of time?). He's also a former skydiver.


Carolyn Baker

...I am convinced that one’s personal family history plays heavily in how deeply one can look into the black maw of evil that now runs this nation. As I have stated in earlier writings, I have repeatedly encountered hundreds of individuals who simply cannot assimilate, let alone investigate, the voluminous research regarding September 11, 2001. Frequently, they confess that they simply do not want to know that their government orchestrated the attacks that murdered 3,000 people in one day. They freely admit that they cannot bear the possibility that their government annihilated its own citizens, nor can they tolerate the sense of powerless they feel in relation to that possibility. Some individuals will never be able to dig deeper than the official story; others will be able to do so, but slowly, gradually, as the layers of their psyche absorb the anomalies that not only linger, but grow more blatantly incongruous with every passing day...

continua / continued

Republicans Block Bill on U.S. Attorneys

Senate Republicans blocked a bill Thursday that would curb the Justice Department's power to fire and replace federal prosecutors. Democrats had sought to give the courts a role in the appointments of U.S. attorneys, to GOP opposition.

The objection by Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., to the proposal was long anticipated. So Democrats used the occasion to complain anew about the firings of at least seven prosecutors, some without cause, under a little-known part of the Patriot Act.

Democrats say Attorney General Alberto Gonzales used the law to get around the Senate confirmation process and install Republican allies.

"I believe that their intent was to bring in people from the outside to give some of their bright people an opportunity," said Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif. "That is wrong."


Iraq PM tells Bush of 'dazzling successes' in Baghdad

DISPLACED IRAQIs may top one million by years' end, report says.
Iraq PM tells Bush of 'dazzling successes' in Baghdad

BAGHDAD (AFP) - Iraq's Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki has told US President George W. Bush by videolink that the first few days of their countries' joint security plan in Baghdad had been a great success.

"He told President Bush that the security plan had seen dazzling success during its first days and that the government will deal with every outlaw in a firm manner whatever group they belong to," according to his office on Friday.

Some Sunni Iraqis fear their Shiite prime minister might use the security plan as a cover to advance his own group's interests, but Maliki denies this, and cited the example of aid he said he was giving Sunnis in western Iraq.

"He said the sheikhs of the tribes in Anbar Province play a very important role in the hunt for Al-Qaeda and that the government will supply all kinds of support to these tribes and start reconstruction efforts," his office said.


'The Sacrifice'

Photojournalist James Nachtwey poses for a portrait in New York, February 14, 2007. His exhibition 'The Sacrifice' opens to the public at the 401 Projects gallery in New York. (Eric Thayer/Reuters

Join 1.4 million internally displaced Iraqis; No funds to help those in flight.

Great Andean glacier 'gone within 5 years'

Greenhouse gases hit 'new high'; Politicians sign new climate pact.


Cheney son-in-law used revolving door to stop chemical security regulations

Michael RostonPublished: Friday February 16, 2007

The son-in-law of Vice President Dick Cheney, Philip Perry, has entered and exited the Bush administration twice, and in the process helped shield the chemical industry from upgraded security measures in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, according to an article in the March edition of the Washington Monthly.

Philip Perry is married to Cheney's daughter Elizabeth, also a former executive branch official. An article by Art Levine in the upcoming Washington Monthly details his work in and out of the Bush administration since 2000, saying, "A flippant critic might say the father-in-law has been prosecuting a war that creates more terrorists abroad, while the son-in-law has been working to ensure they’ll have easy targets at home."

Before entering the Bush administration, Perry worked in the powerful Washington, DC law firm Latham and Watkins, and also on the Republican side of the Senate. After joining the Bush-Cheney transition team in late 2000, he became the third-ranking official in the Justice Department under Attorney General John Ashcroft. In 2002, he moved to the White House's Office of Management and Budget, where he served as general counsel.

It was in this last role that he initially blocked security upgrades on the chemical industry. When the EPA attempted to gain authority to regulate security at chemical industry facilities, Perry used the Office of Management and Budget to block the move. Levine reports that at a 2003 meeting in the White House, he told gathered executive branch officials, "If you send up this legislation, it will be dead on arrival on the Hill."

Perry left the government in 2003 and re-joined Latham and Watkins, which includes a major chemical industry trade group on its list of clients. But in 2005, when Michael Chertoff became Secretary of Homeland Security, Perry joined that department as general counsel.

