In my links of the day I try to find the links under the wire, articles all the top blogs miss. I'm not afraid to go to Al Jazeera, Kurd Media or to the Pakistan student movement page to bring the real daily news to you.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Links of the Day 4/4/2008 81% of us say we are headed in the wrong direction.

If colorful language offends you, close this page because I use the same word Randi Rhodes called Hillary Clinton that got her suspended from Air America.

You have been warned.

Today Martin Luther King Jr was assassinated because he was a danger to white powerful American Corporations.,_Jr.

While many say he is the father of the civil rights movement and I respect that I still say Vernon Johns was. Vernon was replaced by his church with Martin Luther King when the elders thought he was to outspoken about race issues. Little did they know their young new preacher would pick up right where Vernon Johns left off.

Yesterday I watched a man nearly break down and cry as he told how a FAA official issued a veiled threat to his family if he blew the whistle on plane safety inspections.

I know one thing I sat on a plane last year that had no brakes! That’s right no hydraulic brakes. We were getting reading to taxi to the runway when the pilot said we needed to make a pit stop.

Well we sat over 40 minutes. Near the end of the wait I felt the pilot tap tap tap on the brakes. A little bit later more tap tap tap on the brakes. I looked out the window and could see men running around with tools etc.

I have been working on cars my whole life and that tap tap tap on the brakes is what you do after you replace them, or have refilled them with brake fluid because you have a leak and need to get the air our of the brake lines. Brakes are brakes whether on a plane, train or automobile.

I wanted off the plane and I said so to the stewardess. She said we were finished and getting ready to taxi out to the runway. All the way from Denver to Kansas City I hoped it wasn’t a leak that caused us to lose the brake fluid and hoped we still had enough to stop the plane when we landed.

Oh that was on my way home. Going to Las Vegas via Denver I sat for nearly 7 hours in Denver waiting for a plane, along with thousands of others because United had a so called glitch in their computers!

United ruined the first convention/vacation I had had in over 15 years and all I got was a screw you from them. We passengers never received an apology, nothing from the airline.

I will never fly United again EVER! This is the second time I have been on a unsafe United plane leaving Denver. The first one blew a tire on take off and we had to fly around the airport for 3 hours burning fuel before we made a crash landing. On New Years Eve!

When we finally landed and went down the slides to the waiting buses and drove to the terminal there wasn’t a single soul in the place. We had flown around and around till the place was empty. They did want any public witnesses to see us go up in a ball of fire when we attempted our landing.

My son who was 6 swore he would never fly again. He was traumatized for months afterward and experienced nightmares for years afterward and what did we get from United? Two $125.00 coupons for my next flight. Our tickets were nearly 800 bucks! A

United NEVER told our family and friends waiting in Tucson what was happening only that our plane was delayed. They told them it was a DELAY not that we were getting ready for a crash landing.

If United is the only plane flying to where I want to go in the future I’m driving!

It is criminal for the airlines to be servicing their planes halfway round the world and expecting them to be in perfect condition when they get here to the USA!


Over reacting? I think not, wait till it happens to you!

While this story centers around Southwest Airlines I am pretty sure ALL airlines are involved in the this.

FAA inspectors say jobs threatened after reporting problems about Southwest Airlines

AP Business Writer

Apr 4, 7:02 AM EDT

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The whistleblowers who exposed maintenance and inspection problems at Southwest Airlines told Congress their jobs were threatened and their reports of noncompliance were ignored for years.

Federal Aviation Administration inspector Douglas Peters choked up Thursday at a House hearing and needed a few sips of water to tell lawmakers about how a former manager came into his office, commented on pictures of Peters' family being most important, and then said his job could be jeopardized by his actions.

Rep. James Oberstar, D-Minn., said FAA managers' actions displayed "malfeasance bordering on corruption," adding that if presented to a grand jury, the evidence would result in an indictment.

The FAA last month took the rare step of ordering the audit of maintenance records at all domestic carriers following reports of missed safety inspections at Dallas-based Southwest. The airline was hit with a record $10.2 million fine for continuing to fly dozens of Boeing 737s, which carried an estimated 145,000 passengers, that hadn't been inspected for cracks in their fuselages. Southwest has said it will appeal the penalty.

Both FAA whistleblowers - Charalambe Boutris and Peters - said the agency views the airlines as its "customers" instead of companies to be regulated. They said the FAA's chief maintenance inspector at the time, Douglas T. Gawadzinski, knowingly allowed Southwest to keep planes flying that put passengers at risk, and that another inspector knew of the problem and did nothing.

Transportation Department Inspector General Calvin L. Scovel III echoed concerns about the FAA's inspection office responsible for Southwest Airlines, testifying that it had "developed an overly collaborative relationship" with the carrier.

"FAA's oversight in this case appears to allow, rather than mitigate, recurring safety violations," Scovel said.

His office found that the agency fails to protect employees who report safety issues and doesn't adequately respond to problems when they are identified. He recommended immediate action be taken to fix the air carrier oversight programs.

Herb Kelleher, Southwest's founder and executive chairman, apologized for allowing planes to fly that should not have. "Our people made engineering judgments they were not entitled to make," he said, adding that passenger safety was never compromised.

Southwest Chief Executive Gary Kelly said the airline increased the number, scope and frequency of audits and implemented more stringent requirements of maintenance plan changes after the problems were discovered. The airline will take further action after independent investigators, the FAA and Southwest staff finish their reviews, he said.

When FAA inspectors blew the whistle in March 2007, Gawadzinski was their superior. He's still employed by the FAA, but has no responsibility for safety decisions, said Nicholas Sabatini, the agency's associate administrator for aviation safety.

Oberstar disputed that assertion and said Gawadzinski had retained oversight responsibility after his removal from the Southwest office. Sabatini said he would look into it those claims and promised that the FAA will "take whatever action the law will allow" when the investigation is complete.

