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Saturday, April 07, 2007

4/5/2007 9:20:09 AM
Associated Press

SOUTH ST. PAUL, Minn. -- A high school senior who faced down military recruiters on his front lawn and refused to go to basic training after earlier signing up for the Minnesota Army National Guard has now been discharged.

"You are discharged from the Army National Guard and as a reserve of the Army," said a memo from Minnesota's Office of Adjutant General sent to the lawyer representing Leo Valle, an 18-year-old student at Simley High School in Inver Grove Heights.

It was welcome news for Valle, who claims that months earlier a National Guard sergeant threatened him with arrest and military prison if he didn't go to basic training. >>>cont

‘That’s not going to happen with my son’

Updated: 7:24 p.m. ET April 6, 2007

In an about-face by the U.S. government four years into the war in Iraq, America's fallen troops are being brought back to their families aboard charter jets instead of ordinary commercial flights, and the caskets are being met by honor guards in white gloves instead of baggage handlers with forklifts.

That change — which took effect quietly in January and applies to members of the U.S. military killed in Afghanistan, too — came after a campaign waged by a father who was aghast to learn that his son's body was going to be unloaded like so much luggage.

John Holley said an airline executive told him that was the "most expeditious" way to get the body home.

"I said, ‘That's not going to happen with my son. That's not how my son is coming home,'" said Holley, an Army veteran from San Diego whose son, Spc. Matthew Holley, was killed by a roadside bomb in Iraq in 2005. "If it was ‘expeditious' to deliver them in garbage trucks, would you do that?"

Guard is short of arms, gear
Officials say this hurts training of Virginia troops for active duty


The Virginia Army National Guard does not have the weapons and equipment it needs to prepare its soldiers to go to war overseas.

Virginia's problem is temporary, expected to last a year or less, and the Army will make sure state guardsmen are trained properly before they deploy to combat zones, said Maj. Gen. Robert B. Newman Jr., the state's top military officer.

But because of changes in the U.S. military's deployment policy, time spent on training in the United States after Guard troops are mobilized for active duty will reduce the amount of time the soldiers are putting their boots on the battlefield.

That is inefficient, Guard officers said.

"These guys need to train on the equipment they're going to fight with," Newman said.

Cleric Sets Up Islamic Court in Pakistan, Threatens Suicide Bombings

By STEPHEN GRAHAM, Associated Press Writer Fri Apr 6, 1:44 PM ET

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan - In a bold challenge to the government, a firebrand cleric said Friday he had formed an Islamic court to enforce a Taliban-style vice campaign in the Pakistani capital, threatening suicide attacks if authorities try to stop him.

Thousands of followers of Maulana Abdul Aziz underlined their defiance by chanting "Our way is jihad!" and setting fire to hundreds of mainly Western DVDs and video cassettes outside Islamabad's Red Mosque.

Friday's events deepen a dilemma for President Gen. Pervez Musharraf: endure growing criticism for creeping "Talibanization" in Pakistan despite his alliance with the U.S., or force a potentially bloody showdown with fanatics who have grown under his rule.


Outrageous! Member of Congress Defies Bush by Going to Syria

Thursday, April 5th, 2007 in News by Eric Garris
But it wasn’t Nancy Pelosi.

A day after Pelosi’s well-publicized visit with Syrian President Bashar Assad, Republican Darrell Issa (CA) met with Assad saying that Bush had failed to promote the dialogue that is necessary to resolve disagreements between the US and Syria.

“That’s an important message to realize: We have tensions, but we have two functioning embassies,” Issa told reporters after separate meetings with Assad and Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem.

And a few days before Pelosi, three other Republican congressmen visited with Syria (Frank Wolf of Virginia, Joe Pitts of Pennsylvania, and Robert Aderholt of Alabama).

“I don’t care what the administration says on this. You gotta do what you think is in the best interest of your country,” said Republican Congressman Wolf.

An official statement issued by the delegation stated “We came because we believe there is an opportunity for dialogue. We are following in the lead of Ronald Reagan, who reached out to the Soviets during the Cold War.”


Cheney Sticks to His Delusions

Cheney is increasingly out of touch with reality. He seems to think that by asserting things that are simply untrue, he can make others believe they are so.
By Dan FroomkinSpecial to washingtonpost.comFriday, April 6, 2007; 1:20 PM
Faced with overwhelming evidence to the contrary, even President Bush has backed off his earlier inflammatory assertions about links between al-Qaeda and Saddam Hussein.

But Vice President Cheney yesterday, in an interview with right-wing talk radio host Rush Limbaugh, continued to stick to his delusional guns.
Cheney told Limbaugh that Abu Musab al-Zarqawi was leading al-Qaeda operations in Iraq before the U.S. invasion in March 2003.

"[A]fter we went into Afghanistan and shut him down there, he went to Baghdad, took up residence there before we ever launched into Iraq; organized the al-Qaeda operations inside Iraq before we even arrived on the scene, and then, of course, led the charge for Iraq until we killed him last June. He's the guy who arranged the bombing of the Samarra Mosque that precipitated the sectarian violence between Shia and Sunni. This is al-Qaeda operating in Iraq," Cheney said. "And as I say, they were present before we invaded Iraq." (Think Progress has the audio clip.)

But Cheney's narrative is wrong from beginning to end. For instance, Zarqawi was not an al-Qaeda member until after the war. Rather, intelligence sources now agree, he was the leader of an unaffiliated terrorist group who occasionally associated with al-Qaeda adherents. And although he worked hard to inflame sectarian violence after the invasion, he certainly didn't start it.

As it happens, just in case anyone needed more evidence of the spuriousness of Cheney's views, yesterday also marked the release of yet another report confirming that that al-Qaeda and Saddam Hussein's government were not working together before the invasion.

The report also further documents how Cheney willfully ignored reliable intelligence in favor of broadcasting invented assertions emerging from a rogue Defense Department office -- a habit he apparently has yet to break.

Moderate Republicans Applaud Dem-led House On Key Legislation

New York Times April 7, 2007 10:42 AM

If the Democratic ascendance on Capitol Hill was supposed to usher in dark days for Republicans, it is hard to tell from talking to moderate ones like Mike Ferguson, who represents a suburban district in central New Jersey.

