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Obama Administration To Hold Gun Policy Meetings With Goal Of Policy Changes

(HUFFINGTON POST)   The Obama administration has conducted informal discussions with groups from both ends of the gun-policy spectrum, including law enforcement and gun-rights organizations, and is set to hold formal meetings as early as this week in an effort to chart out a set of new firearms policies, administration officials say.

Spearheaded by the Department of Justice, the talks were described by one individual involved in the discussions as a “feeling-out process.” With more official meetings set to begin shortly, they provide the clearest indication to date that the White House is readying a response to the shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.) and 19 others at Tucson in early January.

“As the president said, we should focus on sound, effective steps that will keep guns out of the hands of the criminals, fugitives, people with serious mental illness, and others who have no business possessing a gun and who are prohibited by laws on the books from owning a gun,” Justice Department spokesman Matthew Miller said. “We will be meeting with stakeholders on all sides of the issue to discuss how we can find sensible, intelligent ways to make the country safer.”

The goal is to finalize a set of policy changes, including, perhaps, legislation that could pass through a Congress hostile to abridgments of Second Amendment rights. The last serious bite at the apple occurred following the shootings at Virginia Tech in April 2007.

In a Sunday op-ed for the Arizona Daily Star, President Barack Obama called for a three-pronged approach: enforcing the laws already on the books, including the National Instant Criminal Background Check System; pushing for greater state-to-state coordination; and expediting background checks and the release of relevant data.

“It was a promising sign that the president understands that 86 percent of the public, including around 80 percent of gun owners, think that a simple background check for every purchase includes next to zero burden for law-abiding citizens and can save countless live,” said Mark Glaze, the executive director of the coalition of Mayors Against Illegal Guns (MAIG).

The contours laid out in the op-ed are similar to the plan currently being pushed by MAIG and Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.). Schumer, who has also been in touch with DOJ officials, held a press conference with New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg several weeks ago announcing plans to beef up the national background-check system, including eliminating a loophole that allows individuals to buy firearms at gun shows without submitting to a background check.

Though official talks have not yet begun, the Obama administration is expected to aim mostly at such low-hanging fruit, leaving issues like the legality of the high-capacity magazine — which allows even pistols to fire more than 30 shots without reloading, and was used in the Tucson shootings in January — to remain unaddressed for the time being. The principal debate, then, will likely center around the application of background-check standards to private dealers.

They have been meeting with us and also with law enforcement groups and industry,” one gun-control advocate said of the administration. “This is what the White House does when they want to put a serious legislative apparatus together … The game now becomes effectively demonstrating, in a way that is meaningful, what we know is the overwhelming support for universal background checks.”


Pentagon official: Martin Luther King would support Iraq, Afghan wars

(RAW STORY)   An Obama administration official said that nonviolent icon Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. would “understand” and “recognize” the need for the US wars in Iraq and Afghanistan if he were alive today.

In a speech commemorating the late hero days before Martin Luther King, Jr. Day on Monday, the Department of Defense’s general counsel Jeh C. Johnson imputed highly questionable views to the civil rights leader.

“I believe that if Dr. King were alive today, he would recognize that we live in a complicated world, and that our nation’s military should not and cannot lay down its arms and leave the American people vulnerable to terrorist attack,” Johnson said.

Johnson claimed US service members are helping the people of Iraq and Afghanistan, noting that Dr. King spoke out in favor of acts of kindness.

“I draw the parallel to our own servicemen and women deployed in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere, away from the comfort of conventional jobs, their families and their homes,” Johnson said, adding that the “dangerous unselfishness” of the troops would make Dr. King proud.

The claim sparked controversy as critics were quick to note that Dr. King was an ardent anti-war activist who spoke out against military interventions.

Investigative journalist Jeremy Scahillcalled it “[o]ne of the most despicable attempts at revisionist use of Martin Luther King Jr. I’ve ever seen.”

Salon’s Justin Elliott remarked that Dr. King’s “political philosophy, as outlined in his landmark 1967 speechagainst the Vietnam war, strongly suggests that he would be an opponent of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and, for that matter, the secret wars in Yemen and Pakistan.”

In the speech, Dr. King lamented “the most powerful nation of the world speaking of aggression as it drops thousands of bombs on a poor, weak nation more than 8000 miles from its shores.”

He called the United States “the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today” and said: “A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.”