In this position, Levine says, Perry completed another pro-chemical industry move. When the Department of Homeland Security Regulations were released, "Hill staffers noticed that the department had effectively granted itself the power to set aside state laws," decreasing the amount of security regulation that the chemical business might face.

In January, Perry announced his intention to leave the government again to spend more time with his family, including his wife Liz who recently gave birth to the couple's fifth child.

The full story can be read at the Washington Monthly's website.

US Military Doubts Iraq Al Qaeda Leader Wounded Yesterday

CNN February 16, 2007 11:36 AM

The U.S. military on Friday cast doubt on a report from the Iraqi government that al Qaeda in Iraq chief Abu Ayyub al-Masri was wounded in clashes with police.

A senior U.S. official, who requested anonymity, told CNN that the U.S. military believes reports about the alleged incident Thursday are false.


31 Indicted In CIA Kidnapping Case

AP COLLEEN BARRY February 16, 2007 09:00 AM

A judge Friday indicted 26 Americans and five Italians in the abduction of an Egyptian terror suspect on a Milan street in what would be the first criminal trial stemming from the CIA's extraordinary rendition program.

The judge set a trial date for June 8, although the Americans, who have all left the country, almost certainly will not be returned to Italy.


Pelosi On Iraq Vote: "We Are The Voices Of The American People"

AP JEFF ZELENY and ROBIN TONER February 16, 2007 09:00 AM

As the House prepared to pass a symbolic resolution denouncing President Bush's war policy, Senate Democratic leaders on Thursday abruptly scheduled a weekend debate on Iraq in an effort to break a stalemate and avoid impressions that partisan bickering was weighing down deliberations over the war.

A steady line of Republicans and Democrats made their way to the House floor for a third straight day of debating Mr. Bush's troop buildup plan before the matter comes to a vote Friday. The Senate, stung by its own failure so far to act, spent much of Thursday locked in a debate about debating until Senator Harry Reid, the majority leader, called the rare Saturday session.


Disaster Feared in Ship Fire off Antarctica

Officials warned of a potential environmental disaster in Antarctica after fire erupted Thursday on a Japanese whaling ship, as the search continued for a missing crewmen from the crippled ship. "It is a serious situation - a ship badly damaged and full of toxic oil," New Zealand Conservation Minister Chris Carter told National Radio.


Labor to step back from US (Australia)

Cynthia Banham
Foreign Affairs Reporter
February 16, 2007

KEVIN RUDD has promised that under a Labor government there would be a more independent approach towards the alliance with the US, with no automatic compliance with every aspect of its foreign policy ...

Mr Rudd, in his first pronouncements on the subject since assuming the role of alternative prime minister, nominated "three strong pillars" that would form the basis of a Labor govern- ment's foreign policy approach.

They were the US alliance, Australia's membership of the UN, and comprehensive engagement with the Asia-Pacific region ...

He said the alliance was "overwhelmingly in Australia's strategic interests". This was particularly so in the Asia-Pacific, with its incremental nuclearisation, growing militant Islam, and threats of regional pandemics. But he said: "Labor does not believe in an alliance which mandates automatic compliance with every aspect of US foreign policy. It is an agreement between two sovereign nations, underpinned by a set of common values and shared ways of looking at the world." Mr Rudd said that on Mr Howard's watch "instead of offering useful counsel, we became an unquestioning cheer squad for a deeply flawed policy on Iraq with ominous consequences for the future stability of the wider Middle East" ...


Thursday, February 15, 2007

Air Force Academy Cheating Scandal Grows

The Air Force Academy said Thursday that 24 freshman cadets have now admitted cheating on a test and 12 others are under investigation but have denied wrongdoing.The school originally said 19 students had admitted cheating and nine others were under investigation.Two-thirds of the cases involve athletes, Air Force Academy spokesman Johnny Whitaker told The Gazette. The academy did not say what teams were involved.The cheating occurred when cadets obtained answers to an upcoming test and forwarded them through an Internet social group and private computer messages, officials said.The test was part of a weekly series of exams on general knowledge about the Air Force. The exams do not affect cadets' grade-point averages but are required for students to advance to their second year.