As the new Democrat-led House rushed to complete its business before adjourning for spring break this week, Representative Ferguson was marveling at the many bills that had been passed in Congress's first 100 days, including one that would make it easier for unions to organize and another that would increase the minimum wage.


Oil Executive Paid More Than $400 Million Last Year

Reuters April 7, 2007 09:43 PM

Occidental Petroleum Corp.'s (NYSE:OXY - news) chairman and chief executive took in more than $400 million in compensation last year, the company said in a filing, one of the biggest single-year payouts in U.S. corporate history.

The largest part of Ray Irani's 2006 payout was $270.2 million from the exercise of options awarded from 1997 to 2006, representing more than 7.1 million shares, according to the company's annual proxy statement, which was filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission in March.


Bush Heads Back To Ranch

GAO Report Examines Iraqi Force Independence

The nation's primary federal watchdog agency says Iraqis need better logisticians to procure supply and maintain equipment to become independent from US forces and what the US Department of Defense defines as an international coalition. The report from the General Accountability Office assumes that Iraqis have a structure capable of functioning as a free-standing military force representing Iraq. In fact, according to the Department of Defense, the Iraqi forces referred to in the report are organized, armed and funded by the US force in Iraq, and operate entirely under direct US military supervision.


Scientific Panel Issues Devastating Climate Change Report

From the poles to the tropics, the earth's climate and ecosystems are already being shaped by the atmospheric buildup of greenhouse gases and face inevitable, possibly profound, alteration, the world's leading scientific panel on climate change said Friday.


Iraq's Health Index Worst in Over Half a Century

Iraqis surviving violence are not so sure they can also survive disease. "Iraq was known to be the best in healthcare in the region," Dr. Iyad Muhammad from Ramadi General Hospital told IPS. "Best doctors, hospitals, nurses and cheapest medicines. The situation now is the opposite."

Link Here

Pentagon report says no link between Saddam and Al-Qaeda :

Interrogations of Saddam Hussein and seized documents confirmed the former Iraqi regime had no links with Al-Qaeda, a Pentagon report said Friday, contradicting the US case for the 2003 invasion.


Report outlines Pentagon effort to link Iraq, al Qaeda:

Declassified memo shows how officials shaped intelligence

No Saddam Aal-Qaida Link: Full Pentagon Report:

A PDF of the Pentagon inspector general report

Pentagon Officer Created Phony Intel on Iraq/al-Qaeda Link:

Newly released documents confirm that a Pentagon unit knowingly cooked up intelligence claiming a direct link between Iraq and al-Qaeda in order to win support for a preemptive strike against the country.
Cheney Reasserts al-Qaida-Saddam Link:

Vice President Dick Cheney repeated his assertions lies of al-Qaida links to Saddam Hussein's Iraq on Thursday as the Defense Department released a report citing more evidence that the prewar government did not cooperate with the terrorist group

Tony Blair's secret army:

Simon Basketter exposes how special British units in Iraq are run by the same man who commanded death squads in Northern Ireland


Freed sailors used as 'British propaganda'

The Hypocracy is downright deplorable, Remember Guantanamo,
these 15 have not been held for 5, 6 years without being charged with any crimes.
As Georgie So Arrogantly declared to the world, Bring it on, IRAN are showing, they can bring it on.
From correspondents in Tehran
April 07, 2007 05:08am

IRAN has described a news conference held by the UK's Ministry of Defence for sailors and marines freed by Tehran in which they spoke of "psychological" intimidation during their detention as "propaganda" overnight.

"The propaganda and the staged show can not cover up the British military's violation of the Islamic Republic of Iran sea border and their repeated illegal entry," foreign ministry spokesman Mohammad Ali Hosseini said.

The 15 British naval personnel held by Iran told how they were stripped, blindfolded and handcuffed as part of "psychological" intimidation during their detention, at a press conference with a large Union Jack flag as a backdrop.

A day after their return to Britain, the group said they feared for their lives if they resisted and were threatened with seven years in jail if they did not confess to being in Iranian waters.
But Mr Hosseni charged that it was the British authorities which had pressured the freed naval personnel to voice criticism of Iran following their release.

"The immediate transfer of the sailors to a military camp suggests that they were acting under orders," he said, referring to the naval personnel's transfer to a marines base in southwest England for debriefing.

Mr Hosseini accused British Prime Minister Tony Blair of "putting pressure" on the 15 sailors and marines.

Guantanamo Bay: Torture tale sidesteps Hicks gag

Torture claims in Hicks's citizenship forms
By Sally Neighbour
April 07, 2007 02:00am

Hicks torture details in UK citizenship application

Claims involve beating, torture and sexual abuse

Shown photos of beaten, bruised Mamdouh Habib

George Bush and Jerry Lewis in "At War with the Army"

Chris Kelly

Lam's new investigation might have tied Rep. Jerry Lewis to the lobbying firms and contributors he and Cunningham shared, and three decades of pork and kickbacks from defense contractors. Money they would have otherwise just wasted on Walter Reed.


Report: 14,000 New Nat Guard Set To Deploy To Iraq Through 2010

Reuters April 7, 2007 10:26 AM
The Pentagon has identified some 14,000 National Guard soldiers who may go to Iraq as part of planning for deployments stretching as far as 2010, a senior U.S. defense official said on Friday.

Some of the Guard soldiers, part of the U.S. military's reserve component, may face deployment far sooner than the Pentagon's goal of five years at home for every year they are mobilized, the official said.


A Child in War: Detaining Omar Khadr Violates Our Moral and Legal Principles

"When my co-counsel and I first visited Omar Khadr, our client in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, he was a gangly, somewhat awkward and shy, but friendly 18-year-old whose voice was changing. That was in November 2004, a few months after the Supreme Court had ruled, in Rasul v. Bush, that detainees at Guantanamo had a right to have access to lawyers and to the US courts,"
writes Rick Wilson.