Gawadzinski was not asked to testify at Thursday's hearing because of the ongoing nature of the investigations and he was considered to be a hostile witness who would most likely refuse to answer questions that could have incriminated himself, according to a spokesman for the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

Committee Chairman Oberstar said as long as the FAA views the airlines as customers "that culture of safety will not take hold and is not going to permeate the organization."

Sabatini said the FAA is a regulator and that he would immediately work to correct that internal problem of perception.

Still, the inspectors' concerns about Southwest, which the FAA first acknowledged a year ago, have since been confirmed, and the agency on Wednesday said it is investigating four airlines for failing to comply with various federal aviation regulations. It did not name the airlines.

In the last week alone, AMR Corp.'s American Airlines, Delta Air Lines and UAL Corp.'s United Airlines have canceled flights to perform unscheduled inspections of certain aircraft, and US Airways Group Inc. found problems on some Boeing 757s after a wing part from another plane fell off during a flight.

Spokesmen from Delta, United, Northwest Airlines, US Air and American said they have not been informed that their companies are the subject of an investigation. A Southwest spokeswoman said the carrier has not been informed of any additional investigation.

On Wednesday, the FAA announced a new reporting system designed to make it easier for inspectors to raise concerns and strengthening ethics policies aimed at easing potential conflicts of interests.

The agency will launch the system by the end of this month to provide employees an additional way to raise safety concerns they feel are not receiving the necessary attention or response from management, acting FAA Administrator Robert A. Sturgell said.

And by June 30, the agency will start a rule-making process to set a two-year "cooling off" period before former inspectors could work for an airline there were overseeing. That would match the time that new inspectors hired from industry must wait before they can oversee their former employer.

I watched the senate debate helping homeowners and as usual the republicans showed their disdain for their constituents who’s tax money they used to bail out Bear Sterns but lets not bail out Americans who were lied and cheated to because we deregulated the industry so they could FLEECE the American people!

From BuzzFlash

Distressed Homeowners Facing Foreclosure Sold Out by the Senate, as the Sub-Prime Mortgage Companies Get Bailed Out. "Republicans and business-friendly Democrats on Thursday scuttled a plan to give people threatened with losing their homes more leverage in winning favorable loan terms from their lenders in bankruptcy courts." 4/4

And.............. McCain says do NOTHING!

McCain on the Housing Crisis: Quick, Do Nothing!

From Mother Jones

Don't just do something, stand there! And wait for somebody else to suggest a course of action.

That appears to be John McCain's approach to the housing credit crisis. On Tuesday, he delivered what his campaign billed as a major address on the housing crisis. What made it notable was that it contained nothing notable.

McCain started off stating the obvious: there was a housing bubble: "speculators move into markets, and these players begin to suspend the normal rules of risk and assume that prices can only move up -- but never down....The normal market forces of people buying and selling their homes were overwhelmed by rampant speculation. Our system of market checks and balances did not correct this until the bubble burst." Lenders went wild and some Americans bought homes they could not afford. And, he added, "the housing bubble was made worse by a series of complex, interconnected financial bets that were not transparent or fully understood....Because managers did not fully understand the complex financial instruments and because there was insufficient transparency when they did try to learn, the initial losses spawned a crisis of confidence in the markets."

Anyone who watches a cable business show--even only during the commercial breaks on American Idol--knows this. The question is, what would a President McCain do about it. Short answer: not much.

"I will not play election year politics with the housing crisis," he declared, adding, "I have always been committed to the principle that it is not the duty of government to bail out and reward those who act irresponsibly, whether they are big banks or small borrowers."

That's a fine sentiment. Tough love. Let the markets take care of things. But does he have any idea how to make the system work better? How to make sure that people victimized by predatory lenders have a shot at solvency? How to ensure that whole neighborhoods don't collapse?

Not really. Instead McCain only offered guidelines for what might be acceptable; he did not offer any specific initiatives:

In our effort to help deserving homeowners, no assistance should be given to speculators. Any assistance for borrowers should be focused solely on homeowners, not people who bought houses for speculative purposes, to rent or as second homes. Any assistance must be temporary and must not reward people who were irresponsible at the expense of those who weren't. I will consider any and all proposals based on their cost and benefits.

He called for greater transparency and a high standard of ethics in the mortgage business and noted that home buyers ought to provide "responsible" down payments. "I am prepared to examine new proposals and evaluate them based on these principals," McCain said. In other words, let someone else come up with a good idea.

McCain did call for a "meeting of the nation's accounting professionals," and he urged the top mortgage lenders "to do everything possible to keep families in their homes and businesses growing." But his general approach was clear: hands off. He's not offering much to voters who are hurting financially or nervous about the housing crisis.

If this is a preview of McCain's fall campaign, Democrats ought to be heartened.

Assuming that economic insecurity will be an issue in the general election, will voters be hankering for a laissez-faire champion who says that the markets will sort it all out and who is willing to do no more than to beseech big financial firms to do right by the little guy and gal? McCain's speech signaled he might be even less of an economic activist than George W. Bush. If so, that could set up a fall contest reminiscent of the Bill Clinton-George Bush match of 1992--whether or not a Clinton is involved.

Bush’s ex press secretary continues his Fox News roots by lying about Barack Obama’s Senate voting record.

Tony Snow’s Tall Tale: Former Bush Flack Falsely Claims Obama Voted ‘Present’ 160 Times As U.S. Senator»

On Dennis Miller’s radio show last Friday, former White House Press Secretary Tony Snow falsely claimed that Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) has “voted present” 160 times as a member of the United States Senate. “He has cast more present votes in the United States Senate over the last three years than anybody else in the chamber,” claimed Snow.

Miller tried to correct Snow, saying that it was “in the Illinois Senate” that Obama had made a series of “present” votes, but Snow refused to budge, saying, “no, no, in the United States Senate”:

TONY SNOW: What Obama always tries to do, is to do what looks to be respectable and to avoid trouble. So when he’s in the United States Senate, he’s voted present, what 160 times.

