Thomas Karl, the head of Obama’s new Climate Change office has been criticized for trying to suppress contradictory scientific data on climate change.
(RAW STORY) Two congressional lawmakers have announced legislation that would effectively remove military contractors from war zones.
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) introduced the “Stop Outsourcing Security Act” on Tuesday. If passed, the act would force the United States to phase out its controversial use of private security contractors in war zones like Iraq and Afghanistan.
“The legislation would restore the responsibility of the American military to train troops and police, guard convoys, repair weapons, administer military prisons, and perform military intelligence,” the lawmakers’ offices said.
“The bill also would require that all diplomatic security be undertaken by US government personnel,” they added.
While the bill is likely to meet stiff opposition from the Pentagon and the defense industry, it’s certain to be well received among progressives and peace activists, who have watched with alarm as the use of private contractors in war zones has skyrocketed in recent years.
Last month, a report (PDF) from the Congressional Research Service found that one-fifth of the US armed forces in Iraq consists of private contractors, while in Afghanistan that number reached one-third by September of 2009.
The report found that there were some 22,000 “armed private security contractors” in the two war zones, and that the number in Afghanistan is likely to keep growing.
While “[m]any analysts and government officials believe that DOD would be unable to execute its mission without PSCs,” the report stated that the “use of armed contractors has raised a number of issues for Congress, including concerns over transparency and accountability.”
“It is inexcusable that as much as one-third of our military’s armed force in Afghanistan may be contractors,” Schakowsky wrote to Defense Secretary Robert Gates, following the report’s release. “These men and women are not part of the US military or government. They do not wear the uniform of the United States, though their behavior has, on numerous occasions, severely damaged the credibility and security of our military and harmed our relationship with other governments.”
This is not the first time that Schakowsky has attempted to end the growing tradition of private contractors fighting public wars. In 2007, she introduced a bill, with the same name as the new one, which would have phased out the use of contractors over a number of years. The bill never made it out of committee.
In an interview with Russia Today earlier this month, Schakowsky said that the use of private contractors “masks the scope of our involvement” in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“When the President asks for a 30,000 troop increase in Afghanistan, we are talking about at least that number of contractors too, which makes the mission much bigger. We don’t even count them when they get killed,” she said.
Schakowsky added: “We have seen these private hired guns, mercenaries if you will, actually in situations that have jeopardized the mission of the United States, have put our own troops at risk, have killed private civilians, really raising the question, can these private companies that don’t seem to be part of the chain of command [or] have the same transparency or accountability as our military, can they actually get away with murder? And so far the answer has been yes.”
Much of the anger around the use of security contractors has focused on the company formerly known as Blackwater, whose involvement in the September, 2007, civilian massacre in Baghdad’s Nissour Square is widely seen as a watershed moment when public opinion among some began to harden against contractors. Seventeen Iraqi civilians were killed when Blackwater guards opened fire during what they mistakenly thought was a security breach.
Since then, many allegations have surfaced regarding Blackwater, including allegations of homicide reaching to the company’s highest levels, as well as claims that company employees hired underage prostitutes. A series of reports over the past six months indicates that Blackwater is deeply involved in counter-terrorist activities in Pakistan.
Earlier this month, Schakowsky questioned why the US government continues to do business with Blackwater.
“After everything that has gone wrong … with Blackwater, I cannot understand why the US government has anything to do with them,” Schakowsky said. “I have yet to hear a convincing reason for their continued work for the government.”
52 Turkish military leaders planned to blow up mosques, airliners.
(RAW STORY) Only three weeks ago, The New York Post reported that “the blue wall had fallen.”
On February 1, the NY Daily News reported, “A nervous NYPD cop delivered damning testimony against a fellow officer Monday, telling jurors how the officer shoved a retractable baton into a suspect’s backside.”
“Officer Kevin Maloney’s turn on the witness stand marked the most dramatic moment of the trial and the biggest blow to the defense,” the Daily News added.