The Pentagon release goes on to note that Johnson, an African-American, is a graduate of Morehouse College, Dr. King’s alma mater, where he attended school with Dr. King’s son.


Congress blocks closure of Guantanamo

(NY TIMES)   Congress voted Wednesday to impose strict new limits on transferring detainees out of the Guantánamo Bay prison, dealing a major blow to President Obama’s vows to shut down the center and give federal court trials to many of the prisoners.

The Guantánamo provisions were contained in a major defense authorization bill, which both chambers passed on the last day of Congress’s lame-duck session. It is considered highly unlikely that Mr. Obama will veto the bill because it also authorizes billions in spending for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Robert M. Chesney, a University of Texas law professor who specializes in national security matters, said the legislation would make it even harder to close the prison, at the American military base in Cuba. He said the next Congress, in which Republicans will have more power, was likely to keep or even intensify the restrictions.

“A Democratic Congress has done its level best to prevent prosecutions in civilian court,” Professor Chesney said.

“It strengthens the relative position of military commissions, and it separately strengthens the likelihood of continuing to rely on military detention” without trial, he said.


Why did Obama Appoint Bush holdover Michele Leonhart to head the DEA?

(Daniel Hopsicker)   In a much-criticized move, Acting DEA administrator Michele Leonhart spent more than $123,000 to charter a private jet, instead of one of the DEA’s own 106 planes, to fly to Colombia two years ago.

The level of disapproval would have been even higher if it had been known that the DEA chartered the jet from a contractor with a major investment in a shell company in Florida  that owned a DC9 caught carrying 5.5 tons of cocaine in Mexico.

“Just as the nation was reeling from the worst economic crisis in decades, with the national debt climbing toward $10 trillion, Leonhart chose an expensive outside jet charter company instead of one of the DEA’s own 106 planes for her trip to Bogotá, Colombia last fall,” reported Marisa Taylor of McClatchy Newspapers.

In a Feb 16, 2009 story headlined “DEA official’s private charter cost $123,000,” Taylor reported that the DEA chartered the jet for Leonhart’s trip from L-3 Communications, which bills itself as the nation’s sixth largest defense contractor, and which made more than $32 million from the DEA  in 2008 for transportation services, while the company’s largest subsidiary, “Titan Group of L-3 Communications,” had a $70,000 investment in a shell company in Miami with no employees, no earnings and no prospects, but which somehow wound up as the true and legal owner of a DC9 carrying a cargo of 5.5 tons of cocaine.

Some might suggest that had been the purpose of the investment all along.

An organization some say doesn’t exist

The DC9 figured prominently in the indictment in Manhattan last week of Syrian-born Walid Makled-Garcia, 43, a former crony of Venezuela President Hugo Chavez.

Calling him “one of the world’s most significant narcotics kingpins,” Michele Leonhart and U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara placed responsibility for the now-infamous DC9 drug plane  squarely on the shoulders of Makled, who was recently arrested in Colombia.

In the press release announcing the indictment, there is no mention of the American-registered DC9’s very American owners.

Leonhart, whose nomination to be the administrator of the Drug Enforcement Administration was expected to be confirmed Wednesday by the Senate Judiciary Committee, was not expected to be asked to explain the discrepancy.

Makled’s fate became a political football this week as well, as the U.S. and Venezuela fought  over which country’s request for Makled’s extradition should be granted by Colombia.

The story featured high drama, political intrigue, and the by-now familiar lack of candor which is a defining characteristic of the DEA and its interminable “War on Drugs.”

The amazing but-true fact is that the DEA is paying millions for jet charters to a crooked defense contractor (more about that in a moment) with connections to both Chavez Cocaine Capo Walid Makled, and a camera and publicity-shy criminal organization which the DEA denies even exists.

The American Drug Lords.

“Proper arrangements should be made before you land.”

The affadavit filed in Federal Court in Manhattan with the indictment  accuses Makled of directing the operation from Simon Bolivar International Airport in Venezuela.

The DC9 was forced to land by mechanical problems at an airport in Campeche, Mexico, where proper “arrangements” had not already been made.

The plane was surrounded by Mexican soldiers, and soon thereafter, things went awry.

“On or about April 11, 2006, “co-conspirators not named as defendants herein” possessed 5.5 tons of cocaine in Mexico.

“On or about April 11, 2006, Makled coordinated the transportation to Mexico” of  said 5.5 tons of cocaine,  states the indictment.