Veteran Recounts Abuse At Walter Reed

Walter Reed Employee Who Fondled Iraq Vets, Boy Had Long History Of Abuse

Washington Post April 7, 2007 09:16 AM

Two months before Mario Alberto Echeverri administered a sleep disorder test to an Army corporal at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, the medical technician had been arrested for fondling the groin of a U.S. Park Police officer.

Seventeen months before, Echeverri had been observed touching a Walter Reed patient inappropriately and was warned against such behavior. Two years before, he had been accused of improperly touching a patient at a private sleep center in Gaithersburg.


Proud Active Duty Troops Speaking Out Against Iraq War

San Francisco Chronicle April 7, 2007 10:52 AM

Mike Ergo is a 23-year-old honorably discharged Marine who fought in Fallujah. A tattoo on the inside of his left forearm depicts the first insurgent he killed in Iraq. A tattoo on his right arm reads: "Born to Fight." He loves the Marines, is proud of what he and his colleagues did overseas and is on inactive ready reserve through July 2009.

Yet a few weeks ago, the Walnut Creek native marched near the front of the anti-war demonstration that rolled through San Francisco. Yeah, he said, it felt odd to march among the 9/11 conspiracy theorists and socialists. Still, Ergo said he'd march again to underscore his opposition to U.S. foreign policy in Iraq and would try to bring more than the handful of Iraq War veterans who demonstrated with him last month.


Between Good and Evil

By Gilad Atzmon

The battle between Ahmadinejad and Blair is not a political or diplomatic one, it is not about points. It is actually a clash between civilizations, but more than that, it seems to be a fight between humanism and cold pragmatism. As it emerges, in this battle, it is Ahmadinejad rather than Blair who reminds us where goodness rests.


Georgia Thompson acquitted, set free

The fraud conviction of Georgia Thompson, whose case became a political football in last fall's gubernatorial election, was overturned by a federal appeals court.

Klein rips Bush as 'unfit to lead' but pans impeachment

Mike SheehanPublished: Friday April 6, 2007
[UPDATE: See Klein's follow-up to his 'Time' column at end of this article.]

Time columnist Joe Klein has written a scathing critique of President Bush in the magazine's latest issue.

In a op-ed entitled "An Administration's Epic Collapse," Klein writes, "The three big Bush stories of 2007 -- the decision to 'surge' in Iraq, the scandalous treatment of wounded veterans at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center and the firing of eight U.S. Attorneys for tawdry political reasons -- precisely illuminate the three qualities that make this Administration one of the worst in American history."

Klein, who gained fame as the anonymous author of the Clinton-era political novel Primary Colors, lists the three qualities as arrogance, incompetence and cynicism.

"Iraq comes first, as always," he continues. "From the start, it has been obvious that personal motives have skewed the President's judgment about the war. ... But never was Bush's adolescent petulance more obvious than in his decision to ignore the Baker-Hamilton report and move in the exact opposite direction" by increasing the number of troops and using inappropriate strategy.

"There was no way he was going to accept [its findings] once the press began to portray the report as Daddy's friends coming to the rescue," Klein quotes a member of the Baker-Hamilton commission.

"General David Petraeus has repeatedly said, 'A military solution to Iraq is not possible,'" writes Klein. "Translation: This thing fails unless there is a political deal among the Shi'ites, Sunnis and Kurds. There is no such deal on the horizon, largely because of the President's aversion to talking to people he doesn't like."

Klein excoriates Bush over the Walter Reed scandal, particularly in the seemingly hypocritical way the president accused Democrats of favoring political battles at home over supporting troops abroad. "Such demagoguery is particularly outrageous given the Administration's inability to provide our troops 'what they need' at the nation's premier hospital for veterans," says Klein.

"The mold and decrepitude at Walter Reed are likely to be only the beginning of the tragedy, the latest example of incompetence in this Administration," Klein continues. He quotes a veterans activist who says, "The entire VA hospital system is unprepared for the casualties of Iraq, especially the psychiatric casualties. A lot of vets are saying, 'This is our Katrina moment.' And they're right: this Administration governs badly because it doesn't care very much about governing."

"His hyper-partisanship has proved to be a travesty of governance and a comprehensive failure," Klein says of Bush. "I've tried to be respectful of the man and the office, but the three defining sins of the Bush Administration are congenital... They're not likely to change.
"[I]t is increasingly difficult," concludes Klein, "to imagine yet another two years of slow bleed with a leader so clearly unfit to lead."

Despite the rancor expressed in his critique, and reacting to the perception in some corners that he was obliquely condoning the indictment and removal of the president, Klein vigorously denied hinting at impeachment in a follow-up post at Time's Swampland blog.

"There are no 'high crimes' here," writes Klein. "Just a really bad presidency. In fact, I consider impeachment talk counterproductive and slightly nutso."

Klein's full Time column is available at this link.


Army may not be able to prosecute 'criminal' contractors

Michael RostonPublished: Friday April 6, 2007

A presentation prepared by the US Army shows that there still exist situations in which the military may not be able to prosecute private contractors who commit crimes.

This slide, with explanatory documentation, was publicized today by Secrecy News, a publication of the Federation of American Scientists Project on Government Secrecy.

"Contractors accompanying U.S. military forces in Iraq or elsewhere who commit crimes may be beyond the reach of law enforcement...because the Defense Department has not yet updated its regulations to conform to a Congressional mandate, resulting in a 'gap' in legal jurisdiction," wrote Steven Aftergood, the project's director.

The presentation of the Combined Arms Support Command's Training Division noted that liability and accountability for contractors is often set in advance. But in some cases, Army law may not apply.

"A gap may emerge where the contractor personnel are not subject to the UCMJ (only in time of declared war) and the contractor commits an offense in an area that is not subject to the jurisdiction of an allied government (for example, an offense committed in enemy territory). In such cases, the contractor's crime may go unpunished," the explanatory notes say.

Although legislation last year expanded military law enforcement to cover contractors, the Defense Department has yet to issue regulations implementing the legislation.

"Given the lack of DoD implementation guidance, this [Training Support Package] does not include discussion on UCMJ authority over contractor personnel except in times of declared war and over retired military personnel," it adds.

Aftergood's note on the slides, with access to the source documents, are accessible at the FAS blog.


