Thursday, August 31, 2006

Have You Heard About the Tritium (Nuclear Waste) Leaks into the Ground Water Around Nuclear Plants All Over the U.S.?

No? You weren't supposed to. Proponents of nuclear energy have gone to great lengths to keep it quiet, although they've known of the problem for years:
The story started when local officials learned that tritium leaked from the Braidwood plant onto private property. The leaks occurred in pipelines that were supposed to carry tritium, a byproduct of nuclear power generation, to the Kankakee River.

County officials were furious that they hadn't been informed of the leaks, which had taken place in 1996, 1998 and 2000. A lawsuit was filed and Exelon has agreed to a remediation plan.

Since then the company has: installed alarms on its blowdown lines, pumped water out of a contaminated pond and provided bottled water to area residents.

A new state law requires notification within 24 hours of any future leaks of radioactive material.

Imagine that, a law requiring notification. In "Bush-land," leaks, discharges, polluting is on the honor system - voluntary. It's also true in "Dale Klein-land," the new chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

Also, the company has agreed to pay for a feasibility study on a new water system for Godley. While tritium levels in area wells do not exceed federal safety standards, there were elevated levels of coliform and nitrates, which can be harmful to humans.

This is not true. The exposed residents are outraged about what the leaks have exposed their families to. The Exelon Corporation behind these leaks have betrayed a public trust and have no business in the business.

Different news organizations' accounts have tried to downplay the problem - some news organizations have outright neglected to report the numbers of wells that dangerous levels of tritium has been found in. Some newspapers have treated it as "no big deal," when it's obvious that they don't know what the hell they're talking about.

What isn't leaking naturally is being dumped accidentally through carelessness.

Klein, new to the job as NRC's chair and a true Bush-Cheney supporter, wants to speed up the licensing process for nuclear plants:
Nuclear Regulatory Commission chair Dale Klein "said he supports the 'groundwater protection initiative,' a self-policing effort proposed in May by the Nuclear Energy Institute trade organization. 'I think as a nation we need to be cautious about putting unneeded regulations in place,' Klein said." He spoke at the Braidwood nuclear power plant in Illinois, "where tritium in groundwater spread beyond plant boundaries, sparking state and federal legislation, three lawsuits and an Exelon cleanup effort being monitored by state and federal agencies." Tritium contamination of groundwater has been found at at least 10 U.S. nuclear plants, most recently Wisconsin's Kewaunee and California's defunct San Onofre plants. Tritium is a low-energy nuclear isotope readily cleared by the body, though in high concentrations it has been linked to cancer and birth defects.

The problem is not isolated to Illinois (or Iowa, or California, or Wisconsin or Pennsylvania):
The Tennessee Valley Authority's three nuclear power plants have leaked a radioactive form of hydrogen called tritium into the groundwater, according to TVA documents and Nuclear Regulatory Commission officials.

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Feud Over Nuclear Waste

NRC, DoE feud over nuke waste:
A meeting between U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission and Energy Department officials, scheduled for Thursday morning, was cancelled Wednesday in an ongoing row over which agency has what authority over nuclear weapons waste disposal.

The rift is over interpretation of a 2004 defense bill that split the responsibility of disposing millions of gallons of high-level radioactive waste between the two.

The Energy Department doesn't like the NRC's proposal for how to consult with and monitor the department's efforts and General Counsel David R. Hill sent a letter July 31 asking the NRC to nix it and meet to come up with new guidelines.

"I was surprised at the tone of the letter that Hill sent," NRC Chairman Dale Klein said Wednesday at a news conference at the Washington offices of leading energy news service Platts.

But, Klein said, that letter was sent as part of the public comment over the guidelines and so any meeting needs to be held in public.

Klein, who is two months into the chairman post, said the guidelines would remain on the table and that though "discussing and brainstorming" meetings could be closed, an NRC-Energy Department meeting on the issue "if it's held, will be open."

The matter has taken a strenuous turn, with two prominent Congressmen condemning the Energy Department's private meeting efforts and allegations that a top department official pushed for closed sessions himself.

Congress addressed the weapons waste debate in the Ronald Reagan National Defense Authorization Act of fiscal year 2005, after the department's original plan was overturned in court.

Now constitutional, the department wants to empty the tanks of high-level, radioactive waste at various sites, fill them with concrete grout and call it low-level waste. Opponents say it still poses a risk and should only be housed with other highly radioactive waste in a permanent repository (which has yet to be built).

Two provisions in the bill are at the crux over Energy Department and NRC's at-odds interpretation. It states the Energy Secretary, "in consultation with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission," will determine if its methods lower the threat enough and the NRC will "monitor disposal actions."

The NRC's Standard Review Plan was a draft proposal for how that would happen, which Hill writes in the letter is "a fundamental misreading" of the law by usurping the Energy Secretary's authority and in effect make the NRC a regulator of the department.

The two sides will have to settle these qualms to move forward; the Thursday meeting was intended to do that. Megan Barnett, a spokeswoman for the Energy Department, said the meeting was for purely technical discussions and didn't warrant being open.

No final decisions would have been made, she said, those would be public.

"This department is focused on moving forward and getting work done," Barnett said.

An Aug. 25 article in Inside Energy, a Platts publication, said the insistence on a private meeting came all the way from the top of the Energy Department. It cited an anonymous NRC source that Deputy Energy Secretary "Clay Sell was over here in April lobbying [the NRC commissioners] personally."

This prompted Reps. John Dingell, D-Mich., ranking member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee and John Spratt, D-S.C., ranking member of the House Budget Committee to urge Klein to open up the meeting.

"This is a matter of enormous public interest, and we believe the public should not be barred from meetings on the subject unless a significant national security concern is being discussed," the Congressmen wrote in an Aug. 29 letter to Klein.

"Even then, only that portion of the meeting dealing with sensitive issues should be closed," they wrote, adding public participation in this process was what Congress wanted and the absence of it would set a trend of secrecy for future nuclear waste disposal they warned against.

Klein told reporters "the burden will, in my view, have to be on DOE to justify it being closed."

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Speaking of The Unsung Heroes at the U.S. Postal Service . . . .

. . . . do you know how to pack a hippo?

For more information on hippotamuses and the efforts to save them, visit the Turgwe Hippo Trust.

Bush's EPA Considers Issuing Tire Burn Permit

Senators Leahy and Sanders call on EPA to reject tire-burn permit

This shouldn't require anybody to beg, but this EPA takes its orders from Corporations, and not the People of the U.S.:
Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., and Rep. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., today called on the Environmental Protection Agency to reject the International Paper Company's permit to conduct a two-week test burn of tire-derived fuel at their Ticonderoga mill.

In a letter to EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson, Sanders and Leahy urged the EPA to use its authority to refuse the permit in order to protect the health of Vermonters and the environment.

Sanders said, "Allowing IP to begin burning tire-derived fuel without upgrading its emission control equipment is a very dangerous decision that could have serious consequences for Vermonters. The EPA should act responsibly and use its authority to prevent this burn and protect the environment and the health of local residents."

Leahy said, "If the International Paper Company continues to explore burning tire-derived fuel, it simply must install new emissions controls to protect our environment and the health of Vermonters affected by such a burn. EPA ought to reject this permit unless changes are made at the IP mill."

Bush EPA Ducks Regulating Deadly Poison in Voodoo Rituals Because of "Religious Freedom"

I'm almost rendered speechless:
Ritualistic use of toxic mercury by followers of Voodoo and other religions is dangerous but regulating it could drive the practice underground and possibly violate U.S. guarantees of freedom of religion, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said Thursday.

