Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Veterans D. C. Protest

Iraq Veterans Against The War Lead

March and Civil Disobedience in Washington DC

On September 15th, tens of thousands of people rallied at Lafayette Park in Washington DC, in the United States, and then marched from the White House to the US Capitol to demand an immediate end to the occupation of Iraq. The march and rally were organized by the ANSWER Coalition, Iraq Veterans Against the War and many other organizations with the theme that: "Protesting is not enough. Come for the rally, stay for a week of direct action."

The protest culminated with hundreds of people participating in a "die-in" surrounding the Capitol. More than 193 protestors were individually arrested after crossing a short barrier surrounding the Capitol. Many members of the Iraq Veterans Against the War contingent were arrested, including family members of veterans and active duty soldiers, as well as veterans of the Vietnam War.

The civil disobedience was large enough that the Capitol police tried to stop arresting people and someone in charge yelled that the protestors had made their point. The police at the wall began to push back anyone trying to get arrested, and sprayed chemicals from a small red cannister on two people who tried, and finally succeeded, to get arrested. Capitol Police told the New York Times that arrestees will be charged with "illegally crossing a police line." The rights of protestors were trampled on throughout the day, especially at 67 K Street where the arrestees were being held.

Earlier, a single line on Pennsylvania Avenue of "Gathering of Eagles" and Young Republicans, a majority of whom never served in Iraq, yelled "traitor" at the Iraq Veterans Against the War contingent heading the antiwar march. The Iraq War veterans chanted, "We Are the Troops! Bring us Home!," while marching with flags printed with the names of big war contractors including Bechtel, Lockheed Martin, Blackwater and CACI.


Hundreds Sick in Peru Following "Meteorite" Impact

600 sick in Peru after 'meteorite' crashes
Last Updated: Wednesday, September 19, 2007 | 1:13 AM ET
CBC News
Hundreds of people flocked to get medical treatment after an apparent meteorite crashed in a remote part of southern Peru over the weekend, health officials said.

The fiery ball that witnesses say fell from the sky Saturday morning smashed into the Andean plain near the Bolivian border, leaving a crater 30 metres wide and six metres deep.

Scientists are on their way to the site to collect samples in order to verify the whether the crater was, fact, caused by a meteorite.

About 600 people sought medical treatment after visiting the site, authorities say.

Jorge Lopez, the health director in Puno, say most complained of headaches, vomiting and nausea that they believe was caused by noxious fumes from the crater.

A local resident told the BBC that the object is buried in the ground. "That is why we are asking for an analysis, because we are worried for our people. They are afraid. A bull is dead and some other animals are already sick," said Heber Mamani.

Experts have said a meteorite can react with elements in the earth when it strikes the surface, producing gases that later dissipate.

Three geologists from Peru's Geophysics Institute are expected to present a report on the incident Thursday.

But meteor expert Ursula Marvin questioned the theory, saying the health problems were not likely from a meteorite itself but the dust it raised.

A meteorite "wouldn't get much gas out of the Earth," said Marvin, who has studied the objects since 1961 at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory in Massachusetts. "It's a very superficial thing."

Hernando Tavera, a geophysicist at the institute, said similar cases were reported in 2002 and 2004 elsewhere in southern Peru but never confirmed as meteorites.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Iraq Demands Blackwater be Removed Now

US vows Blackwater killings probe

Blackwater is responsible for US embassy security and protects diplomats and officials [AFP]

The US has vowed to investigate a deadly Iraqi civilian shooting after the Iraqi government ordered Blackwater USA, the main American security firm in the country, to get out over the killings.

Condoleezza Rice, the US secretary of state, telephoned Nuri al-Maliki, Iraq's prime minister, to express regret at the loss of life and promised that the results of an internal investigation into Sunday's incident would be shared with Baghdad.

"She has expressed her personal apologies and the apologies of the government of the United States. She confirmed that the United Sates will take immediate actions to prevent such actions from happening again," al-Maliki's office said.

In video
Kimberley Halkett takes
an in-depth look at Blackwater's operations

Tom Casey, the deputy state department spokesman, said: "She told the prime minister that we were investigating this incident and wanted to gain a full understanding of what happened."

