Thursday, May 10, 2007

Call Me Wrong Way George

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Reuters Canada Bush faces pressure on Iraq as Blair leaves

U.S. President George W. Bush faced mounting pressure on Thursday from fellow Republicans as well as Democrats to show progress in Iraq within months or risk a collapse in support for the war.

On the day that Bush's closest international ally on the war, British Prime Minister Tony Blair, announced he would step down next month, Democrats in the House of Representatives refused to back away from proposals to change course in Iraq.

Bush, who vetoed a $124 billion war funding bill last week because it set a deadline for the withdrawal of combat troops, fired back by saying Congress should give military commanders more time and flexibility.

As for the House Democrats' bill providing some war funds now and possibly more later, Bush said, "I'll veto the bill if it's this haphazard, piecemeal funding."

Go ahead Dubya, its not like you are taking care of the troops now.

Bloomberg News Bush Says He'll Seek Agreement on Iraq Benchmarks (Update2)

Democrats, who hold majorities in both chambers of Congress, are threatening to restrict funding for U.S. troops in Iraq, and Republicans are telling the president that his strategy of adding more forces must show results by September.

PBS Special Frontline Spying on the Home Front

coming May. 15, 2007 at 9pm (check local listings)(60 minutes) FRONTLINE addresses an issue of major consequence for all Americans: Is the Bush administration's domestic war on terrorism jeopardizing our civil liberties? Reporter Hedrick Smith presents new material on how the National Security Agency's domestic surveillance program works and examines clashing viewpoints on whether the president has violated the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) and infringed on constitutional protections. In another dramatic story, the program shows how the FBI vacuumed up records on 250,000 ordinary Americans who chose Las Vegas as the destination for their Christmas-New Year's holiday, and the subsequent revelation that the FBI has misused National Security Letters to gather information. Probing such projects as Total Information Awareness, and its little known successors, Smith discloses that even former government intelligence officials now worry that the combination of new security threats, advances in communications technologies, and radical interpretations of presidential authority may be threatening the privacy of Americans.

Wired Spying in the Death Star: The AT&T Whistle-Blower Tells His Story

Those documents are under seal, but Wired News independently acquired and published a significant portion of them last year. They show that AT&T built a network-monitoring facility in a nondescript room at an internet switching hub in San Francisco, at 611 Folsom St. Diagrams in the document show that AT&T technicians split fiber-optic cables handling AT&T's WorldNet internet service -- as well as traffic to and from other major ISPs -- diverting copies of the traffic into the room, which was packed with internet-monitoring equipment.

In this rare interview, Klein supplies details of how he first learned about the secret room even before being transferred to the Folsom Street office. He also lashes out at Congress for failing to hold hearings, and says he won't be satisfied until he can visit the AT&T building and see that the room has been dismantled.

Wired News: How did you first find out about the special room at the Folsom Street building?

Mark Klein: In 2002, we -- the union technicians -- were notified by support that the (National Security Agency) was coming to interview someone for a special project. That's when I got wind of something. I though it was odd that the NSA was coming to a phone company because I thought they weren't supposed to be spying domestically after the law was changed in the 1970s. They told us (it was) because the place was small and we had to know to let the person in. I happened to answer the door and I directed him to the guy he was interviewing for this special job. (Editor's note: This took place at the Geary Street central office in San Francisco, where Klein worked before he was transferred to the Folsom Street office.)

See the documents Mark Klein blew the whistle on

ABC News President Hears Unfamiliar Critics as Republicans Grow Wary of War

Thursday, two GOP senators -- Lamar Alexander of Tennessee and Olympia J. Snowe of Maine -- joined with Democrats in unveiling bills that aim to alter U.S. policy in Iraq, despite the White House's objections.

"Time is running out, and America's patience is finite," said Snowe, who traveled to Iraq last weekend. "We cannot further countenance political intransigence by the Iraqi government while our men and women are on the frontline making sacrifices each and every day."

Participants in the Tuesday meeting said Bush seemed to get the message that his administration has little time to show progress in Iraq.

The president acknowledged concern that Iraq could lead to Republican losses in next year's elections, and said at one point, "I don't want to pass this off to another president."

Seattle Times Majority of Iraqi lawmakers endorse timetable for U.S. pullout

BAGHDAD — A majority of Iraqi lawmakers have endorsed a bill calling for a timetable for the withdrawal of foreign troops and demanding a freeze on the number of foreign troops already in the country, lawmakers said today.

The Iraqi bill, drafted by a parliamentary bloc loyal to anti-American Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, was signed by 144 members of the 275-member house, according to Nassar al-Rubaie, the leader of the Sadrist bloc.

The Sadrist bloc, which sees the U.S.-led forces as an occupying army, has pushed similar bills before, but this was the first time it had garnered the support of a majority of lawmakers.

The bill would require the Iraqi government to seek approval from parliament before it requests an extension of the U.N. mandate for foreign forces to be in Iraq, al-Rubaie said. It also calls for a timetable for the troop withdrawal and a freeze on the size of the foreign forces.