Mercury can be worn in amulets, sprinkled on the floor, or added to an oil lamp as part of some Latino and Afro-Caribbean practices including Santeria, Palo, Voodoo, and Espiritismo, according to the EPA’s inspector general.

Some practitioners believe that the mercury, which forms tiny droplets in liquid form, can attract love, luck or riches, and even ward off evil, the report said.

But mercury’s toxic effects are pronounced in the nervous systems and brains of exposed children, and can damage organs and cause seizures in adults.

“Mercury vapors resulting from ritual uses can pose a health risk,” the EPA said. “Persons involved in such rituals should be aware of these risks.”

There could be a legal basis for the EPA to regulate mercury use, but “starting the process to establish such regulations would drive the practice underground,” EPA staff said.

Staff also warned that “restricting the use of mercury might be challenged as a violation of the First Amendment” to the U.S. Constitution, which guarantees U.S. religious freedoms, among other things.

I understand that people get visits from the Secret Service for less than this:

"But my religion made me do it!"

Hurricane Ernesto Isn't the Story Here . . . .

It's that the mail got through!

For all of those deregulationists who trash talk the good American civil servants and their work performances, THEY DELIVERED THE MAIL DURING A HURRICANE, through floods!

Maybe we can learn a lesson from the hard-working public servants of the U.S. Post Office (a non-profit corporation, by the way) and consider nationalizing some other of America's resources, such as energy.

An American in Jordan Asks Iraqis What They Want

The best possible way for us to get out of Iraq . . .

. . . . every other way spells disaster.

Barbara Briggs-Letson writes:
Ninety-four Iraqis and four U.S. soldiers died in Iraq on Aug. 3 and 4. Those were the days I sat in a hotel conference room in Amman, Jordan, listening to Iraqi leaders. I returned home sure that the Iraqis are more capable than we are of calming and rebuilding their country. They have a peace plan that we need to help them implement.
I was in Jordan with 13 other U.S. citizens as part of a Global Exchange/Code Pink peace delegation. Our purpose was to ask Iraqis what they want the United States to do - and what not to do - and to bring back their ideas to the American people.

I learned that there is a viable Iraqi plan for peace. The U.S. has no right to interfere with this plan. On the contrary, we should be supporting it and trying to make it work. In November 2005 an Iraqi reconciliation conference (which included "insurgents") was held in Cairo and produced a 28-point plan for peace and national reconciliation.

Though the peace plan was arrived at cooperatively by many different factions, the U.S. government opposed several points and on June 24, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki eliminated four of the 28 points: (1) amnesty provisions, (2) timetable for withdrawal, (3) a halt of U.S.-led coalition operations and (4) compensation for war victims. He then offered the mutilated plan to the Iraqi Parliament.

As I listened to the speakers, different methods and time frames were suggested but several points came through consistently.

The U.S. must agree to a timetable to completely withdraw our military. We must also agree not to have military bases in Iraq. The sooner we agree to a timetable, the sooner violence will diminish. We can begin by immediately withdrawing troops from areas where there is little or no conflict.

The Iraqi government and the United States must recognize that "insurgents" may be justified "resistance" fighters and that they are often considered by Iraqis to be "freedom fighters." Part of this recognition has to do with amnesty. We must allow Iraqis to set up a program of amnesty - as they see fit.

The United States must pay reparations to the Iraqi government and individuals for jobs lost, for infrastructure destroyed and for what we did to Iraqi citizens. This includes tortured prisoners. This will cost us a lot of money.

Iraq needs a strong army to keep order. Every person with whom we spoke agreed on this point. The U.S. must pay for developing the army and give advice and support, if asked. The militias, which some believe now receive U.S. support, must be disbanded. Some want the U.N. to provide an armed force. Some want the U.S. to leave immediately, others want the U.S. to remain for a specified period and build-up an army. But, everyone agrees that the U.S. needs to provide funds.

Iraqi parliamentarians must be allowed to change their constitution, which is now a Western document representing our view of the world - not their history and culture.

The 100 Bremer laws, which Paul Bremer left in Iraq, force the country into an economic format they do not want. For example: one law makes "contractors" not subject to Iraqi laws. Other laws permit foreigners to own land and resources in Iraq. These do not benefit Iraq.

Sunnis and Shiites have lived together in peace for generations. Western interference and perceptions fuel conflict.

Iraqis were surprised and encouraged to learn of the United States' strong and vocal peace movement.

Iraqis who spoke with us represented Shiite and Sunni groups as well as minor parties, though no Kurds. There were scholars, economists, legislators, politicians, professors, physicians and tortured prisoners.

Iraqis are intelligent and able people, who will work out their destiny in their own way. The U.S. needs to cede power and let Iraqis take care of Iraq. We have made a mess of their country, and there is no reason to believe that our remaining there will improve Iraqi life.

Our government is profoundly hated in many countries in the Middle East and remaining in Iraq is fueling anger. The foreign policy and military of the United States feed these hatreds. As citizens, our biggest job is to stop these policies and change them. Not only because we fear people who hate us, but because it is the right, moral and ethical thing to do.

We need to start by supporting and paying for the Iraqi's own plan for peace and reconciliation.

Most Americans have no idea what the Bush administration is doing in their name, and how democracy is the last thing that Bush wants for Iraq. Bush should be called on it every time he says ". . . they hate freedom."

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Bush Fails Iraqis - Sunnis Being Dragged Out of Hospitals & Murdered By U.S. Trained & Supported Militias

Violation of trust in Iraq: Hospitals new "killing fields"

Abu Nasr, a former security guard, is shown looking over photos and death certificates of Sunni relatives he says were abducted from a Baghdad, Iraq, hospital by Shiite militiamen.

The Washington Post reports:
In a city with few real refuges from sectarian violence — not government offices, not military bases, not even mosques — one place always emerged as a safe haven: hospitals.

So Mounthir Abbas Saud, whose right arm and jaw were ripped off when a car bomb exploded six months ago, must have thought the worst was over when he arrived at Ibn al-Nafis Hospital, a major medical center here.

Instead, it had just begun.

A few days into his recovery at the facility, armed Shiite Muslim militiamen dragged the 43-year-old Sunni mason down the hall, snapping intravenous needles and a breathing tube out of his body, and later riddled his body with bullets, family members said.

Authorities say it was not an isolated incident. In Baghdad these days, not even the hospitals are safe. In growing numbers, sick and wounded Sunnis have been abducted from public hospitals operated by Iraq's Shiite-run Health Ministry and later killed, according to patients, families of victims, doctors and government officials.

As a result, more and more Iraqis are avoiding hospitals, making it harder to preserve life in a city where death is seemingly everywhere. Gunshot victims are now being treated by nurses in makeshift emergency rooms set up in homes. Women giving birth are smuggled out of Baghdad and into clinics in safer provinces.

In most cases, family members and hospital workers said, the motive appeared to be nothing more than religious affiliation.

Because public hospitals here are controlled by Shiites, the killings have raised questions about whether hospital staff have allowed Shiite death squads into their facilities to slaughter Sunni Arabs.

"We would prefer now to die instead of going to the hospitals," said Abu Nasr, 25, a Sunni cousin of Saud and former security guard from al-Madaan, a Baghdad suburb. "I will never go back to one. Never. The hospitals have become killing fields."