DENNIS MILLER: In the Illinois Senate, I believe.

SNOW: No, no. In the United States Senate.

MILLER: Oh, I thought when he was down in the house of Illinois that he voted present.

SNOW: He’s done both. He’s done both. He has cast more present votes in the United States Senate over the last three years than anybody else in the chamber.

Listen here:

Mmm he must of needed a drink and I don’t mean water.

Bush ‘abruptly’ leaves NATO meeting.»

Yesterday, President Bush tried to prematurely cut off a joint press conference in Romania with the country’s president Traian Basescu, even though “as a matter of courtesy and protocol, the host decides when such an event is over.” Today, the Washington Post’s Peter Baker reports that Bush also left a NATO summit meeting early:

Enough is enough, it seems. With the NATO summit meetings consistently running two hours over schedule most of the day, President Bush abruptly got up and left the last formal session of the day, not bothering to wait for an official summit photograph of all the leaders.

Bush is no fan of windy meetings and evidently had had his fill. He left behind Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates to represent him for the rest of the session, which concerned NATO operations in Afghanistan, but his departure was so sudden and unexpected that he left some of his motorcade behind, inculding his press pool, when he got into his car and headed back to his hotel.

Bush officials oppose media shield bill

Bush Officials Mount Campaign Against Media Shield Bill, Say It Could Harm National Security

AP News

Apr 03, 2008 20:44 EST

Attorney General Michael Mukasey and three other top Bush administration officials are weighing in against legislation that would allow reporters to protect the identities of confidential sources who provide sensitive, sometimes embarrassing information about the government.

The "Free Flow of Information Act" proposed by Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., could harm national security and would encourage more leaks of classified information, the four officials wrote in letters to senators made public Thursday.

The legislation gives an overly broad definition of journalists that "can include those linked to terrorists and criminals," wrote Mukasey and National Intelligence Director Mike McConnell.

"All individuals and entities who 'gather' or 'publish' information about 'matters of public interest' but who are not technically designated terrorist organizations, foreign powers or agents of a foreign power will be entitled to the bill's protections," Mukasey and McConnell stated in their joint letter.

Specter, the top Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, responded: "My staff met today with DNI and DoJ officials regarding the concerns expressed in the letter, and we are considering them."

"I think the legislation has an important purpose," Specter added. "I think we can make reasonable accommodations to their concerns, and we're working on it."

In a separate letter, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said the nation would be more vulnerable to "adversaries' counterintelligence efforts to recruit" those shielded by the bill.

Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said the bill would erect roadblocks to gathering information "from anyone who can claim to be a journalist, including bloggers" and Internet service providers.

The opposition of the top Bush administration officials follows recent high-profile episodes in which reporters have fought efforts to reveal their government sources.

Former USA Today reporter Toni Locy is seeking to reverse a contempt of court citation for refusing to reveal her Justice Department and FBI sources for stories about the criminal investigation of the 2001 anthrax attacks.

Among the government leakers of CIA operative Valerie Plame's identity, it turns out, were President Bush's top political adviser, Karl Rove, and Vice President Dick Cheney's former chief of staff, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby.

Former New York Times reporter Judith Miller spent 85 days in jail for refusing to identify Libby to investigators.

The leaks of Plame's identity occurred after Plame's husband publicly accused the administration of twisting prewar intelligence to exaggerate the Iraqi threat.

Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald eventually won convictions against Libby for perjury, obstruction and lying to the FBI. Bush commuted Libby's 30-month prison sentence.

Co-sponsors on the bill include Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., Democratic Sens. Barbara Boxer of California, Christopher Dodd of Connecticut, Charles Schumer of New York and Tim Johnson of South Dakota, along with Republican Sens. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Richard Lugar of Indiana.

"We've already sought to address these security concerns in a careful way," Schumer said in a statement. "The administration ought to overcome its visceral dislike of the media and do the right thing."

Story Highlights 81 percent of poll respondents said the U.S. has "gotten off on the wrong track"
Survey comes as housing turmoil has rocked Wall Street
Americans are more dissatisfied than at any time since the early 1990s

Most Americans say U.S. on wrong track, poll says

NEW YORK (AP) -- More than 80 percent of Americans believe the country is headed in the wrong direction, the highest such number since the early 1990s, according to a new survey.

The CBS News-New York Times poll released Thursday showed 81 percent of respondents said they believed "things have pretty seriously gotten off on the wrong track." That was up from 69 percent a year ago, and 35 percent in early 2002.

The survey comes as housing turmoil has rocked Wall Street amid an economic downturn. The economy has surpassed the war in Iraq as the dominating issue of the U.S. presidential race, and there is now nearly a national consensus that the United States faces significant problems, the poll found.

A majority of Democrats and Republicans, men and women, residents of cities and rural areas, college graduates and those who finished only high school say the United States is headed in the wrong direction, according to the survey, which was published on The New York Times' Web site.

Seventy-eight percent of respondents said the country was worse off than five years ago; just 4 percent said it was doing better.

The newspaper said Americans are more dissatisfied with the country's direction than at any time since the poll's inception in the early 1990s. Only 21 percent of respondents said the overall economy was in good condition, the lowest such number since late 1992. Two in three people said they believed the economy was already in recession.

Still, the approval rating of President Bush did not change since last summer, with 28 percent of respondents saying they approved of the job he was doing.

The poll also found that Americans blame government officials for the housing crisis more than banks or home buyers and other borrowers. Forty percent of respondents said regulators were mostly to blame, while 28 percent named lenders and 14 percent named borrowers.

Americans favored help for people but not for financial institutions in assessing possible responses to the mortgage crisis. A clear majority said they did not want the government to lend a hand to banks, even if the measures would help limit the depth of a recession.

Respondents were considerably more open to government help for homeowners at risk of foreclosure. Fifty-three percent said they believed the government should help those whose interest rates were rising, while 41 percent said they opposed such a move.

