<\body> Stories in America: December 2006

Monday, December 25, 2006

Merry Christmas & Happy New Year

I'm taking some time off from the news and technology to relax, read fiction, and spend time with the ocean. Merry Christmas and here's to a peaceful 2007...!

Sunday, December 24, 2006


Saturday, December 23, 2006

We're at War - Go Shopping!

"A recent report on retail sales shows a strong beginning to the holiday shopping season across the country -- and I encourage you all to go shopping more."
-The Current President, making us all proud during a Wednesday press conference. I'm sure the thousands of troops who are being blown up and the tens of thousands who are missing limbs appreciated the comment. Merry Christmas.

Two days after Bush told Americans to go shopping, five American troops died in Iraq, making December the second deadliest month since the bombing began. So far, 76 troop died in Iraq this month.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Suicide Rates Up Among U.S. Soldiers in Iraq

Where is this story?
The press rarely carries accounts of U.S. suicides in Iraq. Military personnel who do not die in combat are usually put in one category, covering "non-hostile" death, which includes vehicles, illness, friendly fire and other causes. The press rarely finds out about suicides. But suicides among U.S. Army soldiers in Iraq doubled last year over the previous year, U.S. Army medical experts have now announced.

Twenty-two U.S. soldiers in Iraq took their lives in 2005, a rate of 19.9 per 100,000 soldiers, just over the rate in 2003 (the year of the U.S. invasion). In 2004, the rate had slid to 10.5 per 100,000, which the military said was due to efforts at prevention.

The figures do not include members of other U.S. military services in Iraq such as the Marine Corps.

Lt. Gen. Kevin Kiley, the Army's surgeon general, said at a press conference, "We think that the numbers are so rare to begin with that it's very hard to make any kind of interpretation. We have not made a connection between the stress on the force and some massive or even significant increase in suicides."

A survey of the morale and mental health of U.S. soldiers in Iraq in late 2005 found 13.6 percent of the soldiers reporting symptoms of acute stress and another 16.5 percent describing a combination of depression, anxiety and acute stress. These numbers, about 30% total, were also up from 2004.

Other findings in the report:

--Troops involved in training Iraqi security forces reported higher morale than those serving on combat teams, partly because they felt their work was part of the solution in Iraq.

--The number of those who felt that seeking help was a "sign of weakness" declined from 35 percent to 28 percent.

-- Troops sent a second time to Iraq reported greater stress rates than first-timers. Some 12 percent serving their initial deployment reported acute stress, compared to 18.4 percent of those serving a repeat deployment.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Military Families Comment on Holidays Without Loved Ones

This is from Military Families Speak Out, a national organization of over 3,100 families opposed to the war in Iraq who have relatives or loved ones in the military:
As the Bush administration and Congress engage in a seemingly endless debate about how to make the war in Iraq "go better", the number of U.S. troop deaths is approaching the next horrific milestone of 3,000. For military families who oppose the U.S. occupation of Iraq with loved ones currently serving in Iraq or soon to be deployed or redeployed, as well as those who have returned as hollow-eyed strangers suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and those with loved ones who will never again join them at any holiday table – this is not an abstract policy debate.

"I miss Bob every day but the holidays are an especially sad time," said Debbie Whitfield of Pittsburgh, PA whose son was killed in Iraq in 2005. "Last year as I decorated my house, so many things reminded me of Bob. I hang a stocking for everyone. I took his out and just held it, wondering what to do with it. I don’t want to confuse my granddaughter, I don’t want her to forget her Daddy, but I have to keep reinforcing that he can’t come home. Three Christmases ago Bob spent the holidays with us, two Christmases ago we sent him gifts to Iraq and last Christmas we laid a wreath on his grave. I hope it gets easier but right now it doesn’t feel like it. It is hard for all of us. We all miss him a lot. I pray that this is over soon so that families will be spared the grief that we live with every day."

"We have only one child. This year he is in Iraq," said Tim and Laura Kahlor of Temecula, CA, whose son is currently serving his second extended deployment to Iraq with the Army’s 1st Armored Division. "We will not decorate, it's just too sad, because all the memories of unpacking decorations are associated with our son. When Ryan was in Iraq in 2003, he told us to decorate like he was at home. This year he says it will be just another day in Iraq. He doesn't even care about getting anything. We wanted to send him a small tree and a Santa hat, but he said he didn't want anything this year. He just wants to go home safely to be with his wife. When you are surrounded by death and trying to survive why would anyone care about celebrating anything?"

"This is probably going to be one of the hardest holidays we will ever have to face, when it was supposed to be our most joyous. It is the baby’s first Christmas and my husband won’t be here to share it," said Haeley of the Hudson Valley area, NY whose husband is serving in Iraq with the National Guard, under a stop-loss order. "I sometimes want to throw away the ornament that I have for the tree proclaiming this year as our first Christmas together because I feel it’s a blatant lie. I want him home so he doesn’t have to miss out on anything more with his son. I shed a lot of tears for what I will miss and many more for what he is being forced to miss."

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

EPA Fails to Take Action to Reduce 24,000 Premature Deaths a Year

This is from the Daily Grist:
The U.S. EPA has gotten itself sued once again this week, this time by 13 states and the District of Columbia that are pissed off about lenient soot-emission standards. The backstory: EPA analysis has found that reducing soot emissions by a relatively small amount could prevent 24,000 premature deaths a year. Nonetheless, this fall, the agency rejected the near-unanimous advice of its own scientific advisers and left unchanged the annual maximum amount of particulate matter Americans can be exposed to. The states join green groups and the American Lung Association in arguing that the soot standards are too weak; they hope a court will find the EPA has failed in its duty to protect the environment and public health. Meanwhile, a handful of industry groups have also sued, claiming the rules are too stringent.

straight to the source: Planet Ark, Reuters, 20 Dec 2006

straight to the source: The Washington Post, Carol D. Leonnig, 19 Dec 2006

Military Families Respond to Bush's Desperate Plan to Send More Troops to Iraq

This is from Gold Star Families Speak Out, a national organization of families who oppose the U.S. occupation of Iraq and have lost a loved one in the war:
“The only thing worse than having so many die in a war that should never have happened is to have this war claim even more lives. Those who have already died will best be honored by a nation and a Congress with the courage to stop the carnage and end the war,” said Nancy Lessin, co-founder of Military Families Speak Out.

“I have tried to speak to Bush on numerous occasions, and he has never tried to speak to me,” said Celeste Zappala of Philadelphia, PA, whose son Sergeant Sherwood Baker was killed in Baghdad on April 26, 2004 while searching for nonexistent weapons of mass destruction. “I believe that my son’s death was unnecessary, and I work relentlessly to bring the troops home now and to spare other families from the agony that my family experienced when my son died.”