Three Health Ministry officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, confirmed that Shiite militias have targeted Sunnis inside hospitals. Adel Muhsin Abdullah, the ministry's inspector general, said his investigations into complaints of hospital abductions have yielded no conclusive evidence. "But I don't deny that it may have happened," he said.

According to patients and families of victims, the primary group kidnapping Sunnis from hospitals is the Mahdi Army, a militia controlled by anti-U.S. Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr that has infiltrated the Iraqi security forces and several government ministries. The minister of health, Ali al-Shimari, is a member of al-Sadr's political movement.

In Baghdad today, it is often impossible to tell whether someone is a government official, a militia member or, as is often the case, both.

"When their uniforms are off, they are Sadr people," said Abu Mahdi, another of Saud's cousins. "When their uniforms are on, they are Ministry of Interior or Ministry of Health people."

Sunnis' increasing suspicion of hospital workers is perhaps the most vivid illustration of their widespread distrust of the Shiite-led government.

And their reluctance to enter hospitals is making it increasingly difficult to assess the number of casualties caused by sectarian violence.

During a recent attack on Shiite pilgrims, a top Sunni political leader accused the government of ignoring large numbers of Sunnis who he said were also killed and wounded in the clash, though he was unable to offer even a rough estimate of the Sunni casualties.

"The situation is so bad that people are just treated inside their homes after being attacked by the Shia militias," said the official, Alaa Makki, a leader of the Iraqi Islamic Party, part of the largest Sunni bloc in parliament. "The miserable fact is that most of the hospitals are controlled by these militias."

Qasim Yahya, a spokesman for the health minister, said he had never heard accusations that Sunnis have been taken from hospitals by Shiite militias or Iraqi security forces.

"We are the Health Ministry for all of Iraq. Not for Sunnis, not for Shiites. For everyone," Yahya said. But the relatives of Sunni hospital patients tell a different story.

In the case of Mounthir Abbas Saud, a trip to a hospital set off a chain of events that sparked an ongoing, six-month-old drama in which two of his cousins are dead and two more are missing.

It started with cigarettes. As Saud strolled down a street in the Karrada district Feb. 27 to buy a pack, a car bomb wrenched his right arm off his body, tore into his face and sprayed shrapnel into his lower intestines.

His prognosis was grim, and his family flocked to Ibn al-Nafis to watch over him.

Two weeks later, Saud's cousin, Hazim Aboud Saud, watched as gunmen dragged the still severely wounded man from the building, his family said. The militia members loaded Saud, his brother Khodair and a cousin, Adil Aboud Saud, into an ambulance and drove away.

A few days later, Mounthir Saud's bullet-riddled body was discovered in Sadr City, a Shiite slum controlled by the Mahdi Army. His mouth was stuffed with dirt.

When militiamen discovered that Hazim Saud had witnessed the abductions, they quickly kidnapped him, his family said. His body was found March 27 with his hands — broken and blue from apparent beatings — bound behind his back and a plastic bag over his head. The death certificate said he had been suffocated.

But the family held out hope that the two men seized with Mounthir Saud — Khodair and Adil Saud — were still alive.

When another cousin, Haithem Ali Abbas, a judge in Baghdad, received a call from the Shiite-controlled Interior Ministry that they had been located, he hurried to pick them up. He was shot to death shortly after he arrived.

"We don't care whether the government is Shiite, Sunni, American or Iranian. All we want is security and safety," Abu Nasr said. "But no one in the government represents that now."

"What is going to happen to us?" he said as he clutched a tiny photo of his dead cousin Mounthir. "What is going to happen to this country?"

How difficult would it be for American troops to guard hospitals in Iraq and prevent Iraq's soldiers, who are these Shiite militia, from kidnapping and murdering Sunnis? Come to think of it, how difficult is it for Maliki to identify and arrest Iraqi soldiers doubling as murdering militiamen? Because if Maliki's government can't do it by now (and conditions in Iraq get worse daily, not better), then Maliki can't do it.

This is what our government is doing in our names to innocent people around the world.

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This Day in History . . . .

1870: Maria Montessori was born.

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1888: Jack the Ripper claims first victim
Prostitute Mary Ann Nichols, the first victim of London serial killer "Jack the Ripper," is found murdered and mutilated in Whitechapel's Buck's Row. The East End of London saw four more victims of the murderer during the next few months, but no suspect was ever found.

In Victorian England, London's East End was a teeming slum occupied by nearly a million of the city's poorest citizens. Many women were forced to resort to prostitution, and in 1888 there were estimated to be more than 1,000 prostitutes in Whitechapel. That summer, a serial killer began targeting these downtrodden women. On September 8, the killer claimed his second victim, Annie Chapman, and on September 30 two more prostitutes--Liz Stride and Kate Eddowes--were murdered and carved up on the same night. By then, London's police had determined the pattern of the killings. The murderer, offering to pay for sex, would lure his victims onto a secluded street or square and then slice their throats. As the women rapidly bled to death, he would then brutally mutilate them with the same six-inch knife.

The police, who lacked modern forensic techniques such as fingerprinting and blood typing, were at a complete loss for suspects. Dozens of letters allegedly written by the murderer were sent to the police, and the vast majority of these were immediately deemed fraudulent. However, two letters--written by the same individual--alluded to crime facts known only to the police and the killer. These letters, signed "Jack the Ripper," gave rise to the serial killer's popular nickname.

On November 7, after a month of silence, Jack took his fifth and last victim, Irish-born Mary Kelly, an occasional prostitute. Of all his victims' corpses, Kelly's was the most hideously mutilated. In 1892, with no leads found and no more murders recorded, the Jack the Ripper file was closed.

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1903: Arthur Godfrey was born.

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1908: William Saroyan was born.

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1918: Alan Jay Lerner was born.

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1924: Buddy Hackett was born.

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1928: James Coburn was born.

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1935: Eldridge Cleaver was born.

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1939: Germany prepares for invasion of Poland
At noon, despite threats of British and French intervention, Nazi leader Adolf Hitler signs an order to attack Poland, and German forces move to the frontier. That evening, Nazi S.S. troops wearing Polish uniforms staged a phony invasion of Germany, damaging several minor installations on the German side of the border. They also left behind a handful of dead German prisoners in Polish uniforms to serve as further evidence of the alleged Polish attack, which Nazi propagandists publicized as an unforgivable act of aggression.

At dawn the next morning, 58 German army divisions invaded Poland all across the 1,750-mile frontier. Hitler expected appeasement from Britain and France--the same nations that had given Czechoslovakia away to German conquest in 1938 with their signing of the Munich Pact. However, neither country would allow Hitler's new violation of Europe's borders, and Germany was presented with an ultimatum: Withdraw by September 3 or face war with the Western democracies.

At 11:15 a.m. on September 3, a few minutes after the expiration of the British ultimatum, Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain appeared on national radio to announce solemnly that Britain was at war with Germany. Australia, New Zealand, and India immediately followed suit. Later that afternoon, the French ultimatum expired, and at 5:00 p.m. France declared war on Germany. The European phase of World War II began.

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1945: Itzhak Perlman was born.

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1949: Richard Gere was born.

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1951: William O. Douglas calls for recognition of PRC
Following a hiking and mountain climbing trip through Asia, Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas issues a statement calling for the recognition of the communist People's Republic of China. His comments touched off an angry partisan debate in the U.S. Senate.