Rice and al-Maliki "agreed on the importance of working closely together in the time ahead on a transparent investigation," Casey added.

Yassin Majid, an adviser to the prime minister, said the two also agreed to hold any wrongdoers accountable.

Al-Maliki had condemned Sunday's shooting and vowed to punish the perpetrators and their employers.

Tens of thousands of private security
contractors operate in Iraq [AFP]
"We will work to punish and halt the work of the security company which conducted this criminal act," state television quoted him as saying.

The 15-minute call came after Iraq's interior ministry said it had revoked Blackwater's licence.

The firm is responsible for US embassy security and the expulsion may severely curtail US operations in Iraq by stripping diplomats and other officials of protection.

The two other private security firms employed by the US state department to protect its personnel in Iraq are Dyncorp and Triple Canopy.

Blackwater said it had not been formally notified of any expulsion. The US state department also said Washington had not been informed of the licence cancellation.

Conflicting accounts were reported of the incident in which, according to the US embassy in Baghdad, a diplomatic convoy was attacked, and security guards opened fire in response.

'Profitable patriotism'

Estimated 30,000 private security "contractors" in Iraq often referred to as shadow armies and mercenaries

US figures say in the first gulf war, ratio of private contractors to troops one to 60; now about one to three

Little known about who security firms are accountable to

Accused of being overly aggressive and above the law

Blackwater has secured more than $500m in federal contracts since 2000 - two thirds of those contracts known as "no bids"

Landed first big contract in Iraq in 2003, protecting Paul Bremer, the-then US top administrator in Iraq, for 11 months for $21m

Employs 1,500 security personnel in Iraq, specialising in transporting so-called high-value targets

US military destroyed Falluja in 2004, weeks after four Blackwater employees were killed there

Has also stirred up controversy in Potrero, a small US town along the California-Mexico border where it wants to build a huge training camp

Iraq's interior ministry said eight civilians were killed and 13 wounded when Blackwater contractors opened fire on civilians in the predominantly Sunni neighbourhood of Mansour in western Baghdad after mortar rounds landed near their convoy.

General Abdul Kareem Khaleh, an interior ministry spokesman, said Blackwater guards "opened fire randomly at citizens".

"We have withdrawn its licence" and will "deliver those who committed this act to the court", he added.

Anne Tyrrell, a company spokeswoman, said late on Monday: "Blackwater's independent contractors acted lawfully and appropriately in response to a hostile attack in Baghdad on Sunday."

The state department could not say which Iraqi laws Blackwater or its employees might be subject to, the chain of command its employees answer to.

The US embassy said it was seeking clarification on the legal status of security contractors and whether Blackwater employees could be prosecuted in Iraq.

Khaleh said the security guards "do not have immunity, as immunity is granted only to the multi-national forces … [They] are subject to the obligations of the Iraqi penal law".

The moves by the Bush administration appear unlikely to forestall a congressional inquiry into not just Sunday's events but the government's increasing reliance on the use of contractors in Iraq.

"The controversy over Blackwater is an unfortunate demonstration of the perils of excessive reliance on private security contractors," Henry Waxman, the Democratic chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, said.

He said his committee would hold hearings to determine "what has happened and the extent of the damage to US security interests".

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Hanford Nuclear Accident

Subject: hanford nuclear accident

Hanford accident is a wake-up call


The Hanford nuclear waste site had its worst accident in years on July 27. A pipe burst and sprayed the air and ground with some of the
hottest material to be found on the site.

The accident happened at an old single-shell tank that dates back to the early 1950s. It holds highly radioactive sludge left over from producing the nation's first nuclear weapons. A contractor, CH2M Hill, was transferring the waste from the failing old tank to a new one.

Put your finger on the end of a straw and suck the other end. What happens to the straw? That appears to be what happened out on the Hanford tank farm

Besides cesium, strontium, americium, plutonium and a toxic soup of non-radiological hazardous chemicals, the peanut butter-thick sludge is chunked up with salt cake and other glop. Engineers try to stir this up, and thin it with a bit of water. They have designed all kinds of redundancies to prevent disasters in the line carrying the sludge from one tank to another. Less thought went into the pipe carrying in clean water. After all, the water should flow into the tank, not out.