“There are many of us Gold Star Families that say NO MORE,” said Vickie Castro of Venice, CA whose son Cpl. Jonathan Castro was killed in a suicide bombing in Mosul, Iraq on December 21, 2004. “Not one more death for a war that should have never been started. Not one more ‘We regret to inform you’ delivered to a family in the name of an unnecessary and immoral war. Not one more unseen flag draped coffin for a situation that has no military solution. Not one more fatherless child so that Bush can 'stay the course'.”

Michelle Deford of Colton, OR, whose son David was killed in Iraq on September 25, 2004, said “I know that my son’s life was wasted, thrown away like it was nothing. What we need to do is bring the rest of our sons and daughters home now.”

Dianne Santoriello of Verona, PA, whose son, Neil was killed in action near Fallujah on August 13, 2004 said, “I would welcome the chance to explain to the President why my son died in vain, why those who die today or tomorrow or next week do not validate in any way my son's death. I have not slept well at all since I found out my son was dead Perhaps when this war is over we will sleep.”

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

First Women to Chair the National Governors Association are Pro-Choice

Perhaps the tide is slowly changing.
Pro-choice women continue to make history: in addition to welcoming Nancy Pelosi as the first female Speaker of the House, Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius and Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano will become the first women to chair the Democratic Governors Association and National Governors Association, respectively. Both women are strong pro-choice leaders, and both celebrated election victories on November 7 in so-called "red" states. Gov. Napolitano, the first female governor of Arizona, won a second term with nearly two-thirds of the vote, and Gov. Sebelius won 58 percent of the vote for a second term in Kansas.

Monday, December 18, 2006

The Streets of Gaza From the Perspective of a Woman/Mother/Journalist

This was written by Laila El-Haddad, a journalist and mother who resides in Gaza and the U.S. Check out her blog, Raising Yousuf, Unplugged: diary of a Palestinian mother:
Things are grim here in Gaza City. During the day, few shops opt to stay open anymore, and at night, the city is transformed into a ghost town. And then the shooting begins. Tonight, in addition to the usual machine gun banter, we also heard a large unexplained explosion-it appears a mortar attack in northern Gaza near the Mukhabarat (Intelligence) building.

Yesterday, a Fateh-linked security officer was kidnapped and killed, and clashes ensued in front of Ministry of Foreign Affairs after unknown assailants fired on the convoy of Mahmud Zahar; Later, Fateh gunmen took over the Ministries of Agriculture and Educationin what Zahar has described as an attempted military coup; and in the north of the Gaza Strip, Jabaliya, clashes continued today despite a tenuous "ceasefire" (people are now trying to keep track of which ceasefire is which).

Every hour, new blood is spilled, and every hour, we here new condemnations and regret at the fact that brethren are doing this to each other. How does a society actually slip into civil war? is it gradual or abrupt? When is that red line finally crossed, the point of no return, when all precedents are broken, and wrong can suddenly be right?

And why are we in the media so anxious to call this a civil war, almost as we want to will into existance, while the civil war in Iraq has been raging for years, and no one knows how to characterize it yet.

Today, we saw members of the presidential guard, who were deployed last night, cautionally manning every corner of Gaza City. They were stopping cars on main streets in Gaza City, asking us to turn on our lights inside our cars as we drove (perhaps so as to avoid becoming an intinended target?). For a change, we actually felt a little safe, though also a little more vulnerable.

I can't help but think of Amira Hass's article of this past summer. Her words reverberate over and over again in my mind.

The experiment was a success: The Palestinians are killing each other. They are behaving as expected at the end of the extended experiment called "what happens when you imprison 1.3 million human beings in an enclosed space like battery hens.

The average person don't know what to think anymore. They are confused and and exhausted and mostly very, very afraid.

As a friend of my mother put it today, "We don’t’ know anymore who's right and who’s wrong, and who’s at fault and who isn’t. And we just want it to end."

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Iraqi Women in Their Own Words: Life is 'Just Like Being in Jail'

On Friday, I interviewed Dahr Jamail, an independent journalist who has spent a total of eight months in Iraq over the past three years. He says it's too dangerous to return; to his knowledge, very few Western reporters leave the Green Zone for fear of being killed. The interviews in this story by the Washington Post's Nancy Trejos were definitely conducted unembedded and outside the Green Zone.

History doesn't mean much to the majority of the media, especially the war cheerleaders. In Trejos's story, she includes a very important piece of history that should not be forgotten:
For much of the 20th century, and under various leaders, Iraq was one of the most progressive Middle Eastern countries in terms of its treatment of women, who were encouraged to go to school and enter the workforce. Saddam Hussein's Baath Party espoused a secular Arab nationalism that advocated women's full participation in society. But years of war changed that.
What is life like today in Iraq?
In the days after the U.S.-led invasion in 2003, many women were hopeful that they would enjoy greater parity with men. President Bush said that increasing women's rights was essential to creating a new, democratic Iraq.

But interviews with 16 Iraqi women, ranging in age from 21 to 52, show that much of that postwar hope is gone. The younger women say they fear being snatched on their way to school and wonder whether their college degrees will mean anything in the new Iraq. The older women, proud of their education and careers, are watching their independence slip away.
Here are a few quotes from Iraqi women:
"For a woman, it's just like being in jail. I can't go anywhere. We're suffering right now. The war took all our rights. We're not free because of terrorism."
-Zahra Khalid, 30

"There's no chance to build our future."
-Aseel Bahjet, 23

"I consider myself and my daughters liberated women. We go out and walk in the street. That was last year even. But this year, it's more difficult. Every day, it's worse than the day before."
-Muna Nouri, 52, a high school teacher

"It's become so bad that a woman who drives a car will be slaughtered, and a woman who doesn't put a scarf on her hair will be slaughtered."
-Bushra Shimirya, 42

Friday, December 15, 2006

Gaza: "Free the Women and You Free the Country"

On Wednesday's radio show, we discussed what it takes to bring people out of poverty. I interviewed Katherine Newman, Princeton professor and author of the book, "Chutes and Ladders: Navigating the Low Wage Labor Market." In the book, Newman writes about her experience following 300 blacks and Latinos who applied for jobs at fast food joints in Harlem. Not surprisingly, she found that even though the work paid very little, the workers took pride in what they did and tried very hard to avoid the need for government assistance. Those who are against social programs like to say poor people are lazy and take advantage of the system. Sure, many do, but most people want something to live for.

I saw this in India and Africa. Women who are treated like second-class citizens are unstoppable once they are able to provide for their families, take part in their communities, and make their own decisions.