Douglas spent much of the summer of 1951 hiking and mountain climbing around the borders of Russia and China. Upon his return, Douglas urged that the United States recognize communist China. America had not established diplomatic relations with the communist People's Republic of China since the establishment of that nation in 1949, following Mao Zedong's successful revolution. And by 1951, U.S. troops were battling Chinese military forces in the Korean War. Nevertheless, Douglas suggested that U.S. diplomatic recognition of China would be a "real political victory" for the West.

Recognition by America, he reasoned, would help split China from its dependence on the Soviet Union and perhaps stem the tide of communist expansion in the Far East. "Recognition," Douglas stated, "will require straightforward and courageous thinking by all Americans, but it is the only logical course." In the U.S. Senate, Herman Welker (R-Idaho) set off a furious exchange when he proposed that Douglas's comments be printed in the Congressional Record. He suggested that the justice was a "high Administration spokesman" and that his statement indicated that the Democratic administration of President Harry S. Truman was considering recognition of China. Tom Connally (D-Texas) rose to attack Welker's action as pure politics and a "purely personal attack" on President Truman. Connally then chided Douglas for his "fool statements." Douglas, he suggested, was not the secretary of state or president and should "stay home instead of roaming all around the world and Asia." Senator Everett M. Dirksen (R-Illinois) commented that Douglas's comments could not be "divorced from the party in power."

The firestorm set off by Douglas's comments showed that despite talk about a "bipartisan" Cold War foreign policy, party loyalties were a very important component of post-World War II debates on America's diplomacy. In 1951, Republicans were still blaming Democrat Harry S. Truman for having "lost" China to the communists in 1949. The Democrats had their turn, however, during the presidential campaign of 1960, when John F. Kennedy jabbed at the Republican administration of President Dwight D. Eisenhower for "losing" Cuba.

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1955: Cobb demonstrates first solar-powered car
The world's first solar-powered automobile, designed by William G. Cobb, was demonstrated at the General Motors Powerama in Chicago. Today, solar car competitions are held all over the world, pitting design teams against each other in grueling races. However, a mass-produced solar car has yet to hit the market.

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1955: Dulles supports Diem's decision not to hold national election
Secretary of State John Foster Dulles supports South Vietnamese President Ngo Dinh Diem's position regarding his refusal to hold "national and general elections" to reunify the two Vietnam states. Although these elections were called for by the Geneva Accords of July 1954, Diem and his supporters in the United States realized that if the elections were held, Ho Chi Minh and the more populous north would probably win, thereby reuniting Vietnam under the Communist banner. Accordingly, he refused to hold the elections and the separation of North and South soon became permanent.

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1957: Kukla, Fran and Ollie's final episode
On this day in 1957, children's show Kukla, Fran and Ollie airs its last episode on prime-time network TV. The show featured beloved puppets Kukla, Ollie (a dragon), and others, with live actress Fran Allison as host. The show began as a local Chicago program and moved to NBC in 1948. It was one of the two most important series made in Chicago, along with Garroway at Large, during the city's brief period as an important production center for network programs in the late 1940s. After its network cancellation, PBS revived the series from 1969 to 1971.

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1965: Ky refuses to negotiate with the Communists
Premier Nguyen Cao Ky announces that South Vietnam would not negotiate with the Communists without guarantees that North Vietnamese troops would be withdrawn from the South. He also said that his government would institute major reforms to correct economic and social injustices. Also on this day: In the United States, President Johnson signs into law a bill making it illegal to destroy or mutilate a U.S. draft card, with penalties of up to five years and a $10,000 fine.

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1967: Senate Committee calls for stepped-up bombing
Senate Preparedness Investigating Committee issues a call to step up bombing against the North, declaring that McNamara had "shackled" the air war against Hanoi, and calling for "closure, neutralization, or isolation of Haiphong." President Johnson, attempting to placate Congressional "hawks" and the Joint Chiefs of Staff, expanded the approved list of targets in the north, authorizing strikes against bridges, barracks, and railyards in the Hanoi-Haipong area and additional targets in the previously restricted areas along the Chinese border.

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1970: Thieu government maintains control of Senate
In South Vietnam, antigovernment Buddhist candidates appear to win 10 of 30 Senate seats contested in the previous day's election. However, the Senate as a whole remained in the firm control of conservative, pro-government supporters. Catholics still held 50 percent of the Senate seats, even though they constituted only 10 percent of the population of South Vietnam.

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1970: Debbie Gibson was born.

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1972: U.S. weekly casualty figures hit new low
U.S. weekly casualty figures of five dead and three wounded are the lowest recorded since record keeping began in January 1965. These numbers reflected the fact that there were less than 40,000 American troops left in South Vietnam by this time and very few of these were involved in actual combat. U.S. troop withdrawals had begun in the fall of 1969 following President Richard Nixon's announcement at the Midway conference on June 8, 1972, that he would begin reducing the number of American troops in Vietnam as the war was turned over to the South Vietnamese as part of his "Vietnamization" policy. Once the troop withdrawals began, they continued on a fairly regular basis, steadily reducing the troop level from the 1969 high of 543,400.

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1985: The "Night Stalker" is attacked by a Los Angeles mob
Richard Ramirez, the notorious "Night Stalker," is captured and nearly killed by a mob in East Los Angeles, California, after being recognized from a photograph shown both on television and in newspapers. Recently identified as the serial killer through a partial fingerprint, Ramirez was pulled from the enraged mob by police officers.

During the summer of 1985, the city of Los Angeles was panic-stricken by a killer who crept into his victims' homes at night. The Night Stalker, as the press dubbed the murderer, first turned his attention on the men in the house, usually shot any men in the house with a .22 caliber handgun before raping, stabbing, and mutilating his female victims. He cut out one of his victim's eyes, and sometimes carved satanic pentagrams on the bodies before he left.

By August, the Night Stalker has murdered at least a dozen people, and law enforcement officials were desperate to stop him. One witness, who managed to note the license plate of the car in which Ramirez fled, led police to a single, partial fingerprint left in the vehicle.

Apparently, the task force looking for the Night Stalker had already received information that someone named Ramirez was involved, so only the records for men with that name were checked against the fingerprint. Although the Los Angeles Police Department's new multimillion-dollar computer database of fingerprints only contained the records of criminals born after January 1960, Richard Ramirez, who had a record of petty crimes, had been born in February 1960.

When Ramirez was identified as the chief suspect, authorities debated whether to release his name and picture to the public, fearing that it might give him the chance to escape. Nonetheless, they decided to take the risk, and Ramirez, who was actually traveling back to Los Angeles at the time, arrived to find his face and name on the front of every newspaper.

Ramirez turned his trial into a circus by drawing pentagrams on his palms and making devil's horns with his fingers. When he was convicted, he shouted at the jury, "You make me sick. I will be avenged. Lucifer dwells within all of us." After the judge imposed a death sentence, Ramirez said, "Big deal. Death comes with the territory. See you in Disneyland."

Ramirez married a female admirer and penpal while incarcerated at California's St. Quentin Prison in 1996. In 2006, his first appeals were denied.

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Diana, Princess of Wales, dies in Paris' Pitie-Salpetiere Hospital after suffering massive chest injuries in an early morning car accident. Her companion, Dodi Fayed, was killed instantly in the 12:25 a.m. crash, as was driver Henri Paul, who was drunk and lost control of the Mercedes in a highway underpass. He was driving at excessive speeds in a reckless attempt to escape paparazzi photographers. Diana's bodyguard, Trevor Rees Jones, escaped with serious but nonfatal injuries. He was the only one wearing his seat belt. The death of Diana, beloved by millions for her beauty and good nature, plunged the world into mourning.