Edwards Says No To Fox Debate: "No Reason... To Give Fox A Platform To Advance The Right-Wing Agenda"

Talking Points Memo April 6, 2007 06:23 PM

"We just called the CBC to let them know that we're looking forward to their January debate with CNN but we're not going to participate in the proposed debate with Fox. The CBC champions critical issues that matter enormously to the future of our country, and we look forward to discussing them throughout this campaign and at their debate in January. But we believe there's just no reason for Democrats to give Fox a platform to advance the right-wing agenda while pretending they're objective. If there was any uncertainty as to Fox's objectivity, it was put to rest when they attacked Democratic candidates, Democratic constituency groups, and the Nevada Democratic party when their last proposed debate was cancelled for lack of support."


Friend Who Trained With Prince William Killed In Iraq

AP April 6, 2007 05:33 PM

A British female soldier killed by a roadside bomb in Iraq was a close friend of Prince William, a spokesman for the royal family said Friday.

Second Lt. Joanna Yorke Dyer, 24, was among four soldiers killed when a British patrol was attacked early Thursday in the southern Iraqi city of Basra.


Top Aides To Bible-Quoting US Attorney Step Down In Protest

My Fox Twin Cities April 6, 2007 12:25 PM

It's a major shakeup at the offices of new U.S. Attorney Rachel Paulose. Four of her top staff voluntarily demoted themselves Thursday, fed up with Paulose, who, after just months on the job, has earned a reputation for quoting Bible verses and dressing down underlings.

Deputy U.S. Attorney John Marty is just one of the people dropping themselves in rank to simply a U.S. Attorney position. Also making the move are the heads of Paulose's criminal and civil divisions and the top administrative officer.


US Attorneys Resign Amid Scandal

Associated Press April 6, 2007 07:46 PM

Three lawyers in the U.S. Attorney's office in Minneapolis resigned their management posts, moves that gained national attention against the backdrop of claims top federal prosecutors elsewhere were fired for political reasons.

U.S. Attorney Rachel Paulose confirmed Friday that John Marti, a first assistant U.S. attorney, Erika Mozangue, head of the office's civil division, and James Lackner, who heads the office's criminal division, have decided to "go back to the line to be full-time prosecutors."


UN Warming Report "A Near-Apocalyptic Vision Of The Earth's Future"

Los Angeles Times April 6, 2007 06:51 PM

A new global warming report issued today by the United Nations paints a near-apocalyptic vision of the Earth's future if temperatures continue to rise unabated: more than a billion people in desperate need of water, extreme food shortages in Africa and elsewhere, a blighted landscape ravaged by fires and floods, and millions of species sentenced to extinction.

The devastating effects will strike all regions of the world and all levels of society, but it will be those without the resources to adapt to the coming changes who will suffer the greatest impact, the report said.


Gonzales' Top Aide Resigns After Taking The Fifth

AP April 6, 2007 04:47 PM

The top aide to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales abruptly quit on Friday, almost two weeks after telling Congress she would not testify about her role in the firings of federal prosecutors.

"I am hereby submitting my resignation to the office of attorney general," Monica M. Goodling said in a three-sentence letter. There was no immediate reason given, but her refusal to face Congress had intensified a controversy that threatens Gonzales' job.


McCain "Regrets" Iraq Remarks, But "That's Life"

Friday, April 06, 2007

So, what's cooking ?

Layla Anwar, An Arab Woman Blues

...After the customary greetings, the subject naturally took the direction it was expected to take...The Occupation. Different faces, different names but the same stories repeating themselves endlessly, painfully, tediously, sometimes to the the point of banality. Who got killed, who got tortured, who got kidnapped, who fled, who emigrated, who lost his job, who lost an arm, who lost an eye, who lost a leg, who lost a husband, a son, a daughter...security, electricity, water, the government... The usual stuff, courtesy of the American occupation. And of course every single woman present, had a story to tell…

continua / continued

3 federal prosecutors quit manager posts

Source: Star Tribune (Minneapolis)

They left their management jobs with the Minnesota U.S. Attorney's Office and will go back to prosecuting cases.

By Dan Browning and Pam Louwagie, Star Tribune

Last update: April 06, 2007 – 12:01 AM

In a surprising move, three top lawyers in the Minnesota U.S. Attorney's Office resigned their management positions Thursday and will return to prosecuting cases.

The resignations of the first assistant U.S. attorney, who is second in command, and the chiefs of both the criminal and civil divisions of the office, were communicated internally late Thursday afternoon, according to a source with direct knowledge of the events. The job changes followed a visit to the office by a representative from the Executive Office of the U.S. Attorney in Washington, D.C.

The resignations are certain to raise questions, especially in light of the controversy surrounding U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and the way the Bush administration replaced eight U.S. attorneys around the country since August

"It's just absolutely extraordinary that these three top managers would voluntarily demote themselves," said one defense attorney knowledgeable about the office. "I mean, it's a rank cut. ... And then it would be a salary cut, too."


(Orlando) Florida police arrest activist for feeding homeless

Thu Apr 5, 2007 2:12pm ET137

MIAMI (Reuters) - Police in Florida have arrested an activist for feeding the homeless in downtown Orlando.

Eric Montanez, 21, of the charity group Food Not Bombs, was charged with violating a controversial law against feeding large groups of destitute people in the city center, police said on Thursday.

Montanez was filmed by undercover officers on Wednesday as he served "30 unidentified persons food from a large pot utilizing a ladle," according to an arrest affidavit. The Orlando area is home to Disney World and Universal Studios Florida.

The Orlando law, which is supported by local business owners who say the homeless drive away customers but has been challenged in court by civil rights groups, allows charities to feed more than 25 people at a time within two miles of Orlando city hall only if they have a special permit. They can get two permits a year.


If Bush Could Give the Man who Murdered a Senator's Mom a Recess Appointment, He'd Do It

By Cameron ScottBush appointed Sam Fox, a major donor to Swift Boat Veterans for Truth—whose nomination he'd been forced to withdraw. Who were the other two appointees? It just gets better.