This article about women in Gaza illustrates the importance of giving women control of their own destiny:
There are many things you expect to find in the cratered, cramped heart of Gaza City, but a group of proto-Germaine Greers and Betty Friedans would be low on the list. Yet, I am sitting under a lush green tree with a group of tough old ladies at the heart of the feminist hub they have built here - and where hundreds of Gazan women are flocking to find freedom.

In 1989, the women's rights campaigner Um Ahmad returned to her native Gaza after decades working for women's groups across the world. "I was determined to do something about the fact that women were in a much worse position here than even in other Arab countries," she says.

She found that Palestinian women were trapped between the savage Israeli occupation and a suffocatingly patriarchal Palestinian society. She knew there was only one way to free them - by getting them jobs and hard earning power.

Her proposal to establish an organisation providing jobs for women was refused by the Israeli occupying authorities, but Ms Ahmad refused to let this stop her. Risking interrogation and imprisonment, she went ahead and set up a network for women to make jams and foods in their homes and to sell them on. In Gaza, the Women's Institute was revolutionary, and jam-making an act of subversion.

After four years, Ms Ahmad's organisation was finally legalised. Today - thanks to the Welfare Association, one of the three charities being supported in this year's Independent Christmas Appeal - it has a permanent base.

She is sitting with me in the courtyard, watching women sip coffee and read print-outs from the internet terminals here. If you shut out the endless car-horns - the tinnitus of the most congested land-mass in the world - and the simulated explosions of the Israeli sonic booms, this is as close to tranquil as Gaza City gets.

"Women are suffering most from the occupation and economic collapse," she explains. "When the husband is out of work and at home all the time, he starts picking on his wife. For a lot of men, being unemployed and humiliated by the Israelis makes them show they are still in control somewhere - over their wives and children. Often violence breaks out."

Ms Ahmad's priority was to give women a chance to earn money and achieve independence. That is why she set up a women-only, non-profit clothing factory, and today as she walks along its floor with me, the 30 women are engaging in the usual factory-floor banter. They all have a story of how this centre changed their lives. Leila is a 40-year-old sewing machinist, and as she steps away from her machine she explains: "I used to live on food and money subsidies from a local charity. I was stuck at home, staring at the walls and thinking 'What am I doing with my life?'

"Then a charity worker told me I was intelligent and I could be a producer, not just a passive recipient - and he put me in touch with this charity. Now I support my husband and my seven children." She laughs with a mixture of surprise and glee. "I am convinced that sitting at home waiting for donations is bad. Going out, fulfilling yourself, being independent - that is good. I want all women to be able to do this."

Fatima is a bubbly 18-year-old who works on the knitting machines. She has always wanted to be a teacher of deaf children, but her parents could not afford to send her to university - so she is paying her own way as a student while working. "It's an amazing feeling, to be able to stand on your own feet: to be an independent woman," she says.

The Welfare Association helps to pay for these women to make school uniforms for the poverty-wracked children, and to maintain a bakery. Ms Ahmad says: "The most noticeable thing is that when women first join our society, they don't speak a lot. They are silent, because that's how they have been taught to be. But after a while they start to express their views, and soon they are drawn out of their silence. They want to browse the internet, see the world out there. It's like a person who has been locked in a room; then you offer them a window and they want to see more and more.

Suzanne Swift Sentenced to 30 Days in Confinement; Her Accused Rapist is Free

This is justice? Visit Suzanne Swift's website for more information.
A soldier who refused to return to Iraq after saying she had been sexually harassed was sentenced to 30 days of confinement Wednesday after pleading guilty to missing movement and being absent without leave, the Army said.

Suzanne Swift, 22, of Eugene, Ore., was also demoted from specialist to private, but she can remain in the Army and could eventually earn an honorable discharge under the terms of the plea deal.

Swift served in Iraq from February 2004 to February 2005. Her unit was sent back to Iraq in January 2006, but she refused to go and stayed away for about five months. Swift said that her supervisor in Iraq coerced her into a sexual relationship, and that other colleagues had harassed or abused her.

The Army substantiated her allegations against one soldier at Fort Lewis. That soldier later left the Army after a reprimand from his battalion commander and reassignment to another unit.

Swift was arrested in June. Her plea, which came during a summary court-martial, helped her avoid a federal conviction. She will be reassigned to a new unit when she completes her sentence.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Researchers Document How Bush Administration Manipulates Science

In recent years, scientists who work for and advise the federal government have seen their work manipulated, suppressed, and distorted. This is from the Center for American Progress:
"Some 10,000 US researchers have signed a statement protesting about political interference in the scientific process," BBC reports today. "The statement, which includes the backing of 52 Nobel Laureates, demands a restoration of scientific integrity in government policy." Along with the statement, the Union of Concerned Scientists have released their "A to Z Guide to Political Interference in Science." The report, laid out in the style of the periodic table, "documents dozens of recent allegations involving censorship and political interference in federal science, covering issues ranging from global warming to sex education." "In recent years," UCS writes, "scientists who work for and advise the federal government have seen their work manipulated, suppressed, distorted, while agencies have systematically limited public and policy maker access to critical scientific information." "It's very difficult to make good public policy without good science, and it's even harder to make good public policy with bad science," said Dr Peter Gleick, president of the Pacific Institute for Studies in Development, Environment and Security. "In the last several years, we've seen an increase in both the misuse of science and I would say an increase of bad science in a number of very important issues; for example, in global climate change, international peace and security, and water resources."

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Vietnam Vet, Former Minister Walks to End the War

I have a soft spot for people who travel around the country for a good cause. Check out Bill McDannell's site:
My name is Bill McDannell. I am a father of five and grandfather of four. I am a Vietnam era veteran and a former pastor of the United Methodist Church. Despite considerable evidence to the contrary, I still firmly believe that, as a citizen of the United States of America, I have a voice in the activities of our country, and that my voice can be heard and can have an impact.

On Saturday, November 4th, 2006 I began to put that belief to the test. Mindful of my constitutional right to petition my government, on that date I left my home in Lakeside, California to begin a walk that will end in Washington, D.C. I am carrying with me a petition I intend to present to both the executive and legislative branches of our government requesting that we, as a nation, declare an immediate end to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

I am only one person, and do not pretend to have the individual wisdom to dictate exactly what actions should take place as a result of a declaration of the end of the wars. In fact, this is the reason I am walking to Washington. I expect it will take me nine or ten months to walk from California to Washington, D.C., and I believe that the leaders who managed to figure out a way to get us into these wars in just a few months ought to be able to figure out a way to get us out by the time I arrive. The details of how many of our sons and daughters in the military will be brought home and how soon they will arrive home must be left to those more familiar with the logistics than myself, but I certainly believe that a declaration that the wars are over must come immediately and that, with the wars officially over, our sons and daughters should begin to return home immediately.