It was clear from remarks by U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara and Acting DEA administrator Michele Leonhart that the “co-conspirators not named as defendants herein” wouldnot turn out to be associated with any rogue U.S. Defense Contractor, or with the ex-CIA or ex-NSA personnel who had manned SkyWay Aircraft in St. Petersburg.

Both were at pains to emphasize that Walid Makled will not have received his just desserts until he has been extradited to U.S. to face the music.

A big shout out to our friends in Plan Colombia-Land!

“Even among global narcotics traffickers, Makled-Garcia is a king among kingpins, who allegedly coordinated a vast international narcotics trafficking organization,” said Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara.

“These charges emphasize our commitment to pursue those who flood the United States with poison for their own financial gain.  We will continue to work with our law enforcement partners in Colombia and elsewhere to bring Makled-Garcia to justice in the U.S.”

“Due to the outstanding work with our partners in Colombia and elsewhere, Makled-Garcia is behind bars and awaiting extradition to the United States for the crimes in this indictment,” said Leonhart.

“He is a foreign drug kingpin with a long history of drug trafficking, and he has built a vast global drug trafficking empire on illicit proceeds. These charges emphasize our commitment to pursue those who flood the United States with poison for their own financial gain.”

In case Colombia’s President can’t take a hint, she said it again. “We will continue to work with our law enforcement partners in Colombia and elsewhere to bring Makled-Garcia to justice in the U.S.”

Walid Makled seconded the sentiment. He has insisted upon extradition to the United States, where he said he will reveal “all he knows” about alleged drug activity by officials in the Chavez government.

“With what I have, with what I have, I have enough for them (the United States) to intervene in Venezuela… immediately” Makled said.

The “Amen Corner” begins weighing in

It was The Extradition Super Bowl. The stakes were high. The U.S. was competing with Venezuela in a contest to see who would get Makled.

The arguments made by Acting DEA administrator Leonhart and U.S. Attorney Bharara were echoed by a veritable “Who’s Who in the Amen Corner” of the American foreign policy establishment.

“One of the world’s top drug kingpins may soon be telling U.S. prosecutors everything he knows about Venezuelan officials who have abetted his cocaine smuggling operations,” wrote Roger Noriega of  The American Enterprise Institute.

“Slowly but surely, Chávez is being unmasked as a deadly kingpin of a criminal.”

“Makled implicated high-level officials, from both civilian and military branches of the government of Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez as being complicit in the drug trade,” wrote Joel Hirst of Council on Foreign Relations (CFR)

Hirst apparently thinks no one remembers the overheated rhetoric of the drug war being used dozens of times before, always promising we can “turn the corner” in the drug war, if only…

“Extradition of Makled to Venezuela would be going too far. The information he possesses would serve to expose and end some of the most flagrant drug trafficking in the region.”

However, Colombian President Juan Santos yesterday rained all over their foreign policy parade.  Spurning a U.S. request to extradite the alleged cocaine kingpin, he said that Walid Makled will be sent back to face charges in his home country of Venezuela.”

Makled’s fat would thus seem sealed.

The fate of another “player” in the drama, much closer to home,  has not yet been decided.

“Corruption that would make a Roman Senator blush”

Why did Titan, a multi-billion dollar defense contractor in San Diego, loan money to a company with no employees 3000 miles away being incorporated by Michael Farkas, a stockbroker in Miami whose checkered past includes being suspended by the SEC?

Whatever the reason, it wasn’t by accident.

Just before Skyway went bankrupt four years later, the company’s stock price got a boost from a fawning press release issued by Titan announcing its agreement to purchase from SkyWay a half-billion dollars-worth of a product which didn’t exist, from a company about to go bankrupt.

“We are excited about the possibilities Sky Way Aircraft System technology offers,” said Titan’s David Stinson.”

It was a clear case of corporate fraud, letting insiders cash out. Skyway investors, excited by Titan’s lie about the company’s non-existent prospects, were soon left holding the bag,  swindled out of $42 million.

Why did a billion dollar defense contractor with sensitive government defense and intelligence contracts loan money, its name and prestige to a soon-to-be-bankrupt firm whose owners were stripping it of everything not nailed down?

Titan officials did not return phone calls seeking comment. But the trail of clues left behind spoke for them.