* * * * * * *

2006: Iran ignores a U.S.-pressured UN Security Council demand to stop enriching uranium.

* * * * * * *

2006: Captured polygamist on the FBI's top ten list, Warren Jeffs, doesn't fight extradition to Utah.

* * * * * * *

2006: Norway police recover Munch paintings ("The Scream") stolen in 2004.

* * * * * * *

2006: Ford Considers Selling Aston Martin Unit.

* * * * * * *

2006: Jetliner Evacuated Safely After Fire in Wheel Well.

* * * * * * *

2006: Man Jailed for Enslaving Housekeeper.

* * * * * * *

2006: Katrina Evacuees' Welcome Wears Thin in Houston.

* * * * * * *

2006: FBI Searches Offices of 7 Alaska lawmakers, Declining to Name the Other Agencies Involved, Which Legislators and How Many Total Were Targeted or What the Intend of the Search Was.

* * * * * * *

2006: Rich, Vacuous Shiksa (No, Not Paris Hilton), Gets Richer.

* * * * * * *

2006: Richer, Defense Contracting Firm Gets Richer, With Multi-Billion Dollar Contract to Build Moon Rocket.

* * * * * * *

August 31, 2006: American media, stalling for Karl Rove's next stunt, reported on everything, but what was relevant to the American people about what was at stake in their decision in the coming midterm elections.

Courtesy of,, and

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Rumsfeld isn't the Problem - Bush/Cheney is!

Rumsfeld is part of the problem. Part of our much bigger, much larger, more serious and all-encompassing problem: The Bush-Cheney administration.

The GOP's latest strategy of having Rumsfeld out front making outrageous statements, comparing critics of the Bush administration's failed foreign and military policies to Nazis and fascists suggests that Bush/Cheney will "retire" Rumsfeld right before the November election. The GOP will then turn to the voters and say "See? Bush/Cheney took care of the problem, but if you elect Democrats to Congress, they will stall out new direction and prevent victory."

Allowing Bush/Cheney to distance themselves from Rumsfeld is a mistake. Rumsfeld is only doing what Bush/Cheney want him to do. If Bush/Cheney had any objection to what was going on in Iraq and Afghanistan and how this war was being waged, Rumsfeld would have been gone long ago.

I don't believe that Bush/Cheney can find another Republican willing to administer this war as Bush/Cheney want it done. It would certainly have served Bush/Cheney better to have had a revolving door filled with Secretaries of Defense - each failing and spending months being the target of criticism and scorn. Each, however, would have focused the public's and the media's attention on how and why the U.S. was continuing the same failed strategy of the previous Secretary of Defense (all the way back to Rumsfeld).

Rumsfeld serves as a convenient distraction from the real problem: Bush, Cheney and the Republicans' governance.

The Problems of Growth & Sprawl - Loud Farm Cannons Keeping Neighbors Awake

Loud noises are proving to be a big help to a South Jersey farmer, but a big headache to his neighbors. Joe Majeski lives directly across from the Samu Farm on Yardville-Allentown Road. "They're being fired every 30 seconds to a minute and a half and it's multiple cannons so it sounds like a firing range. I'm actually on tranquilizers and sleeping pills. It drives you crazy. You can't do this to prisoners in Guantanamo, you can do this legally to your neighbors?"

The constant boom of propane air cannons used to scare away birds and deer that wreak havoc on local farm crops is driving some Hamilton Township residents crazy.

In fact the federal Right to Farm Act permits the use of air cannons to control pests. At the Evergreen Farm, manager John Hwang says 3 years ago before he started using the cannons, birds were destroying his grape crop. 80 percent of it was ruined. Now with the cannons, the birds still do damage, but 80 percent of the grapes survive.

John Hwang\Farmer: "Without the cannon we cannot harvest. We don't get any grape. I mean we get grape but we cannot sell it."

The farmer says he's tried other methods to get rid of the birds; scary balloons, speakers, ribbons; but nothing works as effectively as the cannons.

"If you have a different way, tell me, I'll do it."

Hwang says he's sorry to upset his neighbors, but the cannons are saving his crops. After residents complained to the township Evergreen Farm has agreed to shoot the cannons off only between 8am and 7pm. But residents are not satisfied.

Dorothy Donnelly\Hamilton Twp., New Jersey: "Quite frankly our statutes don't give residents near a farm any right at all."

People here would like to change that, but in the mean time are anxiously awaiting the end of harvest season so they can have some peace and quiet again.

Dear Mr. Hwang,

Here's a better way:

They're called "nets" and they work swell. There are even machines that automatically drape them over the vines.

Email any major winery in the northern California wine country or New Zealand and they'll be happy to give you details on how to use this technology.

Good neighbors give a hoot and don't (noise) pollute!

Bush to Brian Williams: "I stood in Jackson Square (1 year ago) and said 'We're gonna help you' . . . . and we delivered."

What planet is this man living on?

There isn't one comment that comes out of George W. Bush's mouth, on any subject, that passes reality testing. But his comments on his and the U.S. government's efforts to help rebuild the gulf region and its residents post-Katrina are particularly cruel and ironic.

For an in-depth report on the state of New Orleans and the Gulf Coast, visit Reconstruction Watch.

And/or Healthy Gulf: "1 Year After Katrina, Government Gets D+ Grade for Efforts to Restore Louisiana’s Natural Hurricane Buffer: Wetlands".

If you'd like to get involved and personally help bring back the region and its' people, visit the Gulf Restoration Network:
Flood Washington, Not Our Coast - Protect Louisiana's Wetlands and Communities

On September 15th 2005, the President pledged to rebuild the Gulf Coast and do whatever it takes to make New Orleans and South Louisiana rise again.

The first step in any serious revitalization effort is a commitment to honest and effective storm protection for our communities and a vibrant and restored coast. Each day that passes without a federal commitment to Louisiana's coast and communities prolongs this tragedy. Please take a moment to remind the President of his pledge and urge your friends to do the same.

With over 300,000 Louisianans displaced, we want to flood Washington with an e-mail for each of them.

If you're in the neighborhood (and the neighborhood is just as close as a webcast), catch the Flood Washington Fest (featuring Anders Osborne, Country Fried, and Mostly Rhonda), Thursday, August 31, 2006. [Webcast begins 9:00 p.m., CT]
Tipitina's Original

Get tickets here at Tipitina's and support Tipitina's Foundation, which is dedicated to helping artists recover from Hurricane Katrina and preserving the cultural traditions of New Orleans.

Visit here for a taste of Anders Osborne.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

`Lie By Lie' - Mary Harris Jones' Sets It Straight

Mother Jones has assembled a powerful resource tool, particularly for this election season. It's the history of the Iraq War, going back to 1991:
What did our leaders know and when did they know it? And, perhaps just as important, what red flags did we miss, and how could we have missed them?

The first installment in Mother Jones' `Iraq War timeline project.'

See Dick Run (the Country)

Cheney's the real president. It'd be nice if the press noticed.
Robert Kuttner at American Prospect Online writes:
George W. Bush has been faulted in some quarters for taking an extended vacation while the Middle East festers. It doesn't much matter; the man running the country is Vice President Dick Cheney.

When historians look back on the multiple assaults on our constitutional system of government in this era, Cheney's unprecedented role will come in for overdue notice. Cheney's shotgun mishap, when he accidentally sprayed his host with birdshot, has gotten more media attention than has his control of the government.