Geez Dubya, let's see the American people aren't minding you, the military isn't minding, the newly democratic elected government of Iraq is going their own way too and Gone-Zo just keeps inching closer to the door.

When the time is tight, Prissy predicts Gonzo will bolt... Dearest Readers, did you see Gonzo testify on C-Span III (of course) today? He just can't stop digging, even though the hole around him is caving in...

Daily Star another leader using Dubya's tactics of not me...Olmert shrugs off responsibility for failure in war, blames military

Olmert he made a pointed distinction between combat forces, whom he praised as "exceptional," and the military command, which he said "seriously let itself down." "Something in the conception of how they operated the forces, something in the conception of their control over the forces, something wasn't what we expected, unfortunately, and that no doubt led to the disparity between what we are capable of doing and what we actually achieved," he said.

Olmert told the inquiry that Lieutenant General Dan Halutz, the chief of staff who has since resigned over the military's failings in the 34-day war, had told him the armed forces were strong "and ready to carry out any mission."

A prime minister, Olmert said, could not be "a field commander" and had to rely on the military for expert assessments.

Guardian Selective MemriBrian Whitaker investigates whether the 'independent' media institute that translates the Arabic newspapers is quite what it seems

Its work is subsidised by US taxpayers because as an "independent, non-partisan, non-profit" organisation, it has tax-deductible status under American law.

Memri's purpose, according to its website, is to bridge the language gap between the west - where few speak Arabic - and the Middle East, by "providing timely translations of Arabic, Farsi, and Hebrew media".

Despite these high-minded statements, several things make me uneasy whenever I'm asked to look at a story circulated by Memri. First of all, it's a rather mysterious organisation. Its website does not give the names of any people to contact, not even an office address.

The reason for this secrecy, according to a former employee, is that "they don't want suicide bombers walking through the door on Monday morning" (Washington Times, June 20).

New Scientist Can culture dictate the way we see?

The researchers found expected differences between the age groups. There was a lower response by the hippocampus – a brain region which seems to help the mind connect a particular object to its background – among older subjects in both groups compared with their younger counterparts.

But the team also found a smaller response in a brain area involved in object recognition among elderly East Asians compared to the elderly Westerners. This occurred when the two groups viewed images with similar backgrounds but varying foreground objects. The brain region involved is called the lateral occipital region.

Importantly, they found no significant difference in the response of this particular visual processing region among young people in the US and Singapore. This, the team says, supports the idea that, over the course of decades, culture shapes how the brain perceives images.

KRQE New Mexico Blair quitting with second thoughts on Iraq

With the date for his resignation now set, British Prime Minister Tony Blair is reflecting on his time in power.

And he said while he thought going to war in Iraq was the right decision, he "may have been wrong."

CBC Government trying to 'bully' public servants, accused leaker says

Jeff Monaghan, an employee at Environment Canada, was arrested and led away in handcuffs from his office early Wednesday as co-workers looked on. At a news conference in Ottawa on Thursday, Monaghan called it a "politically engineered raid of my workplace."

"The spectacle of my arrest, the subsequent RCMP press release and the prepared statements from Environment Canada, including [Environment Minister John] Baird, have been crafted to bully public servants," he said.

Monaghan, 27, also called the proposed charges "vengeful" and an "extension of a government-wide communication strategy pinned on secrecy intimidation and centralization."

The RCMP said they arrested Monaghan for allegations of breach of trust under the Criminal Code. He is accused of leaking details from a draft version of the the government's regulatory framework for climate change. No charges have been laid and the investigation is ongoing, police said.

Asia Times All power to US's shadow army in Iraq by Jeremy Scahill

The 145,000 active-duty US forces are nearly matched by occupation personnel who currently come from such companies as Blackwater USA and the former Halliburton subsidiary KBR, which enjoy close personal and political ties with the Bush administration. Until Congress reins in these massive corporate forces and the whopping federal funding that goes into their coffers, partially withdrawing US troops may only set the stage for the increased use of private military companies (and their rent-a-guns) which stand to profit from any kind of privatized future "surge" in Iraq.

From the beginning, these contractors have been a major hidden story of the war, almost uncovered in the mainstream media and absolutely central to maintaining the US occupation of Iraq. While many of them perform logistical support activities for US troops, including the sort of laundry, fuel and mail delivery, and food-preparation work that once was performed by soldiers, tens of thousands of them are directly engaged in military and combat activities.

According to the Government Accountability Office, there are now some 48,000 employees of private military companies in Iraq. These not-quite GI Joes working for Blackwater and other major US firms can clear in a month what some active-duty soldiers make in a year. "We got 126,000 contractors over there, some of them making more than the secretary of defense," said the chairman of the House of Representatives' Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, John Murtha. "How in the hell do you justify that?" House Oversight and Government Reform Committee chairman Henry Waxman estimates that $4 billion in taxpayers' money has so far been spent in Iraq on armed "security" companies such as Blackwater - with tens of billions more going to other war companies such as KBR and Fluor for "logistical" support. Jan Schakowsky of the House Intelligence Committee believes that up to 40 cents of every dollar spent on the occupation has gone to war contractors.