“Flying the Ollie North Memorial Charter “

Titan’s David Stinson, had previously been the Executive Vice President of Intergraph in Annapolis Maryland, which cut a deal that first opened the Defense Dept’s money spigot for Brent Wilkes, the convicted Republican fraudster in San Diego whose close ties with fellow convicted Republican fraudster, former San Diego Congressman  Randy “Duke Cunningham, led to his downfall.

Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush provided another Republican link to the SkyWay fraud.

As SkyWay lurched towards bankruptcy, another organization issued a glowing press release touting the company’s bright future, then-Governor Bush’s Florida Dept. of Transportation announced SkyWay had been chosen as Florida’s primary provider of airport security applications.

“I participated in the installation at the FDOT (Florida Dept of Transportation),” one of Skyway’s earliest employees told us.  “The guy in charge told us airports in Florida all got the word that the State of Florida would reimburse them one hundred percent for  airport upgrades performed by SkyWay that had anything to do with Homeland Security.”

Perhaps the biggest clue was divulged in a May 31, 2005  in the New York Times story headlined“C.I.A. Expanding Terror Battle Under Guise of Charter Flights.”

“The controversy (over CIA rendition flights) has breached the secrecy of the agency’s flights in the last two years, as plane-spotting hobbyists, activists and journalists in a dozen countries have tracked the mysterious planes’ movements,” the paper reported.

“Behind a surprisingly thin cover of rural hideaways, front companies and shell corporations that share officers who appear to exist only on paper… the Agency has concealed its ownership behind a web of shell corporations that appear to have no employees and no function apart from owning the aircraft.”

In 2001, SkyWay founder Michael Farkas even incorporated a company called “Shell Corporation.”

Long-time FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover denied for decades the existence of the Mob, while at same time he was vacationing every year with his boyfriend Clyde at a Mob resort in La Jolla, CA.

While the FBI’s headquarters in Washington, D.C. still bears his name,  he is a discredit to the Bureau, as well as the butt of jokes.

The CIA and DEA should take note.  The chances of that happening, however, are remote as those of either organization ever catching Osama bin Laden.


NOAA Facing Further Criticism Due to Shady History of Employees

(The Berniard Law Firm)   The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), has experienced their fair share of scrutiny since the beginning of the BP oil spill. In fact, academic scientists have accused NOAA of denying scientific validity in order to support a sanitized version of the truth. Many blame NOAA’s behavior on various federal agencies which sought to minimize the crisis instead of explore and remedy the severity of the existing problems. Yet, NOAA is now facing even further scrutiny and criticism in light of hiring Dale J. Jones Jr., who has been accused of serious misbehavior that calls into question his capacity to aid Gulf Coast residents affected by the BP oil spill. Mr. Jones initially was a fisheries program specialist. However, when allegations came forward and were subsequently investigated by the Attorney General, Mr. Jones was deposed as director of federal fisheries law enforcement and sent to the Gulf Coast to work for NOAA in assisting Gulf Coast residents. The allegations claimed and investigated into Mr. Jones included misuse of funds, document shredding, and excessive harassment of local fishermen. Mr. Jones has caused many Gulf Coast Residents to become extremely alarmed that NOAA would hire an individual with Mr. Jones characteristics to help them in their most trying time of life. The Gulf Coast residents within less than ten years have experienced the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, the damage of Hurricane Gustav, and now the BP oil spill; for the NOAA to hire an individual such as Mr. Jones understandably causes many Gulf Coast residents serious concern.

Mr. Jones causes serious concerns for many Gulf Coast residents due to a long list of serious misbehaviors geared towards fishermen and the fishing community. Mr. Jones was ultimately terminated from being the federal fisheries law enforcement officer after the Inspector General testified before a congressional subcommittee that Mr. Jones explicitly authorized a massive document shredding while the Inspector General was actively investigating and had charged overseas travel improperly to the Asset Forfeiture Fund, which was made up of fined paid in responses to cases made against the fishing industry. Further, Mr. ones was infamous for targeting and harassing certain fishermen, even going so far as to tell his agents to target boats or businesses with bad reputations.