WABC’s Tim Fleischer agreed, “Cop testifying against cops. It was a rare scene in court and by far the most damaging to at least one of the three officers on trial.”
“It was pressed on Michael Mineo’s left buttock,” The Post reported that Maloney testified. “I saw it move from left to right . . . Yes, there was pressure being applied. It went from left to right, into Michael Mineo’s butt crack.”
He also reported hearing Mineo shout, “Why did you stick a walkie-talkie up my ass?” after which he heard Kern say that the perp was an “EDP” — an emotionally disturbed person.
However, over the next three weeks, as a Google news search reveals, Maloney’s name all but disappeared from the daily reports on the case.
It appears that jurors may have also forgotten.
Monday morning, the Associated Press reports, “A New York City police officer accused of a sodomy attack on a drug suspect in a subway station was acquitted Monday along with two other officers who had been accused of covering it up.”
“Officer Richard Kern had faced as many as 25 years in prison if convicted of aggravated sexual abuse,” the AP story adds. “Officers Andrew Morales and Alex Cruz could have faced up to four years in prison on charges of hindering prosecution.”
Last week, the Daily News reported, “While defense lawyers angrily lashed out at prosecutors and alleged victim Michael Mineo, prosecutors focused on a police witness who came forward to testify against fellow cops.”
“He’s got no axe to grind,” prosecutor Charles Guria said of Officer Kevin Maloney, who testified that he saw Officer Richard Kern shove a police baton into Mineo’s underwear after an Oct. 15, 2008, arrest in the Prospect Park subway station.
“He doesn’t know either one of them from Adam, and he came forward and risked his career and his standing in the police department,” Guria said.
“Why would he do that if he’s not sure of what he saw?”
Guria also said that Kern, on the other hand, had plenty of reasons to lie when he took the stand to deny the charges of aggravated sexual assault that could send him to prison for 25 years.
A Times blog last week also made brief mention of Maloney.
A Times story the day before characterized the showdown as, “Jurors will have to sift through the sometimes conflicting testimony of four police officers: Mr. Jugraj; Mr. Kern and Mr. Morales, who took the stand in their own defense; and Kevin Maloney, a transit officer, who testified that he saw Officer Kern jab his baton between Mr. Mineo’s buttocks.”
Now that the officers have been cleared, Maloney may have difficulties at work. But then again, even if the officers weren’t cleared, history shows that police officers like Maloney that break the so-called blue wall end up marked forever, as other police officers refuse to work with them and promotion opportunities vanish.
At press time, the Associated Press’s comprehensive story on the acquittal never mentions Maloney once.
“A transit system police officer who witnessed the struggle testified for the prosecution,” the AP story states.
Little of the prosecution’s case is mentioned in the AP report, as compared to the successful defense.
The defense also challenged Mineo’s credibility. He had told jurors that he ran from the officers partly because he wasn’t carrying identification. Defense attorney John Patten produced a photograph of Kern, in uniform, looking at what appears to be an ID card that Mineo had handed to him.
“Defense doctors testified that Mineo could have had a pre-existing medical condition to explain the abscess, and that the officer’s alleged actions would have made his injuries more severe.
In many ways the case hinged on the believability of Mineo, a self-professed member of the Crips gang who has been arrested several times and admits to smoking pot regularly.
The New York Post reports “PBA President Pat Lynch, who supported the officers, hugged the trio afterwards.”
“This case goes to show how New York City police officers are falsely accused. … This is case where someone had dollar signs in their eyes and they thought they could do it on the backs of police officers,” Lynch said.
The Post also neglects to mention Maloney.
Mineo is quoted as saying in reaction, “My reaction? You want to commit a murder? Come join the NYPD.”
(PRISON PLANET) A new advisory being sent by America’s third largest bank to its account holders has stoked fears that major financial institutions could be preparing for old fashioned bank runs if the economy takes a turn for the worse.
Originally reported by John Carney over at the Business Insider website, Citigroup is sending the following information to customers along with their bank statements.