The nationwide telephone survey of 1,368 adults was conducted from March 28 to April 2. The margin of sampling error was plus or minus 3 percentage points.

Iraqi PM Freezes Raids Targeting Militia

AP foreign Friday April 4 2008


Associated Press Writer

BAGHDAD (AP) - Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki on Friday ordered a nationwide freeze on raids against suspected Shiite militiamen, according to a statement issued by his office.

The announcement was a major shift from comments he made a day earlier, and came after Shiite leader Muqtada al-Sadr - whose Mahdi Army militia fought government troops in the southern city of Basra and in Baghdad last week - hinted at retaliation if arrests of his followers did not stop.

Meanwhile, a suicide bomber killed at least 15 people and wounded eight when he blew himself up during a policeman's funeral north of Baghdad on Friday, police said.

And in continuing combat in Basra, Iraqi troops killed seven militants and detained 16 Thursday in three separate incidents, a U.S. military statement said Friday.

Al-Sadr on Sunday ordered his militiamen off the streets in a move that ended the weeklong fighting. He also demanded that the government stop arresting his followers and free detainees held without charge.

Al-Maliki's statement did not mention the Mahdi Army by name or give a timeframe for the freeze, saying only that the move is designed to give a ``chance to those who repented and want to lay down their arms.''

Al-Maliki's move appeared to be a goodwill gesture toward al-Sadr and his followers. But it was also a dramatic turnabout: He said Thursday that he intended to launch security operations against Mahdi Army strongholds in Baghdad, including Sadr City, home to some 2.5 million Shiites and the militia's largest base.

Al-Maliki said last week that gunmen in Basra had until April 8 to surrender their heavy weapons, but Friday's statement made no mention of that deadline.

``Those who lay down their arms and participated in the recent acts of violence will not be prosecuted,'' said the statement. He also ordered the repatriation of families forced to flee their homes because of the latest fighting and cash donations to the families of those killed or wounded in the violence.

He said Iraqis whose property has been damaged in the fighting would also be compensated.

Meanwhile on Friday, The New York Times reported that more than 1,000 Iraqi soldiers and police refused to fight or abandoned their posts during the fighting in Basra, citing an unnamed senior Iraqi government official.

Iraqi military officials said the group included at least two senior field commanders and dozens of officers.

The desertions cast new doubt on the effectiveness of U.S.-trained Iraqi security forces. The White House has conditioned further U.S. troop withdrawals on the readiness of the Iraqi military and police.

The Baghdad attacker detonated an explosives vest in the midst of mourners attending the funeral of a Sunni policeman who was shot Thursday night, said an officer who declined to be identified because he was not authorized to speak to the media.

The attack occurred in Sadiyah, a town 60 miles north of Baghdad in the volatile Diyala province.

Most of the victims of the attack - the deadliest in Diyala this year - appeared to be relatives of the dead policemen, the officer said.

In Basra, Iraqi special forces captured a suspected militant leader who has been rallying insurgents in Basra to fight against coalition forces, the military statement said.

``Intelligence reports have linked the man to the kidnapping and murder of Iraqi Army and ISOF soldiers. He is also believed to be involved in oil smuggling and foreign fighter networks,'' said the statement, which did not provide any further details.

In a separate firefight, a U.S. warplane was used to bomb insurgents engaging Iraqi special forces in the city. The air strike killed two militants, the statement said.

The United Nations on Friday appealed for $265 million to improve the deteriorating humanitarian situation in Iraq.

U.N. Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator John Holmes said in Jordan that the funds would cover food, health, shelter, water sanitation, education and agriculture.

As Guantanamo trials near, Pentagon limits what can be reported

By Carol Rosenberg / Miami Herald

April 3rd, 2008 4:52 pm

GUANTANAMO BAY NAVY BASE, Cuba — A defense lawyer lets slip at the war court convening here that a battlefield commander changed an Afghanistan firefight report in a way that seemed to help a U.S. government murder case. Reporters hear the field commander's name but are forbidden to report it.

In another case, a judge approves the release of a captive's interrogation video showing the blurred face of an American agent. But a federal prosecutor on loan to the Pentagon withholds it ``out of an abundance of caution.''

Even as the U.S. government edges toward full-blown, war-crimes trials by military commission here, with more hearings next week, all sides are grappling with what information can be made public and what must be kept secret.

Consider: A new courtroom here sequesters Pentagon-approved spectators behind a soundproofed window. If a terror suspect tries to shout about his treatment in U.S. custody, a military censor can mute the audio feed that observers hear.

Under rules that protect interrogation techniques, the Pentagon's war court won't let the reputed 9/11 architect, Khalid Sheik Mohammed, say he was waterboarded — something the CIA director, Air Force Gen. Michael V. Hayden, confirmed on Feb. 5.

Pentagon officials defend the Military Commissions as engaged in a delicate balancing act -- working to mete out justice to war-on-terrorism captives without exposing U.S. intelligence tactics and personnel to public scrutiny.

As long as there is an al Qaida, they argue, such information could be used to hurt Americans or their allies.

At the same time, the commissions architects have long pledged that they will be open to international scrutiny.

''We can't disclose classified information. We can't disclose privacy information,'' the war-court legal advisor, Brig. Gen. Thomas Hartmann, said in an interview.

Unlike in federal courts, jurors at commissions are U.S. officers. In some circumstances, they can see or hear evidence that is shielded from the public.

Hartmann argues that a commissions defendant gets the same rights as a soldier at a court-martial -- among them an American military lawyer to defend him, and a presumption of innocence.

Attorneys for the Guantánamo captives disagree. They argue that, unlike civilian or military justice systems, the rules favor the government and permit evidence gleaned from abusive interrogations.

The Pentagon prosecutor has accused six of the 280 or so captives here of being 9/11 conspirators. If Hartmann's boss approves the death-penalty charges, conviction could end in their execution.