However, Mr. Jones will not be sent to work the BP oil spill alone as he will be joined by another individual who, coincidentally, was also admonished for misbehavior. Charles Juliand, the senior attorney for enforcement and litigation in the Northeast Division, based in Gloucester, was described by Commerce Department Inspector General, Todd Zinser, as “the epicenter of excessive law enforcement prosecution activities undertaken against the fishing industry.” Mr. Juliand was well-known for his abrasive behavior towards fishermen. Specifically, the Inspector General made numerous reports which exposed Mr. Juliand to have an ugly attitude of disrespect of the fishing industry. The final report cited multiple statement and stated that “Juliand bears animus against fishermen and the industry.” The Inspector General’s report continued to state that “such written remarks, actions and predispositions from a federal government attorney empowered with virtually unchecked prosecutional discretion constitute serious lack of judgment and conduct unbecoming a federal government attorney charged with enforcing the law.” These men represented everything negative that individuals fear in people who sit in seats of power: abuse of citizens, abuse of power, and utilizing fear as a tool of control.
Despite the Inspector General and Attorney General’s investigations, reports and findings, NOAA has supported employing both men and assigning them to the Gulf of Mexico oil spill. Mr. Jones salary will decrease from $158,500 to $155,000, while Mr. Juliand’s salary will remain the same at $126,000. Gulf Coast residents are concerned that the hurdles they have been forced to face will only increase in difficulty with NOAA employment men of such questionable backgrounds such as Mr. Jones and Mr. Juliand. The oil spill resulted in thousands of people losing their jobs, security, and lifestyles, what Gulf Coast residents require is understanding, care, and help, not the threat of indecent or dangerous behavior.

These concerns make it important that claimants consider speaking with an attorney about their claims. Should these men, or individuals similar, cause claims to be handled improperly, limits could be made to payments that could drastically reduce recovery in the Gulf.


Ex-Clinton strategist: Obama needs event ‘similar’ to OKC to ‘reconnect’ with voters

(RAW STORY)    Appearing on television recently, former Hillary Clinton campaign adviser and current public relations executive Mark Penn suggested that President Obama needs a moment “similar” to the tragic terrorist attack on the Oklahoma City federal building, in order to “reconnect” with voters.

He didn’t even seem to flinch in making the comment.

Penn is currently president and CEO of Burson-Marsteller, a multi-national public relations firm. He also served in 2008 as chief strategist for then-Senator Hillary Clinton’s run for the White House. Before that, Penn advised former British Prime Minister Tony Blair in his third run for the UK leadership post, and served clients such as AT&T, Texaco, Ford, Merck, Verizon, BP, McDonald’s and Microsoft.

After the events of Sept. 11, 2001, President George W. Bush experienced the highest approval ratings of his presidency, but the same could not be said of President Clinton after the Oklahoma City bombing.

On April 19, 1995 — the same day as the attack in Oklahoma — President Clinton was sitting on a 46 percent approval rating, according to polling firm Gallup. Following his speech to the nation regarding the attack, a Time/CNN poll on April 27 found his approval had jumped to 60 percent, but it was back down to 42 percent by the end of May according to Gallup.

“Remember, President Clinton reconnected through Oklahoma, right?” Penn said, appearing on MSNBC’s Hardball on Thursday. “And the president right now seems removed. It wasn’t until that speech [after the bombing] that [Clinton] really clicked with the American public. Obama needs a similar — a similar kind of … Yeah.”

By comparison, President Obama, freshly chastised by voters in the mid-term elections that flipped control of the US House into Republican hands, is in roughly the same place as President Clinton was after the 1994 mid-terms, although his party still controls the US Senate whereas Clinton’s Democrats did not.

With an approval rating stuck at 44 percent according to Gallup, indicators as to how well the president’s party is faring actually show a clear contrast between 1994 and 2010. Then, congressional Democrats were saddled with a 47 percent disapproval rating according to Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research, whereas today they sit at 37 percent disapproval.

All numbers considered, it seems at the very least cynical and at the very worst maniacal to suggest that a mass casualty event is just the thing Obama needs right now.

Following the Oklahoma City attack, Congress acted to implement most of the president’s national security proposals, much as representatives did with the USA Patriot Act following Sept. 11, 2001.

Penn’s claim is sure to stir up right-leaning conspiracy mills that insist federal agents helped Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh on behalf of the Clinton administration. This is especially likely in the wake of President Clinton’s analogy in April, comparing irrational tea party rage to the right-wing militia movement many credit with fostering McVeigh’s thought process.

This video was broadcast on MSNBC’s Hardball on Nov. 4, 2010, as snipped by Think Progress.



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