The basis for my petition is quite simple. First, regarding the war in Iraq. We the people of the United States of America have been given several reasons why we went to war with Iraq in the first place:

1. We have been told that we went to war to liberate the people of Iraq from the brutal regime of Saddam Hussein. We have accomplished that. Saddam Hussein has been deposed and is now standing trial.

2. We have been told that we went to war to locate and destroy weapons of mass destruction and the capability to deliver them. We have discovered that there were no weapons of mass destruction, neither was there any means to deliver such weapons.

3. We have been told that we went to war to establish a democratic government in Iraq. The Iraqi people have voted and there is a democratic form of government in place.

Since the objectives we believed were the purpose of the war have all been accomplished, it is now time to officially declare that the war has ended.

The only possible argument for not ending the war revolves around a perceived need to establish some sort of stability in the nation of Iraq. But the evidence is now quite clear that our continued military presence in Iraq is the primary cause of the continuing instability. As our continued military presence only serves to further exacerbate the situation we want to resolve, it is clear that we must officially end that presence, beginning with a formal declaration that the war is over.

Next, regarding the war in Afghanistan. We went to war with Afghanistan to depose the rule of the Taliban, whose influence and support assisted the terrorists that attacked our country on September 11, 2001. Like Iraq, Afghanistan now has a government in place that has been freely elected by its citizens. We no longer have a grievance with the leadership of Afghanistan, and the country and its government do not pose an imminent threat to the sovereignty or safety of the United States. Therefore, it is also time to declare an official end to the war in Afghanistan and to immediately begin to remove our military presence from the country.

Finally, regarding the war on terrorism. War has historically been viewed as an armed conflict between states or nations in order to establish boundaries, authority, or power, or to redress a wrong inflicted upon one nation by another. The war on terrorism does not fit this definition. It is instead an effort to prevent terrorist activities, to locate and eliminate those individuals or groups who engage in such activities, to dissuade any and all nations from harboring or abetting such groups and to keep not only our country but countries around the world safe from such activities. It is first of all obvious that this will be an essentially endless task of vigilance and intervention. It is also obvious that such an effort does not fit the definition of war any more than does a war on poverty or a war on drugs.

Since the war on terrorism does not fit the true definition of a war, once our leaders have officially acknowledged that the war in Iraq and the war in Afghanistan are over, it will mean that the United States will not be at war with any other sovereign state or nation. Therefore, along with the official declaration that these wars are at an end, I will petition the president of the United States to immediately relinquish the wartime powers ceded to him by the Congress, and petition the Congress to immediately rescind the wartime powers it granted to the executive branch. I do not believe the structure of our democracy ever conceived of a situation where the ceding of wartime powers by Congress to the executive branch would be a permanent arrangement, as this would be a significant step toward dictatorial powers. Therefore, a continuing war on terrorism can neither be viewed as a war in the historic sense nor a justification for the executive branch to retain wartime powers in the absence of any authentic war.

I am doing this as an individual citizen - with the help and support of my loving wife - and not as a member of any group, organization or political party. I am doing it as a grandfather, in the belief that if the grandfathers and grandmothers of our nation do not raise our voices, we will one day see our grandchildren being sent off to a seemingly endless war.

That said, I welcome any and all individuals, groups and organizations who believe it is time to end these wars to meet me along the way and sign my petition, to walk with me for a while, and to demonstrate our conviction that it is time to take definitive action to end these wars. I am doing this on faith, hoping that those who feel as I do will be inspired to lend their assistance to my effort. But whether or not such assistance comes, I am committing my time, my energy, my health, and my fortunes to this effort. God willing, I shall arrive in Washington and I shall present my petition to our country’s leaders.

I am calling my effort Walk To End The Wars, and this website will be the place where you will be able to find a regular journal of my walk detailing my experiences along the way, a progress report that will allow you to locate me and join me on the walk or sign my petition if you desire, and methods of contacting me directly should you wish to lend support to my effort. I deeply appreciate your support in whatever form you wish to offer it, and wish you and the generations that will follow you Peace.

Bill McDannell

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Tuesday's Guest: Former CIA Agent Tyler Drumheller

On today's radio show, I'll be joined by Tyler Drumheller, author of "On the Brink: An Insider's Account of How the White House Compromised American Intelligence." Drumheller is the the highest-ranking CIA officer to write a book about the inner workings of the CIA and its relationship with the Bush administration. Drumheller worked for the CIA for 26 years under four different administrations. He retired in 2004 after serving as head of the CIA's Europe division.

In his book, Drumheller tells his story, or as much as he is allowed, about life in the CIA in the days leading to the disastrous invasion of Iraq. His conclusions are striking because it is rare in our nation's history for intelligence officers, even in retirement, to openly criticize an administration they served.

Drumheller was interviewed on 60 Minutes back in April. Unfortunately, his story failed to make a dent in the 'liberal media.' His first hand accounts prove (as if you need any more evidence) that the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy. In other words, the Bush administration flat out lied about why they went to war.
When no weapons of mass destruction surfaced in Iraq, President Bush insisted that all those WMD claims before the war were the result of faulty intelligence. But a former top CIA official, Tyler Drumheller -- a 26-year veteran of the agency -- has decided to do something CIA officials at his level almost never do: Speak out.

He tells correspondent Ed Bradley the real failure was not in the intelligence community but in the White House. He says he saw how the Bush administration, time and again, welcomed intelligence that fit the president's determination to go to war and turned a blind eye to intelligence that did not.

"It just sticks in my craw every time I hear them say it’s an intelligence failure. It’s an intelligence failure. This was a policy failure," Drumheller tells Bradley.

Drumheller was the CIA's top man in Europe, the head of covert operations there, until he retired a year ago. He says he saw firsthand how the White House promoted intelligence it liked and ignored intelligence it didn’t:

"The idea of going after Iraq was U.S. policy. It was going to happen one way or the other," says Drumheller.

Monday, December 11, 2006

How Does the Bush Cabal Support the Troops?

Halliburton's profits are out of control, but our government can't find the funds to pay utility bills at military bases?
During a recent visit to a military family center at Fort Hood in Texas, Joyce Raezer was dismayed to find a sign in a restroom stall asking women to clean up because janitorial service had been cut back.

"What message does that send to a family member when they walk into a family center?" asked Raezer, director of government relations for the National Military Families Association.

At Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri, swimming pools closed a month early this fall, and shuttle vans were sharply curtailed in an effort to trim spending. At Fort Sam Houston in Texas, unpaid utility bills exceeded $4 million, and the base reduced mail delivery to cut costs.