From the MoJo Blog

For years now, George W. Bush and Dick Cheney have acted as if their extraordinary powers extend to inventing reality itself. And despite some recent reversals, they seem to believe they can still fool much of the American public most of the time. Their latest Iraq War lies are a medley of old and new favorites, from Cheney's continued insistence of a pre-war al-Qaeda connection to Iraq and Bush's latest whopper about how wrong it is for politicians to tell commanders what to do, after he just ousted generals opposed to his "surge." April 6, 2007

Curious Coincidences Over Fate of Iranians Kidnapped in Iraq

Tehran's liberation on Wednesday, April 4, of fifteen British sailors has "nothing to do" with the liberation twenty-four hours earlier of an Iranian diplomat who mysteriously disappeared two months ago in Iraq. Neither does it have anything to do with the announcement a few hours later in Tehran that five other Iranian "diplomats," captured by the American Army January 11 in Iraq, will receive a visit by an adviser from their Iraq embassy.


Justice Department In New Fight Over Papers on Firings

The Justice Department is refusing to release hundreds of pages of additional documents related to the firings of eight US attorneys, setting up a fresh clash with Capitol Hill in a controversy that continues to threaten Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales's hold on his position.


Few Americans Trust Military or Media for Information on Iraq: Poll

Most Americans have little or no confidence in the information they receive from the military or the media about the situation in Iraq, according to a poll released Thursday.


Chlorine Truck Bomber Kills 27 in Ramadi

A suicide bomber driving a truck loaded with TNT and toxic chlorine gas crashed into a police checkpoint in western Ramadi on Friday, killing at least 27 and wounding dozens, police in the Anbar provincial capital said.


Anguish on Wall Street as European Stock Markets Push US Off Pole Position

The value of European stock markets has eclipsed that of the US. The moment slipped past unnoticed last Thursday, but make no mistake, it was a historic occasion.


Ties Between the Bush Family and Osama bin Laden

Investigations link the Bush family and Osama bin Laden. When the Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI) scandal began to break in the late 1980s, the Bush Sr. administration did what it could to sit on it. But evidence about BCCI's broader links exist in numerous US and international investigations. Inter Press Service suggests that Congress take another look at the BCCI-Osama-Saddam-Saudi-Bush connection.


The American Tragedy of John McCain

William Rivers Pitt writes: "Arizona Senator John McCain took a walk through a Baghdad market on April Fool's Day, and may well have burned his presidential campaign down to the ground in the process. That little stroll has visited upon his head a deluge of humiliation and shame vast and astonishing enough to beggar imagination, and that was before the bodies started hitting the ground."


Hmmmmmm Interesting Go vote

The 1st Quarter fundraising results are in, and Obama's results are amazing given that Hillary and Bill Clinton have built their national fundraising network over 20 years, while Obama built his overnight. And while Clinton slightly outraised Obama in dollars, Obama had twice as many donors. But John Edwards also did extremely well - all three candidates broke the previous Democratic record.

But money doesn't elect Presidents, voters elect Presidents. So looking at announced candidates only (sorry Gore fans!), who do you want to be the Democratic nominee in 2008?


Note: if you do not have a Democrats.com login you'll need to create one to vote. If you can't remember your login/password, enter your email address


Gonzales Asked For "Full And Complete Account" Of Attorney Firings

NY Times DAVID JOHNSTON April 6, 2007 09:09 AM

The chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee asked Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales on Thursday to provide the panel with a written account of his role in last year's dismissals of eight United States attorneys at least two days before his scheduled April 17 testimony.

In a letter to Mr. Gonzales, the chairman, Senator Patrick J. Leahy, Democrat of Vermont, requested "a full and complete account of the development of the plan to replace United States attorneys, and all the specifics of your role in connection with that matter."


Cheney vs. The Pentagon

AP April 6, 2007 09:09 AM

Vice President Dick Cheney repeated his assertions of al-Qaida links toSaddam Hussein's Iraq on Thursday as the Defense Department released a report citing more evidence that the prewar government did not cooperate with the terrorist group.

Cheney contended that al-Qaida was operating in Iraq before the March 2003 invasion led by U.S. forces and that terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi was leading the Iraqi branch of al-Qaida. Others in al-Qaida planned the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.


Bush conjures up tortured defense of executive privilege

By DeWayne Wickham
Tue Apr 3, 8:23 AM ET

George W. Bush isn't the first president to make the case for executive privilege. He just does it badly.

His assertion that he has a right to keep secret the advice he gets from his staff is about as rational as the proverbial person who cuts off his nose to spite his face.

Bush has invoked executive privilege in refusing to allow his political adviser, Karl Rove, and his former counsel, Harriet Miers, to testify under oath before a Senate panel about their involvement in the recent firings of eight U.S. attorneys. Instead, Bush said he'll allow them to be interviewed in private by senators, as long as they are not placed under oath - and no transcript is made of what they say.

Some Republicans have been quick to point out that forcing Rove and Miers to take an oath before they testify is not necessary because lying to Congress with or without it is a crime. But the real sticking point here is Bush's demand that there be no transcription of this unsworn testimony.

Can you see where I'm going with this? If what Bush's people tell the senators is neither sworn nor recorded, there is no good way to test the truthfulness of what they said.

What, no transcript?


A MAJOR UN scientific report has warned global warming will cause faster and wider damage than previously forecast, ranging from hunger in Africa and Asia to species extinction and rising ocean levels.

'My Name Used to Be 200343'

If they can do this to a former Navy man and an American, what is happening to people in facilities all over the world run by the American government?"
A year ago, Donald Vance learned what its like to be falsely accused by the U.S. military of aiding terrorists. He was held without charge for more than three months in a high-security prison in Iraq, and interrogated daily after sleepless nights without legal counsel or even a phone call to his family.

On Wednesday, the former private security contractor was honored for his ordeal in Washington and for speaking out against the incident. At a luncheon at the National Press Club, Vance received the Ridenhour Prize for Truth-Telling, an award named in memory of Army helicopter gunner Ron Ridenhour who struggled to bring the horrific mass murders at My Lai to the attention of Congress and the Pentagon during the Vietnam War.

Vance was joined by former president Jimmy Carter, who won a lifetime achievement award, and journalist Rajiv Chandrasekaran of the Washington Post who was recognized for his recent book, Imperial Life in the Emerald City: Inside Iraq's Green Zone.