“Effective April 1, 2010, we reserve the right to require (7) days advance notice before permitting a withdrawal from all checking accounts. While we do not currently exercise this right and have not exercised it in the past, we are required by law to notify you of this change.”
An almost identical advisory to the one being sent out can be read on page 22 of Citbank’s Client Manual effective January 1, 2010, which can be read here from Citibank’s own website.
“We reserve the right to require seven (7) days advance notice before permitting a withdrawal from all checking, savings and money market accounts. We currently do not exercise this right and have not exercised it in the past,” states the manual.
According to the Future of Capitalism blog, Citigroup originally claimed that the warning was only sent nationwide as a result of a mistake, but that the measures do apply to account holders in Texas.
However, in a statement, Citigroup confirmed that they had reserved the right to impose the new 7 day rule on all account holders nationwide, but claimed they had no plans to enforce it. The bank stated that they had been forced to enact the new policy as a result of federal regulations.
“When Citibank moved to unlimited FDIC coverage in 2009, we had to reclassify many checking accounts to allow for immediate withdrawals in order to ensure all customers qualified for the additional coverage. When we moved back to standard FDIC coverage with most major banks in 2010, Citibank decided to reclassify those accounts back to make them eligible again for promotional incentives. To do so, Federal Reserve Reg D requires these accounts, called NOW accounts, to reserve the right to require a 7-day notice of withdrawal. We recently communicated this technical requirement to our customers. However, we have never exercised this right and have no plans to do so in the future,” reads a statement released by the bank.
Over the last 18 months, numerous rumors of bank runs, “bank holidays,” and limitations on access to cash at ATM’s have been floating around. Citigroup’s new policy to restrict withdrawals won’t do anything to calm such fears.
As we reported back in 2008, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., which guarantees individual accounts up to $100,000, only has about $50 billion to “insure” about $1 trillion in assets across the nation’s financial institutions.
This revelation prompted fears that an accelerating amount of bank closures could absorb FDIC funds and leave holders of money market and traditional savings accounts exposed.
Citigroup Warns Customers It May Refuse To Allow Withdrawals
Sunday, February 21, 2010
The image of banks locking their doors to keep customers from making withdrawals during a bank run is what immediately came to mind when we heard that Citigroup was telling customers it has the right to prevent any withdrawals from checking accounts for seven days.
Below are a number of other news sources reporting on this story and the potential for bank runs.
Nathan Florence and Mark O’Connor of WeAreChange.org’s Rhode Island and Boston chapters met with Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski at a stop on Mika’s book tour earlier this year. During the Q+A following the presentation, Mark asked Mika about her experience on the ground in NYC on the morning of September 11, 2001 and presented the duo scientific peer-reviewed and published evidence of the existence of nano-thermite present in dust samples collected from ground zero and lower manhattan immediately following the terrorist attacks of 9/11. Following the Q+A, invited by Scarborough, Nathan and Mark further discussed the evidence and encouraged responsibility on the part of their program. Also discussed were the recent thwarted terror attempts taking place on Christmas day 2009 and the airport security company ICTS international that research links once again to Israeli involvement in the “War on Terror” and false flag terrorism.
Mike the Electrician responds to comments of Jason Chaffetz and Calls out Glenn Beck who is a good friend of Chaffetz.
(AMERICAN FREE PRESS) Washington, D.C. was reeling under the impact of two consecutive blizzards— the worst storm to hit the nation’s capital in recorded history— and another storm was predicted. Yet, some 150 people still crowded into the lecture hall at the Capitol Skyline Hotel on Capitol Hill to welcome former Congressman Jim Traficant—now a weekly columnist for AMERICAN FREE PRESS—back to Washington where he once reigned as perhaps the most colorful (and certainly the most outspoken) figure in Congress during the 17 years he served in the House of Representatives.
The numbers in attendance were remarkable, considering the wintry weather, but made even more so by the fact that some 45 people who had
registered to attend did not arrive, most likely deterred by the weather.
And carefully note too that it wasn’t just a “local” audience. In fact, there were enthusiastic attendees from as far away as Washington State, California, Nevada, Arizona, Texas, Wisconsin, North Carolina, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Florida, Kentucky, Illinois and Michigan.