Democratic Congressman: Rest assured that history, fact will not be kind to decision-makers of this war

Ron BrynaertPublished: Thursday February 15, 2007

Congressman Raul Grijalva (D-AZ) will say that "history and fact will not be kind to the decision-makers" during his House floor statement tonight concerning the Iraq War Resolution that will be voted on Friday, RAW STORY has learned.

"This head in the sand attitude, while politically expedient, denies reality and truth," Grijalva will say. "Rest assured that history and fact will not be kind to the decision-makers and deciders of this war."

"Nor will it be kind to a Congress that looked the other way," Grijalva will add, according to a preview of his statement leaked to RAW STORY.

"Tucson Congressman Raul Grijalva has become of one the leading anti-Iraq war critics in Washington as U.S. Sen. John McCain, Phoenix Congressman John Shadegg and other Arizona Republicans continue their support of the war and increased troop levels," The Business Journal of Phoenix reports. "Grijalva is co-sponsoring a number of measures in Congress that oppose President Bush's plan to send 21,500 additional soldiers into Iraq with the hope of stabilizing the civil war."

Rep. Grijalva's full statement:

NYT: Did former Bush Counsel Harriet Miers 'intervene' on behalf of replacement for US attorney let go for no 'apparent reason'?

RAW STORYPublished: Thursday February 15, 2007

Was President Bush's former counsel and one-time Supreme Court nominee involved in the dismissal of a United States attorney? An article in Friday's New York Times reports that sources indicate that she might have been, RAW STORY has learned.

"One of the U.S attorneys who was dismissed from his job without apparent reason was removed after Harriet E. Miers, the former White House counsel, intervened on behalf of his replacement, according to congressional aides briefed on the matter," David Cay Johnston reports for the Times.

Tapped by Bush on October 3, 2005 to replace retiring Justice Sandra Day O'Connor on the Supreme Court, Miers reportedly asked the president to withdraw her nomination twenty-four days later.

CBS News White House correspondent Mark Knoller recently reported that if "Miers harbors any bitterness or resentment from her painful and humiliating 24-days as the president's nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court, she's keeping it to herself."

"President Bush ended up withdrawing the nomination which drew fire from a number of conservative pundits and officials who said Miers wasn't qualified for the High Court," Knoller wrote.

Miers left her post as White House Counsel on January 31, telling Knoller, "I had a number of conversations right after the first of the year with our chief of staff Joshua Bolten and we both concluded it was time to have a change in the White House Counsel's office."

Earlier today, a key Democratic member of the U.S. House of Representatives blasted the White House for putting politics "before justice" with regards to the US attorney dismissals.

Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-IL), House Democratic Caucus chair, said in a statement, "For the Bush Administration, politics comes before justice. Talented prosecutors investigating public corruption cases are fired for no reason, while a top Justice official has been vacationing with a lobbyist from the industry she is supposed to regulate."

Rep. Linda Sánchez (D-CA), chair of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Commercial and Administrative Law, has announced hearings to probe the recent firings.

Developing...More excerpts from Times article on the way...


Cheney's Retaliatory '02 Leak Investigations Opened Libby To Prosecution

The National Journal Murray Waas February 15, 2007 07:56 PM

Early on the morning of June 20, 2002, then-Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Bob Graham, D-Fla., received a telephone call at home from a highly agitated Dick Cheney. Graham, who was in the middle of shaving, held a razor in one hand as he took the phone in the other.

The vice president got right to the point: A story in his morning newspaper reported that telephone calls intercepted by the National Security Agency on September 10, 2001, apparently warned that Al Qaeda was about to launch a major attack against the United States, possibly the next day. But the intercepts were not translated until September 12, 2001, the story said, the day after the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.


Olbermann Signs For Four More Years At MSNBC

Eat The Press Glynnis MacNicol February 15, 2007 08:42 PM

It's official: Keith Olbermann has re-upped with MSNBC for another four years at a rumored $4 million+ salary, according to Broadcasting & Cable. His current contract is generally believed to be in the neighborhood of $1 million.

The MSNBC-Olbermann contract negotiations came to attention in December 2006 in an LAT profile of Olbermann by Matea Gold, where Olbermann characterized his relationship with MSNBC as "they leave me alone, I leave them alone" (and echoed a few weeks later in an interview with Radar's Tyler Gray in which he implied that MSNBC GM Dan Abrams had little authority over him or his show). Olbermann was also rumored to have received "offers" from CNN.