Unless the pump clogs up. And somebody reverses the pump to clear it. And it doesn't work, so they do it again. Do you see that straw collapsing? Or maybe the suction finally works, and a hundred gallons of deadly brew pours out into the vacuum, escaping its half-century prison, bursting from the weakened line, and spilling onto the ground and into the air.

Did CH2M Hill know that it had a problem on its hands? It seems an increase in radiation levels registered right after the pump was run at about 2 a.m. A team was not sent to investigate until about eight hours later. What the team found was deemed serious enough to order Hanford
workers to take cover.

That event raises many red flags. Why did the engineering mistakes occur? Was it a case of too much pressure to produce results, without enough planning and oversight? Were the investigators properly protected? Could an earlier investigation have stopped workers from
coming onto the site in the first place, instead of giving them a belated order to take cover? Why did it take so long to make an official discovery of the accident?

Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden, for one, has asked the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board to become involved. There are 149 old single-shell tanks at Hanford, and Wyden calls the commitment to getting the waste out "tenuous."

The federal government has poured billions into building a plant to treat the waste. But the plant is additional billions over budget, years behind schedule and technologically novel and uncertain. There aren't enough double shell tanks to receive the old waste; July's pipe accident is not the first problem encountered trying to pump material from one tank to another.

This is a good time to ask questions because the U.S. Department of Energy is putting together a new contract for managing the high-level radiation waste tanks at Hanford. For CH2M Hill, it is not such a good time for accidents to happen. That's why Wyden called for a truly independent investigation, "not just of the most recent release and its underlying causes, but to also examine the operational assumptions, plans, schedule and engineering approach used in the tank waste
transfer program."

Right now, Wyden stands alone. Who in Washington will join his call to get to the bottom of what happened at Tank S-102? Let's seek some fresh, disinterested opinions, before we see more inadvertent experiments in elementary physics.

Helen Wheatley is Heart of America Northwest's board president.

The Spinmeister's Return: Whatever Happened to Ari?

Pro-Bush Group Airs New War Ads

[for complete article links, please see original here. - ape]
The Petraeus Report Myth - The Petraeus Report's Real Benefactor: Big Oil

WASHINGTON (AP) - A political group supporting President Bush's Iraq war strategy with a multimillion-dollar ad campaign is airing a new TV ad denouncing a liberal group's sharp criticism of Gen. David Petraeus.

The campaign is the second rollout of ads by the group, Freedom's Watch, and capitalizes on Democratic Party unease over a newspaper ad run this week by, one of the leading anti-war voices among liberal activists.

The MoveOn ad appeared Monday in The New York Times on the morning of Petraeus' first appearance before Congress to testify about conditions in Iraq. The ad accused Petraeus of "cooking the books" for the White House. "General Petraeus or General Betray Us?" it asked, playing off his name.

The ad has become a rallying point for Republicans, who have demanded that Democrats disavow it.

Some Democrats have voiced concern. On Monday, Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., called the ad "over the top."

The Freedom's Watch ad states: "Name calling, charges of betrayal it's despicable. It's what MoveOn shamefully does - and it's wrong. America and the forces of freedom are winning. MoveOn is losing. Call your Congressman and Senator. Tell them to condemn MoveOn."

"It's not surprising that a White House front group like Freedom's Watch would come after us," said Eli Pariser, executive director of Political Action. Pariser defended the MoveOn ad, saying, "when you have the Bush administration spinning the facts about what is happening in Iraq, that's a betrayal of trust."

Bradley A. Blakeman, president of Freedom's Watch, said MoveOn was employing "outrageous tactics."

"To question the character and patriotism of brave men and women who combat terrorism everyday is too much, it's in poor taste and it will not go unchallenged," he said.

Freedom's Watch also plans to respond to MoveOn with a print ad in The New York Times, and has demanded the same $65,000 rate that the liberal group paid for its full-page ad. Freedom's Watch spokesman Matt David said his organization paid "significantly more" for another full-page ad Tuesday on the 9/11 anniversary.

That ad, however, was a more expensive full-page color ad, compared to MoveOn's, which was black and white. The rate also would have been higher if Freedom's Watch asked for a specific date and placement of the ad. David said The New York Times did not offer Freedom's Watch the $65,000 rate.