As hundreds at the luncheon finished their lobster salad, Vance, a two-time George W. Bush voter and Navy veteran, recounted the events of his imprisonment and the grief of his fiancé and family. They did not know if he was alive or dead, he said. They were already making inquiries to the U.S. State Department on how to ship his body home.

He then drew a wider circle around his ordeal to include the countless others who have been held falsely without charge and denied normal legal constitutional protections under law. "My name used to be 200343," Vance said recalling his prisoner ID. "If they can do this to a former Navy man and an American, what is happening to people in facilities all over the world run by the American government?"

Vance's nightmare began last year on Apr. 15 when he and coworker Nathan Ertel barricaded themselves in a Baghdad office after their employer, an Iraqi private security firm, took away their ID tags. They feared for their lives because they suspected the company was involved in selling unauthorized guns on the black market and other nefarious activity. A U.S. military squad freed them from the red zone in Baghdad after a friend at the U.S. embassy advised him to call for help.

Once they reached the U.S.-controlled Green Zone, government officials took them inside the embassy, listened to their individual accounts and then sent them to a trailer outside for sleep. Two or three hours later, before the crack of dawn, U.S. military personnel woke them. This time, however, Vance and Ertel, Shield Security's contract manager, were under arrest. Soldiers bound their wrists with zip ties and covered their eyes with goggles blacked out with duct tape.

The two were then escorted to a humvee and driven first to possibly Camp Prosperity and then to Camp Cropper, a high-security prison near the Baghdad airport where Saddam Hussein was once kept. Vance says he was denied the usual body armor and helmet while traveling through the perilous Baghdad streets outside the safety of the Green Zone or a U.S. military installation.

Iraqis examine a crater after a road side bomb struck a British patrol in Basra, Iraq, 550 kilometers (340 miles) southeast of Baghdad, Thursday, April 5, 2007. Four British soldiers and a Kuwaiti interpreter were killed Thursday in an ambush in southern Iraq, the British military said. The patrol struck a roadside bomb and was hit by small-arms fire about 2 a.m. in the Hayaniyah district west of Basra, 550 kilometers (340 miles) southeast of Baghdad, British military spokeswoman Capt. Katie Brown said. (AP Photo)

The Real Crime in The David Hicks Case

Any Legal System in Which a Supposed Deadly Terrorist Goes Free by Admitting His Crime is a Disgrace.
by Ben Wizner
Published on Thursday, April 5, 2007 by The Los Angeles Times
With the guilty plea and sentencing of Australian David Hicks before a military commission at Guantanamo Bay last week, the United States achieved something it had not attempted since Nuremberg: the conviction of a foreign citizen in a military tribunal for violation of the laws of war. As in Nuremberg, it was not just the detainee on trial but the military commission system itself. The legitimacy of the enterprise hinges on whether the U.S. demonstrates to the world that it can provide impartial justice to those it accuses of war crimes.

I traveled to Guantanamo to observe the Hicks proceedings, and to say that they lacked the dignity and gravitas of Nuremberg is to engage in colossal understatement. The military commissions have been a profoundly unserious legal exercise from the start. The prison at Guantanamo was fashioned as an island outside the reach of U.S. law, and the commissions were devised to provide an illusion of legal process.

If that sounds extreme, consider the Hicks case. The defendant traveled to Pakistan and Afghanistan, joined with extremists and was captured in December 2001. Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld later said he was among the world’s most dangerous terrorists.

Hicks was first charged by a military tribunal in 2004 - accused of conspiring to commit acts of terrorism, attempted murder and aiding the enemy - but the executive order creating those tribunals was declared illegal by the Supreme Court last year. So Congress passed the Military Commissions Act, and Hicks was charged again, this time solely with providing “material support” to a designated terrorist organization. He struck a plea bargain.

Last Friday night, after a jury of senior military officers sentenced Hicks to seven years in prison, we all learned the details of that agreement: Hicks will serve a mere nine months - a sentence more in keeping with a misdemeanor than with a grave terrorist offense.

This stunning turn of events highlights a cruelly ironic feature of detention at Guantanamo. In an ordinary justice system, the accused must be acquitted to be released. In Guantanamo, the accused must plead guilty to be released - because even if he is acquitted, he remains an “enemy combatant” subject to indefinite detention. Only by striking a deal does a detainee stand a chance of getting out.

And so, the lone Guantanamo detainee who has admitted guilt will be in Australia within 60 days and free before the end of the year. Meanwhile, about 385 others who have not been accused of a crime may remain in detention until the cessation of hostilities in the “war on terror” - a distant abstraction, not an actual event.

In the plea deal, Hicks was required to affirm that he had not been “illegally treated” while in U.S. custody, but those words are meaningless. Hicks earlier alleged that he was brutally abused when he was turned over to U.S. forces in Afghanistan. But in the Bush administration’s view, that treatment was not “illegal” at the time unless, in the words of the notorious Justice Department memo, it inflicted pain equivalent to “serious physical injury, such as organ failure, impairment of bodily function or death.” Thus, in denying that he had been “illegally treated,” Hicks in no way denied that he had been abused.

Moreover, in a highly unusual provision, the agreement requires that Hicks not speak to the media for a year. Gag rules are not imposed to prevent people from telling lies; they are imposed to prevent people from telling the truth - in this case, how Hicks was treated after his capture and during his detainment.

What are we to make of this? How did the very first case brought before a military commission - a system we were told was necessary because of the danger and impracticality of prosecuting arch-terrorists in U.S. courts - result in a sentence of only nine months?

If Hicks is even remotely as menacing as the United States once asserted, then the government is grossly negligent to permit his release on these terms. But no one believes that to be the case. Instead, it is widely understood that the government made extravagant claims that simply could not withstand scrutiny. No wonder the administration has fought so vigorously to deprive Guantanamo detainees of the bedrock right of habeas corpus - the right to challenge unlawful detention in court.