Belt-tightening at the bases is only the beginning. As the United States spends about $8 billion a month in Iraq, the military is forced to cut costs in ways big and small.

Soldiers preparing to ship to Iraq don't have enough equipment to train on because it has been left in Iraq, where it is most needed. Thousands of tanks and other vehicles sit at repair depots waiting to be fixed because money is short.

At the Red River Army Depot in Texas, at least 6,200 humvees, Bradley Fighting Vehicles, trucks, and ambulances were awaiting repair because of insufficient money, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported in October.

There is a virtual graveyard of tanks and fighting vehicles at the Anniston Army Depot in Alabama. The depot expects to repair 1,885 tanks and other armored vehicles during the fiscal year that began Oct. 1, spokeswoman Joan Gustafson said. That would be up from the 1,169 and 1,035 vehicles repaired in the previous two years.

Some of the depot's contractors haven't been able to supply enough parts in time to make all the repairs, Gustafson said. The depot is trying to reduce the time for getting parts from 120 days to 60 days.

Tanks and helicopters are one thing; the toll on America's warriors and their families is another.

Post-traumatic stress disorder and problems such as drug abuse and depression have been diagnosed in more than 73,000 soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. That's enough people to fill a typical NFL stadium.

Internet blogs by soldiers or their wives tell of suicide attempts by soldiers haunted by the horror of combat, civilian careers harmed by reservists' deployment and redeployment, and marriages broken by distance and the trauma of war.

"Back-to-back war deployments have changed both of us - to where it's as if a marriage does not exist anymore," wrote a woman calling herself Blackhawk wife on an Iraq war vets Web site. "We just go through the daily steps of life and raising children as best we can."

The length of the war in Iraq has strained all aspects of the armed forces, said Dov Zakheim, the Pentagon's chief financial officer from 2001 to 2004.

"In 2003, I don't think anybody predicted it would go as long as World War II and the wear and tear on equipment would be as intense," said Zakheim, a vice president for global strategy consultant Booz Allen Hamilton Inc. "When I left the department, we were spending less than $4 billion a month on Iraq. Now it's pretty much doubled."

The length of the Iraq war surpassed that of World War II last month. The costs of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the global fight against terrorism are expected to surpass by spring the Vietnam War's $536 billion in inflation-adjusted costs. That's more than 10 times the Bush administration's $50 billion prewar estimate.

Through the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30, Congress authorized about $436 billion in war spending, according to the Government Accountability Office, the investigative arm of Congress.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Women's Issues News Roundup: Protests Over Darfur Rapes, Rights in the Arab World


Female BBC news presenters earn £6,500 less than men - Press Gazette
The BBC pays its female reporters on its flagship news programmes £6,500 less on average than their male counterparts according to answers obtained under the Freedom of Information Act. The average salary of reporters on the One, Six and Ten o'clock news is £65,625 for men and £59,050 for women.


Militants kill 2 female teachers in E. Afghanistan - People's Daily Online
Unknown gunmen have killed five civilians including two female teachers in Kunar province of eastern Afghanistan, a local senior police officer said Saturday. The bloody incident occurred on Friday night in Narang district when armed militants barged into a house and started a shooting spree, killing five persons including four women and a man, Abdul Sabour Alahyar told Xinhua.

Militia 'free to rape in Darfur camps' - Telegraph
Sudan's authorities have not convicted a single man for rape in Darfur despite a "systematically conducted" campaign of sexual violence which is sweeping the country, human rights groups said yesterday. Women living in refugee camps scattered across the war-torn region of western Sudan are vulnerable to assault, often carried out by the pro-regime "Janjaweed" militia. Gunmen lurk on the outskirts of the camps, frequently raping women who venture away from their shacks in search of firewood.

Alarms protest over Darfur rapes - Yahoo News
Hundreds of demonstrators have set off rape alarms outside Downing Street in a protest against sexual violence in Darfur.
About 200 protesters marched from the Sudanese embassy in central London to No 10 before delivering a formal letter to the Government calling for political pressure to stop the crisis. The event is part of International Human Rights Day, which has this year been adopted by campaigners from around the globe as a day of action to demand peace in Darfur.

Arab nations urged to improve conditions, status for women - Washington Post
Arab countries have made advances in their treatment of women in recent years but have failed to significantly improve conditions for them, according to a report carried out under the aegis of the U.N. Development Program. The report, released Thursday in Yemen, urges Arab leaders to make genuine changes and to reinterpret Islamic laws as a means to empower women. Arab governments have "announced a host of reforms targeting freedom and good governance," the report says. But "reforms often seemed empty gestures to cover up the continuation of an oppressive status quo."

UAE's first woman taxi driver - AFP
Ayda Sultan is a recently widowed 43-year-old who took advantage of a five-year-old law to become the first woman taxi driver in the United Arab Emirates, newspapers reported. Even though what she was doing was not illegal, Sultan said she was still stopped many times by police unused to seeing a woman behind the wheel of a taxi. "But when I showed them my permit to drive a taxi, they were astonished and wished me well instead of booking me," she said.

All-female showroom launches in Saudi Arabia - Toronto Star
Saudi women still can't drive cars, but they can now sell them. Potential buyers can go to an all-women showroom where, for the first time, other women will help them choose a car and answer questions about horsepower, carburetors and other features. But neither the saleswomen nor the female buyers can take the car out for a test drive because women are still banned from driving in Saudi Arabia — even though they have been allowed to own cars for decades and hire male drivers.

Watch 60 Minutes Tonight: Joe Darby, the Brave Man Who Turned in Torture Photos of Abu Ghraib

From 60 Minutes:
Even though he lives in a hidden location, Abu Ghraib whistleblower Joe Darby tells Anderson Cooper he still doesn't feel safe. After Iraq, the Army told him he couldn't go home because many in his hometown consider him a traitor and a rat.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Photos from Bush's War

An injured Iraqi girl lies in hospital in Tal Afar, 420 kilometers (260 miles) northwest of Baghdad, Iraq, Saturday Dec. 9

An injured Iraqi child lays in the Kindi Hospital in Baghdad, Iraq , Saturday, Dec. 9, 2006, following an attack on a residential area of the city. Mortar rounds struck about seven houses Friday night in the Nahrawan area in southeastern Baghdad, killing 25 people and wounding 22, including men, women and children.

An Iraqi looks at his baby amid the rubble of his house which was hit by a mortar shell in Baghdad's Kazemiya neighborhood. Iraq 's deepening sectarian divide threatened to derail planned national peace talks before they begin, as parties made their first boycott threats with less than a week to go.