The young audience was demographically diverse but united in one thing: a concern—shared with Jim Traficant—about the future course of America and its position in the world.
The bottom line is that the big turnout confirmed something the staff of AMERICAN FREE PRESS knew instinctively: that Traficant—out of circulation for more than seven years and having been subjected to a barrage of vicious smears in the mainstream media—still remained a popular figure, respected for his no-nonsense approach to the big issues of the day.
Traficant’s appearance was a big splash with those who never before had the opportunity to meet the one man who, year after year, was voted in polls of the congressional staff-at-large as “the friendliest” and “the most likeable” member of Congress—a position it must be said, frankly, with which Traficant was not ranked by powerful special interest groups, foreign lobbies, and thugs from government agencies that objected to Traficant’s fervent opposition to federal tyranny.
While prison breaks many a man, it did not break Traficant, as his overwhelming presence in Washington made clear. However, Traficant was first to admit, in his remarks, that more than seven years in prison were rough on him in many ways. But despite this, Traficant has come back tougher and really, in some ways, more outspoken than never. Back in Washington, Traficant was in full form, a combination of the wry wit and the friendly banter, coupled with his serious concern about (and intellectual
insights into) so many issues that face the American republic.
Traficant said some have warned him that being associated with a “controversial” newspaper such as AMERICAN FREE PRESS could be injurious to any future political ambitions he might have, but, at the same time, he said, AFP was a newspaper that dared to express its views (right or wrong) and that, under no circumstances, should any American be afraid to express their views on any issue, no matter how controversial.
The situation in America today, said Traficant, calls for candor and all points of view must be heard and none suppressed. The most glaring absence from the event was that of the self-styled “mainstream” news media, particularly C-SPAN, the national cable network. C-SPAN’s absence was especially notable since C-SPAN not only helped make Jim Traficant a nationally-known name (among a congressional contingent of 535 largely unknown faces, with only a few exceptions) but also, in turn, gained many new viewers from people across the country who tuned in hoping to view Traficant’s regular colorful verbal rampages against government corruption and mismanagement.
Although C-SPAN told AFP’s coordinator for the event, Pete Papaheraklis, that they intended to cover Traficant’s speech, they pulled out at the last moment. It was obvious the word had come down “from the top” that a black-out on Traficant’s return to Washington was the order of the day.
Although it was a slow news day in snow-gridlocked Washington over a holiday weekend, C-SPAN boycotted the Traficant event.
Lest this be dismissed as a “conspiracy theory,” note that even the august New York Times, which declares itself the arbiter of “all the news that’s fit to print,” recently went out of its way to publish an editorial condemning Traficant’s potential comeback in the electoral arena.
Although the Times and other media voices—which have never been friendly to Traficant in any way—have been quick to assure folks that Traficant is old news and going nowhere, the Times—perhaps a bit schizophrenically—still felt the need to slam Traficant and throw more mud (and lies) in his direction, just to make sure that no “nice” people who follow the Times’ lead and direction might look favorably toward Traficant.
All told, Traficant’s return trip speaking engagement in the city where, in many ways, he made history, was a memorable event for those who did attend. The big question now, as Traficant himself will concur, is what will come out of it. Was this the beginning of a return to Congress for Traficant or will something even bigger emerge, perhaps the launching of an independent national political movement with Traficant as its leader? Time will tell soon enough.
FOR MORE ON JIM TRAFICANT WATCH THE VIDEO PLAY LIST BELOW:
(WSVN) In her 88 years, Florence Siegel has learned how to relax: A glass of red wine. A crisp copy of The New York Times, if she can wrest it from her husband. Some classical music, preferably Bach. And every night like clockwork, she lifts a pipe to her lips and smokes marijuana.
Long a fixture among young people, use of the country’s most popular illicit drug is now growing among the AARP set, as the massive generation of baby boomers who came of age in the 1960s and ’70s grows older.