Meantime, the American Civil Liberties Union is suing the Bush administration in federal court to unseal portions of transcripts from military hearings, in which Mohammed and others now held at Guantánamo lay out allegations of torture.

''There is no remotely legitimate basis for the government to withhold these prisoners' account of their mistreatment,'' says Ben Wizner, an ACLU staff attorney and sometime war-court observer.

''I would simply note that governments don't censor information to conceal lies,'' Wizner said. ``They censor information to conceal the truth.''

The military says these trials -- the first war-crimes tribunals since World War II -- are unprecedented because they risk talking about tactics while the nation is at war. Hence, the need for secrecy.

Critics say such secrecy could strip the military commissions of legitimacy.

When he was chief prosecutor, Air Force Col. Moe Davis once likened Guantánamo detainees to ''vampires'' fearful of the bright light of American justice.

But then in October he resigned his post, protesting what he called political pressure to speed up the cases -- and sacrifice transparency. Rushing them, he said, risks using secret evidence or confessions gained through tough interrogation tactics.

With time, he said in a recent interview, the prosecution can build public cases using evidence from before Mohammed's capture -- and before he was waterboarded by the CIA.

''If they want to take KSM out and shoot him, I would have no problem with that. Fine,'' he said, using Mohammed's initials. ``If they want to call it military justice, you've gotta give him a fair trial.''

Meantime, the Pentagon has created a labyrinth of bureaucracy that shields from public disclosure some of the inner workings of the commissions.

Reporters and other observers must agree to a series of regulations that have no counterpart in the civilian court system. Journalists are forbidden, for example, to report anything uttered in court that a Pentagon security officer declares ``protected information.''

Earlier this month, a Navy defense lawyer mistakenly spoke the last name of the battlefield commander at the capture of a 15-year-old Canadian in Afghanistan. Reporters were instructed to identify him only as ''Lt. Col. W.,'' or risk being banned from covering the court.

In the case of the interrogation video, Judge Keith Allred, a Navy captain, approved its release in December. It shows Osama bin Laden's driver, a Yemeni in the garb of a bushy-bearded South Asian, being questioned soon after his capture by U.S. allies in November 2001 in Afghanistan.

The driver's attorney, Lt. Cmdr. Brian Mizer, believes it is the first recorded battlefield interrogation of an alleged al Qaeda associate during the U.S. invasion meant to topple the Taliban, dismantle al Qaeda and capture bin Laden and other 9/11 plotters.

But Army Reserves Maj. Bobby Don Gifford, a federal prosecutor on loan to the Pentagon as a public-affairs specialist, said he chose to withhold it from public view ''out of an abundance of caution,'' and offered a cascade of explanations in a March 17 e-mail:

Gordon England, deputy secretary of defense, issued a memo banning the release of Guantánamo detainee photos. The Pentagon is bound by the Geneva Conventions not to humiliate detainees, it said, and ``We respect the dignity of all persons.''

Then this, 'Geneva Conventions prohibit the use of images that could be deemed `propaganda,' and because I don't know or can control what others may do with it -- I don't want to be in the position of violating the law -- thus I'm exercising caution.''

Under the system, the Pentagon says the Office of Military Commissions -- not the judge -- has the last word on what the public can see.

In a November response to a written protest by attorneys for The New York Times and other news organizations, the commission deputy legal advisor, Michael Chapman, explained it this way: Military judges are charged with ``the delicate balance of providing for the public interest in the commission proceedings, protecting the rights of the accused, maintaining witness privacy, securing classified or sensitive information and ensuring the interests of justice are appropriately respected and protected.''

Despite the controls, some of the trial evidence is popping up elsewhere.

A video clip of Canadian captive Omar Khadr allegedly learning to plant mines as a teen in Afghanistan turned up on 60Minutes last year. Yet the Pentagon has so far declined to provide reporters covering the commissions with copies of it, saying they don't know who leaked it -- or how.

Khadr's Pentagon-appointed defense attorneys have consistently complained about a lack of transparency in the process. Khadr is accused of throwing a grenade in a 2002 firefight in Afghanistan that fatally wounded a sergeant with the U.S. Special Forces.

Al-Sadr offers to help Iraqi security forces

BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr offered Thursday to help purge Iraqi security forces of militia members.

But he also criticized the Iraqi government for denying that it sent envoys to him to discuss last week's government offensive in Basra.

The offensive sparked fighting between security forces in other Shiite cities and in Shiite neighborhoods of Baghdad. The clashes subsided after al-Sadr called for his followers to stand down, a pronouncement made Sunday after meetings with Iranian officials and Iraqi Shiite lawmakers in Iran.

"I advise everyone to end the sedition, to stop the bloodshed and arrests immediately," al-Sadr said Thursday in a statement read by Saleh al-Ageili, a spokesman for the Sadrist parliamentary bloc.

"And if the government cannot make infiltrators and other Baathists, terrorists, militias of parties and saboteurs surrender, we are ready to cooperate with [the government] to cleanse our army and police of them. Let the government and people be one to liberate Iraq of the occupier."

Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki said there were no government negotiations with Shiite militias and emphasized that he didn't send an envoy to the Sadrists' headquarters in the Iraqi city of Najaf for talks.

He said he was "not consulted" by those Shiite lawmakers who traveled to Najaf to speak with al-Sadr.

But al-Ageili said the prime minister's denials were meant only "to save face."

The Iraqi government said the operation that began March 25 targeted criminals who had been carrying out indiscriminate attacks, burglaries and oil smuggling.

Although Iraqi and U.S. authorities repeatedly said militias weren't targeted, much of the fighting occurred in strongholds of al-Sadr's Mehdi Army militia.

A senior Iraqi official said that more than 1,000 Iraqi soldiers deserted in Basra and other hot spots during the fighting. There were others who simply took off their uniforms and joined the Shiite militias the army was battling, the official said.