Friday, December 08, 2006

So it Was About Oil

So much attention on whether Bush will actually read the Iraq Study Group report and so little coverage on the recommendation to privatize Iraq's oil. And what about the finding that there is "significant underreporting of the violence in Iraq," and "the U.S. government still does not understand the insurgency in Iraq or the role of the militias."

The commission also noted drastic changes in the Army. "The Army is now considering breaking its compact with the National Guard and Reserves that limits the number of years that these citizen-soldiers can be deployed."

The report also focused on the lack of Arabic speakers among U.S. personnel, spending on the war, and the dire assessment of the current state of affairs in Afghanistan.

This piece was written by anti-war activist Tom Hayden:
Recommendations 62 and 63 confirm that control of Iraqi oil is a fundamental premise of Administration policy. This was denied in the first years of the war, but this week the President confirmed his belief that Islamic extremists will “gain access to vast oil reserves and use Iraq as a base to overthrow moderate governments all across the broader Middle East.” [LAT, 12-6-06]. Then James Baker revealed the interest of his longtime oil industry allies, as well as key financial and corporate interests, in an Iraq resolution favorable to their narrow interests.

Recommendation 62 says the US government should help draft an oil law that “creates a fiscal and legal framework for investment.” It further recommends that the US, in conjunction with the International Monetary Fund [IMF], should “pres Iraq to continue reducing subsidies in the energy sector...until Iraqis pay market prices for oil products...” That is, in a country besieged by civil war, bombings of infrastructure, unemployment at 50 percent levels, and the lack of necessities, the Baker Report proposes to make everyday life harder for average Iraqis so that the oil industry profits.

Recommendation 63 says the US should “assist” Iraqi leaders in privatizing the national oil industry into a “commercial enterprise” to encourage investment by the multi-national oil companies.

Who said it was not about blood for oil?

There’s more to uncover. But at this point we know that the Baker commission is sprinkled with heavyweights from oil, construction, and financial entities with interests in Iraq. Baker is a Texas oilman whose law firm has interests in debt repayment to Kuwait and other Gulf States. Lawrence Eagleberger has ties to Halliburton and Philips Petroleum, and is a former head of Kissinger Associates, a corporate consulting firm whose clients remain secret [Paul Bremer was managing partner of the Associates]. Vernon Jordan is a power lawyer at Akin Gump who is closely associated with the secretive Bilderberg Group [as well as the Clinton circle and civil rights firms]. Leon Panetta served on the board of the New York Stock Exchange. The expert working groups for the ISG include leaders of Bechtel, PFC Energy, and two representatives of Citygroup, Inc., the firm of Robert Rubin, leading neo-liberal advocate and member of Clinton’s cabinet.

Not a single person from the peace movement, women’s, environmental, civil rights or labor organizations were among the “expert” consultants listed in the ISG Report, although the Heritage Foundation and the American Enterprise Institute were there.

The Report acknowledges that “senior members of Iraq’s oil industry” argue for a nationalized oil company to centralize and allocate revenues fairly by region and group. But the Baker team dismisses any such idea on grounds that simply favor private multinationals. They approve of “aggressive” Kurdish investment deals with oil companies in northern Iraq, and note that Shi’a leaders are reported to be negotiating for foreign oil companies as well.

The Sunni armed nationalist groups have consistently stood for the Iraqi right to control Iraqi oil, while also offering a generous role for American contractors and corporations in their vision of the future.

All this suggests that the ideological goal of the US invasion was not simply to displace Saddam Hussein but to dismantle the Arab nationalist state as a whole, opening the oil fields to private penetration. It is even possible that the grand alliance behind the Baker report includes support for US military disengagement in exchange for permanent guarantees that privatize the second largest oil fields on the planet.

As for the peace movement, it has been hobbled by the lack of a powerful alliance, both organizational and organic, with the “anti-globalization” movement which has fought the global IMF and WTO privatization plans, and the environmental groups battling global warming and greenhouse emissions. Without those unifying linkages, the peace movement has been limited mainly to demands for US troop withdrawals, an effort that has had an enormous impact.

What if the endgame is US combat troops out, US multinational corporations in? What if James Baker is remembered as the peacemaker, if not the leader of the peace movement?

While pushing hard for the removal of troops, it might not be too late to broaden and connect the peace movement more closely with other social movements as the historic debate accelerates about the lessons of the war for our country’s future memory.

Watch Al-Jazeera English Online

Every Friday on Your Call on KALW, we have a media roundtable to discuss how the media covered the week's news. One of today's guests was Dave Marash, Washington-based anchor of Al-Jazeera English and former correspondent for ABC's Nightline. Al-Jazeera English launched last month in the Middle East. It can also be seen in Britain, France, Italy, and even Israel. Besides the Internet, the only place Americans can watch Al-Jazeera English is online and on closed circuit Pentagon TV. The Defense Department began airing Al-Jazeera this week.

Check it out here.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Bush Laughs: It's Bad in Iraq

Stop the presses: Bush has finally admitted that "it's bad in Iraq." Followed by a chuckle. Thank God for reporters who ask real questions.
At a press conference this morning with British Prime Minister Tony Blair, a reporter asked President Bush whether his use of the word "unsettling" to describe the violence in Iraq would “convince many people that you're still in denial about how bad things are in Iraq."

Bush responded curtly, "It's bad in Iraq. That help?" and then chuckled.

Bush later said, "You know, in all due respect, I've been saying it a lot. I understand how tough it is, and I've been telling the American people how tough it is."

On 10/25, Bush said the U.S. was "absolutely" winning the Iraq war. On 10/17, Vice President Cheney claimed the "general overall situation" in Iraq was going "remarkably well."
They continue to laugh and lie as Iraqis and Americans continue to die.

The Silent Tragedy: Iraq's Widows

Another excellent, but depressing article from independent journalist Dahr Jamail.
Hundreds of thousands of widows are becoming
the silent tragedy of a country sliding deeper into chaos by the day.*

Widows are the flip side of violence that has meant more than a million
men dead, detained or disabled, Iraqi NGOs estimate. These men's wives
or mothers now carry the burden of running the families.

"The total figure of men who have been killed, disabled or detained for
long periods of time adds up to more than one and a half million,"
Khalid Hameed, chief of the Iraqi al-Raya human rights organisation told
IPS. "The average number of Iraqi family members is seven, so about ten
million Iraqis are facing the worst living circumstances."

In these circumstances, he said, women have had to "search for ways to
survive and support their families at a time when not much help comes
from the international community."

Most international NGOs left the country by last year apparently on the
advice of governments of their countries pointing to growing violence
and dangers to NGO members.

"International NGOs were conducting support projects for Iraqi women
before they suddenly quit and left the country in a rush in October
2005," Faris Daghistani, who was project manager at the Baghdad mission
for the Italian humanitarian aid organisation in Iraq INTERSOS told IPS.