The number of people aged 50 and older reporting marijuana use in the prior year went up from 1.9 percent to 2.9 percent from 2002 to 2008, according to surveys from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
The rise was most dramatic among 55- to 59-year-olds, whose reported marijuana use more than tripled from 1.6 percent in 2002 to 5.1 percent.
Observers expect further increases as 78 million boomers born between 1945 and 1964 age. For many boomers, the drug never held the stigma it did for previous generations, and they tried it decades ago.
Some have used it ever since, while others are revisiting the habit in retirement, either for recreation or as a way to cope with the aches and pains of aging.
Siegel walks with a cane and has arthritis in her back and legs. She finds marijuana has helped her sleep better than pills ever did. And she can’t figure out why everyone her age isn’t sharing a joint, too.
“They’re missing a lot of fun and a lot of relief,” she said.
Politically, advocates for legalizing marijuana say the number of older users could represent an important shift in their decades-long push to change the laws.
“For the longest time, our political opponents were older Americans who were not familiar with marijuana and had lived through the ‘Reefer Madness’ mentality and they considered marijuana a very dangerous drug,” said Keith Stroup, the founder and lawyer of NORML, a marijuana advocacy group.
“Now, whether they resume the habit of smoking or whether they simply understand that it’s no big deal and that it shouldn’t be a crime, in large numbers they’re on our side of the issue.”
Each night, 66-year-old Stroup says he sits down to the evening news, pours himself a glass of wine and rolls a joint. He’s used the drug since he was a freshman at Georgetown, but many older adults are revisiting marijuana after years away.
“The kids are grown, they’re out of school, you’ve got time on your hands and frankly it’s a time when you can really enjoy marijuana,” Stroup said. “Food tastes better, music sounds better, sex is more enjoyable.”
The drug is credited with relieving many problems of aging: aches and pains, glaucoma, macular degeneration, and so on. Patients in 14 states enjoy medical marijuana laws, but those elsewhere buy or grow the drug illegally to ease their conditions.
Among them is Perry Parks, 67, of Rockingham, N.C., a retired Army pilot who suffered crippling pain from degenerative disc disease and arthritis. He had tried all sorts of drugs, from Vioxx to epidural steroids, but found little success. About two years ago he turned to marijuana, which he first had tried in college, and was amazed how well it worked for the pain.
“I realized I could get by without the narcotics,” Parks said, referring to prescription painkillers. “I am essentially pain free.”
But there’s also the risk that health problems already faced by older people can be exacerbated by regular marijuana use.
Older users could be at risk for falls if they become dizzy, smoking it increases the risk of heart disease and it can cause congnitive impairment, said Dr. William Dale, chief of geriatrics and palliative medicine at the University of Chicago Medical Center.
He said he’d caution against using it even if a patient cites benefits.
“There are other better ways to achieve the same effects,” he said.
Pete Delany, director of applied studies at the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, said boomers’ drug use defied stereotypes, but is important to address.
“When you think about people who are 50 and older you don’t generally think of them as using illicit drugs — the occasional Hunter Thompson or the kind of hippie dippie guy that gets a lot of press maybe,” he said. “As a nation, it’s important to us to say, ‘It’s not just young people using drugs it’s older people using drugs.”‘
In conversations, older marijuana users often say they smoke in less social settings than when they were younger, frequently preferring to enjoy the drug privately. They say the quality (and price) of the drug has increased substantially since their youth and they aren’t as paranoid about using it.
Dennis Day, a 61-year-old attorney in Columbus, Ohio, said when he used to get high, he wore dark glasses to disguise his red eyes, feared talking to people on the street and worried about encountering police. With age, he says, any drawbacks to the drug have disappeared.
“My eyes no longer turn red, I no longer get the munchies,” Day said. “The primary drawbacks to me now are legal.”
Siegel bucks the trend as someone who was well into her 50s before she tried pot for the first time. She can muster only one frustration with the drug.
“I never learned how to roll a joint,” she said. “It’s just a big nuisance. It’s much easier to fill a pipe.”