A closely held U.S. military intelligence analysis of the fighting showed that Iraqi security forces controlled less than a quarter of the city, according to U.S. officials in the United States and Iraq. They said Basra's police units were deeply infiltrated by members of al-Sadr's Mehdi Army.

Al-Maliki called the operation in the oil-rich southern city a success Thursday but said it exposed weaknesses in the security forces, including operational snafus and troop desertions that he said will be addressed and reviewed.

He said those who "didn't fight with their colleagues" will be sent to military courts on charges of desertion and insubordination, though he noted that "joining the army or police is not a picnic." Among the penalties those security force members will face is dismissal from the military.

The prime minister, who was in Basra overseeing the fighting in its early days, brushed off criticism that the widespread action was poorly planned, was politically motivated and failed to dislodge the renegade militias from their strongholds across the southern city.

Al-Maliki said he plans actions in other cities and Baghdad neighborhoods, such as Sadr City, Shula and Amiriya, and vowed that the military will "be 100 percent ready" when it embarks on those operations.

Sadr City and Shula are Shiite areas dominated by the Mehdi Army militia, but Amiriya is predominantly Sunni and controlled by a Sons of Iraq group -- the U.S.-backed Sunni militias.

"We will not sit quietly" while gangs hold areas captive, said al-Maliki, who emphasized that such areas should be "liberated."

Asked about the possibility of government operations in Sadr City, al-Ageili said there is a committee led by al-Sadr that is monitoring events and issues directives accordingly.

"This is solid leadership, and we will not seek an escalation," he said.

Al-Maliki also has promised a major offensive targeting al Qaeda in Iraq, a predominantly Sunni group, in the northern city of Mosul.

Al-Ageili also said al-Sadr had called for peaceful demonstrations in Sadr City after Friday prayers "to protest the campaign of raids carried out by the occupier."

A Sadr City resident said mosque loudspeakers Thursday blared the call to protest.

Al-Sadr's political movement called for millions of Iraqis to demonstrate Wednesday against the U.S. presence in Iraq, a protest that would coincide with scheduled testimony in Washington from top U.S. officials in Iraq and the anniversary of the toppling of the Saddam Hussein regime.

Al-Sadr urged people to converge on Najaf, the city south of Baghdad that is holy to Shiite Muslims and where the Sadrists have their main office.

His message was all-encompassing, an address to all Iraqis: Sunnis and Shiites, Kurds and Arabs, "mujahedeen and the patient people" and those who've lost loved ones in the war.

The group is urging Iraqis to wave flags, demand Iraqi independence, support Iraqi unity, support "oppressed people" and do so in a way that dignifies Islam.

"It is the time to express your rejection and raise your voices loudly in Iraq's sky against the unjust occupier, the enemy of nations and humanity and against the awful massacres committed by the occupier and unjust people against our noble nation," a Sadrist statement said.

Dictators never give up power quietly. Yesterday Mugabee had several people from the opposition party who won in the elections arrested, they have been released the AP is reporting.

Ya think he knows he committed crimes?

Mugabe: I'll go if I am not prosecuted

Chris McGreal in Harare, Friday April 4 200, Friday April 4 2008

Aides to Robert Mugabe have told Zimbabwean opposition leaders that he is prepared to give up power in return for guarantees including immunity from prosecution for past crimes.

However, senior opposition sources said the aides warned that if the Movement for Democratic Change did not agree, Mugabe could declare emergency rule and force another presidential election in 90 days.

The opposition said the MDC leadership was in direct talks with the highest levels of the army, but was treating the approach with caution because it distrusted the individuals involved.

It has called instead for direct contact with the president, fearing delaying tactics.

Those fears were reinforced yesterday when, at one point, Zimbabwe's election commission abruptly halted the release of official results from Saturday's elections for "logistical reasons" and the police raided opposition offices.

Also yesterday, police arrested two foreign journalists - one from Britain and Barry Bearak, a New York Times correspondent - who are banned from Zimbabwe under draconian media laws, the Associated Press reported.

The pair will be charged today with practising journalism without licences, the report said. Three other journalists detained at the same time have been released.

The MDC's presidential candidate, Morgan Tsvangirai, has already claimed election victory on the basis of his party's tally of the count at polling stations.

A senior MDC source said "the ball is rolling" in persuading Mugabe to recognise defeat in the presidential election after negotiations with the security establishment and contacts with high levels in Zanu-PF.

The source said the party had been approached by senior Zanu-PF officials who said they were speaking for Mugabe, and that he was prepared to resign if there were guarantees that he and senior aides would not be prosecuted.

Another MDC official said the opposition was maintaining a tough negotiating stance in contacts with other elements of Zanu-PF, and had refused its demand for up to four seats in the cabinet.

He said the MDC had rejected power-sharing offers because it had won the presidential race outright.

"We cannot share power when we've won," the official said. "If you've won the cup, you don't share it."

Senior Zanu-PF officials, however, are attempting to pressure the opposition with the threat of a run-off presidential election by ensuring Tsvangirai's proportion of the vote falls below 50% and then delaying the second round.

A second round should be should be held within 21 days, but Zanu-PF is threatening to postpone it for three months, during which Mugabe's term in office would expire and he would extend his rule by emergency decree.

The MDC leadership has also opened direct talks with the "top, top" of the army, the source said.

The official said the military leadership was looking for "guarantees for their conditions of service" and to keep farms confiscated from whites provided they were productive. The MDC said it had no problems with those issues.

Opposition officials believe the approaches mark a recognition by Mugabe that support for him within Zanu-PF has eroded since the election.

Important elements of the ruling party appear willing to do a deal because they realise that the election results could not be manipulated to overturn a clear opposition victory and there would be little hope of winning a second round without resorting to violence or fraud.

Mugabe's position was further undermined on Wednesday when Zanu-PF lost control of parliament for the first time since Zimbabwean independence in 1980.