Historically, the vice president's job was to ceremonially preside over the Senate, attend second-tier foreign funerals, and be prepared for the president to die. Students are taught that John Nance Garner, Franklin Roosevelt's first vice president, compared the job to a bucket of warm spit (and historians say spit was not the word the pungent Texan actually used).

Recent vice presidents Walter Mondale and Al Gore were given more authority than most, but there was no doubt that the president was in charge.

Cheney is in a class by himself. The administration's grand strategy and its implementation are the work of Cheney -- sometimes Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, sometimes Cheney and political director Karl Rove.

Cheney has planted aides in major Cabinet departments, often over the objection of a Cabinet secretary, to make sure his policies are carried out. He sits in on the Senate Republican caucus, to stamp out any rebellions. Cheney loyalists from the Office of the Vice President dominate interagency planning meetings.

The Iraq war is the work of Cheney and Rumsfeld. The capture of the career civil service is pure Cheney. The disciplining of Congress is the work of Cheney and Rove. The turning over of energy policy to the oil companies is Cheney. The extreme secrecy is Cheney and Attorney General Alberto Gonzales.

If Cheney were the president, more of this would be smoked out because the press would be paying attention. The New York Times' acerbic columnist Maureen Dowd regularly makes sport of Cheney's dominance, and there are plenty of jokes (Bush is a heartbeat away from the presidency). But you can count serious newspaper or magazine articles on Cheney's operation on the fingers of one hand. One of the first was by Bob Dreyfuss writing in the Prospect -- "Vice Squad," on all the vice-president's men, which ran in our May issue. Another notable example is Charlie Savage's important May 28th piece in The Boston Globe on Cheney operative David Addington, the architect and chief reviewer of legislation for "signing statements." The most comprehensive was Jane Mayer's fine piece in the July 3 New Yorker on Addington.

Cheney's power is matched only by his penchant for secrecy. When Dreyfuss requested the names of people who serve on the vice president's staff, he was told this was classified information. Former staffers for other departments provided Dreyfuss with names. This journalism requires a lot of hard work, but it is gettable because so many people in government have been sandbagged by the Cheney operation and are willing to provide information.

So secretive is Cheney (and so incurious the media) that when his chief of staff, Irving Lewis Libby, was implicated in the leaked identity of CIA agent Valerie Plame Wilson, reporters who rushed to look Libby up on Nexis and Google found that Libby had barely rated previous press attention.

Why does this matter? Because if the man actually running the government is out of the spotlight, the administration and its policies are far less accountable.

When George W. Bush narrowly defeated John Kerry in 2004, many commentators observed that Bush was the fellow with whom you would rather have a beer. It's an accurate and unflattering comment on the American electorate -- but then who wants to have a beer with Cheney? The public may not know the details of his operation, but voters intuitively recoil from him.

Bush's popularity ratings are now under 40 percent, beer or no, reflecting dwindling confidence in where he is taking the country. But Cheney's ratings are stuck around 20 percent, far below that of any president.

If Cheney were the actual president, not just the de facto one, he simply could not govern with the same set of policies and approval ratings of 20 percent. The media focuses relentless attention on the president, on the premise that he is actually the chief executive. But for all intents and purposes, Cheney is chief, and Bush is more in the ceremonial role of the queen of England.

Yet the press buys the pretense of Bush being "the decider," and relentlessly covers Bush -- meeting with world leaders, cutting brush, holding press conferences, while Cheney works in secret, largely undisturbed. So let's take half the members of the overblown White House press corps, which has almost nothing to do anyway, and send them over to Cheney Boot Camp for Reporters. They might learn how to be journalists again, and we might learn who is running the government.

After Dick Cheney shot a man with impunity in February, 2006, we here at TCA questioned why Dick Cheney doesn't have a permanent press corps attached to him and his activities.

With the White House press corps being moved out of the building and off of the grounds this next year while the press room is being renovated, it doesn't appear that there will be anybody, not the media and certainly not Congress, overseeing what the Bush-Cheney administration is up to.

Monday, August 28, 2006

John Mark Karr, Crazy? Like a Fox.

As TCA predicted here, and here, and here, Boulder prosecutors have dropped their case against John Mark Karr:
Defense attorney Seth Temin expressed outrage that Karr was even arrested.

"We're deeply distressed by the fact that they took this man and dragged him here from Bangkok, Thailand, with no forensic evidence confirming the allegations against him and no independent factors leading to a presumption he did anything wrong," Temin said.

I think it's more likely that Karr concocted the confession in order to get a free trip back to the U.S.

Karr confessed to killing Jon Benet Ramsey:
District Attorney Mary Lacy said Karr emerged as a suspect in April after he began exchanging e-mails with a Colorado professor in which he admitted responsibility for the slaying.

According to court papers, Karr told the professor he accidentally killed JonBenet during sex and that he tasted her blood after he injured her vaginally. But officials at the Denver crime lab conducted DNA tests last Friday and failed to connect Karr to the crime.

"This information is critical because … if Mr. Karr's account of his sexual involvement with the victim were accurate, it would have been highly likely that his saliva would have been mixed with the blood in the underwear," Lacy said in court papers.

According to Susan Filan on MSNBC, Boulder prosecutors had obtained a DNA sample from Karr in Thailand, but their lab said that it wasn't a "clean" sample - I think they got it surreptitiously (maybe from his hairbrush). They wanted a mouth swab from Karr, but to do so would have "tipped him off and then he would have been a flight risk."


Karr confessed, but the Boulder authorities claim that they were afraid that he would bolt if he suspected that he was being taken seriously. But what's their excuse once Karr was in the custody of the Thai police, and wasn't any flight risk?

Filan said that then, "Karr refused to give a DNA sample."

Karr didn't fight extradition, either in Thailand or in California. If Karr did refuse to give a sample could it be because he knew that once he did, he would be excluded as a suspect, and he would then remain to rot in a Thai prison?

According to at least there one report, Karr did submit to a mouth-swab DNA test in Thailand.

It would explain why the media did not report Karr's refusal to submit to a DNA test while in Thailand until today. If true, if Karr did refuse to submit to a DNA test, it certainly would have cast some suspicion on Karr's confession and its legitimacy. But if there was physical evidence connecting Karr to JonBenet Ramsey's panties, why then the extended perp walks of Karr in front of paparazzi? That certainly could have waited for his arrival in Colorado.

And why has the media never reported on what the charges were that Karr was being held for in Thailand?

Bush and the Republican party owe the media big time (and the Boulder police and district attorneys) for focusing the public's attention away from their corruption and failures of governing.

Hillary Clinton Lends Her Top Aide to the Lamont Campaign

Oh, yeah, Hillary Clinton's working to get Ned Lamont elected.

Meanwhile, Democrats are circling the wagons around Joe Lieberman:

On Hardball, Howard Dean covered his bets:
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about the Lieberman campaign: If Joe Lieberman wins this general election, he‘s on the ballot as of today...

DEAN: And let me just say...

MATTHEWS: If he wins, will you accept him as a Democrat again? Is he allowed to come back like the prodigal son?

DEAN: Let me add one thing to the Allen controversy. We happen to have a great Democratic candidate who is only three points behind George Allen, and his name is Jim Webb. Served in the Reagan administration with distinction. There is a Democrat that the people of Virginia can be proud of, and the people of Virginia can vote for.