Catherine Mathis, vice president of corporate communication at the Times, said she could not discuss specific advertisers, but said the rate for a special advocacy, full-page, black and white, standby ad is $64,575. At that rate, an advertiser can request that an ad run on a specific date, but cannot be guaranteed such placement.

"The rates are certainly things that have many different variables in them," she said.

Freedom's Watch launched a $15 million advertising blitz last month to pressure lawmakers, including Republicans, whose backing of the war was seen as wavering.

The group is financed by former White House aides and Republican fundraisers and was organized as a nonprofit organization under IRS rules. It is not required to identify its donors or the amounts they give.

Among those who have been publicly identified with the effort are billionaire Sheldon Adelson, a fundraiser for Bush and chairman and CEO of the Las Vegas Sands Corp. (LVS), and conservative philanthropist John M. Templeton Jr. of Bryn Mawr, Pa. Both men have been major contributors to conservative causes.

Also backing Freedom's Watch are top Republican donors Anthony Gioia, Mel Sembler and Howard Leach, all former ambassadors in the Bush administration. Former White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer is a founding member.

more on Ari

Siegelman's Detractors: A Stink from Down South

The Remarkable ‘Recusal’ of Leura Canary

BY Scott Horton
PUBLISHED September 14, 2007

[for complete article links, please see original here. - ape]

Alabama media continue to report uncritically on almost every statement that emanates from the office of Leura Canary, the U.S. Attorney in Montgomery, who is currently in the crosshairs of the Siegelman investigation. One of the most often repeated, and still unexamined, contentions to emanate from her office is the claim that Leura Canary recused herself from the prosecution of Governor Don Siegelman, and that the case was handled from that point forward by the head of her criminal department, Louis V. Franklin. As we will shortly see in an examination of that question forthcoming in a major legal periodical, Franklin’s claim that he ran the case collapses completely under close inspection. He did handle the trial, which is important, but the key aspects of tactical and case management decision-making were retained by political appointees in Washington—to an extent that was quite extraordinary. Yet it seems that no reporter in Alabama ever worked up the gumption to ask any questions or do any research about it; they all just reported what Louis Franklin said, and they didn’t put any follow-up questions to him, either.

One of the oddest claims has consistently been the simple suggestion that Leura Canary ‘recused’ herself from the case. When I first heard this, I put down on my check list: collect Canary recusal papers from court docket. My researcher went off looking for them, and reported back: there are no Canary recusal papers.

How could that be? I sent him back again, for the same result. I started asking counsel and clerks at the court. It seems no one else had ever seen the recusal papers. So did Leura Canary actually recuse herself? I’m skeptical. It’s an extremely important matter, as Mrs. Canary went to great lengths to create a public appearance that she had withdrawn. But there’s a lot to suggest that in fact she never relinquished complete control over the case. Let’s take a deeper look, shall we?

In mid-2001, Leura Canary commenced an investigation into “certain state employees” on corruption allegations. It soon became apparent that the principal target of this investigation was Governor Siegelman. The investigation had been initiated at the request of William Pryor, then Attorney General of Alabama. Various representatives of Mrs. Canary’s office have given conflicting false explanations of the source of the complaint that initiated the investigation. Usually they attribute it to a newspaper reporter from Mobile, in an effort to obscure the actual and highly partisan political source. This is important because William Pryor and Leura Canary share a common partner. And his name is William Canary.

In March 2002, David Cromwell Johnson, an attorney for Siegelman, filed paperwork with the Justice Department for her recusal. Johnson argued that Mrs. Canary was conflicted under ethical guidelines binding on U.S. Attorneys for two reasons: first, her husband, William Canary, was then working as a paid political consultant for Attorney General Pryor, the man whose complaints were driving the case, and second, her husband was the paid political consultant for Lt. Gov. Steve Windom, who had declared his intention to oppose Siegelman for the governorship.

I was amazed in reviewing this document to see how little Johnson knew about Canary and his role in Alabama Republican politics. Or perhaps he was simply being too polite to give it detail. But I think for readers to understand the depth of the conflict point, it really is essential to get a closer look at Leura Canary’s impressive husband, Bill.