Publicly, Zanu-PF has vowed to "fight on", and the opposition said it was still preparing for a second round of elections if Mugabe did not bow to pressure to go.

The MDC fears an extremely violent campaign could be unleashed in that event, because it would be the last hope Zanu-PF had of curbing support for the opposition.

This is a MUST READ

Am I a Torturer?

By Justine Sharrock

The prisons in Iraq stink. Ask any guard or interrogator and they'll tell you it's a smell they'll never forget: sweat, fear, and rot. On the base where Ben Allbright served from May to September 2003, a small outfit named Tiger in western Iraq, water was especially scarce; Ben would rig a hose to a water bottle in a feeble attempt to shower. He and the other Army reservists tried mopping the floors, but the cheap solvents only added a chemical note to the stench. During the day, when the temperature was in the triple digits, the smell fermented.

It got even hotter in the Conex container, the kind you see on top of 18-wheelers, where Ben kept his prisoners. Not uncommonly the thermometer inside read 135, even 145 degrees. The Conex box was the first stop for all prisoners brought to the base, most of them Iraqis swept up during mass raids. Ben kept them blindfolded, their hands bound behind their backs with plastic zip ties, without food or sleep, for up to 48 hours at a time. He made them stand in awkward positions, so that they could not rest their heads against the wall. Sometimes he blared loud music, such as Ozzy or AC/DC, blew air horns, banged on the container, or shouted. "Whatever it took to make sure they'd stay awake," he explains.

Ben was not a "bad apple," and he didn't make up these treatments. He was following standard operating procedure as ordered by military-intelligence officers. The MI guys didn't make up the techniques either; they have a long international history as effective torture methods. Though generally referred to by circumlocutions such as "harsh techniques," "softening up," and "enhanced interrogation," they have been medically shown to have the same effects as other forms of torture. Forced standing, for example, causes ankles to swell to twice their size within 24 hours, making walking excruciating and potentially causing kidney failure.

Ben says he never saw anything like that. The detainees didn't faint or go insane, as people have been known to do under similar conditions, but they also "weren't exactly lucid." And, he notes, "I was hardly getting any sleep myself."


……….. and these are the type of good men the DOD are taking. The DOD is so desperate to fill spots needed in all branches of the military they will take anyone.

The DOD is giving out what they call morality wavers.

Sayville man gets 4 months for killing cat

By Luis Perez / Newsday

April 3rd, 2008 1:24 pm

For throwing his ex-girlfriend's cats across a bedroom, killing one of the felines and seriously injuring another, a Sayville man was sentenced Thursday to 4 months in jail.

David Wrigley, 24, was pleaded guilty as part of a deal with prosecutors that reduced two felony animal cruelty charges to misdemeanor cruelty charges.

Dressed in carpenter jeans, a sweater and sneakers, Wrigley said nothing when prompted by Suffolk County Court Judge James C. Hudson in Riverhead.

Prosecutor Michelle Auletta said Wrigley, enraged for no defensible reason on Feb. 26, first slammed a bed against Maddeline, 8, and Jynx, 6.

He then picked up picked up Sara Sabol's two pets and flung each one across her bedroom, Auletta said.

Maddeline died that day of crushing injuries while Jynx suffered broken ribs and a punctured lung and has since recovered.

Auletta said the only reason the deal was possible was because Sabol forgave Wrigley and indicated she wanted to move on. She now does not need to testify in court.

"He continually feels bad for the loss of the cat," said Wrigley's attorney, Ira Rosenberg of Central Islip.

Wrigley was set to begin training for the Navy a week before the incident.

Rosenberg told the judge Wrigley's recruiter has said the military would look past the misdemeanor charge.

Using the word that got Randi Rhodes suspended from Air America Radio.

Hillary Clinton you’re a lying WHORE!

You criticize Obama when you have done NOTHING.

Clinton on the sidelines of efforts to end the Iraq war

April 3rd, 2008 2:34 pm

She's been a vocal critic, but records show she has done little to advance legislation to force a withdrawal from Iraq.

By Noam N. Levey / Los Angeles Times

WASHINGTON — Seeking to convince voters that she can end the Iraq war, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton has touted her role in the congressional effort to force President Bush to bring the troops home.

"I've been working day in and day out in the Senate to provide leadership to end this war," Clinton recently told an audience at George Washington University, contrasting her experience with that of rival Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois.

Clinton has been a vocal war critic and introduced three bills last year to curtail the U.S. military role in Iraq. The New York senator has also aggressively questioned administration officials involved in the war.

But since Democrats took control of Congress, Clinton has done relatively little to advance legislation to force the Bush administration to withdraw from Iraq, according to congressional records and lawmakers and staff members who have worked on the issue.

Instead, Clinton largely remained on the sidelines of the congressional debate, her legislation ignored as the Senate focused on measures developed by lawmakers who were more central to the legislative drive to end the war:

* Clinton played a marginal role in Democratic efforts to confront the president's troop "surge" early last year and later in developing the party's legislative strategy of tying money for the war to a timeline for a withdrawal.

* None of her war-related proposals -- which often mirrored measures introduced by other senators -- ever came up for a vote.

* She did not work with moderate Democrats who built GOP support for bipartisan antiwar legislation to overcome Republican-led filibusters.

* And Clinton not only did not develop any measures to mandate a pullout deadline, she actively opposed them until early last year.

"She lent her voice to the Democratic Party's criticism of the administration, which was important," said Julian Zelizer, a Princeton University historian who has written extensively about the current Congress. "But she certainly was not at the head of the move to legislate the end of the war."

Obama was equally peripheral to the Iraq war debate, but he has not claimed a similar leadership role. He has argued instead that his opposition to the war in 2002, two years before he was elected to the Senate, makes him the superior candidate.

In contrast to both Democrats, Arizona Sen. John McCain, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, was a leading voice in the debate, arguing for more troops in Iraq.