This week, the Supreme Court declined to review a challenge to the Military Commissions Act, which stripped federal courts of jurisdiction to hear habeas corpus challenges filed by “enemy combatants.” So justice for the detainees at Guantanamo will be delayed for at least one more year. Meanwhile, David Hicks - once deemed among the worst of the worst - will be home and free, an unwitting symbol of our shameful abandonment of the rule of law.
Ben Wizner is an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union.

© Copyright 2007 Los Angeles Times

America's Broken-Down Army

For most Americans, the Iraq war is both distant and never ending. For Private Matthew Zeimer, it was neither. Shortly after midnight on Feb. 2, Zeimer had his first taste of combat as he scrambled to the roof of the 3rd Infantry Division's Combat Outpost Grant in central Ramadi. Under cover of darkness, Sunni insurgents were attacking his new post from nearby buildings. Amid the smoke, noise and confusion, a blast suddenly ripped through the 3-ft. concrete wall shielding Zeimer and a fellow soldier, killing them both. Zeimer had been in Iraq for a week. He had been at his first combat post for two hours.

If Zeimer's combat career was brief, so was his training. He enlisted last June at age 17, three weeks after graduating from Dawson County High School in eastern Montana. After finishing nine weeks of basic training and additional preparation in infantry tactics in Oklahoma, he arrived at Fort Stewart, Ga., in early December. But Zeimer had missed the intense four-week pre-Iraq training—a taste of what troops will face in combat—that his 1st Brigade comrades got at their home post in October. Instead, Zeimer and about 140 other members of the 4,000-strong brigade got a cut-rate, 10-day course on weapon use, first aid and Iraqi culture. That's the same length as the course that teaches soldiers assigned to generals' household staffs the finer points of table service.


2,252 victims of violence buried in ’mass graves’ in Karbala

Muslim Abdulhameed, Azzaman

The government is burying en mass hundreds of bodies of victims of violence which have been lying in Baghdad morgue for several months. Government sources, refusing to be named for fear or retribution said, said at least 2,252 bodies have been buried in the Shiite holy city of Karbala. But the government itself is making no secret of the burials. A government-related website said on Wednesday that 93 more bodies were buried in Karbala (...) The dead were victims of current sectarian strife in the country. It is not clear why so many bodies had remained in the morgue for so long period without anyone asking for them. During interviews, residents of some of Baghdad’s most violent neighborhoods said many relatives of the victims were killed at the morgue as they were trying to retrieve the bodies. In other instances the victims had either all members of their families killed or forced to flee their areas. Claiming a body from a morgue in Iraq is a dangerous endeavor and occasionally families have to pay militias huge sums of money to help them retrieve the dead bodies of beloved ones...

continua / continued

And Iraq's big oil contracts go to ...

-- Afghan police say at least four people killed in explosion in Afghanistan's capital, news services report.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Special Counsel Investigates GSA Chief For Use Of Gov't Funds To Help GOP Candidates

ABC News Justin Rood April 5, 2007 09:34 PM

Another federal investigation is targeting a Bush administration official, this time for possibly using government resources for partisan political purposes.

The Office of Special Counsel confirmed to ABC News it has launched an investigation into General Services Administration chief Lurita Doan, probing concerns she may have violated a ban against conducting partisan political activity at government expense by participating in a meeting featuring a presentation by a White House political aide on GOP election strategy.


Pentagon Report Confirms Hussein Was Not Cooperating With Al Qaeda

Are you taking notice America? No WMDs, No cooperating with Al Qaeda.
Who is the Terrorist now, Sadam or Bush who invaded and occupied a Sovereign Nation based on lies
Washington Post R. Jeffrey Smith April 5, 2007 11:13 PM

Captured Iraqi documents and intelligence interrogations of Saddam Hussein and two former aides "all confirmed" that Hussein's regime was not directly cooperating with al-Qaeda before the U.S. invasion of Iraq, according to a declassified Defense Department report released yesterday.

The declassified version of the report, by acting Inspector General Thomas F. Gimble, also contains new details about the intelligence community's prewar consensus that the Iraqi government and al-Qaeda figures had only limited contacts, and its judgments that reports of deeper links were based on dubious or unconfirmed information. The report had been released in summary form in February.


Aussie tells of cruise ship terror

Cruise ship hits rocks, takes on water

Australians among rescued passengers

Tourists climb down rope ladders to escape
2:27pm: A MAN and his daughter remain unaccounted for after more than 1600 people were evacuated from the Sea Diamond cruise ship when it hit rocks and began to sink near a Greek island today.

US secretary of defense says Iranian "detainees" will not be released :

US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said that the United States was not planning to release the five Iranians arrested in January in a raid on the Iranian consulate's office in the northern Iraqi city of Arbil.

U.S. Helped Free Iranian Diplomat:

The Iranian diplomat released Tuesday preceding the announcement that Iran would free the 15 British sailors it had taken hostage was being held in a joint Iraqi and American facility, and was released in part because of a decision at the highest levels of the American government.

'We Gathered Intelligence:

Sky News went on patrol with Captain Chris Air and his team in Iraqi waters close to the area where they were arrested - just five days before the crisis began. We withheld the interview until now so it would not jeopardise their safety.

Celebrating Iraqis parade macabre souvenirs:

Iraqis celebrated the death of four British soldiers in a roadside bomb by parading the victims' helmets and equipment. The disturbing scenes came after the four were ambushed while on patrol in Basra last night.


25% of UK Iraq aid budget goes to security firms:

The UK has spent £165m on hiring private security companies in Iraq in the past four years - the equivalent to around a quarter of the entire Iraq aid budget, it has emerged. A further £43m has been spent on private guards in Afghanistan since 2004


Hang Up on War

By Amy Goodman

If you are upset that Congress won't defund the war in Iraq, there's something you can do: Stop paying a tax. Legally.


Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence

By Rev. Martin Luther King -Speech delivered by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., on April 4, 1967

"A time comes when silence is betrayal." That time has come for us in relation to Vietnam.- - I knew that I could never again raise my voice against the violence of the oppressed in the ghettos without having first spoken clearly to the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today -- my own government. For the sake of those boys, for the sake of this government, for the sake of hundreds of thousands trembling under our violence, I cannot be silent.