Audit: $10 Billion Wasted In Iraq So Far

Associated Press HOPE YEN February 15, 2007 10:18 PM

About $10 billion has been squandered by the U.S. government onIraq reconstruction aid because of contractor overcharges and unsupported expenses, and federal investigators warned Thursday that significantly more taxpayer money is at risk.

The three top auditors overseeing work in Iraq told a House committee their review of $57 billion in Iraq contracts found that Defense and State department officials condoned or allowed repeated work delays, bloated expenses and payments for shoddy work or work never done.


Dubai Ports deal hits snag with NY-NJ authority over Newark port

By DEVLIN BARRETT, The Associated Press Feb 14, 2007 5:57 PM (1 day ago)

WASHINGTON - Dubai Ports World, the company whose planned takeover of major port operations in New York and other U.S. cities ignited a political firestorm last year, may be headed for a new storm in its plan to sell off those operations to a U.S.-based company.

The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey is seeking tens of millions of dollars from the prospective new owner, AIG Global Investment Group, for improvements the port agency has made to the Port Newark Container Terminal in Newark, N.J., which AIG would operate.

Port Authority spokesman Stephen Sigmund said Wednesday he could not put a precise figure on how much the agency should receive in cash payments or future work at the facility, but he said the agency has spent $30 million in infrastructure developments since 2000.

The agency is seeking to strike a deal with AIG for the costs incurred expanding a 15-acre parcel of the Newark operations and wants a commitment by AIG to further work.

"We're not looking to hold up anything," said Sigmund, who said he did not know of any other U.S. ports seeking similar compensation from AIG.

Dubai Ports World, based in the United Arab Emirates, is the world's largest marine terminal operator with 51 terminals in 24 countries. It announced in December that it had struck a deal to sell AIG the U.S. operations, which include six major U.S. seaports in New York/New Jersey, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Miami, Tampa, Fla., and New Orleans.

The deal also involves stevedoring operations in 16 locations along the eastern seaboard and Gulf Coast and a passenger terminal in New York.

The U.S. holdings were valued last year at roughly $700 million, but the companies did not disclose the sale price.

Sigmund said Dubai Ports World has "made a pretty substantial profit here, and we want AIG to make a commitment to reinvest money in the capital projects so that we're sure they're going to operate the terminal responsibly."

AIG spokesman Chris Winans would not discuss the company's talks with the Port Authority, but he said "we remain excited about the possibility of acquiring this business."

Asked if the agency's request for money had delayed the sale, Winans declined to comment.

AIG Global Investment Group is an asset management firm whose parent company is the New York-based insurance firm America International Group Inc.

The Port Authority has the right to consent to a new owner under the terms of its 30-year lease to operate the Newark facility.

The negotiations between the port and the new operators are just the latest twist in a complicated global saga that began early last year, when DP World won permission from the U.S. government to buy a company with extensive port operations in the United States.

That set off blistering criticism from U.S. politicians of both major parties, who said the deal could threaten homeland security. They cited the UAE's support of Afghanistan's Taliban government before the 2001 terror attacks and questioned whether the country or the company had done enough to keep out terrorist money and material.

Even as DP World completed the acquisition on paper, political pressure forced the company to take a hands-off approach to ownership of the U.S. assets.

One of the fiercest critics of the original deal, Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., was uncharacteristically quiet on the subject Wednesday, saying only that he was following the matter closely.



MODEL Anna Nicole Smith underfed her baby daughter Dannielynn in order to keep her "sexy", and also attempted suicide twice, according to claims made by the ex-Playboy playmate's former nanny.

OSCAR-WINNER Charlize Theron is reportedly first choice to star as Anna Nicole Smith, who wed an 89-year-old oil billionaire and died aged just 39 last week.

Not in Our Name: Bid to Stop Trident

A powerful coalition of 100 scientists, lawyers, church leaders, actors, writers and Members of Parliament is demanding a halt to the rush by Tony Blair towards a replacement for Britain's Trident nuclear weapon system. Stephen Hawking, the astrophysicist, is among the prominent figures fronting the campaign, which will strengthen growing demands in Parliament for the vote on the replacement of the system to be delayed until a full debate on the options has taken place.


In the woeful history of falsehoods about the targets of potential U.S. force

Burnt Offering How a 2003 secret overture from Tehran might have led to a deal on Iran’s nuclear capacity -- if the Bush administration hadn’t rebuffed it. ...