MATTHEWS: Are you going to give him enough money to win?

DEAN: How much is enough? We‘ll see.

MATTHEWS: Fifty percent.


MATTHEWS: I have to ask you about Joe Lieberman, because your brother is out working for Lamont. Lamont is an impressive candidate. Lieberman, of course, is an impressive guy. Would you be happy if either one won, because either one would become a Democrat once they got back in the Senate? Wouldn‘t you be just as happy with both of them?

DEAN: Well, Ned Lamont is a Democrat. And he‘s a terrific Democrat. He built his own business from nothing. He understands balancing the budget. He understands defense. He understands the Middle East. And I think Ned Lamont is the future.

Joe is a good guy, but Joe is the past. And I think we need a new direction in this country. And it‘s not just the Lieberman-Lamont race. It‘s all over the country. People are looking for a different direction for the country, a new direction, a change. And I think the Democrats can bring that kind of change, and we have candidates like Ned Lamont all over the country doing that.

MATTHEWS: Would you welcome him back into the party if he joined the Democratic Caucus next November?

DEAN: If Joe were to win, which I don‘t think is going to happen, but if he were to win, we would welcome him back in the Democratic Caucus. We‘re a big tent party, and we accept all kinds of folks, and we‘re happy to have them.
But I think Ned Lamont is going to win this race. He is the Democratic candidate. He won a tough primary. He‘s a smart guy.

Ned Lamont lost the race before the primary, when the Democratic leadership didn't denounce Lieberman when he said that if he didn't win the Democratic primary he would run as an independent.

Lieberman has now set the precedent for how centrist Democrats will run nationwide (as independents) if the we, uppity liberals, forget our places and don't sit down and take whatever the Republicans-in-Democratic-clothing tell us is good for us.

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Saturday, August 26, 2006

Katherine Harris says "God did not intend U.S. to be a nation of secular laws"

". . . . if you're not electing Christians, then in essence you are going to legislate sin." Harris told interviewers from the Florida Baptist Witness, the weekly journal of the Florida Baptist State Convention.

Katherine Harris, conversing with God.

Katherine Harris told interviewers from the Florida Baptist Witness, a weekly journal of the Florida Baptist State Convention, the separation of church and state is a "lie we have been told" to keep religious people out of politics.
Harris, a candidate in the Sept. 5 Republican primary for U.S. Senate, said her religious beliefs "animate" everything she does, including her votes in Congress.

Witness editors interviewed candidates for office, asking them to describe their faith and their positions on certain issues.

Harris has always professed a deep Christian faith. But she has rarely expressed such a fervent evangelical perspective publicly.

Political and religious officials responded to her published remarks with outrage and dismay.

Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) said she was "disgusted" by the comments "and deeply disappointed in Representative Harris personally."

Harris, Wasserman Schultz said, "clearly shows that she does not deserve to be a representative."

Ruby Brooks, a veteran Tampa Bay Republican activist, said Harris's remarks "were offensive to me as a Christian and a Republican."

"This notion that you've been chosen or anointed, it's offensive," Brooks said. "We hurt our cause with that more than we help it."

Harris told the journalists "we have to have the faithful in government" because that is God's will. Separating religion and politics is "so wrong because God is the one who chooses our rulers," she said.

"And if we are the ones not actively involved in electing those godly men and women," then "we're going to have a nation of secular laws. That's not what our Founding Fathers intended, and that certainly isn't what God intended."

Harris campaign spokeswoman Jennifer Marks would not answer questions about the Harris interview. Instead, she released a two-sentence statement.

"Congresswoman Harris encourages Americans from all walks of life and faith to participate in our government," it stated. "She continues to be an unwavering advocate of religious rights and freedoms."

This isn't the first time Katherine Harris has been discovered appealing to extremist fundamentalist Christians and espousing theocratic government views. Earlier this year, Harris and Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee were pitching to the Coral Ridge Ministries, a "rapture" group deep into "end times."

Congresswoman Harris earlier this year on the floor of Congress:

The man that Harris is draped all over is Rick Renzi, Republican congressman from Arizona. Both Renzi and Harris are married - Renzi is the father of 12 children. Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington labeled Renzi one of the "13 most corrupt members of Congress."

We shouldn't wonder why.

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Friday, August 25, 2006

'Hitler Cafe' Opens in India

Owner of new restaurant doesn't know what all the fuss is about:
When Hitler's Cross restaurant opened four days ago in a Mumbai suburb, local politicians and movie industry types were on hand to celebrate beneath the posters of the Nazi leader and swastikas.

The owner insisted then - and still does - that the name and theme of his new eatery is only meant to attract attention, even if it has outraged Mumbai's Jewish community.

"It's really made people very upset that a person responsible for the massacre of six million Jews can be glorified," Elijah Jacob, one of the community's leaders, told The Associated Press on Wednesday.

But owner Puneet Sablok has refused to back down, and apart from Mumbai's 4,500 Jews, there's been little controversy in India, where Holocaust awareness is limited, Hitler is regarded as just another historical figure and swastikas are an ancient Hindu symbol, displayed all over to bring luck. There are just 5,500 Jews in all of India.

"It's just to attract people. There is no intention to hurt anyone," said Sablok about his spacious restaurant, which serves pastries, pizza and salad in Navi Mumbai, a northern suburb of Mumbai, which is also known as Bombay.

Those objecting to the restaurant plan to ask the local government to force a name change, said Daniel Zonshine, Israel's consul general in Mumbai.

"Instead of Hitler's name being an example of extreme evil, this is like giving legitimacy to Hitler. It's not right to advertise his name in public," Zonshine said.

But while India is ordinarily sensitive to causing religious offence - recently taking action to bar "The Da Vinci Code" movie and cartoon drawings of the prophet Muhammad - at least one local leader said the name Hitler didn't bother him.

"People are unnecessarily making this into an issue," said Sudhir Jadhav, a local ruling party leader. "We have no plans to protest outside the restaurant or ask him to change the name."

Diners were also quite happy eating in Hitler's Cross.

"Hitler was a bad man, but what's wrong with having food here?" said Ashwini Phadnis, 22, a microbiology student as she tucked away a piece of chocolate cake.

Engineering student Anand Dhillon sat with friends, sipping soft drinks. "I think the name is quite interesting. Tomorrow if someone keeps a name like Saddam Mutton Shop or George Bush Footwear, there's nothing wrong with that, is there?" he said, shrugging.

Comments like these beg education. The owner is clearly clueless in more ways than just history.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Why U.S. Will Never Win Iraq: "Officer Called Haditha Routine; Marine Said Deaths Didn't Merit Inquiry"

The Washington Post reports:
The Marine officer who commanded the battalion involved in the Haditha killings last November did not consider the deaths of 24 Iraqis, many of them women and children, unusual and did not initiate an inquiry, according to a sworn statement he gave to military investigators in March.

"I thought it was very sad, very unfortunate, but at the time, I did not suspect any wrongdoing from my Marines," Lt. Col. Jeffrey R. Chessani, commander of the 3rd Battalion of the 1st Marines, said in the statement.

"I did not have any reason to believe that this was anything other than combat action," he added.

Chessani's statement, provided to The Washington Post by a person sympathetic to the enlisted Marines involved in the case, helps explain why there was no investigation of the incident at the time, despite the large number of civilian deaths, and why it took several months for the U.S. military chain of command to react to the event.

It also provides a glimpse of the mind-set of a commander on the scene who, despite the carnage, did not stop to consider whether Marines had crossed a line and killed defenseless civilians.