Leura Canary
Karl RoveMr. Canary served as chief of staff for the Republican National Committee, as chief of staff to the 2000 G.O.P. Convention chairman and former Bush chief of staff, Andy Card, and as National Field Director for the Bush-Quayle campaign in 1992. I am told by senior Republican figures that Canary secured these various roles largely on the strength of his close personal friendship with Karl Rove and with Rove’s express endorsement. In 1994, Mr. Canary and his friend and mentor Karl Rove put together a grand strategy to turn around the court system in Alabama, putting the G.O.P.’s handpicked candidates in control of key Alabama appellate court races. This process was chronicled by Joshua Green in a major article on Rove’s remaking of the judicial politics of Alabama published in The Atlantic. In a 1995 article, Time Magazine’s Michael Kramer called Bill Canary a “legend in Republican circles” and in the same article, former RNC Chairman Rich Bond described Bill Canary as an “expert political paratrooper” and “someone you dropped into a state where something needed fixing and it got fixed.” Mr. Canary was the architect of a special relationship between the Alabama G.O.P. and the Business Council of Alabama that proved the finance lifeline for many Alabama G.O.P. election campaigns. He was widely described as the G.O.P.’s Alabama “kingpin.”

William Pryor, who was notoriously eager to get a position on the federal bench and whose nomination proved the most controversial single judicial appointment ever made by George W. Bush, had another key political advisor to whom he turned for support: Karl Rove. In his political campaigns, Pryor spoke ceaselessly about the “corruption” of the Democratic administration in Alabama, and made no bones about his desire to maneuver prosecutorial resources to accomplish a political mission. And working at his side on this project, as an assistant, was Leura Canary–until President Bush picked her to be the U.S. Attorney in Montgomery. And William Pryor’s other main political advisor throughout this period was Leura’s husband, Bill Canary.

Steve Windom ultimately lost in the Republican primary to Bill Riley, but during his campaign he continuously drew on the Leura Canary investigation for political grist to support his “corruption” accusations against Siegelman. The posturing, campaign rhetoric, and advertising were arranged by William Canary. The criminal investigations that fueled it were managed by his wife.

Shortly after Johnson filed his papers, the Justice Department responded saying it had them and would study the matter. The next development came on May 16, 2002—roughly a year into the case—when Leura Canary issued a press statement:

As to any matters pertaining to any current investigation of [Governor Siegelman] which may be underway, the Department of Justice has advised me that no actual conflicts of interest exist. However, out of an abundance of caution, I have requested that I be recused to avoid any question about my impartiality.

I question the honesty of Leura Canary’s statement. First, it makes the claim–continuously repeated–that Mrs. Canary took this step on her own initiative. In fact she took it because of the request that attorney Johnson filed with the Justice Department, which launched an independent look at the matter.

Second, Mrs. Canary says that the Justice Department told her that she was okay from a conflicts perspective. I put the question to two prominent legal ethicists: would the facts I presented require Mrs. Canary’s recusal from the investigation of Governor Siegelman? Answer: “this is not a borderline or close case. Under the facts you outline, Mrs. Canary violated the canons of ethics by undertaking and handling the investigation of Governor Siegelman for the period up to her recusal.” Do you believe that a Department of Justice Office of Professional Responsibility officer would have advised Mrs. Canary that there was “no actual conflict.” Answer: “The standard that applies is whether there would be an ‘appearance of impartiality,’ not ‘actual conflict,’ so the Canary statement misstates the rule. Nonetheless, here the situation passes far beyond ‘appearance of impartiality’ and reaches an actual conflict. The advice she suggests could not have been competently rendered. It would be very interesting to know who at Justice gave such advice.” And third, the press statement says she recused herself. But did she?

The question then became follow-through. Career senior Justice Department officials tell me that when a U.S. Attorney recuses him- or herself, there is a standard procedure followed: a conflict of interest certification is prepared and submitted in the matter; a certificate of divestiture is prepared and submitted; “502 determinations” are prepared; there is also other ordinary documentation such as a formal appointment of an acting U.S. attorney to handle the matter, transmittal documentation and the like. The normal process, as I am told, is that a neighboring U.S. Attorney is appointed to handle the matter, usually with support of career professionals who would otherwise report to the recused U.S. Attorney.