"There was a wide focus on working women and how to support them by
training and providing them with necessary tools to raise income on
their own," he said. "It is a pity that most of our productive projects
have stopped, and we had to leave women to face their fate on their own."

The violence since the invasion of Iraq in 2003 is not the first to have
taken its toll. Hundreds of thousands of men were killed, taken prisoner
or disabled during the 1980-1988 war between Iran and Iraq.

"We have never lived our lives as human beings should live," 42-year-old
Dr Shatha Ahmed told IPS at her home in Baghdad. "The Iraq-Iran war took
our fathers, and now the Bush war is taking our husbands and sons."

Women now face a long struggle surviving and bringing up families on
their own, she said. "We could not even dream of developing our own skills."

Dr. Shatha's husband, also a doctor, was killed by Muqtada al-Sadr's
Mehdi Army in September this year when he was leaving the Ministry of
Health offices in Baghdad. She now has to support her family, and her
husband's parents as well.

Some help is on offer to widows through groups such as the Iraqi Red
Crescent, the Islamic Party, the Muslim Scholars Association and
non-governmental organisations. But this support is not well organised,
and is insufficient to help the growing number of widows.

The Social Affairs Office of the government has started paying the
equivalent of about 100 dollars monthly to widows. But this payment
cannot support whole families, given particularly the shooting inflation.

And the payment is not easy to get. "I had to pay a lot of money as
bribes to government officials in order to get the monthly support
payment, and that is not enough to support my big family," 47-year-old
widow Haja Saadiya Hussein from Baghdad told IPS.

"Americans killed my husband last year near a checkpoint, and now I have
to work as a servant in government officials' houses to earn a living
for my six children. I have stopped them going to school, to cut my

Some widows have attempted to remarry in order to find support. Some
second husbands, who are usually older, offer to take care of their new
sons for religious reasons.

"There can be no compensation for losing a husband," a spokesperson from
the Iraqi Red Crescent's social support department told IPS. "The world
is responsible for these women who lost their spouses in the name of the
international community."

The Cost of Laura Bush's Holiday Dress: $8500

Too bad three other women who can afford $8500 for a dress donned the same one to the White House holiday party. The federal government's poverty level is $15,577 for a family of three. Wow. A poor family of three spends in six months what Laura Bush spends on one dress. Huh, so liberals aren't the only ones who spend wild amounts of money. Is Laura Bush an elitist?

Study: U.S. Has Second Worst Wealth Inequality in World

A separate study found that for the first time last year, more than 12 million suburbanites are living in poverty. The federal government defined the poverty level as $15,577 for a family of three in 2005.

And here's an article about the study about wealth inequality from BeyondChron:
A new study---buried by the media---has found the United States second only to Switzerland in the disparity between the net worth of its top 10% and everyone else. The report follows a recent study that found that America’s wealthiest top 1% earned the highest share of the national income since the 1920’s. Only Switzerland exceeded America in its extent of skewed wealth distribution.

It was not that long ago that Americans would look at countries in South America or Asia and decry the vast disparities in wealth between the rich and everyone else. These nations were seen as politically controlled by a wealthy elite, who enriched themselves at the expense of the poor and middle-class. Based on the study, America now fits this category.

A recently issued report by the World Institute for Development Economics Research of the United Nations University found that America is second only to the banking center of Switzerland in the percentage of wealth owned by its top 10%. And the gap is narrow, with Switzerland’s top 10% wealthiest owning 71.3% of the country’s assets, while in America the figure is 69.8%.

The study’s findings were published deep in the Business Section of the December 6 New York Times. It is not likely to be a topic on the cable news shows, which are instead focusing on the search of a man missing in a snowstorm, Jessica Simpson’s breakdown at the Kennedy Center and other issues with no conceivable impact on public policy.

The recent report comes on the heels of study by a UC Berkeley and French researcher that found that America’s top 1% is now earning the highest share of the nation’s income since the 1920’s. This study received nowhere near the coverage given to Britney Spears’ lingerie purchase, to mention only one of the many issues recently dominating headline news.

Interestingly, for all of the recent media attention on rising income inequality in China and India, these nations have nowhere near the wealth disparity of America. The World Institute report found that millions of people in China and India are leaving poverty for the middle-class, a scenario that is perhaps occurring less than ever before in our own country.

Recall that one of President Bush’s and the Republican Congress’ top priorities this year was the repeal of the estate tax, an act that would have made America’s income and wealth disparity even worse.

This new study may not get much media attention, but it should provide sufficient ammunition to prevent an estate tax repeal anytime soon.

Bush Enjoys Breathing Lead

Family values from the worst environmental President in history:
The Bush administration is considering doing away with health standards that cut lead from gasoline, widely regarded as one of the nation's biggest clean-air accomplishments.

Battery makers, lead smelters, refiners all have lobbied the administration to do away with the Clean Air Act limits.

A preliminary staff review released by the Environmental Protection Agency this week acknowledged the possibility of dropping the health standards for lead air pollution. The agency says revoking those standards might be justified ''given the significantly changed circumstances since lead was listed in 1976'' as an air pollutant.

The EPA says concentrations of lead in the air have dropped more than 90 percent in the past 2 1/2 decades.

But Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., the incoming chairman of the House Committee on Government Reform, called on the agency to ''renounce this dangerous proposal immediately,'' because lead, a highly toxic element, can cause severe nerve damage, especially in children.

''This deregulatory effort cannot be defended,'' Waxman wrote EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson.

Soon after lead was listed as an air pollutant 30 years ago, the Carter administration began removing lead from gasoline. Other big sources of lead in the atmosphere are from solid waste, coal, oil, iron and steel production, lead smelters and tobacco smoke.

Exposure to lead can also come from food and soil. Lead is one of six air pollutants the EPA is required to review every five years to make sure the health limits are protective enough. The others are ozone, soot, sulfur dioxide, carbon monoxide and nitrous oxides.

The EPA has repeatedly missed the deadlines set under the Clean Air Act, incurring the legal wrath of environmental groups.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Life is Utter Hell for Women in Iraq

This was written by Dahr Jamail and Ali Al-Fadhily. Please take the time to read the entire article.
Once one of the best countries for women's rights in the Middle East, Iraq has now become a place where women fear for their lives in an increasingly fundamentalist environment.

Prior to the U.S.-led invasion and occupation of Iraq, Iraqi women enjoyed rights under the Personal Status Law since Jul. 14, 1958, the day Iraqis overthrew the British-installed monarchy.

Under this law they were able to settle civil suits in courts, unfettered by religious influences. Iraqi women had many of the rights enjoyed by women in western countries.