Thanks to Stonefruit on the picture

Kaiser Network, taking better care of our troops than Dubya Capitol Hill Watch | VA Should Institute Better Claims Process for PTSD, Study Finds

PTSD claims increased from 120,265 in 1999 to 215,871 in 2004, and payments increased from $1.72 billion to $4.28 billion during the same period. The panel suggested that VA develop new standards for evaluating PTSD based on those set by the American Psychiatric Association. The panel also recommended that VA establish certification programs for workers who handle PTSD claims. In addition, the panel said VA should base PTSD awards on how greatly the disorder affects all aspects of a veteran's life, not just his or her ability to gain employment (Schmid, AP/Dayton Daily News, 5/8). The panel also noted that female veterans are less likely to receive compensation for PTSD, in part because of the difficulty in some cases of proving that the sexual assault and harassment that caused the condition took place during military service (Adams, McClatchy/Philadelphia Inquirer, 5/9).

Nancy Andreasen, chair of the committee that released the report and head of the psychiatry department at University of Iowa's Carver College of Medicine, said, "As the increasing number of claims to the VA shows, PTSD has become a very significant public health problem. Comprehensive revision is needed" (San Diego Union-Tribune, 5/9). VA press secretary Matt Burns said, "VA is studying the findings, conclusions and recommendations of the report to determine actions that can be taken to further enhance the services we provide." He added, "VA is a recognized leader in the diagnosis and treatment of PTSD, and we will continue to take steps to ensure veterans have timely and seamless access to compensation for which they are eligible" (AP/Dayton Daily News, 5/8). Dave Gorman, executive director for Disabled American Veterans, said, "It's a step forward. It insists on training and accountability and more thorough examinations -- a lot of the things we've been seeking for a long time" (San Diego Union-Tribune, 5/9).

BBC Blairs government taking down whistle-blowers Pair are guilty of Bush memo leak

Keogh's barrister, Rex Tedd QC, said his client had wanted to seek to reveal the truth of what was happening in Iraq while others were trying to conceal that truth.

John Farmer, defending O'Connor, said the war in Iraq was "the most controversial foreign affairs involvement of this country since Suez 50 years ago".

Earlier, O'Connor told the court he had never been "so worried and so fearful" as when he was passed the document.

O'Connor, who worked for anti-war Labour MP Mr Clarke, said he had been approached by Keogh and told about "some quite embarrassing, outlandish statements" in the four-page document.

Embarrassing to Bush and Blair that is...

Alternet Italian Pay-off From Niger Forgery?

Italian journalists and parliamentary investigators are hot on the trail of how pre-Iraq War Italian forged documents were delivered to the White House alleging that Saddam Hussein had obtained yellowcake uranium ore from Niger.

New links implicating Italian companies and individuals with then-Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi now raise the question of whether Berlusconi received a payback as part of the deal -- namely, a Pentagon contract to build the U.S. president's special fleet of helicopters.

The yellowcake story in the United States has long been linked to the ongoing investigation into the outing of CIA agent Valerie Plame. Plame's diplomat husband Joe Wilson had probed the Niger connection and concluded that the Bush administration was twisting intelligence reports to fit its case for war.

Two people -- Carlo Rossella and Giovanni Castellaneta -- are at the center of Italian inquiries into the transfer of the yellowcake dossier from the SISMI, the Italian intelligence agency, to the White House.

The best evidence the cabal had for war was forged, kind of like the dumb stuff Colin Powell got up there in front of the world and said...

Army Updates Regulation on Intelligence Activities

The U.S. Army issued an updated regulation (pdf) governing its conduct of intelligence activities, including domestic surveillance policy and practice. The new regulation makes several technical changes and rescinds the "For Official Use Only" status of the prior edition.

See "U.S. Army Intelligence Activities," Army Regulation 381-10, May 3, 2007.

Quotes of the Day

If all politicians fished instead of spoke publicly, we would be at peace with the world.--Will Rogers

We assume that politicians are without honor. We read their statements trying to crack the code. The scandals of their politics: not so much that men in high places lie, only that they do so with such indifference, so endlessly, still expecting to be believed. We are accustomed to the contempt inherent in the political lie.-- Adrienne Rich

What this country needs are more unemployed politicians--Edward Langley

I am never going to have anything more to do with politics or politicians. When this war is over I shall confine myself entirely to writing and painting.--Winston Churchill

I don't believe that the big men, the politicians and the capitalists alone are guilty of the war. Oh, no, the little man is just as keen, otherwise the people of the world would have risen in revolt long ago! There is an urge and rage in people to destroy, to kill, to murder, and until all mankind, without exception, undergoes a great change, wars will be waged, everything that has been built up, cultivated and grown, will be destroyed and disfigured, after which mankind will have to begin all over again.--Anne Frank