Clinton, who voted to authorize the war, has made her Senate experience -- along with her eight years as first lady -- a cornerstone of her argument that she is best prepared to be commander in chief "on Day One."

In Des Moines last summer, she announced a three-step plan to end the war, discussing her legislation "to begin bringing our troops home within 90 days" and to revoke the war authorization Congress gave President Bush.

"It is long past time that the president ended American combat involvement in Iraq's multi-sided, sectarian civil war. . . ." she said. "That is what I have been trying to do in the Senate."

In a March 17 speech in Washington to mark the fifth anniversary of the invasion, she explained that ending the war had been her "mission in the Senate."

And she pointed to another bill she introduced last year. "I've started laying the groundwork for a swift and responsible withdrawal beginning in early 2009 by demanding that the Pentagon start planning for it now," Clinton said.

Clinton has earned the support of some of the war's fiercest critics on Capitol Hill. Sixteen members of the House Out of Iraq Caucus recently signed an open letter praising Clinton as "the candidate with the stature, strength and experience needed to end this war as quickly and responsibly as possible." (More than 20 caucus members are backing Obama.)

"For years, Sen. Clinton has been committed to finding any and all possible ways to get the president to reverse his failed policies in Iraq and end the war," said senior Clinton advisor Philippe Reines, noting her three visits to Iraq, her work on the Armed Services Committee, her speeches in favor of a withdrawal and her legislative proposals.

Yet, while Clinton introduced Iraq-related bills -- as have scores of lawmakers -- other senators wrote the war-related legislation that was actually considered, handled delicate negotiations over compromise proposals and worked to round up votes.

These included Delaware's Joseph R. Biden Jr. and Michigan's Carl Levin, the chairmen of the Foreign Relations and Armed Services committees. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) early last year asked them to draft a resolution with Republicans opposing Bush's surge plan to send about 30,000 more troops to Iraq.

Biden and Levin were among a small group of Senate Democrats that Reid regularly convened in his second-floor Capitol office to strategize about Iraq legislation. The group included not only members of the Democratic leadership but other lawmakers interested in Iraq, such as Rhode Island's Jack Reed, an Army veteran, and Wisconsin's Russell D. Feingold, a staunch war opponent.

The group did not include Clinton.

Clinton did not work on the anti-surge resolution that Biden and Levin developed, according to Senate aides who asked not to be identified when discussing Senate negotiations. She did sign onto the legislation after it was introduced, as did 17 other senators.

She also did not collaborate with a second bipartisan group of senators led by Republican John W. Warner of Virginia, who drafted an alternative resolution.

On Feb. 16, 2007, as senators were debating the surge, Clinton filed her first Iraq-related bill of the new Congress, a proposal to halt the surge and to link continued authorization for the war to a troop withdrawal.

She rounded up no co-sponsors. And her bill was referred to the Foreign Relations Committee, becoming one of dozens of pieces of Iraq-related legislation that were never debated.

Obama's only legislation to end the war, which would have stopped the surge and mandated a phased withdrawal, was similarly shunted off to the committee after he introduced it on Jan. 30, 2007.

Most of the Capitol was at that time focused on the next question in the Iraq debate: Would Democrats try to restrict money for the war?

Once again, other lawmakers played the leading roles in that intraparty debate.

Feingold pushed for a withdrawal deadline enforced by a funding cutoff. Levin and Reed drew up an alternative that conditioned additional funding on a withdrawal timeline.

Clinton was simply one of 51 senators who ultimately voted for the Levin-Reed plan. She did not participate in the Senate debate in the week leading up to the March vote on the measure, according to the Congressional Record.

Two months later, in May, Clinton announced that she and Sen. Robert C. Byrd (D-W.Va.) would introduce legislation to end the authority for the war in Iraq, an idea that Biden and Levin had explored earlier in the year but then dropped.

Like her earlier legislation, Clinton's proposal never came up for a vote.

In July, Clinton trumpeted a bill she planned to sponsor that would require the Pentagon to give Congress a report on contingency plans for redeploying U.S. forces from Iraq.

But again, other senators had taken the lead in pushing that concept. Just a week before, Republicans Warner and Richard G. Lugar of Indiana had introduced a measure to do essentially the same thing.

Clinton did not work with the senior GOP lawmakers, however. Her proposal went nowhere.

Nor did she participate in efforts by centrist Democrats, such as Nebraska's Ben Nelson or Indiana's Evan Bayh, to write legislation with moderate Republicans. Aides to Maine's Susan Collins and Olympia J. Snowe, two of the most influential moderate Republicans, said they never heard from Clinton's office.

By then, Clinton, who was courting antiwar Democrats still angry about her vote to authorize the war, had embraced the strongest antiwar legislation pushed by Feingold. That proposal, which Clinton had voted against a year earlier, would have cut off funding for all but a limited number of military missions.

At a September hearing on Capitol Hill, Clinton told Ryan Crocker, the U.S. ambassador to Iraq, and Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, the senior U.S. commander in Iraq, that their upbeat reports on the surge required "the willing suspension of disbelief."

And in December, she attracted eight co-sponsors, including Obama, for her bill calling on the president to seek congressional approval for any long-term security agreements with Iraq.

But when Democrats pushed anew for legislation mandating a withdrawal in December and then again in February, Clinton wasn't there. She missed the votes.


Nothing but IED’s and car bombs all over Iraq. Go see for yourself.


04/04/08 belfasttelegraph: Afghan warlords using heroin cash to buy surface-to-air missiles

Taliban drug lords are using cash from Afghanistan's bumper heroin crop to try to buy Stinger missiles, the country's anti-narcotics chief has warned. 04/04/08

reliefweb: Afghanistan still copes with landmines

Landmines have killed or injured more than 70,000 Afghans in the last two decades, and they continue to cause hundreds more casualties each year.

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Bush' Way of Bringing the Troops Home

Bush' Way of Bringing the Troops Home
If Not Now When?