I can find no evidence that any of these standard procedures were followed. Instead, according to public statements, a member of Mrs. Canary’s staff was appointed to handle the matter. In fact the person she designated was her principal prosecutor; that is, someone whose career and advancement was dependent directly upon her evaluations, not those of an intermediate staffer. When I reviewed this with a career senior Justice Department official I was told: “That’s very odd, and it violates the basic recusal rules. If the recused U.S. Attorney has appointed one of her staffers, without the supervision of another U.S. Attorney, then she has not really recused herself at all. The staffer operates in her office, under her apparent supervision, subject to her performance evaluations, and receiving her paychecks. The idea that the U.S. Attorney is recused and that the staffer is running the show would be a difficult sale to anyone with eyes and possessed of a brain.” Precisely. The ploy only works when the local media report it and don’t ask any questions or use their analytical faculties.

But the path of Leura’s ‘recusal’ gets still stranger as things unfold. First, no sooner did Leura announce her recusal, than Bill became involved in another campaign—Bob Riley’s effort to unseat Governor Siegelman. This was a high-stakes effort of immense importance to the G.O.P.: retaking the statehouse in Montgomery. Again, the “corruption” allegations relating to Leura’s investigations became the main staple in the Riley campaign arsenal against Siegelman. That is to say, few people benefited more than Bill Canary from the fact that the investigation was pending, and the related rumor-mongering that flooded the Alabama media in this period. It was a huge boon to the Riley campaign. And at the same time there was something else fishy going on. Investigations in Washington, D.C., into the Abramoff scandal made clear that Riley’s former press secretary, Michael Scanlon, was right in the middle of the affair, as were a whole platoon of Riley aides. Suddenly, millions in cash from Indian gaming interests advised by Abramoff began to gush into the Riley campaign. But the U.S. Attorney’s office in Montgomery, far from ever examining these matters, began to act as Riley’s guardian angel–deflecting inquiries and dead-ending investigations.

When charges were announced against Siegelman at a press conference convened in Montgomery, Noel Hillman traveled down to Montgomery to deliver the message (stating, ironically as it turns out, “Public Integrity does not do politics”), and there with him stood Leura Canary. Similarly, as the case proceeded, Leura Canary did not keep any distance from it. She gave interviews to the Los Angeles Times and to the Montgomery Advertiser about the case. Not the conduct of a ‘recused’ U.S. Attorney.

What exactly did her ‘recusal’ entail? Attorney John Aaron wanted to know the answer to that question. He filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the Department of Justice on February 6, 2006. He asked for all the conventional papers usually prepared in connection with a recusal.

On June 21, 2006, he received a response. It stated that no documents would be provided. It cited as the main grounds for withholding them Leura Canary’s desire for confidentiality. Generally a person is entitled to confidentiality concerning health issues and personally identifying information (a social security number, a birth date, bank account numbers and the like). The fact that information would be embarrassing to a public official is not a reason to withhold the information.

In August, I spoke with a senior Justice Department FOIA official about the case. He noted that a response had improperly been sent indicating that there were “no responsive documents,” when in fact there were more than 500 responsive documents. He said that the handling of the request had been irregular in a number of ways and that the request was the “subject of some very strange apprehension” on the part of political appointees at the Justice Department. He didn’t know what was in the files, but he thought a lot of political pressure had been exerted to “keep them secret.” He also noted that professional staff had objected to the false statements issued in response and had insisted that the false statements be corrected. “It was pulling teeth to get them to tell the truth.”

By that point, of course, Judiciary Chair Conyers and his committee were on the trail of the Siegelman case and making the same demands. Now, you’d think that a Congressional Committee with oversight powers over Justice would get these documents. You’d be wrong. The Committee’s request affected three different U.S. Attorneys. The U.S. Attorney in Wisconsin turned over his internal notes and volunteered a briefing; the U.S. Attorney in Pittsburgh likewise offered extensive responses. And what was the response of Leura Canary? That’s easy. It was “drop dead.” She produced nothing, not even the routine, mundane papers governing her own recusal. So what’s the dark, mysterious secret lurking in Leura Canary’s ‘recusal’? It might just be that she never recused herself at all.