It suggests that top U.S. commanders have been unsuccessful in urging subordinate leaders to focus less on killing insurgents and more on winning the support of the Iraqi people, especially by providing them security.

Chessani told investigators he concluded that insurgents had staged a "complex attack" that began with a roadside bomb, followed by a small-arms ambush that was intended to provoke the Marines to fire into houses where civilians were hiding.

"I did not see any cause for alarm," especially because several firefights had occurred in the area the same day -- Nov. 19, 2005 -- Chessani said. Because of that conclusion, the commander added, he did not see any reason to investigate the matter, or even to ask how many women and children had been killed. "I just saw this as a large combat action that had been staged by the enemy," he told investigators.

The Haditha incident first attracted notice when Time magazine reported in March that the official U.S. account attributing most of the Iraqi deaths to a roadside bomb was incorrect, and that the Iraqis instead had been killed by U.S. troops. It became more controversial in May when Rep. John P. Murtha (D-Pa.), who had been briefed by top Marine officers, said at a news conference that what happened in Haditha was "much worse than reported in Time magazine" and that Marines had "killed innocent civilians in cold blood."

Commentators likened the incident to the Vietnam War's My Lai massacre and predicted that it would damage the U.S. effort in Iraq more than the Abu Ghraib detainee abuse scandal had.

Several Marines are under criminal investigation in connection with the incident. Their lawyers have indicated they intend to argue that those Marines followed the rules of engagement during a difficult day on a chaotic battlefield.

Defense lawyers involved in the case said Friday that they have been told that a criminal inquiry by the Naval Criminal Investigative Service concluded about two weeks ago, and that military prosecutors are working on charges that may be brought next month.

A separate review of decisions by Marine officers, including Chessani and his superiors, was conducted by Army Maj. Gen. Eldon A. Bargewell. The findings of his investigation, which concluded many weeks ago, has not been released, but people familiar with its contents have said that he found multiple failures by Marine leaders in the training they mandated, in the tone they set and in how information was reported up the chain of command.

Chessani's statement, which was given at a base in Iraq starting at midnight on March 20, is the first formal evidence to emerge in the case. Until now, media reports contain accounts provided by Iraqis and Marines rather than those from official documents produced by the investigatory process.

The statement provides the first public look at comments from a key commander who oversaw the action there and bolsters the defense argument that troops involved in the Haditha incident saw the events as part of the normal course of combat.

Chessani has not made any public comments about the case. He waived his rights when he provided the statement and did not ask for an attorney, though he had the right to do so. He was told at the outset of the questioning that he was suspected of dereliction of his duty.

Chessani was relieved of command about three weeks after he gave his statement, in early April, soon after his battalion returned to its home base at Camp Pendleton, Calif. It is not clear whether he has retained defense counsel. He could not be reached for comment by telephone Friday and did not respond to e-mails.

Chessani said in his statement that when he was first informed by a military investigator that Marines under his command may have intentionally killed civilians, "the allegations seemed baseless." But the investigator then told him, he said, that "we had killed civilians and did not have positive identification in this instance. . . . He described it that we had made entries into rooms and shot women and children. He believed, if I recall right, that some of the rooms, some of the houses that we entered, the Marines weren't being fired at at the time."

After the killings, the Marine Corps issued a statement that Iraqis had been killed in Haditha by a roadside bomb. Chessani said that he did not see the statement then, and that the first time he read it was when an investigator showed it to him about three months later.

"I knew this was inaccurate when I saw it," he stated. The Marine Corps has not issued a retraction, saying the entire matter is under investigation.

At one point, Col. John Ewers, the Marine lawyer who took the statement, seemed almost exasperated with Chessani's passive approach to the incident. Using a profanity, he told Chessani his own reaction was "15 civilians dead, 23 or 24 total dead, with no real indication of how it was that we arrived at the enemy KIA number."

Ewers asked: "Did it occur to you that you needed to do an investigation simply so you could go to the locals and say, 'This was righteous'? . . . And be confident that you were speaking with certainty?"

Chessani responded: "Sir, I did not think about it like that. . . . Enemy has picked the place, he had picked the time, and the location for a reason. . . . [H]e wanted to make us look bad."

These are the effects of chronic post-traumatic stress - `Compassion fatigue.' You numb out to what your heart tells you. You can't win over a people like that: You can only kill them.

There's nothing that we can do in Iraq now, but make it worse by inducing trauma on more people, Americans and Iraqis alike.

Bush Sending SWAT Teams to Step Up Role on U.S.-Mexican Border

BORTAC, operating along U.S.' southern border.

Bush's America is an armed and mined, barb-wired fortress. And now, with sharpshooters:
Elite U.S. Border Patrol units armed with assault rifles and stun grenades may be set to play a more prominent role as authorities gain greater control over the porous border with Mexico, border police say.

Little known outside law enforcement circles, the Bortac tactical teams have been deployed to remote reaches of the border to hunt drug and human traffickers using out-of-the way routes since the 1980s.

The Bortac members wear full battle-dress uniforms and carry state-of-the-art night vision and thermal optics. They are armed with weapons including M4 assault rifles and "flash-bang" stun grenades developed for the special forces.

The teams first came to widespread attention in April 2000 after they were used in a headline-grabbing raid to snatch Cuban youngster Elian Gonzalez from relatives in Miami and return him to his father in Cuba.

In a bid to gain control over the Mexico border, President George W. Bush ordered 6,000 National Guard troops to help the Border Patrol guard the international line in May. Since then, apprehensions have fallen by more than 40 percent.

The special response team members on active duty in the deserts south of Tucson, Arizona, believe they may play a larger role interdicting determined smugglers forced to cross through ever-more remote areas as authorities choke off easily crossed routes.

"They are going to have go to those isolated areas," one team leader, who asked not to identified for reasons of operational security, told Reuters during a patrol just yards from Arizona's border with the Mexican state of Sonora.

"Specialty teams like ours are going to have to be deployed there ... to work that traffic."

The Border Patrol will not say how many agents are in the units. Some are members of Bortac, the patrol's federal special response team, while others belong to teams drawn from sectors across the 2,000-mile (3,200-km) southwest border.

Aside from their policing role, the teams also have been deployed to quell riots and to help following natural disasters, including Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans last year.

The volunteer units are often brought in by helicopter or make miles-long hikes to deploy in remote desert wilderness areas and along jagged mountain ridgelines that are beyond the reach of Border Patrol agents in sports utility vehicles and on dirt bikes.

Whereas Border Patrol agents will typically track intruders, following their trails until they catch up with them, the special teams stake out known routes and stage "soft" ambushes for often heavily armed smugglers.

"We will go in hard, often with a flash-bang grenade to maintain the element of surprise," one unit member said as he sat in pitch darkness training a night vision scope on a cactus-studded trail leading up from Mexico.

"Even if they have weapons, it can turn a lethal situation into a non-lethal situation," he said.

Team members say they encounter increasingly well-organized gangs in Mexico, who mount counter-surveillance operations using their own night vision optics to spot their pursuers.

With the high-stakes game of cat-and-mouse poised to step up tempo in coming months, the special team members say they are confident in their abilities to meet the challenge.

This is not the answer to the problem of illegal immigration, nor is it an effective defense against terrorist attacks. Even if Democrats are able to retake the House or the Senate, it's unlikely that they would embark on different policies. We have the wrong people, from both parties, in power.

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