Out of jail, into the Army

Facing an enlistment crisis, the Army is granting "waivers" to an increasingly high percentage of recruits with criminal records -- and trying to hide it.

By Mark Benjamin

We're transforming our military. The things I look for are the following: morale, retention, and recruitment. And retention is high, recruitment is meeting goals, and people are feeling strong about the mission.
-- George W. Bush, in a Jan. 26 press conference

It was about 10 p.m. on Sept. 1, 2002, when a drug deal was arranged in the parking lot of a mini-mall in Newark, Del. The car with the drugs, driven by a man who would become a recruit for the Delaware Air National Guard, pulled up next to a parked car that was waiting for the exchange. Everything was going smoothly until the cops arrived.

"I parked and walked over to his car and got in and we were talking," the future Air Guardsman later wrote. "He asked if I had any marijuana and I said yes, that I bought some in Wilmington, Del., earlier that day. He said he wanted some." The drug dealer went on to recount in a Jan. 11, 2005, statement written to win admission into the military, "I walked back to my car [and] as soon as I got in my car an officer put his flashlight in the window and arrested me."

Under Air National Guard rules, the dealer had committed a "major offense" that would bar him from military service. Air National Guard recruits, like other members of the military, cannot have drug convictions on their record. But on Feb. 2, 2005, the applicant who had been arrested in the mini-mall was admitted into the Delaware Air National Guard. How? Through the use of a little-known, but increasingly important, escape clause known as a waiver.

Waivers, which are generally approved at the Pentagon, allow recruiters to sign up men and women who otherwise would be ineligible for service because of legal convictions, medical problems or other reasons preventing them from meeting minimum standards.

The story of that unnamed Air National Guard recruit (whose name is blacked out in his statement) is based on documents obtained by Salon under the Freedom of Information Act. It illustrates one of the tactics that the military is using in its uphill battle to meet recruiting targets during the Iraq war. The personnel problems are acute. The Air National Guard, for example, missed its recruiting target by 14 percent last year. And the regular Army missed its goal by 8 percent, its largest recruiting shortfall since 1979.

This is where waivers come in. According to statistics provided to Salon by the office of the assistant secretary of defense for public affairs, the Army said that 17 percent (21,880 new soldiers) of its 2005 recruits were admitted under waivers. Put another way, more soldiers than are in an entire infantry division entered the Army in 2005 without meeting normal standards. This use of waivers represents a 42 percent increase since the pre-Iraq year of 2000. (All annual figures used in this article are based on the government's fiscal year, which runs from Oct. 1 to Sept. 30. So fiscal year 2006 began Oct. 1, 2005.)
In fact, even the already high rate of 17 percent underestimates the use of waivers, as the Pentagon combined the Army's figures with the lower ones for reserve forces to dilute the apparent percentage. Equally significant is the Army's currently liberal use of "moral waivers," which are issued to recruits who have committed what are loosely defined as criminal offenses. Officially, the Pentagon states that most waivers issued on moral grounds are for minor infractions like traffic tickets. Yet documents obtained by Salon show that many of the offenses are more serious and include drunken driving and domestic abuse.

Last year, 37 percent of the Army's waivers (about 8,000 soldiers) were based on moral grounds. Like waivers as a whole, these waivers are proliferating -- they're 32 percent higher than in the prewar year of 2000. As a result, the odds are going up that the soldiers fighting and taking the casualties in Iraq entered the Army with a criminal record.

"The more of those people you take, the more problems you are going to have and the less effective they are going to be," said Lawrence J. Korb, an assistant secretary of defense under Reagan and a senior fellow at the progressive Center for American Progress. "This is another way you are lowering your standards to meet your goals." Retired Lt. Gen. William E. Odom, who was the Army's chief intelligence officer from 1981 to 1985, also called the increase in waivers "disturbing."

He expressed concern that the lower standards would place a burden on military commanders who have to deal with "more lawbreakers and soldiers with anti-social behavior in their units."

Even without the waivers, the Army has lowered its standards for enlistees. The Army has eased restrictions on recruiting high school dropouts. It also raised the maximum recruitment age from 35 to 39. Moreover, last fall the Army announced that it would be doubling the number of soldiers that it admits who score near the bottom on a military aptitude test.

Next page: Some recruits had criminal records of assault, breaking and entering, and possessing drugs

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