Audio and transcript

Senator Feinstein's War Profiteering

Democratic Blood Money

By Joshua Frank

Here's a brief rundown of the Feinstein family's blatant war profiteering


‘Strangely Quiet’ Scene As Bush Visits Base Where Medically-Unfit Troops Were Deployed

Ohhhhhh Boy feeling LONELY, there georgie, I can fell the chill over here. Yesterday, President Bush visited Fort Irwin, California, the main desert training camp where most U.S. soldiers are sent before deployment to Iraq or Afghanistan. Bush told the troops:

Ours is a remarkable country when people volunteer to serve our country in a time of war. The amazing thing about our United States military is thousands and thousands have signed up knowing full well that we’re a nation at war. The government didn’t say, you have to do this, you chose to do it on your own. You decided to put your country ahead of self in many ways.

That message must have resonated in a unique way for some of the soldiers present. As Salon.com’s Mark Benjamin reported recently, Fort Irwin is where some soldiers with debilitating injuries and other medical conditions, including female soldiers who were pregnant, were deployed for weeks:

Hernandez is one of a dozen soldiers who stayed for weeks in those tents who were interviewed for this report, some of whose medical records were also reviewed by Salon. All of the soldiers said they had no business being sent to Fort Irwin given their physical condition. In some cases, soldiers were sent there even though their injuries were so severe that doctors had previously recommended they should be considered for medical retirement from the Army.

Military experts say they suspect that the deployment to Fort Irwin of injured soldiers was an effort to pump up manpower statistics used to show the readiness of Army units. With the military increasingly strained after four years of war, Army readiness has become a critical part of the debate over Iraq.

As Steve Benen noted, Bush’s remarks to the soldiers yesterday hardly produced the rally-like atmosphere of years past. Reuters reported that troops “sat quietly at their lunch tables, some joined by family members, as Bush spoke.” The Houston Chronicle’s Julie Mason described the event as “less than a rally, more than a stare-down,” and said the troops were “strangely quiet.”


Questions Linger About Bush, Bin Laden And BCCI.

Analysis by Lucy Komisar

The link between Hussein and Bin Laden was their banker, BCCI. But the link went beyond the dictator and the jihadist -- it passed through Saudi Arabia and stretched all the way to George W. Bush and his father.


Swamp Rat

Thu Apr-05-07 09:16

The British soldiers were used as models for Ahmadinejad's Spring collection!

Obama Earns Almost $500,000 In 24 Hours After Fund-Raising Announcement

Chicago Tribune John McCormick April 5, 2007 05:34 PM

In political fundraising, success often yields more success.

In the 24-hour period following Wednesday morning's announcement that his campaign raised $25 million during the first quarter, Sen. Barack Obama's presidential campaign says it has taken in an additional $435,000 via the Internet. The campaign says the contributions came from more than 4,600 people, including nearly 4,300 who had not previously given.


Over 50 US Military Helicopters Downed In Iraq Since Invasion

BBC News April 5, 2007 08:04 PM

A US helicopter has come down in southern Iraq after apparently coming under heavy fire from insurgents, according to reports by witnesses.

They said the helicopter came under attack near Latifiya, 40km (25 miles) south of the capital, Baghdad.


Dems Call For Investigation Of

He's the decider right? Bush Actions “Deceptive At Best And Illegal At Worst”
Associated Press Anne Flaherty April 5, 2007 06:52 PM

Democrats called for an investigation Thursday into whether President Bush acted illegally in appointing Sam Fox ambassador to Belgium.

A day earlier, Bush named Republican fundraiser Fox to the post as a recess appointment -- a maneuver that allowed him to bypass Congress, where Democrats had derailed his nomination.


Ford CEO Paid $39.1 Million for Four Months

Alan Mulally, who succeeded Bill Ford last year as chief executive of Ford Motor Company, received compensation valued at $39.1 million in his four months on the job in 2006, including an $18.5 million bonus related to his signing and awards he gave up when he left his previous employer Boeing Company, according to a regulatory filing Thursday.

Link Here

Friking Wanker, that is exactly what is wrong with the losers, and their leaders running the military today

Now, please can you imagine, your Commander in Chief fighting off the Iranians, I sure as hell wouldn't hold my breath waiting, or you'll would be dead. He's only good at killing or brutalizing those that can't fight back to protect themselves US naval chief: Our troops would have fought off Iranians
Published: Thursday April 5, 2007

The US naval chief said Thursday he thought US military personnel would have fought against Iranian forces and not been taken prisoner as were 15 recently freed Britons.
Asked if a situation like the one faced by the British sailors and marines who were just released after being held by Tehran could have happened to US sailors, Admiral Michael Mullen, chief of Naval operations told CNN television: "My expectation is that American sailors are never seized in a situation like that.

"Individuals and units are guided by the right of self-defense, they don't have to ask permission to take action to protect themselves. And they go into operations like this, and missions like this, with that understanding," he said.

Fifteen British naval personnel held by Iran for 13 days flew home to emotional welcomes Thursday at the end of a standoff that British Prime Minister Tony Blair said had been resolved without "any deal."

But there were questions amid the celebrations, after Tehran said it had received an apology from Britain, a key demand it made for releasing the seven marines and eight sailors.

The Britons were flown by two military helicopters to a military base in Devon, southwest England, after arriving on a scheduled British Airways flight from Tehran at London's main Heathrow airport.

The 14 men and one woman looked relaxed and were seen smiling and hugging each other in the sunshine outside the officers' mess at Royal Marines Base Chivenor, before being reunited with their families.

The standoff over whether the Britons were in Iranian waters further damaged ties between Tehran and the West already frayed by Iran's nuclear program and sent world oil prices to a seven month high.

The Chief of Naval Operations is the senior military officer of the Department of the Navy.

Hard evidence is mounting that CheneyBush is spoiling for a fight with Iran. Iran knows it and yet must maintain what the ayatollahs and mullahs believe is integrity. This could be a crucial week according to sources on the ground in Israel.

President Bush's actions prove not only has he made significant and substantial mistakes in the creation and escalation of the war in Iraq, but that it is he and his Administration, not the war protestors and Democratic party, who has failed to support the troops.
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