The end of monarchy brought a regime in which women began to work as professors, doctors and other professionals. They took government and ministerial positions and enjoyed growing rights even through the dictatorial reign of Saddam Hussein and his Ba'ath Party.

"Our rights had been hard to obtain in a country with a tradition of firm male control," Dr. Iman Robeii, professor of psychology from Fallujah told IPS in Baghdad. Iraqi women have traditionally done all the housework, and assisted children with school work, she said. On top of that about 30 percent of women had been engaged in social activities.

"But a tragic collapse took place after the U.S. invasion of Iraq and the so-called Islamists seized power to place new obstacles in the way of women's march towards improvement," she said.

A significant event was the Dec. 29, 2003 decision by the U.S.-installed Iraqi Governing Council (IGC) to pass a bill which almost cancelled the Personal Status Law, 45 years after it had been passed.

Under Resolution 137 Iraqi women would rely on religious institutions for personal matters such as marriage and divorce, as opposed to recourse to civilian courts that they could access before the invasion.

Women across Iraq saw the IGC move as one of the first hazardous steps towards implementation of a fundamentalist Islamic law. The bill did not pass, but the slide into Sharia (Islamic law) had already taken root through much of Shia-dominated southern Iraq and also some Sunni-dominated areas of central Iraq.

Resolution 137 was defeated in March 2004. A new Iraqi constitution has been introduced, but the adoption of the constitution has not helped protect women's rights.

Yanar Mohammed, one of Iraq's staunchest women's rights advocates, believes the constitution neither protects women nor ensures their basic rights. She blames the United States for abdicating its responsibility to help develop a pluralistic democracy in Iraq.

"The U.S. occupation has decided to let go of women's rights," Mohammed told reporters. "Political Islamic groups have taken southern Iraq, are fully in power there, and are using the financial support of Iran to recruit troops and allies. The financial and political support from Iran is why the Iraqis in the south accept this, not because the Iraqi people want Islamic law."

Mohammed believes the drafting of the Iraqi constitution was "not for the interest of the Iraqi people" and instead was based on concessions to ethnic and sectarian groups.

"The Kurds want Kirkuk (an oil-rich city they consider the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan), and the Shias want the Islamic Republic of Iraq, just like Iran's," she said. "The genie is out of the bottle in terms of political Islam (by Shias) and the resistance (by Sunnis). America will tolerate any conclusion so they can leave, even if it means destroying women's rights and civil liberties.They have left us a regime like the Taliban."

A woman judge told IPS that she and her female colleagues could not go to work any more because the current system does not allow for a female judge.

Iraqi NGO activists have also criticised the new constitution for depriving women of leadership posts in the country. "The constitution mentions some rights for women, but those in power laugh when they are asked to put it to practice," she said. Like the woman judge, she too did not want to be named.

The key element in the Iraqi constitution that is dangerous for women's rights is Article 2 which states "Islam is the official religion of the state and is a basic source of legislation." Subheading A under Article 2 states that "No law can be passed that contradicts the undisputed rules of Islam."

Under Article 2 the interpretation of women's rights is left to religious leaders, and it provides for implementation of Sharia law which can turn the clock back on women's rights in Iraq.

The social environment in Iraq has become acutely difficult for women already. Many women now fear leaving their homes.

"I try to avoid leaving my home, and when I do, I always cover my face," Suthir Ayad told IPS at her house in Baghdad. "Several of my friends have been threatened or beaten by these Shia militias who insist we stay home and never show our faces."

In southern Iraq, the situation seems even worse.

"My cousin in Basra was beaten savagely by some of the Mehdi Army (the militia of Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr) because she tried to attend university," said a woman who spoke on condition of anonymity. "Now she never leaves her home unless fully covered, and then only to shop for food."

Monday, December 04, 2006

Ex-KBR Contractor Sentenced for Iraq Kickbacks

There are about 100,000 contractors in Iraq and that's not counting subcontractors, according to the military's first census. How many of those contractors take kickbacks and get away with it? Sadly, we'll never know.
A former employee of KBR, the Pentagon's largest private contractor in Iraq, was sentenced to a year in prison by a federal judge late last week for taking kickbacks from a Saudi company to which he awarded dining subcontracts in Iraq.

U.S. District Judge Joe McDade also ordered Stephen Lowell Seamans to pay restitution of $380,130 for taking $133,000 in kickbacks for directing the KBR contracts worth $21.8 million to Tamimi Global Co., the U.S. Attorney for the Central District of Illinois said in a statement.

KBR, which was spun off from oil services group Halliburton Co. through an initial public offering last month, has billed more than $16 billion for work in Iraq.

Seamans, who pleaded guilty in March to wire fraud and conspiracy for taking the kickbacks, worked in 2002 and 2003 as procurement materials and property manager for KBR in Kuwait, where he awarded work to subcontractors under KBR's multibillion-dollar LOGCAP III contracts with the U.S. Army.

Seamans had also pleaded guilty taking another kickback for a cleaning services contract.

Judge McDade also sentenced Mohammad Shabbir Khan, Tamimi's former director of operations in Kuwait and Iraq, to four years and three months in prison for his role in the kickback scheme.

Khan, a Pakistani-born U.S. citizen, pleaded guilty in June to 12 counts of wire fraud and one count each of money laundering and making a false statement.

Halliburton, formerly headed by U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney, has drawn attention for its work in Iraq from auditors and the Justice Department, which has investigated the company's billing practices for fuel, dining and laundry services.

Last week, KBR agreed to pay $8 million to settle allegations of charging and irregularities for its U.S. Army contract in the Balkans.

Who is Robert Gates?

On tomorrow's radio show, we'll find out more about Robert Gates, the man who's replacing Donald Rumsfeld as Secretary of Defense.

Tune in from 10:00-11:00 am PST on 91.7 FM in San Francisco or online.

Guests: William Arkin, journalist and author of more than ten books on military affairs, and Mel Goodman, CIA analyst from 1966 to 1990.

This is from Mel Goodman's latest article, "Wrong Man to Replace Rumsfeld"
Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld's resignation has unloaded a great deal of unwelcome baggage for the Bush administration, but the nomination of Robert M. Gates is unlikely to help resolve the disastrous war in Iraq or the uniformed military's opposition to the civilian leadership at the Pentagon. Unlike successful secretaries of defense in the recent past, Mr. Gates lacks essential experience in military and industrial affairs and has had serious problems with the congressional confirmation process.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Denver Saves Water

What a brilliant campaign!

With water restrictions happening around the world, the clever folk at Sukle agency dreamt up this inventive ad campaign for Denver Water to encourage people to become more aware of their water usage. We love the unique applications - certainly more effective than your standard print ads.